How are Polish zoos treating their animals - report

On 22nd of November 2011 at a meeting in the European Parliament, Brussels, the Born Free Foundation and ENDCAP, the organisations behind the EU Zoo Inquiry 2011, announced the publication of four more Country Reports, among others POLAND.
The EU Zoo Inquiry 2011, an extensive independent investigation into the licensing and performance of zoos across the EU, has revealed systemic failures by governments and enforcement agencies to ensure that zoos satisfactorily address species conservation, education and animal care.
On the cover photograph - the eye of Basia, the bear female from Leszno zoo. Basia had spent 27 years in a tiny, concrete cage. Thanks to our efforts, now she can enjoy her real bear life in a semi-natural conditions in the Bärenwald Müritz sanctuary in Germany. The Report includes some results of our report on captive bears situation in Poland and our explanations of some issues, especially concerning regulations and welfare.
Below the Summary, full report available on Born Free website:
Eight zoos in Poland were assessed as part of a pan-European project to evaluate the effectiveness and level of implementation and enforcement of European Council Directive 1999/22/EC (relating to the keeping of wild animals in zoos) in European Union (EU) Member States. A total of 935 species (including subspecies where appropriate) and
1,525 species holdings were observed in 905 enclosures in the eight zoos. Information was collected about a number of key aspects of each zoo’s operation including: participation in conservation activities; public education; enclosure quality; public safety; and the welfare of the animals. These parameters were evaluated against the legal requirements of Directive 1999/22/EC, the Nature Protection Act (amended on 10/06/2011), Regulation on the conditions for the husbandry and keeping respective groups of species in zoological gardens (20/12/2004) (‘RZ12/2004’) and Regulation on health and safety in zoos (10/12/2003) (‘RS12/2003’), and taking into consideration the Animal Protection Act (21/08/1997). Key findings were:
Zoo regulation in Poland is incorporated into the Nature Protection Act (‘NPA’), which provides a legislative framework for the protection of nature, as part of the country’s commitment to the conservation of
biodiversity, the protection of the natural environment and the education of the public through the promotion of conservation at the national and regional level. Zoos are regulated through RZ12/2004.
At the time of the investigation, NPA (16/04/2004) was the prevailing legislation. However, this has since been replaced by NPA 2011, which unlike its predecessor, separates relevant facilities into
licensed ‘zoos’ and unlicensed ‘mini-zoos’, irrespective of the species held, but dependent upon the number of species and individual animals kept. All facilities selected for this investigation meet thecriteria for a ‘zoo’.
• The Directorate General of Environmental Protection is the Competent Authority in Poland for the
implementation of the Directive and the NPA. It recognises there to be ‘around 20’ licensed zoos in Poland and
a further 11 zoos that are operational but unlicensed. The Competent Authority does not appear to know the
exact number of zoos in Poland and no justification is given as to why these zoos remain open.
Overall, the findings from this investigation indicate that licensed zoos in Poland are not fully compliant with either the Directive or NPA. Individually, there is a lack of consistency between the zoos,with some meeting the majority of requirements whilst others appearing to be substandard in all parametersassessed.
The results highlight inconsistencies in the interpretation and application of NPA. Findings identified significant variability in zoo activities and compliance, with some zoos not meeting any of the requirements of NPA, RZ12/2004 and RS12/2003.
The findings call into question the quality, regularity and procedure of the zoo inspection. Animals remain in substandard conditions, zoo operations fail to meet the legal requirements and unlicensed and substandard zoos remain operational. Penalties for non-compliance (under the NPA) do not appear to be applied.
Despite the specific requirement for zoos in Poland to contribute to the conservation of
‘rare’ species, through ex situ conservation and species reintroduction (Articles 47 and 69(3), NPA), overall, zoos in Poland do not appear to be making a significant contribution to species conservation. The majority of species exhibited (86%) are of low conservation priority. However, EAZAMember zoos contributed more to ex situ conservation than non-affiliated zoos.
