From 21st to 25th October, For Tigers attended WAZA 2018. Day one had a large number of interesting presentations and discussions regarding the role of zoos when it comes to a sustainable lifestyle.
Many zoos are becoming leaders in this area, reducing their use of plastics, providing water stations and promoting the idea of refusing plastic straws throughout their grounds all in an effort to help preserve the planet and the wildlife.
Following on from this WAZA Is now a member of the RSPO round table and working towards using sustainable palm oil, in an effort to save wild habitats.
Day two opened with an informative talk on how to talk to the public, getting around issues that concerned public might have with zoos and welfare. Following that there was an informative Welfare panel with members from the different zoo organisations in attendance to explain where their individual jurisdictions were when it came to welfare, assessments and accreditation. The rest of the day was all welfare oriented with a number of presentations on how we can do better.
We also had the privilege of listening to Dame Jane Goodall speak about zoos and the ways we need to move forward in terms of animal welfare their individual needs. Earlier in the day it transpired that she had visited the infamous Pata Zoo, a zoo located at the top of a shopping mall holding animals in small, barren, highly inappropriate cages. Amongst those caged there are a number of orangutans, chimpanzees and of course, Bua Noi the gorilla.
Despite Dame Goodall’s appreciate for the work of zoos, even she was shaken by the appalling standards that are to be found here, stating that Pata, “doesn’t deserve the word ‘zoo’, it’s a prison”. However, she followed this up with some inspiring words that rather than advocating to shut this place down, a process that could take months to years, leaving these animals remaining in a poor welfare state, she suggested helping the animals, providing for their basic needs, ensuring that their quality is life is raised during the time we humans take to come to a final decision. It is important that animals are given a choice in their lives and, like us, it’s more than likely they’d choose to have small improvements made now, rather than wait for the long term improvements.
She went on to say that we must put aside our reputations when it comes to helping the animals and we should not care for any judgment we receive for working with poor or bad quality zoos in our efforts to improve the lives of the animals within them.
Day three was focused on conservation with numerous panels from around the world discussing various options and species that are in particular need of saving. The afternoon was spent visiting Khao Kheow Zoo, which many of you might know from it recently coming under fire for its swimming elephant programme. Activists have been demanding its closure, with the animals being removed to sanctuaries. It is clear that these people have not visited the zoo and whilst there may be some welfare concerns for swimming elephant show, the rest of the zoo operates at a high standard providing proper care, housing and enrichment of its animals and a life worth living.
The last day saw a general roundup of what had gone before but including some interesting presentations regarding the future of zoos and wildlife conservation. Cryobanking, sustainability, leadership and the specific role of zoos when it comes to the species that it keeps, all made for very interesting discussions. The conference culminated with the Annual General Meeting with a resolution put in place regarding Pata Zoo (click here to read more on that).
Whether we like zoos or not, zoos have such an important role when it comes to educating the public on wildlife issues, conserving wildlife and providing high quality living to the animals in their care. To see so many institutes and facilities coming together with common goals is highly encouraging.