Zoos

Wild animals in captivity are deprived of their freedom and natural environment.

Animals in captivity

While society continues to tolerate the keeping of exotic animals in zoos, VHS works in pragmatic ways to improve their conditions and treatment.

VHS has monitored the Greater Vancouver Zoo in Aldergrove, B.C. for many years. Working with Zoocheck Canada, we have exposed poor conditions and called the zoo to account for the animals’ welfare.

In 2019, VHS commissioned a report from Zoocheck into conditions at the Greater Vancouver Zoo.

The report found that animals at the zoo were suffering from boredom and frustration due to captivity and called on the zoo to establish an “enrichment” program to help alleviate these problems. The report also recommended that the zoo move toward becoming a sanctuary for native species.

We have worked for many years to bring issues at the zoo to public attention. Most notably, VHS and Zoocheck led the campaign to have Tina the elephant freed from the zoo and sent to a sanctuary in 2004.

VHS also championed the cause of Hazina, a young hippo kept alone at the Greater Vancouver Zoo in a small, concrete barn for 20 months following her acquisition in 2004. VHS’s demands led to public pressure and an investigation by the BC SPCA into Hazina’s conditions. The investigation resulted in cruelty to animals charges being laid against the zoo in 2006. The charges were later stayed by the Crown (which deemed them “not in the public interest”) but the immense pressure on the zoo resulted in the construction of a long-promised new hippo facility for Hazina.

VHS, along with the BC SPCA, has also long called for provincial regulation of the keeping of exotic animals. In March 2009, the B.C. government announced sweeping new regulations, which not only banned the private keeping of many exotic species but also introduced a new permit system for zoos.

How you can help

Tell the Greater Vancouver Zoo: If you can’t give animals a better life, don’t keep them.

Background

Animals at the Greater Vancouver Zoo are living lives of boredom and frustration, according to our report.

The report, commissioned by VHS from Zoocheck, found that many animals at the zoo are living in barren, under-sized cages and enclosures that restrict them from engaging in natural behaviours.

The report 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.)

We’re calling on the zoo to:

  • develop a comprehensive environmental/behavioural enrichment program for all its animals.
  • stop keeping animals that aren’t suited to B.C.’s climate and those it cannot accommodate in a way that better meet their physical, psychological and social needs.
  • remove or enlarge inadequate, undersized cages.

In the longer term, we think the zoo should stop keeping exotic animals and transition toward becoming a sanctuary for native species.

What you can do

Please join us in sending a message to the Greater Vancouver Zoo that it needs to improve life for the animals it currently holds while working toward ending the keeping of captive animals for the sake of public entertainment.

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