Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


Toronto Zoo brass say ... Rudolph must die!

Wait until Santa finds out. Toronto Zoo starts killing male baby reindeer to manage the herd. Staff are heartbroken -- and furious

Sunday, May 4, 2008  Mike Strobel, Toronto Sun
Dear Santa: I hope you are sitting down. The Toronto Zoo is killing baby boy reindeer.
Now Dasher! Now Dancer! Now Prancer... The first was dispatched shortly after his birth April 8.
His mom, Hayzel, bellowed mournfully for two days. You could hear her from Meadowvale Rd.
The second met the same fate at the point of a hypodermic on April 22. His mom, CUPE, is named for the zoo staff's union.

Both little gaffers were chocolate brown and gangly cute. They had barely begun to nurse. Both were perfectly healthy. "Euthanized due to being male," says the keepers' report, terse and angry.

The keepers were so upset they left as the vets moved into the reindeer enclosure and refused to take part. "This is wrong," the keepers told the vets, who were none too happy either.


Three female babies have been spared. Tinsel and Rhonda delivered theirs the same day as CUPE. Lucky for them, they had girls, now prancing about the paddock in the full flush of spring. Girl European reindeer are less hassle. Easier to sell or trade to other zoos. I'm told they're even better at hauling a sleigh.

Two years ago, zoo execs gave approval in principle to the euthanizing of male reindeer.
This spring is the first time it's been executed, so to speak. Remarkable, eh? I wonder if anyone considered how this looks.
Call it herd management, or whatever. They're snuffing Rudolph. They never let poor Rudolph join in any reindeer games.

Never before has the zoo imposed a euthanasia order on a breed of large animal. The only precedent I can find, about five years back, is the mara, a sort of jumping guinea pig from South America. The zoo euthanized male maras to cap the population. Later, it sold off the whole lot.

Many staff wonder: Why kill the boy reindeer? Why not just neuter them? True, this can cause atrophied antlers. Big deal. The kiddies who visit will still ooh and ahhh and hum Jingle Bells.

Or, staff wonder, if you're going to exterminate every male, why breed the eight females in the first place? Seems rather cruel. Reindeer roulette. Female, you live. Male, you die. Says one staffer: "This bothers me more than anything I've ever experienced here. "Many of us feel these are not our animals and not management's animals, but belong to the city, to the people of Toronto. "And they should know what's happening." Says another: "I'm sick to my stomach. This is the beginning of a road we don't want to go down."

Funny, I thought zoos love baby animals. There's always a fuss when a cute little snow leopard or polar bear comes into the world, out in the wilds of northeast Scarborough.

Two days before Hayzel's son was put to death with sodium pentobarbital, a press release announced the arrival of a baby gaur. Congratulations to Flower and Hercules. Gaurs are huge, wild Asian cattle. The baby? A bouncing boy. Doing fine. Need I add, a week from now is Mother's Day at the zoo. Given what's transpired, I hope they have the sense not to showcase the reindeer moms. Two of them aren't celebrating.

Maria Franke, curator of mammals, tells me the decision to euthanize male reindeer calves was made by something called the Animal Care, Research and Acquisition Committee. "It was a gruelling process," she assures me. "We do not take this lightly. There is science behind it."

It's especially hard to sell reindeer because of disease fears. There's no room. Too expensive to release in the wild. If they keep the males they'll be lonely. They yearn for their own harem. We can't even sell the two bucks we have now. No one likes this. It's a necessary evil. Blah, blah, blah.


So why breed the herd, knowing half the babies are doomed? "If we did not, we would end up with no reindeer," says Franke. "We aren't just an entertainment facility. We're a conservation facility and our goal is to manage genetically viable populations of animals. "I know some keepers are upset. I know it's a sensitive subject." No kidding. Just wait'll word gets back to the North Pole. And it's not over. One more calf is due any day now. We're all hoping for a girl.

