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Animal welfare is a top priority for all good zoos. When referring to animal welfare we are talking about that animal's physical and psychological well being and overall quality of life.

We are committed to providing the highest level of care for our animals, and we do so in a number of different ways...


There's a lot more to designing animal enclosures than meets the eye!

When desinging new enclosures and exhibits, a number of different factors have to be taken in to account including the needs of the species that you are designing and building for. For example, the number of animals in the group, their welfare and safety needs, the provision for built in stimuli etc.

We also need to consider the needs of the keepers that will be working with the animals on a daily basis, and the visitors to the zoo.

All of the needs of the species are taken into account when designing an enclosure; such as their behaviour, reproduction, habitat, feeding, and activity budgets. For example, an animal that lives in the trees needs to be provided with lots of opportunities for climbing on ropes and branches.


'Normal' group size of a species is taken into account when deciding how many animals will be being housed, which in turn may affect the design.

For example, a solitary animal, such as a kinkajou, will generally be kept on their own, while the aim is to keep social animals in suitable groups such as our marmosets. It is important to provide them with sufficient space to sleep, feed, play and have enough space to reduce the chances of conflicts occurring within the group and for individuals to avoid each other should it be necessary.


Considering the behaviour of the animal in the wild is also important, if an animal rears its offspring in a burrow or cave, or tree then it is important to provide them with items and surroundings that enable them to reflect this in the zoo. Ideally the enclosure should reflect the environment that the animal comes from which can be achieved by appropriate decor in the enclosure. This will encourage the natural behaviours discussed in the planning stages of the design.

Temperature, lighting, humidity and photo periods must also be suited to the specific animal and should relate to natural cycles.


At our zoo, the health and well-being of our animals are our top priorities, and veterinary care plays a central role in ensuring their welfare. Our dedicated team of experienced vets and nurses are committed to providing the highest standard of care to all our residents, from the smallest to thebiggest. Regular check-ups, preventative measures, and immediate medical attention when needed are all part of our comprehensive veterinary program. This level of care is vital not only to keep our animals healthy but also to contribute to the conservation of endangered species, maintain genetic diversity, and educate our visitors about wildlife. We know that the expertise and dedication of veterinary staff are instrumental in promoting a thriving and responsible zoo environment where every animal can lead a happy and healthy life.

Our zoo vet is involved in preventative care of our animals through our preventative medicine programme, perhaps their most important job!

Our zoo vet must be pro-active in providing preventative medicine, including helping us manage our bio-security programme. They must know about diet and nutrition, as well as being able to diagnose illness and treat sickness and injury. They must be involved in regular health checks alongside our keepers, and be experienced in animal capture and restraint as well as performing post mortems after the death of an animal as these can help us decide what caused the animal to die.


What is Environmental Enrichment?

Environmental enrichment refers to the practice of enhancing the physical and psychological well-being of animals by modifying their environments. This practice replicates elements of an animal's natural habitat, encourages physical and mental stimulation, and promotes natural behaviours. It is a vital component of modern animal care in zoos.

Types of Environmental Enrichment

1. Physical Enrichment: This includes the addition of structures, objects, and features to the animal's enclosure. Climbing structures, ropes, pools, and hiding places provide animals with opportunities for exercise, exploration, and play.

2. Cognitive Enrichment: Cognitive enrichment stimulates the animal's mind. Puzzles, games, and food-dispensing devices encourage problem-solving and decision-making. These activities help prevent boredom and can mimic the mental challenges faced by animals in the wild.

3. Sensory Enrichment: Enrichment for the senses can involve varying light and sound levels, different textures, or introducing new scents. These experiences can replicate the ever-changing sensory input animals encounter in the wild.

4. Social Enrichment: Many animals are social creatures and benefit from interactions with conspecifics. Encouraging positive social behaviors and group dynamics is essential for animals that thrive in social settings.

The Importance of Environmental Enrichment

1. Physical and Mental Well-being: Enrichment activities promote physical fitness and mental stimulation. This can lead to improved overall health.

2. Natural Behavior Expression: Animals in the wild exhibit a range of behaviors essential for their survival. Environmental enrichment gives animals the opportunities to express natural behaviours that may not necessarily need to under human care.

3. Education and Research: Studying animals in enriched environments can yield valuable insights into their behavior, cognition, and social dynamics. This research can inform conservation efforts both under human care and in the wild.

