Lion cubs at a zoo in Bulgaria

Our expert at the Member States and stakeholder meeting on better implementation of the Zoos Directive

An Expert from FOUR PAWS had the opportunity to present at the meeting attended by representatives of the EU Commission, competent authorities from EU-Member states, zoo community, and NGOs and discuss the possible solutions for animals in case of zoo closures.


The Zoos Directive is an important piece of legislation, strengthening the role of zoos in the conservation of biodiversity. The 2018 evaluation of the Zoos Directive concluded the Directive is fit for purpose, however efforts are needed to ensure a better implementation. Therefore, the Commission organized three Member State and stakeholder meetings as forum for the exchange of knowledge, experiences and best practices. Last year, the first meeting focused on licensing and inspection. This years meeting focused on the role that zoos can play in species conservation efforts as well as the implications and consequences of zoos failing to comply with the directive. Morgane Le Dréau, wild animals policy expert at FOUR PAWS European Policy office in Brussels presented on the possible solutions for the animals when zoos are forced to close down and the challenges that come with those situations.

"In the case of a zoo being closed to the public, there are several options for the animals. They can either remain at the zoo if adequate conditions can be provided, rehomed to another facility, in very rare cases they can be released back into the wild and if absolutely no other solution can be found or the animals are old or sick, they have to be euthanized. Euthanasia should always remain a last resort and never occur with healthy animals."

says Morgane Le Dréau, Wild Animal Policy Coordinator at FOUR PAWS

When a zoo closes, relocation to other zoos affiliated with EAZA or sanctuaries affiliated with national authorities or EARS is most practical and animal-friendly solution, however, those rescues and transports, with travel permissions and veterinary expert involvement, are challenging and expensive. We recommend measures to allow authorities to resolve issues within their own country and respond quickly. Once an animal is in the care of another zoo or sanctuary, there needs to be financial support since food, staff and veterinary care of wild animals is very cost intensive and sanctuaries are often forced to refuse animals due to a lack of funding. Our detailed suggestions are: 


Measures to support authorities 

  • Species adequate facilities in every country
  • Financial support for sanctuaries from member states and the European Commission

Obligations at the Zoo Licensing Stage

  • A protocol for the event of zoo closure
  • Management plans for animal populations
  • Financial viability of the zoo as a prerequisite

Those measures would help, as excessive breeding is a potential cause for zoo closures and also increases the number of animals that need relocated when a zoo is closed to the public. Checking financial viability at the licensing stage assures that animal welfare can be guaranteed long term and the zoo will not fail to comply with the directive due to financial struggles.

"We also recommend to the competent authorities to develop a clear plan to deal with closure and relocation. And those plans need to include strict timelines and strategies to evaluate potential solutions for the animals. It is also important that the confiscating authorities adopt an agreement with the receiving facility to set out terms and conditions, such as restrictions on any use of the animals for commercial or entertainment purposes."

says Morgane Le Dréau, Wild Animal Policy Coordinator at FOUR PAWS

We hope these discussions will encourage the participants to reflect and discuss concrete actions to better improve the implementation of the Zoos Directive and are very grateful that we got to share our suggestions and perspectives.