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Kebun Binatang Bandung: The Most Depressing Zoo Ever?

Zoos, although an educational and inspiring experience for children, often caused mixed feelings among adults. It is rare that I visit them nowadays but a couple weeks ago while in Bandung I did happen to pass through Kebun Binatang Bandung Zoo.

As you may have guessed from my tweet above, this trip to the zoo was an unplanned and unexpected stop. As it happened a friend and I were walking through Bandung with two hours to kill before our train back to Jakarta left the station when we stumbled upon the zoo. With nothing better to do we paid the 15,000 rupiah entrance fee ($1.50 USD) and decided to check it out.

Kebun Binatang Bandung Zoo
One of the entrances to Kebun Binatang Bandung Zoo

How Lonely Planet describes this zoo:  

The Bandung Zoo has spacious, beautifully landscaped gardens, which are very attractive, but there are few animals and most are housed in typically cramped conditions.

That is EXACTLY why I don’t trust anything Lonely Planet says…nothing about this place was “beautifully landscaped” or “very attractive.” While they were right about the “few animals” part they also left out the part about how there is more trash than animals. It was both disgusting and disappointing!

And I Have Not Even Gotten To The Worst Parts Yet…

Bandung is located 140km southeast of Jakarta and is perched up in the mountains about 750km above sea level. Thanks to it’s location the city receives rain on a fairly regular basis year-round and that is one of the first problems visitors notice with the zoo. As none of the animal habitats have any sort of roof or awning over them, many them live in a perpetual mud pit.

Muddy animals at Kebun Binatang Bandung Zoo
Muddy animals at Kebun Binatang Bandung Zoo
Muddy animals at Kebun Binatang Bandung Zoo
Muddy animals at Kebun Binatang Bandung Zoo
Muddy animals at Kebun Binatang Bandung Zoo
Muddy animals at Kebun Binatang Bandung Zoo


Then there were the cigarette smoking orangutans…

Although Tori, the infamous cigarette-smoking orangutan has now been moved and is (hopefully) no longer smoking cigarettes, that doesn’t mean all is well for the other apes in Indonesia. While there I witnessed an Indonesian man throw several cigarettes into the orangutan cage. At least this particular one tried to eat the cigarette before throwing it down into the grass in disgust…

Orangutan smoking a cigarette

That brings me to my next complaint about the zoo…

The animals are all STARVING — the zoo literally doesn’t have the money to feed them. According to the staff they have no meat to find the lions, bears, tigers, and other large mammals. Thankfully New Zealand sends over donations of meat twice a week to feed these fellas. Unfortunately that means that these once great beasts of the jungle are now reduced to a life of eating one day and then fasting for three. Besides being scrawny and unhealthy looking, these animals also lack the energy to even roam around their tiny confines.

Starving tigers at Kebun Binatang Bandung Zoo
These tigers might as well have been scrawny stuffed animals — no one would notice the difference.

Hungry bears beg for food at Kebun Binatang Bandung Zoo
Hungry bears beg for food at Kebun Binatang Bandung Zoo in Indonesia

As for the smaller animals, Kebun Binatang Bandung Zoo relies on peanut sales to keep them all fed. Nearly every creature will flock to the edges of their cages anytime humans approach. Again, this is entertaining to the kids but rather depressing to us adults. And if it rains really heavy for a few days straight and there are no visitors, well guess what — the animals don’t get fed. (Except for those that survive off of grass and/or bamboo, such as the elephants and horses.)

Elephants at Kebun Binatang Bandung Zoo
Horses at Kebun Binatang Bandung Zoo


Starving animals get as close as possible to visitors, desperate for any sort of food  

Starving animals beg for food at Kebun Binatang Bandung Zoo
Starving animals beg for food at Kebun Binatang Bandung Zoo
Starving animals beg for food at Kebun Binatang Bandung Zoo
Starving animals beg for food at Kebun Binatang Bandung Zoo
Starving animals beg for food at Kebun Binatang Bandung Zoo

Throughout all the cages only one species was not begging for food…

…and they’ve mastered the use of modern tools!

The most active animal at the zoo were the Homo Sapiens
Turns out the most active animals at the zoo were the Homo Sapiens…

Yes, this zoo definitely left a bitter taste in my mouth. I don’t understand it either — Bandung is a big town with lots of tourism and fancy malls / restaurants. Why can’t they find a few extra rupiah to give these animals some real food and at least a chance at being happy? At least as happy as any could be in a cage…

I would say do not visit, however the animals need you to or they won’t get fed!

