Saskatoon zoo opening research facility to study orphaned grizzly bears

Bears Mistaya and Koda will help shed light on those in the wild

By Alex Soloducha, CBC News Posted: Apr 25, 2017 4:12 PM CT

The Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo is beginning a new partnership with the Foothills Research Institute to start a grizzly bear research program in the city.

The five-year agreement between the two organizations will allow Foothills scientists to use Saskatoon zoo facilities to take part in conservation research on a variety of animals of different species currently housed there, starting with two orphaned grizzly bears.

The Saskatoon Zoo acquired two young grizzly bears in 2006. Mistaya and Koda were both orphaned in Alberta, paired at the Calgary Zoo and later transferred to their permanent home in Saskatoon.

Manager of the Saskatoon zoo, Tim Sinclair-Smith, said the organization is working to make research and conservation a priority.

“We shouldn’t have them here at all if we’re just going to display them,” he said.

Foothills researchers have been working on long-term conservation of grizzly bears in Alberta since 1999.

Their primary objective is to understand how the health of individual grizzly bears is influenced by human activities and changing environmental conditions. The second goal is to examine how that health affects the growth, stability and resilience of grizzly bear populations.

This year, during the bears’ hibernation, management at the zoo was working on making a connection with Foothills.

The City of Saskatoon will pool in-kind resources to create a Wildlife Health Centre, consisting of a laboratory for Foothills researchers. No changes will be done to the structure of the facilities, which are being outfitted with necessary lab equipment.

“For them to build a facility … you’re talking millions and millions of dollars,” Sinclair-Smith said. “This was a great opportunity for them to be able to utilize the data they can gather from these guys and use them for a baseline for all the research that they’re doing with the bears in the wild.”

The Foothills scientists will test samples of hair, feathers and scales picked up through non-invasive sample gathering.

Their research findings will often be communicated directly with zoo visitors.

With files from Charles Hamilton

Rescue Gajraj the Elephant From Torture at Indian Temple

Target: Modi Narendra, Prime Minister of India 

Goal: Rescue Gajraj the elephant, who has been tortured and held in captivity for over 50 years, from the Satara Temple.

A 63-year-old elephant named Gajraj has been living in devastating conditions for most of his life. Currently, he is being kept in chains as a tourist attraction at the Satara Temple in India. Before he was there, he was used by handlers to beg visitors for money. Since becoming ill and too sick to continue doing that, he was left at the Satara Temple.

Gajraj’s living conditions were revealed anonymously to The Sun newspaper in the U.K. in the form of video footage. Due to being chained to a hard floor, he has developed abscesses on his hind quarters and elbows. He reportedly spends time every day trying to free himself from those chains. Pictures also show that the ends of his tusks have been cut off and that he has overgrown and broken toenails on all of his feet.

He is also exhibiting classic signs of severe psychological distress, presumably as a result of both his social isolation and the terrible conditions he is living in. He is apparently not receiving the appropriate care because he can no longer make the handlers any money, but he does not deserve to die in agony because of that.

Something needs to be done to save Gajraj and to prevent this from happening to more animals in the future. Sign this petition to demand that the appropriate measures are taken as soon as possible.


Dear Prime Minister Modi Narendra,

Gajraj the elephant is dying in agony at the Satara Temple and it seems that no one at that facility cares. You have the power to do something about this and to send someone in to rescue Gajraj before it’s too late.

He has spent the majority of his life being tortured and held in captivity. At the Satara Temple, he is chained to the ground and completely alone. This is driving him into severe psychological distress that no living creature deserves to experience.

We ask that you help save Gajraj and take the measures necessary to implement legislation that prevents this from happening to more animals in the future.


[Your Name Here]

Bird Flu Pandemic Hasn’t Changed Atrocious Conditions at Poultry Farms

The government’s recent move to encourage bigger cages in order to prevent another avian influenza from spreading on a massive scale like the one which transpired last November is being met with a lukewarm reception and skepticism among critics over the lax nature of the newly introduced rules. (Image: Kobiz Media)

The government’s recent move to encourage bigger cages in order to prevent another avian influenza from spreading on a massive scale like the one which transpired last November is being met with a lukewarm reception and skepticism among critics over the lax nature of the newly introduced rules. (Image: Kobiz Media)

SEOUL, April 17 (Korea Bizwire) – Despite new government measures that require farmers to make use of larger cages, the horrific conditions that poultry live under at typical factory farms in South Korea are unlikely to change soon, which have been identified as one of the major factors behind the recent influenza Type A pandemic that causes illness to people.

