Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Improving animal welfare in China

Animal welfare in China is often a controversial issue, and nowhere more so than in China’s hundreds of zoos and safari parks. Both human and animal safety issues commonly arise, and knowledge of animal health and welfare, behavioural needs and appropriate husbandry is very limited. To this end, the first International China Veterinary Symposium to improve captive wildlife welfare was recently arranged by the China Association of Zoological Gardens (CAZG) in partnership with Beijing Zoo. The CAZG is the government authority responsible for regulating zoos in China.

The itinerary for the event, with expert guest speakers, was provided by the Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education, part of the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh, with support from the Animals Asia Foundation, and highlighted the need for a proactive, preventative approach to health and welfare issues, and the importance of addressing the behavioural and psychological needs of captive wild animals in captivity.

The symposium was attended by 30 veterinary surgeons from 27 zoos and safari parks across China. The symposium included case studies, video, practical examples, and discussion groups, in addition to theory. Topics covered included animal welfare, behaviour and mental health, pain recognition and management, preventative medicine, and a range of clinical techniques to improve the level of veterinary care and animal welfare delivered by vets managing captive wildlife collections.

In addition to providing veterinarians with the practical skills they need to improve animal health and disease control at their zoos, the workshop continuously emphasised the importance of improving welfare for captive wild animals.

Speaking at the event, Heather Bacon welcomed the opportunity to promote enhanced animal welfare and veterinary care for zoological animals. She commented:
“Whilst the ethics of managing wild animals in captivity are often complex and sensitive, it is important to recognise the reality that many wild animals are permanently housed in zoological collections and the zoo veterinary community has a responsibility to manage their health and welfare effectively, by working together to promote animal welfare in a constructive and practical forum, we can improve the lives of many animals”

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