The EU Zoo Enquiry 2011

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While there are zoos, as I pointed out in my last post, doing a great job in conservation work and the humane treatment of animals, this is not at all the reality for many captive zoo animals around the world.

I want to bring your attention to the EU Zoo Enquiry 2011. This investigation is part of an extensive EU-wide project that involves 21 EU countries and a total of 200 zoos. The investigations took place over the past 2 years and Born Free are busy with the reports.

This Inquiry was initiated, fully funded and executed by the international wildlife NGO, the Born Free Foundation, in association with the European coalition ENDCAP. It is an independent study, about which the European Commission is aware and is showing interest. The aim of The EU Zoo Inquiry 2011 is to evaluate the implementation and enforcement of the EC Directive 1999/22 (relating to the keeping of wild animals in zoos), A report will be written on the state of zoos in each of the 21 nations.

Romania – Investigators witnessed two brown bears covered in filth, their fur heavily matted, pressing their faces against corroded wire and chew repeatedly on the bars. Only young, their spirits already appear crushed, their eyes full of sorrow.

Cyprus – An African grey parrot was observed standing alone on a concrete floor, caked in faeces. One of her eyes appears wounded and untreated, oozing with brown fluid.

Austria – An Asian elephant, which would normally be part of an extended family group, is housed alone, bobbing and swaying from side to side.

I will do an individual post in the near future about the NGO the Born Free Foundation, but I want to send you to a page on their site giving an overview of this report. It speaks of 5 million animals languishing in at least 4000 zoos, in conditions that fall tragically short of even the most basic standards. Be warned there are some tragic photos on this page of information and there is a further gallery of photos from each nation here. If you peruse their website further you will discover a number of success stories of animals rescued from appalling zoo conditions and rehomed in various wildlife centers.

There is a petition that can be signed online to the Commissioner for the Environment, urging him to study Born Fee’s EU Zoo Inquiry 2011 reports and take action for the animals.

Please do not think your nation is exempt. I know my nation and the one in which I live do not have a spotless zoo record.

I want to end on a lighter note by recommending a fun book for young children on zoos called “Zoo Do’s and Don’ts” by Todd Parr. With vivid, brightly coloured childlike illustrations Parr presents twelve pairs of Do’s and Don’t for having fun with the animals at the zoo such as “Do take a nap with a hippo.” “But don’t let him steal the covers. This is a fun, lighthearted book for the 2-6 year olds.(Book number 27 in the Read To me Picture Book Challenge)

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8 Responses to The EU Zoo Enquiry 2011

  1. carol says:

    A thought provoking post. Thank you.

    Having children we do enjoy visiting the zoo.
    I do remember visiting one that looked rather unkempt and have not visited since.

    I do like to take note of the conservation the park I am visiting is taking part in.
    We have the Monkey Sanctuary in Dorset that is a delight to visit, knowing that it is a Sanctuary rather than just a zoo.
    I wonder if other visitors appreciate the difference.


    • Joanna says:

      Carol, thanks for your comment. I have been discussing the pros and cons of zoos in the last couple of posts. One last week looked at some of the wonderful zoo conservation projects that do exist. This post was to present a balnce in information. Children do, of course, love visiting zoos and I agree that there can be quite a difference between a sanctuary/safari park and a zoo, but as you point out I am not sure all visitors are aware of this.

  2. You continue to challenge and educate us, Joanna. Thankyou! Those examples are appalling — and I know they are, unfortunately, not as unusual as one may think or wish.

    The title of the picture book you highlighted, “Zoo Dos and Don’ts” made me think that a book for slightly older children that would raise “real” zoo dos and don’ts in a gentle and hopeful way, might be a project you’d consider taking on…

    • Joanna says:

      I was horrified myself, Beth, in realizing the extent of ill-treatment. Heh, I love your idea, why not indeed a Zoo book for slightly older children? Thanks for the tip.

  3. Patricia Tilton says:

    Again, another exceptional and thought provoking post! Didn’t respond until I read the websites you included from Born Free. I applaud their work and mission! The images of the animals are heartbreaking and really made me angry. I’m glad your recent posts have covered the entire spectrum of treatment of zoo animals and animals living in the wild, showing both the good and bad. I understand your passion.

    A professor friend of mine, Paula, is a member of a healing chanting group. Their group traveled to Africa to a refuge for damaged elephants. She said in the beginning it was heartbreaking to see how distant the elephants were. They decided to try chanting to the elephants daily to see if it had any impact. The elephants started to respond rather quickly to their music — it even surprised the refuge workers. They each developed a special bond with an elephant. The group was there for 2 weeks, and Paula was amazed how music had such a healing impact on the animals. They liked and wanted to be sung to. The chanters are planning to return this summer, but Paula isn’t sure she will be able to go. She said it was the most rewarding experience of her life.

    As I looked at the photos of the abused zoo animals, all I could think of was that animals have emotions and feelings and the graphic photos showed this. It made me think of how the chanters reached deep into the core of the emotions of the elephants without words or action, but through soothng music. So, I thought you might enjoy this story.

    I agree with Beth 100 percent — you’d write a great book !

  4. Joanna says:

    Oh Pat, what a wonderful story. Music is such a powerful medium for us humans, often beautifully used in therapeutic ways, so we should not be surprised perhaps that this group were able to minister some healing to these elephants. I find animals, rather like children, often respond well to soothing words, I guess it is the tonality as much as anything.

  5. Diane says:

    Wow! Another very interesting post Joanna. We also have a Lion Wildlife Park which is totally separate from the Zoos here. The Lions even go on walkabout

    • Joanna says:

      Diane, I do think Safari and Wildlife Parks have more chance of being a more natural and appealing environment for many animals.

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