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Bandung Zoo

Updated on October 14, 2011

Bandung is the capital City of Western Java and is located some 180 kilometres from Jakarta. It is an ancient and fascinating city. Well worth a visit. Though much of its former glory has faded one can see why it was formerly called the Paris of Java. Bandung Zoo was first opened in 1933 when the two older zoos (Cimindi and Dago Atas) in other parts of the huge sprawling City almagamated their collections in the new Bandung location. The present zoo is set in 14 hectares of beautiful gardens on the side of a wooded hill. The architecture is mainly archaic and it is doubtful that there have been many improvements since the place was built. In spite of its failings it would a pleasant place to visit if you could ignore the plight of some of the animals.

This is one of a series of zoo reports that was actually included within my travel journal ‘The Itinerant ZooKeeper’. Initially I started to extract the zoo data but found the reading was diminished by it. So look on it as a zoo/travelogue. The only major edits I have done is a little censoring and to remove the Casanova exploits.

Thursday 22nd June 2006
By no means certain what I was going to do today. Stay or move on. I decided to move and so packed up my gear and headed to the bus station. There was a bus to Bandung just leaving as I arrived but they stopped for me. It was three quarters empty and remained so for the whole of the journey but I still had to purchase a seat for my backpack. No matter, combined it was still just £4.00 for the two of 'us'. The first hour of the journey took me as far as the turn off to Taman Safari Indonesia. After that it was climb, climb, climb. Fantastic views, unusual sights, lots of wows. I would highly recommend this drive. It may be even better as an extended walk. I would loved to have had more time to look at some sights. After passing through Puncak Pass we started our descent, at speed! It was now time to concentrate on something than the blur outside the windows. Happily there was an Indonesian lap dancing (Jaipongan) DVD on the TV. Well I say 'lap dancing' but it is a bit different. Three pretty girls on stage in figure hugging costumes. They sing and dance and members of the audience are invited on stage with them. They dance close to the girls and hand them wads of money. If the girl likes the money the more erotically and closer she dances. The more money the more energetic it all becomes. I found it exhausting to watch.

Traffic into Bandung slowed us down slightly and I could look out of the window again. Just for a while it looked like anywhere in England. Then it was Indonesia again.
The journey took around three and a half hours. We stopped three times to let food vendors aboard and once to allow a guitarist and drum player to serenade us. They were both very good and with passable singing voices.

We stopped briefly at a petrol station. There was a huge multi layered 4D spider web stretched between two trees. This was occupied by fourteen large and medium sized spiders who were stationed at various points in the trap. I wondered whether they were both sexes? A family of different generations? Whether they worked together or whether there was a territorial division within the web that I could not see. I was also very pleased that I had not walked into such a web in the dark.

Dumping my backpack in my room I went out for a walk and a bite to eat. Bandung is another huge city. With a population of two million it is Indonesia's fourth largest. I came across a shopping centre with free Wi-Fi throughout so that means I am going to do a rush finish on the last part of my journal and try and get it out on Friday or Saturday. I did manage to answer a little bit of my mail while sitting in Gloria Jean's. The last time I sat in one of these coffee houses was back in Istanbul. The top floor of the shopping centre housed an ice rink. Now I know I am in 'civilisation'.

I took a very long extended and roundabout walk back to my digs. The people were so very friendly everywhere I went. Easily the most friendly city I have been in since leaving India.

I ate in a Chinese restaurant this evening. It was very crowded. There was a single family there of some 37 people, including the kids. They were very friendly to me. I think it is because I am an oddity. I don't doubt there must be a big western community somewhere in this city but I am not in or near it. I have not seen any westerners since I arrived.

And as I walk back to my hotel through yet another dark big city do I feel nervous or threatened at all? Not a bit. Along the way I stop to sit with the rickshaw drivers to watch the world cup on their TV. Italy/Czech Republic. I don't speak their language, they don't speak mine and yet I am made welcome.
I reckon I am in yet another of 'those' hotels. I base this on the row of mirrors at the foot of the bed and the mirrored headboard! Puts me in mind of a Limerick which I am not going to repeat here.
Stayed up to early morning watching the Ghana/US match.

