May 7 (TheStraitsTimes) – In a desperate bid to save hungry animals from being killed and fed to one another, the Indonesian Zoo Association has kicked off a fund-raising drive as the coronavirus pandemic takes a toll on zoo coffers.
Closed since mid-March, the 57 zoos across the country had enough funds to last only three to six months, mostly to feed and provide vet care for 70,000 animals and paying the wages of 22,000 employees, association chairman Rahmat Shah told The Straits Times.
The zoos, whose income largely depended on ticket sales from the 50 million annual visitors, make around $10 million a month in total. Some $6 million go towards their upkeep and operations.
“The zoos may be closed, but the animals still need to be fed and cared for, and their cages cleaned,” said Dr Rahmat. “Our priority is to keep the animals healthy, look after their welfare and make sure their care and maintenance can run normally.”
The association wrote to President Joko Widodo two weeks ago seeking financial assistance, but has yet to get a response.
On their part, the zoo operators have used cheaper feed substitutes, shortened the work hours of staff and even slashed their salaries by up to 50 per cent to cut costs.
The fund-raising drive, called Food For Animals, launched last Saturday (May 2), was the association’s latest attempt to ensure the animal’s survival.
Some $50,000, including a contribution from Dr Rahmat’s own pocket, has been raised so far.
Pleading for more support from the government, community leaders, businessmen and animal lovers in Indonesia and around the world, Dr Rahmat said: “We are fighting hard and desperately. We need all the help from various groups.
“We are in crisis and the situation is worrying. If we get no donations by the end of May, the lives of the animals will be threatened.”