The government’s recent move to encourage bigger cages in order to prevent another avian influenza from spreading on a massive scale like the one which transpired last November is being met with a lukewarm reception and skepticism among critics over the lax nature of the newly introduced rules.

Existing poultry farms will have 10 years to update their old cages in accordance with the new standards, but critics say the grace period is too long, and that simply making cages slightly bigger won’t get to the root of the problem.

According to current laws regarding poultry farming, chickens are being raised in a space smaller the size of an A4 sheet of paper (0.05 square meters or 0.5 square feet), which means 1 square meter per 20 chickens. When the new rules take place, poultry farms will be required to have their cages built at least 0.075 square meters in size.

The EU already banned (in 2003) the construction of any more of the so-called battery cages, a term that refers to small wire cages in which hens spend their entire lives with little to no space to move around. Since a total ban on battery cages took place in 2012, an increasing number of farmers have adopted free-range farming.

South Korean poultry farms however, have been bucking the trend and engaging in activities that border on animal cruelty, such as keeping the lights on during the night to maximize egg production, exploiting a physiological phenomenon in which a drastic environmental change suddenly increases the egg production of hens.

Despite opposition from animal rights groups, little has been done to secure the wellbeing of farm animals in South Korea.

A representative from the Korea Association for Animal Protection (KAAP), Lee Won-bok, was critical of the government’s move to tackle avian influenza, calling it a ‘makeshift plan’ that will bring little to no change.

“AI pandemics occur almost every year due to the poor living conditions of farm animals, not because of the size of cages,” Lee said.

Hyunsu Yim (

3 tiger cubs destined for zoo in Syria rescued in Lebanon

Monday, April 03, 2017 09:07 am
BEIRUT – Three Siberian tiger cubs destined for a zoo in war-torn Syria were rescued by a Lebanese animal rights group after being trapped in an unmarked, maggot-infested crate in Beirut’s airport for almost a week.

The tigers, which were being transported from Ukraine, arrived at the Beirut airport on March 7, inside a ventilated 0.3-cubic-meter (10.6-cubic feet) crate, where they could not stand or move and were forced to urinate and defecate on each other, according to Animals Lebanon.

The animal rights group, which had been alerted to the shipment ultimately bound for Samer al-Husainawi Zoo in Damascus before it landed in Beirut, petitioned a Lebanese judge to release the tigers into their care the following week, Executive Director Jason Mier said.

The judge responded by issuing an order demanding the tigers be released, citing concerns for their health and welfare, the group said.

“Once we finally got them out of the box, the box had dozens and dozens of maggots crawling around in it. There were maggots all over the back thighs of the animals and around their anus,” Mier said. The tigers also suffered from dehydration, according to the group.

The tigers were sent from the zoo in Mykolaev, Ukraine. Volodymyr Topchiy, that zoo’s director, said the deal to send them abroad was entirely legal.

“They passed customs clearance, we have customs declarations,” he said, adding that the tiger cubs were exchanged for some wildcats.

Topchiy believes problems with paperwork and bureaucracy stopped their transfer to Syria. “On the transportation boxes there were no ‘up’ or down’ signs,” he said.

He said the three tiger cubs were in one box, not separate, and the zoo dealer was stopped because of these reasons. “Authorities wanted to confiscate (the cubs),” he said.

Mier said the crate arrived with no markings and no documents, and did not meet IATA regulations nor those of CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, despite the fact that the four-month-old Siberian tigers fall under that category.

This is not the first deal that the Mykolaev zoo has made with its Syrian counterpart, and Topchiy said he is considering sending more tiger cubs there.

Lebanon enacted an animal protection and welfare law in 2015, granting animals legal rights and allowing for the regulation and monitoring of all the industries and establishments that use or sell animals to ensure that the animals are not placed in abusive environments.

The country is also a signatory to a number of international conventions regarding animal welfare, such as CITES, the main legislation against wildlife trafficking.

