On 5th February 2024, the Barcelona Zoo, in the capital of Catalonia, reported the death of the gorilla Xebo, which was part of a captive breeding program for endangered species that is failing as none of its descendants have been reintroduced into the wild. In another example of a lack of transparency, the zoo has not reported the specific cause of his death.

Xebo, who was born at Rotterdam Zoo in 1985, died at the age of 39, after arriving at Barcelona in 1996 as part of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) EEP (European Endangered Species Programme). He was both a father and grandfather, but none of his descendants have been reintroduced into the wild, and they simply continue to be exploited by the zoo industry. 

EEP programmes are another example of conservation initiatives that have failed and are actually an excuse to pretend that zoos contribute significantly to the conservation of endangered species, as this is a legal requirement originating in the European Union. Recently, the EAZA has been forced to publish a position on captive gorillas in which it acknowledges that: “additional solutions are needed to avoid a problematic situation in the coming years, with too many adult males who cannot become group leaders, cannot remain in a bachelor group and for whom a long solitary life is a welfare concern and is not desirable.”

The gorillas at the Barcelona Zoo already show clear evidence of how they suffer in captivity (the entirety of their lives). They show stereotypic behaviours such as circling, pulling out their hairs or those of others, eating their own plucked hair (trichophagy), areas of the body with hairlessness, repetitively touching their eyes and nose, and apathetic behaviour.

According to ZOOXXI, Barcelona Zoo is still not complying with the municipal ordinance passed in 2019 that directs the zoo to stop the reproduction of animals that are not intended to be reintroduced into the wild. 

Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.