"From Good Care to Great Welfare"
The symposium this past weekend sponsored by the Center for Zoo Animal Welfare
at the Detroit Zoo, brought together academics, zoo professionals, and
representatives of animal welfare groups. Ken Shapiro, the ASI's
executive director and a member of CZAW's advisory board, spoke at the
beginning and end of the conference, and participated in a panel
discussion on "Zoos in Society: Perceptions of Animal Welfare in Zoos."
From the two full days of presentations, here's what stood out for me:
welcome remarks asked the following questions: will there be a blurring
of lines between zoo and wildlife park? How will the role of humans
evolve? What's the role of technology, complimentary or substitutive?
multi-year study of all 73 Association of Zoos and Aquariums
(AZA)-accredited zoos that house elephants is underway. This study of
290 individual elephants, among other goals, will develop a framework
for elephant welfare based on the European Union's. Much discussion
involved what the baseline standards would be, and whether the captive
elephant population to be studied would be compared to those elephants
still living in the wild. Pat Derby of the Performing Animal Welfare
Sanctuary (PAWS) in Northern California objected to the study's design,
which will not use information from wild elephants. Pat said that
studying captive elephants is counter-productive; every captive
elephants she's ever seen is in a "deprived environment." She cited
with concern practices such as elephants being separated from social
groups for breeding and otherwise, and having their calves taken away.
Mary Lee Jensvold of the Chimpanzee & Human Communication Institute
at Central Washington University (home of Washoe, the first non-human
who learned human language), spoke of a study in which chimpanzee
keepers were taught to use behaviors that chimps perceive as playful and
non-aggressive during interactions with the primates. Videos comparing
the keepers' use of the "chimp" behaviors with the "human" behaviors
showed the chimpanzees responding much more positively to the former.
Born Free Foundation's
Chris Draper presented a sobering picture of animal welfare in Great
Britain's zoos. By law, zoos must be inspected, with one criteria being
animal welfare. Draper's evaluation of the inspection reports over a 3
year period indicated a high rate of non-compliance with the law's
standards. His suggested policy recommendations included more
independent assessments, more attention to following up of sub-standard
conditions, and more centralized review. Finally, he noted an urgent
need for species-specific guidelines for care.
Kati Loeffler has worked in China since 2002, and discussed the plight
of wildlife there in the context of political and cultural
institutions. Focusing on tigers, she noted that a 1989 law outlawed
the trade or killing of tigers, but has a loophole for "scientific
research" and captive breeding. There are large-scale tiger breeding
farms which house over 1,000 animals for intensive breeding, exhibit,
animal performances and the sale of tiger parts. "At the root of the
issue is the consumer, who can stop the demand for wildlife products,
and who can demand an end to the cruelties perpetrated against animals,"
Follow-up conferences to gauge the state of animal
welfare among zoo animals are planned. My take-away is that the zoo
professionals were more optimistic than the animal welfare groups. The
former did acknowledge that the standards for welfare of the individual
animals under their care could be improved but did see an upward arc in
concern for this issue. However, as Detroit Zoo director Ron Kagan noted
at the conclusion of the symposium, he has heard the same upbeat
assessments among his colleagues for several decades now.
Let's hope that these professionals walk the walk.
Bee Friedlander, 8/10/2011
Published by admin on 12/26/2011 11:37:27