In August 2015, the death of a privately owned lion cub as a result of severe malnourishment prompted the Agriculture Ministry to clamp down on the sale and ownership of big cats.

In July, the ministry issued a decree to stop the trafficking of big cats and forcing zoos to register formally.


Wolf that escaped from Idaho wildlife park killed by owner


A wolf that escaped from a drive-thru wildlife tourist attraction in southeastern Idaho has been shot and killed by the owner of the business, Idaho officials said.

Courtney Ferguson, the owner of Yellowstone Bear World near Yellowstone National Park, tracked the wolf through snow and shot it about an hour after it escaped from the facility that also has bears, elk, bison and deer.

“Courtney saw the tracks in the snow, tracked the wolf down and shot it,” Doug Peterson of Idaho Fish and Game told the Standard Journal in a story published Monday. “He took care of it all by himself and relatively quickly and easily.”

Peterson said the wolf was owned by Ferguson so the state’s hunting rules did not apply to the killing of the wolf.

“The wolves we hunt belong to the citizens of Idaho,” Peterson said. “This particular wolf of Courtney’s belonged to him.”

All the animals at the facility that is now closed for the winter were born and raised there, the company said.

Yellowstone National Park has drawn a record of more than 4 million visitors this year, many hoping to spot wolves and grizzly bears in the wild. Ferguson’s wildlife park sits on one of the major routes into the park, with a selling point that visitors can see the animals up close.

“It’s a different setting than the park but they do get to see what those animals look like,” said Jim White, regional supervisor for Idaho Fish and Game.

Yellowstone Bear World operates with a license issued by the Idaho Department of Agriculture and its animals are permitted by Idaho Fish and Game.

White called the escape of the wolf “an unusual, isolated incident.”

Ferguson did not immediately respond Tuesday to telephone and email messages seeking comment.

Wasted Lives and Roadside Zoos


by Barry Kent MacKay

Recently, I revisited Jungle Cat World Wildlife Park: a roadside zoo just outside the small town of Orono, Ontario. I had not checked it out in a couple of decades. It opened in 1983.

It’s neither the best nor the worst of its kind. When I sent photos I had taken to Rob Laidlaw of Zoocheck, he replied, “When I look at the images, it just strikes me how absurd and wasted the lives of the animals are living in those cages in Orono; a purposeless and hopeless existence.”

That perfectly expressed my own views. Scattered about the grounds are a series of cages and enclosures in which the usual assembly of animals commonly seen in zoos are imprisoned, without a jungle in sight. There is also a pet cemetery, a motel-like bed and breakfast accommodation, a tiny cafeteria, and a souvenir shop.

The zoo offers a “Safari Zoo Camp experience” each summer. It grandly promises to “protect and conserve the natural world by offering the public engaging wildlife education programs and experiences with animals to help foster the necessary awareness, knowledge, skills and confidence to live in an environmentally friendly way.”

Photo: Barry Kent MacKay

I climbed the “wolf tower” to peer down into an enclosure where some wolves remained, mostly hidden in the weeds. One was pacing in the classical stereotypic manner of confined zoo animals. By pre-focusing my camera at the spot where he was briefly visible, I got a few mediocre snapshots. This is definitely not how wolves act in the wild.

The sign for the European kestrel misidentified him as a female and contained a mishmash of information on that species and the markedly different American kestrel—while doing nothing to protect either species.

Until she read the sign on the cage, I overheard a lady say that the mountain lion, puma, and cougar were all the same species. I guess that’s education.

Photo: Barry Kent MacKay

My concern is that these places make people think that what they see in such facilities is somehow “normal” for the animals they imprison. The parrot on the t-bar, the lemurs jumping on a hanging spare tire and begging for grapes, that owl up in the corner of her cage, or the pacing tiger… This is what they’ll know of each species.

This is not what animals are like, so isolated from the realities they evolved to inhabit. And yet, in or near towns and cities across the continent, I fear that too many people see these facilities as normal components of our own society: the animals serving to amuse us, where we “ooh” over white lions, or gasp at how big a boa constrictor can grow, or laugh at the antics of a squirrel monkey.

Rob calls the last century and a half that the modern zoo has existed the “sanitization and acceptance” period, wherein wild animals in cages are increasingly seen to be perfectly normal… while the spaces they naturally inhabit continue to decline. Sadly, I think he’s right.

