By Richard Shears
The young elephant has tugged at his shackled hind leg so often that the manacles have cut through the flesh, leaving it raw.
Not that freeing himself would help. A chain on his left front leg means he can move neither forwards, backwards nor sideways.
The elephant’s owner has tethered the youngster because he prefers to tend to his small shop in the grounds of the Surabaya Zoo in Indonesia.
Money comes first. And so, day after day, week after week, the elephant stands there, being released from his chains only at the end of each day.
Anyone finding the scene depressing, and who turns away to look for more happy animals in the zoo would eventually leave, as I did, utterly depressed.
Surabaya Zoo has been branded the worst in the world and when I walked through this animal torture ground I was left in no doubt its reputation was well earned.
I live near Sydney harbour where it is a joy to watch pelicans gliding low across the waters of Blackwattle Bay. But at the Surabaya Zoo I could only shake my head in despair at the sight of more than 150 pelicans jammed into a cage, trying to share a small pool of water, so tightly packed that they could not even spread their wings, let alone fly.
‘How many pelicans does this zoo need?’ I asked a keeper. ‘They’re not endangered. There’s no need to keep this many penned in.’ He knew what I said, but I received only shrugs.
Each step took me through a macabre animal dungeon. While I saw dishes of chopped vegetables for the primates, the ribs of several large animals could be seen. One camel in particular appeared appallingly thin. A capuchin monkey I came across appeared to almost plead to be released.
In another cage, a sad rhinocerous hornbill looks up at the blue sky, trying to take off from its perch, but there is no room to flap its wings.
Well over 50 animals have died here in the past three months, says Tony Sumampau, a former member of the zoo’s temporary management team, who had finally left in despair. More....