It is likely only a small percentage of the more than 10,000 zoos and aquariums estimated to exist globally fall under country-wide animal welfare legislation and or guiding principles from a zoo association.
A much more significant number fall outside any such protection, so despite significant advances in animal welfare science by leading zoo bodies, poor animal welfare is still widely observed in many zoos around the world.
Animal welfare science focuses on the psychological well-being of animals and considers their complex emotional capacity. Emotions are motivators, designed to move us along a certain course of action, supporting our growth and survival, while avoiding negative feelings that can be detrimental to our health and ultimately survival.
It is therefore not hard to rationalise why emotions are commonplace throughout the animal kingdom. Respecting an animal’s capacity to feel a range of emotions gives us a starting point as to how we interact with them and care for them, so they can thrive, not just survive.
Very conservative estimates put the number of animals held in zoos and aquariums globally at more than 2.5 million, but our own estimations determine there are probably well above 5 million.
Wild Welfare believes that every zoo’s responsibility is to ensure their animals live lives worth living, and we are working hard to ensure zoos around the world provide proper care and welfare for every individual in their care.
Our animated film Imagine If, gives you an insight into animal emotions. It highlights the common ground we share with wild animals, in the way we think, feel and experience things, and demonstrates the connection that exists between an animal’s emotions and their welfare.
Report poor animal welfare conditions when you observe them in a zoo and aquarium. Reports can be made to the zoo themselves, to a relevant animal welfare organisation, such as us, and or to a relevant zoo association. Your report can be followed up and any animal welfare issues can look to being addressed. We will always investigate any reports made to us and see if we can help. Public pressure can result in change for animals, so don’t hesitate to be their voice.
Visiting only accredited zoos and aquariums that have measurable welfare requirements and are regularly monitored by experts in the animal health and welfare community. In visiting these facilities versus the thousands that are unregulated, you can help raise the profile of the importance of welfare accreditation for zoos and aquariums and support our work to improve animal welfare standards by expanding the number of properly regulated facilities worldwide.
We recommend that you don’t participate in any animal interactions with wild animals, where their welfare appears to be compromised and where they cannot choose to take part or not, such as selfie experiences and riding wild animals. Many zoos and aquariums around the world carry out visitor-animal interactions and some can be a positive experience for the animals involved, many, however, are not. We know that sometimes it can be difficult to tell if the experience is good for the animal’s welfare or not, so if you’re at all unsure, then don’t take part.
Many zoo facilities put on public shows and performances involving animals. It is vital that animals always have a choice as to whether they take part or not and that wherever animals are used, they are carrying out their normal and natural behaviours, not circus-style tricks or stunts. Again, we know that sometimes it can be difficult to tell if the experience is good for the animal’s welfare or not, so if you’re at all unsure, then don’t attend.