Cherry Brook Zoo still silent on Collrin departure

The board of trustees at the Cherry Brook Zoo is still keeping quiet about the departure of zoo founders Lynda and Leonard Collrin, after a closed-door board meeting Monday night on how to proceed.

Lynda and Leonard Collrin founded the zoo 42 years ago.

Len Collrin is no longer associated with the Cherry Brook Zoo. (Brian Chisholm/CBC)

The board of trustees at the Cherry Brook Zoo is still keeping quiet about the departure of zoo founders Lynda and Leonard Collrin after a closed-door board meeting Monday night on how to proceed. 

A statement was expected on Tuesday morning, but when contacted to ask for the statement, Alice O'Neill, chair of the board of trustees, said, "No comment on that, but you will know."

The Collrins opened the Cherry Brook Zoo in 1978 at its current location. The zoo has expanded to include a number of new animals, a mini-golf game, and a park featuring statues of endangered animals.

They were not available for comment as of Tuesday afternoon.

'It's a big deal'

Bruce Dougan, the manager of the Magnetic Hill Zoo in Moncton, has known the Collrins for more than 30 years and says a change in leadership for the zoo will be a major undertaking.

it's going to be a challenge to replace the Collrins at Cherry Brook, for sure.- Bruce Dougan, Magnetic Hill Zoo manager

"It's a big deal," he said. "It is challenging to find somebody to fill that role,  and it's going to be a challenge to replace the Collrins at Cherry Brook, for sure."

He doesn't know what led to the Collrins' departure, but knows that a change will bring about difficulties, and he said the Magnetic Hill Zoo is willing to help in any way it can.

"If they're looking for whatever, I mean, we've provided them with donations of food in the past, if they need to house their animals temporarily, we would do our best to accommodate that, we would try to help them out with any expertise they might need."

Bruce Dougan, manager of the Magnetic Hill Zoo in Moncton. (CBC)
"I really don't know what their needs are, so we would try to help them with any need they might have." 

The Cherry Brook Zoo is accredited by the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Officials from that organization visited the zoo over the weekend and released a statement saying they are satisfied the situation is being handled and the animals are being well cared for.

"We have offered our help to the board as they transition to a new management structure and look forward to working with the outstanding group of volunteers and community supporters that are the backbone of Cherry Brook Zoo," said executive director Massimo Bergamini in the statement.

Fragile finances

The zoo has struggled for funding in recent years, facing cash crunches in each of the last three years.  The zoo is a registered non-profit, funded largely by admission, donations, and municipal grants. 

Lynda Collrin lived on the zoo property with her husband Len Collrin. (Brian Chisholm/CBC)
The City of Saint John funding has declined in recent years, going from 150 to 100, and recently down to $50,000.

In October 2015, the zoo pitched a new strategic plan that included expanding the zoo's population, bringing in ponies and lion cubs, and building safari cabins for night-time stays, appealing to the eco-tourism market.

In June, the zoo announced it would be trading tigers as part of an international breeding program. Karma the siberian tiger is scheduled to go to the Calgary Zoo.