Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Rosa King the keeper tragically killed by one of the tigers she was caring for earlier this week. The death of a fellow keeper is always extremely sad especially when they had shown such dedication to the creatures in their care.
Whilst I am loathed to share an article by the Daily Mail I feel that some good points are made in this piece and it demonstrates that the facade of many of our smaller (and sometimes larger) zoos mask a cold reality of health and safety concerns and animal welfare issues.
Take a look here, it really is a damning read.
My personal first-hand experience of zoos varies from the good to the dire. Several establishments named in this article are being monitored by animal welfare bodies and NGOs at home and abroad - whether they know it or not is another matter!
Being an animal carer is a dangerous job in different capacities; it's a risk we all take when we choose this career no matter what animals we work with. Whether the risk is from a zoonotic disease, scratches, bites or mauling the danger is ever present. It is up to us as professionals to try to reduce the risk by adhering to safe working practises. Sometimes though, no matter how careful we are, accidents happen.
Thankfully incidents like this are extremely rare, at least in professional establishments.
A study into injuries and deaths caused by captive tigers for the period 1998-2001 revealed that most incidents occur when tigers are kept by private keepers. This was particularly evident in US cases where more tigers are kept by private keepers than there are living in the wild. The report postulated that given that most of the victims were below 20 years of age that there was potential for a lack of appreciation as to how dangerous these animals really are; that they were being handled or cared for by those far too inexperienced to be in that position.
Fortunately there are few tigers kept by private keepers in the UK however in my professional opinion this is completely unnecessary and does nothing towards the conservation of the species. It is worthy of note that in addition to tigers there are cheetahs, leopards, pumas, alligators, wolves and many more extremely dangerous animals being kept legally by private owners all over the country.
These are the ones we know about...
Licensing of animals under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 is notoriously lax with many animals being kept unregistered. This noncompliance puts both the public and the animals at risk. Add to this that many licensing inspectors have little animal care or zoology knowledge and it is easy to see how even licensed animals can and do often end up living an appalling conditions.
By making the keeping of dangerous exotic species in domestic settings socially unacceptable we can improve public opinion to promote true in-situ conservation over wild pet ownership which does little more than line the pockets of profit seeking animal merchants while enabling egocentric individuals to own deadly “pets”.
Please say no to cub-petting, pay-to-play, animal encounters and mobile zoos even those not involving animals specified by the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976. Together we can create positive change and make the world a kinder safer place for animals!
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Meet the Owner-Operator, Clare Barnard BSc.(Hons)
Clare is a research scientist and PhD candidate at the University of Lincoln where she is studying wildlife conservation and the direct impact of the exotic pet trade on wild animal populations. She will be working from the Laboratory of Evolutionary Ecology of Adaptations. Clare has also been honoured to become part of the Global Amphibian Biodiversity research team.
Clare has almost 20 years professional experience in the husbandry of exotic animals a specialism in the genetics of British herpetofauna. She has worked with wild Adders (Vipera berus) and endangered Natterjack Toads (Epidalea calamita) under Natural England license conditions. Clare has worked as a zookeeper and within private collections including her own. She lives in rural North Warwickshire, on-site at Grace's Rest, with a whole host of animals!