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On July 30 in response to negative press associated with the mistreatment, abuse and death of animals in Chinese zoos and safari parks, the State Forestry Administration issued a statement on the management of zoos, safari parks and animal circuses in China. This calls for an inspection and subsequent improvements in animal welfare and management. We congraulate the government for making this statement, offer information to the authorities on specific facilities //and our assistance //to help improve the welfare of animals in zoos and safari parks. We also request the development of a state licensing system for captive animal facilities in China. Please see the statement and our response below.
30 July 2010
State Forestry Administration (SFA) notice on rectifying, supervising and inspecting wild animal domestication and breeding practices conducted by wild animal display and performance units
Bears force to 'box' at Xiangjiang Safari Park, Guangzhou
Elephant forced to stand on its head - Chuanlord Manor Holiday Park, Foshan
Wild animal displays and performance units such as zoos and safari parks are facilities with functions of popular science education on nature conservation, spreading Eco-culture, public recreation and entertainment, wild animal species preservation and scientific research based on wild animal domestication and breeding practice. But some wild animal displays and performance units overly focus on economic benefits, maltreat wild animals and are involved in animal products trade against regulations as they develop, incidents of animal accidental death and animal attacking humans occur from time to time, and vulgar advertisements and misleading publicity arise repeatedly, all these conducts which are contrary to the aim of spreading Eco-culture have caused potential danger to population safety of rare and endangered species of wild animals and public health, brought about negative impact on image and reputation of China’s wild animal protection.
SFA has decided to conduct an overall rectification, supervision and inspection on wild animal domestication and breeding practice and other relevant activities performed by wild animal display and performance units:
1. Organise self-inspection and self-rectification work from wild animal display and performance units.
All wild animal displays and performance units including zoos, safari parks, wild animal zoos, circuses should conduct overall self-inspection and self-rectification on their domestication and breeding facilities and conditions, technical capabilities, funds, rules and regulations, contingency plans , record keeping, labelling of live animals, advertisement and publicity, operating and management etc according to relevant laws and regulations on wild animal protection, domestication and breeding and rules and technical standards etc. All units should stop all misconducts of using vulgar advertisements, allowing zero- distance contact opportunities for visitors with animals, utilizing animals for performance abusively and engaging in illegal animal products trade etc; react immediately regarding the defectiveness of rules and regulations, mismanagement, primitive facilities and conditions; eliminate various risks of hidden dangers, improve contingency plans, ensure population safety of rare and endangered species of wild animals and public health; …all units should report to their provincial administrative department of forestry regarding their self-inspection and self-rectification work.
2. Strengthen guidance, supervision and inspection of rectification work.
3. Temporarily suspend the administrative license application for domesticating and breeding wild animals under special state protection aiming at animal display and performance and for introducing wild animal species.
From July 30 to Dec 31, 2010, the administrative license application for domesticating and breeding wild animals under special state protection aiming at animal display and performance and for introducing wild animal species is temporarily suspended.
4. Summarise and appraise rectification work.
Each provincial administrative department of forestry should put forward correction proposals and deadline for existing problems and defects after receiving the report from wild animal display and performance units regarding their self-inspection and self-rectification work; for unit with illegal conducts, close the facility for rectification, impose a fine, suspend the license for domestication and breeding wild animals, confiscate wild animals and hand it over to judicial department for punishment according to law.
5. Strengthen leadership, fulfil responsibilities, publicise positively, and ensure actual effect of rectification, supervision and inspection work.
Aug 10: Animals Asia Response to SFA Statement on Zoo Management and Animal Performances
Bear forced to walk on top of a large ball - Nanjing Pearl Forest Safari Park, Nanjing
Lion jumping through a hoop of fire - Beijing Wild Animal Park
Animals Asia congratulates the State Forestry Administration (SFA) for issuing a statement (July 30) on rectifying, supervising and inspecting wild animal domestication and breeding practices conducted by captive animal facilities displaying wild animals and wild animal performances.
We are pleased that the SFA has taken such significant steps in acknowledging and publicising the major animal welfare and poor management issues prevalent at many zoos and safari parks across China. In highlighting the abuse and mistreatment of animals during animal performances, the illegal trade in endangered species products, the lack of veterinary capacity within the captive zoo environment and the poor management practices which have led to animal deaths and animals attacking people, the SFA are progressing a positive process of change.
Over the past 11 years, our investigative teams have been visiting zoos and safari parks across China, documenting the abuse and neglect of wild and endangered animals. The barbaric treatment of such animals during circus-style performances and the appalling living conditions that many are forced to endure is truly heartbreaking. Please click here for more details of recent investigations.
Examples include tigers and lions with their teeth and claws ripped out; bears with metal rings through their noses, forced to ride motorbikes, perform acrobatics and “box” each other while being beaten with sticks and punched by the trainers; elephants forced to stand on their heads and walk on their front or back legs, tigers made to ride on the back of terrified horses, and monkeys forced into riding bicycles are all common at zoos and safari parks across the country. Cows, sheep, pigs, dogs, chickens and ducks are also thrown to tigers, lions and bears in the name of entertainment in the ongoing practice of ‘live animal feeding’ .
