Animal Justice Calls for Investigation Over False Claims in Edmonton Valley Zoo’s Funding Request

Animal Justice is urging the city of Edmonton and police to investigate the Edmonton Valley Zoo over potential fraud in a recent funding request.

Animal Justice has written to Edmonton City Councillors, the Office of the City Auditor, and the Edmonton Police Service to alert them to potential misrepresentations by the Edmonton Valley Zoo during the city budget process late in 2022.

The move comes after an investigation by Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA) was “unable to substantiate” claims by the Edmonton Valley Zoo that it required public funding because many of the animal enclosures did not meet CAZA accreditation standards. CAZA is not a public enforcement or oversight body, but is a zoo industry association that receives a large portion of its funding through its members.

Last year, the zoo requested roughly $61.2 million of city funding, claiming that the facility urgently required additional funds because “a number of animal enclosures” did not comply with CAZA animal care standards—including enclosures for Lucy the elephant, zebras, camels, takins, birds of prey, and seals. The city’s budget report noted that these deficiencies jeopardized the health and welfare of animals and put human safety at risk.

Image shows Lucy the Elephant at Edmonton Valley Zoo.
Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur | Zoocheck

Claims Can’t Be Validated in Zoo Budget Report

Animal Justice filed a complaint, requesting that CAZA investigate whether the zoo’s accreditation should be suspended or revoked in light of the admitted non-compliance. CAZA recently confirmed to Animal Justice that after visiting the zoo, reviewing documentation, and interviewing staff, its investigation was closed and no action would be taken, stating:

“The budget report pertaining to the Edmonton Valley Zoo’s alleged deficiencies contains statements we were unable to substantiate. The funding request to Council seems to have been written to look to future investments. The investigation team understands it can be a challenge to present a case for future investments yet let the reader know they meet CAZA accreditation standards.”

If CAZA’s statement is accurate, then the zoo misled city council about conditions to secure funding. Otherwise, CAZA may not have properly addressed accreditation problems at the zoo. Either way, the situation is incredibly concerning and demonstrates the troubling lack of transparency and oversight of zoos in Canada.

Animal Justice is urging the city to immediately launch an inquiry to examine the conditions for animals at the zoo and determine whether the zoo presented false information to secure funding.

City councillor Erin Rutherford confirmed to The Edmonton Journal that she plans to advocate for an audit of the zoo. Meanwhile, acting city auditor Janine Mrygold said her office will review Animal Justice’s information as they determine which audits to conduct this year. Police spokeswoman Cheryl Voordenhout told the Edmonton Journal that police are aware of the allegations “and will work with the city to determine if a complaint will be made.”

Pelican in a concrete room at the Edmonton Valley Zoo.
Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur | Zoocheck | We Animals Media

End the Crisis of Cruelty in Canada’s Zoos

Zoos often claim their purpose is to educate the public and support conservation, but zoos mainly exist for human entertainment. Many zoos lack effective conservation programs and invest very little in education.

Zoos in Canada are often poorly regulated, and there is a patchwork of provincial laws to protect animals in zoos. In 2022, Animal Justice conducted the largest-ever investigation of Canadian zoos, revealing widespread suffering, injuries, death, and troubling threats to public safety.

The Jane Goodall Act, a groundbreaking bill currently working its way through the legislative process, would protect over 800 wild and exotic animals from suffering in captivity. This includes elephants, big cats, bears, many monkeys, wolves, sea lions, walruses, and dangerous reptiles like crocodiles and snakes. Show your support for the Jane Goodall Act and help combat cruelty in Canada’s zoos.

Banner: Jo-Anne McArthur | Zoocheck