::Some Food for Thought::
04/06, 1:56 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

My main stance against zoo animal cruelty is that if animal trainers had more knowledge and information about their field of study then they would feel more prepared and animals would start to get treated better. The AZA has tremendous power to amend certain requirements in order to keep the credited zoos up to par, and I believe that Bruce, being one of the heads of the organization, has the ability to persuade for change. By having a required animal/ trainer liaison position within each zoo, there main responsibility would be to monitor the guidelines set forth by the AZA. This would include training standards and behavior.

The biggest problem, it seems, that the zoos are having is that they pass the initial inspections to get certified, but there is not much follow up. While I do also propose that the AZA make random “undercover” inspections of various zoos, this new position will act as the eyes and ears of daily operations.

There is no excuse for animals to lash out against trainers/ viewers, but if the safety procedures and training standards were upheld, there may be a decrease over the years. This will also lead to a decrease in careless mistakes made by trainers. It is just important to remember that these animals are large and wild, so we as humans still need to approach them with caution. Jumping on the back of an animal called a “killer whale”? That is just asking for trouble!

Zoos do ultimately provide a good service though. I am not suggesting that zoos be eliminated because they provide many educational purposes. It is just important to maintain balance and be fair among both parties.


::It is just an illusion::
04/05, 9:17 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Are zoos good or bad for animals?

by Jennifer Horton

elephant stuck indoors
Elephants forced to stay indoors often succumb to debilitating boredom and severe foot problems.

For evidence of some zoo cons, you need look no further than Maggie the elephant. Until the Alaska Zoo finally caved in to public pressure in 2007, Maggie was forced to spend days on end in a small indoor enclosure because of the frigid outside temperatures. Perhaps as a form of protest, she refused to use the elephant-sized treadmill the zoo brought in to encourage her to exercise.

Even in optimal conditions, some experts contend, it’s incredibly difficult to provide for the needs of animals like elephants. If Maggie and her captive compatriots lived in the wild, they would wander as much as 30 miles (48 kilometers) a day in large groups, grazing on leaves and stopping to splash in the occasional watering hole. As it is, they’re lucky to get a few acres and a roommate or two.

Maggie’s story is just one of many.Zebras at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. starved to death because of insufficient or incorrect food, and the same zoo’s red pandas died after ingesting rat poison. And while many zoos, like those in the United States, are supposed to at least meet the minimum requirements spelled out in documents like the Animal Welfare Act, standards aren’t always adequate or enforced.

While conditions have improved from the years of bars and cages, detractors take issue with other items. Although the natural-looking habitats are certainly more attractive, people like David Hancocks, a zoo consultant and former zoo director, describe them as mere illusions, arguing that they’re not much of an improvement in terms of space. Indeed, many captive animals exhibit signs of severe distress: People have witnessed elephants bobbing their heads, bears pacing back and forth and wild cats obsessively grooming themselves.

For the entire article click here.

Although zoos are suppose to be monitored very closely by organizations such as the AZA, many things are often overlooked. It is very important that animal trainers are monitored closely to ensure proper treatment of animals. They can not fend for or speak for  themselves, so it is vital that they have someone to look out for their best interest.

::Qualifications of an Animal Trainer::
04/05, 12:44 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Job Description of Animal Trainers:

Animal trainers use various techniques to train animals for riding, security, performance, obedience, or assisting people with disabilities.

Employment Facts for Animal Trainers:

10,020 people worked as animal trainers in 2006.

Educational Requirements for Animal Trainers:

Although in most cases animal trainers need to have a high school diploma or general equivalency diploma (GED) equivalent, some animal trainers must have a bachelor’s degree and additional skills. Marine mammal trainers, for example, generally need a bachelor’s degree in biology, marine biology, animal science, psychology, or a related field.

