Keeping wild animals in zoos will never be completely species-appropriate. Can we reconcile this with our moral conscience? In our view, a paradigm shift is urgently needed.
Animal welfare regulations and our ethical principles on the subject of animals and how we keep them have undergone a dramatic change over the last few decades. Today, the traditional institution of the zoo is coming under increasingly frequent criticism for its outdated model. In the past, bigger enclosures and a more species-appropriate design of living spaces have improved animal housing in zoos, but the fundamental ethical problem remains – the confinement of wild animals.
The campaign Zoo XXI by Fondation Franz Weber (FFW) seeks to solve this dilemma. It is imperative that we move away from the 19th century mindset of “using” animals to finding "a use" for zoos. This is why the FFW does not believe that closing existing zoos is the right approach. Every zoo that is shut down can no longer be converted into something useful. But modern zoos must undergo radical change in order to serve a use for animal welfare in the future: They will become a place of protection and care, of rehabilitation for injured, confiscated and exploited animals. Animals that cannot be guaranteed a species-appropriate life in a zoo will instead be taken to sanctuaries or conservation areas, or released into the wild. In the long term, zoos will only house injured, confiscated or mistreated wild animals, as well as local species that are included in protection and reintroduction programmes. Environmental education will also be a key focus - zoos will no longer simply provide information about various animal species in general; rather their teaching will centre on the animal as an individual. This is an empathetic model that takes into account the specific needs and interests of the animals.
On 7 May 2015, Fondation Franz Weber launched the campaign Zoo XXI in Barcelona. Its first success followed shortly afterwards, with the Bioparque Convivencia Pachuca in Mexico announcing that it will be joining the Zoo XXI programme to become the world's first Zoo XXI!
More information about Zoo XXI