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Welsh Mountain Zoo criticised in report urging more spend on animal conservation efforts

22 Jul 2021 3 minutes Read
A Sumatran Tiger at Welsh Mountain Zoo, Colwyn Bay. Picture by Denis Egan (CC BY 2.0).

The Welsh Mountain Zoo has been criticised in a report urging charitable zoos to spend more on conversation instead of new animal exhibits.

The Zoological Society of Wales who run the zoo in Colwyn Bay is part of the Consortium of Charitable Zoos (CCZ), but according to animal welfare charity Born Free less than 5% of the consortium members’ income is spent on field conservation.

The Welsh Mountain Zoo is named in the report, Zoos: Financing conservation or funding captivity? as an example of a CCZ that spent money on infrastructure that could have gone towards conservation efforts.

“Several other CCZ members have also spent vast sums of money which could, if redirected, have provided vital support for in situ conservation,” Born Free’s report says.

“Examples include the […] Welsh Mountain Zoo’s £1 million snow leopard enclosure,” they said.

“When compared to the figures spent on new exhibits, the in situ conservation funding contributions of CCZ members looks very small.

“The sad truth is that not only is this money perpetuating the unnecessary captive housing of species with no clear conservation purpose, but it is also being diverted away from in situ conservation where it could provide significant benefits to wildlife and the protection of wider ecosystems and the thousands of species they support.”

Nation.Cymru has contacted the Welsh Mountain Zoo for a response.

‘Questionable’

The publicity generated through the development of new animal exhibits may skew public assumptions about the resources zoos devote to in situ conservation, Born Free said.

Will Travers OBE, Co-Founder and Executive President of the Born Free Foundation stated: “Zoos claim to be ‘Powerhouses in Conservation’, and zoo visitors would be forgiven for thinking that a large slice of the entrance fee they pay to visit a zoo is used to fund wildlife conservation projects.

“They also claim that the welfare of animals is of paramount consideration, so it would be reasonable to assume that they make meaningful financial provisions to ensure their animals can be cared for in times of crisis.

“However, a close look at the publicly available accounts of some of the UK’s biggest charitable zoos reveals they provide far less funding to in situ conservation projects, and are far less financially resilient to crises such as Covid-19, than many people think.

“Our findings once again highlight the fact that the conservation claims of even our best zoos are highly questionable, and that the UK zoo industry is in urgent need of real reform.”

Chris Lewis, Captivity Research Officer at Born Free and author of the report stated that: “The conservation claims of zoos and the extent to which they fund field conservation requires careful scrutiny.

“It appears that some of the best-known zoos in the UK are spending millions of pounds on new animal exhibits, whilst spending only a small fraction on supporting conservation in the wild. These zoos, and likely others throughout the UK, were also financially ill prepared for long-term closure, jeopardising the welfare of the animals in their care.

“We challenge the zoo industry to live up to its conservation claims and we continue to lobby for policy change in the UK.”

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