An Honest Report on Bali Zoo

Bali zoo http://bali-zoo.com is yet another Bali animal collection which prices its gate in US dollars. Here it was $20 or 225,000 Indonesian Rupiah. This is no small amount and I half expected to be ripped off.

I already knew a little of Bali Zoo having followed links in ZooNews Digest and knew of its recent association with Peel Zoo in Australia.

On their website they claim to be the first and only zoo in Bali. Well they may well have been the first but they are certainly not the only because there is the Bali Bird Park and the Bali Safari and Marine Park amongst others. I suppose it is the website designers perception of what is a zoo.

Just inside the entrance was the first of several clear perspex donation collection boxes. This had a sign on it saying that it was a private zoo employing 74 local people and was having a hard time since the Bali bombing. Please donate.

Now I'm sorry but I have just paid $20 to get in! Whether the zoo is private, commercial, national or blessed by Bindi Irwin I don't expect to be asked for donations to something I have just paid to see. An accountable charity perhaps but otherwise no....this is not a good idea. I can appreciate their problems but either your entrance fee goes up to get the cash or it comes down to get more visitors. I am sure that the price turns people off. I saw people in heated discussion when I left. They were unsure as to whether to pay to go in.

Offerings to Spirits on each and every cage

The zoo itself (which also operates as a night zoo) was a big surprise. Singapore has always been my most 'beautiful' zoo but now Bali Zoo is a very close second. I am not saying that it was all as spik and span as Singapore because Bali has some really atrocious nasty muddy enclosures (there had been recent heavy rain). No I am really referring to the ambience...the paths, the lush vegetation. This was enhanced by no less than 8 species of iridescent butterflies, 4 species of lizard and several attractive birds which were flitting or scurrying their way round the grounds.

Progress through the collection is by way of a one way path which allows enclosures, with strategic planting, to make maximum use of the space available. The enclosures themselves are interesting. There is nothing modern even though some are quite recently built. I would describe the style as 'best of the zoo fifties'. Mind you there is a mingling of the worst of the 1880's too. Some of the cages really are just too small....even for a chicken...even if it is temporary. One should not be allowed 360° access. It is stressful even, or especially to a chicken.

A couple of the tiny bird cages

In spite of my criticisms there is a very strong feeling that the people who work here genuinely care. I was particularily touched that offerings had been made to the spirits of each and every cage in the collection...with each cage being looked on as a home. These offerings of course being made twice every day. All the staff I met were very nice, very friendly, almost insistent that I hold an Iguana or Fruit Bat. The staff were multi tasking too which I believe is so important in a small zoo. The girl who did the guest massage (yes really) also made the trays for the spirit offerings.

Whereas I don't like the touchy feely encounters I am in favour of supervised controlled (and paid for) feeding sessions to carnivores and similar. It is enriching because it is broken down to uncertain times through the day....as long as they get a bone to gnaw on later.

Path through the grounds

 

There were a surprisingly large number of species in the zoo. I didn't count them all and sadly there were a few singletons amongst them. These included a magnificent male Sumatran Orangutan called 'Jackie'.

Other noteworthy animals included Komodo Dragon, Javan Leopard (including a black one), Agile Gibbon, Maroon Leaf Monkey, Ebony Leaf Monkey, Bawean Deer, Timor Deer, Lesser Bird of Paradise, Dwarf and Single and Double Wattled Cassowary, Sun Bear. There were Lions and Tigers (sadly including the inevitable white one), a nice collection of Hornbills, Nilgai, a single Pygmy Hippo and a good range of other species.

There was, as expected animal shows. Dress them up, give them a name 'encounters', 'experiences' or whatever. They are all the same. I don't like them (no, I hate them) unless they are done well. Here they were educational. Yes, they were factual and interesting but but. Why does everyone in the audience have to get to hold a Salt Water Croc or pat a lion cub or whatever. It is as unnecessary as it is stressful to the animals concerned. I am all for limited contact but no, this was too much. I am almost 100% sure that if the staff here were showed how to do a proper animal educational show then they would leap through hoops of fire to learn.

I only watched one of these 'shows' and even then did not stick it out to the end. There was another taking place in the restaurant area later on. I don't know what species were involved there.

Sticking with the Education side the commentaries were in English and Bahasa Indonesian. This was the same for the signage throughout the collection. The signs were just long enough to read comfortably without being boring. I would have preferred something a little more colourful and attention grabbing. I was especially pleased that the locals, through the local language, are catered for I know how much it pleases my wives when they can read a sign in Thai or Tagalog.

There was evidence of enrichment here though I gauged it more on the 'interesting cage fixture' than enrichment per se. I reckon that the implementation of a genuine enrichment programme would be beneficial to the animals, fun for the keepers and of interest to the visitors.

