In the search for new homes for Cherry Brook zoo's animals, big cats are a big concern
Cherry Brook will consider accredited zoos in Canada and United States first, then non-accredited
Now that the Cherry Brook Zoo is closing its doors, operators are trying to figure out exactly what will happen to the animals living in the facility at Saint John's Rockwood Park.
Martha McDevitt said the zoo has already contacted Canada's Accredited Zoos and Aquariums, an organization of accredited facilities that could help match their tigers, lions and zebras with zoos that could take care of them.
"That community is very supportive, we're all in this together," she said.
She said the zoo is compiling a list of places that could take in the animals, but the COVID-19 pandemic is making it unclear when facilities can receive any animals, and whether the animals can even cross New Brunswick's borders.
She said people might think it's easy to rehome the big cats, but it's actually the most challenging part. The zoo has two tigers and two lions, and McDeivitt said they need very specialized care.
"They need proper homes, and, you know, the space," she said. "Not many facilities just have open areas to take in dangerous animals."
She said the zoo still has no leads on who could possibly take in those cats.
She said it costs $20,000 a month to pay the staff and feed the animals at Cherry Brook.
"To be able to move these animals, it could be up to four months," she said.
Jim Facette, executive director of CAZA, said McDevitt shared complete lists of the animals, species and medical background, which were distributed to 29 other accredited zoos and aquariums in Canada, hoping to find new homes.
He said the zoo members were given until yesterday to express interest.
Our message is to all concerned, including the provincial government, is to give the Cherry Brook Zoo some time.- Jim Facette, CAZA
If none of the 29 accredited zoos in Canada can take in the cats, Cherry Brook will look at accredited facilities in the United States, he said. If none of those are interested, the animals could be moved to non-accredited zoos, but only if the zoo is convinced the animals would be safe.
"Is it possible that you're doing more harm for the welfare of the animal? These kinds of hard questions will need to get asked and examined," he said.
If the search is unsuccessful, five or six months from now, Facette said " a difficult decision" could have to be made.
"Look, nobody wants to euthanize any of the animals," he said. "It may - hopefully not - come down to a choice of do we euthanize or do we try something else after we've exhausted all the options?
"Every option will be examined before that, and that will be someone else making that decision."
He said it won't be easy to move the dangerous animals, especially since COVID-19 is restricting most travel, but it's still quite possible the animals could be moved safely.
"Our message is, to all concerned, including the provincial government, is to give the Cherry Brook Zoo some time," he said. "It could take four months or five months or six months."
He said there are some animals that can be moved out to local farmers very soon.
He said last year a non-accredited zoo in Quebec closed, and many zoos took on the animals, so capacity might be limited. Reaching out to other zoos is the first step.
"There's a whole process that has to be followed, it's not a light switch that can be turned on and off."
With files from Information Morning Saint John