Chinese zoos in dialogue with world-class animal welfare experts

24 August 2012

Over 50 directors and senior managers from Chinese zoos engaged in a dialogue with animal welfare experts from around the world with the aim of improving animal management practices and welfare standards.

Organisers and presenters of the CAZG directors' conference.

The China Association of Zoological Gardens (CAZG) zoo directors’ conference, which was held in Shanghai in June, explored world-leading practices for enhancing animal welfare for captive animals. The CAZG is the government body that regulates zoos in China.

Animals Asia worked closely with the CAZG to recommend experts from overseas, invite them to attend and speak at the event, and organise and fund their travel and accommodation. Animals Asia worked with these speakers to translate their presentation materials into Chinese, and provided oral translation during the sessions.

Dr Stephanie Sanderson, a director at Chester Zoo spoke in detail on the assessment of animal welfare in captive animals and the importance of building welfare assessment into staff training programmes. Chester Zoo is renowned for its high standards and advanced animal welfare practices. Dr Sanderson outlined the processes that ensure animals display healthy behaviour and are comfortable in their environment.

Dr Stephanie Sanderson, a director at Chester Zoo, presents on captive animal welfare

The zoo conducts ongoing animal welfare audits that include everyone that is involved in providing care for the animals, from vets, nutritionists and animal managers to the keepers that work in the animal enclosures. The process consists of daily observations, weekly reviews, monthly team meetings and quarterly audits.

The meetings involve open and frank discussion, where those in attendance are encouraged to challenge the status quo and suggest substantial changes to existing practices. This approach ensures that a complete picture of an animal’s health and wellbeing can be determined, its welfare assessed, and real improvements implemented.

The zoo directors present in Shanghai embraced the concepts that were introduced and acknowledged the need to measure and assess the “happiness index” of animals, and to change management processes to improve animal welfare.

Dave Neale, Animal Welfare Director at Animals Asia commented:

“ The China Association of Zoological Gardens called on those present to explore the techniques presented and improve welfare standards by further developing these skills in their zoos. We’re seeing increased commitment not only from China’s zoo authority, but also its member zoos, to improve animal welfare. ”

In addition to Chester Zoo’s Dr Stephanie Sanderson, other speakers organised by Animals Asia included Dr Lesley Dickie from the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, and Dave Naish from Bristol Zoo, who spoke on conservation programmes and conservation education respectively.