AZA zoos move to halt suspect animal sales ––and access to information about them

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 1999:

SAN JOSE, Calif.––Responding to
a four-part probe of commerce involving former
zoo animals, published in February 1999
by San Jose Mercury-News reporter Linda
Goldston, the American Zoo Association has
halted member zoos’ dealings with the Little
Ponderosa Animal Farm and Auction in
Illinois, Goldston reported on May 28.
The AZA has also begun requiring a
review of animal transfer records as a condition
of accreditation renewal.
“However,” Goldston wrote, “officials
involved with the system for recording
surplus animal dispositions are refusing to
make updates of the information available to
the public,” and International Species
Information System executive director Nathan
R. Flesness demanded unsuccessfully that the
Mercury-News remove from its web site an
analysis of the ISIS animal transfer data during
the years 1982-1988.

“If the data base was offered to nonmembers,”
Flesness told Goldston, “commercial
animal dealers could exploit the information
in ways harmful to the cooperative
breeding programs of reputable zoos.”
The M e r c u r y – N e w s gave Goldston
two years to do her investigation. At
Goldston’s request, ANIMAL PEOPLE i n
mid-1997 sent her copies of our own coverage
of matters pertaining to zoo surplus and the
exotic animal traffic, along with a list of
sources and contacts. We then heard no more
from Goldston. But a week before her series
appeared in print, AZA science and conservation
director Mike Hutchins requested our
help in identifying dealers who may be doublecrossing
zoos by selling animals to canned
hunts and exotic animal auctions. AZA Code
of Ethics amendments in 1986 and 1991 were
believed to have stopped such traffic.
Although the Goldston series has
evidently instigated further AZA reform
efforts, it relied heavily on case data predating
the 1991 amendments, including giraffe
disposition records that went back to 1970.
The series revealed little that other media had
not already disclosed, and did not identify
even one animal going from an AZA zoo to a
canned hunt in legal trade since 1991. The
only cases known to ANIMAL PEOPLE
since 1991 were some in which AZA zoos
said they were defrauded, and acted against
the alleged perpetrators.
The Goldston analysis of the ISIS
data also appeared to lump together all transactions
involving foreign zoos, wildlife rehabilitators,
humane societies, and nature centers,
along with other transfers to non-AZAaccredited
recipients, in asserting that large
numbers of animals may be going from AZA
zoos to improper destinations.

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