Registered Charity in England & Wales No.1165941

Thai zoo animals benefit from welfare project success

Zoo keepers building enrichments for animals in a Thai zoo

Thai zoo animals benefit from welfare project success

Wild Welfare’s new partnership programme got under way in Thailand recently, with our team joining forces with a zoo in America and staff from two Thai zoos, to make animal welfare improvements.

Working alongside staff from North Carolina Zoo and Chiang Mai and Khao Kheow Open Zoo, two zoos belonging to the Zoological Park Organization of Thailand (ZPO), Wild Welfare commenced the first Partner for Animals project and it was a great initial success.

Wild Welfare’s operations manager, Simon Marsh, said: “I could not have hoped for a better start to the Partner for Animals programme. ZPO and North Carolina Zoo staff were very professional and just clicked straight away.

“The planning Wild Welfare carried out in preparation for this first project really paid off, with both zoos’ teams eager to listen and learn and make improvements for the animals. Everyone felt they could openly discuss welfare issues without judgement and work together to find a solution, it has been a fantastic start to the partnership.”

The Partner for Animals programme links experienced zoo staff from some of the world’s leading zoos, with zoos around the world that are looking for support to help them improve their animal care and welfare practices. North Carolina Zoo are the first project partners to be involved, on a collaboration with ZPO.

Throughout the two-week project, Wild Welfare, North Carolina Zoo keepers and staff from Khao Kheow Open Zoo, worked together making changes for a variety of animals. They carried out positive reinforcement training with the elephants to improve foot care, with the mahouts showing a huge willingness to learn and quickly grasping a good understanding of the benefits positive reinforcement has over traditional elephant training methods.

Dr Visit D.V.M., acting assistant director of Khao Kheow Open Zoo, commenting on the new programme, “It (the partnership) was very useful and it was encouraging to see my staff understand and advance animal management and welfare standards across the zoo”

There was also great progress made with animal enrichment planning and building at Khao Kheow, with many keepers very willing to get involved and learn what different species enrichments to create and how to use them to encourage natural animal behaviours.

Jodi Wiley one of the North Carolina Zoo keepers taking part in the project, said: “I’m thrilled by the developing relationship between North Carolina Zoo and Khao Kheow Open Zoo, that’s emerged from our collaborative and combined training methods, as well as a rich enduring cultural exchange in the overall goal to improve welfare for animals under human care.”

At Chiang Mai zoo, North Carolina Zoo staff and Chiang Mai’s team worked on continuing the changes animal keeping and enrichment staff had already started to implement, following recommendations Wild Welfare made during a 2018 assessment. What was also positive to see was the continued staff engagement and a genuine eagerness to learn more about animal welfare reform during the project.

Jade Tuttle, a North Carolina Zoo keeper working with the Chiang Mai team said: “It was the most rewarding two weeks of my career, when you gave them an idea, they ran with it. I expect the welfare team at Chiang Mai to grow exponentially as we continue to share tales of our efforts within the ZPO teams.”

Scatter feeding and scent enrichments were initiated with the zoo’s sun bears, and a variety of novel enrichment items built for the parrots, with training on how to use them regularly. Raised sleeping platforms were built for bears and primates – and they were put to immediate use by the animals, giving zoo staff the opportunity to see how important these items are for particular species and observe the positive response they had.

Commenting at the end of the Chiang Mai project, one of the zoo’s veterinarians, Dr Tong, said: “Thank you for bringing your team to the zoo and for being wonderful teachers. Our staff already know the first steps to make and are inspired to move things on.”

With support from Wild Welfare, North Carolina Zoo are already planning their next visit to Thailand and we are looking at expanding the programme with other partners and zoos around the world.

Our thanks go to North Carolina Zoo keepers; Sally Adams, Nancy Kauffman, Jade Tuttle and Jodi Wiley, everyone from North Carolina Zoo involved in making the project a success, the fantastic ZPO team and all the staff involved from Chiang Mai Zoo and Khao Kheow Open Zoo.


Notes to Editors

For more information or interview requests please contact Wild Welfare on

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 (no.1165941).

Image: North Carolina Zoo keepers working with staff from Khao Kheow Open Zoo on enrichment activities