Wolverine Animal Pictures BiographyIn modern, well-regulated zoos, breeding is controlled to maintain a self-sustaining, global captive population. This is not the case in some less well-regulated zoos, often based in poorer regions. Overall "stock turnover" of animals during a year in a select group of poor zoos was reported as 20%-25% with 75% of wild caught apes dying in captivity within the first 20 months. The authors of the report stated that before successful breeding programs, the high mortality rate was the reason for the "massive scale of importations."
One 2-year study indicated that of 19,361 species of mammals that left accredited zoos in the U.S. between 1992 and 1998, 7,420 (38%) went to dealers, auctions, hunting ranches, unaccredited zoos and individuals, and game farms.
In February 2014, Copenhagen Zoo euthanased a healthy, young, male giraffe because he was surplus to their requirements. The giraffe's genes were considered to be too similar to other giraffes in a breeding programme run by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA). The scientific director at the zoo, Bengt Holst, said the zoo was working to maintain "a healthy giraffe population in European zoos". After the giraffe was euthanased with a bolt gun to the head, he was dissected publicly in front of a crowd of children then fed to the lions. Yorkshire Wildlife Park said it was "saddened" to hear of his death, expressing disappointment that its last minute offer to house the giraffe in its "state-of-the-art giraffe house" alongside four other males, including one from Copenhagen Zoo, had been ignored. A Dutch wildlife park had also offered to re-home him.
Animal welfare concerns
Further information: Captivity (animal) and Environmental enrichment
The welfare of zoo animals varies widely. Many zoos work to improve their animal enclosures, although constraints such as size and expense make it difficult to create ideal captive environments for many species
Bear cages, one square meter in size, in Dalian zoo, Port Arthur, Liaoning Province, China, in 1997.
A four-decade Oxford University study found that polar bears, lions, tigers and cheetahs show evidence of stress in captivity.
Some argue that zoo animals are treated as voyeuristic objects, rather than living creatures, and often suffer due to the transition from being free and wild to captivity.
Many modern zoos attempt to improve the welfare of their animals. The animals are housed in spacious, natural settings that allow the animals to express some of their natural behaviours, such as roaming and foraging. However, many animals remain in barren concrete enclosures or other minimally enriched cages.
Animals which naturally range over many miles each day are unable to perform this behaviour in zoo enclosures. For example, elephants usually travel around 30 miles each day.
Main article: List of abnormal behaviours in animals
Zoo animals often exhibit abnormal behaviours indicative of stress. For example, elephants sometimes perform head-bobbing, bears sometimes pace the surrounds of their enclosure, and wild cats sometimes groom themselves obsessively. Critics claim that the animals in zoos are under physical and mental stress. Elephants have been recorded displaying stereotypical behaviours in the form of swaying back and forth, trunk swaying or route tracing. This has been observed in 54% of individuals in UK zoos. Elephants in European zoos have shorter lifespans than their wild counterparts at only 17 years, although other studies suggest that zoo elephants live as long those in the wild.
Climactic conditions can make it difficult to keep some animals in zoos in some locations. For example, a zoo in Alaska had an elephant named Maggie. She was housed in a small, indoor enclosure because the outdoor temperature was too low.
Live feeding and "baiting"
In many countries, feeding live vertebrates to zoo animals is illegal, except in exceptional circumstances. For example, some snakes refuse to eat dead prey. However, in the Badaltearing Safari Park in China, visitors can throw live goats into the lion enclosure and watch them being eaten, or can purchase live chickens tied to bamboo rods for the equivalent of 2 dollars\euros to dangle into lion pens. Visitors can drive through the lion compound in buses with specially designed chutes which they can use to push live chickens into the enclosure. In the Xiongsen Bear and Tiger Mountain Village near Guilin in south-east China, live cows and pigs are thrown to tigers to amuse visitors.
In Qingdao zoo (Eastern China), visitors can engage in "tortoise baiting", where tortoises are kept inside small rooms with elastic bands around their necks so that they are unable to retract their heads. Visitors are allowed to throw coins at them. The marketing claim is that if you hit one of the tortoises on the head and make a wish, it will be fulfilled.
In the United States, any public animal exhibit must be licensed and inspected by the United States Department of Agriculture, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Drug Enforcement Administration, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and others. Depending on the animals they exhibit, the activities of zoos are regulated by laws including the Endangered Species Act, the Animal Welfare Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 and others. Additionally, zoos in North America may choose to pursue accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). To achieve accreditation, a zoo must pass an application and inspection process and meet or exceed the AZA's standards for animal health and welfare, fundraising, zoo staffing, and involvement in global conservation efforts. Inspection is performed by three experts (typically one veterinarian, one expert in animal care, and one expert in zoo management and operations) and then reviewed by a panel of twelve experts before accreditation is awarded. This accreditation process is repeated once every five years. The AZA estimates that there are approximately 2,400 animal exhibits operating under USDA license as of February 2007; fewer than 10% are accredited.
In April 1999, the European Union introduced a directive to strengthen the conservation role of zoos, making it a statutory requirement that they participate in conservation and education, and requiring all member states to set up systems for their licensing and inspection. Zoos are regulated in the UK by the Zoo Licensing Act of 1981, which came into force in 1984. A zoo is defined as any "establishment where wild animals are kept for exhibition ... to which members of the public have access, with or without charge for admission, seven or more days in any period of twelve consecutive months," excluding circuses and pet shops. The Act requires that all zoos be inspected and licensed, and that animals kept in enclosures are provided with a suitable environment in which they can express most normal behavior.