Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


Concerns over Greater Vancouver Zoo in Aldergrove 

In May of 2003, Carmina Gooch wrote to the Township of Langley, the BC SPCA, and the media about her worries.  

In part: Stalling techniques by general manager John Lee is forcing Tina, an Asian elephant, to unnecessarily remain in appalling conditions while "information from documentation authorities" is being gathered. In the meantime another heartbreaking incident occurs. Ty, a five year old male tiger is dead. The space these animals are enclosed in is far too small and provides not nearly enough room for them to freely move about.  They do not have the freedom to express behaviour that promotes well being. Staff, and in particular Jamie Dorgan, Animal Care Manager appear to be negligent in assessing the animals physical and emotional needs.  Constant scrutiny of all those in their care has to be thorough and daily.  Is the zoo scrimping on medical personnel in order to garner a heftier profit?  Are animals being allowed to languish and die, unnoticed? There is a lot going on behind the scenes that needs investigating, and now.

Note: The zoo lost its accreditation with the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums in 2004, due to several unspecified “deficiencies.” There are currently 24 accredited zoos or aquariums in Canada.  Demonstrations outside the facility brought attention to the plight of the animals on the inside. We received information from several volunteers on what goes on behind the scenes, and away from the public.  

Zoo faces charges of cruelty to hippo

May 31, 2006 Nicholas Read, Vancouver Sun (excerpt)

The Greater Vancouver Zoo in Aldergrove has been charged with cruelty to animals after allegedly keeping Hazina, a two-year-old hippo acquired as a baby, alone in a windowless shed with a pool so shallow she couldn't float.

The charges, laid by B.C. Crown counsel on recommendations from the B.C. SPCA, are believed to be the first against a major Canadian zoo for alleged cruelty to animals. The SPCA and the Vancouver Humane Society will formally announce the charges, laid under the B.C. Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, at a news conference later today. They carry a maximum penalty of $2,000 and/or six months in jail.

Marcie Moriarty, general manager of cruelty investigations for the B.C. SPCA, said Hazina's pen, which consists of a small pool inside a wooden shed, fails to meet the most basic needs of the hippo, which the zoo acquired as a baby in October 2004. She had no company, Moriarty said, despite hippos being naturally social animals, and her only forms of stimulation were a rubber tire and a ball.

Moriarty's colleague, Eileen Drever, said it was only recently that Hazina was even allowed to see sunlight. "They've only just started opening the door for her, and she stands by it," Drever said.  And until the SPCA insisted the zoo place rubber on the floor, she was forced to stand on concrete.

From an article in the Vancouver Sun, August 1, 2006


Number of visitors per year: 250,000.
Cost of operation: $2 million annually.
Number of staff: 58 in summer, 20 during winter.
Size: 120 acres.
Ownership: Privately owned by retired businessman Duk-Wan Park.


1983: Two hippos drown after crashing through the ice on their pond.

August 2003: Gertrude, a third hippo, dies of a kidney defect.

April 2004: Zoo stripped of its accreditation over its treatment of Gertrude and Harvey, a male hippo.

July 2004: Tina, a 34-year-old elephant, dies less than a year after her move to the Tennessee sanctuary.

October 2004: Zoo acquires baby Hazina.

January 2005: Harvey, a male hippo, dies of a twisted intestine.

December 2005: Hazina appears in a TV ad for Telus, filmed in her temporary enclosure.

May 2006: Zoo charged by SPCA for keeping Hazina alone in the enclosure, with a pool too shallow to support her weight.

June 24, 2006: Official opening of a $650,000 new enclosure for Hazina, including a heated pool.

June 29, 2006: A baby giraffe dies eight days after birth, causing the SPCA to open a second investigation. Veterinarians later conclude the calf died naturally from pneumonia as a result of complications from birth.

Sept. 6, 2006: Court date set for Hazina's cruelty to animal charge, to be heard in Surrey Provincial Court on Sept. 6.

Death of 4 zebras was freak accident: zoo manager

Tuesday, April 21, 2009 CBC News

The Greater Vancouver Zoo is calling the sudden death of four zebras two months ago a freak accident nobody could have predicted or prevented.

The zebras died within days of each other after two Cape buffalo were added to their enclosure, officials said.

The general manager of the privately-run zoo, Jamie Dorgan, said zebras and Cape buffalo naturally coexist in the wild and the zebra's panicked reaction was unpredictable.

"It was one of those freak type of situations unfortunately. After the fact, discussing with other zoo experts and people, hardly anyone believes things went the way they went. It was totally unexpected and I don't think we could repeat it if we wanted to," Dorgan said.

SPCA inspectors were expected to visit to the zoo on Tuesday to investigate whether animal cruelty charges are appropriate.

Prior criticism raises concerns

Vancouver Humane Society spokesman Peter Fricker said Monday that he suspected the zebras likely suffered from exertional myopathy, a muscle disease characterized by damage to muscle tissues brought about by physiological changes, usually following extreme exertion, struggle and/or stress.

Fricker said Cape buffalo are extremely dangerous animals and, although zebras and buffalo co-exist in the wild, putting them together in an enclosed space was a mistake.

