Stakeholders discuss how to improve the lives of animals in zoos


Stakeholders discuss how to improve the lives of animals in zoos

24 February 2020
Improving the way the EU Zoos Directive is implemented was the topic on the table at a meeting between the European Commission, national authorities, zoo representatives and NGOs on 18 February.

Eurogroup for Animals highlighted the need to identify minimum requirements for housing for the species most commonly kept in zoos according to the requirements of the Directive, and harmonise them with existing requirements developed in Member States and the information provided by the Zoos Directive Good Practices Document. This call was echoed by several Member States’ representatives in the room.  

In addition, we stressed the need for a protocol to help national Competent Authorities phase out substandard zoos that are unable to improve within a reasonable time period. When this happens, solutions for displaced animals should also be promptly identified, as explained by Olga Martin from AAP Animal Advocacy and Protection. 

Council Directive 1999/22/EC - the Zoos Directive - constitutes a crucial piece of legislation for managing wild animals in captivity. It establishes a compulsory and centrally regulated licencing of zoo facilities in EU Member States, and aims to ensure that animals in zoos throughout the European Union are kept in such a way that wild species are preserved and animal welfare is respected as much as possible. Moreover, zoos should fulfil a role in public education and scientific research. However, too many zoos still don’t comply with the law, as their contribution to conservation of endangered species is negligible and animals are kept in substandard conditions. 

This week’s meeting in Brussels was part of the EC’s follow-up actions of their Zoos Directive evaluation, which indicated that Member State and stakeholder meetings to exchange information, knowledge and best practices would benefit the Directive’s implementation. Other follow up actions include training and the use of peer-to-peer mechanisms for different stakeholders involved in the implementation of the Directive.

In addition, the Commission has finally translated the EU Zoos Directive Good Practices Document into 7 more languages and committed to produce translations of this important document in all the 24 official languages of the EU in the coming months, something that has been consistently asked by Eurogroup for Animals during the Directive’s evaluation.  

While this first meeting was informative and an important step in the right direction, it should now be followed by more discussion between Member State authorities and stakeholders to identify concrete measures to improve the welfare of the animals in zoos and zoos’ contribution to conservation of endangered species. The Commission also acknowledged that more discussion is needed on the acceptability of zoos’ conservation efforts in cases where the welfare of the animals is compromised, or when animals are used for entertainment with no educational value.