Safe in their hands?

I guess you would expect animals in zoos to be safe.  Safe and free from disease, predation, extremes of weather, drought and famine.  After all, their every need is taken care of and should they become ill most reputable zoos either have a vet on staff or access to veterinary care.

So, the death of a litter of extremely rare warty pigs last week at Bristol Zoo (the male and father ate them) followed by the euthanasia of the piglets’ mother (the male attacked her by eating her rear-end, injuring her badly), struck a dismal and bizarre chord.   As I commented in the Daily Mail ‘Wherever wild animals are kept in captivity, accidents can happen.  However, tragedies can sometimes be prevented and the behaviour of the male Visayan warty pig in this case was hardly impossible to predict. Males of many species are widely known to be a threat to infants, especially in captivity. It would appear that better understanding of animals’ needs and behaviour may have prevented such a tragedy. The general public have an expectation that zoos know what they are doing, and that they have in place measures to protect their animals and to avoid such incidents occurring. The tragedy at Bristol Zoo is almost certainly not isolated.  Predictable and preventable ‘accidents’ regularly occur and the zoo industry, and the Government which oversees the standards, licensing and inspection of zoos, must do more to protect the captive animals for which they are responsible.”

And apart from the specific circumstances of these poor pigs, for sure, stories like this are  happening  all around the world and they only become a cause for concern when they are made public.

Would it not be refreshing and brave were the zoo community to publish the details of deaths that occur in their zoos from old age, illness, through euthanasia  and, of course, as a result of an accident as appears to be the case at Bristol Zoo so that the public and understand fully the nature and scope of the impact that zoos have on individual animals and at least, pick and choose the zoos with the best performance – a sort of honesty table.

I doubt it will happen but I can always dream.

Blogging off


5 Responses to “Safe in their hands?”

  1. Fiona Thwaites Says:

    Such a sad story from Bristol Zoo I totally agree with your comment that greater monitoring of deaths of animals and reporting of such would assist the public to better understand what the animals endure. Much better training of zoo keepers is also needed, as this outcome at Bristol Zoo could have been predicted, and action taken to prevent it, by staff with greater understanding of behaviour. Thank you Will for all you do to bring such issues to our attention and in a clear and understandable format.

  2. Sally Reader Says:

    Great idea Will but I think you’re right , not likely to happen :( From, the animals perspective all I, can say is thank, goodness for the work and commitment of Animal welfare organisations like The Born ,Free Foundation., Without you all Ignorance and Suffering would be far , far worse !

  3. Gill Gilbey Says:

    Dear Will,
    Do the people looking after these animals have the necessary knowledge? It would seem not.It would help to have more transparency about what happens within the rather “secret” world of zoos.What would have happened in the wild in this situation?

  4. Sharon Williams Says:

    Firstly, thank you for your commitment.
    Zoos need to start being accountable. Too much gets swept under the carpet. What goes on at most zoos is atrocious.

  5. Stefan Savov Says:

    Sad story about Bristol zoo, but at least those poor animals haven’t suffered from direct “human” action, as the last years’ case in Lovech /Bulgaria/ city zoo, where a runaway jaguar, named Alonso, was SHOT DEAD /?!/ by a hunter, instead of being sedated, or in Sofia Zoo, where a “mysterious” mass food intoxication lead to the death of several animals – an yak, a camel, 3 gaurs, a baby ibex, and finally the two bisons.
    Anyway I believe raising public awareness upon all these shameful cases remains one of our strongest weapons. So just in line with the ideas in the above blog, instead of waiting for the “zoo community” to “wake up” and start publishing their “death case reports” why don’t we build our own “Wall /or Hall/ of shame”? This could be easily done by the inauguration of an EUROPEAN BLACK LIST ZOO REGISTER, exposing all cases of animal suffering and death in European zoos– by text and most importantly – by shocking photos, contributed by whistleblowers. I suggest this formally to BORN FREE, so the Foundation could become a sort of “official host” of this Register at its web site. I think the “negative” Register would have much stronger impact on gaining the general public opinion in favor of our common ideas than just praising the “good zoos” /which should also be considered as a “counterpoint”/. Thank you for your kind attention! Stefan Savov BF Gold Member since November 2014