Cruelty in the world's top zoos

August 01 2019

Some of the world’s top zoos are abusing and forcing wild animals to endure appalling suffering as they irresponsibly and routinely exploit them for visitor entertainment

Our new report, 'The show can't go on', in partnership with Change for Animals Foundation, surveyed more than 1,200 zoos and aquariums linked to WAZA (World Association of Zoos and Aquariums), which claims to represent 'the world’s leading zoos and aquariums'. WAZA is the main global umbrella organization, and it is expected to lead the way with clear animal welfare standards and guidelines for its members, backed by robust monitoring.

But through our research and field visits, we found clear evidence that cruel and demeaning visitor attractions are taking place around the world. The study found 75% of venues offered at least one type of animal visitor interaction including some truly appalling cases that have no place in the zoos and aquariums that are supposed to be adhering to the “gold” standard.

Pictured: An orangutan being used for selfie opportunities at Avilon in the Philippines.

We discovered big cats in gladiator-style shows in large amphitheatres, dolphins being used like surfboards, elephants playing basketball and clothed chimps in nappies, driving around in scooters. All activities that would require cruel training techniques for these wild animals.

Whilst acknowledging that a life in captivity will always be a far cry from a life in the wild, our report maps out solutions to ensure zoos and aquariums do a better job at respecting the animals in their care.

Take action

Two Canadian venues were included in our report: African Lion Safari and Jungle Cat World. As a Canadian, you can help by not participating in these types of cruel activities. This will send out a clear message – that treating animals this way is not acceptable.

You can also send a letter to the general manager of African Lion Safari and Ontario ministers asking them to end cruel elephant rides and shows at African Lion Safari.

Pictured: An elephant performing at African Lion Safari.

The show can't go on

The best place to see wild animals is in the wild. However, if people want to visit a zoo, we recommend avoiding activities which allow visitors: 

  • to ride, touch and bathe a wild animal  
  • to take photographs with wild animals being used as photo props 
  • to see wild animals perform in circus-like shows  
  • to see animals in clothes or exhibits that are unnatural or human-like 
  • to interact with the animals repeatedly all day without rest for the animals

 Pictured: Orcas in entertainment at Sea World, USA.

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We discovered big cats in gladiator-style shows in large amphitheatres, dolphins being used like surfboards, elephants playing basketball and clothed chimps in nappies, driving around in scooters. All activities that would require cruel training techniques for these wild animals.

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