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All animals at Indonesia's largest zoo could die if conditions don't improve, official warns

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — All of the animals at Indonesia's largest zoo — many of them critically endangered — could be dead within five years unless strong action is taken to change the culture of neglect and corruption that permeates the facility, a zoo official said Saturday.

An endangered Sumatran tiger was found dead Saturday morning in its cage at the Surabaya Zoo, spokesman Agus Supangkat said.

The remaining 13 Sumatran tigers are being kept in dirty, cramped cages and are also at great risk, said Tonny Sumampouw, the chairman of the country's zoo association who has been tasked with overseeing the facility after the government took it over earlier this year.

In recent days, an African lion and an Australian kangaroo also have died, Sumampouw said.

He said hundreds of animals die every year at the zoo, and others suffer from hunger, stress and overcrowding. The 94-year-old facility was built under Dutch colonial rule on a 37-acre (15-hectare) plot of land and currently holds 4,200 animals.

Sumampouw, who is running the zoo as a caretaker until a new director is named, blamed bad management and corruption for the problems.

"My assumption is that all those animals will definitely disappear in the next five years unless there are efforts to reorganize how the zoo is managed," Sumampouw said.

Many employees have been caught stealing meat intended for the animals and sometimes, in the case of rare species, stealing the animals themselves, he said.

He said fixing the problems "will be a big challenge" for the new boss.

A spokesman for the zoo's old management team, Agus Supangkat, said an average of 25 animals die at the facility every month, mostly because of old age or other natural causes. He said the animals are properly fed and cared for and that hygiene is well-maintained, but acknowledged that some animals die from stress, especially the big cats.

"This zoo is very old and its cages outdated," he said. "They are like prison cells, putting stress especially on the big mammals."