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German Zoo Investigation: Shock Findings

5 June 2013

Categories: Homepage News, EU Zoo Inquiry News, Zoo Check Campaign News

© Animal Equality

The EU Zoo Inquiry identifies that German zoos are failing to meet EU standards

Brussels 5th June 2013: A report launched today at the European Parliament (Brussels) by leading animal welfare NGOs (including Born Free), has confirmed that many zoos in Germany fail to meet European requirements in species conservation, public education and animal care. 

The comprehensive report reveals the inconsistent application and enforcement of the EC Zoos Directive, the national zoo law (BNatSchG) and the German Animal Protection law (TierSchG)  by Federal State Competent Authorities causing substandard conditions and unnecessary animal suffering. 

Torsten Schmidt, representing NGO, Bund gegen Missbrauch der Tiere e.V., explained “In Germany, zoos are regulated through the Federal Nature Conservation Act, which, together with the Animal Protection Law, has adopted the requirements of the EC Zoos Directive. The Federal State Competent Authorities are required to regulate the zoos through licensing and regular inspection. One of the EU Zoo Inquiry’s most worrying findings is that there are no centralised records identifying how many zoos there are in Germany, which raises the question as to whether or not all German  zoos are, in fact, licensed.

The EC Zoos Directive (1999/22), enacted in 2002, requires all zoos to be licensed and undergo regular inspection by the designated Competent Authority to ensure the legal requirements are met. These requirements include: active measures to conserve biodiversity through species conservation programmes; the exchange of information and the delivery of public education about the species displayed and their conservation. Zoos must also ensure the animals in their care are housed in appropriate conditions that meet their biological and behavioural needs and that measures are taken to prevent illness and disease. 

The EU Zoo Inquiry investigation in to the state of German zoos identified that whilst some do achieve higher standards than others, overall many are failing to meet their obligations. Commitment to species conservation appears minimal with the majority of species in the zoos assessed being of low conservation significance (2% of the species are classified as Critically Endangered (IUCN)). Furthermore, only 12% of the total number of species kept appeared to be actively participating in European Species Management Programmes (EEPs) or (ESBs). Public education was also limited, with species information signage not present for 20% of species displayed and reference to species conservation absent from 79% of signage. Many of the zoos offered the public direct contact with animals and, in some cases, with potentially dangerous animals. There also appeared a strong emphasis on using animals in performances where they were often required to perform unnatural behaviours.  

Of particular concern was the seemingly exploitative use of some of the world’s most threatened and endangered species by German zoos, which included elephant riding, the petting of cheetah and the circus-style performances of chimpanzees dressed in human clothes. 

Daniel Turner, Project Manager of The EU Zoo Inquiry was shocked by the findings, “For a country often regarded as setting an example of good practice, I was surprised that some zoos in Germany are still promoting animals as objects rather than sentient beings. It would appear that the physical, social and psychological needs of animals, and the respect for and delivery of their welfare requirements, receives a low priority in the country.” Turner continued, “I am thankful that the EU Zoo Inquiry has been able to reveal these examples of animal abuse to the authorities and I hope that not only will such activities now be prohibited but other aspects of German Zoo legislation will be upgraded and enforced as a matter of urgency.

Germany has no mandatory animal welfare requirements, only voluntary standards based on expert opinion. These are apparently based upon minimum cage sizes rather than evidence-based, species-specific criteria, which is perhaps a reason why many of the randomly assessed enclosures did not adequately provide species with their biological, physical and behavioural needs. 

Laura Zimprich, spokesperson for the NGO, animal public e. V., is concerned about the level of animal welfare in German zoos. “Our investigation of a randomly-selected 25 zoos revealed poor levels of animal welfare, particularly where enclosures lacked appropriate furnishings and environment enrichment to encourage species to express natural behaviour. This means we saw the kind of abnormal behaviours that animals develop in sub-standard captive conditions. Standards must be based upon scientific evidence and a profound understanding of the needs of the species to ensure higher standards of animal welfare.”    

The EU Zoo Inquiry is the most comprehensive investigation into the licensing and performance of zoos in the European Union. The project, which evaluated the implementation and enforcement of the EC Directive 1999/22, relating to the keeping of animals in zoos, has investigated zoo regulation in 21 countries and legal compliance in a total of 200 zoos. Overall findings indicate the systemic failure of governments, competent authorities and enforcement agencies to ensure that European zoos meet their legal obligations.  

View the EU Zoo Inquiry, German Zoo Report here

Or download the PDF here

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