Odsherreds Zoo Rescue (DK): Joan and Jörgen Thygesen, owners

Joan Thygesen, owner of Odsherreds Zoo Rescue
Joan Thygesen, owner of Odsherreds Zoo Rescue

Joan Thygesen: "We must all take responsibility and act."

“Our rescue animals are often referred to as ‘heart kids’. We of course mention their history, but I see it as our primary task to tell the ‘good story’”, Odsherred Zoo Rescue (Asnæs, Denmark) project- and animal coordinator Joan Thygesen states. “I want our guests to have a positive experience during a nice visit to the zoo, so we focus on how well the animals are now doing.”

Odsherred’s many rescue animals are fully integrated into the park alongside animals from other sources. “In 2013 we converted our zoo into an integrated Zoo and Rescue Center.Our mission is to make people aware that animals are individuals: they have feelings, needs. They are often very intelligent creatures, not just a group of animals guided by primitive instincts, as is often believed.”

Joan feels that there are animals everywhere in the world that are in need of help. "Even in Europe, where welfare is highest, there are so many… Our craving for pets; the constant breeding of baby animals in zoos; laboratory and experimental animals all contribute to this. We must all take responsibility and act”, Joan says. “Odsherred Zoo Rescue has assumed responsibility by challenging its audience to not only see perfect zoo animals. It is about showing respect for the individual. I feel that here in Denmark we have stood quite alone in this opinion. We were often looked at suspiciously. ”

Fact: 55% of AAP’s outplacement network considers ‘Animal rescue organizations’ to be in their Top 3 sources for new animals.

Odsherred Zoo Rescue does not want be a transit place. It aims to provide animals with a permanent home. Joan keeps to a few conditions for accepting animals:

  1. the animal is or will be without chronic pain;
  2. when ill, the animal’s diseases are treatable, so there is a possibility of happiness and a good quality of life, and,
  3. an animal must be paired with conspecifics or other appropriate company.
Kinky, 1 of 2 kinkajous Odsherred took in from AAP
Kinky, 1 of 2 kinkajous Odsherred took in from AAP

Odsherred has been accepting rescue animals for years, first from Danish animal protection NGO Dyrenes Beskyttelse and governmentally confiscated animals from other zoos and private homes. From 2007 onwards Joan also established contact with European rescue centers such as AAP. Joan explains: “Those first years we sometimes kept rescue animals ‘behind the scenes’. Some animals we thought at the time to be too delicate or stressed to be on display for our visitors, so we did not make much fuss of it. However, as receiving and permanently housing distressed animals can be very expensive, we felt we needed to reconsider our approach. This turned out to be very successful. And, as Odsherred Zoo Rescue is now an official foundation, our initiative and the future of the animals we helped saving is better guaranteed.”

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