WAZA’s Open Letter Regarding Barcelona City Council’s Zoo Decision

Date: 2019/02/26

The Barcelona City Council on 14 February gave initial approval to an amendment that aims to severely regulate the Barcelona Zoo, reducing the institution down to 11 species and calling for the transfer or relocation of the nearly 2,000 animals that remain to sanctuaries or rescue centres. The amendment also requires Barcelona Zoo to resign from all national and international membership associations, including WAZA. Below is WAZA’s open letter:

When the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) made the decision to relocate its Swiss headquarters to Barcelona in 2018, we did so because we felt the energy, the ingenuity, and the intellect of the city would inspire us to face the global issues that threaten us all in the 21st century. As an international alliance with members in six continents, WAZA believed the progressive culture here would suit us well.

But the recent events that threaten the future of Barcelona Zoo fill us with deep sadness and concern.

The Barcelona Zoo is a long-standing member of WAZA – in addition to the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) and the Iberian Association of Zoos and Aquaria (AIZA) – and as recently as 2017 drew more than 1 million visitors to Ciutadella Park.

WAZA understands that some have concerns and believe all animals should exist outside of zoos. But we know that zoological gardens are becoming more and more important for education, research and conservation. Zoos are constantly improving and the WAZA Animal Welfare Strategy that was published in 2015 sets high targets. We try to work closely with most of the leading animal welfare and rights groups in the world, and WAZA is prepared to collaborate with Barcelona Zoo to ensure that its welfare provides the best possible care for all species.  That should be the expectation set by the Barcelona community.

But the rush to criticise the Barcelona Zoo and close it down for welfare concerns ignores an equally important contribution: Conservation. Already, zoos and aquariums are the third-largest funders of conservation in the world, and the role they play in battling extinction is considerable. Hundreds of critically endangered species have been saved through the captive breeding and reintroduction programmes of zoos and aquariums, and many more are in progress.

The Barcelona Zoo is a major contributor to global conservation. Consider:

  • In West Africa, Barcelona Zoo leads captive breeding programmes that have stabilised the populations of critically endangered Roloway monkeys and White-crowned mangabeys.
  • In the Mediterranean, Barcelona Zoo’s monitoring of fin whales in Catalan-Balearic seas helps protect this endangered species.
  • And right here in Catalunya, Barcelona Zoo’s long-term study of insects in the Serra de Collserola Natural Park helps chart the best ways to protect the region’s ecosystem.

In fact, more than 85% of the species housed at Barcelona Zoo are included in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and over the last few years, nearly 30% of the animals born in the zoo were released into wild habitats. Since 2009, the Conservation and Research Programme (PRIC) and the Barcelona Zoo Foundation have made a direct investment in research and conservation of more than 1.5 million Euros, and more than half of those projects focused on local species.

Barcelona Zoo’s education programmes also provide a valuable resource to local students from primary grades up through high school, and some of the brightest members of the WAZA staff in Barcelona gained valuable experience through university research projects conducted at the zoo.

Together, we must work at addressing major global crises such as species extinction, illegal wildlife trade, climate change, marine litter, deforestation, and other threats to our shared survival. But the Barcelona Zoo itself is an important part of that relationship, and far too crucial to the long-term survival of wildlife and wild spaces to be cast aside.

Kind regards,

Dr. Jenny Gray

President, WAZA

Zoos Victoria, Australia

Prof. Theo Pagel
President-Elect, WAZA

Cologne Zoo, Germany

Mr. Lee Ehmke

Past-President, WAZA

Houston Zoo, USA

Dr. Clément Lanthier

Secretary, WAZA

Calgary Zoo, Canada

Mr. Doug Cress

Chief Executive Officer, WAZA

Barcelona, Spain

The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) is the global alliance of regional associations, national federations, zoos and aquariums, dedicated to the care and conservation of animals and their habitats around the world.

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