The Importance of Evidence, Animal-Based Measures, and the Rule of Law to Ensure Good Animal Welfare

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Laura van der Meer, Ira Kasdan, and Joan Galvin* *Members of Kelley Drye & Warren’s Brussels and Washington, DC-based Animal Law practice (

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Marine mammals are among the planet’s most popular animals, capturing the public’s imagination and affection. This is most readily evidenced at zoological parks where dolphins, killer whales, and other marine mammals inspire, educate, and motivate visitors to care about the natural environment and the animals that inhabit it (Miller et al., 2013). Positive experience with animals crosses generational, economic, and cultural divides: zoological parks provide a safe and accessible place for people to experience and appreciate these intelligent and athletic animals up close.

But beyond the visitor’s experience and out of the public eye, the keeping of marine mammals in human care also complements and advances in situ species protection. In fact, the legal obligation to engage in ex situ conservation under the Convention on Biological Diversity (1993) is met in large part through the work of public and private zoological parks and aquariums and related research. The importance of marine mammals in human care for conservation research also is well recognized. According to scientists, “critical research findings have come from studies of dolphins and related species in managed care environments, which have provided the vast majority of what is known about their perception, physiology, and cognition… The benefits of such research extend well beyond the animals in zoological facilities.” As the scientists further note, “The advances that have come from research in marine mammal facilities could not have come from studies of animals in the wild” (Scientific Statement, 2016).

While the value of marine mammals in human care for public education, scientific research, and species conservation is clear, the question arises as to how we ensure that the welfare needs of these animals are met. This article describes the international regulatory framework for animal welfare and the trend towards an animal-based approach. It further examines the roles played by professional organisations, governments, the public, and courts in creating the regulatory environment for marine mammals in human care. It concludes that achieving good animal welfare requires professional expertise paired with informed governmental decision making that reflects sound science, and appropriate checks and balances by courts.

Loro Parque Company Supports the ‘Earth Hour’ Initiative

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The Loro Parque company will turn off the lights this Saturday, 24th March, in support of the ‘Earth Hour’, an initiative by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). All three parks, Loro Parque, Siam Park and Poema del Mar, will be switching their exterior lights off between 8:30 pm and 9:30 pm in order to support the efforts of raising awareness about the climate change and its negative effect on the biodiversity, a cause with which a company has a firm commitment.

According to the WWF, this campaign goes beyond a symbolic act of turning off the lights during one hour. Over the time, it has turned into a major global movement to address a problem that affects every one of us: the climate change. Since the start of the ‘Earth Hour’ in Sydney in 2007, thousands of cities and towns have turned their lights off in solidarity with the initiative. At the same time, social networks lit up in an effort to encourage all the governments around the world to take active political measures regarding the energy issue.

The Loro Parque company maintains a strong commitment with the protection of the biodiversity and, for that reason, it implements through Loro Parque Fundación numerous environmental projects around the world. From the energy saving perspective, one of the main company initiatives was a creation of its own photovoltaic plant, which allows to reduce emitting of more than 2 000 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year (which is equivalent to the emission from about 800 cars).

The climate change is a complex problem and one of its most dramatic effects is the loss of biodiversity. This serves as the principal reason for the company to join to the ‘Earth Hour’ initiative and, thus, reinforce its own efforts realized on a daily basis: raising awareness about this problem and encouraging the public to support the investigation work for the preservation of the environment. In addition to turning off the lights, Loro Parque, Siam Park and Poema del Mar, through their respective social network profiles will be encouraging the public to join this initiative, in order to achieve a bigger impact in an effort the situation on our Planet.

A baby chimpanzee Happy celebrates her first birthday in Loro Parque

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Loro Parque has special plans for the Pascua festivities in a very special way, as they come just in time to celebrate the first birthday of Happy, a baby chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) that was born a year ago in the family of chimpanzees and she was wholeheartedly received by the entire Loro Parque team and visitors. She was named “Happy”, as the day she was born is also known as the International Day of Happiness.

It is curious that the name really fits the little chimpanzee, who, having been born on such a special day, is very playful and lively. During her first months, just like most mammals, she spent in the arms of her mother, Silvy. Little by little, she has been progressing normally and becoming more and more independent.

By now, the little Happy has already begun to investigate the area, in some occasions completely on her own. Her social skills, a quality common in chimpanzees, are already showing to be strong. Furthermore, her brothers, Bongo and Gombe, are now experiencing what it is like to live with a baby chimpanzee for the first time and they are learning how to take care of her. This is something that will come useful to them at a later age, as they start their own families.