The food on offer looked exceedingly good. Very fresh.

What about conservation? To be honest I don't know. There is nothing on their website or in their brochure to suggest that they are a member of SEAZA or WAZA or any such body. The Bali Zoo really needs to be to be taken seriously and I am afraid that a close association with Peel Zoo (who few have heard about, however noble) is just not going to cut the ice. Bali Zoo needs to sit up and get noticed. Presently it looks better and has more to offer in zoological terms than does Bali Safari and Marine Park. Okay they are offering a similar package but it is not the same and I see no reason why the two cannot exist alongside and happily cooperate. They should and must if SEAZA itself is to be taken seriously.

So, is Bali Zoo worth a visit? Yes, most definitely. It is just the sort of zoo I would not mind working at if I could get over my hang up over animal shows. The thing is I don't want to get over my hang up, I think it is hanging correctly.

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Comments 14 comments

Steve Robinson 7 years ago

That sounds a whole lot better than I had been led to expect.

Did you get to see any of the off-exhibit areas or behind the scenes that we have heard such horror stories about?

And, just what is the Peel Zoo involvement?


Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 7 years ago from South East Asia Author

Sorry Steve but I did not get to see behind the scenes as my visit was anonymous. In my experience, when I make myself known I get 'directed tours' and miss more than I want to see. This was a house front visit and not an inspection. If I was to do an inspection my report would read differently but in light of the other Indonesian Zoos I have visited over the years this one was a refreshing change.

Peel Zoo? Check out their website (http://www.peelzoo.com/) for involvement. Their webpage is full of 'touch feely' photos and I feel I would disapprove if I visited there.


peel zoo profile image

peel zoo 7 years ago

Hi Peter ,

I have been alerted to your Honest Report re Bali Zoo .Very nice report ,thankyou from all the kind staff and persons involved in the project .I stumbled upon the Bali zoo 2.5 yrs ago .It was a prison camp for animals .We have proped the zoo up for more than $500.000 aust debts and in the middle of rebuilding the zoo .Down with the bars and up with Glass and moat style habitats .I have just come back ,my return is 1 month from now .I note you ask who we are ,well we are a private family who saw a major problem and 1200 people direct and indirectly losing an income if the zoo were to close .We got too, put on experience and money on the table .I have spent the best part of 2.5 years at my cost rebuilding ,training and putting systems in place to create a long term zoological gardens to make for a beautiful ,safe and happy enviroment ...I note your comments re Peel Zoo .Touchy feely ,yes we are as we have farm animals that get bottle fed as well rabbits ,guinea pigs etc .(Cant hold them though)..We have young roos that have been rescued ,they get bottle fed .The rest of Peel Zoo is native Aust animals .Cant hold Wombats ,Koalas etc ...I do invite you or your readers to come by any time ..

Again nice to have read your report and hope to meet you one day .

Kindest Regards Tony Greenwood www.peelzoo.com


bev 7 years ago

Hi Peter

Not sure when you visited bali zoo but I visited it in april this year (09). I'm afraide I was very dissappointed with most of the animal enclosures which were either small cages or small wet & muddy concrete areas. I was also very dissappointed with what at first appeared to be free birds sitting on tree brances only to find on closer inspection that each bird was tightly tethered to the branch and probably had to remain in that same position all day & all night. The animals at this Zoo look unhappy, depressed, bored and lonely.

What broke my heart the most though was Jacky the male Orangutan. His enclosure has no trees in, it is made of concrete & very short area of grass surrounded by a water moat to prevent him from escaping. At first I was outside his enclosure by myself just talking quietly to him, he sat facing a caged door and looked very depressed, after 20mins of quietly talking to him he turned his head slightly to look at me. He looked so sad. Then a large group of noisy tourists came and were trying to talk to him and make him active and suddenly he exploded with rage, grabbed some banana skins and old fruit and threw them at the tourists making large grunting/growling sounds until they all ran away.(this must be frequent behaviour as there is a sign erected to warn of this) He was so upset, he then went back to the caged door and held on to it with both hands and his body was shaking with fear and anger and he was very unhappy. I went around the corner to a little cage that faced the cage door he was looking thru, he was about 1m from me and he could see me. I knelt down and spoke to him in a very soft, soothing voice to try to calm him down and he did calm down. It made me very upset to see this beautiful male orangutan so unhappy, depressed and angry. He has nothing to stimulate him, no other Orangutan company, no trees with platforms in for him to go up high and get away from everyone. All he can do is eat when they feed him and sleep in this concrete cave they have built for him which is still in full view of the tourists who come to look. I left his enclosure crying and determined to try to get something done to change his situation. I don't know how long he has been living at Bali Zoo but I get very uset each time I think about how long he may have to endure this 'non' life. He belongs in the wild.

