The fourth International Animal Welfare Symposium at the Detroit Zoo

SAAMBR’s CEO, Larry Oellermann, has just returned from the Detroit Zoo in the United States, where he attended the fourth International Animal Welfare Symposium.

This intensive three-day meeting of zoo, aquarium and animal welfare organisation executives focused on the role of zoos and aquariums as animal welfare centres, with the eventual goal of developing global welfare standards.

SAAMBR CEO Larry Oellermann discussing animal welfare with the executives of zoos, aquariums and animal welfare organisations from around the world.

The symposium was a noteworthy coming together of animal-keeping institutions (including animal sanctuaries) and animal welfare organisations, often seen as being at loggerheads in the past. The symposium was remarkably conciliatory, with both groups admitting that they had far more in common than they had differences.

Zoos and aquariums focus on conserving wildlife at the species level, while the animal welfare organisations focus on the individual animal level. A sense of urgency prevailed: shocking statistics on species extinction rates and habitat loss were presented, alongside the astonishing amount of conservation work being carried out by members of the zoo and aquarium community.

During a lively panel discussion, local, national and international news media representatives lamented the fact that zoos and aquariums do not communicate their remarkable field conservation work across the Earth’s diverse ecosystems.

They also pointed out that a “good” zoo’s worst enemy is a “bad” zoo; in the eyes of the public, they all get lumped together.

This observation brought home the urgent need to develop objective welfare standards for animal-keeping institutions across the world, and to address the issue of “bad” zoos through the mechanism of accreditation.

Considering the well-being of its animals to be of paramount importance, SAAMBR wholeheartedly supports the concept of objective, measurable animal welfare standards for all zoos and aquariums, and intends to be at the vanguard of their development.

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