It is quite a privilege to be able to witness the natural behaviour of such wonderful animals, who share with us, humans, 98% of the genetic code. It is worth noting that these animals are also in need our protection as they are considered endangered. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates that more than the 50% of the chimpanzees that exist in the world are going to disappear by 2050. In this sense, Happy, along with the other members of her family, is an important ambassador of her counterparts in the wild and she helps getting the attention of the public about the problems that animals are facing in their natural habitats affected by human activity.

Loro Parque is happy to about the progress Happy is making, both physiologically and socially. It reaffirms, once again, the highest quality of the care provided by the team of the zookeepers aimed at guaranteeing the maximum well-being of the animals of the park, which was named the best zoo in the world by the travel portal TripAdvisor in 2017.

Never is a better time than now to visit Loro Parque and personally observe the young chimpanzee Happy’s behaviour and personality, as well learning more about the daily life of the family of these charismatic animals who have found a second home in Loro Parque and who are acting here as true ambassadors of their counterparts in the wild.

The Princess of Senegal, Sokhna Bally, visits Loro Parque

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During this past weekend, Loro Parque received a visit from Sokhna Bally, a Princess of Touba en Senegal. She is well known for her work for the cause of assisting and empowering women. The Princess visited Tenerife to attend the Exemplary Woman Awards presentation held by the Más Mujer magazine. During this event, the princess received a prestigious award from Ms. Delia Herrera, Exterior Action Councillor of the Island Council of Tenerife. Thus, Sokhna Bally took advantage of her trip to pay a visit to the Best Zoo in the World, according to TripAdvisor.

Sokhna Bally made a tour of the Park and enjoyed its main exhibitions, as well as the spectacular presentation of orcas. She also had an opportunity to learn more about the work of the Loro Parque Fundación, located in the emblematic Animal Embassy, a facility whose design is primarily inspired in the African Continent.

The Princess of Touba advocates for Mame Diarra, a foundation created to support neglected women and children in Senegal, and she is also the founder of the Mandiara Association, which focuses on Senegalese women living abroad. During her visit in Tenerife, in addition to the Exemplary Woman Award, the princess received the title of an Illustrious Visitor of the Island.

Ms. Bally did not want to leave the Park without expressing her gratitude in the Loro Parque’s Book of Honour, in which she emphasised that the visit to Loro Parque, which she described as a place full of colours and diversity, was a unique experience for her. She also commented on the excellent welfare of the animals, and bid farewell by thanking and congratulating the entire Loro Parque’s team.

Loro Parque is celebrating the World Wildlife Day dedicated to Big Cats

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Loro Parque has dedicated this week to the celebration of World Wildlife Day, which is celebrated worldwide tomorrow, March 3rd. A UN initiative, this year the event focuses on drawing attention to the Big Cats with the aim of raising awareness about the deterioration of populations of these animals in the wild. Loro Parque, well known for its efforts in conservation of biodiversity, has joined this important event by focusing the attentions on the big felines represented in the park: Lions, Jaguars and White Tigers.

These animals act act as true ambassadors of the wildlife, representing their species and helping to raise awareness among the public about the challenges and dangers that these animals are facing in nature, mainly as a consequence of adverse human activities. Therefore, now more than ever, the role of a modern zoological garden is crucial to ensuring the conservation of these animals in the wild.

Angola Lions

Simba, Malika and Sarabi are the three Southwest African Lions that came to Loro Parque from different European zoos about a year ago. Here, they have an important role of acting as ambassadors of their peers in the wild, alerting the visitors about just how endangered this species is in the wild. In the last 50 years, the populations of lions in Africa have decreased from 100,000 to less than 25,000 animals. Due to land exploitation and deforestation, their natural habitat has been reduced to less than a quarter of its original size.


Negra and Gulliver are the Jaguars in Loro Parque. Just as lions, these magnificent animals are perfect representatives of their species in nature. “Panthera onca” is a Near Threatened species, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. The high rate of deforestation in Latin America is one of the biggest dangers that these animals face. The fragmentation of their habitats is a principal reason of isolation of these animals that makes them more vulnerable to human persecution.

