New Study Exposes Failure of Zoo Regulation Throughout Europe

Initial findings of The EU Zoo Inquiry 2011, the most comprehensive investigation into the licensing and performance of zoos across the EU, has revealed the systemic failure of governments, competent authorities and enforcement agencies to ensure that European zoos meet their legal obligations to species conservation, education and animal welfare.

The EU Zoo Inquiry 2011 website ( will, over the coming months, reveal the details of this ground-breaking work which exposes failures, identifies the causes and provides a wealth of information on zoo regulation in 20 EU countries.

Produced by international wildlife NGO, the Born Free Foundation, on behalf of ENDCAP, The EU Zoo Inquiry 2011 is an independent study which evaluates the degree to which EC Directive 1999/22 – the Zoos Directive – has been implemented and enforced.

Daniel Turner, spokesperson for The EU Zoo Inquiry 2011 and lead investigator explains: “Over the last 18 months, our investigations into the state of over 200 zoos reveal that most zoos across the European Community are not meeting their legal obligations. As a result, millions of animals continue to be kept in poor or appalling conditions in thousands of zoos.”

He continues: “In the European Union, regulation of zoos and the protection of wild animals in captivity is the responsibility of individual Member States, which has resulted in dramatically differing zoo standards. While we have yet to publish all our findings, what I can say is that none of the countries we have surveyed are without fault. Many animals in European zoos are suffering needlessly and without urgent action by all members of the European Community, the failures we have found are likely to continue.”

Since 2005, all zoos in the majority of EU Member States have been required to meet the basic requirements of EC Directive 1999/22 and, through a licensing and inspection process, implement a series of measures that oblige zoos to conserve biodiversity, educate the public and maintain their animals in conditions that meet their species-specific needs.

Although the Directive has been transposed into law in each Member State, these laws often lack detailed provisions relating to conservation, educational and scientific activities, standards of animal welfare and effective licensing and inspection procedures – as well as clear strategies for humanely dealing with animals in the event of zoo closure. The Directive’s requirements themselves are relatively ambiguous and allow for inconsistencies in interpretation. As a consequence, Member States are failing to ensure these provisions are fully applied by the zoos within their jurisdiction.

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