It's good news week!!! At last it appears that the much loved Orangutans cared for by Frau Ulrike Freifrau von Mengden and her little team in Ragunan Zoo are going to be moved to a new home. It seems to have taken for ever but as the saying goes "Better late than never". I first made mention of the tragic conditions these animals were being kept in back in 2006 and repeated many times since.
FROM MY TRAVEL DIARY:
Thursday 15th June 2006
It has been a very odd day.
My directions said to catch bus number 19 from Jalan Thamin to get to Ragunan zoo. I did and was passed on mid road to bus number 604 which in turn passed me to number 602. I reckon the journey took about three quarters of an hour. I don't think I did too badly considering I never met an English speaker along the way. The biggest puzzle was to see another number 19 bus at the zoo. So why I couldn't have stayed on the first bus I have no idea.
Along the way I saw much evidence of high security, particularly outside banks, hotels and government buildings. There was even razor wire in use in places on the street. Even at shopping centres cars are being checked with mirrors underneath.
What the papers say:
'The Jakarta Post' - 15/06/06
'Mt Merapi erupts again'
'10 die after eating turtle'
The zoo is right next to the bus station. Big impressive entrance with more than one ticket booth. Inside there are numerous paths and roads. Most are in good repair. There is a mix of well maintained gardens and rough forest. The cages and enclosures are well
spaced within a huge area. There is so much more that could be built without straining land resources.
Most of the cages have green, hand painted signs. Most of these are correct, or nearly so. Certain glaring mistakes like a Black Jaguar coming from Africa spring to mind though. On the whole a complete overhaul of the signage is needed. Ideal opportunity to add maps, colour and a bit more information. There are a lot of old cages which have seen better days but are still in use. I daresay they may have held different species in the past. Those for the leopards are faced with heavy 'prison' bars. Inside there is a moat cum swimming pool and a sloping rock back. I thought these were quite good. A bit of tarting up and glass to replace the bars and they could be very nice indeed.
The reptile house was quite good and the aquarium too. A bit more planting up on the aquarium backs would really make them better. An assessment of the available reptile house space is called for. The soft shell turtle is in a hopelessly inadequate enclosure.
The Reticulated Python here is the biggest I have seen anywhere. It could swallow me whole. The signage in this area was much better though there was some incorrect spelling and information.
The old primate cages were very old fashioned. They were definitely built to last and don't look to be going to fall down soon. Lots of single monkeys amongst which there was Proboscis, Silver leaf, De Brazza, Macaca tonkeana, Macaca heckii, Macaca
brunesceri and more.
I had only spent a couple of hours in the zoo before I called on Ulrike Freifrau von Mengden*. This remarkable elderly Prussian lady has been living in a small cottage in the centre of the zoo for more than fifty years. During this time she has been caring for Orang-utans and a multitude of other creatures. Her companions today are two dogs, numerous cats, a free ranging Black Hornbill and a parrot so bald to be species unrecognisable. Oh and yes, seventeen or so Orangutans. These are lovingly maintained in the most horrific accommodation. Some are incapable of standing to full height or stretching out. All are in beautiful, even outstanding condition. Their bleak accommodation is spotlessly clean and their diet is good but this is no life. Some have been housed like this for seven years! And there is no end in site for this purgatory.
Ulla is naturally very frustrated and angry....and very stressed at the situation she finds her animals in. She needs help, she wants help and worries constantly as to what will happen when she is no longer there.
I met Ulla through an introduction from my friend Paul V but in conversation it turned out we had another acquaintance in common, Hans Bulart. She remembered him very well in spite of not having seen him for twenty five years or so (about as long as me). She is very keen to be put in touch with Hans once again. I heard he had disappeared into Trinidad somewhere but as he is not inclined to keep a low profile someone must know where he is. Please let me know.
On the Bulart front there was another interesting twist. Otto Bulart (Hans's father) always used to converse with me in a mix of three languages, switching from English to German to Arabic, sometimes all in the same sentence. Without my ever being able
to speak German I did over a few years build up a very good understanding of it. In the twenty odd years since, that understanding had faded into oblivion. Today Ulla was doing the same only this time it was English, German and Bahasa Indonesia**. Funny thing was the German was coming flooding back.
Ulla is trying her best for her animals. She supports them with her own cash, she even has her own small team of keepers without whom she could never manage. Ulla's zoo is a zoo within a zoo. Joe public do not get to see the miserable conditions in which her animals live. No, the public see the Orangutans in the 'Schmutzer Primate Center' (the other zoo within the zoo - more on this later) which must have amongst the very best Orangutan enclosures in the world. I have seen none better anywhere. Ulla believes her animals should be here or in broadly similar accommodation.
Previously the last real news we had of these animals was just over two years ago.
From Zoo News Digest 13th - 15th April 2009 (Zoo News 586).....Ragunan Zoo to transfer excess animals to other areas
Many endangered animals in South Jakarta’s Ragunan Zoo will be transferred to other conservation areas, as their number has exceeded its capacity.
Primates, like orang utans, owa (a gibbon from the Hylobatidae), siamang and mammals such as bears, white tigers, Sumatran tigers and Sumatran elephants are just a few of them.
“We have almost 50 orangutans, for instance. The number is about 10 percent higher than our capacity,” Edy Setiarto, head of the city animal husbandry agency said recently.
As the grounds are getting too crowded, the zoo management is finding it hard to take care of all the animals, says Edy.
“We plan to exchange some of our animals with other kinds from zoos around Indonesia or abroad to solve the problem,” said Edy.
“So far, we have exchanged animals with zoos in other countries, such as Qatar, China, Singapore and Australia,” he said, adding that the cooperation also included training animal keepers.....
And so now to the news and the video released yesterday. Interesting to note that the cages shown here are the best of the ones which I saw in 2006.
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