WAZA releases statement on Tiger King documentary

The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the global alliance of regional associations, national federations, zoos and aquariums, has released a statement on Netflix’s Tiger King documentary.

The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) has released a statement on the popular Netflix documentary series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness. This true-crime series follows Joe Exotic, a “roadside zoo” owner in the US.

The documentary sheds light on some of the poor standards of this type of attraction, as well as the issue of keeping exotic animals such as tigers as pets. WAZA would like to distance both itself and its members from this type of roadside zoo. It asks that people only visit zoos and aquariums that are members of WAZA and/or one of its recognised associations.

High standards

The association asks these roadside zoos to look to the standard shown by WAZA members, and consider changing in order to meet the welfare requirements of the animals under their care. The WAZA community is full of experts, resources, strategies and manuals that can help guide below-par attractions to improve.

While roadside zoos and other types of attraction shown in the documentary are often purely profit-driven, a good zoo or aquarium also plays a vital role in conservation and education. A visit to an accredited zoo supports this work.

“All WAZA members and accredited members of WAZA regional and national associations are held to high standards of animal welfare and care, and participate in both in situ and ex situ conservation efforts around the world,” reads the WAZA statement.

“Our members play an important role in education and in connecting people with nature and wildlife, while also tackling some of the world’s leading sustainability issues such as plastic pollution, illegal wildlife trade and sustainable palm oil.”

An ongoing commitment

As part of WAZA’s commitment to improving animal welfare standards around the world, it has set an animal welfare goal. This states that by 2023:

  • WAZA national and regional associations must have an animal welfare evaluation process in place and the process must include specific elements approved by WAZA.
  • All WAZA institutional members must be compliant with this process.

Keeping wild animals as pets

At several points in Tiger King, the series shows tigers and other wild animals being kept as pets, which WAZA points out is problematic and unethical.

In the statement, WAZA says that it “does value efforts in which animals are kept in professional private hands for conservation purposes aligned with the One Plan Approach to Conservation. But wild animals should not be privately kept as pets. This poses significant animal welfare concerns and is highly dangerous both to the animals and people.”

The exotic animal trade causes wild animals to be taken from their habitats and sold to private owners, where they are often kept in unsuitable and dangerous conditions. WAZA calls for this illegal trade to be stopped.

WAZA also recently announced the appointment of Dr Martín Zordan as CEO. Zordan has been acting as the association’s Interim CEO for the previous 12 months