Intergroup meeting: the Zoos Directive

On 17/01/2019, in All posts, by Animal Welfare Intergroup

This morning, the Intergroup on the Welfare and the Conservation of Animals gathered to discuss the Directive on the keeping of wild animals in zoos (Zoos directive). The meeting, chaired by Anja Hazekamp (NL, GUE/NGL), focused on the implementation and the evaluation of the EU legislation and offered suggestions on how it could be improved in the future.

Ute Goerres, administrative agent from DG ENV at the European Commission, opened the floor with a presentation on the Zoos Directive and the evaluation of its implementation. The EU adopted in 1999 the Zoos Directive to strengthen the role of zoos in the conservation of biodiversity and the protection of wildlife. Animal welfare is a major consideration in this legislation, even if it is not the main objective. The Directive establishes a compulsory and centrally regulated licensing of zoo facilities in the EU and outlines the conservation, education or research conditions that the zoos need to fulfil to obtain a license. In November 2018, the Commission published an evaluation report on the Directive and its impact. The education and public awareness objectives have generally been achieved but only partly the conservation measures.

The evaluation points out shortcomings in the licensing systems. Inspections are often carried out by veterinary services with limited knowledge on animal husbandry. Few penalties and closures of zoos take place despite the existing breaches of the Directive, including in already licensed zoos. Ute Goerres also presented the Commission’s follow up actions for improving the implementation of the legislation. She mentioned a better coordination between the local, regional and national authorities, as well as the development of an information-sharing platform and training modules for national management authorities. She also stressed that the EU Zoos Directive Good Practices Document will be finally translated by the Commission in all Member States’ languages.

Ilaria Di Silvestre, Wildlife programme leader from Eurogroup for Animals, started her presentation by stressing how important this Directive is for the protection of wild animals in captivity as it is the only EU legislation addressing their biological needs and their welfare. Moreover, the Directive requests the sharing of information and data related to species conservation. It has also helped to prevent the opening of new small zoos by amateurs without the knowledge and resources to ensure proper care for the animals.

However, progress is not yet sufficient. Too many zoos are still keeping animals under sub-standard conditions. The Commission evaluation also found out that only up to 35% of threatened species are present in the EU zoos. In addition, zoos only take a marginal role in the important task of rescuing, relocation and rehoming animals, for example in case of confiscation from illegal trade, mistreatment or closing of circuses. Licenses are also delivered to facilities with practices contrary to the conservation objective of the Directive, such as using animals in performances.

To improve the implementation of the Directive, Ilaria Di Silvestre stressed the importance of the dissemination of the Good Practices document in all Member States and welcomed the decision of the Commission to translate it in the upcoming months. She highlighted the need for harmonized standards to improve the well-being of animals in captivity, the development of a responsible management plan for zoo animal populations, and the creation of a protocol to assist competent authorities in phasing out unlicensed zoos.

After the presentation, the Intergroup members discussed the current situation and potential solutions. Among others, they addressed the issue of enforcement. The Intergroup also discussed the ongoing issue with the Ukrainian zoo Padalko, where animals, including bears, lions, primates and wolves, are kept in terrible conditions. A lion already froze to death but the zoo still refuses the help of NGOs or to let veterinarians examine the animals. The Intergroup has been addressed by a petition to call on the Ukranian authorities to act on this issue. The Intergroup has written a letter to the Ukranian Minister for Ecology to take immediate action to rescue and rehome the animals of Padalko zoo. A letter was also sent to Commissioner Johannes Hahn seeking his support.


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