Indonesia: End Taman Safari’s cruel treatment of animals, says AfA Coalition


(Featured image: lion cub used as photographic prop at a Taman Safari facility. Credit LWYang, CC BY 2.0)

Letter addressed to:

Her Excellence Siti Nurbaya Bakar
Minister of Environment & Forestry
Ministry of Environment & Forestry Republic of Indonesia
Gedung Manggala Wanabakti Blok I Lt. 3
Jalan Gatot Subroto
Senayan, Jakarta
Indonesia – 10270

December 2016


Your Excellence,

We are writing on behalf of the Asia for Animals Coalition, representing international animal welfare and conservation organisations. We express our deep concern with regards to the treatment of animals at Taman Safari facilities in Indonesia.

image003Members of our coalition have visited the Taman Safari facilities in recent months and witnessed conditions that are causing immense animal suffering. For example, during a visit to the Bali Safari & Marine Park, we witnessed a Sumatran elephant calf held in a small enclosure, being used to give visitors feeding and photo opportunities. The calf was exhibiting stereotypic behaviours such as pacing and head swaying, usually attributed to severe stress in captive wildlife, and, in this instance, presumably because of the inappropriate housing conditions and invasive interactions with visitors. This type of blatant exploitation and resultant suffering of the elephant calf is at odds with Bali Safari Park’s claims of public education about animal protection and conservation.

Furthermore, at each Taman facility visited, elephants are forced to provide tourist rides. The use of elephants for rides and photo opportunities for the public presents severe welfare problems for the elephants, and such close proximity to an elephant presents a serious risk to public safety, with countless reports from around the world of tourists and mahouts being seriously injured and killed.

image005These elephants are being deprived of the ability to perform most of their natural behaviours, spending their days either confined, tethered, or under the ankus of the mahout, and working under environmentally taxing conditions – direct sun, in the heat of the day, often with little access to food and water. During the times when they are not being used to provide rides, they are chained for extensive periods with no opportunity to exercise. Elephants are highly social animals. Chaining provides them with little or no social interaction, and is likely to cause a significant amount of stress, which can result in the manifestation of behavioural abnormalities.

Most importantly, they are deprived of choice: choice of behavior, social encounters, activity, cognitive engagement, foraging, foods, resting times and places. Everything with which a wild animal occupies their time with is denied and replaced by human-mandated activities. The combination of boredom, frustration and fear can cause severe pathology.[1]

image007Whilst elephants may not show overt signs of distress., chronic stress is internalised to engender physiological and psychological changes that make the animal ill over time. Chronically high levels of cortisol, immune suppression, structural changes in the brain, cognitive dysfunction, heart disease, kidney disease, weakening of the muscle structures, and endocrine disturbances are but some of the problems that chronically stressed animals may suffer from. Poor veterinary care and compromised immune function from stress can result in high parasite burdens, nutritional disturbances, viral infections, and wounds that do not heal.

We would also like to express our grave concerns regarding the continued use of wild animals as photographic props at all Taman facilities. In May 2016, widely-distributed footage showed a boy and a woman sitting with a lion cub at a Taman Safari facility. The lion cub appeared drowsy and was repeatedly kept awake by a member of staff using a baton.

Despite Taman’s rejection of the accusations of drugging and sedating the lion cub, the international media coverage of this case has raised serious concerns regarding the welfare of the animals at Taman Safari and the continued exploitation of animals as photo props.

image009Coalition members also observed the abusive treatment of a lion cub being exploited as a photo prop at the Bali Safari & Marine Park in 2015. In this incident a lion was reluctant to go back into a small cage following a day of photo sessions. The keepers dragged the young lion across a stage and forced him into a backstage area. In addition to the poor welfare for this individual, the situation demonstrated a real public safety concern as the lion’s ‘handlers’ struggled to keep hold of the young lion due to his unwillingness to be returned to his cage.

These incidents demonstrate Taman Safari’s inability to meet the needs of captive wild animals being used for such abusive entertainment practices.

Promoting the use of animals in this way does nothing to promote respect and empathy for wild animals or to educate people on their nature and the need for us to protect and care for them and their wild counterparts. It simply encourages the viewing public to see them as objects to be used and abused for our entertainment.

image011The presence of strange people and frequent handling by people that they are not familiar with is also likely to cause them some degree of stress and suffering. Captive wild animals such as lions and orangutans have not passed through a period of domestication which animals such as dogs and cats have been through. Therefore, all individuals, including those that have been hand reared, remain wary of strange situations and strange people, causing them to become distressed when put into such situations.

Many animals used for photo props are also held in isolation cages, to be brought out of their cages only for photo sessions. The conditions in which many of these animals are housed are often unacceptable. Young animals may also be removed from their mothers at an inappropriate age so that they can be hand reared. Research has demonstrated that animals separated from their mothers at an early age, or raised in an inappropriately unstimulating environment are much more likely to develop behavioural problems and stereotypy as they age.[2]

image013Animals such as lion cubs require a period of time with their mothers and other siblings to develop the necessary social skills they will require throughout their lives. Orangutan infants would naturally spend 7-8 years with their mothers before developing their independence. Artificial rearing disrupts this natural process and often results in socially maladjusted animals which may be difficult to place in a group or lack the skills for normal behaviour.

