Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild


The State of Zoos in Europe

The "EU Zoo Inquiry 2011" has evaluated 200 zoos in 21 European Member States and their compliance with national and European law.


Today, the Born Free Foundation, in association with the European coalition, ENDCAP, will launch the next five country reports of a 21-report series, each providing an accurate and complete ‘health check’ of the status and performance of Europe’s zoos. 

Reports published today include France, Austria, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

The EU has recognised the significance of this issue by legislating to establish minimum standards in zoos, which were introduced back in 2002 (EC Directive 1999/22). However, the EU Zoo Inquiry has identified that many European zoos are failing to meet these basic standards and to attain the required level of commitment in species conservation.

Daniel Turner, spokesperson for The EU Zoo Inquiry explains, “The regulation of zoos and the protection of wild animals in captivity falls to the responsibility 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. Our investigations have confirmed that zoos across the European Community are not meeting their obligations as required by European and national law. Turner continued, “The European Commission, which is ultimately responsible for the implementation and enforcement of the EC Zoos Directive 1999/22, must do more to assist and support Member States in their endeavours to ensure the zoos comply with their legal requirements.”

Since 2005, all zoos in the majority of EU Member States 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 conserve biodiversity, educate the public and maintain their animals in conditions that meet their specific needs.

With 10 country reports now published, The EU Zoo Inquiry 2011 has identified:

  • The Directive is not being effectively implemented and enforced in the majority of EU Member States, despite being obligated to do so since 2005 (MS 25).
  • Many zoos are substandard and keep their animals in inadequate conditions.
  • European zoos are failing in their obligation to conserve biodiversity.
  • Competent authorities in the majority of Member States do not have sufficient knowledge and expertise to apply the requirements applicable to zoos, and other animal protection law.
  • Few veterinarians have the knowledge and training in captive wild animal welfare despite being required to undertake assessments in such welfare.

These reports are intended to raise awareness of the persistent problems regarding species-conservation in some Member States and, if acted upon, will pave the way for better implementation of the EC Zoos Directive at both Community and State level in the more than 4,000 zoos in Europe.

Will Travers, CEO of the Born Free Foundation, which fully-funded the investigation said,”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 on 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 and ENDCAP Member NGOs are working with national governments to identify actions, or to develop a work plan, that will address the recognised shortfalls.

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