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                                                                                                 Hilda Tresz                          Global Volunteer Work

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Taiyuan Zoo, China Report

February 25-26, 2014 

 Goals were to have a courtesy meeting with current management and to discuss possible future chimpanzee introductions; to provide information regarding exhibit improvements, zoo-wide basic husbandry and enrichment and to hold an educational workshop.   

Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes ?) Subspecies unknown.

Suggestions: Subspecies needs to be determined by DNA testing.

I found three sets of chimpanzees.

1.     One male, Dongdong, was held in solitary confinement.

2.     Next to him was a breeding male, Yamamoto, (on loan) with two females. Guaiguai and No. 1.

3.      In the last night house four chimpanzees together, Meinvi, Nannan, No.7 and Doudou.


Left to right: Dongdong (male, 7-9 years old), Yamamoto (male, 22 years old), Guaiguai (female, 7-8 years old)  


Meinvi (female, 7-8 years old) Nannan (Liangliang) (female, 5-6 years old) No.1 (female, 10-11 years old)  


No. 7 (female, 6-7 years old) Doudou  (male, 6-7 years old)

Dongdong was separated from his two females, because he never learned how to breed. Therefore, a breeding male, Yamamoto, was brought in and introduced to the females. Although the three of them got along well, the females were very much missing Dongdong. They were constantly trying to see what he was doing through the shifting tunnel window bars. Dongdong was also extremely stressed out, constantly trying to establish visual contact with everybody, displaying a lot and had frequent redirected aggression towards furniture items (kicking, throwing, hitting, drumming, etc.).

Yamamoto was there for a five year loan program. To best remedy the situation, it was suggested that each male should have a female at all times and the females would be altered weekly between the males. No. 1 was reintroduced to Dongdong immediately. This change not only resolved Dongdong’s situation, but also provides a better chance for the females to be able to socialize with both males, as well as improves the chance for them to learn how to breed.

Chimpanzee Exhibits

The chimpanzee exhibit was satisfactory in size with natural soil and some climbing structures. I was very pleased to see that the night houses were extremely large with suitable climbing structures. Resting places had no soft materials for nesting. The animals were locked inside during the winter.   

Suggestions: To further improve quality, some permanent furniture, especially sleeping nests, need to be installed as high as possible in both on- and off-exhibit areas. Please review example pictures below.  

Metal basket and hammock for sleeping furniture both inside and outside

The night houses could utilize three dimensions by adding large tree trunks, ropes, fire hoses, hammocks, wooden shelves, etc. to increase space and allow opportunities for exercise, exploration and manipulation.

Boomer ball products are not so easy to come by in China, but recycled household products (cereal boxes, cardboard boxes, plastic bottles, barrels, plastic cups, old plush toys, towels, clothing, tires, etc.) can be easily incorporated as enrichment/toys.

It is preferable to add more windows and/or skylights to increase light. It would also be advantageous to build double sliding doors (one being solid and the other one built from bars and mesh) so that the night houses and the exhibit could be connected with a “Round Robin” system, allowing animals to move about in circular ways and not just a linear fashion. This system could be used for all other species as well and would help with introductions or with shifting animals more easily and quickly.

Chimpanzees can be allowed outside for limited time during the winter; however, they need to have access to inside heat and provided with extra blankets. Some institutions keep to a temperature guideline and will only let their chimpanzees out if the temperature reaches 10-13 C, while others, such as Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest, USA, allow the chimpanzees to make their own decision. It is important to remember to provide chimpanzees the opportunity to seek warmth if allowed outdoor access during cold weather, and there might be a temperature so low that outdoor access is inappropriate. The only time they don't allow them outside is when heavy, wet snow reduces the voltage on their electric fence.  

Wales Ape and Monkey Sanctuary, U.K. Saint Louis Zoo, USA  

Snow day for the chimpanzees at Saint Louis Zoo 


General Propositions:


The Taiyuan Zoo currently has 1.0 African elephant and 1.0 Asian elephant. The animals were housed on bare concrete with no enrichment opportunities. They were also kept inside during the winter.

Male elephant socialization (Please review AZA Standards for Elephant Management and Care)


Please review AZA Standards for Elephant Management and Care.

Adult males (6 years and older) may be housed alone, but not in complete isolation. Opportunities for tactile, olfactory, visual and/or auditory interaction with other elephants must be provided (Rasmussen et al. 1982). Each institution must be able to demonstrate and/or describe how they will successfully isolate and socialize males. In the wild, adult males are primarily solitary. However, they do have regular contact with other elephants.

Outdoor access and temperature: Institutions should consider designing exhibits that allow elephants outdoor access as much as possible – weather, health, and safety permitting.  Elephants exposed to temperatures below 40F (5C) for longer than 60 minutes, must be monitored hourly to assess the potential for hypothermia. If needed to prevent hypothermia, supplemental heat, an area of direct sunlight protected from wind/precipitation, access to indoor barn stalls or other options for thermal management must be provided for the elephants.  

Standard – Outdoor – Nighttime: Elephants kept outdoors overnight when temperatures are under 40F (5C), must be provided with supplementary heat and adequate shelter from adverse weather.

General Suggestions for Elephant Care

Sand needs to be added both inside the night house and on the exhibit at a depth of one meter. Elephants cannot be kept on concrete. It is very hard on their feet and joints and causes severe medical problems.  
Besides sand covering the floor, the elephants need a larger pile of sand (approximately 2 meters high) to lie down upon.

The animals should have continuous free access to food by using feeder devices (food placed inside metal kegs with holes, hay bags, etc.)
and mostly from up high.

Hay bags can be woven from ropes. The nets from International Cordage are made specifically for elephants. The zoo must contact the company for details about rope, size, etc. The Phoenix Zoo was the first zoo to incorporate the nets; however our nets are prototypes. http://www.international-cordage.net/  

Elephants need to receive large EDIBLE tree branches every day (please see attached browse list for elephants).
The elephants should no longer be chained and picture taking should be discontinued or at least reduced.
Tires can be hung from chains as enrichment.
Scratching posts made from palm trees can be chained or secured in a safe way to the fence or the poles.

Large tree logs (whole trees) can be laid all over the ground to encourage the animals to step over and/or go around them, allowing for added exercise. 
 Clay wallow can help with proper skin care and prevent sunburn.
 Toys such a large Planet Balls are available at
http://boomerball.com/ <http://boomerball.com/.  

For further information, please contact Heather Wright, Phoenix Zoo Elephant Manager at hwright@thephxzoo.com.

 Night Houses, Off-exhibit Areas and Correct Substrate Use

Although hoof stock and some cats were kept in large or even luxurious exhibits, many animals (mostly carnivores, birds, pigs and primates) were housed on sterile surfaces close to freezing temperature with reduced chance for exploratory behaviours. This practice likely originates out of good intent to keep a clean environment for the animals, as it appears to be a cultural inheritance that if an exhibit is not hosed frequently, than the animals are not being well cared for. However, this practice creates poor conditions for the animals. 




Begin keeping animals off of unyielding surfaces (brick, concrete, etc.). The use of appropriate substrate (inside- paper products, hay or straw, etc.; outside- nonflammable materials such as grass, sand, soil, mulch, fresh browse, etc.) will make a significant difference not only in the animals’ mental and physical health, but also in the improvement of the exhibit aesthetics. Using substrate will reduce cleaning time and water consumption, as well. Soaking, scrubbing and hosing dry waste takes much longer than spot cleaning substrate due to the substrate’s ability to absorb urine and cover fecal matter. Reducing hosing and partially covering surface with substrate will overcome any of these obstacles and provide animals with a soft surface.

Night House Conditions and Debris in Exhibits and Visitor Pathways

Suggestions: Chairs, dollies and cardboard boxes should not be stored in night houses with animals. Chipping paint should be scrubbed off and the walls should be repainted. Garbage needs to be removed from public ways. These problems can create safety issues as well as making the exhibits look dirty and unkept. 





Solitary Primates

Several primate species were kept on bare concrete and also in solitary confinement without any visual or tactile opportunities with other primates. Social isolation and reduced space allowance have been documented to cause increased levels of aggression and stress levels in a range of captive wild animals from primates to dolphins.


Solitary primates need to be able to see, smell and touch other primates, even if it is a different species, until they are paired up with their conspecific. Please review laws and guidelines regarding social keeping of primates:

Title 9, Code of Federal Regulations, Subchapter A – Animal Welfare Part 3 Standards, Subpart D Specifications for the Humane Handling, Care, Treatment, and Transportation of Nonhuman Primates, Section 3.81

Sec. 3.81 Environment enhancement to promote psychological well-being.

Dealers, exhibitors, and research facilities must develop, document, and follow an appropriate plan for environment enhancement adequate to promote the psychological well-being of nonhuman primates. The plan must be in accordance with the currently accepted professional standards as cited in appropriate professional journals or reference guides, and as directed by the attending veterinarian. This plan must be made available to APHIS upon request, and, in the case of research facilities, to officials of any pertinent funding agency. The plan, at a minimum, must address each of the following:

(a) Social grouping. The environment enhancement plan must include specific provisions to address the social needs of nonhuman primates of species known to exist in social groups in nature.

Individually housed nonhuman primates must be able to see and hear nonhuman primates of their own or compatible species unless the attending veterinarian determines that it would endanger their health, safety, or well-being.

Canadian Council on Animal Care, Olfert ED, Cross BM, McWilliam AA 1993. Guide to the Care and Use of Experimental Animals, Volume 1, 2nd Edition. Canadian Council on Animal Care, Ottawa
"The social needs of animals used in research, teaching, or testing, should be given equal consideration with environmental factors such as lighting, heating, ventilations and containment (caging). Particularly in the case of singly housed animals, daily observation provides an alternative from of social contact for the animal and commonly facilitates handling in that the animal becomes accustomed to the human presence. .. Most animals should not be housed singly unless required by medical condition, aggression, or dictates of the study. Singly housed animals should have some degree of social contact with others of their own kind. ... In the interest of well-being, a social environment is desired for each animal which will allow basic social contacts and positive social relationships. Social behaviour assists animals to cope with circumstances of confinement."

European Commission 2002.The Welfare of Non-human Primates - Report of the Scientific Committe on Animal Health and Animal Welfare. European Commission, Strasbourg, France
"Primates should not be housed singly unless fully justified by health considerations (for the animal and human handler) or research procedures, as advised following an ethical review process. If primates have to be singly housed, the animals should have visual, olfactory and autitory contact with conspecifics.”

International Primatological Society 1993. IPS International guidelines for the acquisition, care and breeding of nonhuman primates, Codes of Practice 1-3. Primate Report 35, 3-29
" A compatible conspecific probably provides more appropriate stimulation to a captive primate than any other potential environmental enrichment factor. ... Monkeys should, unless there are compelling reasons for not doing so, be housed socially. ... Young monkey should not normally be separated from its mother at an early age (i.e., at 3-6 months) but should remain in contact for one year to 18 months, in most species. There is unlikely to be any greater productivity through early weaning, in seasonally breeding species, such as rhesus monkeys. Even in non-seasonal breeders, any slight increase in productivity must be offset against the resulting behavioural abnormalities of the offspring."

National Research Council 1996. Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, 7th Edition. National Academy Press, Washington
"Animals should be housed with the goal of maximizing species-specific behaviors and minimizing stress-induced behaviors. For social species, this normally requires housing in compatible pairs or groups."

National Research Council 1998. The Psychological Well-Being of Nonhuman Primates. National Academy Press, Washington
"Social interactions are considered to be one of the most important factors influencing the psychological well-being of most nonhuman primates. ... The common practice of housing rhesus monkeys singly calls for special attention [p. 99] ... Every effort should be made to house these [singly caged] animals socially (in groups or pairs), but when this is not possible, the need for single housing should be documented by investigators and approved by the IACUC. ... The animal technician's and caregiver's roles are pivotal to the social support of primates, particularly animals that are singly caged."


The zoo has a large amount of edible vegetation available on grounds that can provide fresh, leafy branches (browse).


