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Wild Animals in Zoos

Worldwide there are approximately 10,000 zoos, in which about 10 million animals live. Even in the German speaking countries there are more than 500 zoological facilities that predominantly display wild animals. Wild animals are not domesticated. Their ability to adapt to limitations imposed by being kept in captivity is correspondingly low.

Wild animals often set high demands on their habitat and exhibit complex social structures and patterns of behaviour. From the point of view of animal protection, species appropriate keeping of wild animals in zoos is fundamentally difficult and only able to be contemplated with the adherence to the highest requirements. Many species have proven to be unsuitable for being kept in captivity. Important shortcomings in animal protection and problems in the keeping of wild animals in zoos are, among others:

•  not enough or inadequate provided space,

•  incorrect or absent structuring of the habitats and insufficient or incorrect provision of possibilities to engage in activity,

•  incorrect or absent social structure,

•  incorrect or inadequate nutrition,

•  illnesses and injuries caused by keeping and management,

•  insufficient engagement of the caretakers per animal (lack of time) and lack of specialist knowledge as well as questionable animal   handling methods,

•  insufficient space for young animals with the result that the surplus is killed or sold to dubious purchasers


For the affected animals, these deficits, among other things, lead to behavioural disturbances / ethopathies like stereotyped patterns of movement, listlessness, increased sex drive, aggression towards fellow animals and people leading to accidents with deadly consequences for employees or visitors, as well as injuries and illnesses.


EU Legislation


The Directive 1999/22/EC concerning the keeping of wild animals in zoos regulated the requirements placed on zoological institutions at the EU level. The Directive fundamentally represents an improvement from the point of view of animal protection. However, it does not contain concrete keeping guidelines for individual species and does not regulate other animal protection relevant problems. The Directive should have been fully implemented by the member states by 2002. VIER PFOTEN is applying itself at the European level for the following improvements:

•   Consistent implementation of the Directive 1999/22/EC in all member states,


  • •   For the animal population of zoos that are going to be closed due to non-adherence to the Directive, solutions must be found that are in accordance with the concepts of animal protection. The euthanizing of entire animal populations is rejected by VIER PFOTEN. Instead, as many individuals as possible should be taken over by other zoos with species appropriate accommodation possibilities and/or corresponding receiving stations.

  • •   A general prohibition on the purchasing of animals caught in the wild or at least strict regimentation to conservation breeding programmes that make a proven contribution to the protection of species in their natural habitats.

  • •   Basic regulations for breeding management in zoos that conforms with animal protection, which excludes the killing of “surplus” young animals as well as their sale to dubious purchasers.

  • •   The formulation of legally binding minimum standards for species appropriate keeping and optimal management of individual taxa / animal groups and their implementation in zoos, whereby economic interests can be taken into consideration through the use of appropriate transition periods.