Brussels schools no longer allowed to visit zoos


Several schools in the Brussels commune of Elsene are no longer allowed to organise visits to local zoos following a city council decision made last year

Animal welfare concerns

The city council of the Brussels commune of Elsene has decided that schools under its authority will no longer be allowed to organise visits to the Antwerp Zoo, the Planckendael animal park or any other location where non-native animal species are kept in enclosures.

The Elsene city council said that visits by its municipal schools to local zoos had been prohibited since the start of the 2019-2020 schoolyear, but the news of the decision only got out yesterday.

“As a government, we do not organise school visits to places where animals are kept trapped,” the city council told VRT NWS. “We are not opposed to the concept of animal zoos, but we believe there are other ways to observe non-native species.” 

Elsene mayor Christos Doulkeridis, a lawmaker for the Ecolo-Groen party, added that animal zoos have no pedagogical value. “There are enough alternatives, a petting zoo for instance.”

Asked for a response, a spokesperson for the Antwerp Zoo pointed out that the animal park is visited by 140,000 children every year. Such school visits are preceded by multiple activities and lessons in the classroom via the zoo’s digital platform. These preparatory classroom activities are designed so that they meet the requirements for the skills and knowledge pupils must be able to master by the end of the schoolyear.

“The visit is usually the last step in that project,” spokesperson Ilse Segers said. “This is about so much more than just looking at animals. There’s a lot more to it,” she said, adding that Flanders’ has some of the most stringent animal welfare regulations in Europe.

The Antwerp Zoo, located just off the city’ Central Station, is one of the oldest and best-conserved zoos in the world. Its Centre for Research and Conservation, one of the world’s most advanced zoological research centres, focuses on animal welfare, breeding programmes and basic zoology research.

Photo: Belga / Zoo Antwerpen/ Jonas Verhulst




Antwerp Zoo

Antwerp Zoo is one of the oldest and best-conserved zoos in the world. The zoo buildings and gardens are registered as protected Flemish heritage.
Kai-Mook - In 2009, Kai-Mook, the first baby elephant born on Belgian soil, dominated national and international headlines for weeks.
Founding - The Zoo was established by former Antwerp mayor Jans Frans Loos. After visiting Amsterdam’s zoo, he decided it was time for Antwerp to get its own.
Short - In colloquial Flemish speech, Antwerp Zoo has long gone by the simple name “De Zoo”.
1 843

Zoo opens


surface area in hectares

5 000