Other Requirements for Animal Trainers:

Animal trainers must be patient and sensitive. They should have experience with problem-solving and animal obedience. While animal trainers aren’t required to have certification, several organizations offer training programs and certification for those who want to enter this field.

click here to view the entire website.

Example Job Descriptions for Animal Trainers:

Saint Louis Zoo –>

The animals at the Saint Louis Zoo are trained through positive reinforcement. Through training animals voluntarily participate in doctors’ visits, allow general housekeeping in their area and work with keepers while getting a pedicure or shower. Achieving these tasks through trained behaviors requires a devoted trainer, a well-prepared plan and a motivated “student.” The motivation (or the reinforcement) can be food such as produce, bread or browse, or it can be tactile, such as brushing or scratching. Many animals are also motivated by the mental exercise and special attention during training sessions.

Training allows keepers and veterinarians to do their jobs more safely and easily. It also allows animals to receive the best care possible through their own willing involvement in the process. While training is often used to perform husbandry tasks, it is also enriching for the animals. It provides a challenge for them and offers them the opportunity to earn a reward that they find worthwhile. Training is rapidly becoming a vital tool in animal care.

Chessington Zoo –>

Your challenge…

Main responsibilities include:

– Maintain a high level of animal husbandry on the Section

– Provide relevant training to designated stock to present animals in an enjoyable and informative way

– Maintain training of stock, and initiate ideas and training

– Ensure the Health and Safety of self, internal and external customers

– Maintain a constant level of work in the Section with a view to public appreciation

– Ensure our guests feel immersed into interactive, educational and informative talks and displays of natural behaviour

– Monitor levels of food stores and supplies to minimise wastage.

– Work closely with the Head of Section to ensure sharing of best practices and consistency of procedures and processes across Park wherever possible

What you’ll bring…

– Our ideal candidate will have/be:

– Excellent communication skills

– Willing to share their enthusiasm with members of the public and other staff members.

– Able to deliver to our guests in a clear, confident and enjoyable manner Diving qualifications are preferred.

– Ability to operate in a calm and professional manner when under pressure Dedicated, hard working and a team player.

– At least 2 years professional animal training/care experience in a zoo or aquarium setting however consideration will be given to applicants with a demonstrated background of animal care.


Currently the animal training profession is growing rapidly, yet there are no set guidelines as to what the qualifications are in order to become an animal trainer. Most trainers only need at most a GED, while some zoos do require a bachelor degree. Many websites have said that the best way to get experience is in the field. While this may be true, if the trainers do not have in depth knowledge of the animals they are working with then they can not fully understand them. It is important that they learn different traits, characteristics, history, and instincts of they animal they are working/ training with so they can utilize different training techniques. It will benefit the trainer because it will keep them safer and they will be more prepared when training. They will not make careless mistakes, and therefore the number of attacks on trainers may decrease.

I think it is important that the AZA try and set some uniform guidelines for qualification of different trainers. This way the liability will not be as high, and it will be easier to maintain the standards for trainers. Some action needs to be taken, and many of the deadly attacks may have been preventable if the staff was more educated. It may seems as if it is a very large step and process to go through, but in the long run it will be beneficial to many.


::Reindeer attacks zoo keepers in Antwerp Zoo::
04/04, 11:11 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

This is a very disturbing video filmed in Antwerp Zoo. It shows a keeper, who had obviously not being paying attention, being attacked by a rutting reindeer.

This is the perfect example of how a trainer should not act when handling a dangerous and wild animal. Reindeers are strong, aggressive animals and when a trainer is working with them it is very important to pay attention and remain alert. During this video, you will see that the animal trainer does not act in a professional manner, and does not know how to react when a deer has approached her. After the deer pokes and begins to attack the zookeeper, the zookeeper grabs him by the horns, and lays down on the ground. She continues to harass the animal for an extended period of time, when another male keepers approaches and starts hitting the deer on the head with a shovel.  This is completely unprofessional, unethical, and immoral to the animal. These trainers were obviously not well trained and were unsupervised. Lucky, they were not seriously injured, but the situation could have easily taken a turn for the worse.

