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Battling Brutality: Are Standards In Vietnam And China's Infamous Zoos Improving?

zoo piccreativecommons.org/Nikita

It’s sad but true: Animals in some of Asia’s zoos and safari parks suffer from a horrendous range of despicable mental and physical abuses.

In many places in China, terrified cows, pigs and chickens are fed to lions and tigers as live prey for entertainment. Captive wild animals are often cruelly mutilated as their teeth and claws are cut back. And they may also be chained and used as photographic props or forced to entertain the crowds with unnatural, degrading and stressful circus-style performances.

The conditions in which they are kept often fall far below the acceptable welfare standards for animals in captivity. Many display severe behaviour, such as pacing and swaying, due to the neglect and poor management that they receive. Most receive no medical care and many suffer from injuries and diseases that are left untreated.

However, there could be some light at the end of the tunnel, as Animals Asia, an international organization that works to promote compassion and respect for all animals, is aiming to improve the standards of zoo animals in both China and Vietnam. 

As a direct result of Animals Asia’s environmental enrichment workshop at Hanoi Zoo back in September 2013, both Saigon and Bao Son zoos in Vietnam have announced improvements to facilities. The staff at Bao Son have added enrichment items to further stimulate the animals, while Saigon Zoo has installed climbing structures in all of its primate enclosures.

And hopefully animals across Vietnam will continue to benefit from the Animals Asia workshop, as staff from four zoos, nine rescue centres and the Hanoi Botanical Gardens attended the workshop.

The focus is on developing safe, holistic and goal-oriented enrichment plans for zoo animals. Given affordable and achievable ways to improve the mental and physical health of the animals at their facilities, zoo staff are usually enthusiastic about putting them into practice.

It’s a proven strategy for Animals Asia, as it follows in the footsteps of a workshop that helped numerous animals in China too. Following similar training for zoo staff in China, puzzle and termite feeders and climbing facilities were installed at Taiyuan and Hangzhou zoos. These factors greatly improved the living environment and mental stimulation of all the animals at the facilities.

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