The zoo has faced much criticism over the years about how its animals are housed, but Dorgan is confident inspectors will find no evidence of cruelty or neglect.

The zoo recently had its accreditation with the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums reinstated after it lost its accreditation following a prior animal welfare controversy.

Last spring the zoo, which is located in Aldergrove east of Vancouver, was in the news after thieves stole a spider monkey from an enclosure.

Before that, the zoo was criticized for having inadequate shelter for a young hippo, the death of a young giraffe, and the death of a hippo that fell through a frozen pond.

April 22, 2009 

To: Mayor Green and Council, Township of Langley
Cc: Zoocheck Canada, Vancouver Humane Society,
From: Carmina Gooch

Re:  Deaths of zebras at GVZ 

Dear Mayor Green and Council:  

The recent deaths of four zebras at the Greater Vancouver Zoo is the latest in a long history of disturbing and tragic incidents, including loss of life at this facility.  Jamie Dorgan, general manager, claims that the untimely deaths of the zebras, after two Cape buffalo were put into the same enclosure, was a "freak accident."  No, it wasn't.  It was just another example of the lack of knowledge, understanding, and expertise of employees, and another reason why this shameful business should be closed down once and for all.  It lost its accreditation once in 2004 by the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums over a prior animal welfare controversy. 

The public was outraged when the GVZ announced its decision to sell Tina, an aging elephant who had nothing do for years and years but stand on sore feet in a tiny enclosure, while her health declined, to an Ontario zoo that would exploit her some more in circus-type shows.  Due to ongoing public pressure, Tina was finally sent to Tennessee's elephant sanctuary, but died less than one year later. 

Then there were the incidents of four hippos dying prematurely, existing in inadequate "housing."  Two drowned after crashing through the ice on their pond, while Gertrude died of a kidney defect.  Hazina was forced into solitary confinement in a tiny concrete room for 19 months, distressed, and alone, prompting charges of animal cruelty and calls to the BC Ministry of Environment to investigate. Ty, a tiger, was found dead suddenly in 2003.  In 2006 a baby giraffe died eight days after birth, and in May of 2008 Jocko, a spider monkey suffered a fracture to his skull, following a break-in at the zoo.  He died and his companion, Mia, was stolen.  A golden eagle was killed by a resident lion during a raptor show the same year. The BC SPCA is investigating the sudden death of a rare albino black bear in January of this year.  Earlier this month a macaw was stolen from an open exhibit, but found and returned.  

This archaic and outmoded establishment will be investigated once again, and the BC SPCA will determine whether animal cruelty charges are appropriate.  Whatever the legal action, if any, the fact is that exploiting animals for our entertainment and holding them in captivity is unethical, unjustified, and a thing of the past.  Year after year there have been allegations of mismanagement, cruelty, neglect, inhumane treatment, incompetence, and lack of veterinarian care.  The stories that reach the public are a strong indication of the serious and glaring problems associated with the zoo. 

I look forward to hearing that action will proceed toward permanently closing this business.  Animal welfare is of concern to all of us, and addressing this matter is of paramount importance.  


Carmina Gooch
North Vancouver


May 2008: Someone broke into one of the monkey enclosures, killing one spider monkey and taking another. Jocko was found dead of a head injury in his cage early in the morning, and his mate Mia has not been seen since. Police have speculated that Mia was stolen as a pet or to sell in the exotic animal trade.

June 2008: A golden eagle that also performed in the raptor show was eaten by a lion in a nearby enclosure. The four-year-old eagle flew into the lion’s cage after a mid-air fight with a flock of aggressive crows.

September 2008: A small boy was treated for scratches to his head after a hawk landed on him during the raptor show at the Greater Vancouver Zoo.

March 2009: Four zebras died after two cape buffalo were introduced into the African animal enclosure. A necropsy showed the zebras panicked and died from a stress-related reaction in prey animals called exertional myopathy.

November 2011: Jafari the giraffe’s mate Eleah died — just days after the death of the pair’s three-year-old offspring Amryn. There was no conclusive cause of death in both cases.

November 2012 Jafari, 12, died at the Aldergrove facility this weekend, following deaths of his mate, Eleah, 23, and their male offspring, Amryn, 4.

May 2, 2014 Vancouver Zoo tiger died of a lung condition: preliminary necropsy shows

Update: May 13, 2014 Global News

After an extensive investigation the results of the Siberian tiger’s necropsy showed she died of “a significant left-sided heart failure caused by an unclassified form of cardiomyopathy, a chronic genetic disease of the heart muscle,” according to zoo general manager Jody Henderson.

Comment: Why is this place still open? Considering all the controversy and calls from activists and the public, as well as what we know about animals today, one would have thought politicians would have listened and said enough is enough. But no, Langley Township remains in the dark ages.

April 5, 2015 Animal-rights protesters take their case to Aldergrove zoo

Comment: About 60 demonstrators attended the event to bring attention to GVZ’s troubling history of untimely deaths, animal neglect, and the overall issue of holding animals in captivity. As at least one volunteer has told us in the past, there have been a number of troubling incidents that the general public never hears about.