Captive wild animal facilities in Vietnam, such as wildlife rescue centres and zoos, are playing an increasingly important role in the conservation of endangered species, by enabling the effective confiscation and accommodation of animals caught up in the illegal wildlife trade and through educating the Vietnamese public on the importance of species and habitat conservation. The number of captive facilities is possibly on the increase as Vietnam develops more safari-like parks, increases its wildlife rescue centres in response to increased wildlife trade and is developing more dolphinariums and entertainment facilities.
A lack of relevant institutional and national regulations, experience and skills has resulted in some poorly managed facilities around Vietnam that host poor standards of care and welfare. Keepers and curators within many of the facilities have basic or no animal management backgrounds, and veterinary expertise and care is extremely limited for the specialist care sometimes required within an exotic captive collection. With growing interest and pressure from national media and the public, zoos and aquariums in Vietnam are now more than ever needing to improve conditions for animals held in captivity if they are to effectively contribute to a mature conservation and educational targets.
We are working with Vietnam zoos, the Vietnam zoo association and the Vietnam central and provincial government to identify short and long term solutions to animal welfare. By working with these key stakeholders we have developed positive relationships and partnerships and are able to place support directly on the ground through voluntary and staff placements, bringing in international expertise and can continue to work in Vietnam – sometimes a difficult country for international staff to work in – for the long haul, providing long term changes communities that can contribute so significantly to essential global conservation and educational programmes.
In December 2014 Wild Welfare part funded and hosted the forum: Animal Welfare and Conservation in Vietnam, a fantastic example of how collaboration between the zoo and animal welfare community can really bring about hope and change for wild animals in captivity. Progress and change happens through constructive and continued engagement with those in charge, and we cannot underestimate the power of demonstrating a united front. The forum was attended by a number of Vietnam zoo directors, SEAZA, international zoo experts and animal welfare NGO’s
Since 2014, three actions were identified: 1) The development of a National Zoo Working Group (NZWG) to develop national captive wild animal welfare standards, 2) Institutional training to create “model” zoos in Vietnam, 3) the development of a Vietnam Zoo Association to develop and implement guidelines, policies and standards in zoo management. The goal of the NZWG is to develop national standards. The first NWG meeting was held in 2015 and throughout 2016, where Wild Welfare significantly contributed to the drafting of the final standard copy. This standard is now being developed through the working group with the VNForest Department where we aim to pass technical standards.
Wild Welfare has worked with the Vietnam Zoo Association Director throughout 2015 and 2016 to start developing policy guidelines and direction on capacity development for the member facilities, of which there are 18. Wild Welfare also provides continued support to other individual institutions within Vietnam. Our main approach is to provide expert volunteers to be based at the zoo that supports the development of enrichment, behavioural observations, collection planning, management, trade, disease control, veterinary care and conservation and education training. Through trial and error we have understood that by providing this on the ground support, we can consistently and persistently support zoos more than one off visits and training. In 2017 Wild Welfare we provided animal welfare training to all VZA members, hosted by Dam Sen Zoo. It is reassuring to hear significant Vietnamese individuals and zoo experts championing better welfare practices, and we are working with those individuals and institutions that are engaged with making improvements.
On-going work includes continuing to work within the zoos and with the zoo staff themselves and hope to partner with the accredited zoo community who are led by Vietnamese zoo experts, to identify training opportunities that support the on-going efforts of Vietnam zoos and personnel who are striving to make changes.