Jakarta zoo seeks a makeover

Jakarta zoo seeks a makeover
Ragunan Zoo (above) in Jakarta, the world's second-largest urban zoo, is looking to the Singapore Zoo as its benchmark.

Fourteen Papuan kangaroos died at Jakarta's Ragunan Zoo after three wild dogs slipped into their enclosure and set on them in November. Earlier last year, a hippopotamus died of digestive and kidney failure.

At 147ha, Ragunan is the world's second-largest urban zoo, after the Bronx Zoo in New York. It is a popular destination for families, attracting some 4.2 million visitors in 2012.

But last year's animal deaths have again cast a spotlight on its poor condition and mismanagement. Visitors freely feed animals and throw plastic bottles into enclosures. Officials want to change this behaviour as part of a makeover for the popular attraction.

"Visitors think that feeding the animals is something positive. We will have more no-feeding signboards and use our information booths to tell visitors this is not allowed," zoo spokesman Wahyudi Bambang told The Straits Times.

"We will also start imposing a 100,000 rupiah (S$10) fine on those found littering... We have a city regulation against littering, but no regulation on animal feeding. We can only appeal to visitors not to do that," he added, saying that these steps will kick in early this year.

Jakarta's no-nonsense Deputy Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama has taken a keen interest in the zoo upgrade.

There are plans to beef up fences, build a water treatment plant and create a huge enclosure for wild birds to fly freely among the natural trees and above a man-made lake.

Officials also plan to close the zoo on Mondays to give the animals a day off for their welfare.

Mr Basuki has said he wants the attraction to be like the Singapore Zoo, and has appointed tycoon and animal lover Hashim Djojohadikusumo - the brother of Mr Prabowo Subianto, who is patron of the Gerindra party and a presidential aspirant - to take charge of the overhaul.

Mr Basuki expects Mr Hashim to tap into his wide network and collaborate with zoos abroad.

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