Komodo Dragons
A pair of Komodo dragons are seen in Surabaya Zoo in this Reuters photo from 2008. Reuters

Indonesia’s Surabaya Zoo has been dubbed the “zoo of death” following reports of 15 animals dying each month due to starvation and other preventable causes. The recent deaths of three animals have led to widespread criticism and local authorities have started investigations into the animal deaths at the zoo.

The Jakarta Post reports a Komodo dragon, listed as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and a pregnant female muntjac, or barking deer, were found dead at Surabaya Zoo on Saturday at 11 a.m. local time. The zoo spokesman, Agus Supangkat, said the cause of death has yet to be determined and officials are performing an autopsy on the animals.

The deer died on Friday after zoo patrons reported the animal was having a seizure. Those close to the situation believe the cause of death is due to either a miscarriage or a hormonal disorder, notes the Jakarta Post. A zookeeper came by the Komodo dragon enclosure to feed the animals but found the lizard unresponsive. Suraji, the zookeeper, said to Agence France-Presse, “I moved its tail, but it didn't respond and when I checked, its eyes were already shut.”

Since the start of 2014 there have been five reported deaths, including the most recent deaths, at Surabaya Zoo. Prior to the deaths of the Komodo dragon and the deer, the death of an 18-month-old male lion named Michael on Jan. 1 generated global criticism. According to the reports, Michael was found “hanged” in his cage after getting his head caught in a cable. Zoo officials did not report the lion’s death until Jan. 7 and when the police began their investigation the lion’s enclosure was already cleaned, reports Antara News. The zoo’s handling of the lion’s death may have been illegal with Adjunct Senior Commissioner Farman saying, in regards to cleaning the enclosure, “Only PPNS (civil servant investigator), BKSDA (natural resource conservation agency) and the police have the authority to do that.”

Michael’s death led to investigations being launched by the Surabaya city police and the Forest Ministry, notes Antara News. The lion’s death at Surabaya Zoo attracted the attention of Indonesia’s president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono who called a meeting with East Java Governor Soekarwo and Surabaya Mayor Tri Rishmaharini as the zoo is now under the authority of the Surabaya city administration.

“They reminded me that the deaths in Surabaya Zoo had become the focus of the international community and feared that such an issue would give outsiders the impression that we dont care about our zoos,” said Yudhoyono.

The Jakarta Post cites a 2012 report from the Associated Press that states around 15 animals died at the zoo each month and another report that states 43 animals died between July and September 2013 while Antara News reports around 2,000 animals have died at the zoo in the last few years. On Gawker, InfiniteFrogs details other notable deaths including a giraffe that had a 40 pound ball of plastic found inside its stomach as well as the case of Melani, an endangered Sumatran tiger, that weighed 97 pounds and was being fed tainted meat.

Melani was rescued in 2013, but despite calls for improvement, animals keep dying at Surabaya Zoo. Antara News reports there are 84 animals considered sick or in critical condition at the zoo.