Call follows euthanization of moose and allegations of poor animal care
Vancouver – The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) says disturbing images of an emaciated moose at the Greater Vancouver Zoo and allegations of poor animal care should be investigated by the BC SPCA.
The moose, which has now been euthanized by the zoo, appeared to be emaciated in photos posted online by a zoo visitor. Subsequent media reports included allegations of poor animal care by an individual claiming to be a former zoo employee.
“The photos of the moose were very disturbing,” said VHS spokesperson Peter Fricker, “but equally troubling are allegations that animals at the zoo have not been receiving adequate care and that a number have recently died.” He said the zoo should publicly report all animal deaths.
Fricker said the allegations should be investigated by the BC SPCA using independent veterinary experts rather than veterinarians paid by the zoo.
VHS is encouraging the former zoo employee to make a confidential report to the BC SPCA.
VHS recently released a report that called on the zoo to improve conditions for its animals, stating undersized and barren enclosures are preventing animals from engaging in natural behaviours.
Last week, media reported that a two-year-old girl was hospitalized following an incident at the Greater Vancouver Zoo (GVZoo). Reports indicated the toddler was able to access an area not open to the public and was bitten through a fence by a black bear, leaving her with a broken arm and injuries to her hand. The B.C. Conservation Officer Service has since opened an investigation into the incident.
While GVZoo issued a statement over Twitter, including reference to its adherence “to the safety standards put forth by Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA) to ensure the safety and well being of all patrons and our animals”, this means little considering that CAZA is a private zoo and aquarium industry association formed to represent its members’ interests. CAZA’s zoo and aquarium accreditation program amounts to the industry certifying and overseeing itself, which raises concerns about animal welfare, public safety and overall accountability and transparency within the industry.
In fact, some especially controversial zoos and aquariums have been given the CAZA stamp of approval, including African Lion Safari, an Ontario zoo that recently made headlines after being ranked in a World Animal Protection report as among the most cruel and outdated in the world. The CAZA-accredited facility offers elephant rides to guests, as well as the opportunity to pet elephants, take posed photos with them and watch them perform tricks. Shows, tricks and elephant rides are often associated with inhumane and traumatic training techniques while the practices themselves compromise the physical and psychological welfare of the animal and can present safety risks for guests. Earlier this summer, African Lion Safari was again in the news after a trainer was seriously injured in an incident with one of the zoo’s elephants.
Vancouver Humane has long-campaigned against the keeping of wild and exotic animals in captivity on the basis that their social, physiological and behavioural needs cannot be met in captivity. Captive animals often suffer due to a lack of space and enrichment, isolation, inappropriate social groupings and unsuitable environmental conditions. Depriving wild and exotic animals of the ability to perform instinctual behaviours in their natural habitat compromises their overall welfare and can lead to premature deaths.
GVZoo has a contentious history that reflects many of these issues, including but not limited to the 2015 death of a 15-month-old red panda, ‘Rakesh’, due to a fungal infection; the 2014 death of a two-year-old Siberian tiger, ‘Hani’, due to a lung infection; the deaths of three giraffes between 2011 and 2012; the 2009 stress-induced deaths of four zebras after two cape buffalos were placed inside their enclosure; the 2006 cruelty charge against GVZoo over the mistreatment of Hazina, a two-year-old hippo who had outgrown her pool and was kept for 15 months in a concrete holding pen with no outdoor access; and finally the high-profile and tragic story of Tina the elephant, who was kept for more than 30 years in a small, barren pen (many years of which she spent alone) and suffered from foot problems worsened by the ground in her enclosure. After a long-fought campaign by VHS and Zoocheck Canada and increased public pressure, Tina was transferred in 2003 to a sanctuary where she lived with other elephants and her foot condition improved, but sadly she died unexpectedly almost one year later of a sudden heart condition.
Vancouver Humane maintains that there are more ethical, effective and safe ways to engage in public education and wildlife conservation – the main claims that zoos and aquariums use to justify the keeping of wild and exotic animals in captivity. Alternatives include sanctuaries and wildlife rehabilitation centres, ethical eco-tours, documentaries and films (e.g. The Great Bear Rainforest IMAX film), and the use of immersive technology to offer interactive animal-free exhibits (e.g. National Geographic’s “Encounter: Ocean Odyssey”) to educate the public about wildlife and conservation issues.
As the public becomes increasingly aware of the welfare and safety issues associated with wild and exotic animal captivity, attitudes surrounding the practice are evolving. Canada’s recent ban on the keeping of whales and dolphins in captivity illustrates this. It’s time for zoos and aquariums to embrace this new era and evolve as well.
VHS is joining the call for CBS to end the use of wild animals in the filming of its show “Zoo”. The Vancouver-shot series is based on James Patterson’s 2012 novel by the same name and is a thriller about a zoologist’s investigation into a wave of violent animal attacks against humans around the world.
For a series that’s based on the story-line that captive and exploited animals are fighting back against their oppressors, it’s disturbing that CBS itself fails to see the lesson and contributes to such exploitation through their use of wild animals, including bears, wolves and big cats, who have been forced to perform in the series. These animals are denied any semblance of a natural life and are transported around, caged, chained and forced to perform for mere entertainment.
Computer-generated imagery (CGI) has come a long way and has been used in other films to create realistic looking animals without the use and abuse of live ones, a popular example of this being Disney’s “The Jungle Book”.
Please join us in calling on CBS to follow the lead of others in the film industry by ending their use of wild animals and instead utilizing CGI technology in their productions. You can submit your request by visiting CBS’s website and selecting “Zoo” under the category drop-down of the feedback form.
Great news! The City of Surrey has informed the Vancouver Humane Society that in spite of news reports that the city is considering providing property at little or no cost to Cinemazoo and the Urban Safari Rescue Society for a new exotic animal zoo in Surrey, there have been no plans submitted for consideration. At this time, the concept has not been advanced as a formal proposal and even if it was, there would be a full public process before any decisions were made whether or not to support the plan.
We’ll keep you posted. Thank you for all your emails and support on this issue!
Zookeeper Gary Oliver, who has met with the City, has been keeping and renting out exotic animals like alligators and iguanas in the Lower Mainland for many years. He operates a business called Cinemazoo and claims to be concerned about conservation and habitat. Cinemazoo not only rents out animals to the entertainment industry, but takes exotic animals to private homes for birthday parties, as well as holding parties at the facility.
They also take exotics into classrooms referring to it as ‘education’, encouraging children to handle the animals. This only teaches children that animals are here for our entertainment. In 2004 and 2010 Oliver was investigated by the BC SPCA and the provincial Ministry of the Environment for concerns relating to the welfare of the animals in his care.
VHS is opposed to the keeping of exotic animals because it is impossible to provide them with a natural environment in which they can perform natural behaviours. Whether or not they were captive-bred, they have still evolved to a very specific set of environmental circumstances which is impossible to replicate in captivity. The Vancouver Humane Society contacted the City of Surrey to oppose the establishment of yet another zoo.