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By: Susanne Jock

Regarding the PETA critics: Karlsruhe Zoo speaks of “fake news

The animal rights organisation PETA is running a campaign with a call for donations in which it describes the keeping of apes in German zoos as cruelty to animals – and also calls on the citizens of the city to protest. The Karlsruhe Stadtgarten zoo admits potential for improvement in the keeping of the three chimpanzees Benny, Sophie and Katche. Above all, however, he complains: “PETA spreads fake news.”

The zoo defends itself against a campaign of the animal rights organization PETA, which denounces the keeping of apes and also calls for protest in Karlsruhe. “At close quarters exactly in this moment an animal is suffering terrible torments. Human apes like Benny in the Stadtgarten Karlsruhe zoo experience mental and physical traumata day by day”, it says in letters and e-mails that were sent specifically to citizens in the urban catchment of the zoo.

Zoo Director: Questionable donation campaign

Enclosed or attached is a card with the request to end the ape keeping to be sent to the zoo and a call for donations. “Yes, I would like to support the campaign ‘Save the Apes’ and PETA’s work against cruelty to animals with a monthly donation,” the form says. “Here with fake news about the Karlsruher zoo one tries to reach humans emotionally and to acquire donations for campaigns”, laments the zoo director of Stadtgarten Karlsruhe, Matthias Reinschmidt. “The money goes however not into the protection of species or animals, but into campaigns”, he emphasizes.

Chimpanzee Benny suffers, claims the animal rights organization Peta. The zoo rejects the accusations and goes on the offensive.

Since last week, about 50 of PETA’s cards have arrived at Karlsruhe Zoo. “This shows us that the topic touches people,” says Reinschmidt. In addition, there had been several inquiries from people interested in animals, who wanted to know what was behind the campaign. “Normally we do not express ourselves to the actions of Peta, in order to not give an additional platform to the organization”, explains zoo press officer Timo Deible. Now however by no means one does not want to leave the statements of PETA at that, with which the organization tries to reach people over the sympathy rail and allegedly collects money, in order to do the Karlsruher chimpanzees something good, adds Reinschmidt.

Schimpanse Benny leidet, behauptet die Tierrechtsorganisation Peta. Der Zoo weist die Vorwürfe zurück und geht in die Offensive. | Foto: Deible

The zoo wants to go on the offensive

“We will not only write to everyone who has contacted the zoo and inform them about the facts, but we will also go on the offensive,” the zoo director announces. He will publicly ask the question: “What do you save with a donation to Peta and what with a donation to the species protection foundation Artenschutzstiftung Zoo Karlsruhe?

“We see our apes as ambassadors of their species and try to sensitize zoo visitors to the concerns of animals in nature. And through the donations of our foundation for species protection we support projects for the survival of the species in the wild”, he explains. “Around 30,000 euros from the Artenschutzstiftung Karlsruhe Zoo foundation have so far gone to orangutans in Borneo, which the Dutchman Willie Smits manages and coordinates”, remembers the zoo director. Smits has been dedicated to protecting the “forest people” for decades and has already coddled up over 600 animals and brought them back into nature.

Many species already extincted without zoos?

“Apes can hardly ever be released into the wild, and zoos do not contribute to the conservation of the species in the wild,” it says on the PETA forms, which people now send to the zoo. “The purpose of the zoos is not to release monkeys from Europe into the wild. Zoos breed so that there is a genetic reserve when the animals no longer exist in the wild,” Reinschmidt replies.

The Association of Zoological Gardens (VdZ) responded to the PETA campaign with a letter pointing out, for example, that many animal species would already have died out without zoos. “These include the European bison, the Przewalski’s horse and the Mendes antelope,” said the VdZ.

PETA criticism described as “dishonest”

The Zoo Association also makes it clear that German zoos have been doing without wild catches of  apes for more than four decades. However, PETA gives a converse impression, which is “unfair”. The reason for the association’s statement is that PETA’s requests did not only reach the surroundings of Karlsruhe Zoo. With equivalent modified letters all German zoos that keep apes are affected.

The chimpanzees Benny, Sophie and Katche have been living in Karlsruhe Zoo for many years. They never had offspring: Benny, who is more than 50 years old, has an abnormal behavior, he has never been interested in chimpanzees and is bound to humans. Reinschmidt admits that there is potential for improvement in chimpanzee keeping, although this is not a topic of the PETA letters. “Our master plan provides relevant changes,” says the zoo director. In the long term, the aim in Karlsruhe is to concentrate on keeping and breeding the highly endangered orangutans, as part of the future master plan.