Stop the cruelty in Bulgarian zoos
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A lion suffering from rachitis rotts in a small, dark cell, without sunlight
We are asking for your help to raise awareness about the idleness of the Bulgarian authorities regarding serious violations Bulgarian and European legal standards on animal protection at the Zoo in the town of Razgrad, Bulgaria (Razgrad Zoo) which have led to cruel and inhuman treatment of the animals there.
These are the facts:
Contrary to European and Bulgarian laws, the Razgrad Zoo has not registered as a holding. As a result, for the animal health and welfare control authority, namely the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency (BFSA), this site does not exist and hence is not subject to control.
This same site also does not have a valid license which should have been issued by the Bulgarian oversight body for animals in zoos - the Ministry of Environment and Water (MOEW).
This site would not have existed at all if the control bodies had done their tasks in accordance with the law.
During the non-licensed period (3 years), no effective on-site supervisory visits have been carried out at the Razgrad Zoo by the BFSA (the control body tasked with implementing the Animal Protection Act and the Veterinary Medicine Act). The lack of effective on-site supervisory visits persists despite numerous reports of inhumane treatment of animals submitted by various animal welfare organizations.
This outrageous omission of the competent state authorities has led to a series of gross violations at the Razgrad Zoo:
• There are 3 lions and 2 lionesses at the zoo and yet the conditions do not even meet the mandatory minimum standards laid down in the EU Council Directive 1999/22/EC (‘Zoos Directive’) and its national transposition law.
• These lions have a close blood relationship- they are brothers and sisters from previous generations. Incest in such a direct blood line is too dangerous. Nevertheless, their inbreeding has not been prevented and occurred multiple times.
• One lion is severely ill. This is the young lion Asen, born in Razgrad in 2014. The lion lives in a closed area of approximately 3x3m, without access to daylight and without the possibility to access the outer enclosure. The lion has developed a very severe form of rickets, and most likely other diseases as well. Due to the moisture, lack of sunlight, poor conditions and lack of veterinary care, the animal has in fact been mutilated. In 2016 the lion was transferred to another zoo but was returned to the Razgrad Zoo after being diagnosed. Now more than a year since the diagnosis, there is no evidence of any treatment. As a result, Asen’s condition has worsened and currently he is unable to lift his rear body. He lives in his prison, mutilated and in the dark, roaring with pain and fear because of irresponsibility and indifference. Instead of providing access to sunlight, vitamins and physical movement, the zoo manager confined him to a small, dark and damp cell.
• The zoo's dispensary is a small dark room with a table, several shelves on the wall with some bottles on them. According to the public registers, there is currently no operating dispensary nor a practicing veterinary doctor on site. A retired veterinarian, who was deprived of her legal capacity to practice, used to be appointed at the Razgrad Zoo, to formally satisfy the legal requirement, merely on paper. No evidence of any veterinary care for animals has been provided: no evidence of any treatment, veterinary manipulations nor the compulsory rabies vaccine for animals in Bulgaria. There are no medical records and no documents regarding the animals at all.
• Most animals in the zoo have not been formally identified (i.e. tagged) and have no records.
• The zoo is located within 20m of a busy and noisy football stadium. The stress from the noise, we believe, is extremely harmful for the animals, and constitutes cruel treatment.
• Every autumn, on the territory of the zoo, a city fair with stalls, loud music and various forms of entertainment takes place right in front of the animal's cages.
• On 08.09.2017 during the annual fair, 3m away from the stalls, the young lioness begins to give birth. There is no staff at this hour to provide any assistance. In the presence of families with children, the lioness, stressed by the noisy event, gives birth to 3 lion cubs, but afterwards rejects them. The male lion tramples over 2 of the lion cubs. Soon after that, one of them dies from its injuries. Witnesses alert the Razgrad Zoo's management about these events. The lion cubs are then moved to a veterinary practice, which, in turn, sends them to the Wildlife Foundation in Sofia for specialized care. One of the two surviving lion cubs is seriously injured and can only be fed using a tube (probe).
The latest incident triggered the outrage of Bulgarian civil society and a wave of demands from citizens and organizations for immediate inspections by the responsible authorities, namely the MOEW and the BFHA.
The protocols of these inspections of both independent control bodies clearly show drastic violations, as well as large discrepancies in the reported registrations, species and number of animals at the zoo in paper and in reality.
The reports conclude that there are indeed breaches. However, the prescribed measures are not in favor of the animals.
None of the control authorities have ordered veterinary assistance to the sick lion. Nobody has ordered the recruitment of qualified personnel trained in humane treatment and care for each animal according to its individual needs. The only sanction imposed on the zoo owner is a fine for the lack of a license.
We see a clear distancing of the institutions from the problem due to their inability to regulate these issues.
We are witnessing a lack of professional competence at the Razgrad Zoo’s management. This is to the detriment of the humane treatment and normal living conditions for the lions and the rest of the animals.
We are witnessing the neglect of Asen's health problem and its necessary treatment. He must be removed from the Razgrad Zoo, urgently.
We do not see a possibility to return the two male lion cubs to the current conditions of the Razgrad Zoo.
We urge you to support us and raise awareness about Asen’s story and that of the other lions, and to help us find ways to rescue and treat them.
By disseminating these facts associated with the Razgrad Zoo, we hope to prevent the return of the two male lion cubs the Zoo.
We are actively looking for contact with organizations that can help save all lions from the Razgrad Zoo.
We kindly ask for your assistance to put pressure on the responsible Bulgarian institutions, the MOEW and the BFSA, to fully close the zoo and relocate all the animals.
How can this be allowed to happen?
Please write to Dr. Damyan Iliev,Executive Director of Bulgarian Food Safety Agency and to the MOEW (responsible for the licensing of zoos and for wild animals) and express your opinion.
We are deeply concerned that animal cruelty is tolerated by the Bulgarian institutions through their inactivity and this practice is on the way to becoming a sustainable state policy.
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