Fri, 03 Jan 2003

Gorillas fail to attract visitors

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

African gorillas at the city's Ragunan Zoo in South Jakarta failed to attract Jakartans and only contributed Rp 600 million to the city's revenue from its target of Rp 1.5 billion, the zoo's general affairs manager Allen Marbun said on Thursday.

"We missed the target, since not many visitors came to watch the gorillas as we predicted earlier," Allen told a hearing with the City Council Commission B for Economic Affairs.

He said Rp 600 million had been raised since the male gorillas arrived here in August from the Howletts and Port Lymphne Animal Park of Britain.

The target was missed even though the primate center with its giant apes' enclosure, which cost Rp 10 billion, is quite attractive. It is unclear whether the low number of visitors may be due to an additional entrance fee of Rp 5,000 for the primate center, besides the zoo's entrance fee of Rp 3,000 for adults and Rp 2,000 for children.

The enclosure, which is home to four gorillas named Kihi, Kimbou, Kijou and Kumao, was founded by the late Mrs. Puck Schmutzerbuilt and built by the Gibbon Foundation.

The apes had initially created controversy as the city administration announced that it would allocate Rp 3 billion annually for the gorillas in the midst of the economic crisis. Further controversy arose because the foundation had stated that it would cover the cost of the apes, including their food.

The administration later canceled the proposed funds, saying estimated ticket sales would generate enough money to cover the apes' maintenance costs.

Zoo director Edy Setiarto revealed on Thursday that the zoo had raised Rp 9.8 billion from entrance fees collected from 2.8 million visitors last year.

"With a routine expenditure of Rp 13 billion, we still needed a subsidy from the city administration of about Rp 4 billion last year," Edy said.

He claimed the entrance fee should be increased to Rp 15,000 from the current Rp 3,000 if the administration expected the zoo to be self-reliant.