New Sydney Zoo is “criminal”

Media Release 12 Nov Elephant

New Sydney Zoo declared “criminal” by leading Australian animal rights organisation

SYDNEY, 12 December 2019: Animal Liberation, Australia’s leading animal rights group dedicated to permanently improving the lives of animals, has “demanded an immediate investigation into the conditions and welfare of animals at Sydney’s new zoo, following concerns raised by members of the public”. The organisation has declared the new Sydney Zoo a failure in not meeting the public test in animal welfare and conservation.

“Distressing photos and footage brought to our attention by a concerned community member who recently visited the zoo shows a range of species kept in shockingly barren and empty environments”, said Animal Liberation spokesperson, Alex Vince. “Almost all of them were shown struggling to find adequate shelter from Sydney’s recent wave of scorching heat and smoke. We’re also particularly concerned that Saigon, an ex-circus elephant, is kept in a desolate enclosure alone”.

Elephants, in particular, are highly social animals. International organisations, such as the Nonhuman Rights Project, continue to advocate for the establishment of legal rights for captive animals. Through litigation, legislation and education, people who once may have visited zoos themselves are seeking recognition and protection for the animals they keep captive. One way this is being promoted is by appealing to their fundamental rights through the concept of ‘legal personhood’. Despite the existence of State standards requiring minimums be met by industries commercially exhibiting animals, facilities that fail to live up to community expectations must be made accountable.

“The public has a right to know if the State agencies responsible for reviewing facilities, like the new Sydney Zoo, should be exempt from carrying out its obligations under the General Standards for Exhibiting Animals in NSW. The NSW Standards require animals be housed in social groups similar to those typically found in the wild. Elephants are not solitary animals. They live in families. If the Department reviewed this place, we need to know when and on what basis an exemption was issued, because Sydney Zoo clearly isn’t meeting even the most minimum requirements. We need to know what action – what immediate action- the NSW government is going to take to make sure Saigon is able to ‘see and touch’ other elephants, because that’s what she’s expected to be given by State standards”. 

The Sydney Zoo is the first new major Australian zoo to be built in over a century. It eventually plans to hold a captive population of over 2,000 Australian and exotic animals. Despite the public increasingly understanding that all animals, particularly wild animals, routinely suffer enormous amounts of mental and physical stress, anxiety and frustration when kept in artificial environments and among unnatural social groups, the new zoo was approved by the Department of Primary Industries between 2017 and 2018, before opening operations earlier this month.

“The general public no longer support this type of entertainment. Nor do they buy the myth that zoos promote and provide education or conservation. Comparing solitary captivity to conservation or making eking out an existence in unenriched environments appear educational is no longer acceptable to most Aussies. Keeping wild animals in these conditions sends the wrong message to the next generation. We need to actively promote respect so that future Australians will protect and preserve animals in their natural habitats and environments. Even in an ideal zoo – which we don’t believe exists – animals are kept captive over their lifetimes suffer a miserable and unnatural existence. Many develop stereotypic behaviours and are often traded or sold to other facilities around the world.”

“While the new Sydney Zoo’s managing director, Jack Burgess, has publicly claimed they are ‘embracing technology and innovation’ in a bid to improve animal welfare, it is apparent that the much publicised opening has really been about promoting ticket sales and foot traffic for profit. This is amply established by the poor exhibit conditions that provide limited or nil opportunity for the animals to engage in any behaviours considered innate to their species.

“It is ironic that while the NSW government is currently holding a public Inquiry into the Exhibition of Exotic Animals and Exhibition of Cetaceans, including the overwhelming and proven issues with captive wild animals being kept as ‘exhibits’, the NSW Premier is perpetuating the myth that zoos play an important conservation role. It is entirely fictitious and implies that it is acceptable to commercially exploit animals as captive exhibits who endure a lifetime of suffering, where most – and certainly all – of those bred in captivity can never be released into the wild.”

Contact: Alex Vince | [email protected]

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