Now I have a feeling it will be another decade before I ever visit another zoo. Shame to go out on such a bad note. I really miss the Tokyo Zoo, which actually closes down for two months out of every year to give the animals a break from the people. How cool is that? 😉

What are your thoughts on zoos?

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About Derek Freal

"Some people eat, others try therapy. I travel."   Cultural enthusiast. Adrenaline junkie. Eater of strange foods. Chasing unique and offbeat adventures around the world since 2008. Derek loves going to new destinations where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, or places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo -- supposedly its healthier and more efficient. For more information (about Derek, not squat pooing) including popular posts and videos, check out his bio.

59 thoughts on “Kebun Binatang Bandung: The Most Depressing Zoo Ever?”

  1. Sad… Nope, I’m not a fan of zoo. I’d rather go to safari. But yea, I’m scared of reptiles especially snakes..

    Reply
      • Oh! Who likes arachnids anyways? ☺

        Anyway, I support your campaign. Hope the government will do something about this. If they couldn’t take care of these animals, just free them. I still have hope for these animals…

        Reply
        • ALL ABUSEMENT ZOOS SHOULD BE CLOSED, BANNED BY THEIR COUNTRY’S GOVERNMENT. WILD ANIMALS SHOULD LIVE IN THE WILD, THAT’S WHY THEY ARE CALLED WILD ANIMALS. ZOO OWNERS ARE GREEDY AND ABUSE/TORTURE ANIMALS BY FORCING THEM TO REMAIN IN CAPTIVITY, OFTEN WITHOUT FOOD.
          I BET ALL THESE GREEDY OWNERS ARE HAPPY THEY WERE NOT BORN WILD ANIMALS AND THEY KNOW EXACTLY WHY… Send an e-mail
          [email protected]
          to THE Indonesian Ambassador,
          Budi Bowoleksono,
          Washington DC pointing out how disgusting the Bandung Zoo is and to use the power he has to close it.

          Reply
          • Yeah I spoke with the mayor again recently a week or two ago, and he says that it is a privately owned zoo which the city has already reported to the national level. Unfortunately (or maybe to our benefit) one thing I learned while living in Indonesia is that 10,000 Indonesians can complain about something and nothing gets done….or ten foreigners can raise hell and changes actually happen. Fingers crossed this case is that one of the latter…

  2. Omg – that is so incredibly depressing. What a horrible life those animals are subjected to. We aren’t big fans of zoos, but this is the most horrible treatment we have heard of in a zoo. So sad.

    Reply
  3. Where’s the animal activists! And I thought Belgrade Zoo was bad. The only attractive thing looks like that gnarly tree in the middle of the mudpit.

    Reply
    • It’s far worse now!! ???? Actually downright sickening & disgusting. The bears you pictured? Today I saw video of all 3 REALLY begging for food. They look like skeletons of themselves & they are literally fur on bone. They are at starvation & will die very quickly if something isn’t done immediately to shut that zoo down. I don’t know how ANYONE could turn a blind eye to this, but the Indonesian government is!!! I’ll NEVER travel to that country!

      Reply
      • Yes Suzanne, my friend in Bandung showed me that Daily Mail video as well. 3 and a half years ago the new (at that time) mayor said he would get things fixed. Damn depressing to learn that not only has that not happened but things are actually worse now than when I was there four years ago. Beyond depressing it is just sickening…

        Reply
  4. This is one of the most awful, depressing things I have seen in a while. Maybe we could get this on the radar of one of the big, international animal rights groups that might have some clout with the government to fix this situation?

    Reply
  5. When the animals have space to roam and are properly cared for, I think zoos provide important research and inspire those of us who might not ever otherwise see these animals. But this situation is just not right.