View the video and decide for yourself. This is not a proper procedure and is completely unacceptable. There is a lot of unseen action taken “behind the scenes” at zoos, which is why the AZA really needs to take initiative and maintain some sort of control. Luckily, this attack was caught on video, but there are many incidents that gone unseen by the public. A zoo should be a place where both humans and animals can thrive and benefit from. Humans get the chance to be up close with exotic animals and learn more about them and the animals get to be punished and treated horribly? This does not seem like a fair compromise.


::SF Zoo Mauling::
04/03, 9:52 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

At the San Francisco Zoo, there were two reported tiger attacks in 2006 and 2007 that resulted in severe injuries and even a death. Both of the attacks involved a Siberian tiger named Tatiana. The first attack happened to a zookeeper that was severely bitten on the arm during a public feeding, and the second, to a pair of onlookers, one resulting in death.

First attack: zookeeper injured

During a public feeding on December 22, 2006, Tatiana clawed and bit veteran zookeeper, Lori Komejan’s arm which was pulled between the cage bars. Komejan’s right arm was severely injured as a result. The California Occupational Safety and Health Administration later found the zoo at fault due to inadequate safety precautions and inadequate staff training. The San Francisco Zoo was fined $18,000 for the incident. The Zoo decided not to euthanize Tatiana after the attack on Komejan because, in the words of the zoo’s then-director Manuel Mollinedo, “the tiger was acting as a normal tiger does.”

Second attack: injuries and fatality

On December 25, 2007, Tatiana escaped from her open-air enclosure at the San Francisco Zoo and attacked three visitors shortly after closing time. After escaping from the tiger grotto, Tatiana killed one patron, Carlos Eduardo Sousa Jr., aged 17, and injured two others, Amritpal “Paul” and Kulbir Dhaliwal, brothers aged 19 and 23. The brothers fled to the zoo cafe approximately 300 yards (270 m) away and, according to initial reports, left a trail of blood that the tiger followed. Paul Dhaliwal, 19, began screaming outside the locked Terrace Cafe, prompting an employee to call 9-1-1 at 5:07 pm.

Police response was initially delayed, in part because cafe personnel who called the police voiced suspicions that perhaps the allegations of an animal attack were being made by a mentally unstable person. When the police and fire crews arrived at the zoo, they were further delayed by zoo security guards who were enforcing a lockdown so that the tiger would not escape the zoo grounds.

Carlos Sousa was found near the tiger grotto by a zoo employee who remained with him until rescue crews arrived. The scene was chaotic, and as late as 13 minutes after the initial 9-1-1 call, police officers and fire department paramedics reached Carlos Sousa’s body and found his throat slashed or punctured. His autopsy later revealed that he had blunt force injuries of the head and neck, many punctures and scratches to his head, neck and chest, skull and spinal fractures, and a cut to his jugular vein.

When four police officers and a zoo shooting team member reached the tiger, they found her with one of the brothers, Kulbir Dhaliwal. They did not shoot Tatiana immediately, according to the SF police chief, because they could not be assured of “contain[ing] their fire” without risk to human life. After distraction, the tiger turned towards the officers and was shot and killed.

The Dhaliwal brothers received deep bites and claw wounds on their heads, necks, arms, and hands. Their injuries were not life-threatening, and they were released from the hospital on December 29, 2007.


These types of incidents could have easily been avoided. After the first attack, it was reported that the staff was poorly trained, and adequate safety precautions were not in place. We have to remember that these are wild animals that have wild instincts, so if zookeepers and trainers are not properly certified and credited, the very harmful accidents can occur. In this case, the first attack did not result in death, but the second one did. A red flag should have been raised when the first attack occurred, but according to the zoo official, the tiger was just “acting like tigers act”. This is when the AZA needs to step in and take action.

