A recent trip to a local roadside zoo has forever embedded a haunted memory of torment and depression as captive animals languish in substandard conditions.
By Paul Glendenning
Published November 08, 2006
A recent trip to a local roadside zoo has forever embedded a haunted memory of torment and depression as captive animals languish in substandard conditions. The trip was triggered after alarming reports were released condemning Killman Zoo in Caledonia.
Two respected animal protection organizations, Zoocheck and the World Society for the Protection of Animals, released reports this year that came down hard on the many ramshackle horrors referred to as zoos or animal parks found across the country. In Ontario alone there are 71.
Among the zoos receiving a failing grade is Caledonia's Killman Zoo. Both reports seriously condemn the facility, basing their final recommendations on detailed observations by professionals such as Elsie Poulsen, who has a B.Sc in Biology and a four year Zookeeping Diploma from the City of Calgary Apprenticeship programs. Poulsen has also worked as both a Field biologist in Alberta's Oil Industry and a zookeeper at the Calgary Zoo.
Key problems identified included, undersized barren cages, under stimulated and obese animals, poor cleanliness, unnecessary breeding of animals, and inadequate food items (peanuts for some and signs requesting freezer burnt meat donations). Of the Exhibits reviewed in detail by each of the reports, all failed.
In answer to these reports, there have been no cases reported of action being taken. Killman Zoo refused to respond to requests for comments, but did respond to the Hamilton Spectator saying the SPCA had been there and told them "everything was fine."
At the Welland Humane Society, which has jurisdiction over Killman, cautious employees would only point to a lack of enforceable laws and that the case involving Killman was ongoing so no comment could be made.
The Ministry of Natural Resources response to WSPA's report was that their purview was native animals only and that they saw no identifiable violations. This is in spite of the fact that the Fish and Wildlife conservation Act states:
Animal Enclosures in which animals on display should be the size which enables animals to: Exercise natural behaviours, achieve a distance from the public and other specimens at which animals are not psychologically or physically stressed, and Achieve a full range of body movement and physical movements normally performed.
The majority of Roadside attractions, including Killman, fail miserably in these elements.
One of the worst exhibits investigated was a Siberian tiger named "Frosty". The conditions for this cat was rated 0 out of 50 by WSPA. Comments included with the evaluation state:
"Overweight tiger. Very small exhibit prevents normal expression of range of natural behaviours. No use of vertical space. Flimsy construction, barrier mesh on wooden post. Secondary barrier gate unlocked. Minimal shade. No useful furniture for enrichment."
As if such conditions weren't enough, more disturbing details arose after a personal visit to the facility.
Upon first observation, the tiger was a picture of lonely majesty. The great overweight beast sauntered back and forth in his cage, repeatedly calling out a tigerish greeting with no hope of a response.
But when it came for the weekly public feeding, things changed.
Frosty accepted his food, but contrary to the keepers wishes, the great cat hid behind his platform rather than eating in full view for visitor gratification.
After a bit of unsuccessful cajoling, the keeper decided to increase the "excitement". With a youth filming the event, he invited a spectator to step between the fences leaving only one fence between her and the 500 lb. cat. He then announced that the intent, as with every Sunday, was to threaten the animal and provoke a charge.
Frosty snarled but did not take the bait.
So a second spectator was invited in. The approach of to strangers right up to the fence finally provoked a terrifying charge at the fence by Frosty. Apparently unsatisfied, the keeper would approach again to inflict further threat and another charge.
The show "complete", the crowd moved on.
Some time later, after the last cat was fed, another visit was made to Frosty alone. The proud sad beast lay on the bottom of his cage glaring balefully at anyone's approach.
As enforcement is all but absent, the laws protecting animals equally invisible, help seems all but impossible.
It has been suggested that Canada adopt the "five Freedoms" created in 1965 by the UK-based Bramble commission which was heavily referenced in the formation of the United Kingdom's Secretary of State's standards of Modern Zoo Practice.
With these five basics in mind, a more humane legislation for animals in captivity would be possible. One way to make this a reality would be for people to support groups like Zoocheck, WSPA or Hamilton's own C.A.G.E.D., and help them push the government to end such deliberate cruelty.