Surabaya Zoo

Surabaya Zoo Animal Welfare Action and Education Program

25th Jun 2014



Cee4life conducted 2 successful education programs in Surabaya Zoo. Surabaya Zoo is endeavouring to upgrade their zoo.  We wish Surabaya Zoo all the very best in the future. 

Melani - the Sumatran Tiger from Surabaya Zoo - Her Story

26th Jul 2013

Melani and Sybelle Foxcroft (Cee4life Director) at Taman Safari Bogor Indonesia. Copyright Cee4life 2013

Melani’s Story – (pronounced – Mel-arrni) Melani was born in 1998 and was hand raised by a variety of keepers at Surabaya Zoo. As Melani grew older and the zoo’s internal conflict increased, the care of the Surabaya animals became of concern. One of the things that occurred was the buying of low quality meat for the tigers. All of the tigers became extremely ill. Throughout 2010 and 2011, the media reported on “starving tigers” dying at Surabaya Zoo. This in fact was caused by the tigers, including Melani, that ate the tainted and basically poisonous meat diet. The meat was found to have formaldehyde in it, which is an automatic killer. The formaldehyde caused horrific internal decay of vital organs and stomach linings. Once the source of the problem was found, the source of this tainted meat was stopped, and untainted meat was introduced. However it was too late for the other tigers and they all died in excruciating pain. Melani continued to fight to live but she was in a tragic condition.

Dr Sumampau of Taman Safari in Bogor, Indonesia, tried to introduce extra nutritional elements to Melani’s diet, however the staff at Surabaya Zoo who “did not like” Dr Sumampau refused and rebelled against his advice, and Melani continued to suffer.

In June 2013, after wide media reports on the frail Melani, the Minister of Forests, supported that Melani be removed from Surabaya Zoo and taken for treatment to Taman Safari, Bogor, Indonesia. 

Melani was to began her move to Taman Safari in Bogor. Melani’s condition was so frail that she could neither be flown due to the altitude that would cause probable death, nor could she travel by road in a normal truck as the humidity would effect her negativitly.

Dr Sumampau arranged an air-conditioned vehicle for Melani to be transported. So over a 20 hour period, Melani arrived at Taman Safari in Bogor.

On her arrival on the 25th June 2013, she was diagnosed as severely dehydrated and there was fear she would die within hours. But this dear girl hung on. She was placed on intravenous drips which rehydrated her and supplied her with the much needed vitamin supplements that she had been missing from her diet for so long. In addition, her diet was completely changed and which included minced meat for easier digestion, formula of nutrition and vitamin supplements, carnivore supplements and more. Melani underwent blood testing and other testing to determine her organ functions. She was dangerously low in weight, at 48kg.

Note: A healthy female Sumatran Tiger weighs at least 75kg – 120kg. Melani was on deaths door.

The blood test and function test results were processed at the Taman Safari Veterinary Hospital, and the results were shocking. Melani’s liver and kidney tests were so low, that she should have been dead. But again, she hung on for her life. This was a tiger that wanted to live.

By 11th July 2013, Melani had gained some weight over the next weeks, however, the poison inside of Melani and the heavily delayed specific veterinary aid had taken its toll.  Melani had endured too long with horrific damage done to her internal organs which resulted in the fact that Melani would never gain full health again. Her condition was chronic and the best outcome would be to give her the most pain free life as possible, care for her and love her for as long as she would live. However, forever the fighter, she continued to survive and increase a little in her weight.

Another strange fact arose from Melani’s arrival at Taman Safari. In all of the earlier pictures of Melani she is extremely dark, nearly black in colour. This is highly unusual for a tiger.

On viewing Melani on the 22nd July 2013, the one thing that struck me first, was Melani was more “orange” and fluffy instead of the darker coloured tiger seen in the media. I was informed that when Melani arrived her fur was thick black oily substance.

The Vets at Taman Safari bathed Melani, and the black oily substance began to leave her fur. Melani was bathed a number of times and she continues to lose the black oily substance, and became cleaner. Even when stroking her, my hand became coated with a fine black oil. It had a very strong smell to it however I cannot place the smell.

If you look at the earlier photographs published in the media of Melani while she was still inside of the zoo, there were darker markings and pathces on the walls and on the path she walked on the floor with her paws. 

At this time it is still unknown what this oily substance was. 


Melani was kept in Taman Safari's hospital and given 24/7 care.  As the months went by she finally was able to walk out into the sunshine again and feel grass under her feet.

In August 2014, Melani laid down for the last time. Although her mind was still active, her body had been ravaged.  Melani was 16 years old.

In honour of this beautiful tiger, Cee4life had a star in the Leo constellation named after her, and opened the Melani Legacy Foundation.

Melani's life story is currently being written.

We thank everyone around the world who supported our efforts to help her, and we thank the media for supporting this incredibly beautiful Sumatran Tiger.


Sybelle Foxcroft – Director Cee4life –