Museum Pusaka Nias operates a small Zoo displaying a number of animals native to Nias Island. The purpose of the Zoo is to educate the public about wildlife and environment of Nias. The mini zoo, especially the crocodiles, is one of the most popular attractions of the Museum as many Nias people today rarely see wildlife.
Wildlife is becoming increasingly difficult to see on Nias due to hunting and poaching, which is widespread. In poor villages animals are hunted for food. Around towns many hunters kill animals just for fun or to sell the meat to restaurants specializing in “wild” meat. The Museum Zoo started as an unplanned animal shelter when people brought injured animals to the Museum. Initially we were reluctant to accept the animals due to the cost of keeping them. But knowing that the animals would otherwise end up in a restaurant made it difficult to turn them away. The idea for the Museum Zoo was born and injured animals can now be rehabilitated at the same time as the public get the chance to learn about the animals of Nias.
The types of animals living in the Museum Zoo today are a selection of mammals, reptiles and birds native to Nias Island.
- Mammals: three types of deers, monkeys, binturongs, porcupines and bats.
- Reptiles: three large saltwater crocodiles, various types of freshwater turtles and snakes.
- Birds: different types of kites, eagles, parrots, hornbills and several other species.
Our animal population is constantly changing as we receive new animals, or there are births and deaths among our resident animals.
The museum zoo has also been involved in conservation work. Sometimes protected animals that are being kept illegally have been brought to the museum after being confiscated by the authorities. Whenever possible the museum cooperates with environmental organisations to care for or repatriate these animals. In 2010 the museum organised the handover of a confiscated orangutan from Nias to Sumatra together with the Orangutan Conservation Services Program.
In 2016 a couple of pigeons of an unidentified species were handed in to the museum. It turned out to be a pair of critically endangered and incredibly rare Silvery Pigeons. With assistance from Heidelberg Zoo in Germany a custom made aviary was built to house them, the only pair of its kind in captivity anywhere in the world. The Heidelberg Zoo also provided valuable training for the Museum zoo keepers.
Nias traditional houses often have a variety of carvings, depicitn animals, plants and objects owned by the owner. Some carvings are mainly for decoration but they often have a deeper meaning. The artist tries to express thoughts about social status, life and existence through these engravings. Animals are often used as symbols in the artwork of Nias. Crocodiles, deers, eagles, hornbills, monkeys and lizards are often seen in the decorations of a traditional Nias house. These animals also frequently feature in old proverbs in Nias language (Amaedola).
Animals on Nias are closely related to our oral traditions and they feature in many myths and proverbs. For this reason the Museum Zoo fills an important function as a link between our culture and the understanding of wildlife of Nias.
The Museum Mini Zoo is open to the public every day.
The Nias Myna (Beo) is often used as a symbol for Nias Island.
Nias Myna (Gracula robusta) is a type of bird of the Sturnidae family (starlings and relatives) which is endemic to the island of Nias. It has a beautiful song and is a very skilled mimic. It is very valuable and sold on bird markets all over Indonesia. Due to excessive trapping by hunters it is believed that the Nias Myna is now extinct in the wild on Nias Island.