The incidents described present a risk to the animals’ health and welfare and are in contravention to Article 29, para f[3] and para g[4]; and Article 30, para f[5], of The Regulation of the Minister of Forestry of the Republic of Indonesia Number: P.31/Menhut-II/2012 on Conservation Agencies.

With mounting awareness of, and concern for, the welfare of animals used in entertainment facilities across South-East Asia, we urge you to take urgent action to investigate Taman Safari and to end these activities on the grounds of the contravention of the national regulation, animal welfare, public safety, and in recognition of the inappropriate messaging these activities promote to the public.

Sent on behalf of the following organisations:

  1. Animal Guardians
  2. Animal People
  3. Animals Asia Foundation
  4. ACRES
  5. Blue Cross of India
  6. Change for Animals Foundation
  7. Elephant Aid International
  8. Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations
  9. Humane Society International
  10. International Fund for Animal Welfare
  11. Philippine Animal Welfare Society
  12. Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
  13. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Hong Kong
  14. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Sarawak, Malaysia
  15. World Animal Protection



[1] Kati Loeffler, DVM, PhD, MRCVS, Veterinary Advisor, International Fund for Animal Welfare. Personal communications, 2015

[2]Cirulli, F., Berry, A., and Alleva, E.(2003) ‘Early disruption of the mother-infant relationship: effects on brain plasticity and implications for psychopathology’, Neuroscience and Biobehavioural Reviews, 27: 73-82

[3] holders of conservation agencies are prohibited from displaying animals that are gestating, ill, and abnormal (Article 29, para f),

[4] holders of conservation agencies are prohibited from neglecting animals or managing animals not in accordance with animal ethics and welfare (Article 29, para g)

[5] holders of conservation agencies are obliged to intensively manage the conservation agency in accordance with ethics and animal welfare (Article 30, para f)


Copied to:

President Joko Widodo
President Republik Indonesia
Istana Negara
Jalan Medan Merdeka Utara
Jakarta Pusat 10110

Drs. H. Muhammad Jusuf Kalla
Wakil President Republik Indonesia
Jl Medan Merdeka Selatan 6 Kel, Gambir
Jakarta Pusat. 10110

Drs. Setya Novanto, Ak
Chairman of House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat)
Gedung Nusantara III
Jalan Jenderal Gatot Subroto
Jakarta 10270

Gerald Dick
Executive Director
WAZA Executive Office
IUCN Conservation Centre
Rue Mauverney 28
CH_1196 Gland

Mr. Bambang Hendroyono
Secretary General
Ministry of Environment & Forestry Republic of Indonesia
Gedung Manggala Wanabakti Blok I Lt. 3
Jalan Gatot Subroto – Senayan – Jakarta – Indonesia – 10270

Mr. Rasio Ridho Sani
Director General of Law Enforcement
Ministry of Environment & Forestry Republic of Indonesia
Gedung Manggala Wanabakti Blok I Lt. 3
Jalan Gatot Subroto – Senayan – Jakarta – Indonesia – 10270

Mr. Bambang Dahono Adji
Directorate of Conservation & Biodiversity, Ministry of Forestry
Gedung Manggala Wanabakti Bld Block VII 7th Floor
Jalan Gatot Subroto
Jakarta 10270

Dr H Rahmat Shah
Indonesian Zoo and Aquarium Association (PKBSI)
Jl. Harsono RM
No 10 Ragunan
Jakarta, 12550

Tony Sumampau
Secretary General
Indonesian Zoo and Aquarium Association (PKBSI)
Jl. Harsono RM
No 10 Ragunan
Jakarta, 12550

Michael Sumampau
General Manager
Taman Safari Indonesia
Ds Jatiarjo Prigen

Sharmy Prastiti
Curator of Mammals
Taman Safari Indonesia
Cisarua Bogor
Jawa Barat


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The Asia For Animals (AfA) Coalition is composed of 16 well-known and respected animal welfare organisations that have a shared focus on improving the welfare of animals in Asia. We are committed to providing support to organisations to help with their campaigns to tackle some of the most pressing animal welfare concerns in the region. Click to see author's profile.


  1. Too much cars… the truck for visitor is worst! My first and last time, I will never go there again! I didn’t know it was such place !
    Animals are surrounded by noisy music and used as entertainments! Parks are too small for them such as hippos : way too small for this animal like WTH !!
    And elephant used to ride ?? Seriously ? How many people is he caring PER DAY !
    Oh and Dolphins… I don’t think they have enough space for themselves!
    So many to say on ALL animals…

    The only show I liked was the acrobatic dance performed with only humans.. the rest only break my heart …

    Please don’t go to this kind of place, dont support this behaviour and this stupidity. Animals are not happy in their small box.

    And using your own car to go to the safari is not environment friendly AT ALL ! How can this park not make a shuttle to go around ? It will be much better than having 10 cars in ONE SAME PLACE ! Think of the animals ! Did they like smelling your gaz car ? Are they happy to smell pollution ? Really ? Will you be happy to breath gaz ? And be disturbed all day by visitor ?
    And animals looks so drugged! How can they sleep an entire day ??

    Also I saw a man, who is working at the safari as a truck driver, throw his water bottle in the grass when the trash bin was 5 METERS away ! Why ? How can you not put your trash in the trash bin ? People are responsible for their own misery !!

    No more ! No more !

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