VHS report on Greater Vancouver Zoo raises concerns

Our report calling on the Greater Vancouver Zoo to improve conditions for its animals got a lot of attention when we released it late last year but we’re not letting the issue rest there.

The report, commissioned from Zoocheck, found that many animals at the zoo are bored and frustrated,  living in barren, under-sized cages and enclosures that restrict them from engaging in natural behaviours. It also says the zoo does not provide adequate behavioural enrichment for the animals. (Behavioural enrichment involves providing animals with a stimulating environment that allows natural activities such as climbing, foraging or digging and also creates physical and cognitive tasks that simulate challenges animals would find in their natural environment.) The report notes these issues were identified in previous VHS/Zoocheck reports but little has changed.

The report is also critical of the zoo’s giraffe enclosure, describing it as unchanged since a 2003 report described it as “barren and lacking in any stimulation for the animals to engage in natural behaviours.” The report states that giraffes are not suited to B.C.’s climate and suggests the zoo consider constructing a new, larger and climate-controlled enclosure or relocating the giraffes to a more species-appropriate facility elsewhere.

The report cites the zoo’s raptor exhibit (holding kestrels, owls, hawks, etc.) as an example of an under-sized enclosure that denies natural behaviours, stating: “There was little or no ability for the birds to engage in flight.”

The report recommends:

  • That the zoo develop a comprehensive environmental/behavioural enrichment program for all its animals.
  • That the zoo stop keeping animals that aren’t suited to B.C.’s climate and those it cannot accommodate in a way that “satisfies their physical, psychological and social needs…”.
  • That inadequate, undersized cages and enclosures be enlarged or removed.

VHS is keeping up the pressure on the zoo to make life better for its animals – and you can help. We’re running an e-campaign that allows people to send a message to the zoo, urging its management to address the concerns raised in our report.  You can take part here.