Policy and Guidelines on Animal Welfare and Ethics

This policy outlines the procedure and ethics that Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) and its subsidiary institutions: Jurong Bird Park (JBP), Night Safari (NS), River Safari (RS) and Singapore Zoo (SZ) will adhere to in its undertakings for captive management and husbandry of all specimens in its animal collection. The following document has been adapted from the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), of which all subsidiary institutions of WRS are members.

The basic guiding principles for all staff of WRS and its subsidiary institutions, JBP, NS, RS and SZ, are:

  1. Assisting in achieving the conservation and survival of species must be the aim of all staff members of WRS. Any actions taken in relation to an individual animal, eg euthanasia or contraception, must be undertaken with this higher ideal of species survival in mind, but the welfare of the individual animal should not be compromised.
  2. To continually improve standards of animal welfare based on latest best practice and available information and guidelines from other organisations, and ensure the proper welfare of all animals in our care.
  3. Promote the interests of wildlife conservation, biodiversity and animal welfare to colleagues and to society at large.
  4. Encourage research and dissemination of achievements and results from work done at WRS institutions, in appropriate publications and forums.
  5. Promote public education and awareness programmes and activities.
  6. Co-operate with the wider conservation community including wildlife agencies, conservation organisations and research institutions to assist in maintaining global biodiversity.

At all times all staff members of WRS and its subsidiary institutions, JBP, NS and SZ, will act in accordance with all national and international law and will strive for the highest standards of operation in all areas including the following:

1. Animal Welfare

All staff members are expected to exercise the highest standards of animal welfare and to encourage these standards in others. We will ensure that all animals in our care are treated with the utmost care and their welfare should be paramount at all times. Any legislated codes for animal welfare in Singapore should be regarded as minimum standards. Appropriate animal husbandry practices must be in place and sound veterinary care available. When an animal has no reasonable quality of life, it should be euthanased quickly and without suffering. Training staff to the highest level possible represents one method of ensuring this aim.

2. Use of Animals from JBP, NS and SZ

Where "wild" animals are used in presentations, these presentations must: (a) deliver a sound conservation message, or be of other educational value, (b) focus on natural behaviour, (c) not demean or trivialise the animal in any way.

If there is any indication that the welfare of the animal is being compromised, the presentation should be brought to a conclusion. When not being used for presentations, the “off-exhibit” or “behind-the-scenes” areas must allow the animal sufficient space to express natural behaviour and should contain adequate items for behavioural enrichment.

All use of animals for public interaction and contact must be in accordance with the WRS Policy on Animal Shows, Contact and Training that has been reviewed and passed by the WRS Welfare and Ethics Committee (AWEC) on 31 July 2004.

While this policy and guidelines focus on "wild" animals, the welfare of domestic animals, eg, sheep, goats, horses, etc, which are used for public interactions and activities, should not be compromised.

3. Exhibit Standards

All exhibits must be of such size and volume as to allow the animal to express its natural behaviour. Enclosures must contain sufficient material to allow behavioural enrichment and allow the animal to express natural behaviours. The animals should have areas to which they may retreat and separate facilities should be available to allow separation of animals where necessary, eg, cubbing dens, night quarters etc. At all times animals should be protected from conditions detrimental to their well-being and the appropriate husbandry standards adhered to.

4. Acquisition of Animals

All acquisitions of animals by JBP, NS and SZ, must be in accordance with the WRS Animal Acquisition Policy that has been reviewed and passed by the WRS Welfare and Ethics Committee (AWEC) on 8 Nov 2003.

5. Transfer of Animals

All transfer and relocation of animals by JBP, NS and SZ, must be in accordance with the WRS Animal Relocation Policy that has been reviewed and passed by the WRS Welfare and Ethics Committee (AWEC) on 8 Nov 2003.

6. Contraception

Contraception may be used wherever there is a legitimate need for reasons of population management. The possible side effects of both surgical and chemical contraception, as well as the negative impact on behaviour, should be considered before the final decision to implement contraception is made.

7. Euthanasia

Euthanasia should always be considered in preference to keeping an animal alive under conditions which do not allow it to experience an appropriate quality of life. When all options have been investigated and the decision is taken that it is necessary to euthanise an animal, care will be taken to ensure it is carried out in a manner that ensures a quick death without suffering. Whenever possible a post-mortem examination should be performed and biological material preserved within Singapore, for research and gene conservation.

8. Mutilation

Mutilation of any animal for cosmetic purpose, or to change the physical appearance of the animal, is not acceptable. Pinioning of birds for educational or management purposes should only be undertaken when no other form of restraint is feasible and marking animals for identification should always be carried out under professional supervision, in a way that minimises suffering.

9. Research Using Zoo Based Animals

JBP, NS and SZ should be actively involved in appropriate research and other scientific activities regarding their animals and distribute the results to colleagues. When undertaking research involving the use of animals, a properly constituted research committee should be formed and all procedures should be approved by the WRS Animal Welfare and Ethics Committee (AWEC) in accordance with the AVA guidelines.

Invasive procedures designed to assist in medical research are not to be performed on animals in WRS. However the opportunistic collection of tissues during routine procedures and collection of material from cadavers will, in most cases, be appropriate. Cooperation with universities and other reputable scientific institutions, that is consistent with these guidelines, both nationally and internationally, should be encouraged.

The well-being of the individual animal and the preservation of the species and biological diversity should be paramount and uppermost in mind when deciding upon the appropriateness of research to be undertaken.

10. Release-to-the-Wild Programmes

All release-to-the wild programmes must be conducted in accordance with the IUCN/ SSC/Reintroduction Specialist Group guidelines for reintroduction. This excludes the collaborative release (with NParks) of indigenous animals confiscated / donated by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore(AVA) and Singapore Police Force (SPF). No release-to-the-wild programmes shall be undertaken without the animals having undergone a thorough veterinary examination to assess their fitness for such release and that their welfare post-release is reasonably safeguarded. A monitoring programme with partnering organisations should be established and maintained as far as possible. In carrying out the release-to-the-wild programme, WRS should consult and coordinate with NParks and inform the WRS Animal Welfare and Ethics Committee (AWEC), and should be guided by the welfare of the animal and the impact of the release on the environment.

11. Escapes to the Wild

Every effort should be made to prevent the escape of animals and plants of alien species.

12. Deaths of Animals Whilst in Care

Unless there are sound reasons not to do so, each animal which dies in captivity, or during a release to the wild programme, should undergo post-mortem examination and have the cause of death ascertained.

13. External Wild Animal Welfare Issues

WRS and its subsidiary institutions JBP, NS and SZ abhor and condemn ill-treatment of and cruelty to any animal. We support the following:

  • The taking of animals and other natural resources from the wild must be sustainable and in compliance with national and international law and conform to the appropriate IUCN policy.
  • Any international trade in wild animals and animal products must be in compliance with CITES and the national legislation of the countries involved.
  • We oppose the illegal and unsustainable taking of animals and other natural resources from the wild, eg for bush meat, corals, fur or skin, traditional medicine, timber production.
  • We oppose the illegal trade in wild animals and wild animal products.
  • We oppose cruel and non-selective methods of taking animals from the wild.
  • We oppose the collecting for, or stocking of animal exhibits, with the expectation of high mortality.
  • We oppose the use, or supply of animals for “canned hunting”, ie shooting animals in confined spaces, or when semi-tranquilised or restrained.
  • We oppose keeping and transporting of animals under inadequate conditions, eg, the keeping of bears in confinement for extraction of bile, dancing bears, roadside zoos or circuses / entertainment.