Humane society issues a concerning report card for the Greater Vancouver Zoo

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      Animals at one of the Lower Mainland’s last big zoos are suffering from boredom and frustration.

      That’s the conclusion of a review of the Greater Vancouver Zoo in Aldergrove that was recently conducted by Zoocheck Inc. on behalf of the Vancouver Humane Society (VHS).

      The 42-page report raises concerns for an alleged lack of adequate stimulation in some cages, failures for other pens to take specific animals’ needs fully into account, and some animals’ lack of access to the outdoors or natural light.

      “Most of the exhibits had furnishings and objects, such as rocks, branches, leaves and other vegetation,

      but some of those items appeared to serve only a decorative or cosmetic function,” includes a section of the report related to reptile enclosures. “Substrates ranged from hard surfaces to softer surfaces, such as earth, bark chips and other materials, depending on the exhibit. Environmental conditions appeared basic and thermally simplistic with only one or two designated warm areas, usually in the space beneath a suspended heat lamp.”

      Another section, this one specific to an area of the zoo that houses giraffes, claims that concerns raised back in 2003 have largely gone unaddressed.

      “The housing situation of the giraffes seems to be substantially the same as described in previous reports,” the document reads. “In 2003, the enclosure was described as barren, lacking in any meaningful level of complexity or stimulation to encourage the expression of a broad range of natural behaviours. The only substantive change observed in 2018 was an overhead gazebo-type structure elevated on metal poles to a height that would allow the giraffes to walk in underneath.”

      The Greater Vancouver Zoo also hosts two large hippopotamuses. Zoocheck’s report describes their living area as “barren” and “lacks enrichment”.

      “The hippo enclosure at the GVZ requires upgrading to enhance the welfare of the animals, both indoors and outdoors,” it reads. “However, even if significant changes were made, such as construction of a larger, enriched indoor facility, the climate of the region will still be problematic. Therefore, the GVZ should explore options for relocating the hippos to more appropriate accommodation in a warmer climate.”

      The report also discusses “zoo-wide systemic concerns”.

      The Greater Vancouver Zoo at 5048 264th Street has operated under several names and shared animals with the public since 1970.

      It’s website describes it as “dedicated to education and conservation” and a home to “many rescued, donated and orphaned animals”.

      The last intendent review of life at the Greater Vancouver Zoo was conducted more than a decade ago, in 2008. According to December 2019 report, the zoo was twice given the opportunity to discuss and respond to concerns Zoocheck raised. It declined to participate. The report therefore does not include the views of the zoo’s operator. Research was also limited to what information was available.

      “It should be noted that this review did not examine aspects of the zoo operation that required special access or information not readily available to the visiting public, nor does it look at other kinds of programs the zoo may be involved in,” the report notes.