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Animal welfare improves at Swiss zoos

A gelada monkey in Zurich Zoo © Keystone / Melanie Duchene

Swiss zoos continue to make progress when it comes to taking care of animals, according to Swiss Animal Protection (SAP). But while some are considered exemplary, others need to up their game.

This content was published on April 29, 2021 - 18:28
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For example, the way the Californian sea lions are kept in Basel Zoo seems “like a relic from the past”, said the organisation, which evaluated 42 Swiss zoos and animal parks for its Zoo Report 2020, published on Thursday.

The problem in Basel is that the zoo is in the middle of the city and therefore can’t be expanded, SAP said. It welcomed the fact that some species had been given up to make more room for others “but a further reduction in diversity would be welcome”.

However, with its breeding successes and the many “excellent” new enclosures, the Zolli, as Basel Zoo is known, remains one of the most important zoological gardens in Switzerland.

Samuel Furrer, a zoologist at SAP, also praised the Masoala Rainforest at Zurich Zoo. He said this was one of the “best zoo facilities in the world”, offering the animals many stimuli that encourage their natural behaviour.

“Enclosures with such features are important for animal-friendly conditions. Zurich Zoo is a role model in this respect,” he said.

On the other hand, the report’s authors criticised the wild boar enclosure at Les Marécottes in canton Valais and the Seeteufel animal and adventure park in Studen, canton Bern, which displays caimans and turtles on bare concrete.

‘Higher level’

But the authors were overwhelmingly positive. They noted that since the last report, published in 2014, Swiss zoos have more space for animals, more well-structured enclosures and an increasing awareness of animal welfare concerns.

“Findings from modern zoo biology and pressure from animal welfare and critical zoo visitors have contributed to the fact that the quality of animal husbandry today is clearly at a higher level than it was 20 years ago. The days when wild animals were presented to an amazed public like goods on display should definitely be over.”

They highlighted Hasel Zoo, canton Aargau, home to “one of the best raccoon enclosures in Switzerland”, and the Juraparc in canton Vaud for people who want to observe brown bears and wolves.

Also receiving praise were the otter enclosure at the Dählhölzli Zoo in Bern, the large aviary for Alpine ibex, vultures, bald ibex and Alpine marmots at the La Garenne Wildlife Park in Vaud, and the flamingo enclosure at the Walter Zoo in canton St Gallen.

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