Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Assessment of zoos in the Canary Islands


April 2008

Further to the previous investigations into the apparent non-compliance by Spain’s zoos to the requirements of the  European Zoos Directive, the Born Free Foundation as part of the coalition InfoZoos (together with the Spanish organisations ANDA and DEPANA) continues to visit zoos as part of an overall assessment of their status and performance.

Despite legal action being taken by the European Commission against Spain, enquiries have revealed that numerous regional governments in Spain are still failing to recognise their responsibilities and enforce the requirements of the Law. Many zoo animals remain confined in conditions that fail to meet even the minimal requirements and few zoos appear to have implemented programmes dedicated to conservation and education. It is more important than ever that InfoZoos maintains its evaluation programme, to pressurise the authorities into implementing change and to ensure the European Commission remain informed with any developments.

Zoos in the Region of the Canary Islands (that includes the islands of Tenerife, Lanzarote, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and La Palma), thought to represent 14% of Spain’s total number of zoos, remain unlicensed and reportedly few inspections have been undertaken. Despite some efforts made by both the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture in the Region, no single department appears to take responsibility for addressing the situation. InfoZoos’ work in the Canary Islands seeks to resolve the deadlock and ensure zoos throughout the Region are correctly licensed and inspected and, should zoos fail to meet the requirements, the establishments should close and animals be suitably rehomed.

Alberto Díez (ANDA) and Daniel Turner (Born Free) revealed that not one of the 13 zoos assessed during the InfoZoos investigation into zoos on the Canary Islands are licensed or fully comply with the law. Press Conference at the Chamber of Commerce in Santa Cruz, Tenerife on 17th April 2008.

Results of the InfoZoos study on zoos in the Canary Islands have revealed:

Not one of the zoos on the Canary Islands has been licensed or inspected (as legally required).  

Animal welfare concerns –

Animals kept in conditions that were below their minimal living requirements.

9 of the 13 zoos visited had animal shows that were potentially highly stressful for the animals concerned. 

Limited conservation commitment –

Only 4 out of 13 zoos visited participate in official captive breeding programmes.

Only 25% of the species kept by these zoos are categorised as Threatened (by IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature). The majority of animals kept at the visited zoos are therefore not endangered in the wild.

Limited educational value -

30% of the zoos visited did not have information displayed on the animals held at the facility.

Only 4 out of the 13 zoos visited displayed information about the conservation and biodiversity.

Only 3 out of 13 zoos visited have a classroom to educate visiting schools.

9 of the 13 zoos visited had animal shows that had no educational value.

Notable risks to public health and safety -

77% of zoos visited put their visitors at risk from disease transmission or injury by encouraging direct contact with wild, potentially dangerous animals.

Only 8% of the 91 enclosures containing dangerous wild animals had visible warning signs.

Instances where  the visitor could easily enter an enclosure, unauthorised, with a dangerous wild animal.

NB. All of these findings breach requirements in national and European Law and the Canary Islands regional authority have to address these infringements if they wish to comply. Zoos that fail to comply will need to close and through joint efforts between the relevant authorities and licensed zoos, decide what humane action is to be taken to safeguard the welfare of the animals in question.

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Full Review is available in English for download

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European Law (in Spanish)

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Law 31 - Spanish Regulations

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Born Free is a member of - investigating Spanish zoos.

Information correct at the time of publication April 2008

Born Free Foundation
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