In the ever-changing landscape of global animal welfare, every step taken towards protecting the well-being of captive wildlife is a stride in the right direction. Recently, Wild Welfare’s Director Simon Marsh journeyed to South Korea to explore a significant initiative that aims to shape the future of animal welfare and zoo licensing in the country.
Back in 2019, Wild Welfare initiated contact with Professor Ma, an academic in South Korea with a vested interest in animal welfare standards. The ensuing discussions laid the foundation for a critical undertaking that would redefine animal welfare and the regulation of zoos in the region. However, as the world grappled with the challenges posed by the pandemic, progress on these crucial matters slowed.
Fortunately, 2021 brought a revival of these conversations, where Wild Welfare shared documentation and resources on animal welfare standards and zoo licensing. Fast forward to early 2023, and these conversations culminated in a pivotal moment. Wild Welfare orchestrated a visit to the United Kingdom, facilitating an in-person meeting between Professor Ma and Dr. Kang, the Animal Welfare Director of Gong Zone, a prominent Korean animal welfare NGO. In this meeting, Wild Welfare discussed how they could assist in the development of zoo licensing legislation, the application of zoo licensing, the creation of an inspector training program, and the establishment of animal welfare standards, reporting, and enforcement procedures. Professor Samantha Ward from Nottingham Trent University, an advisor to Wild Welfare and a member of the Zoo Expert Committee in the UK, also joined this meeting, adding a wealth of expertise to the dialogue.
This meeting paved the way for Wild Welfare’s collaboration with Gong Zone, the NGO appointed by the Korean government to develop zoo licensing legislation, standards, and licensing procedures. The objective was clear: to improve animal welfare in South Korea by enhancing regulations governing zoos and their practices.
As part of the collaboration, Simon Marsh received an invitation to visit South Korea to conduct a series of presentations and discussions on animal welfare, zoo licensing, zoo inspections, and the implementation of a licensing process. The audience included representatives from the South Korean Government’s Ministry of Environment, the National Institute of Ecology, Gong Zone, and Cheongju University, with a total of 15 participants.
Joining the trip were Hye Kyung Song, the CEO and Co-Founder of Gong Zone, Professor Ma, and Jangmi Lee, also from Gong Zone. The team shared insights and knowledge on various aspects, including how legislation can support zoo licensing and improve animal welfare, how inspections should be conducted, how to enforce inspection findings, and the components of animal welfare standards. They also discussed the development and delivery of zoo inspector training programs.
The visit also took them on a tour of animal care facilities across South Korea. These ranged from small indoor zoos and animal cafés to larger indoor zoos with extensive animal-visitor interactions, an indoor zoo and aquarium, a traditional large outdoor zoo within a theme park, and a medium-sized municipal zoo in a rural setting. This diverse array of facilities provided a comprehensive understanding of the scope and nuances of captive wildlife establishments in the country.
With 150 registered zoos and potentially up to 300 zoo-type facilities in South Korea, many of which are small indoor zoos and animal cafés, it is evident that the path towards regulatory enhancement is both challenging and crucial. The on-site zoo visits offered valuable insights into the practical application of zoo licensing legislation, animal welfare standards, and the inspection and reporting process.
Furthermore, this initial visit created a foundation for Wild Welfare and Gong Zone to plan the development of animal welfare standards and a zoo inspector training program set to be implemented in 2024. It also paved the way for a collaborative effort to establish a reporting process for zoo inspectors and the relevant authorities.
As this journey unfolds, the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) is on the horizon, signifying a commitment to substantial and sustainable changes in South Korea’s approach to animal welfare and zoo licensing. The significance of these developments cannot be overstated – they reflect a shared dedication to ensuring the welfare and protection of animals in captivity. Wild Welfare continues to be at the forefront of these transformative initiatives, making a difference in the lives of countless captive animals and setting an example for the world to follow.
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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).