SURABAYA, Indonesia (AP) — The tigers are emaciated and the 180 pelicans packed so tightly they cannot unfurl their wings without hitting a neighbor. Last week, a giraffe died with a beachball-sized wad of plastic food wrappers in its belly. 

That death has focused new attention on the scandalous conditions at Indonesia‘s largest zoo. Set up nearly a century ago in one the most biologically diverse corners of the planet, it once boasted the most impressive collection in Southeast Asia.

But today the Surabaya Zoo is a nightmare, plagued by uncontrolled breeding, a lack of funding for general animal welfare and even persistent suspicions that members of its own staff are involved in illegal wildlife trafficking.

The rarest species, including Komodo dragons and critically endangered orangutans, sit in dank, unsanitary cages, filling up on peanuts tossed over the fence by giggling visitors.

“This is extremely tragic, but of course by no means surprising in Indonesia’s zoos, given the appalling way they are managed on the whole,” said Ian Singleton, a former zookeeper who now runs an orangutan conservation program on Sumatra island.

The zoo came under heavy fire two years ago following reports that 25 of its 4,000 animals were dying every month, almost all of them prematurely.

They included an African lion, a Sumatran tiger and several crocodiles.

The government appointed an experienced zookeeper, Tony Sumampouw, to clean up the operation and he struggled, with some success, to bring the mortality rate down to about 15 per month.

But following last week’s death of the 30-year-old giraffe “Kliwon” — who had for years been eating litter and trash thrown into its pen and was found with a 18-kilogram (40-pound) ball of plastic in its stomach — Sumampouw said he’s all but given up.

In this Sunday, March 11, 2012 photo, activists hold placards during a protest against the use of plastic bags, locally known as ‘kresek’ following the death of a giraffe who ingested pounds of plastic food wrappers at Surabaya Zoo in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia. Indonesia’s biggest zoo, once boasting one of the most impressive and well cared for collections of animals in Southeast Asia, is struggling for its existence following reports of suspicious animal deaths and disappearances of endangered species. (AP Photo/Trisnadi

In this Saturday, March 10, 2012 photo, a bengal white tiger which is missing an ear and suffers from a spinal problem lays inside a cage at the quarantine section of Surabaya Zoo in Surabaya, East Java, indonesia. Indonesia’s biggest zoo, once boasting one of the most impressive and well cared for  Zoo’w

(APPhoto/Trisnadi

In this Saturday, March 10, 2012 photo, a moon bear which suffers from a skin tumor sits inside a cage at the quarantine section of Surabaya Zoo in Surabaya, . (AP Photo/Trisnadi)

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