Exotic animals in captivity – speaker Q&A


Exotic animals are being increasingly kept in captivity for a variety of reasons, and with growing numbers of animals involved, we thought it was time to consider if captivity is meeting their welfare requirements at the next AWF Discussion Forum.
Zoo and Wildlife Medicine specialist, Romain Pizzi, who will be speaking during the debate at this year’s Discussion Forum, has taken the time to answer some of our questions about this important animal welfare topic:
AWF: What sparked your interest in the topic of exotic animals in captivity?
Romain: I work with a wide variety of wildlife organisations across five continents in a veterinary capacity, with extremely varied, often entrenched, ethical viewpoints on wild animals in captivity, largely uninformed by the actual animal welfare scientific evidence base.
AWF: Why is this topic particularly relevant now?
Romain: We live in what has been described as the Anthropocene, a time of rapid destruction of our natural world. Many species are facing extinction in the wild, but people are also concerned as to whether keeping wildlife in captivity achieves meaningful impacts in conservation, education and research, while adequately protecting these species’ welfare in captivity. As veterinarians we are scientists and the custodians of animal welfare and are ideally placed to help inform evidence-based decisions.
AWF: What are the key issues of your topic?
Romain: This topic is not about the philosophical ethics of keeping wildlife in captivity, but about whether we can meet their welfare needs. Ideally, welfare science can also help inform the larger ethical debate.
AWF: What are you hoping delegates will take away from your session?
Romain:  I am not aiming to alter anyone’s ethical viewpoint.  I would like attendees not to fall into the trap of confirmation bias, cherry-picking animal welfare scientific evidence to back an entrenched opinion, but rather to be open to assessing all the available evidence, and then using this to formulate their own individual views.
Find out more about the exotic animal welfare debate and the other Discussion Forum sessions.
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