midiamimesEuropean zoos are failing to fully protect their animals

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Gorilla (Photo: Born Free Foundation)New evidence identifies and exposes systemic failures in zoo regulation throughout Europe.
European Citizens can hold their governments accountable for failures to fully protect their nation’s zoo animals. The EU Zoo Inquiry 2011, an extensive investigation into the licensing and performance of zoos across the EU, has revealed systemic failures by governments and enforcers to ensure zoos meet their legal obligations in species conservation, education and animal care. Launched online, www.euzooinquiry.eu exposes the failures, identifies the causes and provides significant information on zoo regulation in numerous EU countries.
The EU Zoo Inquiry 2011 was initiated and executed by the international wildlife NGO, the Born Free Foundation, on behalf of the European coalition ENDCAP. It is an independent study, which aims to evaluate the level of implementation and enforcement of the EC Directive 1999/22 (relating to the keeping of wild animals in zoos), its transposition into national law, national enforcement of that law and the status and performance of zoos in compliance with their legal requirements.
Daniel Turner, spokesperson for The EU Zoo Inquiry explains, “Our investigations over the last twelve months have confirmed that zoos across the European Community are not meeting their obligations as required by European and national law. As a result, millions of animals are kept in poor to appalling conditions in thousands of zoos across Europe. ENDCAP and European Citizens feel that this is unacceptable and our investigation aims to identify and expose its cause.”  Turner continued, “In the European Union, regulation of zoos and the protection of wild animals in captivity falls to responsibly of Member States and is dependent upon the will, knowledge, experience and available resources of each Member State. This has resulted in enormous variation in the standards delivered, as many countries do not have the capacity to effectively enforce and comply with the specified requirements. Without assistance from the European Community, these exposed failures are likely to continue.”
Since 2005, all zoos in the majority of EU countries were required to meet the basic requirements of EC Directive 1999/22, and through the licensing and inspection of zoos, to adopt a series of measures into national law that obliged zoos to conservation biodiversity, educate the public and maintain their animals in conditions that meet their specific needs.
Although the Directive has been transposed in all Member States, national laws often lack detailed provisions relating to educational and scientific activities, guidance on adequate animal care, licensing and inspection procedures, as well as clear strategies for dealing with animals in the event of zoo closure. The Directive’s requirements themselves are relatively ambiguous and allow for inconsistencies in interpretation and, as a consequence, many are failing to ensure these provisions are fully applied by zoos.
Will Travers, CEO of the Born Free Foundation, which fully-funded the investigation said, “Having identified these systemic failures by European governments to effectively implement and enforce the EC Zoos Directive through the application of national law, we look to the European Commission to provide the obvious need for support and assistance.” Travers explained,”To date, wild animals in captivity have been largely marginalised by European animal protection initiatives and with the drafting of the European Union’s Plan for Animal Welfare (EUPAW) in 2011, this seems an obvious place to start, ensuring that through this initiative, European countries are given the knowledge and training to effectively apply existing laws, like the EC Zoos Directive. I want to see wild animals in captivity (in zoos, circuses and those kept as pets) included in the mandate of EUPAW, so we can ensure EU Member States have the right tools to complete the job they are expected to do.”
Keen to ensure a constructive approach and to seek solutions for any failings identified by the investigation, the Born Free Foundation is working with national governments to identify actions, or to develop a work plan, that will address the identified shortfalls.
The website, www.euzooinquiry.eu, which was launched on 2nd February 2011, will eventually include individual reports for 21 EU countries, each an evaluation of the regulation and compliance of zoos in a particular Member State. Updated feedback from national governments will also be posted, which will European Citizens to hold their governments accountable.
It is hope that this most extensive investigation to date will improve the regulation of zoos in Europe, ensure Competent Authorities have the knowledge and the means to effectively enforce the law, and that zoos operate legally, in accordance to the requirements of European and national zoo legislation.
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Author: ENDCAP