Zoo Outreach Organization &
Wildlife Information Liaison Development


Zoo Legislation

Legislation Update



Zoo Legislation comes in many forms and varieties.  Zoo Legislation with a capital "L" refers to actual laws and acts of government regarding the setting up, administration, monitoring, quality, safety and other aspects of captive wild animal facilities.  Zoo legislation in its greater meaning could include zoo standards and guidelines created by anyone, from its own local board or municipality.  It can, and should, include the many national and regional zoo association Codes of Ethics, guidelines, individual taxon group standards, accreditation procedures, etc.  Zoo legislation, or one might say the "looking out for" or regulation of zoos is as complex and varied as are captive wild animal facilities themselves and the cities, countries and regions where they are located.  

There are many countries now that have actual Zoo Legislation, with written laws under local, state and even national government which demand compliance or the facing of a penalty.  The most dramatic example of Zoo Legislation would be, perhaps, that of the European Union which controls the zoos of a whole continent.  Zoo legislation can also come in and under other legislation such as Wildlife Acts and Animal Welfare Acts.  Often a few lines or paragraphs in Wildlife or Welfare evolves into a separate and detailed piece of legislation.  

There are also countries in which the zoos took control of their standards and instituted a means of regulating themselves, before government could come in and, in its often ham-handed manner, create legislation which would neither regulate irregularities efficiently but also impede progress.  The American Zoo Association (AZA) is the best example of this situation.  Its standards and inspection procedure is more rigorous than that of any governmental legislation.  This method works in a culture where peer pressure regarding both quality and ethics overrides any other consideration.  More and more, national and regional zoo associations are taking charge of their zoos' standards because zoo professionals are increasingly aware that bad zoos reflect badly on all zoos.  

There are plenty of countries which do not have any legislation or which want to review and revise their legislation.  When a country wants to create legislation, they must go through a tedious process of writing to zoo associations and governments in many countries to ask them for a copy of their zoo act, or their association standards, or guidelines for this and that.   The zoos which receive these requests (probably) always comply, but it must be a botheration, both to the requesting zoo if they have to wait for various countries to reply, and to the zoos which have to dig out a copy of the their legislation and send it.  Thereby the reason for this website module.  Ultimately we hope to have the zoo legislation of every country displayed here.  Not just Legislation but also all the associated matters - association constitutions (at least links to these), animal standards, etc.  We can do this only if people help us.  

Currently we have enough to begin with several regions, South Asia, South East Asia, Australia, and a bit on East Asia and Africa.  Individual countries and states within these regions have much more legislation and rules than we have been able to collect ... and believe me, we have tried hard to collect it !

For some regions and countries, nothing like actual legislation is available so we have included whatever we could get that is related to monitoring the keeping, care and disposal of captive wild animals.  Some of this is taken from notes or interviews or emails from different zoo people.  Also, some countries, such as Singapore, have such a wealth of legislation related to captive animal maintenance that it would overwhelm our site.  However, when we get a copy of individual laws, we will include them.

Another type of material is that having to do with Associations.  We have gone on the assumption that people would prefer this now to waiting for actual government legislation, which would take many years.  In any case, it is often zoo associations which catalyze zoo legislation.  An example of that is happening as we write in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where the Dhaka Zoo organized a meeting of the South Asian Zoo Association and in connection with that meeting, formed an association of Bangladesh Zoos and made an Action Plan for a Zoo Act for Bangladesh.  The Report of that Working group is included in the section on Bangladesh, under the Bangladesh wildlife legislation.  When their zoo legislation is passed, this report will be removed and the legislation substituted.

The idea of assembling zoo legislation in one place came about when I was asked to write about the Zoo Legislation of South Asia, where I work in India, for the Encyclopedia of the World's Zoos.  This was understandable that they should ask me because having lived there and been involved with the zoos, I could do this with relative ease.  After  turning in the essay, the Editor requested me to do South East Asia, however.  This was harder.  Then East Asia - very difficult, made possible only because there is probably no legislation for most of these countries.  Living in Asia as I do, I did not question being asked for any of these regions.  Then came a request for Australia, Africa, Europe, South America and Eastern Europe !  I began to understand that there is a problem !  In trying to research these essays via email I collected many bits and pieces but could not complete some regions.

Then the Central Zoo Authority, who was beginning to revise their Zoo Act and Zoo Rules, requested me to compile some information on specific aspects of zoo legislation and I got the idea for a web module.  I first checked with several big zoo organizations to see if anyone else was in the process of doing this and, surprisingly,  no one was doing this systematically.

So here is a beginning.  I have covered some of the most difficult regions first, with whatever I have.  The next most difficult regions are South America and Africa.

If you are involved with zoos, I request you to please help with this potentially very useful project by providing your own country or state zoo legislation.  As time goes on we will make this module more useful and more organized.  For now, a start is required and this is it.  

I would like to thank the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare for providing funding for assistance and extra web space and Dr. U.S. Seal, of the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group for writing a letter of endorsement for me to send zoos and governments when asking for material.

Much legislation is on the web already and we will try and link into that for additional detail.

We are including old legislation as well as new because some of the countries which are framing their legislation for the first time may be more comfortable with the wording of earlier documents.  The United Kingdom has had legislation for a long time and we will put all of it up in due course.

We welcome any additions, comments, compliments and criticism for this site.  We also request your patience and understanding.  I am sure there are many better ways of organizing this material and we will improve in time.

Please send all zoo legislation you can collect to zooreach@zooreach.org.  Thanks in advance.

Sally Walker, Founder / Secretary
Zoo Outreach Organization
Convenor, CPSG, South Asia