The exact number of zoos and zoological type exhibits and collections around the world is actually unknown. It is however believed that only approximately 10% of these fall within the network of zoos and aquaria as represented by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), and accordingly within some form of organised ethical and welfare framework. The care and custodianship of animals is one of the primary uniting factors of accredited zoos and aquariums, who are constantly striving to achieve higher standards of welfare within their affiliated institutions.
However, with the vast majority of public captive wild animal institutions (calling themselves zoos and sanctuaries) falling outside the remit of a zoo association and equally not influenced by national or international legislation – what then are the conditions that these animals are kept under? Sadly, poor captive animal welfare is often widely prevalent within these institutions, resulting in the suffering of thousands of animals. It requires the combined effort of both the accredited zoo and global animal welfare communities to provide an effective, urgent and experienced response that provides practical and enduring solutions.
Wild Welfare is a voice of authority in captive zoo welfare. It was established to address the issue of poor captive wild animal welfare in a practical and strategic manner, recognizing that a comprehensive plan is required to secure long-term solutions.
Wild Welfare is the first captive wild animal welfare initiative, set up by zoo professionals, that is solely focused on improving welfare standards in captive wild animal facilities. We facilitate positive dialogue between accredited zoo professionals, zoo associations and leading global animal welfare NGOs. We can lend weight to challenging issues, and create a positive international captive animal welfare movement through an informed expert approach, knowledge-based decisions and establishment of strong partnerships.
Conservation – Globally, zoos significantly contribute to a diverse conservation effort, uniting to address the decline of a vast number of species and habitats. Under-developed zoos, although often in countries struggling to manage regional declines in biodiversity, have limited expertise and resources to contribute to these programmes, limiting the value of the global effort.
Animal Trade – Captive wild animal collections around the world with poor standards of animal welfare, often reflecting a lack of financial support, can also be participants and catalysts in the burgeoning illicit wildlife trade. Credible rescue groups and professional sanctuaries are brimming with animals confiscated from illegal activity and they beg for assistance. In providing advice and education regarding ethical conduct and quality welfare for captive wild animal collections such assistance may help to reduce their involvement with illicit trade and improve the fate of wild animals everywhere.
We believe in a compassionate and empathy based approach to captive wild animal welfare and our organizational standard of captive wild animal welfare is derived from ongoing reviews of all current relevant literature encompassing the ethics, ethology, and husbandry pertaining to captive wild animals.
The Challenge of improving captive wild animal welfare practices is vast and addressing captive wild animal welfare concerns is, and will remain complicated. Captive wild animal and zoological concerns are inherently linked to a vast majority of wild animal welfare issues. From the illegal wild animal trade and wild animal capture to animal abuse for tourism, the sub standard captive wild animal industry is intrinsically associated with such practices, and as such, strategically working on addressing all related welfare concerns, will help contribute to the collaborative effort to end such practices.
Quite often senior level management within sub-standard zoos have a significant ability to influence other aspects of wild animal welfare. In many cases, directors of these zoos also have significant roles within government departments and/or official representatives for CITES or similar bodies, and by affecting change through captive welfare improvements and policy, it can in turn have a positive influence on similar nation-wide wild animal welfare issues.
The issue of wild animal abuse, illegal trading and practical zoo welfare issues cannot be resolved in the short-term nor can we single-handedly end all wild animal welfare issues. Legislative bureaucracy, global captive welfare inertia and public apathy is on-going, however, together we can make a real effort to improve the welfare for many wild animals around the world, and collectively help change minds, attitudes and practices.