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Requirements for zoo licenses set to be toughened

Dec. 5, 2023 - 17:53 By Lee Jung-joo
A lion named Baram rests in Cheongju Zoo in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province. Baram came to nationwide attention as the "malnourished lion" after being photographed at Bugyeong Zoo in Gimhae, South Gyeongsang Province. (Cheongju Zoo)

The Ministry of Environment said on Tuesday that the ministry will toughen requirements for zoo and aquarium licenses as part of efforts to ensure the welfare of animals at these facilities.

According to an amendment to the Act on the Management of Zoos and Aquariums approved by the Cabinet on Tuesday, facilities must go through a separate licensing system following the requirements set by the ministry to operate as zoos and aquariums.

To be licensed as a zoo or aquarium, the facilities must provide habitats that match characteristics of the animals' natural environments. The facilities should have management plans for the animals’ safety and welfare, and control potential diseases from spreading. The facilities are also required to employ specialized personnel such as veterinarians and zookeepers.

Also on Tuesday, the ministry made amendments to the Wildlife Protection and Management Act, banning wild animals from being exhibited in facilities not registered as zoos or aquariums. The amendment also bans facility visitors from touching or climbing on top of the animals to prevent distress.

Previously, such requirements were not explicilty stated by law, so public facilities could easily register themselves as zoos or aquariums even if they did not possess ideal facilities to exhibit wildlife animals. Regulations for managing the facilities were also not specified in the law, so animal welfare was not ensured.

According to the new amendments made to the Wildlife Protection and Management Act, public facilities that exhibit wild animals must register themselves as zoos or aquariums by Dec. 13, 2027 to continue operating. Under the Act on the Management of Zoos and Aquariums, facilities that have already been registered as zoos or aquariums will have to register for a license according to the new amendments by Dec. 13, 2028.

The Ministry of Environment’s recent amendments come after Bugyeong Zoo in Gimhae, South Gyeongsang Province came under fire for failing to care properly for its animals in June. A malnourished-looking lion drew nationwide attention when it was photographed by visitors, along with other animals that appeared to be poorly cared for.