'A terrible mistake': Leading conservationist slams zoos for keeping animals in captivity

  • Damian Aspinall tells ITV Channel presenter Alex Spiceley that zoos are a "terrible mistake"

Leading conservationist Damian Aspinall says there is "no justification at all to keep animals in captivity".

He is Chair of the Aspinall Foundation, a global charity founded by his father John to protect endangered species.

Damian explains: "I think it's a very sad experience that any animal today is in captivity, we have to look back over the last 30 to 40 years and understand that it's been a terrible mistake.

"If you look at the 5,500 species in zoos, 95% are not critically endangered so why are they there?

"Then if you look at the critically endangered species, there's 45 of them and only four are viable. The rest of them are diseased, hybridised or genetically bottlenecked."

Damian was speaking following an ITV News investigation into Jersey Zoo that exposed allegations of animal welfare concerns and a "toxic workplace" culture.

Former senior staff members claim that the charity has moved away from its founder Gerald Durrell's vision of saving endangered animals.

Damian adds: "I urge all zoos to be honest with the public and if they're not doing conservation work then just be honest and say, 'look, we're a sanctuary for animals, there's no conservation value', or 'we're a business and we're here to put animals in captivity open to the public', but to mislead the public that they're doing great conservation work is simply not true."

"It's not just a question of the Durrell Zoo now no longer interested in conservation, I think it's very hard to justify that there's any conservation value in any zoo."

In response, Dr Mike Hudson, a Director at Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, says: "50% of the species at Jersey Zoo are classified as globally threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in updated figures as of April 2024."

Globally threatened species are categorised as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable to extinction on the IUCN red list.

Durrell also works globally to protect species and their habitats, such as black lion tamarins.

Fewer than 2,000 can be found in the wild so they are building a 'safety net' population at Jersey Zoo to stop them from becoming extinct.

They are also aiming to plant seven million trees by 2030 to restore the creature's home.

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