Tag Archives: “Michael Hackenberger”

Bowmanville Zoo’s New Zebra Highlights Equine Disease Surveillance Concerns

Zorro in his first Canadian home. He is a Plains/Burchell's Zebra. Health records and a Coggins test for EIA were done when he was imported to Ontario.

Zorro in his first Canadian home. He is a Plains/Burchell’s Zebra. Health records and a Coggins test for EIA were done when he was imported to Ontario in 2012.

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

It’s no secret that the Bowmanville Zoo is on the receiving end of more negative publicity after Zoo Director Michael Hackenberger muttered some expletives at his mini-horse riding baboon Austin after the primate didn’t follow his “script” during a live television show. Hackenberger later apologized for his utterances after the TV show expressed its displeasure with his lack of impulse control towards his animals.

But the Alberta branch of Fish and Wildlife Enforcement have inadvertently put the Bowmanville Zoo in the spotlight again when they seized a tame Burchell’s Zebra named “Zorro” from a farm in Alberta, where he is a prohibited animal, and gave him to the Zoo while they were in town supplying animals for “Whoop-Up Days” in Alberta. Not only did Fish and Wildlife confound the issue with Zorro’s previous owners in a long chain of custody disagreement, they apparently did not test him for Equine Infectious Anemia before giving him to the zoo.

Timeline of Events

  1. June 2012 – Zorro imported to Canada
  2. February 2015 – Zorro sold to Newmarket, Ontario equine rescue/breeder who did not take possession of him immediately. He then spent some months at a different facility in Ontario
  3. July 2015 – Zorro flipped to new Alberta owner by the rescue
  4. August 2015 – Zorro seized by Fish and Wildlife Enforcement as a prohibited animal
  5. August 2015 – An offer was made by Fish and Wildlife Enforcement to return Zorro to his last owner in Ontario, who refused to accept him. He was then offered back to the owners of the farm who imported him, who agreed to take him. After arrangements were made, F&WE wrote back that they would be giving him to the Bowmanville Zoo, as “this  facility is CAZA accredited and we feel confident that they have the ability to provide the care for this animal.”
  6. August 2015 – The zebra was picked-up August 23rd

At one time earlier in the email chain Fish and Wildlife Enforcement proposed that Zorro be relocated to the Calgary Zoo, but something changed their minds. Did the decision have anything to do

Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Branch (to original Ontario owner on August 19th) – “A zoo in Ontario will be taking Zorro. They want a human friendly animal and we will be picking Zorro up at no cost.”

Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Branch wrote (to original Ontario owner on August 19th) – “A zoo in Ontario will be taking Zorro. They want a human friendly animal and we will be picking Zorro up at no cost.”

with the fact that the Bowmanville Zoo was touring in Alberta at the time and had available space in their trailer?

Ignoring all the issues with private ownership of exotic animals, the most concerning to me is the fact that Fish and Wildlife Enforcement (and probably other branches of the Alberta government) did not have concerns about shipping an equid to Ontario without testing for Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA), a disease which while rare, is devastating to horse owners when it does invade their barns, since equids must be permanently quarantined in a building with vigilant insect control (the vectors that spread the disease are flies and other insects that bite an infected horse before transferring it to another) or humanely euthanized. Also commonly called “swamp fever,” EIA is caused by a retrovirus, similar to the human HIV.  There is currently no vaccine against the virus, and once infected an equine carries the virus for the rest of its life.  Episodes of more severe signs can occur even years after the initial infection, and during these episodes an infected animal poses the greatest threat to other horses because the viral load in the bloodstream is very high with greater potential for being spread to other animals.

Fish And Wildlife Enforcment Branch (to former Ontario owner on August 17) “It is paramount that we establish the risk factor, if any, to Alberta’s Equine and Cattle industries…”


From the picture I can’t tell whether Zorro is completely partitioned off from the cats. Megaphones from across the street during zoo protests are stressful, but travelling with predators is not?

From the picture I can’t tell whether Zorro is completely partitioned off from the cats. The zoo complains that megaphones from across the street during protests are stressful, but travelling with predators is not?

The test for EIA is generally referred to as a Coggins test, although a more accurate ELISA-type test is lately being used to test for the disease, which is most frequently found in Saskatchewan and Alberta. In those provinces there’s a reservoir of infected horses that are still not being identified, and could continue to perpetuate the infection.

OMAFRA fact sheet on EIA

“Equine infectious anemia (EIA) ….. is a potentially fatal disease caused by a virus that can infect all types of equines, including horses, mules, zebras and donkeys. In most cases, the disease begins with an acute phase of illness, followed by chronic cyclical symptoms, which continue throughout the remainder of the horse’s life. Some horses do not show any symptoms but can still be a source of infection for other animals. EIA occurs throughout Ontario and is an ongoing concern for horse owners in the province.”

Control Measures in Canada

  • To conduct EIA testing in Canada, a veterinarian must be federally accredited and send samples only to Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)-approved labs.
  • It is required by law that all suspected cases of EIA be immediately reported to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), which investigates all reported cases. In Ontario, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) may at times provide assistance with the response.
  • If a horse is confirmed to have EIA, it may either be placed under a permanent CFIA quarantine (if it doesn’t have any symptoms) or ordered destroyed with paid compensation.
  • The CFIA also requires mandatory testing of imported horses and has strict regulations on import of animals and animal products.

Worms and Germs Blog – “EIA testing is required prior to travel to many places and prior to participating in many competitions or shows.  Regular testing of animals that travel frequently helps to identify infected animals more quickly.”


At this point in time testing for EIA is a voluntary program administered by the CFIA, but horse owners in Alberta and Saskatchewan are often cautioned to avoid proximity to horses of unknown

Zebras are preyed upon by Lions, Leopards, Hyenas and African Wild Dogs, along with numerous other large carnivores such as Crocodiles when they are crossing rivers or drinking. Hopefully he was fully partitioned off from the lions and tigers with a solid barricade.

This is the trailer Zorro travelled in after he was seized. Zebras are preyed upon by lions, leopards, hyenas and african wild dogs, along with numerous other large carnivores such as crocodiles when they are crossing rivers or drinking. Hopefully Zorro was fully partitioned off from the lions and tigers with a solid barricade so he would not be caused anxiety while on the long trip to Ontario.

EIA status.  This can be tough to do if your horse (or zebra) goes to shows where EIA testing is not mandatory. But with the current problems out west (or anywhere else that EIA may be circulating) testing for EIA prior to moving horses to other provinces is something that should be strongly promoted. This is especially important as the prairies are seeing the highest number of EIA cases in years, with many new cases emerging each year on different properties.

While the Fish and Wildlife people insist in emails that Zorro is a concern for the cattle and equine industry (which is not a frivolous concern) they don’t mention EIA in any emails to former owners of Zorro, nor do they evidently have any concern about the ONTARIO equine industry when they return him without any apparent Coggins test. Was he tested at all before embarking to Ontario? If so when? According to his Alberta owner, no one came to her farm to stick him with a needle at any point, and he was loaded directly on a trailer bound for Ontario with other animals.  It is a bit after-the-fact to be testing him once he’s arrived at the zoo isn’t it?  Rather like shutting the barn door after the horse has already escaped….According to CAZA (Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums) testing for EIA appears in their Accreditation Standards documentation, and equids must be quarantined, as a “best practice.”

I think it is very unlikely that Zorro has been exposed to EIA. He’s a good weight and looks very healthy in fact.  However, complacency is what contributes to the transmission of disease. The zoo equines as well as the horse industry should not be overlooked. I’ve always been required to provide a negative Coggins test even when changing barns within Ontario, because barn owners know that it could devastate their businesses if all the horses had to be destroyed.

It’s rather hypocritical for any level of the Alberta government to express concern only for their cattle and equines (by asking for vet records from previous owners),  but not show any basic common sense when sending Zorro to Ontario where we also have equines.  In any case,  veterinary records from 2012 wouldn’t prove much,  and are completely outdated.  Coggins is good for six months only.  Equines travelling from Alberta and Saskatchewan should automatically be tested before being transferred to the eastern provinces, IMO.


Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – Bowmanville Zoo Exotic Cats Get A Reprieve From Declawing



Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Captive tigers and lions, among other zoo animals, are often exploited for gimmicky photoshoots and photo-ops. The Bowmanville Zoos star tiger Jonas (who was featured in the movie Life of Pi) would go home with the zoo staff and play with their dogs – of course he couldn’t do this unless he was declawed. He passed away in 2011 as a result of a birth defect, and Limba the asian elephant was euthanized at the zoo in December 2013.

declawing is tortureNow the focus has shifted onto the youngest exotic cats, who were born in the summer, as a replacement revenue stream for Jonas and Limba. In the past, all of the exotic cats at the Zoo had been declawed, to make them “safe” to interact with the public and the Zoo staff. But after an announcement about the inevitable declaw for the young exotic cats was posted on the zoos Facebook page, the Paw Project, a group working to end the inhumane practice of declawing through education and legislation, called on the Zoo to renounce the operation on the grounds that it was inhumane. Declawing, or onchyectomy, is the amputation of the last digital bone, including the nail bed and claw, on each front toe. An amputation is the removal of a part of the body from the rest of the body. The cat’s claw is not a nail as is a human fingernail, it is part of the last bone (distal phalanx) in the cat’s toe and this region must be removed completely, or regrowth of a vestigial claw and abscess-formation result. To remove the claw: the bone, nerve, joint capsule, ligaments, and the tendons must all be amputated. Thus declawing is not a simple single surgery but ten separate, painful amputations of the third phalanx up to the last joint of each toe. If the surgery is performed correctly and the entire nail bed is removed, the claw cannot regrow.  It is not without risks, including anaesthetic complications, haemorrhaging, and extreme pain. In terms of seriousness it is not comparable to soft-tissue surgeries suAnimals Belong in the wildch as spay/neuter, where recovery time is much quicker.

AVMA, CVMA, and USDA all oppose declawing big cats. And it was only in the last few days that CAZA – Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums issued a statement that they were going to develop a policy on declawing – a decision that may have resulted in the Zoo losing its accreditation if they did not comply with any resulting opposition to declawing.

At a protest on September 28th, the Zoo tried various strategies to stifle the protesters’ free speech, including glaring at us from across the street, calling the cops in an attempt to stop our educational and limited use of the megaphone, and encouraging two of the “Real Housewives of the Bowmanville Trailer Park Community” to complain to the police that our megapohone use, at 12 pm in the afternoon from across a busy highway, was too disruptive to both them and the Zoo animals. The megaphone use was even more disruptive apparently than the non-stop carnival music emanating from Funland at the same time. The police however, were unconvinced and we were allowed to continue, also due to the fact that there are no bylaws against megaphone use in the town. Furthermore, last year we did our due diligence – I paid my way into the Zoo to digitally record the noise level from megaphone use from inside the zoo where it was claimed that the giraffes were disturbed. While chatting with Zoo Director Michael Hackenberger while the megaphone was in use and asking him about his concerns for the young giraffes in the enclosure, he never once mentioned that the megaphone was disruptive to them. In fact, the animals did not react to it as it could barely be heard at all.  Of course it hardly helped the Zoos’ claim that the giraffes were frightened when we could see them from across the street poking their heads out at us curiously from inside their enclosure,  appearing utterly unruffled by the megaphone. work by Nicholas Wilvert.

When none of these strategies served to deter our peaceful protest, the head zookeeper crossed the road to rather contritely state that no one in the Zoo had any idea from where the “rumour” about declawing originated, so I assume that after the protest, the creative writing intern managing their Facebook page probably got some sort of dressing-down for confirming the declaw procedure not once but several times.

Bowmanville zoo declaw

Bread and circuses…

The combined protest across from the Zoo property and the social media backlash, even by many of their own regular patrons, led to the Zoo issuing a statement abandoning the declawing plan a few days later. In their manicure or mutilationunique way, Zoo management always manages to backtrack by claiming that the idea was for the safety of the animals and never for the handlers or the public, even though this was not the message point that was posted on Facebook.

Michael Hackenberger was adamant he had not made a final decision on whether to declaw the cats and called the reaction by some in the animal rights community “uninformed and knee-jerk.”  However, it was hardly reactionary since the Zoo’s own Facebook page advised visitors that it was policy to declaw the cats since it’s safer for handlers to work with them. In the end, Hackenberger himself appeared to take credit for ending declawing at the Zoo, and that’s fine – however the Zoo arrives at the conclusion that they need to stop declawing matters little so long as they do.

In the US, declawing is done by circuses to prevent human injury but is no longer popular – and it is in violation of USDA regulations. Various circus acts have been cited by the USDA for mistreatment of their big cats, including acts featured at casinos, which were named for declawing lions and tigers. It is alleged that even the Make a Wish Foundation arranges for adults and children to meet and closely interact with declawed tigers.

Experts say that working with dangerous animals like tigers is a bad idea both for the trainers and for the animals, citing the fact that tigers, along with elephants, are the main causes of occupational fatalities for circus workers and zoo keepers.  But still,  not everyone’s happy,  even though the outcome is a win for both the Zoo and the cats.  The Supporters of Bowmanville Zoo Facebook page,  which is certainly not a support page for the animals but a page to complain about zoo protests,  is determined to try to take down a Facebook page dedicated to ending declawing in Canada as “harassment” of the Zoo.  And those people are proof that just because you got the monkey off your back it doesn’t mean the circus has left town.

"nicholas wilvert"




Bowmanville – Comfortably Numb?

carnival barker

© Heather Clemenceau

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

As the world now knows,  the lone Bowmanville Zoo asian elephant Limba,  has been humanely euthanized.   Animal Advocates held a memorial for her across from the zoo property on December 7th.  May she rest in peace.

As a result of our persistence in demonstrating against Limba’s circumstances at the zoo and in circuses,  activists have continually been maligned in the media and even been the subject of physical altercations on public property.  In some cases we are denied the use of public property with laughable justifications.  Just today an interesting critique of activism in general crossed my newsfeed which outlines the paradox of activism – while activists are capable of being major forces for change,  the harder we push for these changes, the more they alienate the people whose support we hope to win.  While this is true,  there are many situations where we must simply refute rampant propaganda and stop it in its tracks.

This blog has always been about presenting factually sourced information about animals we love (or my opinion supported by facts),  as a counter to deceptive propaganda techniques,  logical fallacies,  and even lies.  While the opportunity to enlighten with facts is irresistible to me,  there are also times when ridicule becomes the only defence that can be used against unintelligible propositions or personal attacks.

I think it’s important to identify who the real extremists are in this debate – the minority of people who make wild accusations and unsubstantiated claims – people who decide that ignoring us is best but then find that they cannot follow their own advice.  Reasonable, rational people who are not fact-challenged, UNDERSTAND, even if they do not ACCEPT.  No one cares if you ACCEPT our statements about the inequity of keeping elephants in Canada, only that you UNDERSTAND the response.  Blaming the messenger never changes the facts, because a fact cannot be insolent – and people really have no right to be offended merely because they don’t like or agree with said fact.  If some of you are going to argue badly,  why bother to do it at all?  Too many people on pro-parade pages are merely mimicking what rational discussion sounds like to them.

So here’s a selection of statements taken verbatim from pro-parade pages and media interviews,  and I have original screen caps (or links) for all and have altered nothing.  JUNKMILLBigTopSpelling and grammar are the original poster’s own of course. My responses follow in bold.

“Bring extra $$$, never know if you drive over a nail and get a flat….or 4.”

And with this quote we have one of the defining statements of the town – in other words, if you come to our small-minded community and we object to you, your car might just meet with an accident.

“Like almost all elephants, Limba likes snow.” 

Have “almost all elephants” been interviewed to determine their opinion of snow?  How do you even describe snow to an elephant who may never have seen it?  And what about the elephants who are on record for not actually liking snow?   Do they have the option not to be captured or bred and sent to a cold climate, like say, Alaska? In all likelihood,  elephants may not mind the snow at all,  but probably very much dislike the cold temperatures that come with it.  Studies indicate that elephants have a limited ability to adapt to wide temperature ranges, as their bodies are unable to insulate (add fat) or adjust to extremes in temperature. Elephants have evolved to live in temperate and tropical climates, and are at risk if subjected to consistently cold temperatures, as, once chilled, they are unable to gain sufficient heat to warm themselves, which is why most of them must remain confined to heated barns for the majority of the winter.

“I bet you these are the same people poisoning our dogs and mutilating our cats.”  

I googled “bowmanville cat mutilation” but nothing popped up though.  But perhaps instead of interrupting a memorial that required police intervention, you should be asking the police to look into these unsolved mutilations and poisonings.  Just a thought.

“When it is too cold out she does laps indoors to warm up first.”

Why do I picture Olivia Newton John from the video “Physical” with leg warmers in a wet sauna?

“People you need to remember “activists” are extremists. They bomb things and set things on fire and chain themselves to things drag their children out with signs around their necks in harms way etc. “ 

But we leave the tire slashin’ up to the locals……..

“that bitch limba been livin and doin the same shit for years, she an og on the block in bville, aint no bitches from peta comin and takin are nigga limba, go suck ur moms.” 

I get that, for some people, “nigga” can be a term of endearment. But I’m going to assume that “go suck ur moms” is not.

“They hope to brainwash our children.”

No, we leave that up to commie hacks like Big Bird, Ernie and Bert.

“This is about them wanting Limba to be sent to a sanctuary PAWS where other elephants reside in California where the weather is unpredictable fires everywhere and now radiation with possibility of being wiped off JUNKMILLBigTop elephantthe face of the plant.”

Yes, let’s rescue all the animals of any species who currently reside in California. In fact, animals should only live in countries where there are no natural disasters.  And I’ll go out on a limb here and say that the weather,  even in northern California,  is far more suitable for an elephant than it is in Canada.

“rich ppl and celebrities can gawk at them even spend the night with them.  Such a cruel cruel world.” 

The person making this remark was referring to the Toronto Zoo elephants who were relocated to the PAWS sanctuary.  The Bville groups on Facebook are undeniably made up of people who support private ownership of tigers and monkeys and other exotic animals, quite often from the US.  I don’t see how being viewed a few times a year is “cruel” compared to being viewed 200 days of the year and being trucked around as part of a circus.  Methinks your concern is misplaced.

“Oh yes, threatening the safety of children at a Santa Claus Parade is definitely the vision you want people to have of Bowmanville!”

For god’s sake, think of the children!  Your parade is over, you can stop marching now.

“Stalking a poor innocent town with discrimination, threats, and childish name calling.”

Stalking a town?  Bowmanville/Newcastle has a population of about 44,000 people.  I think that’d be a pretty tall order even for the most determined stalker. And no one has discriminated against the entire town.  But you don’t have a problem with people from your town who protest a MEMORIAL?  That’s actually a tactic of the Westboro Baptist Church……..

“This is ridiculous, arrogant fools, Limba had a great life.  FUCK YOU for saying differently.”

In that case,  let me reciprocate your middle finger.

“wheels on the bus go round and round.”  (Made in reference to a question about taking a bus to the memorial)

But the gears in your head need a little WD-40…..

“the protesters are actually less than a dozen people with multiple fake profiles pretending there is a lot more of them.”

This comment is laughably ironic since it’s been made by a person who uses multiple personalities on Facebook.  Thanks for destroying another irony meter; I’m really wracking up the bills on these things.

“She walks around lifts her leg and looks pretty and in return has all the necessities of life supplied to her.  In the wild if she doesn’t work she starves and dies.”

I’m glad this person made this comment,  since it allows me to factually address what are the “necessities of life” for an elephant.  Our issue has always been that Limba didn’t have all the necessities of life given to her other than basic subsistence, veterinary care,  and interaction with her keeper.  To be fair,  I think that Limba’s keeper Robert provided her with a good deal of enrichment and tried (and succeeded) in making her life better.  But there is only one picture of Limba on this page – if looking at it doesn’t make you wonder if we could do better, then you might be missing a sensitivity chip. Perhaps some elephants, if they could choose, would prefer to live in a large zoo facility rather than experience poaching and predation in the wild, but they can’t exactly tell us this.  We’ve kept animals locked in cages since early civilizations.  They were kept for the amusement of man, without consideration to the welfare of the animals, and we were either unaware or indifferent to their needs, both physical and psychological.  

The idea that a zoo is automatically the best repository for an animal is passé.  We do however, need to aggressively confront the issues concerning animals in the wild,  and we need to leave the majority of them where we found them – they make up a vast gene pool for future evolutionary processes. They supply other species with food, recycle nutrients essential to agriculture, and help generate and maintain soils. Moreover, they detoxify poisonous substances, break down organic wastes, and control potential crop pests and disease carriers.

JUNKMILLBigTop lionsOther species depend on the elephant for their survival – one example of this commensal relationship is that of the elephant and the termite. Termites need the elephant for both housing and food; termites eat elephant feces and build their mounds underneath piles of elephant feces.  Elephants also clear areas for new trees and other forms of vegetation to grow, helping to continue the life cycle for plants and other animals. They also clear paths through difficult terrain and make way for other species to relocate to different areas. When they die, the breakdown of biological matter is essential for perpetuation of the carbon/phosphorus/sulphur/oxygen/nitrogen cycles, without which life on earth would cease.   My own view is that each wild species has an inherent right to play its role in the ongoing evolution of life on earth until and unless it becomes extinct without interference by humans.  Despite the hardships experienced by animals surviving in the face of human encroachment,  we can’t achieve all the ecological benefits provided by animals by keeping them in zoos. Aside from this,  about 95% of all zoos don’t actually participate in introduction or re-introduction programs – animals they breed are usually retained for other zoos or circuses.

“So someone is caring for a socially awkward elephant that enjoys the company of people that was previously abused and your going to protest it.”

Once again, please refer to the lone picture of Limba in this blog post.  While I am glad Limba had a companion who was devoted to her and who loved her, we need to ask ourselves whether she needed to be shipped across the country for circuses, weddings, winery events and so forth.  I’m sure she enjoyed being with Robert, but perhaps she did not enjoy these other things? Even animals that are not adequately socialized with their own species have a need to be present as part of a group. Female elephants stay together in family units.  There are numerous pictures of Limba with other elephants and even if she was not a dominant animal in a herd environment,  humans cannot replace that social order. She seemed to be friends with another elephant – Tarra.  It has also been shown that elephants are capable of self-recognition, which is exceedingly rare in the animal kingdom.

“How many of you protesters keep wild animals in your homes? I bet most of you have either cats or dogs.  A shame that you would force a beautiful creature like a cat or dog to live in doors captive unable to roam free and be happy.”

Where I live there are bylaws against allowing animals to foam free.  And if you look up above, there’s a person complaining that someone is mutilating and poisoning dogs and cats in Bville, so it seems like letting them roam is not a particularly good idea. I don’t advise keeping actual wild animals in anyone’s home either – you only have to look to the IKEA monkey affair as an example of why that doesn’t have the potential to work out so well legally or practically.

And in the event that the o-post was sarcasm,  let me just say that there are vast differences between tamed wild animals and domesticated animals. Geneticist George Price, of Price’s Theorem fame, defined domestication as a process by which population of animals becomes adapted to man and the environment as a result of genetic mutation, neurochemical changes, and environmentally induced developmental changes. In long-term selection experiments designed to study the consequences of selection for the “tame” domesticated type of behaviour, Belyaev et al. (1981) studied foxes reared for their fur. The red fox (Vulpes fulva) has been raised on seminatural fur farms for over 100 years and was selected for fur traits and not behavioural traits. The objective of this experiment was to breed animals similar in behaviour to the domestic dog. By selecting and breeding the tamest individuals, 20 years later the experiment succeeded in turning wild foxes into tame “dogs.”

While Price and Belyaev were refining the principles of conditioning on animals, ethology – the study of the way genes are modified during evolution to deal with particular environments, was a developing science. Konrad Lorenz and Niko Tinbergen cataloged the behaviour of many animals in their natural environments. Together they developed the ethogram. An ethogram is a complete listing of all the behaviours that an animal performs in its natural environment. It includes both innate and learned behaviours – hard-wired programs versus experience and learning. People intent on insisting that Limba was a social misfit who had no interest in other elephants don’t seem to know or wish to acknowledge that even animals with large, complex brains are still governed by innate behaviour patterns. As these studies have shown, instantaneous pets are not created via short-term human influence, regardless of whether dog or elephant is the subject matter.

“You people are freaks!”

Name-calling and mocking are behaviours individuals exhibit when they lack the skills needed to handle a particular situation and are utterly out of ideas. Bertrand Russell also said that the problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but the wiser people are so full of doubts.

“is it ok if I start a thread about how you beat up school kids I don’t have proof.”

I guess that the moral to be taken from this comment is that if you can’t win an argument on its merits, then make something up.

“They are going to attack Limba so that some one gets hurt!  They are now setting sights on the camels, so be forewarned!” Does it make sense to claim they are all about the well being of Limba and then they threaten to scare and instigate her into running amok?”

Do you have monsters under your bed?  I mean, with all this fear mongering?  It’s more than a touch unreasonable.  No animal advocate would ever try to spook an elephant, and of course there’s that pesky little matter of proof of any such statement being made by our group, which seems to escape so many pro-parade people. 

circus elephant and evil clown

© Heather Clemenceau

“My daughter was excited to see Limba in the parade.  How am I supposed to explain to her that city council are a bunch of pricks?”