4. Public Engagement: Zoos and aquariums use enrichment to educate visitors about animals' natural behaviors, habitats, and the importance of conservation. Seeing animals engage in natural behaviors can not be underestimated.

Examples of Environmental Enrichment

1. Habitat Complexity: Zoos often replicate animals' natural habitats as closely as possible. For instance, a rainforest exhibit may include trees, water features, and native vegetation to create a rich and engaging environment.

2. Food Puzzles: Hide food in puzzle feeders or scatter it around an animal's enclosure, encouraging them to forage, which is a natural behaviour for many species.

3. Training: Positive reinforcement training is a form of cognitive enrichment. Animals learn to participate and demonstrate specific behaviors, which stimulates their minds and ultimately helps their care givers perform every day tasks such as medical checks.

4. Sensory Stimulation: Introduce scents like spices or herbs into an animal's environment to stimulate their sense of smell. This can also be done by playing natural sounds or varying lighting conditions.

Environmental enrichment is a fundamental component of responsible animal care in modern zoos and aquariums. It enhances the lives of animals in human care, improves their physical and mental well-being, educates the public, and contributes to vital research and conservation efforts. By providing animals with an environment that stimulates their natural behaviors, we help ensure their welfare and maintain our commitment to the preservation of biodiversity.


Animal nutrition is a vital component of our commitment to the health and well-being of the diverse array of creatures that call our zoo home. At the HCC, we take great pride in ensuring that each animal's dietary needs are meticulously met. Our dedicated team of experts, including care givers and veterinarians, work collaboratively to craft specialized diets tailored to the unique requirements of each species. From herbivores to carnivores, omnivores to insectivores, our animals receive carefully balanced meals that mirror their natural diets as closely as possible. By providing the right mix of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, we aim to promote optimal health, reproduction, and longevity, all while offering our visitors the opportunity to witness these incredible creatures thriving in their enriched habitats. 


Are zoo animals taken from their natural habitat?

No. It is a common misconception that all zoo animals have been collected from the 'wild' and their natural habitats. Only when a species is on the very brink of extinction is this considered, and as a last resort.


Are zoo animals going to be returned to the wild?

This is another major misconception held by the public. It is completely impractical and irresponsible to just 'release' animals from zoos back in to the wild. It can and has been done successfully, but can also end in complete disaster.

The process of releasing animals back in to natural habitat is a lot more complex that anti zoo 'activists' and propaganda make it out to be. Activists often claim that breeding programs are solely in place to produce cute baby animals which attract zoo visitors and generate revenue. It is also claimed that breeding programs sometimes result in a surplus of adult animals that may be “warehoused” behind the scenes or sent to shabby poorly run zoos. Not only is this untrue, but the people making these claims never acknowledge that breeding decisions take many factors into consideration, including government regulations, animal breeding history, loan agreements, habitat condition, conservation efforts, and political red tape, just to name a few. Further, for many species, it is impractical to consider releasing an animal back into a destroyed or threatened habitat. When safe habitat is secured, reintroduction may be an option, but until then, it is important for breeding programs, conservation programs, and education programs to all happen simultaneously and work together to form a great result. The release of some captive animals can be more complicated than others. 


Are your animals'rescued'?

Generally, no. Zoos have strict collection plans to which they follow. The species kept are decided by a number of factors including breeding potential, research and training as well as educational purposes to name a few. Zoos simply do not have the space to continually take rescued animals as this takes away from their aim. Providing homes for 'rescues' is not aiding the conservation driven goals of many zoos and aquariums. There are exceptions to this however and many zoos also support dedicated rescue centers, normally in the animals home country.

We have one 'rescued' animal here at the centre - a striped skunk named 'Pepe', who was being kept in a rabbit cage in somebody's kitchen and fed a truly awful diet.


That animal looks bored, is it unhappy?

We work with our animals everyday and we know that they are happy, or as close to it as an animal can be. 'Happy' is a human emotion and as such science will never be able to come up with a way to determine whether an animal is 'happy' or not.

However, our keepers who work with our animals on a daily (and sometimes nightly) basis know individual behaviors and their personalities, and whether they are having an 'off day', just like us. 

We love animals as much as you reading this, if not more. If we ever felt like the animals we care for were not happy or comfortable, we would need to make changes! 

If you have any questions about this on the day of your visit, please find a keeper for a chat!


