Animals in zoos and aquariums deserve the best life possible
Our latest wildlife report, "The show can't go on," has been making international headlines. We boldly called on the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) to proactively take steps to ensure that their members follow their animal welfare guidelines. Thanks to your overwhelming support of our report, WAZA agreed to meet with us to discuss our concerns around cruel and demeaning visitor attractions taking place in WAZA member venues.
While researching for the report, we surveyed over 1,200 zoos and aquariums linked to WAZA. Shockingly, we found that 75% of these venues offered some form of cruel animal-visitor interaction, including activities like elephant rides, dolphin and orca shows, chimpanzees riding scooters, and big cats forced to fight. We have urged WAZA to lead the way by offering clear animal welfare guidelines, and by monitoring and actively working with their members to ensure they do not offer cruel and demeaning shows and activities. Our report outlines a number of solutions to help give these animals the best life in captivity possible.
WAZA has 282 direct members and approximately 1,200 associated member facilities through 24 different national and regional associations. Currently, WAZA guidelines state that members should not involve animals “in animal shows, displays or interactive experiences where animals perform demeaning and unnatural behaviors”. Clearly, many venues do not follow these guidelines.
Interactive animal experiences at zoos and aquariums are simply wrong. Elephants are cruelly trained in order to break their spirits so they become tame enough to be around people. Tiger cubs are separated from their mothers at an early age so they can be used as photo props. Many of the dolphins used in entertainment shows are snatched from the wild, only for them to spend the remainder of their lives miserable in a tank one millionth the size of their natural habitat. Lion cubs are bred and taken from their mothers, typically within a month of birth, to supply the growing lion tourism industry.
At our first meeting, we asked WAZA to publicly clarify and communicate its position on animal visitor attractions and condemn the activities highlighted in our report. Unfortunately, WAZA hasn’t yet made any commitments for wildlife cruelly used at WAZA-associated venues. But we won’t give up. We look forward to continuing these conversations throughout the fall, and will be sure to update you as we have more information.
A life in captivity will always be a far cry from a life in the wild, but zoos and aquariums owe it to the animals to do their very best to respect and care for them.