Keep wildlife in the wild,

Defending Wild Salmon from Greed and Ecological Ignorance

From Captain Paul Watson:

Sea Shepherd’s Operation Virus Hunter is focusing international attention on the health of wild salmon populations on the West coast of Canada and the threat of viruses and parasites from domestic salmon farms.

If the wild salmon disappear, the Orcas will not survive. If the wild salmon disappear, the culture of West Coast First Nations will be seriously damaged. If the wild salmon disappear, bears and eagles and many other species will also disappear.

What the Norwegian salmon farm industry has done is to introduce and exotic non-native species – the Atlantic salmon into an eco-system it does not belong. They then concentrated these fish in captive pens where they breed parasites and develop viral infections. The industry counters this with antibiotics but the viruses persist and the wild salmon have no defenses against viruses or parasites.

Salmon should not be confined to concentration camps. Wild fish populations should not be wiped out to feed the captive inmates. The diseases and parasites from the captive inmates should not be allowed to infect wild salmon populations.

DFO should be doing their job and not allowing the salmon farms to police themselves.

Sea Shepherd stands behind Dr. Alexandra Morton and the majority of the First Nations on the West Coast in opposing the ecological destructions being caused by these floating virus and fish fecal factories.

B.C.-based biologist Alexandra Morton was elbow-to-elbow with Pamela Anderson of Baywatch fame and environmentalist and broadcaster David Suzuki for the…

No exotic pets‏

Help stop the demand for exotic pets! Animals are being poached from their natural habitat and transported in deplorable and deadly conditions. Breeding in captivity also causes suffering and falsely implies wild species are domesticated animals.
Many people don’t realize that keeping chimpanzees, cheetahs, Fischer’s lovebirds and other wild animals threatens the very existence of fragile species. Sign the pledge today to help us keep wild animals wild and free.

