Animal welfare groups are putting pressure on the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums to clean up its act after videos surfaced showing beatings and cramped quarters at some of the organization's 300 facilities. Though WAZA's code of ethics calls for the "highest standard of animal welfare," activists say handlers threaten animals with sticks at Sri Lanka's Dehiwala Zoo, where a hippo, lion, and all the zoo's penguins died recently, the Guardian reports. Evidence of poor living conditions and abuse were also reported at other zoos within the world's top zoo body. At South Korea's Everland Park, a small bear was even placed in a tiger enclosure for a TV show, activists say. WAZA's code of ethics notes that if standards aren't met, WAZA "would support the closure of such zoos and aquariums." However, a rep says none of the zoos have been booted from the organization and only a man caught beating an elephant at a zoo in India was fired.
WAZA has also been linked to the dolphin slaughter in Japan and is accused of cutting a deal with fishermen who select dolphins for captivity, the Guardian reports. The chairman of the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums, a WAZA member, says JAZA gets the first pick of the dolphins from "drive hunts," which many consider inhumane, conducted separately from similar hunts where dolphins are slaughtered. "We select the dolphins and the rest are released," he said, noting there's no limit on the number of dolphins fishermen can trap in a bay in Taiji each September. WAZA's executive director says the group "is not in any way or form participating in the drive hunts" and has pressured JAZA to change its practices. The head of Australia for Dolphins, which is suing WAZA, says the body doesn't take its code of ethics seriously and "they've either got to do their job or stop pretending to be a policeman for zoos and aquariums." (Read more zoo stories.)