Some parade-goers were concerned about how to explain protesters’ signs to their kids.  They claimed that it would be awkward and the kids might be scared, but what would really be awkward is the discomfort the parents would experience.  Because the parents took Limba to Applefest and allowed their kids to ride around on her back, but they didn’t notice she had diarrhea, some of them now feel bad when they were told that Limba was sick, because guilt is now setting in.  But if you can’t handle kids seeing signs,  which might make them aware that there are some members of society willing to speak up for others,  then how can you explain that council are pricks?  I don’t know either, but good luck.

“We should go for a beer after the parade.  Bring the blonde tart with you.”

The more I see your posts, the more I realize I’m in need of some sort of prophylactic.

“I’ll see all you protesters there on Saturday, I’ll be the one spraying you with the water guns so you better bring an umbrella.”

And you better bring $500 bucks so that the lawyer you normally use for traffic court can help you make bail.

“I watched one of their so called meetings, it took place in someones mothers basement….the two girls looked like they didn’t have a brain between them….”  and

“Do you have a boyfriend or husband?  Because if so, he needs to put a muzzle on you.” 

Sexism and the occasional anti-female post rear their ugly heads on the pro-parade Facebook pages.  If you were paying attention to the video discussion,  you would have noticed that at least one of the “girls” had a masters degree in a biological field.  Somewhat surprisingly, the latter statement is made by a woman who doesn’t realize how misogynist her remarks are. But consider the message – women (or feminists) might want to reconsider speaking out and if not, we’ll get the “manosphere” to keep you in line.

“southern Ontario is the same distance from the North Pole as Northern California.”

How about comparing the temperature between Vietnam (Limba’s birthplace) and Bowmanville?  This isn’t difficult.  I can tell you that the temperature in Vietnam never gets close to 0 degrees C.

“I see all the people who want limba out of the parade are cowards…..I would copy all thenames and pictures of these people put them on a poster and put in everyones door, and postoffice and every store window, on every pole in town, so the people will know who these cowards, idiots are, and if there car gets flat tires, egged, broken mirror, or spray painted.  They all would be unsolved cases.  Make them uncomfortable in Bomanville, store keepers can and should refuse to serve them, refuse to sell them things, such as food etc.  If they need to stay in hotels, motels, refuse them.”

I think that was what one of the pro-zoo people was actually starting to do, when Don Corleone started photographing cars belonging to the memorial participants.  Maybe our faces will all start appearing on milk cartons in the near future.  But when the police were called to respond to an assault, they instead made us move our cars,  because it might have a negative effect on the grass……no wonder there are unsolved dog poisonings and cat mutilations in Btown……. As a result of this extreme concern for grass in a parking lot,  I can only surmise that once it was realized there were chalk writings and stray rose petals on the sidewalk, the town’s hazmat emergency response team arrived with their MSDS sheets to deal with these hazards and subsequent hazardous waste disposal.

Circque Macabre - Girl in cage

© Heather Clemenceau

“I’m really hoping that this protesting stuff doesn’t ruin the spirit of Christmas.”

Yeah, it would really suck if concern for a sick animal got in the way of your party time.

“Retards more like, they need to get jobs and do something productive.”

The hallmark of a feeble mind unable to express itself in any effective manner.  When I see the term “retards” used I have to wonder about the person who made the statement.  Do they not realize that there are many mothers who find this term terribly hurtful?  The term “retard” can also be taken to apply to those who have had a stroke affecting their speech, the hard of hearing, and people who have cognitive difficulties. What’s also surprising was the fact that 8 people liked this post – and it was allowed to stand on the pro-parade page.  You’d think someone from that group would step up and enlighten this person, but it didn’t happen.  I guess it’s hard to enlighten somebody else when you don’t know right from wrong either.

“My uncle lost his life so that we could have Santa Claus parades.”

Because that’s what WWII was all about.

“This is their idiot plan + Stampede the animals by shouting on megaphones, wildly waving signs and rushing the animals.  The animals get spooked.  Because of the recent Darwin the IKEA monkey decision any wild animal running around outside of the zoo is “owned” by whoever catches it.  I bet they will try to make Limba spook and grab her by the trunk!”

I hate to throw shade on your statements but none of that ever happened.  I know you were hoping to work everyone into a frenzy over this, but you set yourself up for a colossal failure.  I hope people go back and read your comments and realize how foolish they were in hindsight.  You’re like a bad psychic that can’t get a single prediction correct,  and now your comments are circling the drain.

“Do you realize how thick their skin is?  They might feel pressure from the hook being pressed against them but they certainly don’t feel pain from it.”

At first I thought this guy was initially writing about the pro-parade people, but he was actually referring to elephants themselves.  In most areas, the elephant’s skin may be 2.5 to 3 cms thick, but in other areas it is fairly thin.  Thickness of the skin shouldn’t be confused with sensitivity though – their skin has rich nerve endings and like most animals who are bothered excessively by flies – elephants also notice every fly that lands on them, so they will surely feel a bullhook.

“Well I have seen them in action on a number of occasions and there is nothing peaceful about them.”

So says the person who was thrown out of the IKEA monkey trial at the Oshawa courthouse for being disruptive. That fringe should be on a surrey.  Watch that fringe and see how it flutters.

“Last summer, a bunch of them took photos of anyone entering the zoo, yelled insults at them and posted their photos all over the Internet.”

This is such a vague phrase – “all over the internet.”  Problem is that if called upon to find these alleged pictures, nobody can point them out, despite them being “all over the internet.”  A lack of evidence is in itself, evidence.  And to put this in the appropriate context, several people associated with the IKEA monkey trial and their so-called documentary (probably being produced on an 3G iPhone) deliberately came to the zoo when they knew there was a protest going on.  If anyone was videotaped or photographed, it was on public property and it occurred in order to document that they sought to follow animal advocates and harass us and not the other way around.  And besides,  there are numerous examples whereby animal advocates have had their photos  stolen and appropriated.  In this blog post,  I’ve included several comments from the “Darwin IKEA Monkey hoard,”  a group of people who harassed a primate sanctuary before and after the trial ended badly for them.  None of these people had even heard of Limba before they started trailing animal advocates around at protests and following our postings and movements on Facebook.

“Here is an idea.  If you know who these people are, start boycotting their businesses.  Since they are trying to shut down the Bowmanville Zoo,  let’s see how they enjoy it when people are aware of where they work and suddenly information flyers are handed out to people (on the public sidewalk) who enter their work place?  Something to the effect of, “Did you know that this person is an activist who wants to shut down the Bowmanville Zoo?”

elephant ears

© Heather Clemenceau

This is truly one of the dumbest ideas yet; it’s safe to say that, at the fountain of knowledge,  this person only gargled.  If people actually tried to carry this out, they would probably be charged with mischief at the very least.  And it quite often has the opposite effect.  Each protester is a private individual, unlike the zoo, which is a public entity, and Michael Hackenberger, whom it could be argued is a public figure.

No one protests in front of Michael Hackenberger’s private home, his kids’ school, or at his wife’s veterinary clinic because there is this concept called privacy.  Recall the famously cringe-worthy video of the woman who spent eight minutes berating Dunkin’ Donuts employees, ending in a racist epithet — which she posted online herself because she thought she had been slighted for not receiving a receipt. Not surprisingly, the internet response to her video was to shame her, which, suffice to say, was not the reason she made the video in the first place. Any rights of free speech were never intended to be authorization for people to “indict”, “try”, “judge” and pass sentence on any individual.  This poster really ought to try reading the Constitution and if that is too long for them, then just read section 2(c).

“Dimwits!  Police can look on their FB pages and see the anarchist symbols plastered all over, make a list and prepare to arrest them on parade day.”

But police won’t be doing any of that.  Because there is no “Facebook Butthurt” division that you can call up to report Facebook insults.  If there were, I know a few people who would be shuffled away and put on a thorazine drip right now.  Even if someone had an anarchist symbol on their Facebook page, it’s not grounds for arrest, unless perhaps you lived during the time of the Gulag.

“I saw the threats they were making on their facebook page, and hoping police had their guns ready.  Have police contact them personally and tell them they are not welcome.  Have them charged for uttering threats!”

There’s a serious hole in your argument – no threats were uttered.  Anyone I’ve asked to show proof of all these threats can’t come up with a single link.  Maybe you’ve been watching too many westerns – the sheriffs in those days did sometimes ask people not to pass through town.

“OK, let me get this straight…The ARA has taken over the zoos page and making threats?!”

No, but there is a page entitled “Bowmanville Zoological Park – Free Limba.”  I suggest reading the entire title before assuming that animal advocates hacked into the BZoo page.

“I am an animal lover……..Why don’t you just give the Bowmanville Zoo the benefit of the doubt?”

Usually when someone starts off with the phrase “I am an animal lover,” you know what follows will often reveal them to be anything but.

“vegan athiest has his hypocritical gang of protesters should have been arrested for harassment, stalkin, trespassing.  No one cares what they have to say and they are not welcome in Bowmanville (or Toronto too) What is the point of protesting when non one wants to hear their anarchist crap.  Careful when they are around your cars, a bunch of zoo supporters had our cars keyed and nasty notes on the windshield.  One supporter was punched in the eye by the leader of the anarchists 6 months ago.  Another who writes their terrorist blog brought a knife, syringe, and vials of unknown liquid to a fundraiser and told security she wanted to see a bunch of us in person.  Beware – they really are dangerous.  Be careful, they photograph you and your cars and plan who to target at the next protest.  They are violent.  They do commit property damage too.  My office was vandalized by them the night before I planned to present a petition to their leader at ZooCheck.” 

Normally our friend from the IKEA monkey trial likes to drop names, but didn’t do it for this post, because even she knows that it’s totally batshit cray-cray.  Your office vandalized?  Got a police report? How about a police report for an assault?  Why don’t you scan those notes you said were left on your vehicles and post them online?  Must be the only things you haven’t posted…..A knife, syringe and vials of unknown liquid? You fell asleep after eating too many spicy nachos while watching Dexter and hallucinated the whole thing, right?  And if I’m the “terrorist blogger” you mention,  I can only wonder how your security team let me get away from a fundraiser with a knife,  syringe,  and vials of unknown liquid.  I must be some kind of ninja!  And of course,  there’s no police report for this either.  And you missed your date with Zoocheck because they found out that you and your crackpot friends were coming to the library to harass them,  so they changed the date of their presentation and kept it on the down-low, so you and your friends showed up at the library with your signs ON THE WRONG DAY. Caveat – don’t use these people for party-planning.

“I watched a video one person made sneaking around fences on the zoo property and the person was talking almost hysterical and excited in hopes of finding some type of animal abuse,  they were really looking forward to it,  it was really disturbing,  of course they found no abuse,  but they were still so excited they videotaped……..nothing.”

You left a comment on my blog about this video that I made,  but I never published it because it was whack.  Were you referring to me and my video,  published in this blog?  I called you out (anonymously) and posted your comment in that blog as well.  The video is not at all about me skulking around looking for abuse.  I stated clearly that I was observing to see if the giraffes were spooked by the megaphone being used during a protest.  I spoke to Michael Hackenberger about the giraffes and their enclosure and that’s it.  It was completely by accident that he happened to be there and spoke to me.  Of course the video revealed nothing because there was no drama  – the giraffes did not even notice the megaphone.  But you just got busted again making shit up, Drama Llama!  

“You’ve got to breed your females or they get uterine cancer.”

This statement originated from an interview given by Michael Hackenberger after Limba’s death.  This seems to be a justification for captive breeding programs for elephants which incidentally, do nothing to re-populate wild elephant herds, but only reproduce elephants for zoos or circuses. Statements that elephants must be bred in order to avoid cancer are,  in my opinion,  meant to strengthen Hackenberger’s position with pro-circus followers and also  give him a platform on which to promote this uncertain claim about Limba’s cancer to the general public.  

What’s interesting is that there are virtually no studies on reproductive cancers with elephants, perhaps because it’s not that common – most of them don’t live long enough in captivity to develop cancers anyway.  On Pubmed, there are only 7 studies that mention uterine cancer or cancer of the uterus or other reproductive disorders in elephants,  so not really very much is known about cancer in elephants,  much less cancers that involve the reproductive system.  And anyway, what we know about cancer in elephants is that it is really rare.  So how can we conclude that breeding prevents cancer?  If we can apply any data from other species of animals,  we know that spaying reduces the incidences of mammary tumours,  so it follows that some types of cancers may be avoided by NOT breeding. And one piece of the data puzzle that is lacking about Limba’s cancer is whether uterine cancer and the other tumors found via necropsy are primary or secondary to the mass near the spleen that was found approximately one month before she died. If the uterine cancer is secondary, then the theory that breeding prevents cancer would seem to have been refuted.

sad limba

Photo of Limba taken while she was travelling with a circus. Most rational people will look at this photo and realize that this is not right. RIP See Petition here

Now that I’m done refuting the pro-parade positions,  I want to ask the advocacy community to realize that we have also made some unfair and negative comments – lest the reader think the pro-parade people are the only ones guilty of bad behaviour,  I’d like to ask that people refrain from making agitating or derogatory comments to and about Limba’s keeper Robert, who loved her dearly and must be in terrible pain.  Whatever injustices happened to Limba in the past cannot be righted by unfair, negative commentary to and about Robert today or in the future. If you watch videos or look at pictures of their interaction,  Limba moves toward Robert and he always looks toward her with a loving,  benevolent look.  Robert has been a very dedicated care-giver to Limba, and it’s sad to see pictures of him reliving their walks, making painstaking observations about her presence along their pathways.  Seeing evidence of her everywhere is no doubt profoundly difficult.  Hopefully he will find the peace that he needs to eventually move forward with his life.  Both Robert and Limba are better for having known each other.

final circus

© Heather Clemenceau

The Elephant in the Room

Frances Bull African Elephant

© Frances Bull

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Toronto has, in the last year, been a hotbed of controversy when it comes to wild animals.  First the city saw the media circus that surrounded Darwin “the IKEA monkey,” who escaped from a crate in a car – an oversight that led to an unjust lawsuit against the sanctuary who cared for him afterwards.  Since Darwin’s former owner has not finished giving grief to the sanctuary or making a laughing stock of herself, there will be a subsequent appeal in 2014 or 2015.  Most recently, the Toronto Zoo elephants (the TZ-3) were relocated to the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) in California two weeks ago, amid outcry from zoo aficionados and exotics owners across Canada and the US.

Suffice it to say that all is not well with the charismatic megafauna in Canadian zoos –vitriolic controversy has erupted over Limba, the Bowmanville Zoo elephant, who by most accounts, is ready to retire from standing on stools,  attending weddings, and launching wineries.  After animal activist Michael Sizer proposed a direct action protest against the Bowmanville Santa Claus Parade,  the parade organizers uninvited Limba,  to avoid becoming a battleground between the activists and others who insisted that it was their right to see this aging elephant entertain them.

In response to the un-vitation, Zoo Director Michael Hackenberger withdrew all the animals from the parade out of spite, prompting outrage from zoo proponents who claim their holiday is now ruined.  I don’t quite understand how the parade is “ruined” since it hasn’t featured Limba since approximately 2009 anyway?  Nevertheless,  nastygrammers, rabblerousers and Facebook spammers made veiled threats about the possibility of spontaneous tire damage to protesters vehicles (got the screen caps to prove it) while attempting to strongarm protesters into abandoning the right to freedom of peaceful assembly (section 2c), as accorded in The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is entrenched in Canada’s constitution.

elephant carousel

© Heather Clemenceau

Protests at the zoo over the summer have focused on Limba,  while Hackenberger claims that the protesters use of megaphones is in conflict with his “stance to maintain animal welfare.”  Not so fast!   While I agree that inconsiderate use of a megaphone near flight animals would indeed be a foolish undertaking, I’m reluctant to accept his assertions that animals are being spooked.  But now the Durham Region Humane Society is involved, and to my mind, this is a good thing.

“Tuesday night’s council resolution came in response to a request from zoo owner Michael Hackenberger for the municipality to ban megaphones and other voice amplifiers within 50 metres of the zoo entrance.

It directs staff to work with the Durham Region Humane Society, police and the zoo to “help regulate any activity that may cause giraffes or other animals to be in distress.”

Protesters have held two recent rallies in front of the facility about 50 kilometres east of Toronto, calling for the retirement of Limba, a 50-year-old elephant.”

Well,  these directions are hardly revolutionary;  the police have typically been in attendance at zoo protests and know that the protesters are well-behaved individuals who responsibly limit the use of the megaphone to sporadic incidents.

“The young ungulates are a “consummate prey species” and naturally skittish, he said. A megaphone blaring the apparent evils of zoos could send one into panicked flight, risking injury if it crashes into a fence or falls. “

I visited Bowmanville zoo for the first time a few months ago.  I paid my $23 admission and walked the entirety of the park for one main reason – to see if the megaphone use was disturbing the animals – any animals.  If there was any evidence that animals were panicking, I know that these very conscientious protesters would have simply ceased using the megaphone.  Because the weanling giraffes were the subject of Hackenberger’s complaint about the megaphone use, I loitered around the giraffe area to the point where it was probably attracting attention.  But Hackenberger might want to ban screeching children from the zoo before he gets too overwrought about megaphones – I had to strain to hear any voices coming from the street a few hundred feet away – at various times I would not have been able to hear someone speaking beside me due to the noise the kids were making right next to me.  And you can’t hear the megaphone on the video I recorded below either.  Neither apparently,  can the giraffes…..