Sea Lion Act at Fair Faces Opposition

By Haven Orecchio-Egresitz

Posted Jul. 19, 2016 at 9:29 PM
Updated Jul 20, 2016 at 7:01 AM

FALMOUTH — A traveling sea lion exhibit currently featured at the Barnstable County Fair was cited in May by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for violating the federal Animal Welfare Act, raising concerns among animal welfare advocates and scholars who are calling for fair organizers to stop the show.“It just completely goes against the basic nature of what animals need,” said Laura Hagen, deputy director of advocacy for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. “The USDA standards are very basic survival standards. The bar is very, very low.”But fair organizers and the company that puts on the sea lion show say the problems cited by the USDA were either fixed or never existed.Video: Trainers lead Sea Lion Splash show at county fairAt the time of a routine inspection in May, Squalus Inc.’s Sea Lion Splash show was performing at Heritage Park in Simpsonville, South Carolina, according to a federal inspection report.FederalinfractionsLisa Macelderry, a veterinarian inspecting the exhibit, noted that the five sea lions were kept in a pool 41 square feet smaller than required by law and three of them had painful eye conditions. There were no records of the animals receiving required semiannual care and at the time of the inspection, three animals — Zoey, Lily, and Kitty — were squinting or keeping an eye closed.Photos: Sea lion show at Barnstable fair“These are signs of obvious discomfort and painful eye conditions,” Macelderry wrote in the report. “During most of this inspection, Zoey (13 year old California sea lion) was holding her right eye closed. There is no record of any veterinary consultation or initiation of medical treatment.”There was a record of a veterinarian visit in February, in which the doctor noted titers of Leptospirosis in both Zoey and Kitty and recommended further testing. There is no indication there were follow-up diagnostics, according to the inspection report.The USDA found the two caretakers in the travel exhibit were not adequately trained in animal welfare as they didn’t recognize or report the eye conditions, kept incomplete medical records and were treating the water with chemicals without using measured amounts, according to the report. Both employees had bite or slash marks on their arms from the animals, according to the report.The problems cited in the May inspection report were rectified before Barnstable County Fair organizers allowed the group to perform this year, according to Craig Orsi, a spokesman for the fair.“The Barnstable County Fair only allows acts on its grounds that carry all relevant federal, state and local certifications,” said Wendy Brown, general manager of the Barnstable County Fair, in a statement.Marco Peters, who owns Squalus Inc., said the health concerns mentioned in the inspection report were unfounded, but the caretakers were “completely retrained,” after the inspection.“A lot of the things with the eye problems were not correct from the inspector,” Peters said. “We had a marine ophthalmologist come in the next week and none of the animals needed any medication.”Another USDA inspection of Squalus conducted in Louisville, Kentucky, in June resulted in no citations.Brooke Aldrich, who lives part of the year in Falmouth, grew up attending the fair and described it as a “big part” of her childhood. In 2013, Aldrich, now a primatologist and specialist in animal welfare, wanted to return to the fair, but before she did she wanted to make sure the captive animal exhibits had been phased out.To her surprise, they weren’t.That year the fair featured an act called “The Amazing Rainforest Experience,” which included a tiger that looked emaciated and several monkeys, according to Aldrich. Aldrich wrote her first letter to fair organizers that year asking them to reconsider the animal exhibit. She also wrote to Falmouth selectmen, but her concerns “fell on deaf ears,” she said. In 2014, she wrote them again about a lemur exhibit and again no action was taken, she said.Her main concern with the citations from May is that the sea lions may have had Leptospirosis, which can be transmitted to humans, Aldrich said. After the shows, members of the audience are allowed to come up to the sea lions and pose for photographs with the animals giving them a kiss on their cheek.Without treatment, Leptospirosis can lead to kidney damage, meningitis, liver failure, respiratory distress and even death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals — better known as PETA — has also raised concerns about the traveling show and issued an alert urging people to not support the fair, according to Brittany Peet, an attorney and the director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement at PETA Foundation.While PETA has been looking into Squalus for the past two years because of USDA violations, their interest peaked when a former employee recently reached out the group claiming to have routinely witnessed animal abuse and neglect, Peet said.The witness claimed the owners of Sea Lion Splash regularly struck sea lions with poles and pipes during training sessions and, on one occasion, left six sea lions in a single tank for three days during transport without feeding the animals or changing their water, Peet said.Sea lion trainer Ian Fuller, who led the 4:40 p.m. show with his partner, Marisol Martinez, on Tuesday, disputed the claims made by PETA and said that all of the sea lions, which travel from city to city in an indoor pool, are well cared for and are trained only through positive reinforcement.“They’re like our dogs,” Fuller said after the show, adding that sea lions live longer in captivity than in the wild. “It’s the best job in the world.”The alleged whistleblower who claimed abuse to PETA has not reached out to the MSPCA, according to Hagen, who said the group just recently became involved and is working with local advocates to urge fair organizers not to host captive animal exhibits.Cambridge, Plymouth, Somerville, Weymouth, Quincy, Revere, Braintree and Provincetown have all banned the display of exotic animals in circuses, she said.In towns where the exhibits are allowed, the MSPCA is limited in how it can respond because the shows are licensed through the USDA, which must enforce the federal regulations, she said. A warrant is required to inspect the venue specifically for animal cruelty, Hagen said.The USDA enforces the Animal Welfare Act through unannounced inspections, said R. Andre Bell, a spokesman for the agency. There is no open investigation into Squalus Inc., Bell said.“If the noncompliance items cited on an inspection report are of a serious enough nature, the agency will begin an investigation into the matter,” Bell said. “If that investigation determines that Animal Welfare Act violations did occur, the agency will issue an enforcement/penalty action.”But a vast majority of citations don’t result in enforcement, said Delcianna Winders, an Academic Fellow of Animal Law & Policy Program at Harvard Law School who studies USDA enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act.

A December 2014 audit of the USDA by the Office of Inspector General found that penalties issued in 2012 were reduced by 86 percent from the law’s maximum penalty even though the cases resulted in death and other egregious violations, according to the report. For every $10,000 penalty, violators pay about $1,400 dollars in fines, Winders said.

“This is a longstanding issue that the Office of Inspector General has raised multiple times in the past. Unfortunately, even since this most recent audit, my analysis has shown that penalties continue to be steeply discounted,” Winders said. “The problem is aggravated by the fact that the agency insists on keeping the penalty worksheets secret.”

Peters, of Squalus Inc., said Tuesday he has received no penalties for the May citations.

— Follow Haven Orecchio-Egresitz on Twitter: @HavenCCT.