Petition Calls for Animal Rights, Gives a Voice to the Voiceless
A tiger that tips the scales at 40 kilograms, a Javan warty pig found dead with traces of cyanide in its blood, and the tragic loss of a giraffe after consuming 20 kilograms of plastic are just some of the horror stories coming out of Surabaya Zoo.
The zoo, which has become notorious for numerous cases of animal mistreatment, is back in the news and has been making waves on social media — this time for the distressing pictures of a starving tiger, Melani, who is almost half the weight of a healthy adult tiger.
Dian Paramitha, an animal lover and animal protection activist, has found a way to call for action rather than wait for change to come.
“Seeing the condition of Melani the tigress broke my heart,” she says. “I decided I had to speak up for these animals that don’t have a voice.”
In response to the mistreatment at the zoo, Dian, who studies business and economics at a university in Yogyakarta, launched a petition directed at President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, calling for a National Commission for the Protection of Animals to be set up.
Initially, Dian created a petition to close down Surabaya Zoo, which is now the second-largest petition on Change.org Indonesia. But Dian decided to scrap that idea.
“Shutting down the zoo would create even more issues,” she says.
“There are almost 3,000 animals in that zoo. If we closed it down where would they go?”
Rehabilitation for release into the wild is not an option, as the zoo does not have the necessary facilities and resources for that.
“Change.org seemed like the best option for me,” Dian explains.
“I could get many people to sign and show their support. This gave me the courage to eventually go up to the president and make my case.”
Dian admits that animal welfare is not just an issue at Surabaya Zoo, and that it should be dealt with on a national level. “If my petition goes through, I hope it can help set the standards for animal welfare in Indonesia, in zoos, farms and even on a domestic level,” she says.
Arief Aziz, communications director at Change.org in Indonesia, explains why it’s important to have petitions like the one started by Dian. “Recent events such as cruelty in zoos and dolphin circuses show that we are facing a state of animal emergency,” he says.
“We didn’t think animal issues would be this popular. Petitions like Dian’s are crucial to shedding light on these hidden issues.”
In 2010, following a similar outcry after the death of another Sumatran tiger at Surabaya Zoo, a decree was issued to hand the zoo’s management over to the city administration. Melani’s plight is proof that the dire conditions there remain unchanged.
In fact, according to Medina Kamil, host of the nature travel show Petualangan, the transfer has done more harm than good.
“It’s not that the zoo doesn’t have the money or resources to feed the animals. The truth is that with the transfer, they’ve become politically affiliated, which has led to graft.”
“The money that the government spends on the animals doesn’t reach them. The staff take the meat and the vegetables meant for the animals. The cages of the animals are rented out for people to live in to generate even more money for themselves, while the animals roam free and unprotected.”
Medina advocates the petition wholeheartedly, with hopes that the National Commission will bring some law and order into the functioning of the zoo.
“The implementation of a legal system and a formal set of rules will result in fears of penalty, which will drastically reduce the cases of mistreatment of the helpless animals,” she says.
Amrita Mann, a Jakarta International School graduate and animal lover, is convinced that this petition can be an effective tool to promote knowledge and awareness of Indonesia’s biodiversity.
“This is an excellent step to regulate the handling of endangered species in Indonesia, which we currently lack,” Amrita says. “I would definitely invite everybody to sign this petition!”
Coming together will prove to be a big force. As Dian’s petition says, “Let’s speak up for those who cannot speak.” Your signature can change the life of Melani and countless other animals throughout Indonesia.
If you would like to see the full petition or add your signature, please visit www.change.org/komnashewan.