Senator proposes bill to ban captivity of certain animals, protect others

A zoo in Quebec plans to get out of the elephant business, its CEO said as a senator was set to introduce a federal bill Tuesday that would phase out keeping the animals in captivity.

Paul Gosselin said the Granby Zoo has been thinking about getting out of the elephant business for the last few years.

“It’s getting tougher and tougher to get animals out of the wild and problems to exchange with other zoological institutions across the border from one country to another,” he said in an interview.

“Given that and given the fact we have to agree that the elephant standards are getting more and more tough to keep them in zoological institutions and given the fact the bill is coming and we supported it, we have decided as a group in Granby to transition out.”

He said the zoo’s three African elephants — females Thandi and Sarah and male Tutum — will be moving out, although the destination and timing haven’t been decided.

“We will transition out in the next few years,” Gosselin said.

Sen. Marty Klyne said he will reintroduce a bill Tuesday supported by primatologist Jane Goodall that would phase out elephants in captivity, put a stop to big cats and other exotic animals at roadside zoos and give some animals legal standing in court.

The Jane Goodall Act was first introduced in late 2020, but died last year when the election was called.

The new bill would ban new captivity of lions, apes, bears and hundreds of other animals at roadside zoos.

Several zoos have signed on in support of the bill including the Toronto Zoo, the Calgary Zoo, the Granby Zoo, the Assiniboine Park Zoo and the Montreal Biodome.

Klyne said those zoos would be exempt from the captivity ban and others can apply to become designated “animal care organizations” that meet standards of care and whistleblower protections.

Klyne said several zoos and animal rights organizations helped draft the bill.

“Their expertise and passion have contributed to strengthening the bill to ban new captivity of lions, tigers, bears and hundreds more species at roadside zoos,” Klyne said in a written statement.

Goodall, who is renowned for her decades-long study of family and social interactions among chimpanzees, called it an “important day for animals.”

“So many of them are in desperate need of our help and the Jane Goodall Act establishes protection and support for animals under human care,” Goodall wrote in a statement.

The Toronto Zoo said it was proud to support the proposed bill.

“It represents a critical step forward in protecting wild animals,” CEO Dolf DeJong wrote in a statement.

Several other prominent animal rights organizations have also lent their support to the proposed bill.

“Animal Justice is especially pleased that the bill would offer animals limited legal standing in court–a groundbreaking move toward making sure our legal system prioritizes their well-being,” said the organization’s executive director, Camille Labchuk.

If passed, the bill would require organizations that own tigers or cheetahs, for example, to apply for a permit to breed them or acquire new ones. The applications would be considered on a case-by-case basis.

The bill would also ban elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn imports.

Klyne has taken over stewardship of the bill from Murray Sinclair, who retired from the Senate last year.

Sinclair told the Senate at the original bill’s second reading late in 2020 that there were 22 elephants in captivity across Canada: 16 Asian elephants at African Lion Safari near Hamilton, a lone Asian elephant named Lucy at the Edmonton Valley Zoo, two African elephants at Parc Safari in Quebec plus the three at Granby Zoo.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 22, 2022.

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