Asia For Animals Coalition responds to cigarette-smoking orangutan at Indonesia’s Bandung Zoo


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 10270

March 2018

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 publication of footage showing an orangutan at Bandung Zoo smoking a cigarette.

Smoking cigarettes is universally recognised as a serious health hazard. Allowing an orangutan to smoke is both detrimental to their health and promotes an inappropriate message to the public.

A government designated conservation agency, such as Bandung Zoo, must act as a centre for both conservation and public education. To inspire the public to care about the plight of endangered species such as orangutans, these animals should be seen in naturalistic environments, with opportunities for them to display their natural behaviours.

Providing orangutans with cigarettes, and/or allowing visitors to give cigarettes to the orangutans, conveys a message of animal use purely for entertainment and does nothing to promote respect and empathy for this species. Visitors are neither educated on the nature or behaviour of orangutans, nor of the need to protect and care for them and their wild counterparts.

It also presents a negative image of Indonesia within the international media and damages the international reputation of Bandung City.

We also respectfully remind you of our letter of January 2017, with regards to the poor welfare of the sun bears at Bandung Zoo. We acknowledge changes have been made to the enclosures, but we urge the government to support the zoo to provide a complete re-design of the sun bear enclosures to improve their welfare.

The management of both the bears and the orangutan presents a risk to the animals’ health and welfare and appears to be in contravention to Article 29, para g1; Article 29, para f2, and Article 30, para f3, of The Regulation of the Minister of Forestry of the Republic of Indonesia Number: P.31/Menhut-II/2012 on Conservation Agencies.

We request the government provide further support to Bandung zoo to ensure that the staff are instructed to control this negative visitor behaviour and thus prevent visitors from giving any animals cigarettes in the future, and to establish a programme of environmental enrichment, and to work with the zoo to further modify the enclosures for animals such as the sun bears so it is capable of meeting the physical and behavioural needs of these bears in the long term.

With mounting awareness of, and concern for, the welfare of animals in captivity in Indonesia, we urge you to take urgent action to rectify these situations and help the zoo meet the needs of the animals as soon as possible.

We seek your kind attention to address these issues, and we offer our support.

Sent on behalf of the following organisations:
1. Animal Guardians
2. Animal People
3. Animals Asia Foundation
5. Blue Cross of India
6. Born Free Foundation
7. Change for Animals Foundation
8. Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations
9. Help Animals India
10. Humane Society International
11. International Fund for Animal Welfare
12. Jane Goodall Institute Nepal
13. Philippine Animal Welfare Society
14. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Hong Kong
15. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Sarawak, Malaysia
16. World Animal Protection

Featured image: Orangutan at UK’s Chester Zoo. Credit Nigel Swales, used under CC BY-SA 2.0

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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.

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