Three year study exposes failures of zoo regulation throughout Europe. Brussels 24th April 2012: Summary findings of The EU Zoo Inquiry, the most comprehensive investigation into the licensing and performance of zoos across the EU, reveal that, across Europe, zoos are doing little to guarantee the biological and conservation needs of animals. The majority of zoos are failing in their legal obligations to species conservation, public education and animal welfare, as required by national and international legislation.

Today, a new exhibition opens at the European Parliament highlighting the findings of The EU Zoo Inquiry, which confirms that across the European Union there has been a systemic failure by governments, competent authorities and enforcement agencies to ensure that Europe’s zoos are meeting their legal obligations, as required by the EC Zoos Directive. As a result, thousands of animals in hundreds of zoos are being kept in poor to appalling living conditions that fail to meet their welfare needs. The findings indicate that none of the 20 countries surveyed are without fault.

Acclaimed actress and animal advocate, Virginia McKenna OBE, Guest Speaker at today’s launch said, “To date, and despite the European Zoos Directive, wild animals in captivity have been largely marginalised. However, I hope this exhibition and the findings of The EU Zoo Inquiry will ensure animals in European zoos are no longer forgotten.”

Daniel Turner, spokesperson for The EU Zoo Inquiry described the study, “It has taken 3 years, evidence from an assessment of 200 zoos in 20 EU countries, direct communications with numerous national governments and a ground-breaking and comprehensive review of national zoo legislation to come to the incontrovertible conclusion that the zoos across Europe are neither meeting expectations nor the legal standards required of them, and that the EC Zoos Directive is not being adequately applied.”

Turner continued, “We have been very clear that The EU Zoo Inquiry is the first step towards positive change. We hope to secure the support of Member State Governments, together with that of the European Commission, to ensure enforcement agencies have the means to effectively enforce the law. Many animals in European zoos are suffering needlessly, and without assistance from the European Community the shameful problems we have found are likely to continue.”

Since 2005, all zoos in EU Member States have been required to meet the basic requirements of EC Directive 1999/22 and, through a licensing and inspection process, implement a series of measures to conserve biodiversity, educate the public and maintain their animals in conditions that meet their species-specific needs.

Although the Directive has been transposed into law in each Member State, these national laws often lack detailed provisions to sufficiently protect individual animals, conserve species and encourage meaningful public education. The 20 separate investigations that form The EU Zoo Inquiry (published on, and highlighted in the Report Findings and Recommendations, confirm that the majority of European countries rely almost exclusively on the relatively ambiguous requirements of the Directive, which has led to inconsistencies in interpretation, widespread non-compliance and continued sub-standard levels of animal care.

Since the investigations, many Member States are already making necessary changes to their zoo laws and planning further training for their enforcement agencies. Furthermore, the European Commission has, in response to the evidence provided by The EU Zoo Inquiry, decided to develop a Preferred Code of Practice relating to zoo regulation. Animal welfare training for veterinarians is already being delivered with Commission support. These are important first responses to the findings of The EU Zoo Inquiry.

Will Travers, CEO of the Born Free Foundation, the NGO which fully-funded and initiated The EU Zoo Inquiry, welcomed the news, but expressed the need for caution, “We have worked to improve the provisions for animals in zoos for over 20 years, including undertaking the first review of European zoos in the late 1980s. Although there have been some improvements, overall, the widespread neglect, deprivation and suffering I saw then still endure today. The EU Zoo Inquiry provides incontrovertible evidence that the impoverished quality of public education that was so prevalent all those years ago is still widespread. This report also reveals that the promises of a commitment to conservation made by Europe’s many thousands of zoos remains, in far too many cases, just that – a dream.”

Born Free is calling for the European Parliament to support a requirement for EU countries to greatly improve standards. Bill Newton Dunn, ALDE MEP, the host of the Parliamentary exhibition, said; “Born Free have been doing great work to improve the conditions for animals within zoos around the EU and I hope this Exhibition will bring to the attention of other MEP’S and government officials the inherent problems that still remain in many of Europe’s zoos.”

Members of the European Parliament and Members of the Press and Media are invited to attend The EU Zoo Inquiry Exhibition (details below) and to meet Virginia McKenna OBE, Bill Newton Dunn MEP, Will Travers and Daniel Turner and representatives of ENDCAP in person as part of this pan-European initiative to secure a better future for wild animals in zoos.





EC Directive 1999/22, relating to the keeping of wild animals in zoos

Since April 2005 (2007 in the case of Bulgaria and Romania) all EU Member State had to fully implement and enforce the requirements of EC Directive 1999/22. The European Commission has the responsibility to oversee and ensure the effective implementation of the Directive by Member States and to take legal action in the event of non-compliance.

The Directive provided a framework for Member State legislation, through the licensing and inspection of zoos, to strengthen the role of zoos in the conservation of biodiversity and the exchange of information to promote the protection and conservation of wild animal species. This is in accordance with the Community’s obligation to adopt measures for ex situ conservation under Article 9 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (1992). Member States are also required to adopt further measures that include: the provision of adequate accommodation for zoo animals that aims to satisfy their biological needs; species-specific enrichment of enclosures; a high standard of animal husbandry; a programme of preventative and curative veterinary care and nutrition; and to prevent the escape of animals and the intrusion of outside pests and vermin.

Estimates place the total number of licensed zoos in the EU to be at least 3,500. However, there are thought to be hundreds of unlicensed and unregulated zoological collections that have yet to be identified and licensed by the Competent Authorities. No more than 8% of the total number of zoos in Europe are members of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) which therefore should not be regarded as a representative of zoos in the European Community.

Preliminary investigations revealed that many zoos in the EU are substandard and are failing to comply with the Directive. Furthermore, EU Member States are inconsistent in their application of the Directive, but little effort has been made to identify and address the reasons behind this. The project aims to assess the current situation in the majority of Member States, identify any issues requiring attention and provide recommendations with regards how application can be improved.