Thursday, November 13, 2003

Corpus Christi Zoo shuts down

Corpus Christi Zoo shuts down

Press Release
Jim Rogers(202) 690-4755
Darby Holladay(301) 734-3265


RIVERDALE, Md., Nov. 13, 2003--The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the Corpus Christi Zoological Association, a licensed animal exhibitor doing business as the Corpus Christi Zoo, have agreed to a consent decision and order regarding
violations of the Animal Welfare Act. Corpus Christi Zoo admitted violating the AWA. In their settlement with USDA, the zoo agreed to a license revocation and a complete divestiture of
their animals no later than Dec. 15.

The AWA requires that regulated individuals and businesses provide animals with care and treatment according to the standards established by APHIS. Animals protected by the law must be provided with adequate housing, handling, sanitation, food, water, transportation, veterinary care and shelter.
The law covers animals that are sold as pets at the wholesale level, transported in commerce, used for biomedical research or used for exhibition purposes.

Note to Reporters: For a copy of the settlement, please contact Jim Rogers or Darby Holladay at the above listed numbers. USDA news releases, program announcements and media advisories are
available on the Internet. Access the APHIS home page by pointing your Web browser to and clicking on the "News" button.

Also, anyone with an e-mail address can sign up to receive APHIS press releases automatically. Send an e-mail message to and leave the subject blank. In the message,
type: subscribe press_releases


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Thursday, October 02, 2003

Oxford Study Shows Tigers Don't Belong in Cages

Oxford Study Shows Tigers Don't Belong in Cages

Large roaming carnivores suffer most in zoos

Independent, The (London), Oct 2, 2003 by Steve Connor Science Editor

POLAR BEARS, lions, tigers and other large carnivores that roam over huge territories in the wild become stressed and psychologically scarred when kept in zoos, a study suggests.

Scientists have found a direct correlation between the level of stress an animal suffers in a typical zoo enclosure and the size of its territory in the wild. The biggest, most wide-ranging carnivores suffer the most. Georgia Mason and Ros Clubb, zoologists from the University of Oxford, say their discovery should prompt zoos to reappraise the way they keep big cats, large bears and other crowd pullers.

"Our findings indicate that the keeping of naturally wide-ranging carnivores should either be fundamentally improved or phased out," they write in the journal Nature.

Dr Mason and Dr Clubb investigated 35 animal species by reviewing data on stereotypical behaviour - such as pacing up and down - and infant mortality published in more than 1,000 scientific papers. They conclude that the animals most likely to suffer problems are also the ones with the biggest natural territories. "Our results show that a particular lifestyle in the wild confers vulnerability to welfare problems in captivity," they say. "Among the carnivores, naturally wide-ranging species show the most evidence of stress and/or psychological dysfunction in captivity, a finding that is a cause for concern, given the difficulties of conserving such species in situ."

Zoos have radically altered the way they keep large carnivores over the past few decades. Most zoos now have bigger and more varied enclosures and have introduced activities that make captivity less monotonous - such as variable feeding times. Yet the Oxford study suggests such measures may not be enough for animals that would naturally roam over many thousands of square miles. A typical zoo enclosure for a polar bear, for instance, is about a millionth of the size of its natural territory.

Dr Clubb says she was surprised by the findings because until now the inability to hunt was thought to be the biggest problem for captive carnivores. "Because of this, zoos have concentrated on stimulating hunting-like behaviours to try to improve their welfare," she says. "But our results suggest that it's even more important to give these animals more space, or the day-to-day changes in environment they'd experience if they were ranging naturally."

The Oxford study was criticised yesterday by one of the organisations that helped to fund it. The Federation of Zoos, said the findings were "open to misinterpretation". The federation said captive breeding programmes of large carnivores demonstrated that many zoo animals were able to rear their offspring successfully. Miranda Stevenson, the federation's director, said experience had also shown that improving the captive environment of an animal could significantly reduce the level of pacing, an indicator of stress. "Many federation collections keep large carnivores in large and complex enclosures ... and breeding results are excellent," she said.

Infant mortality in the wild among tigers, for instance, was comparable to the level of infant mortality in captive-bred animals. "There is no evidence that neonatal captive infant mortality [in tigers] is higher than that in the wild," Dr Stevenson said.

Dr Mason said the Oxford study did find that infant mortality was higher in wide- ranging species in captivity, suggesting that zoos were not a good place to breed some threatened carnivores. "It's vital to get this right, as these animals are in double jeopardy. Wide-ranging carnivores are particularly hard to conserve in reserves in their natural habitat - so it's especially worrying that they are also the most prone to welfare problems in captivity," Dr Mason said.