Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

European zoo study

Animal Welfare Assessment

As per Article 13 of the EC Lisbon Treaty, all animals are recognised as sentient beings and Member States shall pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals. Equally in the Directive, all zoos should maintain high standards of animal husbandry and provide:

“. . . species specific enrichment of the enclosures . . .”

(Art. 3. European Council Directive 1999/22/EC)

The opportunity for animals to express their normal behaviour is recognised as a basic and essential biological need (Five Freedoms).  This Section of the evaluation was designed to provide an assessment of the welfare of each individual animal within the selected enclosure (refer to "enclosure quality" left). This included an assessment of the condition and behaviour of the animal at the time of assessment and sought to determine whether the enclosure offered the potential for the individual animal to express its full repertoire of natural behaviour.

Although it is recognised that an quantitative assessment of animal behaviour is a longer term process that should be carried out under controlled experimental conditions (not possible in this evaluation) the method adopted did provide a simple way of judging an animal's overall welfare state, partly based on the suitability of the structures and materials within the selected enclosure. The following tools were used:

  • Animal Welfare Assessment, Section E of the Zoo Assessment Protocol  – 54 questions that assessed the condition and behaviour of the individual animal at the time of assessment.

  • Animal Protection Ordinance of Switzerland, Tierschutzverordnung (2008) (APOS) (click on the link for the most up-to-date version): provides best practice guidance on species-specific enrichment of enclosures of zoo animals.

  • Member States’ Minimum Standards for the keeping of animals in zoos (if applicable), e.g. Bulgaria’s Regulation No.6 (SG 44 / 12.07.2009).
Melios Pet Centre Cyprus 2009- (c)BFF
Overgrown hooves on horses observed at Melios Pet Centre, Cyprus, in July 2009...
Melios Pet Centre Cyprus 2010- (c)BFF
...and again one year later in June 2010

Identification of abnormal behaviour

It is widely recognised that animals kept for prolonged periods in ‘impoverished’ captive conditions can develop stereotypic behaviours: behaviours that are ‘repetitive, unvarying, with no obvious goal or function’¹.

Pacing, rocking, swaying, bar-licking and other compulsive behaviours, may arise as a result of captive environments that compromise (or have once compromised) an animal’s welfare. In this study, the investigators recorded stereotypic behaviours when the animal displayed at least five cycles.

Onesti Zoo 2007-01-21 (c)John Knight
Onesti Zoo, Romania. Bar-biting is an abnormal behaviour often arising as a consequence of an impoverished environment

¹'Stereotypic Animal Behaviour - Fundamentals and Applications to Welfare' (2nd edition, 2006, CABI, eds. Georgia Mason and Jeff Rushen)

Evaluation of  Animal Well-being was undertaken using Section E of the Zoo Assessment Protocol

The “ENDCAP Animal Welfare Excellence in Europe” report

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