INDONESIA: In a somber announcement on Monday (24 Jul), Alshad Ahmad, a well-known Indonesian YouTuber renowned for sharing content featuring his exotic pets, informed his followers of the passing of his Bengal tiger cub, Cenora.
The cub’s demise has sparked outrage and criticism, raising concerns about the ethics of wild animal ownership and content creation involving endangered species.
Alshad uploaded a photo with Cenora and wrote a farewell message on his Instagram account @alshadahmad. “Dear Cenora, a beautiful, kind, calm, and loving Bengal tiger cub, always accompanying and protecting her sibling, always affectionate and loving to her father,” he wrote.
“I never expected Cenora to leave so soon. We are all deeply saddened. Just the other day, she was happily trying delicious meat, learning to jump, and we had plans to play at the villa, letting her run around in the spacious yard,” Alshad added.
Cenora, born in May 2023 to Alshad’s Bengal tiger, Jinora, marked the fourth litter from the tigress under his care. However, tragedy had struck previously, as one of Jinora’s cubs died in December 2022, merely eight days after birth.
Seeking answers about Cenora’s untimely death, Alshad engaged in discussions with several veterinarians. While ruling out the possibility of viruses or bacteria, he awaits the results of laboratory tests to determine the cause of the cub’s passing.
“Guys, we are currently discussing with Dr Irfan, Dr Fauzi, and also Abah. So, for now, it’s unlikely to be a virus, most likely not a bacterium either, but there’s something else. I’ll explain it fully on YouTube later because the explanation is lengthy,” said Alshad on Monday evening (24 Jul).
Nonetheless, his history of losing tiger cubs has triggered concerns about his suitability to care for such wild animals.
Many question the permission granted to Alshad for keeping wild animals, especially considering the recent series of tiger cub deaths. Alshad has faced repeated public criticism and condemnation for his content featuring tiger cubs.
As a YouTuber with over six million subscribers, his content is deemed far from what an animal lover should endorse. His videos are seen as unconventional and potentially encouraging imitation by others.
Critics have been vocal about Alshad’s use of wild animals in his YouTube content, accusing him of exploiting the animals for social media attention. His cub’s recent death prompted public calls for the government to revoke his permits.
Surprisingly, Bengal tigers are not protected wildlife in Indonesia, according to the Ministry of Environment and Forestry regulation.
This lack of protection makes it easier for individuals like Alshad to obtain permits for Bengal tigers compared to other endangered species like Sumatran tigers.
“If I may ask, since the beginning of tiger ownership, how many have died under Bro Alshad’s supervision?” inquired rapper Tuan Tigabelas.
Alshad straightforwardly responded without hesitation, stating that seven tigers had died during his breeding efforts. “@tuantigabelas, 7, all from a breeding of 1 female,” replied Alshad Ahmad.
This admission fueled further criticism, accusing Alshad of prioritizing his online content over the welfare of the animals.
Numerous netizens expressed concern over Alshad’s perceived forceful use of Cenora as content for his social media.
They believe it is inappropriate to treat a two-month-old tiger cub in such a manner. “Their habitat is in the wild, not in the world of AdSense,” wrote user @akidupda***. “This guy is using wild animals in ways that are exploitative, prioritizing his social media content over the welfare of the animals,” added user @muhammadfa***.
Animal Defenders Indonesia’s Chairman, Doni Herdaru Tona, expressed condolences for Cenora’s death, emphasizing the importance of proper care and conservation for wild animals.
He stressed that tiger cubs should remain with their mothers and should not be forced into interactions for the sake of content creation. In the Alshad’s videos, Cenora was often depicted playing like a domestic pet.
Doni believes that wild animals like Bengal tigers should not be treated as pets, especially if they are solely used for content purposes.
“Young animals are highly dependent on their mothers. They shouldn’t be forced to interact with others, especially for the sake of content,” Doni stated. “We must recognize that these baby animals are safest under the care of their mothers. We need to support their natural habitat and provide what they need,” Doni added.
Doni emphasized the importance of creating conservation environments as similar as possible to the native habitat of Bengal tigers. Bengal tigers thrive in grasslands or forests found in Bangladesh, India, and Nepal.
“Certainly, the owners of these tigers, who are capable, should provide a conservation area resembling their natural habitat. After all, they are wildlife, and their place is in the wild, not in our homes,” he said. “If they are to be kept in captivity, we must offer ex-situ conservation areas that mimic their natural habitat, rather than turning them into pets,” he added.
Doni, reflecting on the Bengal tiger cub’s death, criticized the Indonesian government’s oversight of foreign wild animal imports. Bengal tigers, endangered in India, aren’t protected in Indonesia.
“Policymakers need to enhance regulations on the importation of foreign wild animals, ensuring prerequisites like ex-situ conservation, which requires habitat equivalence, are met,” he explained.
Responding to this case, wildlife campaigner/conservationist Hendra Gunawan stated that the death of animals is something common and can occur anywhere. However, he highlighted the need for further investigation into the simultaneous death of seven individuals.
“In cases like this tiger’s death, such incidents can occur in the wild, in conservation institutions like zoos, or rehabilitation centers. But to clarify why these tigers died, especially when there are already seven deceased, there should be an examination conducted by a team of veterinarians or experts to determine the cause of the tiger cubs’ deaths,” Hendra told detikTravel on Thursday (27 Jul).
“In my opinion, the cause of the tiger cubs’ deaths from yesterday and before must be proven. It will undoubtedly be clear if examined by experts from the Natural Resources Conservation Center (BKSDA) or the animal’s owner,” Hendra added.
Hendra stated that wild animals should ideally remain in their natural habitat. However, he acknowledged that there are specific cases where individuals or organizations are granted permission to keep wild animals, such as zoos, which are legally permitted to breed wild animals.
In the case of Alshad, the Bengal tigers are not supposed to be traded internationally, but Hendra mentioned that Alshad’s tigers were reportedly from Lembang Zoo in Bandung, West Java.
“In my view, loving animals does not necessarily mean owning or showcasing them vulgarly on social media. If he truly cares for the animals, he could donate them to conservation institutions or government agencies. Alternatively, with his influence on YouTube, he could educate people about conservation and protection. Especially for tigers, if one loves wildlife, they should let them live in the wild,” Hendra added.
Meanwhile, co-Founder of Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN), Femke den Haas, strongly opposes the private ownership of wild animals, despite it being regulated by the law. She is also concerned that this loophole could potentially encourage many individuals to engage in private breeding, posing risks to sustainability.
“We see the immense suffering of these animals, as they are imported, expensive, and difficult to obtain, leading to inbreeding when they are bred at home. Just like in the situation where there have been numerous deaths in Alshad’s home,” Femke said when contacted by detikTravel.
She called for a ban on keeping wild animals as pets and raised awareness through the hashtag #dialambukandiyoutube (“not for YouTube“). “Wild animals should not be kept at all, regardless of whether they are native to Indonesia or from elsewhere,” Femke stated.