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Research highlights animal welfare issues in developing country zoos


Research highlights animal welfare issues in developing country zoos

Research conducted in zoos in developing countries, has highlighted a series of animal welfare issues.

The recently published research1, conducted by UK animal welfare charity, Wild Welfare, and Nottingham Trent University’s School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences, found welfare concerns linked to the behaviour and mental state of zoo animals across a number of facilities and countries.

By carrying out welfare audits in zoos across countries within South America, Southeast Asia and North Africa, the research revealed some recurring animal welfare concerns as well as human health and safety issues, with further analysis attributing the concerns to a lack of basic animal care provision.

Wild Welfare’s acting UK director, Simon Marsh, said: “The research proves what our work with captive animal facilities has been telling us for many years now; some very basic animal care provision is seriously lacking within zoos in many developing countries of the world. 

“Be it because of cultural differences or an understanding of what constitutes good animal welfare, these welfare concerns are negatively affecting animals’ lives.”

The research used Wild Welfare’s Audit of 110 questions, that covers nine topics including animal nutrition, health, behaviour and record-keeping, to assess 11 zoos in seven developing countries (Brazil, Egypt, Libya, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam).

The study revealed that the animal behaviour, animal mental states and human health and safety concerns, were likely linked to historical and cultural differences, a lack of knowledge among animal care staff, and a lack of availability of learning opportunities on the latest animal husbandry methods and animal welfare science.

While animal welfare is a priority for many zoos and other captive wild animal facilities around the world, standards for developing countries may not be as high and the latest knowledge on animal care and good welfare practices may not be available or properly understood.

Simon Marsh added, “This research helps confirm where the gaps are and shows how we can close them.

“We need to ensure that all animal care staff care and understand about animal welfare and that involves giving them access to up-to-date learning, education and relevant resources.

“Cultural differences should never be an excuse for poor animal welfare, we need to encourage all zoos, aquariums and wildlife facilities around the world to adopt the latest welfare science and make welfare their number one priority.”

Wild Welfare works in more than ten countries around the world, supporting and empowering animal care staff and wild animal facilities to improve their animal welfare standards. This latest research will help shape their project focus and continue their work achieving long-term solutions to the most critical issues facing wild animals in captivity.


Notes to Editors

  1. The research ‘Using Zoo Welfare Assessments to Identify Common Issues in Developing Country Zoos’ by Samantha J. Ward, Ellen Williams, Georgina Groves, Simon Marsh and David Morgan, Published: 12 November 2020, is available for download from the open access journal Animals:

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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 to end the suffering of captive wild animals around the world and ensure full and sustainable protection is given to all animals in human care. Find out more at Registered charity in England and Wales No.1165941.