Nearly 80 animals died during Montreal Biodôme renovation, document shows

Close to 80 of the Montreal Biodôme's animals died during the two years the museum was being renovated. In many cases, the cause of death is still unclear, but staff there believe the stress of being relocated was a likely factor.

Populations of bats and birds were most affected, according to museum

The majority of the Biodôme's 4,500 animals were moved for the duration of the work. 76 of them died. (Radio-Canada/Martin Thibault)

During the two years that the Montreal Biodôme was being renovated, 76 animals died, according to a document obtained by Radio-Canada.

About 4,500 animals were displaced during the work period, before the facility reopened in August.

An access-to-information request revealed that dozens of animals died in the first few days following the move.

Emiko Wong, head of the Biodôme's living collections, research and development division, told CBC the first major incident happened when a bird shelter had an unwelcome visitor. 

"A weasel accidentally introduced itself in one of our temporary locations for the animals. And unfortunately, a weasel is very agile and it caught many of the birds," she said.

The second series of casualties was among the Biodôme's bat population. Wong said the mesh used to temporarily house the bats damaged their highly sensitive skin.

She explained that the mesh was quickly swapped out, but nearly fifty bats did not survive.

Another group of small birds dealt with an outbreak of infectious diseases that she suspects was facilitated by increased humidity.

King penguins were moved to the Calgary Zoo during the renovation. Some will spend the rest of their lives there. (Radio-Canada)

A monkey and a small penguin also died. According to Wong, it's difficult to pinpoint the cause of death in all of the different cases.

"There are many factors that are involved and one of the factors is of course stress. Every time an animal dies in a biological setting, we try to investigate it and the reason why we do this is we want to learn more, and try to better care for the animals."

She added that the Biodôme is trying to be as transparent as possible, and will carefully review what role its staff and its caretaking played in the unfortunate circumstances.

In order to spare the older king penguins the stress of travel, the Biodôme decided not to bring them back from the Calgary Zoo where they were living temporarily.

The 19 and 20-year-old males as well as the 26 and 27-year-old females will therefore live out the rest of their lives in Alberta.


With files from Josh Grant, Radio-Canada's Thomas Gerbet