British TV star Martin Clunes has taken a swing at Kiwi zoos, claiming New Zealand is "backwards" and wishes "they'd shut all zoos".
The Doc Martin and Men Behaving Badly star turned nature documentary maker has travelled all over the globe filming a series of programmes looking at some of the world's most beloved and endangered animals.
In an interview with the Telegraph, the documentary maker and actor made note of his dissatisfaction of how we treat animals around the globe.
But the actor then took a swipe at New Zealand, claiming our zoos are "awful" and that he wishes they'd be "shut down".
"You do get some surprises. I would say New Zealand is really backwards with its zoos – awful places for such a modern country," he told the Telegraph.
"I wish they'd just shut all the bloody zoos, let those animals die, the ones that can't be rehomed."
However, the documentary maker's comments have angered both the Wellington Zoo CEO and Zoo Aquarium Association.
Wellington Zoo CEO Karen Fifield told the Herald Clunes' comments were ill-informed and ignored the conservation efforts New Zealand zoos were involved currently with.
"I dispute Martin Clunes' comments. Progressive zoos all around the world are involved in field conservation for species survival.
"In fact, progressive zoos are the third highest contributor to field-based conservation globally. To say all zoos are the same is ill-informed and shows a lack of understanding about animal welfare accreditation, global conservation work and sustainability expertise in zoos.
"I am not sure which New Zealand zoos Mr Clunes visited, but the progressive New Zealand zoos are well-run and have animal welfare and saving species at the forefront of their work. New Zealand zoos are staffed by professional experts in animal husbandry and welfare with more qualifications and experience in this area than I suggest Mr Clunes has."
More than two million people visit zoos in New Zealand every year, with our zoos advocating for wildlife protection and helping educate people about what they can do to aid in protecting wildlife.
Fifield said our zoos' animal welfare programmes were some of the best in the world.
"Wellington Zoo is part of global and regional breeding programmes for endangered species and we support many conservation partners who are working to save animals in the wild both within NZ and globally.
"New Zealand zoos which are members of the Zoo and Aquarium Association Australasia are animal welfare accredited using the Five Domains model of animal welfare science ... this accreditation is required for membership and considers not only physical wellbeing but also emotional and mental wellbeing."
Zoo and Aquarium Association executive director Nicola Craddock also disputed Clunes' claims, highlighting the exceedingly high standards New Zealand zoos operate in.
She also says New Zealand zoos' conservation efforts around the world contributed to protecting threatened species.
"Zoos and aquariums in New Zealand operate to some of the highest welfare standards worldwide to recognise dignity and respect for the animals in their care, while providing opportunities for visitors to learn about wildlife and environmental conservation," Craddock said.
"Zoo Aquarium Association and its members lead more than 100 breeding programmes in support of conservation and community education and actively contribute to threatened species recovery around the world."