Friday 23rd June 2006
There was a huge cockroach in bed with me last night. I suppose it was just trying to be friendly but I kicked it out anyway.
Big breakfast of fried rice, fried egg, prawn crackers and salad. Much more substantial than the usual inclusive. I won't need to eat again for the rest of the day.
I was going to walk out to Bandung Zoo but now having a full stomach I took a rickshaw instead. It was further out than I thought. I nearly got out to give the rickshaw driver a hand pushing up the sloping street.
Entrance to the zoo cost 8 Rupiya (roughly fifty pence). Situated on the edge of the city it is built up all around. The site is very pretty with some large trees and well kept gardens. In fact it would be worth visiting just to see the trees. There are practically no modern cages at all. Most are of old and poor design. It was heartening to see signs on several empty cages saying 'closed for renovation'. Some of the aviaries, though probably as old as the surrounding mammal exhibits they had established growth. I liked that for the birds of prey in particular. The birds actually looked 'happy' in there. The occupants included Serpent Eagle, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Brahminy Kite amongst others. The nearby mixed aviary was just as good. Big, lush growth, active and interesting.
Barriers throughout the zoo were poor to non existent. It surprises me that there has not been more accidents. Or perhaps there has and I just don't know about it. I could with no effort put my arm into lions and tigers. I didn't, but they were affable animals, and there were groups of small unsupervised boys wandering about.
The reptile 'house' wasn't bad. This was two rows of reasonable sized inside/out type terrariums. Sadly they were neglected. Neither the inside nor the outside had been cleaned properly in a while. A few branches, rocks and living plants could transform them. Lighter coloured flooring could really enhance appearance.
The rows of reptile cases faced a large rectangular outside walled pit. A small watered moat ran around the base creating an island. This was well planted with bushes and small sturdy trees. This was a mixed exhibit and contained, 3 large Water Monitor, 4 Green Iguana, 2 King Cobra, 1 Mangrove Snake, a single massive Molorus python, several other unidentified snakes and a small flotilla of ducks (food).
The Small clawed otter enclosure was simply horrible. I cannot think of anything positive to say about it.
There was a single Hippo and a single Pygmy Hippo in an adjoining enclosure. Whoopee! I can hear Asian zoo directors shouting (get rid of our surplus). "We will present them with animals to pair up". Forget it! The facilities even for these hardy animals are basic at best. I am sure that they do the best they can with the facilities available. Extra animals would compromise the health and welfare of the animals presently held.

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There was also a single boney giraffe. No sign of branches or any simple enrichment.
There were also a lot of single primates like the Maroon leaf monkey (Presbytis rubicunda), Javan langur (Trachypithecus auratus auratus) and then little split up groups of Silver leaf monkeys (Trachypitecus cristata). I had been getting depressed by the boring little menagerie like cages with the token poorly located branch, chain or tyre or rope. Though the cages were clean and the food looked good.
Then suddenly out of the blue there is a mini cargo net hanging up in the Gibbon (Hylobates agilis), in the same block which houses three sets of Siamang and a pair of Celebes macaques the branching is better, there are cross rubber ropes (could it be bungee?), a chain has suspended a branch. It is swinging. Someone has been reading, learning or someone has spent time here. Who? It is simple but effective. I'm impressed.
A little further on are three juvenile Grizzled leaf monkey (Presbytis comata) and more in a 'special' cage set up in a hidden location near to the Orangutans. This again showed that someone was aware of the inadequacies of what was generally available.
The Orangutans enclosure itself was not too bad. I do hate these deep drop moats though, though in fairness the water was shallow.
Close to the Orang-utans enclosure was a sign. It wasn't recent. It read:

"Bandung International School working in collaboration with Yayasan Margasatwa Tamansari Bandung to improve the environment of the Orangutans."

I wondered if these same people were the ones involved in the other little projects I had seen around the zoo. I thank them.

