Today the extremely difficult decision was made to euthanise the group of four male Hamadryas baboons at Wellington Zoo after their welfare was compromised after a breakdown in their social structure. 

Baboons at the Zoo

Baboons at the Zoo

The breakdown of the baboon social structure has led to a critical risk situation for each of the four baboons with serious fighting causing injury and resulting in high levels of anxiety. We have an important duty of care to ensure that all animals we care for at the Zoo experience positive welfare and unfortunately for these baboons this is no longer the case. When it comes to a decision like this we need to make a decision before the animals begin to suffer, in this case it is a matter of urgency.

This is not a decision that we have made lightly and it is very tough on all of us but particularly those who dedicate themselves to caring for our animals. However, after extensive international research, lengthy discussions with our animal care, animal science and veterinary teams and other animal welfare experts, we are certain this is the kindest and most humane action we can take. Baboons are a social primate and the current situation is untenable for these animals.

Wellington Zoo Animal Welfare Committee Member Dr Ngaio Beausoleil who is Co-Director of the Animal Welfare Science and Bioethics Centre and Associate Professor (Applied Ethology and Animal Welfare Science), School of Veterinary Science at Massey University said, ‘It is Wellington Zoo’s responsibility to have the knowledge and experience to do what is best for the animals in their care. In this case, as difficult as the decision was, this was the most humane decision for the animals.’ 

The baboons have been well cared for by our expert animal care team but there were no further interventions we could make for these baboons. Various options, like re-homing the baboons through the regional managed breeding programme, were explored but these were either not possible, or would not improve the welfare state of the baboons.

It’s an incredibly sad day for all of us at Wellington Zoo, and although it’s been a very distressing decision to make, our utmost regard for the animals’ welfare made this decision necessary. It is our ultimate responsibility to ensure our animals live good lives without suffering. Our Zoo team and our community loved the baboons and we will all miss them terribly.


Wellington Zoo is an animal welfare accredited member of the Zoo and Aquarium Association Australasia and a member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums.