A blue moon hangs in the sky above Palembang Zoo where dozens of wild animals sleep on their dirt floors, unaware of their imminent rescue. Animal welfare advocates are gripping a profound opportunity to save every animal at this zoo, where nearly lifeless animals languish in empty cages, often without drinking water or even a simple tree branch. After years of extreme deprivation, some may wonder if it’s too late to awaken the wild ones here from their somber state. But rescuers are predicting a breathtaking transformation when the animals are moved to new homes with natural habitats aimed at nourishing them in both body and soul.
The closure of this Indonesian zoo is a rare event in contrast to the countless dilapidated zoos still operating worldwide, but thanks to a determined effort by Indonesian authorities, the door has been unlocked for this massive rescue operation. Jenny Desmond, a long time rescuer who serves as International Projects Director for the Harmony Fund charity, inspected the zoo recently and is now sleepless with anticipation.
“Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw at Palembang Zoo,” explains Jenny who represents the Harmony Fund in a collaborative effort with the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry, Centre for Orangutan Protection (COP) and Animals Indonesia (AI). “I saw gibbons, the greatest acrobats of all time, sprawled out on the floors of their enclosures with nowhere to sit, much less climb or swing. I found a snake with a shattered face, a horse so thin her bones were like blades and declawed bears pacing back and forth. What hit me hardest was the absence of drinking water. The owners of this zoo cared so little, they could not be bothered to provide the most basic of all needs. My heart broke that day, but only for a moment.”
“At each cage I stood and looked into the eyes of these individuals who had been so cheated by humans and made a promise that I would come back,” Jenny says.
Last year, the zoo’s orangutan and tiger both died in their empty cages here. And although rescuers have temporarily secured daily water and food for the animals, there remains a sense of urgency and the very real threat that there will be a succession of deaths if the animals aren’t taken to safety soon.
Charity Prepares Rescue Operation
At this moment, government officials have signed a memorandum of understanding calling for the immediate shutdown of the zoo and the purchase of land for a new rescue center and way station that will not only impact the animals at the zoo today but also become a critical recovery zone for future animals confiscated from wildlife traffickers.
As one of the most biodiverse countries on earth, Indonesia also has the fourth largest human population in the world. As development increases, dangers to wildlife have escalated dramatically making the islands are now home to the highest number of internationally threatened mammals and birds.
Though summer is traditionally a very poor time of year for charity drives, a hopeful initiative is underway to gather funds for the provision of veterinary medicines, nutritious food, staffing and more for the zoo’s victims. More here on how to help.