Zoos, although an educational and inspiring experience for children, often caused mixed feelings among adults. It is rare that I visit them nowadays but a couple weeks ago while in Bandung I did happen to pass through Kebun Binatang Bandung Zoo.
Only after traveling and being forced to stop does one truly realize how the caged animal feels. Needless to say I don't visit zoos anymore.
— Derek Freal (@the_HoliDaze) May 20, 2013
As you may have guessed from my tweet above, this trip to the zoo was an unplanned and unexpected stop. As it happened a friend and I were walking through Bandung with two hours to kill before our train back to Jakarta left the station when we stumbled upon the zoo. With nothing better to do we paid the 15,000 rupiah entrance fee ($1.50 USD) and decided to check it out.
How Lonely Planet describes this zoo:
The Bandung Zoo has spacious, beautifully landscaped gardens, which are very attractive, but there are few animals and most are housed in typically cramped conditions.
That is EXACTLY why I don’t trust anything Lonely Planet says…nothing about this place was “beautifully landscaped” or “very attractive.” While they were right about the “few animals” part they also left out the part about how there is more trash than animals. It was both disgusting and disappointing!
And I Have Not Even Gotten To The Worst Parts Yet…
Bandung is located 140km southeast of Jakarta and is perched up in the mountains about 750km above sea level. Thanks to it’s location the city receives rain on a fairly regular basis year-round and that is one of the first problems visitors notice with the zoo. As none of the animal habitats have any sort of roof or awning over them, many them live in a perpetual mud pit.
Then there were the cigarette smoking orangutans…
Although Tori, the infamous cigarette-smoking orangutan has now been moved and is (hopefully) no longer smoking cigarettes, that doesn’t mean all is well for the other apes in Indonesia. While there I witnessed an Indonesian man throw several cigarettes into the orangutan cage. At least this particular one tried to eat the cigarette before throwing it down into the grass in disgust…
That brings me to my next complaint about the zoo…
The animals are all STARVING — the zoo literally doesn’t have the money to feed them. According to the staff they have no meat to find the lions, bears, tigers, and other large mammals. Thankfully New Zealand sends over donations of meat twice a week to feed these fellas. Unfortunately that means that these once great beasts of the jungle are now reduced to a life of eating one day and then fasting for three. Besides being scrawny and unhealthy looking, these animals also lack the energy to even roam around their tiny confines.
As for the smaller animals, Kebun Binatang Bandung Zoo relies on peanut sales to keep them all fed. Nearly every creature will flock to the edges of their cages anytime humans approach. Again, this is entertaining to the kids but rather depressing to us adults. And if it rains really heavy for a few days straight and there are no visitors, well guess what — the animals don’t get fed. (Except for those that survive off of grass and/or bamboo, such as the elephants and horses.)
Starving animals get as close as possible to visitors, desperate for any sort of food
Throughout all the cages only one species was not begging for food…
And they’ve mastered the use of modern tools!
Yes, this zoo definitely left a bitter taste in my mouth. I don’t understand it either — Bandung is a big town with lots of tourism and fancy malls / restaurants. Why can’t they find a few extra rupiah to give these animals some real food and at least a chance at being happy? At least as happy as any could be in a cage…
I would say do not visit but the animals need you to or they won’t get fed!
Now I have a feeling it will be another decade before I ever visit another zoo. Shame to go out on such a bad note. I really miss the Tokyo Zoo, which actually closes down for two months out of every year to give the animals a break from the people. How cool is that? 😉
Be sure to check out my other posts on Indonesia for more great sights and activities!