“Hackenberger said the racket, particularly megaphones, can distress animals. He’s particularly worried about a pair of giraffe youngsters who arrived several weeks ago and live at the front of the complex.”

VME catchphrase

This truth-challenged individual simply cannot be honest about the parade protest. The animal rights community recognizes some of the same people from the Darwin IKEA monkey case as chronic, habitual liars.  It’s quite clear from reading Michael Sizer’s manifesto that neither he nor anyone else has any intention of causing harm to animals or people. http://www.examiner.com/article/activist-explains-why-not-having-limba-at-santa-s-parade

Note from the video that Michael Hackenberger really had every opportunity to mention problems or concerns about “de-spooking” the young giraffes to the sounds of the megaphone – I specifically asked him what concerns he had about the new giraffes.  He feels open enough to discuss the issues with parasitic infestations of the various species at the zoo and the zoos’ preventative maintenance protocols.  He didn’t even mention the megaphone.  Also note that when the giraffes are out of quarantine, their paddock will encompass the most southerly part of the zoo and the giraffes will be right next to the street.  Also notice that there is a backhoe in the same general area as the quarantine paddock.  I guarantee you that the first time a flight animal hears a backhoe roar to life, they will take notice!   However,  after they are desensitized to the noise,  they will take no further notice of it since they don’t see it as a threat.  In my opinion,  a backhoe is far more likely to induce fear in flight animals than a megaphone that’s almost impossible to hear.  That’s because the protesters are standing across the street from a fairly busy roadway while conducting their protests.  They are not even situated on the same side of the street as the zoo.

Mr. Hackenberger indicates in the conversation that the giraffes are slowly being acclimatized to ambient noises, which is why they’re in a small fenced-in paddock – so they don’t hurt themselves if they are startled.  People might think it’s unfair to house them in a tiny space,  but it’s a actually a common-sense solution – for the short term.  But the whole time I’m interviewing him, the activists were out on the street using the megaphone, and neither Hackenberger nor the giraffes reacted to it.  So I can only agree with zoo protest organizer Nicholas Wilvert that the attempt to silence the megaphone is a tactic to squelch free speech.

Zoo Groups spread false info

How I wish the pro-zoo zealots would quit making shit up. There are no children set loose to run in the zoo and create havoc on behalf of the protesters (certainly not at $23 a pop either). The only screaming comes from children inside the zoo with their parents. The only truthful remark here is that Hackenberger asked for a moratorium on the use of the megaphone. Everything else is complete and utter fiction. Disruption on the zoo opening day was actually caused by a man who appeared to be a zoo supporter,  objecting to an audience member asking pointed questions.  He diverted the Q&A period,  so please get your facts straight!

I’m actually in complete agreement with the town of Clarington’s council – I agree that the Durham Region Humane Society should evaluate the use of the megaphone.  I hope any review they conduct will be impartial and accurate, and in the best interest of the animals whilst balancing the rights of the protesters.  At this time, there seems to be a lack of evidence that animals are being spooked by protesters at the zoo,  despite the outrageous stories you may read on pro-zoo boards to discredit the animal rights activists.

Blogger Laura Templeton describes the attempts to discredit the animal rights community.  I’ve also observed this phenomenon reaching a fever pitch over the TZ-3 elephants transfer to PAWS – during and after which so many outright fabrications surfaced about activists!  If the animal rights community in Durham Region and the GTA committed ¼ of the horrible acts that are attributed to us, many of us would have been jailed and completely ostracized from our communities.

Even if there is disagreement over Limba’s care or her long-distance trips,  we must acknowledge that animals just do not belong stuck in our world irrespective of how well we treat them. I am not anti-zoo myself, since many animals do well in captivity or are capable of thriving in carefully constructed enviros.  But Canada is not geographically suited to animals that evolved in equatorial climates or evolved to travel long distances as part of their routine or foraging habits.  Elephants’ bodies were designed to shed heat and not struggle to maintain it.  Cold climates and tight enclosures – they’re a far cry from the vast hot expanses of elephants’ natural environments.

taj mahal and elephants

© Heather Clemenceau

It cannot be said that because Limba seems to be a gentle elephant that she is therefore predictable in her behaviour either.  Behaviour can change unexpectedly as these animals may eventually snap from years of stress.   Limba has apparently hurt several trainers in the past.  When I saw her at the zoo a couple of months ago, she stood at the extremity of her paddock with her head faced as far away from gawkers as possible.  Even if Limba is treated well when she is travelling to circus events, wedding promotions, or winery outings, seeing her at these types of events desensitizes people to the plight of performing animals and encourages people to visit Ringling Brothers circus which has a nightmarish reputation for abusive practices.  This perpetuates the breeding of animals that will only have to endure captivity, unsuitable environments, and abusive training methods in circuses.

I don’t personally doubt that Limba has accepted her caretakers, but again, she really had little choice.  Humans are a poor substitute for members of an animals’ own species.  It cannot be said to be free will when there is an absence of choice.

The Case For Freeing Limba


Mustic ElephantsWritten by:  Kimberly Spiegel

Reprinted with permission

This letter was originally written by Kimberly to Michael Hackenberger,  the owner of the Bowmanville Zoo.  In Defense of Animals (IDA) has accused the independent facility, which is located about 75 km east of Toronto, of imposing a “cruel sentence” on its only elephant, a 50-year-old female named Limba, whose existence the group describes as “[a] miserable, lonely life.”

Dear Mr. Hackenberger,

I’m glad that we spoke the other day. I think it’s really important to start a civil dialogue on these issues between animal rights activists and zoos. I only regret that I could not remember all the details of Limba’s case and the details of your zoo the day we spoke, but I have done much research since then and spent a couple days thinking of an appropriate follow-up response to our discussion.

First of all, it is sad people who support non-violence and love of animals would say hateful things to you. That is not constructive and gets us nowhere. According to Gary Francione, professor at Rutgers University: “The animal rights position is the ultimate rejection of violence. It is the ultimate affirmation of peace. I see the animal rights movement as the logical progression of the peace movement, which seeks to end conflict between humans. The animal rights movement ideally seeks to take that a step further and to end conflict between humans and nonhumans.” The root of the issue among animal rights people is that we don’t see animals as property and that they aren’t ours to do whatever we like with them, no matter how well-intentioned one might be. Your zoo is unique from other zoos because your primary focus seems to be the use of your animals in film, television, circuses, fairs, children’s parties, and other events. Indeed one might think from your long CV that your zoo is merely a front for your animal actor business. As quoted in your CV “Bowmanville Zoo is one of the largest suppliers of trained animals for the feature film and television industry…. Maintaining the largest stable of trained movie and television animals in Canada, the Bowmanville Zoo brings cutting edge operant conditioning techniques and behavioral modification to the animals under its stewardship.” Your CV lists 22 feature films (4 with elephants), 80 television movies and series (26 with elephants), and 58 commercial credits (23 with elephants).

It is no secret you use your animals for profit, and I understand that it may be what pays for the maintenance of the zoo and the animal’s food, but other reputable zoos do not do this. The point is we feel it is wrong to make animals behave in ways that can only be induced by “operant conditioning” and “behavior modification.”

Obviously, you are forcing animals to do things that they would never do in the wild. In addition, because of the cold winter months in Canada, Limba must be kept inside in a small barn alone for a very long period of time, which is very unnatural as elephants normally walk many miles a day with their family group, in a warm African climate. At her age, we do not believe she should be subject to regular long travel, cold weather, a small enclosure, or being forced to act in an unnatural way and she should be allowed to retire and enjoy the remaining years of her life in a sanctuary.

Limba promotes the MS Walk

Limba promotes the MS Walk

Limba’s sad state that I referred to in my first email is that at her advanced age she is still being used for circus acts and other events. It is evident from a recent video online and the Circus Mondo website that Limba is still being made to perform in Circus Mondo. I just don’t understand this desire to train animals to make them do things that are such unnatural behaviors for them, such as mount a stand and lift her legs into the air as I saw in the video. My opinion is it is merely for profit and drawing in crowds. Yet what kind of people would want to see this sort of animal exploitation I wonder. This does not teach children about elephants or why we should care about them and protect their wild habitats. It teaches them that exploitation of animals is acceptable in our society. It makes no sense that you would even use that argument about conservation of elephants and that you donate $50,000 toward their conservation, and then use your only elephant as a circus performer.

