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Letter: Concerned local worries about carnivores at Spruce Haven Nature Park

April Jokelainen expresses concern about lack of veterinary care for aging animals, doubts the educational value of a facility found by experts to be unfit to care for the aging animals it houses
Ben the Bear at Spruce Haven Zoo

SooToday received the following letter from April Jokelainen, a local resident concerned about the health and safety of the carnivores at Spruce Haven Nature Park:
Although I respect the thought that the community and city should come together to raise money, volunteer, etc to keep the carnivores at Spruce Haven in their current conditions, which have been assessed as unfit, this is not a sustainable solution. 

For instance, what is the plan for specialized veterinary care? I keep hearing that there is no one in our city qualified to care for them...if these aging carnivores should fall ill or require palliative care, how long would it take to bring a qualified vet here, and what would be the cost? Do we depend on fundraising for this?

The animals would surely suffer longer while this is figured out, with the world watching and wondering why we didn’t accept the solution offered to us. At the accredited sanctuary, this would not be an issue as they are prepared, trained and I’m sure regularly deal with these issues.

Let’s all think about the “educational component” that supporters of Spruce Haven Nature Park wish to develop.  

What sources will be used to provide information and education regarding the animals in captivity? What would be the opinions and assessments of wild animal experts of the conditions that the carnivores are being kept in?

Is this a facility that is appropriate to take classrooms and our children to? It has been assessed as substandard, and our city appears to be on a path to allowing this unfortunate situation to continue. I’m not sure how I, as a parent and former early childhood educator, would explain this to children.

Dr. Martyn Obbard, who obtained his undergraduate degree in Zoology at the University of Western Ontario, and his M.Sc. and Ph.D. (1983) in Wildlife Ecology at the University of Guelph, and who was employed by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources for decades and has done many studies and research most extensively with black bears, was asked to assess Spruce Haven Nature Park by Zoocheck. 

If we wish to pay attention to education, we should look to his report.

A complete summary of Dr. Obbard’s accomplishments and qualifications are provided in the Zoocheck report, as well as a summary of his findings.

If we as a city allow this “grandfathering” to take place, it does not mean the issue will disappear. The zoo will be under the microscope with the world watching, as they should be.

The zoo and our city have already been offered the best solution for all involved. Zoocheck has offered to relocate the carnivores to accredited sanctuaries. This move would be overseen by experts, veterinarians and those qualified with the special needs and age of the animals in mind. 

Please let city council know that we need to accept the solution offered by Zoocheck.


April Jokelainen

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