Oakland Zoo advocates and takes action for the betterment of cats, bears, chimpanzees, and other animals who live in subpar captive conditions. Bred for personal or financial gain, very young animals are taken from their mothers to be exploited for entertainment purposes. These captive animals often live in subpar conditions, are mistreated, are malnourished, and never receive the specialized care they require. Working with remarkable organizations, Oakland Zoo rescues, rehabilitates, and advocates for bears, lions, tigers, and more.
Oakland Zoo led support for the federal Big Cat Public Safety Act (BCPSA), legislature that prohibits the breeding of big cats by private owners. The passing of this legislature will help put an end to businesses that practice ‘cub petting’ for profit, as exemplified on the popular show, “Tiger King.”
Oakland Zoo led action within the entire AZA* network of 160+ zoos and aquariums nationwide to garner support for BCPSA in the US Congress.
We met with lawmakers and participated in hearings on Capitol Hill to help move this legislature forward.
*Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the national organization that sets the highest standards for animal welfare for zoos and aquariums.
In 2022, Oakland Zoo assisted PETA with its largest-ever rescue of over 60 neglected and malnourished animals from Tri-State Zoological Park in Maryland. Oakland Zoo is providing rehabilitative care for two tortoises rescued in this operation.
In a 2019 case against a non-accredited roadside zoo in Virginia, Oakland Zoo provided consultation and expert testimony regarding the inhumane conditions endured by the animals that lived there. The owner and caretaker was convicted of cruelty, neglect, and deprivation of adequate care. More than 200 animals were seized, including lions, tigers, and Himalayan black bears. For work on this case, the Humane Society of United States honored Oakland Zoo—alongside the county sheriff’s office, county animal control, and other wildlife experts—in its 2021 Humane Law Enforcement Awards.
In 2017, Oakland Zoo provided consultation in another case involving animal conditions at a roadside zoo. A settlement was reached, and a black bear and brown bear were relocated to an accredited sanctuary.
Our work to protect all animals from cruelty, in partnership with organizations such as PETA and the Humane Society of the United States, is ongoing.
We are dedicated to messaging the importance of animal welfare throughout our Zoo, through signage, Docents, or digital media. Many animals that live at Oakland Zoo were once victims of the illegal wildlife trade. We aim to increase awareness about animal protection initiatives and the dangers—to humans and animals—of illegal animal ownership.
On behalf of rescued circus lions in Peru, Oakland Zoo raised funds for Animal Defenders International to help transport the confiscated and rescued lions to a sanctuary in South Africa in 2016.
In 2003, when more than 50 tigers were rescued from an unaccredited sanctuary in Southern California, Oakland Zoo assisted with transportation to PAWS.
In 2022, Oakland Zoo, in partnership with two globally accredited big cat sanctuaries, rescued four big cats from an abandoned roadside zoo in Oklahoma. We welcomed two tigers -- Lola and Mia -- from this rescue to Oakland Zoo, where we are providing rehabilitative medical care and forever homes for them.
In 2011, tigers Molly, Milou, Ginger, and Grace needed a home when their private owners, who had used them in their ‘cub petting’ business, no longer could profit from them because of their full grown size. We provided transportation from Texas, and a forever home at Oakland Zoo to all four tigers.
In 2000, Oakland Zoo provided sanctuary to two lion cubs—Leonard and Sandy—confiscated by authorities from drug dealers in Texas. Pictured above, the siblings were closely bonded and lived in their expansive habitat until they passed from natural causes a few years ago.
In 1999, three tigers—Toroko, Suma, and Maya—were relinquished by a traveling circus that came to Oakland. Oakland Zoo rescued the tigers and provided permanent sanctuary to them for the rest of their lives.
Included in Oakland Zoo's goals for the future is to have a large-scale sanctuary for big cats, bears, and chimps; both on site and potentially off site.