How can you ensure high welfare for your animals?

We continually manage and monitor our animals in relation to their welfare needs. This includes correct social grouping, veterinary care, preventative medicine, carefully designed enclosures - the list is endless!

We also make welfare assessments on a frequent basis and should their be an animal that has become ill or has an ongoing condition, we make quality of life assessments to make sure the animal in question is receiving the bet welfare possible.


How ethical is the HCC?

Very! We take the ethics of our animals very seriously, as does every other good zoo! We hold two ethical review meetings per year. The panel for these includes our director(s), keepers, managers, vets, and other people related to the animal industry as well as people who aren't.


Are your animals here purely for entertainment? You allow animal experiences!

No. In actual fact, this couldn't be further from the truth. There are three major forms of zoological interaction programs that are interpreted as “entertainment” by anti-zoo groups. These are -  animal demonstrations, animal encounters, and behind-the-scenes tours. All of these care about education, not entertainment. While they are certainly fun, they are also designed to teach guests about the animals in an engaging way and to inspire them to help species that they encounter by making small, everyday lifestyle changes, such as conserving resources, reusing, and recycling. Animal shows are essentially an open invitation for guests to watch an already-planned training session. While the theatrical shows, such as those with marine mammals will come to an end i some collections, the training sessions will continue as they are important for the animals’ physical and mental stimulation. 

Animal encounters are a great way for a guest to get up close to an animal, whether it is feeding a porcupine or touching a cockroach, which creates a connection that can inspire a guest to make simple changes in their lifestyle that help animals in the wild. 

Behind-the-scenes tours achieve a similar effect but through providing guests with special access to certain enclosures and with an understanding and appreciation of what animal care teams and trainer teams do on a daily basis.


Zoological facilities may very well be the last hope of survival for many species. These zoos and aquariums have already contributed to many conservation success stories, and will likely contribute to many more, as they house many species which are no longer found in the wild. Hopefully, in the future, species which are extinct in the wild can repopulate their natural habitats once they are secured. Anti-zoo propaganda does nothing but impede the efforts of zoos around the world. Be a part of the solution and continue to spread the truth about these wonderful facilities.


You're not able to re-create animals natural habitats, so surely you can't meet all of their needs?

Anti-zoo propaganda claims that zoo animals are deprived of everything natural and important to them, including roaming, foraging, choosing a mate, and being with others of their own kind. 

However, based on research, animals that are managed scientifically in a zoological setting have the same opportunities as those in the wild, it is just a more structured lifestyle. Structure in a zoological setting is important for an animal’s biology and is done in time with their natural patterns, such as bringing animals into behind-the-scenes areas in the order of their social hierarchy as determined by the group and not by the trainers.

It is also important to note that adverse factors, such as pollution, disease, and habitat destruction, are eliminated from an animal’s habitat in human care. Anti-zoo propaganda uses emotional appeals to attempt to convince audiences that a natural habitat is better than a habitat in a zoological facility. They purposely fail to mention that an animal’s wild habitat is often shrinking due to deforestation, over fishing, or farming. They also fail to mention the impacts of humans and pollution. So to be fair, it could be said that in order to perfectly mimic an animal’s natural habitat, zoos would have to introduce plastic debris, dangerous forms of carbon pollution, a contaminated water source, and dangerous disease-causing pathogens. It is clear that zoos promote a great quality of life for their animals based on the research and experience that they have developed over many years.

For example, monkeys climb and use trees. They have a behavioural need to express in climbing. This need can be met by providing them with climbing frames and ropes etc. The objects don't have to look like a tree for the animals to be able to express natural and 'normal' behaviours.


You brand yourself as a 'conservation centre', so you must be better than a zoo?

It is actually all in a name. They are all exactly the same thing. Animals kept in captivity...for whatever purpose, or, however they got there.

There are a large number of absolutely pointless and irresponsible establishments that exist, that unfortunately people 'buy in to' because they label themselves as a "sanctuary". These will hold animals such as white tigers and other species which hold no conservation value what so ever. 

Animals held in zoos are carefully and professionally managed for the long term survival of the species as a whole. 

Anti zoo groups will play on the word 'sanctuary' to appeal to people who are unaware of the good work zoos do. Education is key and unfortunately, a person well educated about the purpose and running of good zoos is something that scares the un-educated anti-zoo groups.

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