Chimpanzees fishing for termites with long sticks, elephants playing and socialising with their friends and family members in a pool, or a monitor lizard climbing to catch insects in a special high up feeder are interesting and wonderful activities to watch. Promoting optimal animal welfare and predominantly positive experiences 24/7 across an animal’s lifespan is one of the core responsibilities of accredited zoos and aquariums today.
Caring for Wildlife, a WAZA Animal Welfare Strategy, offers guidance on topics like assessment and monitoring of animal welfare, environmental enrichment, exhibit design, research, engagement and interaction with visitors. As animal welfare coordinator for WAZA, I work with members and external experts on matters related to animal welfare.
Where possible we also reach out to non-WAZA members to offer welfare support and advice. The expression “a rising tide lifts all boats” underscores one of WAZA’s objectives, which is to collaborate with others in our shared commitment to maintain, improve and actively encourage optimal animal welfare in all facilities housing wild animals.
Animals should be provided with opportunities for choice and control through a stimulating and complex environment and enriching activities. Different climate zones and views, the ability to retreat from a group, having to solve a puzzle to access that valued nut – these are ways zoos not only engage animals, but also the visiting public. By engaging the public through activities – and seeing happy animals – zoos hope to promote human behaviour change, caring for animals, nature and the planet.
Sabrina Brando, Animal welfare coordinator, WAZA