Investigation: Taman Safari, Bogor

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Born Free sent an investigator, environmental photojournalist Aaron Gekoski, to visit Taman Safari, following past reports in international media and concerns raised by tourists about the treatment of animals at this zoo.


A white tiger with a chain around its neckThe elephants perform in shows which involve elaborate portrayals of human and elephant conflict caused by the palm oil industry. After the main show, it was observed that the elephants became boisterous and a handler was seen to punch one on its trunk and pull its tail in order to control it.

On closer inspection, it appeared the handler was concealing a sharp object in his hand, which caused multiple bloody puncture wounds on the elephant’s trunk. After checking out the other elephants, they appeared to have similar wounds. Security guards saw us documenting what was happening and asked us to put our cameras away. There are also other captive animals to be found in the market square, such as numerous snakes, used for ‘snake-charming’ and birds of prey used as photo props. There are cages of wild species for sale, including chameleons, tortoises and small mammals, plus animal parts and skins.

Elsewhere in the zoo, elephants had metal seats strapped to their backs and were being ridden by their handlers and visitors amid a mass of visitors’ cars, which were driving through the zoo’s grounds as part of a ‘safari’. Some people leant out of vehicle windows to feed the elephants. Visitor cars pass by animals such as lions, camels, bears, hippos and more.

There did appear to be little in the way of monitoring by staff as animals wondered around between cars. All of these animals were confined to small areas with little space to roam. Some, like the brown bear, appeared to display stereotypic behaviour. Others, such as the lions, appeared particularly skinny, with the male lion’s ribs showing prominently.

This zoo also puts on shows in which several tigers were forced to perform various tricks under the guidance of their trainers. They were trained to stand on their hind legs, jump between raised platforms, and were being ‘fed with baby bottles’.

Taman Safari has an area dedicated to animals being used as photo props. This included tigers, white tigers, and a baby orangutan. The tigers are tethered to short chains and made to pose for photos with visitors for hours at a time.

“Taman Safari makes spurious claims to be a conservation-focused zoo and safari park. The conditions for all of the animals was well below what you would expect from such a large and popular operator and the focus it puts on animals shows and interactions is particularly alarming. The ‘Safari’ experience was also shocking. The animals are confined to tiny areas and the stress of dodging cars and being subjected to constant noise would be overwhelming for them,” said Aaron.

NB Taman Safari is a member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), which claims its members are ‘dedicated to providing the highest standards of care’.

Photographic evidence obtained during the visit can be viewed in the photo gallery below.



Born Free released these shocking images to the world and is calling on the government of Indonesia to end these animal shows and activities once and for all.