Warning: Disturbing video footage.
An Indonesian zoo which has come under heavy criticism after videos emerged of its shockingly gaunt sun bears has defended itself, saying that thin animals are not necessarily unhealthy.
Many demanded the closure of the zoo after footage emerged from an animal wildlife group. In the disturbing videos, the starving bears in spartan concrete enclosures were seen begging visitors for fruit and even eating their own faeces.
Yet the Bandung zoo has defended the animals’ living conditions.
“Does being thin mean being unhealthy or not having enough food?” said Sudaryo, a spokesman for Yayasan Margasatwa Tamansari, the zoo’s operator.
“On the other hand, looking fat does not mean an animal is healthy,” he added.
Sudaryo also maintained that the sun bears had adequate food.
“The animals here have enough food supplies, if you want to help, get in touch with us directly,” he said.
Some commenters are livid.
“How about you try to starve and see if you can still call yourself healthy?” said one commenter on the Jakarta Post.
“Thin to the point of showing ribs is definitely unhealthy. Sudaryo’s defense line was so ridiculous that for a moment, I thought it was from a politician,” said another.
Allegations of animal neglect are not new to Bandung’s zoo, with its endangered Sumatran elephant (warning: disturbing photo) photographed chained up and seeminglycryinghours before it died.
The zoo operator has hired two in-house vets, after the Forestry and Environment Ministry had in July threatened to revoke its license.
The secretary general of Indonesia’s Zoo Association said on Wednesday that he had visited the Bandung zoo and found that the animals were healthy.
“The carnivores are even too fat,” said Tony Sumampau.
He added that he had in May seen a sun bear that looked thin, but “it was an old bear. I visited again recently and did not see [it].”
A petition looking to shut down the zoo has now reached almost 400,000 signatures.
Sun bears as typically found in forest habitats in Southeast Asia and have been classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The Bandung zoo is not the first in Indonesia to be called out for its poor conditions; another zoo in the city of Surabaya having been dubbed the “Zoo of Death”.
BONUS: This bear somehow got stuck inside a car