Zoo Director Recommends Euthanasia for Infirm Sumatran Tiger

A Sumatran tiger whose digestive tract was almost totally destroyed after years of neglect at Surabaya’s notorious “nightmare zoo” should be put down, the director of the zoo holding the animal said on Monday, but the government has no plans to euthanize the tiger in the immediate future.

Melanie-Sumatran-tigerPhoto: TEMPO/Fully Syafi

“I have been proposing euthanasia for three years due to her condition and the lack of facilities and veterinary expertise [at Surabaya zoo],” Tony Sumampau, director of Taman Safari, said. “If the animal is suffering, those who see it will also feel sick. If people really love animals, we should let them go.”

A Sumatran tiger generally lives for about 10-15 years in the wild, but the animals can live up to 20 years in captivity.

Melani, the tiger at Taman Safari, is 15 years old.

“All the vets, including those at Wildlife Veterinarian International propose euthanasia,” Tony said. “They said that those who oppose it don’t understand the case. If she could choose [euthanasia] herself, she might decide to do it. It’s not our preference to do it, but I want people to understand that it’s better rather than to let her suffer.”

Retno Sudarwati, Melani’s veterinarian, said the animal weighed 44 kilograms when she was transferred to Taman Safari. The ideal weight is 75-85 kilograms.

By mid-August, after receiving intensive treatment at Taman Safari, Melani had gained 7 kilograms. The tiger was able to hold this weight only for a week and she now weighs around 48 kilograms, according to Retno.

“There is a serious infection in her stomach and colon… she was continuously consuming formaldehyde for a long period of time,” she said. “We have been treating her for two months and her weight has increased from 44 kilograms to 48.5 kilograms.

“We have discussed with our colleagues, both local and foreign. One of the options being considered is euthanasia to end her suffering. In other countries her condition has met the requirement to euthanize.”

However, Retno said that Taman Safari did not have the right to decide on whether or not to put down Melani.

“The one that should decide is the government as the animals here are owned by the government,” she said.

The government was not quite so pessimistic for Melani.

“Melani up until now is in a good condition,” Novianto Bambang, the director of biodiversity conservation at the Forestry Ministry, told the Jakarta Globe on Tuesday. “I visited her [earlier on Sep. 3] and her condition is good.”

Novianto said that, if the government did in the end decide to put Melani down, it would not be the first time the government had elected to end an animal’s life.

“There have been some euthanasia cases at the conservation [areas],” Novianto said. “But there should be strong health-related reasons and consideration of ethics. We will monitor the facts of her conditions, which at the moment is good. Her digestive system has been damaged, but we need time to observe her.”

While the government said that Melani was in a “good” condition, the director at Taman Safari were not as bullish about Melani’s prospects.

“I want people to understand that we have tried our best,” Tony said. “But we could not force her to keep on continuing her highly dependent life.”

Photos of Melani’s poor condition were first uploaded to the Internet by animal rights activists. The heartbreaking photographs, which showed the starving tiger laying in her cage, shined a light on the horrendous conditions found at many Indonesian zoos. The Surabaya Zoo, which once housed Melani and another starving Sumatran tiger, was labeled as one of the worst zoos in Indonesia after a giraffe died with 20 kilograms of plastic in its stomach in March 2012.

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Sources: The Jakarta Globe

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