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Wolf escape reignites Vancouver Humane Society calls to end captivity of animals at zoos


This week's escape of two wolves from the Greater Vancouver Zoo reignited calls from the Vancouver Humane Society to end the captivity of animals in zoos.

The zoo has been closed down since Tuesday morning, when staff discovered wolves outside their enclosure. Officials said the facility's perimeter fence had been cut, leading them to believe the animals were released intentionally. An RCMP investigation is underway.

Two animals fled the property. One wolf named Chia was found dead on the side of the road on 264th Street; officials say it’s believed she was hit by a car. The second wolf, a one-year-old named Tempest, was found Friday morning.

In a statement, zoo officials said Tempest was "back with her family" and the public will be able to see her when the zoo reopens on Saturday.

“We are so grateful for this positive outcome for Tempest, but are still processing the loss of Chia,” the statement said.

The Vancouver Humane Society used the event to renew calls for an end to keeping wild animals in zoos.

“Obviously, this is a really devastating situation,” said the society's communications director Chantelle Archambault.

“(But) this is just the latest incident in really a pattern of incidents that have put animals and people at risk from the Greater Vancouver Zoo.”

In 2020, a moose at the zoo was euthanized after pictures showed it looking emaciated.

In 2019, a two-year-old girl was bitten by a bear through a fence. Numerous giraffes have also died in their enclosures. The Humane Society has also previously commissioned a report by ZooCheck, which described the zoo's enclosures as "small" and "barren."

While there’s no suggestion that the wolves had been mistreated or lived in poor conditions, Archambault said this week’s escape does “raise concerns” about the zoo’s ability to keep animals safe.

"We’d recommend against keeping these animals in permanent captivity for entertainment and we’d recommend more toward a legitimate sanctuary model that focuses on the rescue, rehab, and release of native species," Archambault said.

But according to another animal welfare expert, it’s not that simple.

Dr. Jake Veasey is the CEO of Care for the Rare, a global animal welfare and conservation organization. He previously worked at the Vancouver Aquarium and as the director of animal care at the Calgary Zoo.

“Whether you’re a wolf in a sanctuary or a wolf in a zoo, the wolf doesn’t read the sign on the door, it only experiences the world that it experiences,” Veasey said. “Rather than saying all animals in captivity is wrong or bad, let's focus on identifying what good (living conditions) looks like.”

Veasey said facilities such as zoos, sanctuaries and aquariums play important roles in animal conservation, public engagement and understanding animal psychology. Top Stories

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