White Tigers

Every day, Yangyu and Linmao take a walk together in a majestic fashion on their Tiger Island. Both of them play a fundamental role in raising the awareness about the situation of tigers in the wild. Due to their colour, White Tigers find themselves very vulnerable in the wild and have difficulties surviving in nature.

A Black Swan Born in Lake Thai at Loro Parque

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The Lake Thai at Loro Parque has recently had a new occasion for celebration. This time, it is the family of the black swans or Cygnus atratus, which has increased by a new member. These majestic birds have recently laid several eggs, which have been in the centre of attention of the keepers of the park. Now, the birth of a new chick have brought joy both to the swan family and the team that watches after the birds.

The new chick is perfectly healthy and enjoys everybody’s attention and affection. The visitors of the park may already observe him swimming with his family in the beautiful Lake Thai, which is home to many different species of birds and vegetation. Among them, a special attention is received by a numerous group of brightly coloured Koi carps, which come in direct contact with the black swans.

The black swan or Cygnus atratus is a species, which usually breed during the rainy season, and this time was no different. These majestic birds normally build a nest using aquatic vegetation, which can measure up to two metres in diameter and one metre in height. Both parents are in charge of giving care to their offspring, and this period normally lasts 9 months since the moment of the hatching. They lay between 4 and 8 eggs, and the incubation lasts between 35 and 40 days. This is exactly the process in progress, and one of the first results is the birth of the new chick.

As for the appearance of these noble birds, their black feathers contrast significantly with the bright red colour of their peaks. They are exclusively herbivores, do not migrate and, like other swans, are characterised by their monogamy, as they maintain a life-long relationship with their couples.

Considering that breeding is one of the natural animal behaviours that take place when all the animals’ needs and necessities are properly fulfilled, this new birth confirms the excellent wellbeing of these birds in Loro Parque. It is yet another indication of the dedication and efforts of the team of experts that guarantee the best care for the animals of Loro Parque, recognized as the Best Zoo in the World by TripAdvisor.

Dr. Javier Almunia named new Director of Loro Parque Fundación

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Loro Parque Fundación has recently celebrated the appointment of its new director, Dr. Javier Almunia, who has held the position of Director of Environmental Affairs in the institution since 2003, in which he started as Education Manager in 1999.

Almunia is a Doctor of Marine Sciences at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria as well as an expert in cetacean bioacoustics, and has actively contributed to the implementation of numerous projects for the protection of biodiversity and for the conservation of endangered species.

Loro Parque Fundación, 100% for nature

Since 1994, Loro Parque implements the majority of its Corporate Social Responsibility actions through Loro Parque Fundación, a Spanish-based international non-profit organization specialized in activities armed at preserving and protecting the most endangered species of parrots and marine mammals, as well as other species facing critical situations in their natural habitats, such as turtles and sharks.

Each year, Loro Parque covers all the operational costs of the Foundation, thus, making it possible that 100% of all donations received from partners, donors and friends goes directly to the “in situ” and “ex situ” conservation or/and educational projects. So, 100% for nature is not only the motto of Loro Parque Fundación, but a reality!

The results and accomplishments of the Foundation speak by themselves: more than $18.000.000 has been invested to carry out more than 130 conservation and educational projects, and 9 species of parrots have been saved from the imminent extinction.

Loro Parque follows closely the growth of two Scarlet Ibis chicks

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Loro Parque has recently celebrated two new births at its sumptuous South American aviaries. On this occasion, two Scarlet Ibis chicks have brought joy to the entire team of the park with their vibrant, reddish feathers.

It is the first time that this species, original of South America, has bred in the park. The entire process has developed naturally which demonstrates that the environment created for them is optimal and that they can express their natural behaviour in the spacious, innovative aviaries, which they share with different other species of the same geographic origin.

The gestation process of the Scarlet Ibis, scientifically known as Eudocimus ruber, lasts 23 days. A chick hatches covered in black down that later develops into reddish feathers. After about a year and a half, the hatchlings obtain scarlet red plumage. The bright colour is an effect that is produced by a special pigment that the birds receive by ingesting small crustaceans, which form their principal source of nutrition.

While they are still hatchlings, they maintain darker feathers and look quite different from the adult specimen. This serves them as a perfect camouflage that protects them from the numerous predators. The visitors of Loro Parque are able to observe how the new hatchlings are evolving, growing and gradually developing the colourful feathers.

This species maintains the “Least Concern” status, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), although their populations in the wild tend to decline. This occurs due to continuous degradation of their natural habitats as a result of adverse human activities, including poaching and creation of artificial water channels. Therefore, the situation requires close monitoring and proactive action.

