A kangaroo named Willow has died after escaping from Papanack Park Zoo and being injured in a road incident. Papanack Zoo is a roadside zoo located just east of Ottawa, and is notorious for longstanding allegations of animal cruelty and abuse.
According to news reports, Willow escaped from Papanack Zoo on Friday, May 7. Motorists reported seeing her cross the road while already suffering from serious injuries, with blood and visible exposed bone. Witnesses attempted to help Willow by capturing her and covering her with a coat while they waited for a veterinarian to arrive. It is unclear whether Willow was hit by a car, or was injured by other means.
On Saturday morning, Papanack Zoo apparently shared a now-deleted Facebook post indicating that Willow had died. It is unclear whether she died from her injuries, whether she was euthanized immediately on the advice of a veterinarian, or whether Papanack Zoo declined to treat her to avoid paying expensive veterinary fees.
Willow’s death is not the first escape from Papanack Zoo. In 2016, a lion named Zeus escaped. He was shot and killed at the direction of the Zoo, which later complained that this was unfortunate because Zeus was worth $25,000.
In 2017, Animal Justice released hidden-camera footage from Papanack Zoo depicting appalling animal cruelty. In the video, the zoo owner’s son admitted that he beat a baby lion cub named Ty after he misbehaved, by hitting him across the face repeatedly as hard as he could.
Papanack Zoo also regularly removed baby animals from their mothers so the babies could tamed and used as money-making props for selfies, which were sold to zoo guests. Zoo staff acknowledged that “people don’t like to hear that you pull babies”, so they misled guests that asked questions, telling them instead that the mothers rejected the babies.
Papanack Zoo also rented out animals for video and photo shoots, including raccoons and skunks. To make these tame animals look vicious in photo shoots, they were provoked withs sticks, and had their mouths held open with a cord.
Multiple other animals such as big cats, foxes, and monkeys were seen performing stereotypic behaviours such as pacing back and forth in their tiny cages, which is indicative of severe psychological disturbance brought on by the stress of confinement. Animals regularly died at Papanack Zoo, including a sitatunga who had been improperly housed with red deers, and several Père David’s deers, who allegedly ran into a fence and broke their necks.
Ontario is the only province that doesn’t require a license to operate a zoo, and has no regulations specific to keeping animals in zoos. This has led to the province becoming the wild west of zoos, with roadside zoos proliferating across the province.
Attitudes about zoos have been shifting rapidly as people become more aware of poor conditions inside, and the torment that animals endure. Most Canadians now oppose keeping animals in zoos, including 57% of people in Ontario. It’s time to go beyond simply licensing and regulating zoos, and develop a plan to phase out these cruel facilities and convert them into sanctuaries instead.
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