Canadian zoos were not spared in a scathing report on the health of wild animals put into captivity and then put on display for our entertainment.
New research from the global charity World Animal Protection and the Change for Animals Foundation shows that wild animals are abused and forced to do unnatural activities at what are supposed to be some of the world’s ‘top’ zoos, including here in Canada.
There’s a global organization called WAZA (World Association of Zoos and Aquariums) and the report’s researchers surveyed activities at zoos and aquariums affiliated with the governing body. They surveyed 1,200 zoos, visited a dozen or so and found that 75% of them offer at least one activity where visitors can have direct contact with live, captive wild animals – an activity they say poses higher animal welfare and public safety risks.
Report names African Lion Safari & Jungle Cat World in Ontario
During the researchers visits to these zoos they found animals being cruelly used in ‘demeaning experiences.’ The report says they focused on big cats, dolphins, elephants and primates and found that for them to be able to perform the type of shows they were in, “some very cruel training techniques would have had to be done.”
African Lion Safari and Jungle Cat World in Ontario were both named in the report as they offer shows where animals perform demeaning and unnatural behaviours, which is prohibited under WAZA guidelines. The authors claim elephants at ALS were forced to do unnatural tricks and people could also touch elephants and ride them on a circular track. At Jungle Cat World, visitors were able to get close to a variety of wild animals including cougars, tigers, lions and wolves for selfies.
WAZA’s guidelines clearly state that members should not involve animals in shows, displays or interactive experiences where animals perform demeaning and unnatural behaviours.
Melissa Matlow, Campaign Director at World Animal Protection says their research exposes how WAZA is not enforcing their own rules. “Elephant rides and wildlife selfies are outdated and dangerous, as the recent attack on a trainer at African Lion Safari made clear. The public expects that zoos that are members of WAZA meet higher professional standards, but our research shows the association is turning a blind eye to controversial and potentially dangerous activities. This highlights why the government needs to step in as the zoo industry should not be policing itself.”
The best place to see wild animals, is in their natural habitat. However, if people want to visit a zoo, World Animal Protection recommends to not go to venues which allow visitors:
- to ride, touch and bathe a wild animal
- to take photographs with wild animals being used as photo-props
- to see wild animals perform in circus-like shows
- to see animals in clothes or exhibits that are unnatural or human-like
- to interact with the animals repeatedly all day without rest for the animal.