Cruelty is still rampant in the world’s “top” zoos according to new research which has found animals are being forced to learn tricks that would result in a “lifetime of suffering”.
In a dozen zoos, big cats were still being forced to perform in gladiator-style shows in large amphitheatres, dolphins were still being used like surfboards and elephants were made to play basketball.
Researchers from the World Animal Protection and Change for Animals Foundation also say some zoos still clothe chimps in nappies and get them to drive around on scooters.
According to Dr Neil D’Cruze, Global Wildlife Advisor at World Animal Protection, all of these activities would have required cruel techniques to train these animals.
He said: “Seeing wild animals perform in circus-like shows is not just a bit of fun. For the animals in these 12 irresponsible zoos, and potentially many others globally, what might be seen as an enjoyable activity on a day out for the family, means a lifetime of suffering for these animals.
“Cruel and demeaning visitor attractions simply have no place in any modern leading zoo or aquarium.”
The global study involved investigating zoos and aquariums that are members of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA). The organisation was set up to encourage and support good standards of animal care and welfare.
They found out of WAZA’s 1,200 venues, 75 per cent of them had at least one practice that researchers considered seriously detrimental to the animal’s wellbeing.
Harry Eckman, the director of the Change for Animals Foundation, said: “All of these ridiculous activities represent a clear and present danger to the wild animals involved.
“Circus-like shows and elephant rides typically involve harsh training methods to establish dominance and the use of wild animals as photo props can inflict stress and injuries.”
Researchers say visitors should reconsider visiting zoos where irresponsible practices are taking place.
Audrey Mealia, the group head of wildlife for World Animal Protection said: “Tourists visiting a WAZA-linked venue should be able to trust they are not inadvertently supporting cruel animal attractions. Sadly, currently this is not the case.”
Earlier this year an emaciated baby elephant was found forcing to bang her hair to rave music and perform tricks under the threat of painful punishment at a Thai zoo, investigators found.
Behind-the-scenes footage shoed the young animal chained up and repeatedly sucking on her trunk – a sign of distress – when away from the tourist shows.
The infant elephant, dubbed “a real-life Dumbo”, was made to join “distressing” performances up to three times a day at Phuket Zoo. The investigators, from activist group Moving Animals, revealed that just after one month after their petition to save Dumbo launched the three-year-old elephant died after suffering from a digestive tract infection that had been undiagnosed for months.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies