Media Release

Two Metro Vancouver animal attractions under investigation for animal cruelty

VANCOUVER, March 10, 2022 – Animal advocates have decried conditions at the Vancouver Aquarium and Greater Vancouver Zoo for years. According to the Vancouver Humane Society (VHS), the observed psychological state of several animals in both facilities necessitated a report to BC SPCA, which enforces laws regarding animal welfare for wild and exotic animals in captivity in the province. The BC SPCA notified VHS that an investigation has been opened into the two facilities.

Video footage taken in 2022 and released by the VHS reveals a hippo floating listlessly in a barren indoor pool; a lion endlessly pacing along the fence that separates him from his captive pride; African penguins, unable to escape public view, standing for long periods of time huddled around a door in their enclosure; sea otters repeatedly trying to peel back the edges of their tank; a Steller sea lion abnormally sucking on the ground.

Keeping wild animals in captivity can prevent them from expressing their natural behaviours, says VHS Campaign Director Emily Pickett. Pickett notes that when animals are unable to express their natural behaviours, they begin to engage in “stereotypic behaviours” – repetitive, purposeless movements like a tiger pacing or giraffes biting and licking a bar, both of which can be seen in the video footage released by VHS.

“Consider that a giraffe’s natural habitat ranges from the size of Stanley park to the size of Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond, and Surrey combined,” says Pickett. “By comparison, the giraffe enclosure at the Greater Vancouver Zoo is thousands of times smaller than their natural roaming distance.”

Public support for animal captivity is waning, according to a new survey carried out by Research Co. The polling data reveals that 89 percent of British Columbians oppose the international trade of exotic, wild animals to be kept on display in permanent captivity in zoos and aquariums.

The survey also revealed mixed opinion on other zoo and aquarium practices. 49 percent of British Columbians support keeping animals in permanent captivity for entertainment and education, while 44 percent are opposed; the remainder are undecided. 

Advocates concerned about the plight of captive exotic animals can sign a petition calling on the B.C. government to update the Controlled Alien Species (CAS) regulation to include animal welfare considerations; prohibit the keeping, breeding and transport of all exotic species for permanent captivity; and close loopholes that currently permit CAS animals to be kept in zoos and aquariums, for film and tv, and in research and education institutions.