Regional animal welfare organisation says no to proposed zoo

New Zealand-based South Pacific Animal Welfare has come out strongly against Samoa having a zoo on its shores with its head veterinarian expressing concern about animal welfare.

The organisation's head veterinarian and Chairman, Dr. Geoff Neal, said he has genuine concerns about the animal’s welfare.

The man behind the zoo plan, Tupa’i Bruno Loyale, has bit back against concerns in a letter published in Tuesday’s Samoa Observer. 

He said climate and the welfare of animals are “paramount,” adding that he will have a specialised animal veterinarian and two mahouts (elephant carers) living at the zoo 24/7. 

“Indonesia (where Tupa’i intends to buy animals from) averages 31 degrees Celsius and Samoa 28, so that is much better and cooler than where they have been born and raised,” Tupa’i said.

Despite this, Dr. Neal remains convinced a zoo in Samoa is not a good idea and says zoos are becoming out of date, and should only be used as a conservation breeding programs.

And Samoa’s on-island veterinarian staff may be too few to support the zoo’s full time staff should anything go awry.

“The skills, experience, facilities, medications and equipment needed to deal with captive wildlife is vastly different to what is needed to deal with cats and dogs or livestock. 

“Add to this the costs involved in obtaining these medications and equipment is not small. Where is this money coming from? There are concerns that the welfare of the zoo animals will mirror that of the domestic animals in Samoa.

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Dr Neal said zoos around the world are closing because of a “lack of planning and expertise,” and asked: “Why would Samoa be any different?”

Since 2010, S.P.A.W has worked in the region with a pool of volunteer veterinarians to help clinics in the Pacific. At the end of July, they are coming to Samoa with NZ$20,000 worth of medicines and the professional skills of four veterinarians and four veterinarian nurses for a week.

These volunteers are not experts in captive exotic wildlife and may not be able to help if Samoa’s zoo animals are sick or injured, Dr Neal said.

He worried the animals Tupa’i intends to bring are not ideal for a tropical climate, though they are all allegedly coming from Indonesia.

“Desert camels, tropical macaws, savannah zebra and European deer; mixing species with different requirements means no one is getting the correct care,” he said.

Finally, Dr Neal also expressed his concern that any negative images of the zoo would spread rapidly around the world, negatively affecting Samoa’s tourism.

“A zoo going bad and animals suffering or looking poorly puts Samoa’s tourism reputation at significant risk.

“People don’t like images of sick or neglected animals, and the internet is a rapid way of disseminating people’s dislike around the world.”

In his letter, Tupa’i maintained the zoo would be a hearty boost to tourism. As well as the zoo, he wishes to build an amusement park with 14 rides for adults and children.

“It will have various ongoing shows, both circus/acrobatic oriented and Samoan cultural exhibitions, and be a showcase for local musicians, all in addition to being our training area for new circus acts from Samoa that will go to European circuses,” he said. 

“Tourists and especially those with children are always looking for a place to enjoy and have fun. A safe place with fun rides, shows and animals will definitely be a highlight to thousands of tourists and even bring more tourists to Samoa.”

S.P.A.W was founded in 2010 to provide veterinary care and desexing programmes to animals living on islands in the South Pacific. They conduct desexing for dogs and cats, livestock care, varying surgical procedures, and vaccines and parasite care. S.P.A.W is a registered charity in New Zealand.

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