These innovative installations at Loro Parque accommodate several different species that co-exist harmonically while developing their flying skills and interacting amongst themselves, which represents the best example of the environmental enrichment. Loro Parque recreates this complex environment within the South American Aviaries as an example of its continuous commitment to innovation and conservation of biodiversity, as well as to raising awareness among the public about the importance of protecting the wildlife and their natural habitats.

Loro Parque welcomes the Carnival Delegations from Duisburg, Vechta, Duesseldorf, Bonn, Mönchengladbach, Eschborn and the Duesseldorf Honour Guard

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Following the tradition celebrated each year, Loro Parque opened this week its doors to receive the carnival delegations from the German cities of Duisburg, Vechta, Duesseldorf, Bonn, Monchengladbach and Eschborn, as well as the Duesseldorf Honour Guard.

For over four decades, these carnival groups have been part of the Carnival of the city Puerto de la Cruz, and, yet again this year, they have come to spend a day Loro Parque, recognized as the Best Zoo in the World, according to 2017 Trip Advisor’s Travellers’ Choice, and filled it with colour, joy and music.

The guests were welcomed by Loro Parque’s President, Wolfgang Kiessling, Puerto de la Cruz’s Tourism Councilor, Dimple Melwani, and Paula Viera, the newly elected Queen of the International Carnival of Puerto de la Cruz, in which she represented Loro Parque. The German Committee, consisting of over 50 carnivalists, has enjoyed the shows of sea lions, orcas and dolphins, as well as a tour through the entire park.

Such a long-awaited visit was made possible thanks to the friendship established between the cities of Puerto de la Cruz and Dusseldorf. Such a collaboration allows an amazing opportunity to present to the canarian residents one of the biggest carnival events in Europe.

Yet another day of fun at Loro Parque is due to come. Namely, more carnival groups are expected with a visit this Sunday as a perfect highlight of the week full of rhythm, colour and tradition in Puerto de la Cruz.

Loro Parque Foundation and ElasmoCan attach the first satellite tag to a shark in the Canary Islands

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Using the funding received from Loro Parque Foundation, the scientists of the Canarian Association of Research and Conservation of Elasmobranchs (ElasmoCan) were able to tag a shark with a satellite device for the first time in the Canary Islands. Thanks to this achievement, the experts will now be able to study the range and depth of movement of the specimen, as well as its preferences for water temperatures.

The specimen to be studied is a smooth or horned hammerhead shark. Currently, the limited knowledge about these animals confirms the presence of two species in the waters of the Canary Islands. In general, there is very little photographic evidence of their sightings available on the social networks. At the same time, hammerhead sharks are easily caught in varied fishing techniques and, consequently, their mortality rates are quite high. Due to their swimming capacities and behaviour, these statistics cover vast geographic areas and include several countries. This poses major difficulties for creation of effective measures for the conservation of the species.

In light of this situation, ElasmoCan has developed a research project called ‘Hammerhead Shark Research’, which aims at gaining basic understanding of these species, which would enable the management and protection of their regional populations. The research study focuses on tagging sharks in the islands of Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote. The research locations were chosen based on the registered sightings of these animals by professional and amateur fishermen. Such approach has enabled the scientists to confirm the presence of younger specimen of the sharks in these coastal waters, register their biological data and sample their tissues. These will prove useful in future studies of these species in the general geographic zones and the tropics.

Furthermore, the project has been able to expand its research capacity by using the telemetry technology, which allows remote data transmission. Dr. Filip Osaer, a project leader from ElasmoCan, highlighted the importance of this initiative, which uses cutting-edge technology, for the Canarian Archipelago. He explained that the research team utilizes a Pop-up Satellite Archival Tag (PAT tag) that is capable of storing information about temperature, depth, and light intensity.

Another interesting aspect of the project is that the tagging device will release itself from the animal after six months, while the data will be stored and transmitted via satellite. A reward will be offered to the person/s who will help to find the device and returns it to ElasmoCan.

Founded in 1994, Loro Parque Foundation has invested to date over US$ 17 million in research and conservation projects for numerous endangered species, and has developed more than 135 in situ and ex situ projects worldwide. Presently, there are several projects carried out to protect and conserve marine biodiversity in the Canary Islands, one of which is the hammerhead shark research project realized in collaboration with ElasmoCan.