A disturbing video of painfully thin sun bears at the Bandung Zoo in West Java, Indonesia has made waves online, sparking an uproar among millions of animal activists and ordinary concerned citizens alike.
The Sun Bears Of Bandung Zoo
In the one-minute clip, the almost-skeletal animals can be seen begging visitors for food, standing on their hind legs with their arms open, and scrambling to the ground for candy, cake, and other scraps of junk food that people are tossing into their enclosure.
Worse, there is also a video showing one of the starving sun bears answering the call of nature and eating his own feces after.
The pitiful plight of the bears of Bandung Zoo has caught the attention of news outlets and netizens worldwide after Indonesia-based organization, Scorpion Wildlife Trade Monitoring Group, uploaded a series of videos exposing the bears' heartbreaking situation. As of today, the video has been viewed more than half a million times already.
"When my team visited the zoo last week there was no grass or live trees on the floor of their cage. We saw a sun bear eating its own dung but when we contacted the zoo's officers they told us the bear was medicated and we weren't allowed to see it," Gunung Gea, the director of Scorpion, said.
Since January 2017, several online petitions have surfaced asking Indonesian President Joko Widodo to shut down Bandung Zoo immediately.
Expert: Sun Bears' Behavior A Cause For Concern
"There seems to be a lot amiss with the sun bears' behavior," sun bear expert Gabriella Fredriksson told the National Geographic.
Fredriksson, who also runs the Sun Bear Center in Borneo, explained that the begging means the sun bears are used to receiving food from the zoo visitors, which is not only unhealthy for the animals but is indicative of poor zoo management, too.
She also noticed that two of the bears seem to be lactating. Fredriksson said this suggests that uncontrolled breeding is happening among the bears, which is not ideal as this results in baby cubs being killed and eaten by adults.
The sun bear eating his own feces is a clear sign of absolute boredom. According to Fredriksson, these bears are used to an extremely active lifestyle in the wild and, as their name suggests, are used to basking in the sun. She says providing the sun bears adequate climbing structures with access to sunshine is highly recommended.
Fredriksson also doesn't approve of the concrete confinement, which most of the sun bears at the Bandung Zoo share, noting that bears are solitary creatures and that they have delicate footpads that get irritated and infected with frequent contact to cement.
The Sad State Of Indonesian Zoos
The video has brought front and center the miserable condition that animals held in captivity are suffering from.
Unfortunately, the sad story of the sun bears at the Bandung Zoo is not the first. Through the years, Indonesia has gained notoriety for having some of the worst zoos in the world. The Surabaya Zoo, popularly known as the Zoo of Death, and the Medan Zoo are infamous for their cruelty to animals.
In 2015, Indonesia's Ministry of Environment and Forestry revealed that only four of the country's 58 registered zoos — Taman Safari Cisarua in West Java, Taman Safari Pasuruan in East Java, Taman Safari Gianyar in Bali, and Sea World in Jakarta — were deemed decent and proper by the agency.
The accreditation process is done once every five years by representatives from the government, veterinarians, and other experts who evaluate Indonesian zoos based on animal welfare, animal death rates, and state of facilities.