Animals doing flips in the water, painting pictures with their trunks and giving rides, might be entertaining, but it is no life for animals.
That’s what new research from the global charity World Animal Protection and the Change for Animals Foundation indicated.
The report showed that animals in zoos are often forced to perform and that contradicts the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) own animal welfare guidelines.
Of 1,200 zoos surveyed, 75% of them offer at least one activity where visitors can have direct contact with live, captive wild animals. This poses higher animal welfare and public safety risks.
The research included field visits to a dozen zoos that showcased animals being cruelly used in demeaning experiences, focusing on big cats, dolphins, elephants and primates.
World Animal Protection Campaign Director Melissa Matlow said: “Elephant rides and wildlife selfies are out-dated and dangerous, as the recent attack on a trainer at African Lion Safari made clear.
“The public expects that zoos that are members of WAZA meet higher professional standards, but our research shows the association is turning a blind eye to controversial and potentially dangerous activities. This highlights why governments need to step in as the zoo industry should not be policing itself.”
Matlow adds that it’s understandable that people who love animals want to go to zoos to see them up close, but they may not be aware of the cruelty that goes on behind the scenes.
“If you can see animals involved in activities they wouldn’t normally do in the wild, then it shouldn’t be shown in a zoo. It’s not natural, it’s not educational, it’s cruel,” said Matlow.
The best place to see wild animals is in their natural habitat. However, if people want to visit a zoo, World Animal Protection recommends visitors avoid venues that condone or promote the following activities.
Ride, touch and bathe a wild animal;
Taking a photograph with wild animals that are used as photo-props;
Watching wild animals perform in circus-like shows;
Animals in clothes or exhibits that are unnatural or human-like:
Interact with the animals repeatedly all day without rest for the animal.
World Animal Protection has offices in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Kenya, the Netherlands and the UK.
Since the launch of its Wildlife not Entertainers campaign in 2015, more than 1.6 million people have joined the campaign to protect wild animals from abuse and cruelty in the name of ‘entertainment’.