Last week, my daughter sent me a video of three Southeast Asian sun bears inside Indonesia’s Bandung Zoo which were so emaciated that you could see their ribs when they stood up to beg for scraps of dry bread and French fries from visiting tourists.
The image of the animals disturbing skeletal forms were made even more horrifying by a scene in which the hungry bears even resort to eating their own feces.
The video, which has been viewed millions of times on YouTube and other media, has sparked global outrage and a demand to close down the zoo altogether.
This is not the first time that the Bandung Zoo has been singled out for its inhumane treatment of its wards.
Last year, a neglected Sumatran elephant (a critically endangered species) died there after have been left lying in her cage without veterinary care for more than a week.
So far, the Indonesian government has responded only by dispatching the country’s minister of environment and forestry to launch a comprehensive investigation into the zoo’s handling of the animals.
But critics are saying that the proposed investigation constitutes little more than a national image damage-control Band-Aid and will not help save these innocent creatures from ultimate starvation.
No doubt, global outrage over the fate of the sun bears will soon die down, and the investigation and its findings will be forgotten.
But the only moral solution is to close the Bandung Zoo down permanently and to send the bears — along with the other animals suffering in its care — to native habitats or public reserves where they can live out their lives with adequate food and basic dignity.
It is time to take an international stance and call the Indonesian government to task, and to demand more than empty promises and inconsequential investigations.
It is time to close the Bandung Zoo forever and show the world that the administration of Joko Widodo will not abide such intolerable cruelty.
The whole world is watching, Jakarta.
Thérèse Margolis can be reached at [email protected]