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Detroit Zoological Society leaders to share expertise with China's 3 biggest zoos

Center for Zoo Animal Welfare

Top officials from the Detroit Zoological Society are headed to Beijing, where they’ll lead a workshop for senior staff from China’s three largest zoos.

CEO Ron Kagan is touring the zoos in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou to scope out current animal care practices there.

Chief Life Sciences Officer Scott Carter says Kagan will brief the team on his findings in Beijing, so they have a good sense of where the Chinese zoos stand going into the four-day workshop.

The Zoological Society’s Center for Zoo Animal Welfare is recognized worldwide for its cutting-edge research on how animals experience life in captivity, and ways their human caretakers can minimize any negative impacts.

Carter says the program itself is unique. It aims to go beyond outlining best practices, and help zoo staff really see the world through animal eyes.

“It’s kind of a comprehensive approach to advancing animal welfare in zoos,” Carter says. “It’s not looking just at science, and it’s not looking just at policy. It’s looking at really everything that impacts how we are affecting animals in captivity.”

Historically, mainland Chinese zoos have a poor record when it comes to animal welfare. One researcher called conditions there “at least 50 years behind those in the rest of the industrialized world.”

But Carter says the Chinese Zoo Association is making a concerted effort to improve things. After Kagan spoke to the group last year, they expressed interest in bringing more Detroit Zoo-based staff to China for further education.

“They are also interested in taking that next step-- just like we do and many others do--to consider not just how we care for animals, but how we impact their welfare in doing it,” Carter says.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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