Michael-the-lionThe world’s cruellest zoo has claimed another victim after an African lion was found hanging in its cage, it emerged today.

The Surabaya Zoo in Indonesia, which has outraged MailOnline readers around the world after an expose on the treatment of its animals, is being investigated by police following the death of the 18-month-old lion called Michael.

But the lion’s body was removed before police were able to examine it and cannot now be found.

A senior officer declined to say whether it was believed the zoo was trying to hamper the investigation. Michael was found strangled in his cage after his head became stuck between steel cables, the Jakarta Globe reported today. Michael

The tragedy comes just 24 hours after it was learned that a wildebeest died in its enclosure from a stomach problem, although the zoo said that the wet weather was partly to blame. The death of Michael the lion is certain to cause further demands from animal lovers around the world for urgent action to be carried out at the zoo.

Closing it down, however, is not an option because no other zoo has expressed an interest in taking the animals. Latest statistics, covering the months between July and September last year, reveal that 43 animals died at the zoo during that period.

Among those which have died there previously is a giraffe that was found to have 20 kilograms of plastic in its stomach and a Sumatran tiger found to have a rotten digestive tract after being regularly fed meat laced with formaldehyde. In the wake of Michael the lion’s death, zoo spokesman Agus Supangkat denied that his death was caused by zookeepers’ negligence.

‘We are still investigating how the steel cables could entrap the African lion’s head,’ he told the Globe. ‘Michael was relatively young. He was only one and a half years old. It could be that he was playing around and somehow his head got stuck.’

Chained-by-three-legsMr Agus said each of the zoo’s lions – there are now only four left – spends its days in two different cages. Each morning, the lions are taken to a display cage where visitors can view them. Then, in the afternoon they are moved to another cage where they sleep, said Mr Agus.

He explained that the zoo used steel cables to secure the cage so zookeepers did not have to manually open or close the cage door with their hands. This, he said, was a safety precaution to prevent the keepers being injured.

Michael was sent to the zoo last March by the East Java Natural Resources Conservation Agency. Surabaya Police detectives chief Senior Commander Farman told the Globe that a team of officers had visited the zoo to gather evidence but the corpse was missing.

He said that if the lion’s body could be found ‘we are going to wait for the autopsy results, then we can further examine the case.’ A MailOnline investigation into the zoo before Christmas found numerous cases of animals living in miserable conditions, including a young elephant that was chained by three legs, one of which was ulcerated because of its tight shackles.

Dozens of petitions were started pleading for the zoo to be closed and animal rights groups have added their voice to the demands. But a management team, headed by the Surabaya Mayor, Mrs Tri Rismaharini, has resisted improvements saying they want to retain the original structures erected by Dutch colonialists in 1916.