ERETZ Book Subscribe Jerusalem Issue Gift Subscription Sample Issue Customer Service
ERETZ Magazine
































google AdSense

Redefining Zoos

A zoo is much more than a place of entertainment – that is, if the Israeli Zoo Association has anything to do with it.

by Heidi J. Gleit


The Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary offers several definitions of the word zoo, including “a place, situation, or group marked by crowding, confusion, or unrestrained behavior.” The Israeli Zoo Association is working hard to make sure that definition doesn’t apply to the zoos in Israel.


The Israeli Zoo Association aims to continually increase professionalism at Israel’s zoos in order to enhance each zoo’s role as an institution of education, research, and environmental conservation.


The association was established some three years ago at the initiative of the leadership of the Tisch Family Zoological Gardens (Biblical Zoo) of Jerusalem and the Zoological Center of Tel Aviv-Ramat Gan (Safari), said Tommy Sadeh, who serves on the association’s Admissions and Inspections Committee, along with Dan Perry and Prof. Joseph Terkel of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Zoology. Both Sadeh and Perry give much of the credit for the association’s establishment to the late Dr. Gabi Eshkar, who was the chief veterinarian of the Biblical Zoo.


(Tibor Yager, courtesy of the Zoological Center Tel Aviv-Ramat Gan-Safari)

“There are collections of animals all over Israel, but the majority of them aren’t zoos,” Perry explained. For example, if a collection’s main aim is to entertain visitors, then it isn’t a zoo by Israeli or international standards. Using the standards set by international organizations as a model, the Israeli Zoo Association set a list of criteria that zoos must meet in order to become members. The organization also developed an ethical code, focusing on respect for animals and humans, that members must pledge to accept. Some of the association’s aims include preserving endangered species, setting standards for Israel in animal care and conservation, and increasing public awareness in Israel about endangered species and environmental issues. It encourages the member zoos to cooperate with international and national organizations on research and conservation.


The most important membership requirement is having a guiding concept, clear goals, and a master plan for the future. The goals should include conservation and protection of endangered species, research, education, and bringing people closer to animals.


On a more concrete level, “if the animals aren’t provided with respectable living conditions, a collection doesn’t qualify for membership,” Perry said.




“Most of the animal collections in Israel are pinot hai [petting zoos and animal corners], not zoos,” Sadeh noted. Almost every school and kibbutz has created a small area where children can play with animals. In addition to their small size and correspondingly small budget, animal corners also have a different mission than zoos, Perry pointed out. Their main aim is entertainment and, to a far lesser extent, education. They usually contain domestic animals and don’t house endangered species or conduct research. Petting zoos are under the authority of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA), which checks to make sure that laws regarding animal care are not violated.


The INPA also operates two wildlife preserves (hai bar in Hebrew), in the Carmel and Yotvata nature reserves, where injured animals are cared for and animals are bred and raised for introduction into the wild. Since both they and the collection at Tel Aviv University have very specific goals, they are not considered zoos, though they occasionally cooperate with the association.


When the organization was established, Perry, Sadeh, and Terkel inspected all of the potential members to determine if they met the standards. The Biblical Zoo, Hai Park in Kiriat Motzkin, and the Safari passed immediately, while several others became associate members and were asked to make specific improvements in order to gain membership. Both the Hai Kef in Rishon Lezion and the Haifa Educational Zoo improved significantly to an extent that surprised him and quickly attained full membership, Perry said.




The association currently has five members and several associate members. Membership, and the responsibilities it entails, is voluntary, but most large animal collections want the benefits of membership and so they are relating to the organization seriously.




“The Israeli zoos operate on an international level. We have nothing to be ashamed of in comparison to great zoos in other countries,” Perry concluded.


The full article appeared in ERETZ Magazine 105. To read it, subscribe to ERETZ Magazine.


(Tibor Yager, courtesy of the Zoological Center Tel Aviv-Ramat Gan-Safari)


The full article appeared in ERETZ Magazine 105. To read it, subscribe to ERETZ Magazine.





google AdSense

© ERETZ Magazine 2016