It has recently come to our attention that an unaccredited zoo in northern Quebec is raising young exotic animals away from their mother so that visitor’s may have hands-on experiences with them. This practice has dangerous implications for the health and safety of the animals and the public; poses serious animal welfare concerns; and demonstrates the need for stronger regulatory frameworks and enforcement in Quebec concerning the keeping of exotics animals. It also highlights the critical need for Canadian accredited zoos to fill this regulatory gap.
CAZA’s values, policies and standards are clear: animals must be treated with respect and dignity and in a manner that does not jeopardize their welfare. Representing leading zoological parks and aquariums in Canada – including Aquarium du Québec, Biodôme de Montréal, Ecomuseum Zoo, Parc Omega, Parc Safari, Zoo de Granby, and Zoo sauvage de Saint-Félicien – our mission is to transform zoological facilities from exhibitors of animals to ethical stewards of biodiversity.
With our planet losing 2-3 species per day, nature requires us to raise the bar. Accredited zoos and aquariums in Canada are uniquely placed to conduct the science and research necessary to conserve vulnerable species, and foster the emotional connections required for the public to care about them. CAZA’s policies and standards on animal welfare, program animals, health and safety, husbandry, conservation, educational programming, and operational requirements reflect some of the strongest in North America.
CAZA supports the appropriate use of program animals as an important and powerful educational tool in enhancing affective messages about conservation, wildlife, and animal welfare. However, our Policy on the Use of Animals in Educational Programming requires accredited facilities to adhere to strict guidelines on:
- Free Choice: The animal must have the ability to remove themselves from the program if they choose to do so.
- Wellbeing: The animal must not be subject to any form undue stress and must be provided housing and transportation which meets their physical, social and psychological needs.
- Natural Behaviours and Messaging: The animal must on display behaviours they would exhibit in the wild, and all educational messaging must reflect truthful information about their natural behaviours.
- Human/Animal Interaction: The health and safety of both visitors and the animal must be assessed at all times.
- Enrichment: Staff must ensure that the program animal receives appropriate and frequent enrichment opportunities.
- Staff Training: All staff handling program animals must adhere to procedures for reporting injuries, visitor management, reducing the risk of transmission of zoonotic disease, and appropriate personal behavior.
- Record Keeping and Emergency Protocols: Accurate documentation and availability of records must be made available. An emergency protocol must be in place for all animals involved in programming.
CAZA recognizes that in order to have the social license to operate, our standards and policies protecting animal welfare and the public must continue to evolve and serve as an example for regulatory bodies, and the general public. We will continue to hold CAZA accredited members to the highest standards and work with governments to ensure that regulatory frameworks across Canada can become better equipped to manage the serious responsibility of keeping exotics animals.