Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Are conditions in Spanish zoos putting the public at risk?

16 February 2009

Categories: Zoo Check Campaign News, Homepage News

A new report about zoos in popular tourist resorts in southern Spain reveals low animal welfare standards and breaches of the law that could be placing the public at risk of injury and disease.

Valencia, Costa Blanca, 17 February 2009 – Today a coalition of British and Spanish animal welfare organisations will reveal that none of the nine known zoos in the region of Valencia, investigated as part of a three month scientific study, meet the minimum requirements of either Regional or National zoo law.

The findings raise serious concerns over the quality of zoo regulation in the region and moreover, whether conditions are putting animals and the public at risk.

Daniel Turner, spokesperson for the Born Free Foundation, a member of the Infozoos coalition, explained; “In 2007, the European Commission, which regulates zoos throughout Europe, filed an infraction procedure against Spain for not complying with the European Zoos Directive. Despite this, many of the 17 Autonomous Communities of Spain still do not meet the required legal standards. Consequently the welfare of both the animals and the visiting public may be jeopardised, because the authorities are failing to regulate zoos properly.”

InfoZoos is a coalition of three non-government organisations dedicated to the welfare and conservation of wild animals. Members of the coalition include ANDA (Madrid, Spain), Attentio-DEPANA (Barcelona, Spain) and the Born Free Foundation (UK). InfoZoos was established in 2006 to assess whether Spanish zoos were complying with the requirements of the national zoo law (31/2003), and meeting their obligations with regard to animal welfare and public safety.

In the Autonomous Community of Valencia, which includes the popular tourist resorts Benidorm and Alicante, the law was transposed into a Regional Decree in 2007 (83/2007) and all zoos were reportedly licensed and inspected. This latest InfoZoos investigation was established to assess the quality of that zoo inspection and the degree to which zoos in Valencia are compliant with the Law 31/2003.   

“The results revealed that despite being recently licensed and inspected by Regional Government-appointed Inspectors, zoos in Valencia are still failing in their obligations to meet the minimum requirements of the Regional Decree 83/2007 and Spanish Law 31/2003.” reported Mr Turner. “We conclude that the nine known zoos in the Region do not, therefore, meet their legal requirements with regard to conservation, education, enclosure design, environmental quality and visitor and animal safety.”

InfoZoos urges the Valencia Regional Government to take action – as a matter or urgency - to address the Region’s failing zoos and close those facilities that do not provide their animals with high standards of care.  

InfoZoos  Recommendations to the Valencian Government Regarding Zoos:

• Cease the breeding of species that are not listed on the IUCN Red List as category Threatened or a greater risk level.

• Direct a greater proportion of their resources to in situ conservation and make this information publically available.

• Develop and implement a written educational plan incorporating guided tours, information boards and interactive activities that effectively educate the public about the conservation of biodiversity, the threats to wild animal populations, animal biology and natural animal behaviour.

• End the use of wild animals in ‘shows’; discourage the public feeding of animals; and end direct contact between the public and wild animals. Failure to take such measures could potentially put the public and the animals at significant risk.

• End the use of wild animals as photographic props.  

• Develop and implement environmental enrichment programmes designed to maximise opportunities for the animals contained to express natural behaviour and necessary exercise. Enclosure design should afford animals the opportunity to seek refuge from other individuals and from the public.

• Implement preventative measures to reduce contact between animals and humans. If a species poses a risk to the health and safety of the public, clear warning signage must alert the public to this fact.

• Ensure that animal enclosure barriers are constructed and maintained in such a way as to prevent escape and to stop the entry of indigenous animal species from outside the zoo, which may pose disease-transmission and other risks.

• Ensure the zoo perimeter fence is well maintained and sufficient to prevent escape and intrusion.

Report Summary in English - pdf 137KB

Full Report in Spanish - pdf 17.4MB


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