Born Free is deeply disappointed to hear about the decision to bring giraffe back to Edinburgh Zoo for the first time in 15 years and is calling on European zoos to phase-out the outdated and welfare-compromising practice of keeping giraffe in captivity and, instead, to focus conservation resources on the protection of wild giraffe populations.
Dr Stephanie Jayson, Born Free’s Wild Animal Welfare Consultant, said "Giraffe are complex, social, wide-ranging, browsing animals. Confining these giants to enclosures in European zoos has significant impacts on their health and welfare. With more than 800 giraffe in European zoos, including over 150 in UK zoos, many giraffe are deprived of the opportunity to form complex social relationships, and confined to bare enclosures that lack complexity and are a tiny fraction (<1%) of their average wild home range. Lameness, trauma, nutritional diseases and behavioural disturbances occur commonly, and many live shortened lives."
Dr Mark Jones, Head of Policy at Born Free added that “Contrary to the claims made by a representative of Edinburgh Zoo that they can provide the “absolutely perfect habitat” for giraffe, and that by confining giraffe to an allegedly ‘football field size’ part of Edinburgh they can “drive people’s awareness and desire to protect and act for the environment”, it is our strong belief that the complex welfare needs of giraffe can never be met in traditional captivity. The only educational message people should get when visiting a zoo is that it is no place for a giraffe.”
Giraffe are threatened in the wild as a result of habitat loss, poaching, trophy hunting, amongst other pressures. They have experienced a species-level population decline of 36-40% in the number of mature individuals across their range in Africa over 30 years. Zoos often claim that keeping giraffe in captivity is needed in order to raise awareness and funding for giraffe conservation in the wild.
However, awareness-raising and fundraising for wild giraffe conservation does not require the keeping of giraffe in European zoos. In the 21st century, with modern technology, we can learn about and increase support for the conservation of this majestic species in the wild without needing to get up close and personal to these animals in inappropriate zoo enclosures, with all the detrimental effects that has on each individual animal’s health and welfare.
Read our Confined Giants report on the plight of giraffe in European zoos, and support our giraffe conservation work by adopting a giraffe, below.
Images © Britta Jaschinski, www.georgelogan.co.uk