Animal’s death among one of many controversies surrounding zoo
By Mercedes Deutscher, News Editor
A red panda, named Rakesh, died of a fungal infection while being quarantined in the Greater Vancouver Zoo in August. The animal’s death comes only two months after being transferred, along with his brother, to Vancouver from the Assiniboine Zoo in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Veterinarians at the Greater Vancouver Zoo found that Rakesh died from a fungal infection called pulmonary blastomycosis. The infection manifests itself in soil, wood, leaves, and other organic matter.
The veterinarians believe that Rakesh contracted the infection from Winnipeg before being transferred to Vancouver, as animals under quarantine at the Vancouver Zoo are placed in a sterile, soil-free environment.
Signs of the infection went undetected within Rakesh.
“This infection can lie dormant for up to six years in an animal,” said Jody Henderson, the zoo’s general manager, to CBC. “So it’s not something that’s easily detectable.”
As a precaution, Rakesh’s brother, Arun, is being treated for the infection.
The zoo has since received some negative attention with many animal activists protesting outside of the zoo on August 30.
Members of the Vancouver Humane Society were quick to comment on the situation, such as spokesperson Peter Fricker. Fricker voiced to the CBC that unless there is a matter of urgent conservation, animals should not be kept in captivity.
“What we’re seeing currently is that zoos are doing relatively little conservation work,” Fricker said. “And as far as we’re concerned, they’re still primarily about putting animals on display for profit.”
Animal welfare has been a concern to conservation and humane societies for years. There have been several other notable cases at the Vancouver Zoo with regard to the conditions that the animals are being kept in. More recently, a Siberian tiger unexpectedly died in 2014 after sudden heart failure. Three giraffes died between 2011 and 2012, supposedly due to the climate. Four zebras passed away in 2009 after the introduction of Cape buffalo in their habitat. As to enclosure conditions, the zoo came under fire in 2006 due to hippopotamus being housed in a pen that was too small.
Not only have the living conditions of the animals come under scrutiny, but the zoo’s security levels as well. In the midst of the storm that occurred in Metro Vancouver on August 29, there was a security breach which allowed a grizzly bear, among other animals, to escape their pens. All visitors at the zoo were placed under lockdown for three hours before the area was cleared for visitors to evacuate the zoo.