Suggestions: Browse should be provided at least every 2-3 days, but if possible, every day for animals that need it. The zoo would benefit by planting edible trees, bushes and even crops inside and outside of exhibits and along visitor pathways. The bushes can provide future browsing materials for growing collection demands. Whether cut by staff or available by natural damage, fallen vegetation of approved browse plants can be used rather than wasted.

Mixed Species Exhibits

Suggestions: Mixed species exhibits can be created in order to free up space and create a more esthetic, complex exhibit. This will also immediately resolve some of the solitary (otherwise social) species problems until they are paired up with their conspecific. Please review some photos of Phoenix Zoo mixed exhibits:


Extending Foraging Time

Suggestions: All animals need to be fed in a way that extends their foraging time and encourages appropriate, species-specific behaviors. If no one can be appointed for this position, staff can be scheduled to cut browse and chop diet on a rotation basis.


Keepers were often observed smoking, some of them inside the night houses right next to the animals.


Suggestions: The zoo should change its smoking policy. The first step can be creating designated smoking areas (tables, chairs, ashtrays, garbage cans) for visitors, directing them to these areas to smoke. Keepers should no longer smoke in front of the visitors at all and should absolutely not smoke inside the animals' night houses and/or next to the animals. Keepers also need to have designated smoking areas behind the scenes, out of the visitors’ view. 

Animal Performances

Removing animals from conspecifics and hand-rearing them for performances compromises welfare, causes a lack of social behaviors, aggression, depression, health problems and more. Performances cause suffering to thousands of animals and “provide a message that it is okay to use/abuse animals for entertainment and demonstrates that the animals can only be “controlled” by pain and fear” (Neale 2013).

The removal of teeth and physical abuse that animals are subjected to during circus-type performances are well-known practices around the world and result in a higher percentage of inactivity and/or increased abnormal behaviour; i.e. self-injury and stereotypies. The lack of appropriate social interaction, reduction in time spent foraging and the restricted freedom to perform many highly motivated behaviours represent stressors for circus animals. Stress can have short-term as well as chronic long-term negative behavioural and physiological effects. Over time this can induce poor welfare by compromising health, altering brain function and lowering life expectancy.


In October 2011, Ministry of Rural and Urban Housing Development issued a directive banning animal performances in traditional zoos. Nanjing, Kunming, Shanghai, Chongqing, Zhengzhou, Jinan and Chengdu have all closed down their animal performances (Neale 2013).

Suggestions: Ending the circus-style animal performances and using current performing animals as ambassadors for their wild counterparts to promote species conservation and protection, as well as improving their housing circumstances, will demonstrate a public commitment to protecting the natural environment, protecting animals from suffering and protecting species from extinction.

Incorrect signage

Reading animal information is a vital part of visitor education.

         Putty-nosed monkey (Cercopithecus nictitans)

         Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus)


The following PowerPoint presentations were given to all staff: 

        Lack of Substrate Use in Zoos addresses the easy fix of empty cages and shows how much benefit there is to animals’ lives when provided with substrate; i.e., when they do not have to sit inside of empty concrete cages. This is probably the most important animal welfare presentation to give out of the four.

        Contra Freeloading at the Phoenix Zoo talks about making animals work for their food in similar ways as they would in the wild, instead of eating in short periods of time from metal dishes or rubber tubs.

        Beneficial Browse gives guidelines regarding how to develop a zoo-wide browse program with numerous browse gardens in the middle of the Sonoran Desert with no money. It also addresses the major changes that fresh, leafy greens can make in the animals’ lives.


        Let Them Be Elephants addresses the changes the Phoenix Zoo made in our elephants’ lives and how we helped their behaviors by teaching them how to forage right and behave like normal females. It also talks about basic husbandry, enrichment ideas and health care.

Presentations are available at htresz@thephxzoo.com.

I would like to thank the Taiyuan Zoo’s director and staff, as well as the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens, for their incredible hospitality — making me feel so welcome.

I would also like to thank Animals Asia Foundation for funding and organizing this trip and to establish such a wonderful, working relationship between the Jane Goodall Institute, the Phoenix Zoo and Taiyuan Zoo.



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