The quality of food around the place looked good. Not too sure about the diets though. The Proboscis monkeys had whole carrots, whole bananas and green beans. There may well have been other items given that they had already consumed but I didn't see these. This was the closest I have ever got to this species and really magnificent specimens they were too, the male in particular.
Close by were Pale-thighed leaf monkeys (Presbytis siamensis paenulata). There really were some primate gems here. I haven't mentioned the half of them. I was especially pleased to see Moor macaques (Macaca maura) which I worked with donkeys years ago but have rarely seen since.
There were four reasonable (actually typical) Cassowary pens containing five birds of, I think, three species and then a little further on there were another seven pens, each holding a single double wattled cassowary. I admit to total confusion on these birds. The internet is not a great help with so many mis-named photos. I remember reading about thirty years ago that someone had visited over twenty islands and found different cassowaries on each. I'm assuming we are talking sub-species here, or are we? The books seem to recognise Single-wattled, Double-wattled and Bennetts but I must have seen at least another two in all the collections overall which don't seem to fit with any of those. I admit I am no expert and I may have been seeing especially dull or bright animals or some sort of eclipse juvenile plumage.
And what of the lowly Palm Civet? Well the cage was too small, old fashioned and totally inadequate which fits exactly into the gauge. The zoo was the same for most species held.
The signage in the zoo was sponsored by Samsung which I thought was a nice gesture. It was basic though and in many cases wrong. I can't speak for the Bahasa Indonesian because that may well have been all correct. It just seems to me that if you are getting your signs paid for it is worth getting them correct. Though I do like the idea of a "Black Handed Ibis" and the "Giffins cackatoo" sounded cute.
Though some of the aviaries were nice others were a complete contradiction in thinking. Why oh why would anyone put 4 turkeys in four times larger space than that given to 14 pelicans and assorted herons?

Photo by:
Photo by:
Photo by:
Photo by:

They had the biggest group of porcupines I have seen. Twenty that I could count...and nothing to chew. Such very simple basic husbandry.
There was a single Javan Warty Pig hidden away in a small back concrete pen behind the Barbirusa small concrete pens. I didn't get a really good look but I reckon that's what it was.
Everywhere I go I see Red-eared terrapins. I think they may be secretly plotting to take over the world. They may well succeed.
There was a horrific tiny boring concrete Sun Bear pit with scarcely enough room for one let alone ten. Their were five 5 outside and 5 locked in. I was curious to how the group were managed and what their future would be.
If the space was not, in my opinion, big enough for a Sun Bear then I really felt for the single Brown Bear in the next enclosure. Perhaps more sorry because this unfortunate creature was on its own. It looked thin, senile and aged but then it may have only been two years old, its condition caused by its environment.
I don't know where all the Agile Wallabies are coming from but it seems they are the macropod species I see most of. There are 5 here. My question is were they purchased or donated? In whatever case the supplier is a criminal and should be driven out of business. To me to send animals somewhere like this is exactly the same as passing your children onto someone who may or may not be a paedophile. You just wouldn't without checking out first. Would you? (I could never run a pet shop....change that to I would never run a pet shop). There was one other kangaroo here, a Lumholtz's tree kangaroo which was crammed away in totally inadequate housing at the side of the elephant house. (Note: I learnt later that the Agiles were actually the similar looking Dusky Pademelon).

Of all the animals here it was the elephants I felt most sorry for. The house must have been built by Noah way back then, and on a bad day. It is scarcely possible to imagine a time when this building was ever suitable for this species. At one end were two bulls. They both had their front feet tightly shackled together. One was chained from front to floor and the other rear to floor. They were both thin. Their skin was good. The barrier was useless. So what do you do? If these beasts were not chained as they were they would be out in a jiffy, and I wouldn't blame them for a second. There was nowhere else in the zoo they could go. At the other end of the same building was a larger bull chained in a similar fashion. Further across the zoo were riding cows and another huge bull. Not a place for elephants!

There was a lot more here I have not mentioned.

After the zoo I headed off down into the town. I don't suppose that many people have heard of Bandung. I certainly hadn't before I started researching my trip to Indonesia, but it does have a remarkable claim to fame. It has a super abundance of Art Deco buildings. They are dotted all over the place and some streets are dominated by them. What is nice is that some of the newly built buildings are constructed in Art Deco style. There is even an Art Deco church. I am told that preservation orders have been placed on the originals, which is good. It is a pity though that some sort of grant could not be extended for renovation because some are starting to drop to bits. Getting back to the mirrored headboard on my bed. That is undoubtedly Art Deco.

If you have enjoyed reading this article you should move onto the next, entitled ‘Baturraden Zoo‘. Or you could move back to Taman Safari Indonesia if you missed it. Please also check out my blog Zoo News Digest.

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