Watch Orangutan smoking in controversial zoo International Business Times

Zoos have always drawn criticism for separating wild animals from their natural habitats. However, 90% of the zoos in Indonesia have been deemed as "hell" for wild animals. Animal activists are distraught by the condition in which animals are kept in zoos. Small cramped cages, no source of freshwater, and barely any food is the situation that plagues the lives of thousands of animals behind Indonesian bars.

Indonesia has 84 registered zoos and many more unregistered facilities that operate illegally. A survey conducted by Scorpion Foundation concluded that 90% of the zoos in Indonesia do no abide by the five animal rights principles.

A zoo animal should not be without sufficient food and water, it should not be in pain or injured, it should not be in mental or physical discomfort, it should be stress-free and it should be able to behave as it would in nature. Even though the Scorpion Foundation survey was conducted in 2017, the Indonesia Animal Welfare Society does not seem to believe that much has changed since then.

A baby Orangutan clings to its starving mother in deforested ares in Indonesia PIC: Alejo Sabugo/IARI
A baby Orangutan clings to its starving mother in Indonesia PIC: Alejo Sabugo/IARI

Adult sun bears can weigh up to 70kgs, but at the Sinka Zoo in Singkawang, West Kalimantan one bear looked like a malnourished dog.

Bandung Zoo drew criticism when skinny Sun bears were seen begging for food from visitors who mocked them.

In the same zoo, visitors encourage an orangutan to smoke by throwing lit cigarettes into the enclosure. Petitions to shut down the zoo has not resulted in much change.

Similar petitions were started when images of a dishevelled tiger at Surabaya Zoo surfaced.

A Twitter user shared images of waste polluting the enclosures of the animals in a Cilodong, West Java mini zoo.

The South China Morning Post pointed out that the management of the zoo fired back at the visitors for throwing trash in the zoo. However, it does not negate the fact that it is the zoo management's responsibility to keep enclosures clean.

Even though the animals are in such horrid conditions, the locals do not seem to care. During holidays and festivals, families flock to the nightmarish zoos to add to the distress of the animals there.

Marison Guciano, a member of the Indonesia Animal Welfare Society, claims that many zoos force their animals to perform as an added attraction. Guciano added that animals went through violent training sessions to be tamed as tourist attractions.

In 2017, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK) launched an initiative to standardise the zoos. Only 20 out of the 84 zoos cooperated with the government initiative.

Animal rights activists are aware that to bring about substantial change will take time. However, they encourage visitors to share pictures and videos of abuse to spread awareness and hold the management accountable for neglect.