I would not recommend this zoo to anyone, in fact I will actively discourage any animal lover from going there.

Bev


Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 7 years ago from South East Asia Author

Hi Bev,

Your comments are noted. My visit was around the same time as you. There is nothing you say that I could disagree with. The difference is we looked at this collection through different eyes, mine as a professional and you as a kind hearted person. If you read my article again I was looking at different things and most of my observations were far from glowing. If you were to see some of the animal collections I have seen in Indonesia you would think that Bali Zoo was heaven.


anonymous 7 years ago

Hi bev.

I know Bali Zoo personally and VERY well.

and i would like to inform you that NON of the birds are bound to the branches!!! some of the birds wings are not even clipped. they often roam as they please, but are returned to their spot when found. same goes with the fruit bats.

and yes some of the enclosures are too small for the animals, but again like mr. dickinson said, it is heaven compared to most asian zoos.

i know for a fact that jackies enclosure is the next biggest project on the plan. they have just recently opened a treewalking (flying fox) adventure, and are getting the same people to built a similar obsticle course for jackie. this is planned to happen next year, along with MANY other great improvements, but this all takes time and money.

i recommend you visit this zoo in say 3 years and you will be greatly surprised with the changes.


anonymous 7 years ago

i would also like to include that jackie was bought from another indonesian zoo. this childhood is unknown. i have spent many hours with jackie and it is quite obvious that jackie he is 'disturbed', but in saying this also very intelligent.

for certain reasons, jackie needs to be kept alone, and away from other orangutans.


suzie 7 years ago

hi,

i have just returned from bali and i went to the bali zoo and also the marine park. I loved the bali zoo i thought it was done very well. The birds cages were big and they could fly freely and it was a beautiful walkthrough enclosure with heaps of trees. Also animals were aloud to freely roam including bunnies (random as i thought) and they would walk around and go back to there cage eventually and would be happy to do so. The animals we had encounters with were not sedated and were playful and were aloud to run around and see people and if they didn't want to go to someone then they were not at all forced to and just skipped the person.

Bali zoo was a lot better value then the Marine Park it was cheaper and the food was better and more animals and also the enclosure where u can go play with animals was amazing and the ability to feed any animal you want was amazing aswell.


peel zoo profile image

peel zoo 7 years ago

I have been reading your posts re Bali Zoo .Jackie is the next big project ,its one they want to get right and do it once and well .Jackie is safe and fed well .The new enclosure will be a most welcome addition to the zoo .As like Peter i spend my life traveling the world helping zoos and seeing animals get a fair go .Bali Zoo is glowing compared to many i have been to ,both government and private collections .They are doing the right thing and spend a great deal of money and time on the zoo .The animals are well fed ,two vets on board and a very conscious minded owners son Pak Lesmana .He has come back from Singapore to lead the zoo into the next 50 years .His vision and passion is oozing . I am in daily contact with the zoo and proud to be part of this project .I invite anyone who sees a problem to call me or email ,i will see what ever is wrong will be fixed asap .Thanks Tony www.peelzoo.com


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 6 years ago from Australia

G'day Peter, interesting Hub. I wonder if you have ever visited the Melbourne Zoo. We are led to believe here that it rates as one of the "best in the world" category.

btw. We have just experienced a birth of a baby elephant and watched it on TV, truly an amazing thing to see!


Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 6 years ago from South East Asia Author

agvulpes - No, never got down to Australia. Been close a time or two. I did work it out once over that I could live something like a week in Asia for one week in Australia.

In my zoo blog I covered the stoey of the elephant birth. Really good news. As far as judging zoos...everyone would have their own top ten. As someone from the zoo world my list would differ from most. I would not comment on Melbourne without visiting first.


AzikSparx profile image

AzikSparx 5 years ago from Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia

Thanks for sharing. I live in Bali and few times visit Bali Zoo event not always check the animals since sometimes I just bring some guest to play TreeTop.

May be I do not feel as you felt. I know they do not get a cage as big as they should get in wild but they have been taken care quite well. The zoo is not large, but with a good arrangement.

Thanks again, you share a different perspective for Us. Good luck


Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 5 years ago from South East Asia Author

AzikSparx - Thank you for your comments. If I get down to Bali again I will look you up as a guide and driver. Much easier with someone who knows their way around.


sjb1983 profile image

sjb1983 4 years ago from Bali, Indonesia

I went there in December 2011 - I thought it was cramped and pretty horrible to be honest - your report is perhaps a bit too kind to them! The Sumatran tiger there looked pretty sickly too, at least in my humble opinion.

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