A report released on May 25 by the Born Free Foundation provides a list of legal criticisms to Estonian zoos, concluding that animal rights are being neglected.
In response, the director of Tallinn Zoo, Mati Kaal, attacked the report, dismissing its 20 pages of analysis as unprofessional and libelous, and calling its writers extremists. "This is an organization that is in principle against holding animals in an artificial environment," he told uudised.err.ee.
Moreover, Kaal alleged that the those conducting the study had admitted to inaccuracies in their report, but said it was too late to make changes before the document went to print.
In summary, the report finds that Estonian zoos are failing to provide their animals with a suitable environment, thus compromising the health of the animals; failing to make a significant contribution to the conservation of biodiversity; and failing to protect endangered species.
As part of a larger project – evaluating the enforcement of EU laws in 200 zoos and 21 countries – the report examined four out of the six Estonian zoos and was conducted for ENDCAP, a network of EU animal rights groups.
Called the EU Zoo Inquiry, the assessment concluded that Estonian zoos need not spend loads of money to make life better for the animals - a difference can be made by adding a few toys, structures to climb on and some shade.
Kaal said Tallinn Zoo - which was struggling to keep the animals fed during the recession - is aware of its deficiencies and zookeepers, are working hard to keep the animals happy. "We will continue doing this depending on whether there is enough money," said Kaal. "Everything we would like to change is written up in our development plan, but we need money for that."
Employing 200 people, Tallinn Zoo is already short-staffed and was forced to cut worker hours again after facing a 425,000-euro budget deficit earlier this year.