Herbivores might have to sacrifice for carnivores as animals face starvation at Indonesian zoos

Sumatran tigers and Bornean orangutans in dire straits

Rare and endangered animals like Sumatran tigers and Bornean orangutans along with thousands of animals are facing starvation at zoos in Indonesia during the coronavirus crisis. Animal parks throughout the Southeast Asian archipelago that generate revenue through tourists have been closed since mid-March. Officials say they have only enough food for animals to survive until mid-May.

Animal parks that are home to around 70,000 creatures which brought in revenue from ticket sales collapsed when everything closed down, said Sulhan Syafi'I, spokesman of the Indonesian Zoo Association.

Some animals might have to be sacrificed to feed others, warned a German zoo director. Indonesia's Zoo Association sees a similar worst case scenario. "If a few more months pass and we don't get any aid from the government or other international organizations, then with a heavy heart we'll have to feed herbivores...to the carnivores," Syafi'i said.

Staff contributes from personal chicken stock to feed animals

Sumatran Tiger
Sumatran Tiger, SCIENTIFIC NAME: Panthera tigris sumatrae (Critically Endangered) Reuters

Zoo keepers have been trying to collect grass and plants to increase food stocks for giraffe and other herbivorous animals. Tigers and other carnivorous animals are being fed with poultry in place of red-meat portions. According to the Daily Mail, the staff have also been affected by cuts in daily wages and working hours. Despite that, they are contributing from their personal chicken stock to feed the animals.

Syafi'I said the loss of revenue that is generated from 50 million annual visitors to Indonesia's zoos is very difficult to make up. Some zoos are expecting public donations and some have appealed to the national government for emergency aid. "We can take chances on wildlife that is endemic to Indonesia. But we must do whatever it takes to save wildlife that is endangered in our country like Sumatran tigers, he said. "It's sad, but at this point we need to start thinking about priorities."

Indonesia smoking orangutans
Indonesia smoking orangutans ODN/ YouTube

Some animal parks rely on private donations to feed the creatures in Thailand. Nantakorn Phatnamrob, owner of Chang Siam Park in Pattaya that has now been closed, said every private zoo is currently affected. The zoo association in Malaysia is trying to avoid drastic choice about which animal live or die as they have also appealed for funds.