Setting best practice standards in animal welfare in Southeast Asia
Our recent attendance at the Southeast Asian Zoos and Aquariums Association (SEAZA)’s 25th annual conference held recently in the Philippines, was an opportunity to meet up with many of the teams we have been working with throughout 2017 and discuss future steps. One of the key activities we’ve been working on with SEAZA throughout this year, is the development of a welfare-based certification programme for all its members.
What is certification/accreditation?
SEAZA itself represents a wide range of zoos and aquariums. Institutional Members come from Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries as well as from neighbouring nations, including Taiwan and Hong Kong. Associate and affiliate institutions come from different parts of the world including other parts of Asia, the Middle East, Australia, Europe, and North America. Many regional zoo associations already have some form of certification or accreditation programme (only the Australasian zoo association has a purely welfare-based programme) to support and ensure best practice occurs within its membership, including animal welfare. The process usually requires a set of pre-determined standards to be regularly reviewed, evaluated and for members to be held accountable against them.
What are the benefits of having a certification/accreditation programme?
The benefits of certification or accreditation for any industry, whether it is zoos or another global or national body, are both internal and external. Internally they act as guidance to their members wanting to achieve a given set of standards and often provide a framework for them to set their own standard, stimulating continuous improvement. Externally they represent quality, demonstrate accountability, promote validity and provide assurance above and beyond non-certified and accredited members of a particular body, consequently elevating them within a global community.
For the global zoo community, a good programme can determine who is meeting a high standard within the community and equally who is not, and can clearly differentiate members and associated members from non-members if managed well. If there are clear industry best practices, it can support performance benchmarking against these practices and therefore support continual improvements, and finally, it can and possibly should underwrite the global zoo narrative on animal welfare, which helps provide a transparent approach to the zoo communities varied audience.
A good programme will raise the standards of animal welfare and care as members must meet best practice guidelines.
SEAZA’s welfare certification programme
During this year and at SEAZA’s annual conference, we have been working with the SEAZA board and welfare and ethics committee to create a welfare-based certification programme for all its members. Zoos, safari parks and aquariums are public centres that should provide the highest possible standards of conservation, education, research and animal husbandry and welfare. SEAZA recognises the need to establish and implement an animal welfare certification programme, to help regulate and improve the professional ethos under which their members operate.
Starting soon, SEAZA will begin implementing this programme for all current and potential SEAZA members. Through this programme, SEAZA members will need to be compliant with an animal welfare certification standard. This standard identifies gaps and opportunities to improve conditions for captive wild animals; sets achievable husbandry standards for captive wild animal facilities and provides direction for SEAZA to both implement and enforce those standards as well as address non-compliance.
This is a really exciting programme for SEAZA, and we must recognise the hard work and commitment taken by the SEAZA board and their welfare and ethics committee to push this forward, in particular Willem Manansang from Indonesia and Lester Lopez from the Philippines.