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AZA petition

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Full text of petition to Jackie Ogden, PhD, Board Chair, Association of Zoos and Aquariums

Publish an Animal Care Manual for Orcinus Orca

See and sign the petition HERE.

This petition requests the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to:

Publish forthwith an Animal Care Manual specifically for Orcinus Orca

Publish a protocol and timeline for rehabilitation and release to sea pens or to the wild, of all individuals of the species Orcinus Orca held by its members

Suspend the accreditation of members possessing Orcinus Orca until re-accredited under the standards provided in the Animal Care Manual specific to Orcinus Orca. Furthermore, accreditation must be contingent on member acceptance and implementation of the protocol and timeline for rehabilitation and release.

We the petitioners recognize the critical mission the Association of Zoos and Aquariums has fulfilled in maintaining the highest standards of animal care among its members and further in keeping the focus of zoos and aquariums on the important public issues of education, conservation, animal rescue, and preservation of endangered species.

Captivity of orcas at SeaWorld parks is inconsistent with AZA standards and show performances undermine the AZA's educational standards. AZA housing guidelines outlined in the Animal Care Manuals should be applied to Orcinus orca expeditiously and followed appropriately:

10.3.3. All animal enclosures (exhibits, holding areas, hospital, and quarantine/isolation) must be of a size and complexity sufficient to provide for the animal's physical, social, and psychological well-being; and exhibit enclosures must include provisions for the behavioral enrichment of the animals.

The AZA has completed Animal Care Manuals for 22 species or genera and another 18 in progress. These manuals provide accreditation criteria. In the case of elephants, for example, there is a 27-page section built directly within The Accreditation Standards and Related Policies, 2015 edition, titled "AZA Standards for Elephant Management and Care."

Given that orcas are significantly larger than elephants, at least as intelligent and emotionally complex, and have more complex societies, it is incredible that there is no Animal Care Manual specific to Orcinus Orca.

Accreditation issued in the absence of any published standard is suspect. This is especially true where the species involved is the focus of intense public attention. The AZA needs to protect its integrity and image by employing standards consistently, subject to transparency, and traceable to independent recognized authority.

1. The AZA must expeditiously publish an Animal Care Manual specific to Orcinus Orca. The committee responsible for creating this ACM should be made up of a majority membership of nationally recognized orca experts who are independent of the AZA member organizations possessing orcas. Given that orcas in natural habitats range continuously over a hundred miles each 24 hours as members of large and complex communities comprised of extended families, a consensus of independent orca experts is likely to conclude that orcas are inherently unsuitable for captivity in manufactured tanks.

Based on improved understanding of orca natural history, public opinion against orca captivity has grown significantly in recent years and can be expected to continue growing.

2. The AZA must develop a responsible protocol and timeline for the restoration of orcas owned by its members to wild and natural conditions to the extent practical for all individuals of the species Orcinus Orca owned by its members. Release may be to sea pens or to the wild, as judged most efficacious for the individual orca. This step is necessary for the AZA to maintain its image of integrity and to promote the highest standards of animal care and conservation.

3. A) The AZA must suspend the accreditation of members owning or housing Orcinus Orca until re-accredited under the standards provided in the Animal Care Manual specific to Orcinus Orca. B) Further re-accreditation must be contingent on the member organization formally accepting and implementing the protocol for rehabilitation and release, and following the timeline.

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