Proposed zoo standards would violate sovereignty, says EC president Senter
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 1998:
BRUSSELS––Fourteen of the 15
environment ministers representing European
Union member nations on June 17 approved a
draft directive advanced by Great Britain
which sets a framework for certifying and
licensing the European Union’s estimated
1,000 zoos, animal parks, and menageries.
“The (proposed) law is also backed
by leaders of the European Parliament,”
reported Charles Bremner of the London
Times, “which voted overwhelmingly this
year for binding measures to insure the wellbeing
of captive wild animals.”
But the plan is reportedly strongly
opposed by European Commission president
Jacques Senter, as an example of allegedly
unnecessary intervention in national sovereignty.
Taking the same position, Germany
abstained from the vote by the council of environment
ministers. The EC killed a previous
British effort to set EU zoo standards in 1991.
In deference to the opponents, the
draft directive leaves to national governments
the details of establishing licensing and
inspection procedures. The absence of any
negative votes at the ministerial level, however,
means the directive is intended to have
more force than a mere nonbinding recommendation.
The current proposal was first raised
in March, four days after eight chimpanzees
who were accidently awakened by maintenance
workers at the zoo in Narbonne,
France, smashed a window, escaped, injured
two workers, broke into the zoo offices, and
chased five staff members into a walk-in
freezer, where they hid for an hour. The
chimps were eventually subdued with fire
hoses and a tranquilizer gun.
The proposal gained urgency in
April, when the Sarajevo Zoo asked all foreign
governments with embassies in Bosnia
for donations of animals to replace a 124-
species collection who were eaten, killed by
shrapnel, or starved to death during 1992,
when some of the zoo’s concrete structures
were used as gun emplacements. Zookeeper
Esref Tahirovic was killed by a sniper in
August 1992. Fighting at the zoo continued
into 1995. With minefields and unexploded
ordinance cleared from the site, the U.S.
Agency for International Development recently
began restoring the zoo by installing a children’s
playground, and Turkey is providing
cages for an aviary, whose first occupant was
an owl injured by a taxi cab.
While helping the zoo rebuild might
be good politics and good for Bosnian morale,
animal lovers––including conscientious
zookeepers––would prefer that the rebuilding
proceed according to some accepted standards,
with animal welfare a high priority.
The lack of standards in most of the
EU became apparent later in April, after new
management took over the 42-acre Rome Zoo,
founded in 1911. Conditions there, Munich
Zoo veterinarian Klaus Gunther Friedrich told
media, are so bad that “I hardly know where
to start.” Reportedly losing about $6 million a
year, the zoo is to be revamped with an
investment of approximately $12 million.
German zoo practices also came
under fire after the Animal Protection League
disclosed that the Leipzig Zoo had killed two
bears and fed their remains to the resident
tigers. The bears arrived as cubs in 1989 and
were longtime favorites in the children’s section
of the zoo, but outgrew their quarters.
Zoo officials hadn’t found another zoo willing
to take them. About 250 teddy-bear-carrying
protesters attended a memorial for the bears at
St. Nicholas’s Church in Leipzig.
But British officials found fingerpointing
complicated by an April 26 L o n d o n
T i m e s expose of the role of the Chester Zoo
and the Cotswold Wildlife Park as suppliers of
breeding stock to farmers who sell bison,
boars, and ostriches to the exotic meat trade.
Similar transactions were frequent in the U.S.
before 1986, when the American Zoo
Association adopted a policy opposing the
sale of animals outside the accredited zoo
community. The AZA policy was strengthened
in 1991, and documented cases of such
sales involving animals from accredited zoos
have since dwindled to a handful.