As August progressed into September this year, our team returned to South America in order to continue driving forward animal welfare standards across Brazil.
Dave Morgan, Wild Welfare Field Director, and Margaret Whittaker, Executive Director of Wild Welfare US had numerous actions planned throughout the visit, including rekindling their ongoing relationship with the Brazilian Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZAB) and undertaking a new set of animal welfare audits.
The first port of call for the Wild Welfare team was to attend the 46th Annual AZAB conference hosted by Bioparque do Rio, in Rio de Janeiro. A jam-packed schedule saw Dave and Margaret delivering a joint presentation to the 200 participants regarding the AZAB Welfare Certification Process which they have been heavily involved with for several years. This process involves training and conducting animal welfare audits for zoological facilities as a seal of approval for high standards of care where staff are constantly striving to further welfare improvements.
A 12-hour mini course (split over a couple of days) was also conducted by the team during the conference, with 52 participants learning about the husbandry and welfare of terrestrial and aquatic animals in association with AZAB colleagues Cynthia Cypreste and Cristiane Pizzutto.
In addition to all of this, Wild Welfare’s resident reptile expert Dave participated in a panel discussion exploring the topics of education, management and conservation of reptiles and amphibians together with Adriano Silveira, from Bioparque do Rio, and Giuseppe Puorto, from Instituto Butantan. Reptile welfare issues such as metabolic bone disease and appropriate environments can be frequently ignored in captive settings, and this was highlighted in a presentation delivered to the group.
“AZAB meetings are always exhilarating and inspirational. I was especially taken by the strong emphasis of this conference on the welfare of the smaller and often ignored taxa of animals such as reptiles, amphibians and fish. It was a privilege to give presentations on these topics and it was clear from post-presentation discussions and questions, that the conference participants were very engaged in the need for best practice in the husbandry and welfare of these animals.” Dave Morgan, Wild Welfare.
Once the conference was over, Dave and Margaret then journeyed throughout central Brazil to undertake a set of zoo audits. This was in collaboration with AZAB auditors who had already been trained by Wild Welfare in how to be an effective auditor. A total of five facilities were audited with the process enabling evaluation of problems and the potential to shine a spotlight on possible solutions. Areas such as animal behaviour, healthcare, environments, and nutrition can all be explored using this process, and improvements prioritized where needed.
The assessment activities in these facilities concluded the first 5-year cycle of audits. A total of 41 AZAB facilities have been audited since 2016 and Wild Welfare personnel were involved in all of them. To date, 11 AZAB facilities have been certified as being compliant with the AZAB Standard of Welfare.
To continue the success of the certification process into the future, the next five-year cycle of audits was discussed and planned with the AZAB welfare committee. A formal MoU was also signed between Wild Welfare US and AZAB, committing both organizations to further advanced training of auditors over the next 3 years.
The next steps involve Wild Welfare gradually withdrawing from conducting the actual audits themselves, with personnel from AZAB being the sole undertakers of this process moving forward. Wild Welfare will move to a more supportive role, offering advice and guidance directly to individual AZAB facilities and assisting them in attaining certification.
“We are delighted with the formalization of our relationship with AZAB and our ongoing involvement with the Association’s enlightened commitment to advancing zoo and aquarium animal welfare in Brazil. In collaboration with our Brazilian colleagues, our project plan going forward will see the completion of our capacity-building process for welfare auditing in the next couple of years, and Wild Welfare US moving into an advisory and supporting role to individual AZAB member facilities.” Margaret Whittaker, Executive Director Wild Welfare US.
Wild Welfare’s long-term partnership with AZAB has encouraged animal care staff and managers to view their decisions through the lens of animal welfare. The fact that the collaboration has resulted in 41 audits is a testament to the long-term sustainable changes which can be made through capacity building and development.
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Notes to Editors
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Wild Welfare is a global organisation committed to improving animal welfare for captive wild animals. By uniting the world’s leading zoos, zoo associations and animal welfare organisations, we build trusting partnerships that help provide long-term solutions to critical wild animal welfare issues.
Our vision is a world where every captive wild animal is able to thrive and live a good life. Find out more at wildwelfare.org. Registered charity in England (no.1165941).