Animal trainers should be able to feel safe and prepared when dealing with these massive animals. Workers also have to be trained in proper procedures and steps to take when an attack does take place. In the second attack, it took over 13 minutes for police to reach the attacked victim. This zoo was obviously not prepared and suffered legal issue as a result.

Source [Wikipedia]


::What is the Association of Zoos and Aquariums?::
04/02, 6:24 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, education, science, and recreation. AZA is made up of various board members from zoos and aquariums across the country who provides accreditation to other zoos and aquariums. Currently there are approximately 221 accredited zoos and aquariums in the United States. In AZA, “accreditation” means official recognition and approval of a zoo or aquarium by a group of experts. These experts, called the AZA Accreditation Commission, carefully examine each zoo or aquarium that applies for AZA membership.

Only those zoos and aquariums that meet their high standards can become members of AZA. Credited zoos must apply and pay for membership in order to be considered. There is an extensive checklist and examination process that the zoo must go through before they become credited. AZA has the power to amend and change aspects of the member requirements, and can therefore create mandatory training and/ or additional positions within the corporate structure.

Some projects AZA has done recently ——————————————-

Over the last five years, AZA-accredited institutions supported more than 3,700 conservation projects with $70,000,000 annually in more than 100 countries. In addition, zoo and aquarium scientists contribute to hundreds of conservation, biology, and veterinary science publications.

AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums are leaders in the protection of endangered species. Twenty years ago, AZA established the Species Survival Plan Program™ (SSP), which is a long-term plan involving conservation breeding, habitat preservation, public education, field conservation, and supportive research to ensure survival for many of the planet’s threatened and endangered species. Currently, AZA members are involved in 116 SSPs working on behalf of 172 species.

Highly-trained staff at AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums are providing excellent care for more than 800,000 animals. As part of AZA’s mandatory accreditation process, AZA members meet rigorous professional standards for animal welfare, veterinary care, wildlife conservation, scientific research, education, expert staffing, and safety.

AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums enhance local and regional economies, collectively generating $8.4 billion in annual economic activity and supporting more than 126,000 jobs.

In the last 10 years, AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums formally trained more that 400,000 teachers, supporting science curricula with effective teaching materials and hands-on opportunities. School field trips connected more than 12,000,000 students with the natural world.


The AZA has provided a lot of beneficial aspects for zoos and zoo animals, and although they do have a very extensive examination process, I believe that they need to maintain it throughout the years. They examine each zoo at the initial time of membership, but I really believe that they need to conduct random checks on zoo procedures to make sure they are upholding these guidelines.


::Animal Stimulation::
04/01, 8:05 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Many zoos today incorporate what is called “animal stimulation” into their daily training routines. Trainers create specialized activities for the zoo animals that mimic different behaviors they would experience in the wild. These activities are designed to enhance their natural instincts. While in theory animal stimulation are good ideas, I believe that they can be much more effective. If the trainers had a better understanding and first hand experience of how the animals acted out in the wild, then they could create more engaging activities. I think that zoos should train their trainers to know every in, out, and trait of the animal they are training. Each trainer should focus specifically on their animal species and have to pass a number of various testing to make sure they are up to par. They should observe them in the wild. There is also a lot that of new information that is discovered each year about different animals, so they should also be required to remain up to date on their training. Each trainer should have a specific focus and specialize on a  species, but must also have knowledge of the other animals. An annual certification process can be a potential option, when trying to maintain trainer standards.

By setting high standards and requirements for animal trainers, we can avoid careless mistakes at zoos, and avoid harmful or potential deadly situations. The trainers will be able to understand their animals better and will be more cautious when training. They will be able to understand where their limits lie and not push them to the point where they eventually lash out. It will also help stimulation. In the video below, they demonstrate different animal activities. They are simple mimics right now, and with more extensive training, more scientific and realistic activities can be created.

To view animal stimulation video click here.