Launch of Europe's first virtual zoo


Launch of Europe's first virtual zoo

24 July 2023
On Wednesday 19 July, our member GAIA inaugurated the first virtual reality zoo alongside Prince Laurent of Belgium and Bernard Clerfayt, Brussels Minister for Animal Welfare. This zoo of the future immerses visitors in wild habitats in virtual reality, allowing them to observe all kinds of animals, from tigers and penguins to giraffes and elephants.

Several million wild animals are kept in captivity in the 10,000 zoos currently counted around the world. Locked up in enclosures infinitely smaller than their natural habitat, in artificial environments that have little to do with their original savannah or forest, the animals suffer. 

Many of them develop stereotypies (abnormal repetitive behaviour, a sign of psychological suffering). Boredom and frustration drive animals to incessant pacing, constant rocking, compulsive grooming and self-mutilation.

GAIA's idea is simple: rather than observing polar bears pacing on a fake concrete ice floe, or bored monkeys in a glass enclosure, it would be better to get to know them while respecting their freedom. In GAIA's new virtual zoo, we will be able to admire wild animals evolving freely in their environment without being disturbed by visitors. This initiative could significantly reduce the number of animals kept in zoos, especially where minimum welfare standards cannot be met.

The value of this initiative also outweighs the educational benefits of zoos, where visitors cannot learn the natural behaviours of wild animals. Besides exotic animals, there are thousands of wild animals that can be observed, with patience and precaution, close to your home.

If you're in Belgium, GAIA's virtual zoo will be travelling to a number of major cities this summer. Here are the tour dates:

25/07 Brussels (Place de la Monnaie)

26/07 Antwerp (Wapper)

28/07 Leuven (Place de l’ange)

01/08 Charleroi (Place verte)

02/08 Hasselt (Molenpoortplein)

03/08 Bruges (Grote Markt)

04/08 Blankenberge (Zeedijk)

08/08 Gent (E. Braunplein)

09/08 Mons (location to be confirmed)

10/08 Liège (location to be confirmed)

11/08 Eupen (Marktplatz)