Using animals in circuses is profoundly wrong and all around the world community attitudes are demanding that animal circuses be ended. Many countries have already banned nationwide the use of wild animals in circuses: Bolivia, Peru, Israel, Signapore, Greece, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Hungary, Costa Rica, and Paraguay. Dozens of other nations have also enacted local bans for certain cities or districts. North America is sadly lagging behind the rest of the world in empathy. Canada has local bans on the use of animals in circuses in 27 municipal jurisdictions including Vancouver. There is an obvious trend here, more and more people are waking up to the fact that animals do not belong in circus acts and it is only a matter of time before it is banned worldwide. The world’s most successful circus, Cirque de Soleil, was started by a street performer and musician, Guy Laliberté. It made him a multi-billionaire. And what is so special about his circus? It has no captive animals, just talented, attractive, healthy, fit, strong and artistic human beings.

And from your own country as reported in the Halifax News in April last year: “The Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources is allowing Circus Mondo to perform, but is prohibiting the performance of Limba, the circus’s Asian elephant. According to the DNR, it is inhumane to transport a lone elephant and for the second year in a row, they are not allowing Limba into the province.” Now those are people who care about her welfare and recognize that elephants belong in groups. Animal welfare specialist Dr. Paul Rees of Salford University looked at the records of 200 zoos worldwide. In 2006, 69 percent of Asian elephants and 80 percent of African elephants in the world’s zoos were still being kept in groups of four or fewer. Both British and American animal welfare groups recommend elephants are kept in larger groups of seven or more that better reflects the natural habitat in the wild. Rees said “In the wild, elephant social structure is complex and, although the average group size is around 12, they can also live in even larger extended family units. Contact with members of their own species is crucial for the animals to develop normal behaviour patterns and friendships. Small group sizes in zoos may prevent this from happening.

There is no good reason for a zoo to keep just one elephant. In an awful lot of zoos around the world elephants are unable to comply with recommendations that elephants are kept in larger groups. I am absolutely convinced this is not a good thing.” He continued to say that elephants kept in small groups can display “abnormal behaviour” such as swaying on the spot or pacing in circles that suggests the animals are unhappy. Limba is totally without contact with members of her own species. Do you think this is fair? If so I dare you to try living without any contact with your own species and then see how you feel about it. In an article published online on January 16 it stated “At the behest of CAZA, Bill Peters said the zoo is in the midst of preparing a plan to acquire “companion animals for Limba.” I’m assuming this doesn’t mean other elephants.

An article quoted you as saying when Limba was brought to the zoo there were five other elephants, and as you told me on the phone the other elephants rejected her. As someone who is so knowledgeable about elephants, I’m sure you know Asian elephant females live in matriarchial groups with other females only, so by the information of elephants that have been at your zoo, I see there is only one elephant that she could have bonded with appropriately – Lisa. As you are quoted in the article saying Limba didn’t do well in the herd, well isn’t that a possible result of mixing two elephant species together and then different genders, which all would normally be four separate groups in the wild? In addition, it is my understanding that when elephants are forced to share small spaces, they don’t always get along. San Antonio Zoo Elephant Voices co-director Dr. Joyce Poole, who has been studying elephant behavior in Africa and Asia for more than 30 years, reviewed a video of two of their elephants, Lucky and Queenie, and observed: “Lucky is being terrorized by Queenie. This kind of persistent bullying is not seen in the wild, because elephants have other activities with which to occupy themselves, and because they can remove themselves from conflict, if need be. In my

Limba is forced to give rides

Limba is forced to give rides

opinion, the primary cause of this undesirable situation is that the elephants have too little space.” Limba might very well thrive and be able to make friends at the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, without the pressure of a confined space that causes conflict among elephants. I think it is very selfish of you to not give her this opportunity to see if it even will work for her.

Your view that Limba is well-treated and well-loved, as you have stated, is a total matter of perception and requires that love is defined. To me, the definition of love is that condition in which the happiness of another being is essential to your own. It means to look out for the best interests of another and to not infringe upon its free will in any way. In this case, it would mean not exploiting animals in the entertainment industry or making them do anything that is unnatural to their normal wild animal behavior. The issue is not necessarily about abuse, although we put animals in situations that can and frequently does lead to their mistreatment which is irresponsible of us and immoral. Might does not mean right, just because we can exert power over others, does not mean we should. Animal rights also stem to larger issues. We feel control, violence, and oppression of animals is a societal ill and can only be cured by their total abolition. We equate it to abolition of slavery in the US. Abolition was only ethical once all the slaves could be free. It wasn’t enough for just the northern states to be free.

Animals just do not belong stuck in our world irrespective of how well we treat them. Humans have no business continuing to bring these creatures into a world in which they simply do not fit. I don’t doubt that Limba has accepted you and your family as her family, but what choice did she have? Elephants are social, loving creatures that live in family groups and she needed someone to love and you were her only choice, but she doesn’t belong with your family, she belongs with members of her own species. It cannot be said to be free will when there is an absence of choice.

As you know, elephants that have been forced to perform in circuses have killed people, and then they must be shot and killed themselves, such as in 1994 an elephant named Tyke killed her trainer and injured 12 people at a circus performing in Honolulu, then was shot to death (shot over 100 times). Animal behavior can change unexpectedly as these animals may eventually snap from years of stress and mistreatment and hurt people. Even if your animal is treated completely humanely, people see Limba in Circus Mondo and might think it is ok to go to other circuses such as Ringling Brothers which repeatedly abuse and seriously mistreat their elephants, so you are contributing to the perpetuation of this form of entertainment that allows animals to be abused.

I was able to obtain the history of elephants kept at your zoo online. You have had 6 elephant deaths, 5 of which were wild caught for this industry.

Asian elephants:

1) Lisa 1988, euthanized 1990 due to foot problems, age 32, 2 years at your zoo
2) Tony 1995, dead 1999 cause of death unknown???, age 27 years, 4 years at your zoo
3) Ceasar 2001, dead 2006, cause of death unown??? Age 19, 5 years at your zoo
4) Vance 1988, dead 2008, euthanized due to leg problems, age 37, 20 years at your zoo

African elephants:

1) Sheba 1984, dead 2011, euthanized for unknown reasons???, age 36, 8-10 years at your zoo
2) Angus 1986, dead 2006, cause of death unknown???, age 27, 20 years at your zoo

Limba is seen here promoting the Grand Cru Culinary Wine Festival in Toronto, by handing out flowers

Limba is seen here promoting the Grand Cru Culinary Wine Festival in Toronto, by handing out flowers

I’m sure you are aware of the study of elephant lifespans from the University of Guelph published in Science in 2008 which found that wild African elephant females lived to be a median age of 56 and that Asian elephants could live to be at least 42 years (working timber elephant data, no data on wild elephants). The study also found that zoo elephants of both African and Asian species tended to die at much younger ages than either wild African elephants or working Asian elephants. The researchers said the median lifespan for elephants that died in European zoos between 1960 and 2005 was only 17 years for the African species and 19 years for the Asian animals. Stress, lack of exercise and obesity were thought to be largely responsible for the shorter lifespan of the zoo elephants. Median lifespan is 29.5 for your deceased Asian elephants and 32 for the Africans, considerably shorter than wild elephants.
Limba, age 49, arrived 1989, has outlived all your other elephants which is hopefully a sign of her being well cared for. Yet I wonder about the unlisted causes of death of 4 of your 6 elephants.

You also told me on the phone you did not believe the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee would be a better place for her because they have had a death of a keeper and because of tuberculosis that killed some of their elephants. Your elephant Tony was from the same Hawthorne herd as the others who died of TB at the Elephant Sanctuary and I wonder if he died of that also? I don’t know how long you have been director, but in 1988 Tarra was relocated from the Bowmanville Zoo to the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee and she is still alive and well. As for the death of the keeper by Winkie, it was known that that elephant had behavioral problems and it was certainly an unfortunate incident. But your zoo is responsible for a lion who knocked over and broke four ribs of Gitanjali Kolanad, so these things can happen when working with animals, their behavior is totally unpredictable and anyone who has ever worked with animals knows that.

Limba is likely at greater health risks from standing on hard surfaces in cold weather with little movement for long periods of time at your zoo than she ever would be at the Elephant Sanctuary. From a Seattle Times article “The Times did a first-of-its-kind analysis of 390 elephant fatalities at accredited U.S. zoos for the past 50 years. It found that most of the elephants died from injury or disease linked to conditions of their captivity, from chronic foot problems caused by standing on hard surfaces to musculoskeletal disorders from inactivity caused by being penned or chained for days and weeks at a time.” It appears two of your own elephants died from foot and leg problems, and the other 4 unreported causes of death possibly fit into one of these categories. This is truly a disgrace that most elephants die because of being in captivity. How is sentencing them to die in a prison essentially considered caring for their well being?