The sale of endangered species products can also be found at a number of safari parks. As recently as January 2010 Animals Asia investigators were illegally offered tiger bone wine during a visit to Bi Feng Xia Safari Park in Ya’an, and tiger bone wine continues to be openly on sale at the Xiongsen Tiger & Bear Mountain Village in Guilin. Click here for more details.
In addition, the general housing conditions at Chinese zoos falls far below acceptable standards for the welfare of animals in captivity. Investigators have found animals exhibiting severe stereotypic behaviours due to inadequate housing and lack of environmental enrichment, social animals housed alone, and animals suffering from injuries and disease.
In consideration of all the above, Animals Asia now congratulates the SFA for calling for an inspection of wild animal facilities to assess overall management, illegal practices and abuse of animals in entertainment, and offers our support towards this inspection process. Such a process would ideally be implemented by an independent body, rather than through self inspection and self rectification which may leave the results open to manipulation. As such we would be pleased to provide research material to the authorities compiled during recent facility investigations to support this course of action.
We also congratulate the SFA for instructing provincial authorities to address the management, illegal practices and detrimental welfare issues raised through the inspection process and offer our support to provincial authorities wherever possible.
In addition we are pleased to see a temporary suspension of licence applications for the domestication and breeding of wild animals under special state protection aimed at animal displays and performances.
While the recommended measures have the potential to address the detrimental management and welfare issues causing suffering, abuse and death of animals, the continued illegal trade in endangered species products and the mismanagement of establishments which has led to the death of a significant number of animals and severe risks to public safety, captive animal establishments urgently require overall management procedures to ensure continued, sustained improvement in management practices and animal welfare.
Animals Asia recommends the implementation of the following recommendations to improve the management of captive animal facilities and the health and welfare of wild animals in captivity in China:
1.Implement a state licensing system for all captive wild animal facilities and subsequent periodic audits and assessments based on management and welfare criteria;
2.Develop a code of practice for captive animal establishments to include provision for the five freedoms of animal welfare. Codes should include details for the following areas:
Provision of food and water;
Provision of a suitable environment;
Provision of animal health care (including minimum veterinary facilities);
Provision of an opportunity to express most normal behaviours;
Provision of protection from fear and distress;
Transportation and movement of live animals;
Use of animals in public performances;
Conservation and education;
Staffing and training;
Provision of public facilities;
3.Encourage and facilitate individual captive wild animal facilities to adopt welfare assessment and enrichment working groups to encourage the provision of conditions and facilities above any minimum animal welfare standards set by a licensing system.
4.Ban the practice of feeding live prey to large predators for entertainment;
5.Ban the use of wild animals for photo-taking with members of the public;
6.Ban the use of wild animals in circus-style performances where animals are forced to exhibit behaviour contrary to their natural behaviour in the wild;
We recommend a licensing scheme is administered via a ‘Central Zoo Authority’ which would monitor, regulate and close substandard captive animal facilities as well as provide advice and support to improve management and animal welfare. A Central Zoo Authority would also administer inspections and subsequent re-issuing of licences.
The Central Zoo Authority may also be able to provide financial assistance to zoos to improve conditions for animals and general zoo management. Animals Asia recommend this authority develops a ‘National Zoo Policy’ which in consultation with international zoological associations and NGOs would develop the code of practice as mentioned above. This policy document should form the basis of the requirements captive wild animal facilities need to meet to be granted a license.
We recommend a Central Zoo Authority works in cooperation with the China Association of Zoological Gardens to administer workshops based on the topics within the codes of practice, and recommend that every captive wild animal facility adhere to the basic principles within a code of practice to obtain a license.
A license system for all captive wild animal facilities would provide a number of benefits:
Regular inspections and audits will allow management problems to be identified at an early stage before they have a serious negative impact on the health and welfare of animals, and will facilitate the implementation of new management regulations to address such issues;
The development of a register of all captive wild animal facilities in China will aid dissemination of information and subsequently aid the management of establishments for the benefit of animal welfare, conservation, education and research;
Facilities operating illegally or consistently not meeting the minimum standards as set by a ‘National Policy’ can be closed to the public and procedures developed for the subsequent care of the animals.
In addition we recommend the Chinese government ensure captive wild animal facilities adhere to the following international conventions and frameworks;
1.Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES): to regulate the trade in wildlife for conservation;
2.Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD 1992): promoting sustainable development;
3.International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources: Guidelines on wildlife conservation and sustainable use of natural resources: Guidelines on the reintroduction of wild animals and plants;
4.World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE): guidelines for government veterinary agencies with regard the prevention and management of animal disease outbreaks; terrestrial codes stipulating animal welfare standards during transport.
We recommend the relevant authorities provide support for zoos and safari parks to meet the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA): Codes of ethics and animal welfare.
Animals Asia understand that many of these recommendations are currently idealistic but offer support and advice to the SFA and individual captive animal establishments to begin to work towards their implementation for the benefit of the welfare of all animals held in zoos and safari parks in China.