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Animals Coalition writes to P.M. to stop zoo

An Asia and Pacific animal welfare network will write to Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi to protest the building of a zoo in Tafa'igata.

Dave Neale, the Director of the Asia for Animals Coalition, told the Samoa Observer he does not support keeping animals for public entertainment.

Asia for Animals Coalition (A.F.A) represents 22 animal welfare organisations, and is supported by another 600 organisations including Samoa’s Animal Protection Society, who alerted them to the zoo plan.

In June, the Magic Circus of Samoa ringmaster, Tupa'i Bruno Loyale, said he intends to bring at least two dozen exotic animals and open the Samoa Safari Amusement Park by next May. 

He told the Samoa Observer a zoo with an amusement park would boost tourism to Samoa.

But not everyone is excited about the zoo, in which Tupai hopes to house elephants, giraffes and zebras.

More than 3000 people have signed a Change.org petition against it.

Mr. Neale said he learned about the zoo in early August and is worried the animals will only suffer. 

The transportation process will be gruelling, and they may never adapt to Samoa’s climate, he said.

“I am always concerned with regards to plans to build new zoos wherever they are being built.

“The majority of zoos are built for entertainment or profit purposes and offer little with regards to education and conservation,” he said.

“This is a global problem that is not being adequately addressed. I am concerned that this development is also profit driven.”

Mr. Neale and the A.F.A do not support zoos, or keeping wild animals in captivity unless they are rescued. 

Meeting the various welfare needs of wild animals is complicated, and every animal has different needs. 

“It is not possible for any captive facility to provide for all the physical, behavioural and psychological needs of the wild animals they house,” A.F.A states on their website.

“Sadly, all too often, wild animals suffer in zoos and other wildlife holding facilities throughout the region – and the world – living in the most appalling conditions, with no enrichment or stimulation, causing both physical and psychological suffering, often displayed as stereotypic behaviour such as repetitive pacing, bar-licking, rocking and head-bobbing.”

Mr. Neale said the bar for welfare conditions in zoos has been set, in a set of guidelines produced for the Vietnamese Government, which covers everything from nutrition to hygiene, record keeping to euthanasia.

The guidelines are built on the ‘five domains’ of animal welfare: nutrition, environment, health and behaviour, and the psychological health of the animal, and include eight prohibitions, including animal demonstrations and close contact encounters like photo opportunities.

Should Tupai’s proposed zoo go ahead, Mr Neale hopes it would adhere to those guidelines. 

“The zoo would need to have the resources, both financial and experienced animal managers and vets, needed to ensure that the animals can be placed into enclosures which are suitable for their specific physical and behavioural needs, and provided with good quality diets, health care, and appropriate enrichments,” he said. 

“The zoo should not allow any practices that cause animals to suffer for the sake of entertainment like circus shows or elephant riding.

“The zoo should also not breed animals but should offer sanctuary to wild animals that are in need of being rescued from situations that are currently causing them to suffer.”

A.F.A are sending their objections to the Government of Samoa next month. 

The South Pacific Animal Welfare organisation has also voiced its concerns. Lead veterinarian Dr. Geoff Neal said the welfare of animals in a zoo would “mirror” that of domestic animals; that is to say, it would be poor. 

And locally, Samoa’s Animal Protection Society, who started the online petition, are concerned that a lack of expertise on the island could mean unnessecary suffering for the animals.

Tupai intends to bring his own exotic animal veterinarian and elephant mahouts (carers), but President Joan Macfarlane said that may not be enough.

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