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Bowmanville Zoo will close down at the end of 2016 season

CityNews | posted Thursday, Jun 23rd, 2016

The Bowmanville Zoo is closing down at the end of the 2016 season because attendance is down “catastrophically” following charges being laid against the zoo’s owner earlier this year, a spokesman announced Thursday.

“Zoo attendance is down quite dramatically … catastrophically,” Angus Carroll said. “People are staying away in droves and we can’t afford to operate the zoo.”

Carroll estimates attendance is down 65 per cent since last summer. The zoo season traditionally runs until Thanksgiving.

Earlier this year, the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) charged zoo owner Michael Hackenberger with four counts of causing an animal distress and one of failing to comply with the prescribed standards of care for an animal.

The OSPCA investigation was launched after video footage surfaced that appeared to show Hackenberger hitting a tiger with a whip during a training session. The video was circulated by the animal rights group PETA.

“The PR campaign being carried on by PETA is very effective,” Carroll said. “We’ve been run over by a bus.”

Related stories:

Owner of Bowmanville Zoo, charged with animal cruelty, back in court next month

Bowmanville Zoo director steps down after animal cruelty charges

New PETA video allegedly shows Bowmanville Zoo owner explaining tactics

Bowmanville Zoo owner refutes PETA video showing him whipping tiger

If Hackenberger is found guilty, he could face a maximum of a $60,000 fine, two years in jail and a lifetime prohibition from owning animals. But he says the backlash in social media and the press has persuaded customers to stop visiting the zoo.

“We feel this is a tragic example of being tried in the public court before being tried in the real court,” Carroll said.

Carroll said the zoo is already working on finding the animals at the zoo new homes, though he does not believe discussions have taken place with the Toronto Zoo.

“Not all of them can just be released,” he said. “We have already begun finding new homes for the animals. We believe we will find new homes for all the animals.”

Carroll says the zoo employs “dozens of staff” in maintenance, food services and animal care capacities who will lose their jobs. However, some keepers and trainers will continue to work as long as it takes to adopt out all the animals.

“Many are heartbroken, to say the least,” he said.

Carroll emphasized that closing the zoo means more children will never have the ability to see real animals.

“The digital world is great,” he said, “but it cannot replace the real world.”


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