    Reply
    • I totally agree with you Jennifer. The most perplexing part is Bandung is not a small city. Their population is around 2.4 million and it is a popular hotspot for foreign tourists, particularly visitors from other southeastern Asia who come for the luxury stores in the local malls. Although the zoo does not have the money the city cemost rtainly does — it just allocate much, if anything, to maintaining and improving the zoo…

      Reply
  6. Aw man, that sounds terrible! I remember having the same awful feeling at Barcelona Zoo many years ago. I couldn’t bring myself to put another foot in a zoo for years… until I had kids. Now I live in Melbourne and I must say, their zoo is absolutely amazing. A great example of how they should be run and what they can do for conservation.
    I know what you mean about Bandung… it’s a massive city. It doesn’t make sense to not put the money into it when it could be a potential tourism money spinner.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the comment Linda. Surprised to hear that Barcelona Zoo was not up to par — that is very surprising. But you’re right, zoos are definitely best for kids — both for learning and inspiration. And of course the obligatory fun that comes with it when they see so many new animals up close and personal 🙂

      Reply
      • Yep I agree Barcelona was dodgy. I saw a school kid feed her lunch to the elephant, kids patting the penguins heads and harrassing them. The monkey was eating his shit but thats nothing new I guess. The Rhinos were in an area about 10 x 5 meters and when they layed down they took up all the space that wasn’t rock. Barcelona Zoo was just weird.

        Reply
  7. Wow, this is just terrible. I love zoos, but do appreciate the balancing act that they must go through. I feel like a good zoo brings people and awareness of exotic animals they may not otherwise even know existed, but I still have a somewhat shaky feeling of having animals, especially large animals, locked up. This zoo just seems like a tragedy though. Really terrible…

    Reply
  8. I really don’t like zoos and this is just one reason why, it’s awfulseeing those poor creatures in such a sorry state. I agree with your final statement however, people need to visit to ensure they animals survive.

    There really needs to be international legislation which governs the administration of zoos and the welfare of the animals. Any zoo which cannot properly care for it’s animals should be forced to close and the animals shipped to other zoos which can.

    No point thinking of reintroduction to the wild of course as they’d never survive.

    Reply
  9. oh wow. that makes me really sad. Do you have any way for people to volunteer? Like how New Zealand sends stuff over. Maybe there’s a donation people could send?

    Reply
    • Regretfully not that I know of…but then again I’m just some “gila bule” (crazy foreigner) traveling around Java on a motorbike. Of course I’m sure they wouldn’t turn down any free stuff you send their way…

      Reply
  10. I think seeing animals suffer is as sad as seeing children suffer, especially when they are dependent upon us. I’m not a zoo kinda gal and was once upset at the fact that the Miami Museum of Science had owls and eagles in captivity. In my rage, my friend calmed me down and we soon found out that these birds were no longer able to live outside the confines of man’s care due to an incredible accident making them unable to fend for themselves. With that said, I understand the purpose of a zoo…ONLY if animals are unable to survive on their own because they can no longer fly, broke their foot, etc.

    This zoo looks very sad and even more so if you’re saying that there are nice looking malls in the vicinity. Poor guys, hopefully more people will visit…although I’m not sure we can help with the weather pattern. Seems like they would be better off at a zoo that can afford them and one with more grass and less rain. Great reporting! 🙂

    Reply
    • Thanks Tiana. I was told by a local friend that he passed my article on to a reporter for the Jakarta Post and that he will be taking a trip out to this zoo next month, to investigate my claims for himself. So we’ll see if any good ever comes of this story….hopefully so!

      Reply
  11. You’ve been in Indonesia a while now, so I’m sure it comes as no surprise that things don’t usually run smoothly. The bureaucracy is in serious need of reform and until that happens, things manager by the government will be inefficient. Like the roads which are perpetually potholed to the point that many roads are worse than dirt roads.

    Have you visited Surabaya zoo? Now that has a bad reputation but everyone already knows about that. Tigers dying, a giraffe with a massive ball of plastic in its stomach… That sort of stuff. But still after all these years it is in the same state as it always has been.

    Reply
    • Nope, have not visited the Surabaya Zoo. I have however heard all the horror stories about it. It seems that is the one zoo that everyone tells me is worse than Bandung. Of course that is also why during my two trips to Surabaya I specifically did not visit that zoo.

      I don’t get it though…Surabaya is also, like Bandung, a fairly rich city. Why is it that the rich cities have the poorest zoos?

      At least Ridwan Kamil has already set aside funds to improve Kebun Binatang Bandung; a friend forwarded me the news article. Maybe I need to write an exposé on the deplorable state of the Surabaya zoo as well…

      Of course you also make a good point about the government of Indonesia. It would appear, at least to my outsider eyes, that too many people are in it to “get theirs” and not actually improve the living and working conditions of the local citizens. I did look into Ridwan Kamil after talking with him and he appears to be different. That having been said, I’m hoping to see some positive improvements in Bandung, not just with the zoo but also with the city itself 🙂

      Reply
  12. While heartbreaking, I’m glad you reported this sad state of affairs, and I hope that Ridwan Kamil has followed through with his intention to better fund the zoo.

