A new report released by World Animal Protection reveals the cruelty displayed at some of the world’s supposed “top” zoos and aquariums.
A desktop survey of 1,200 venues with some form of membership link to the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums indicates that 75 percent offered visitors at least one kind of animal interaction, such as petting, hand-feeding, animal rides or shows.
The WAP study — titled The Show Can’t Go On — uncovered a multitude of animal abuses, from elephants playing basketball to chimpanzees driving scooters.
At SeaWorld San Antonio, trainers ride on top of beluga whales, forcing them to “wave” at the audience and act out scenes from movies. Dolphins perform to music and “beach” themselves for selfies, while orcas play catch and do flips.
“It is troubling that in 2019 we still have venues such as SeaWorld San Antonio inflicting this level of suffering on wild animals and calling it entertainment,” says Alesia Soltanpanah, executive director of WAP. “Seeing wild animals perform in shows as photo props is unnatural and leads to a lifetime of suffering. These demeaning attractions simply have no place in any modern leading zoo or aquarium while hiding under the label of ‘conservation.’ It is not ‘conservation’ to put animals in small tanks and force them to perform every day. That is called ‘cruelty.’”
WAZA claims to “guide, promote and encourage members in animal care and welfare.” Their guidelines explicitly state that any member facility should avoid using animals “in shows, displays or interactive experiences where animals perform demeaning and unnatural behaviors.”
These ideals are not being enforced. Some zoos allow visitors to pet and cuddle big cats, or use the animals “circus-style” to perform demeaning tricks. Others permit staff and tourists to ride elephants and force these intelligent animals to play basketball or wear costumes. Orangutans ride tricycles, chimpanzees are cuddled and kissed, and monkeys dressed in diapers are passed around to visiting children.
WAP is asking people to take a stand against irresponsible zoos and aquariums. Any facility offering interactions such as those listed here should be avoided.
They also urge anyone wanting to help captive animals to directly email WAZA, asking them to take responsibility for the animals held by their member zoos and aquariums.
“Seeing wild animals being used purely as circus acts and photo props was more like a horror show,” said Audrey Mealia, group head of wildlife for WAP. “This research makes the case clear that WAZA needs to act urgently to stop cruel and demeaning attractions getting away with everyday cruelty – these ridiculous activities should be a thing of the past.”