Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Zoos - Arks for the future?

Staff at the JMICAWE believe firmly in engaging with all types of industry to promote animal welfare  through education, and influencing policy and practise. This applies even to industries that are sometimes controversial, such as zoos.

Its important to remember that many zoo staff are dedicated to the care of their animals, and this September the carnivore keeping team at the Copenhagen zoo hosted a Carnivore Welfare Seminar. Speaking on topics including veterinary care, enrichment planning, and nutrition, JMICAWE veterinary surgeon Heather Bacon was delighted to see some of the progress made in the Copenhagen zoo in terms of animal enrichment, operant conditioning and the openness of zoo staff to discuss problems and deliver to their animals the best care that they could.

Heather also attended last week’s meeting of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, where she presented on her current research into a needs analysis, and development of animal welfare education for zoo keepers.

The meeting highlighted a number of conservation and welfare issues facing the zoo industry including reproductive problems and low breeding rates, and the negative impact of the zoo industry on conservation through illegal wildlife trade. Chris Shepherd of the Wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic, delivered a number of presentations highlighting conservation issues relating to trade across a range of species. This includes the purchase of wild-caught animals from fake ‘captive-breeding’ farms in South East Asia, by EU zoos.

Dr Barbara Mabel of the University of Glasgow presented on a similar theme, highlighting how molecular genetics had indicated the wild-caught origins of many African wild dogs in captivity in the EU, and  recommended against further importation of African Wild dogs from South Africa to boost European stocks, due to the lack of transparency on the dogs’ heritage, and the potential impact on wild populations.

Whilst it is very positive to see the steps being taken by zoos across Europe to invest in greater animal welfare training for their staff, and to implement positive practises to improve the quality of life of captive wild animals, it is important that the keeping of wild animals in captivity is justified and meets minimum conservation and husbandry requirements. Zoos may try to provide the best welfare possible for the animals they house, but if their presence supports animals being traded from the wild, even if through covert, illegal channels, then the welfare of the individuals going through that process will always be severely compromised. It is imperative that transparent and traceable systems are employed by zoos to minimise their impact on free-ranging wildlife populations, and to ensure the welfare of animals within the zoo industry.


Copenhagen zoo animal welfare discussion forum

No comments:

Post a Comment