    Reply
    • I hope so too. It’s been nearly a year now, I’m back in Indonesia again (as you undoubtedly realize from my bear photo on Twitter of another Indonesian zoo) and I also speak (and even blog) in Bahasa Indonesia now. As such I am looking forward to returning to Bandung yet again to see if there have been any improvements. Also I’d like to get the chance to speak to Ridwan in real life, as opposed to just on Twitter, if at all possible. Would be great to write a follow-up piece 🙂

      Reply
  13. Don’t come in rain season to Bandung something bad will happen like muddy cage, road etc bad panoramic. Thanks for visiting Bandung Mr. Derek someday i want to visiting Las Vegas

    Reply
    • I actually didn’t visit Bandung during the rainy season but rather the dry. That’s why I was surprised by everything. I’ve actually been back to Bandung several times since then too…I like that city. Do you live there? Aku akan kembali disana segera, di bulan depan.

      Las Vegas is a wild city, one that never sleeps, and you might enjoy it but I personally did not. Hope you can visit!

      Reply
  14. Hi,

    I was looking for any information related to bandung’s zoo restoration when i stumbled to this article.
    It’s sadly true that this condition is not only happening in Bandung’s zoo but as far as i know to most of the zoos in Indonesia.
    I’m really passionate to get involved in Bandung/Jakarta zoo restoration. I really love and care about animals, right now i’m volunteering at Wellington SPCA in New Zealand.

    I’d also love to get a chance to talk to Ridwan Kamil, even more if i can be one of his team to work on the zoo revitalization.

    Wish me luck

    Reply
    • Yes Adilla, I’m afraid you are correct about Indonesian zoos. Two weeks ago I finally visited Surabaya Zoo, otherwise known as the Zoo of Death. While it wasn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting given some of the articles and photos I’ve seen online, not to mention all the stories I have heard from my Indonesian friends, it certainly wasn’t a nice zoo either. (That article will be coming in the near future.)

      From everything I’ve heard Ridwan Kamil is a great guy and I’m really looking forward to hopefully having the chance to talk with him in person as well. Best of luck to you in your endeavors and if/when you make it to Indonesia, be sure to give me a shout! I’ll be here 🙂

      Reply
      • I will Derek.

        Furthermore, as you might already aware, not many Indonesian really care about animals. You can see dogs and cats everywhere around the street, looking sick and starving while peoples spent millions to buy cat/dog from pet store.
        The poor are hunting and selling every other animals: birds, raccoon, monkeys, turtles, snakes, etc

        Wild animals are now a commodity, caged at houses, served as food, abused, and god knows what they’re doing with those helpless animals.

        And let’s not forget to thank our minister of forestry, for letting more and more of our woods burnt. It’s just perfect now

        Stop me.. i got carried away :))

        Reply
        • Uh-oh, we’re in trouble then…I was hoping you would stop me from getting carried away and ranting too much lol 🙂 (I have a tendency to do that when I get worked up)

          You’re preaching to the choir now Adilla, I know that not enough Indonesians care about the welfare of animals. That’s certainly not to say all — I’m friends with some activists here, such as Riyanni Djangkaru, founder of the Save Sharks campaign several years ago and is still active with it on a daily basis. While I appreciate what they are doing I also realize that it pales in comparison to what the rest of citizens here are doing on a daily basis. As far as I know there is no PETA or any similar organization here advocating the rights of animals.

          And speaking of woods burning, whheeeewww that’s another subject I can ramble on about. I’m originally from Texas where a few years ago the governor Ricky Perry slashed the state parks funding by 75%. Then when the drought started and literally of all Texas starting burning he had the nerve to call Obama and beg for federal funds! :O

          Reply
  15. Hi there,

    I went there for my assignment and completely shocked because of the depressed animals..Poor them and poor me who do nothing but let’s hope that the animals will move to Safari (they need larger spaces and foods too).

    Reply
    • Wait wait wait…..when did you visit? I spoke with the new incoming mayor (great guy) back in 2013 and he even mentioned setting aside money to renovate and improve that zoo to more proper standards within a year…so it should have been done by the end of 2014 at least. I’ve been back through that city but never to the zoo. That’s why I am curious…when did you visit?

