Behind the scenes with our Captive Animal Welfare team

21 May 2021

Our amazing Captive Animal Welfare team in Asia has been as busy as ever this winter. Their mission is to end abusive animal practices in zoos and safari parks in Southeast Asia, and they work closely with governing authorities to improve animal management and increase awareness of the welfare needs of captive wild animals. Let's find out what their hard work has accomplished so far this year…

Big cat home improvements

A big part of our Captive Animal Welfare team’s role is working with zoos and animal rescue centres to improve their facilities and enhance the lives of the animals.

Animal welfare is still a relatively new concept in parts of Asia, so our team is doing pioneering work by training animal keepers on how to ensure their animals are receiving the appropriate care and conditions they need.

The team recently delivered a webinar on the management of big cats which was viewed by over 1,500 animal keepers. Following the advice given in the workshop, Nanjing zoo created an overhead walkway for their tigers, giving them more freedom to move around and express natural behaviours.

Other improvements have been made in many captive animal facilities  across Asia following our advice, including the creation of hammocks for rescued bears and hay nests and browse feeders for elephants. 

Simple items such as these provide enrichment that keep the animals stimulated and mobile, which are essential for their ongoing welfare. 

Improved care for rescued macaques

Our Captive Animal Welfare team works with a number of wildlife rescue centres across Asia who house macaques and regularly provides support to improve their facilities. 

The team has built new enclosures and continued to provide enrichment such as hay stacks for the residents to play with and sleep on. They also successfully integrated two recently rescued macaques, Lac and Tommy at the Hai Duong Pagoda in Vietnam to be each others’ companion, another essential aspect of ongoing welfare for the rescued animals.

Ethical elephant tourism model 

A big part of our role in Vietnam is working with local authorities and communities to end elephant riding.

We have established the first and only ethical elephant tourism model in the country which enables ex-riding elephants to roam in the Yok Don National Park while being observed from a safe distance by tourists. They recently welcomed a new addition to the herd, the beautiful H’Plo and her mahout, Nhat. 

Dave Neale, Captive Animal Welfare Director explains, “we continue our discussions with the local authorities and have formed a five-year plan to support our campaign to end the practice in Vietnam.” 

“Encouragingly, 29 tour operators now promote our ethical elephant program, and we look forward to welcoming more visitors to respectfully observe the elephants in their habitat when travel restrictions are eased.”

Success for animals in entertainment

Animals Asia works in partnership with other charities, NGOs and organisations to end the use of wild animals in entertainment, and together we have made some incredible progress.

Recently, Xinhualian aquarium has stopped allowing public feeding and selfies with dolphins, and Guilin zoo has stopped its bear and macaque performances following public opposition - encouraging signs that as we work to promote better animal welfare conditions, attitudes towards the use of animals for entertainment in Asia are shifting. 

We continue to work with our incredible partners FLIGHT: Protecting Indonesia’s Birds, to rescue and release thousands of trafficked wild and exotic birds, and they recently discovered a small bear cub that was about to be sold on the black market. The cub is now safely at a local rescue centre. 

Leaving a legacy of knowledge

Animals Asia believes that education is the key to creating long-lasting change for animals, which is why we dedicate a lot of time to developing relationships and passing on our knowledge to others. 

Our team runs workshops for primary and secondary school teachers so they can teach their students about wild and companion animal sentience and welfare. Our public talks have recently reached over 2,700 people. 

The team worked with local children in Hoa Mi Kindergarten in Vietnam to replace a wall mural outside their school which used to depict people riding elephants, with pictures of happy elephants in nature. Changes like these to childrens’ environment helps to normalise respectful human/elephant relations and promote conservation rather than exploitation.

These talks, workshops and interactive sessions with the local communities young and old are not only creating unforgettable memories, but are actively changing attitudes towards the animals who for so many years have lived and worked alongside them.

Our Captive Animal Welfare team is putting kindness in action by directly improving the lives of thousands of animals right now, and creating sustainable, long-lasting solutions for countless more in the future. 

Donate today to support our essential work improving the lives of thousands of animals of all kinds across Asia.

Read more:

Rescue of H'Plo the elephant

Pangolin scales, songbirds and baby gibbons recovered in undercover raid on illegal wildlife traders in Indonesia

National park stops elephant rides with new tourism model designed to end elephant exploitation in Vietnam