Edmonton Valley Zoo could be closed and lose accreditation without repairs: city budget

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The Edmonton Valley Zoo could be forced to close if it does not address some significant issues endangering animals, staff and the public, according to the city.

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The zoo is asking the city for $10.9 million to repair and upgrade enclosures for zebras, Lucy the elephant, birds of prey and several other species in a damning report that is part of the 2023 capital budget proposal -2026.

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Without repairs, the zoo risks losing its accreditation with the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums and its operating license from the Government of Alberta.

« Meeting animal care standards is necessary for the zoo to receive its annual provincial operating license and maintain its accreditation with the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums – we risk being shut down if these shortcomings are not met. » are not corrected, » says the draft capital profile.

“The current conditions in these enclosures have jeopardized the safety of City of Edmonton staff and resulted in lost time injuries…Failure to address the concerns identified above will compel the Edmonton Zoo Valley to dispose of several animals under our stewardship to other facilities.

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Without changes, the zoo may have to withdraw from several species survival programs, such as with Grévy’s zebra « which would be a major loss for the city, both in terms of enjoyment for visitors to the facility but also for the city’s reputation, » the report said.

The city administration is recommending repairs to council funds in part of the profile of the 2023-2026 capital budget proposal given the urgency. The zoo is also planning continued funding for the second phase of its Nature’s Wild Backyard expansion.

A baby Bactrian camel born March 1, 2021 at the Edmonton Valley Zoo.  Ed Kaiser/Postmedia, file
A baby Bactrian camel born March 1, 2021 at the Edmonton Valley Zoo. Ed Kaiser/Postmedia, file Photo by Ed Kaiser /20092910A

Zebras, birds, takins and camels need attention

The zebra barn does not meet basic care standards – in fact, at least one zebra has been injured and staff cannot safely handle the animals, the capital profile says.

“Its design was found to be unsafe for calming animals as the floor has no traction for hooves and permanent metal feeders which have scratched/injured the animals. The outdated stall design does not allow for the training of animals, safe veterinary procedures and efficient movement of animals.

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The upgrades would modernize restraints “to address the most pressing safety risks”.

The area housing a bald eagle, peregrine falcon and snowy owls is too small for them to fly and needs to be expanded or the zoo will have to abandon them, the profile says. They also need space to isolate the birds in the event of an outbreak of bird flu.

Other animals needing home improvements noted in the profile are the goat-like or antelope-like Sichuan takins. The enclosure is not adapted to the size of the herd and its current “group dynamics”.

The Bactrian camel enclosure needs some essential improvements, including more gates, a safe training place and a permanent outdoor waiting area.

Although the profile says there are risks to the public, the only issue specified is the seal and sea lion pool which is leaking and « puts the safety of our animals, staff and guests at risk. » « .

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Other enclosures have also reached the end of their life and need to be replaced.

In an email Tuesday, zoo director Gary Dewart wrote that the capital budget « recommends the renewal and improvement of some of the zoo’s enclosures for the benefit of Lucy as well as hoofed animals and birds. of prey ».

Lucy the elephant on her morning walk at the Edmonton Valley Zoo on March 23, 2021.
Lucy the elephant on her morning walk at the Edmonton Valley Zoo on March 23, 2021. Photo by Ed Kaiser /Postmedia, file

Lucy needs enrichment and space

Edmonton’s only elephant, Lucy, needs more room to roam, enrichment activities and to make her barn safer and brighter, according to the city.

Lucy and zoo workers are breathing dust in her barn, the report says. The zoo wants to install an exhaust system to eliminate dust, a humidifier and UV lighting. They also want to give her more space to roam outside unsupervised by rolling back a fence and plan to install things she can use and play with like a large rock and rough posts to rub her back on. .

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Animal rights activists have long argued that the Asian elephant’s living quarters are insufficient and that it should be moved to a sanctuary.

Earlier this year, the Valley Zoo was named North America’s worst zoo for elephants by In Defense of Animals for the third time since 2010. Facing calls to fire Lucy over the years, the zoo argued that his health issues made this impossible.

Lucy has respiratory issues and breathes primarily through her proboscis, which is abnormal and concerning for elephants, according to the latest public veterinary records from fall 2021.

An expert also recommended building a heated swimming pool for Lucy for enrichment and exercise. The zoo director said Postmedia in March, they were working on plans to build him a therapy pool, but the budget profiles don’t explicitly mention one.

Dewar said Tuesday that the Nature’s Wild Backyard Phase II aquatic amenity portion « could be adjusted to benefit larger animals, including Lucy, » and a design review is underway this year.

Lucy also underwent an independent health assessment this fall and details of this will be released after receiving final reports from experts, he said.



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