      Reply
  16. As a German, for a big part I could never understand why people would say “I dont like Zoos, they are terrible”. Yeah, sure, the animals are in captivity, but cages in Germany are not like a litteral cage, most of time they will have some sort of natural barrier, as far as possible. Most of time these barriers fit into the scenery very well.
    Zoo animals in Germany get enough food, have their own personell, get medical attention and as a matter of fact our Zoos do a lot of good stuff for the environment (may it be inside the Zoo by preserving species of animals or outside the zoo by supporting other organizations or even letting animals free in their natural environment).

    Few months ago I was standing in front of a Zoo in China. They had a cage for monkeys so people could get a little “preview” of what is inside. They were basically sitting on a pile of trash, one of the monkeys was just trying to eat an iPhone case. I dont know whether that was out of hunger or anything else – they didnt look like they are close to starving. Again, the year of the monkey just started so people might have given them a lot of food before. I just felt disgusted in that situation …

    Reply
    • True Leon, there are some damn nice zoos in quite a few of the more advanced countries around the world. Zoos that as you pointed out are designed with the animals and nature in mind. Lands where there are groups advocating for the protection of animals. But unfortunately Indonesia is the land of the smoking orangutan. And the zoos here are not so pretty. The new mayor of Bandung said he was going to fix it, but from what I hear things have not improved. And it’s been nearly three years.

      Reply
  17. This is gross! Thank you for taking photos and having the heart to post it to spread the word. I did not visit here and I see this was a few years ago, but did volunteer at an organization called Friends of the national parks foundation (www.fnpf.org) based in Indonesia (main office on Bali Island but they have multiple “branches”). While the organization has many projects, some of them are wildlife rescue centers. You could contact them (in fact I will do that right now, but the more the better) and they can possibly guide you to an organization that can help. The problem is, well there are a few problems for these animals in SE Asia: Lack of government protection, lack of funding for the sanctuaries and rescue centers, and ridiculous paperwork/red tape/permit nonsense that make it VERY difficult to get ANYTHING done either in a timely manner or at all. 🙁
    What I try to do (not that it’s necessarily successful but always worth trying) is to look up and contact any and all local rescue centers and report the problem. They usually respond with something like “we’ve already heard about this unfortunate animal/zoo/problem and we can not legally/financially do anything at this time.” But you never know!!

    Reply
    • Hey Carol, yes, this was three years ago, and yes, totally understand where you are coming from. As much as people complain about Western bureaucracy this a “first world problem” in comparison to the government workings of other less fortunate (or more corrupt) countries. However, what really gets me here, is I spent a long time in Indonesia and got a lot of media attention there (both good and bad, but that in and of itself is a long story). This article was shared a lot around Indonesia that it sparked a conversation between the new Mayor, the honorable Ridwan Kamil, and myself. He even commented on this article! Then a week later in a speech he mentioned that he would be allocating money to repair and renovate the Bandung Zoo. Hooray! Or so I thought. As recent news has shown, it appears things are only getting worse there. The Zoo was closed for a while pending the investigation of an elephant death back in mid-May but there has been no fresh news since then, which leaves me uncertain if the “investigation” (and I use that term lightly) is still pending, or if the zoo has quietly reopened sans reform and no one finds that newsworthy.

      Reply
      • If you haven’t already, you should watch a documentary movie “The Act of Killing”. You’ll learn a lot about Indonesia.

        Reply
        • Hey Beatriche, I was living/traveling in Indonesia when that movie was first released, remember it quite well….and all the news reports that followed right after its release. The country is definitely not perfect. But people there are fiercely proud of their cultural heritage.

          Reply
    • Yes, it leaves you speechless. Especially when you consider that the mayor and I spoke about this problem 4 YEARS AGO and it not only still exists but — judging from the most recent video leaked online — has only gotten worse :'(

      Reply
    • I tried so hard to raise attention back then and after speaking with the new mayor (at least back then he was still new) he assured me and everyone else in Bandung that things would improved. And up until a couple weeks ago I thought that they had. Damn depressing to learn that in reality things have only gotten worse for the poor animals “living” (I use that word loosely) in Bandung Zoo 🙁

      Reply
  18. Thanks for sharing this informative blog. I was looking for any information related to bandung’s zoo restoration when i stumbled to this article.
    It’s sadly true that this condition is not only happening in Bandung’s zoo but as far as i know to most of the zoos in Indonesia.

    Reply

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