The median age for the Asian elephants living at the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee is 47 and the median age of those who have passed is 48, whereas at your zoo the median age at death of Asian elephants is 29.5, a 20 year difference which is quite significant. I believe the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee would be a better habitat for Limba because she would have much more space to roam around. Your whole zoo is only 42 acres, the Elephant Sanctuary of Tennessee is 2,700 acres. Limba would obviously have much more space for exercise, more than she has had since being stolen from the wild. Elephants in the wild are used to traveling many miles a day. I think she deserves a chance to really be an elephant and to try to get integrated with the other group of female Asian elephants at the Tennessee Elephant Sanctuary.

David Hancock who was director of Woodland Park Zoo from 1976 to 1984 said, “Elephants don’t thrive in zoos. We didn’t understand elephants very well in the 1970s or ’80s. But there is overwhelming scientific evidence today that shows the

Many people are disturbed to see elephants performing unnatural and undignified acts

Many people are disturbed to see elephants performing unnatural and undignified acts

harmful impact of captivity.” Animals are often prevented from doing most of the things that are natural and important to them, like running, foraging, choosing a partner, and being with others of their own kind. Zoos teach people that it is acceptable to interfere with animals and keep them locked up in captivity, where they are bored, cramped, lonely, deprived of all control over their lives, and far from their natural homes.

You mentioned that zoos are important for education and conservation purposes. I would argue that seeing an animal in captivity as it exhibits behaviors of stress and boredom while living in a sterile environment is much less educational than, for example, watching a National Geographic video of animals filmed in the wild. In addition, conservation efforts aren’t always successful. Benjamin Beck, former associate director of biological programs at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., found that in the last century, only 16 of 145 reintroduction programs worldwide ever actually restored any animal populations to the wild. Of those, most were carried out by government agencies, not zoos. Most zoo animals released in the wild don’t survive. This is because zoos don’t provide the right environment for a successful captive breeding project. The animals would need to live in habitats resembling their natural ones, especially in terms of climate and fauna. Zoos spend huge amounts of money on their breeding programs, even though breeding animals in captivity isn’t the best way to help in conservation.

It is at least 50 times more expensive to maintain elephants in zoos than to protect equivalent numbers of elephants in the wild. Using the money for conservation programs in the wild – by creating more protected reserves for instance – will not only allow the animals to live in their natural habitat, it also helps balance whole ecosystems. Zoos that do breed animals do so because it gains them a lot of publicity and attract huge amounts of people. David Hancock estimates that less than 3 percent of the budget of accredited zoos in the AZA goes toward conservation efforts. At the same time, they point to the billions of dollars spent every year on hi-tech exhibits and marketing efforts to lure visitors. Zoos main interest is always to make money and baby animals are their most powerful marketing tool. And even if there was a huge asset to saving endangered species from zoos, your zoo in particular does not contribute to this – so how can you defend it specifically on those grounds? Elephants in particular are not being bred for reintroduction to the wild – that will never happen because of the high infant mortality rate.

I believe you also stated Limba had higher cortisol levels while children were riding her, but cortisol is released in response to stress – so was that just a blatant lie or did I misunderstand? In case I misheard you and you actually said she had lower cortisol levels while carrying children around, it is still not a scientifically valid reason to keep her without comparable data of what her cortisol levels would be living amongst her family or other elephants that might act as a surrogate family in a more appropriate natural environment. I haven’t seen the data myself to even know the truth and I’m not inclined to just take your word for it. Right now you are her surrogate family, but she doesn’t belong in the human world. You have been quoted as saying “I’ve never made any secret of the fact if an elephant behaves inappropriately I will discipline it. It’s like spanking a child.” Can you discipline from a place of love? This is a controversial issue even among human parents who might physically or verbally discipline their children. This is quite a concern for me because the only reason you would need to discipline her is if she is trying to just be an elephant and not performing how you want her to perform. She is not a child, she is an elephant, and treating her as anything but is nonsensical and shows the lack of respect and understanding you truly have for non-human animals. You wouldn’t treat your sons like elephants would you?

Animals used in circuses are unwilling participants in a show that jeopardizes their health and mental well-being and the lives of human spectators and performers. Circuses force animals to perform tricks that have nothing to do with how these magnificent creatures behave in the wild.

Animals used in circuses are unwilling participants in a show that jeopardizes their health and mental well-being and the lives of human spectators and performers. Circuses force animals to perform tricks that have nothing to do with how these magnificent creatures behave in the wild.

You also mentioned on the phone if people have a problem with how Limba is treated that they should take it up with OSPCA or CAZA and some animal rights people in Canada have stated there are serious problems with both organizations and that they couldn’t be relied upon. It was stated that they would call the OSPCA if they were at all credible and cared about something other than money, and that they are a dysfunctional organization lacking in transparency. Some evidence that they may not be reputable is that they are a registered charity yet will not release their salary amounts to the public. Another has said that CAZA is a club that is there to create an illusion of oversight and keep people without vested interests at arm’s length and they do not enforce even minimum standards and simply overlook anyone that fails to meet them.

People who speak out for animals such as myself, do so from the perspective that animals are equal to humans in their ability to feel, to suffer, and have equal rights to freedom and the exercising of their free will. When we see that an animal is no longer able to have freedom or at least to have its unnatural state diminished, we speak out, out of compassion. I see the sacredness in all life, and I would never desire to exert power and control over another living thing. But you do. What does that say about you? Power is always veiled by ideas that are thought to be good. A whole ideology is then built around such an idea, making it a worldview that appears as striving for what is good, while in essence, you are trying to control life – both in yourself and in others. FEEL the energy of wanting to control things. Is that a loving energy? Often, that energy poses as love, as the good and the true, but power always conceals itself in this way so it is easier for people to accept. Power does not show its face openly; power seduces through thought.

I became a biologist to protect wild places for animals, it is an absolute irony to me when zoos say they are working to promote conservation all the while keeping animals out of the wild. I can maybe see the benefit of captive breeding programs to reintroduce wildlife populations in decline, but since so few have been successful it is potentially just a waste of money that could be diverted to protecting other species in the wild that have better chances. Extinctions will be inevitable. The idea of just having animals in captivity to “educate” people about them is a total fallacy.

I did not develop my love of nature and wildlife from zoos. I developed it by actually spending time in nature, by connecting with it. In my own backyard I was lucky enough to live in a rural area and have this opportunity to observe birds, frogs, salamanders, mammals, and turtles. I went canoeing, hiking, and camping as a child. I developed such a profound love for nature that I have dedicated my life to protecting it in its most natural state. I understand not all children have these opportunities when they live in urban areas, but bringing children to zoos perpetuates the myth that this promotes conservation when all it promotes is the fact that we can exert our power over “lesser beings.” They are not lesser, they are equal. I can see the value in having unreleasable, injured native animals captive for educational purposes, but not exotic animals. It is morally wrong and unjustifiable to take perfectly healthy animals from their mothers at a young age from the wild, which inevitably damages their psyche for life. Then especially to turn them into circus performers, that is abhorrent.

What is really disturbing is that wild elephants are still being captured for zoos, 6 elephant calves were just captured from the wild in Zimbabwe and may be sold to Chinese zoos. Four have already been sent to Chinese zoos recently and one has since died. This is unacceptable that this continues! Zoos do not promote conservation, they promote the exploitation and the view that an animal is property and we should be allowed to do what we want with them. They are not property, they are not somethings, they are someones. What we really want to see is an end to exotic animals in captivity and used for performing in circuses and film. There are not natural for animals and are felephantsorced into these situations by their owners which they are totally at the mercy of because animals are defined as property. Certain animals that require large amounts of space such as elephants should not be kept in zoos if the proper environment can never be provided for. There is enough evidence that elephants do not thrive in the usually too small zoo enclosures.

As we discussed, Africa has its problems with extreme poverty that leads people to poach elephants for ivory to feed their families. It is a sad state of the world when rich countries like the US and Canada spend millions of dollars on many forms of mindless entertainment and many things they don’t need instead of helping those in need in poorer countries when it might actually stop poaching. I think we can agree that there are many things about our society that need to change, but sending Limba to a sanctuary is one thing that you can actually do to make it just a little bit better, for her and for the message you will be sending to the world that she is loved and deserves to retire and enjoy for a little while a real elephant’s life. I don’t think I know more than you, but sometimes seeing things through another’s eyes is beneficial.