Despite an ambiguous requirement for zoos to educate the public about the protection of nature, only those zoos that are Members of EAZA appear to be undertaking educational activities for both adults and children. Non-EAZA zoos do not appear to be promoting educational activities.
Polish zoo law does not require zoos to provide species information for all species holdings exhibited despite the specific requirement in Article 3(2) of the Directive to do so. Over a quarter ofsignage for species holdings was absent and the signage present often lacked sufficient information.
• Some of the zoos encouraged the public to have direct contact with the animals, whilst the poor design of some enclosures allowed the public to have unsupervised contact. Human/animal contact, supervised or unsupervised, can pose a serious risk to the health and welfare of the public and the animals involved.
Poor levels of hygiene were observed in the majority of zoos. This not only poses a risk to the health of the animals due to the potential build-up of harmful pathogens, it also poses a risk to public health.
On average, 69% of the evaluated enclosures failed to meet all the minimum requirements in the Annex to RZ12/2004. This is despite a significant reduction in the minimum space requirements, resulting from a revision of the Regulation in 2004. The zoos appear to have given little consideration tothe essential biological, spatial and behavioural needs of the animals.
The Ministry of Environment and the General Directorate for Environmental Protection should take the necessary measures to:
1) Revise the NPA to ensure that definitions and requirements specified by the Directive are accurately transposed and implemented. This should include: Article 3(2) (provision of species information); Article 3(3) (guidance on species-specific enrichment); Article 3(4) (ecological threats posed by an escaped animal); and Article 4 (effective licensing and inspection of zoos).
2) Review and improve the zoo licensing procedure to ensure that all permanent establishments open for seven days or more in a year, and that display any number of wild animal species to the public, are licensed, receive regular inspections and meet all the specified requirements of NPA and accompanying legislation.
3) Ensure, through effective enforcement that all zoos (as defined by the Directive) abide by the requirements of national zoo law, the minimum standards in the Annex to RZ12/2004, and apply existing available penalties (Article 68 and Chapter 11 of NPA) to zoos that fail to meet their legal obligations.
4) Ensure that all national and regional enforcement personnel and veterinarians involved in the inspection and regulation of zoos are equipped with relevant, regular training and skills pertaining to the care and welfare of wild animals in captivity.
5) Ensure that the necessary preventative measures are taken to minimise the risks posed by an escaped animal to public health and safety (RS12/2003), to the natural environment and indigenous species, particularly if the animal is listed as Invasive Alien Species (IAS).
6) Review the species-specific minimum standards for the keeping of animals in zoos to ensure that they are in keeping with reliable and scientifically-validated standards of animal husbandry, including guidance on environmental enrichment, and to ensure that the animals’ spatial, physical, physiological and behavioural needs are met. The revision of the standards should be undertaken by an independent, scientific body.
7) Ensure that all zoo employees with responsibility for animals have the necessary training and experience in animal care and husbandry.
8) Prohibit all public contact with ’Hazardous Animals’ (RS12/2003) and those known to harbour zoonoses. All other public contact is to be discouraged but, where it does take place, must be supervised, controlled, limited, provide the animals with a significant rest period and must not be detrimental in any way to the welfare of the individual animals involved.
9) Ensure zoos keep and conserve predominantly nationally protected and European Threatened species rather than non-European species. All Threatened species, particularly European species kept by zoos, should be included in co-operative Species Management Programmes.
10) Publish guidance, as necessary, to assist zoos, enforcement personnel, veterinarians, NGOs and other stakeholders to effectively and consistently interpret the requirements of NPA and RZ12/2004, specifically with regard to their participation in, and their application of, recognised peer-reviewed conservation and education programmes.
11) Encourage all zoos in Poland to join EAZA. Through effective enforcement and guidance, assist all zoos in Poland not only to meet their legal obligations but to attain the standards necessary to become an accredited member of this international zoo association.

From hell to paradise - how two bears from Leszno (PL) were going to Bärenwald Müritz (Germany) - next »
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