Animal performances ban comes into effect for Chinese zoos Animal welfare group produces recommendations for zoos
China’s ban on animal performances in zoos comes into effect today (Tuesday 18th January). To assist zoos in transitioning to the new rules, Animals Asia Foundation is releasing a report detailing a series of recommendations on how zoos can provide a rewarding experience for visitors, care for former performing animals, and create employment opportunities for performing-animal staff.
The directive on the management of zoos, calling for a ban on animal performances, was issued by the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development in October 2010 and followed a statement released by the State Forestry Administration on 30 July 2010 calling for these facilities to end the use of animals in circus-style performances and to improve the living conditions of captive animals. Through these directives, China is showing the world it is serious about protecting animals from the suffering caused by circus-style performances.
Zoo personnel have expressed concerns about the potential loss in income as a result of the ban on animal performances and the close interaction between visitors and animals that these provide. Animals Asia’s report pulls together advice and examples from zoos around the world to assist Chinese zoos in developing new approaches to the way they operate.
The report suggests initiatives that zoos can develop to ensure the welfare of the performing animals is protected, employment opportunities for the performing animal staff are provided, and to compensate for the ban through the development of zoos as centres for conservation education and animal protection.
These include recommendations for the development of conservation and education programmes, investment in enclosure design, the use of theatre performances, including human actors dressed in animal costumes, and human acrobatic shows. It suggests that staff are trained to deliver presentations and short talks at animal enclosures to engage visitors and educate them with fascinating facts about the animals, their behaviour in the wild and their conservation status. These roles would provide excellent opportunities for former animal performance staff.
David Neale, Animal Welfare Director, Animals Asia, commented:
“Visitors attending zoos should be encouraged to learn about the natural history of individual species, their natural behaviours, the threats to their survival and the need to conserve their habitats. Ending the circus-style animal performances and implementing these recommendations will demonstrate a public commitment to protecting the natural environment, protecting animals from suffering and protecting species from extinction.”
Animals Asia’s report also recommends that animal enclosures are designed to provide a naturalistic environment and that keepers use enrichment to stimulate the natural behaviours of animals. Under these circumstances animals will display natural behaviours in their enclosures, the viewing of which will be more educational, rewarding and inspiring than animal performances that have been taught using pain and intimidation.
David Neale continues:
“Zoos in China have a great opportunity to establish themselves as world-class visitor attractions that entertain, educate and inspire the public, providing a rewarding experience for visitors and improving the reputation and status of the zoo with national and international visitors, whose numbers will increase as standards rise.”