May 4, 2008 

Toronto Sun, Editor 

The senseless killing of the baby male reindeer is both heartbreaking and outrageous.  Birth should be a happy event, and for these poor mothers to have their newborn taken from them and killed is murder.   Maria Franke says there's "science" behind the decision and goes on to give inexcusable reasons for the Animal Care, Research, and Acquisition Committee's decision.  Perhaps we can use the same rationale to start "euthanizing" all those involved in this act, and what the heck, why not use it as a means of human population control?  

Carmina Gooch
North Vancouver, BC

Should Toronto Zoo officials have tried to find a home for the baby male reindeer they euthanized?












Total Votes for this Question: 3617

Will there be blood? Zoo board to decide fate of reindeer calf

May 6, 2008 Ben Spencer, Sun Media

A reindeer and calf rest in the field at the Toronto Zoo's Eurasia exhibit where, for the first time in the zoo's history, newborn calves were euthanized for being male. Rural Ontarians have been offering their farms ever since the story broke, but the fate of the new male reindeer has yet to be decided.

Stop the slay ride. The latest addition to the Toronto Zoo's death row could soon be on the end of a lifesaving call from the warden.

The fate of the tiny baby boy reindeer -- born late Sunday night -- will be decided at an emergency meeting of zoo officials within days. Here's hoping Christmas comes early for little Rudolph. "We are once again looking at the options," Robin Hale, acting CEO at the Toronto Zoo, said. "That fate has yet to be determined," he said yesterday.

Heartbroken Ontarians have been offering their farms to the baby reindeer since the Sunday Sun revealed on Sunday that the Toronto Zoo had euthanized two healthy baby bulls.

Pooran Singh, who owns a six-hectare hobby farm in Castleton, said he will happily take the reindeer if it means him being spared a date with Dr. Death. But Hale said while the relocation of the reindeer is always the first option, finding suitable farmers with the necessary permits is nearly impossible.


Two 4-year-old male reindeer have been advertised on a surplus list for the past three years. "It is our responsibility to ensure that any animals are only transferred to authorized accredited facilities that satisfy the standards of animal care," Hale said.

City Councillor Michael Thompson, who is on the board of the Toronto Zoo, is rooting for little Rudolph. He is not surprised by the outpouring of sympathy from the public. "If there are people out there who are willing to take care of these animals, I don't think that we should be looking at any other options," Thompson, who represents Scarborough Centre, said.

Councillor Raymond Cho, chairman of the Toronto Zoo board, admitted the policy is upsetting but is confident the zoo is acting in the reindeer's best interests.

Another alternative to euthanizing the calves might be the Bergeron's Exotic Animal Sanctuary at Picton, in Prince Edward County. "It made me sick to the stomach when I read in the Sun that they intended to kill these animals," Pat Bergeron said.


"Can't they neuter the males? Keep them separated from females? Their only solution seems to be to put them down." She and husband Joe said they'd make room for the reindeer at the sanctuary. "They are herd animals, and we have goats and could manage them."

In the past, Toronto Zoo gave the Bergerons a blind lynx rather than have it put down. "Our animals live a long time," she said. "They have good lives -- which Premier McGuinty recognized when he gave us a certificate thanking us for humane treatment of animals." This winter, a wolf, Akila, died at the ripe age of 15, as did a black jaguar, also age 15.

"Always sad, but they died quietly, at a good age after a long life," Pat said. "Some people seem to think killing unwanted animals is more humane than letting them live peacefully with those who want them."

Comment: Zoos around the world, and all across Canada have terrible track records. The Calgary Zoo and the Greater Vancouver Zoo are among them. Zoos are outdated, unethical, and expensive.  Animals exploited for human entertainment and profit.

Related News: In February 2011, WSPA and Zoocheck released a report highlighting the serious safety risks associated with keeping wild animals in captivity. It is based on a 2010 investigation at Ontario zoos. The report, Wild Neighbours: The Safety and Security of Ontario's Captive Wildlife Facilities exposes the problems due to lax provincial regulations.

Ontario is the only province that does not licence the keeping of exotic animals or conduct safety inspections to ensure the animals are ‘securely contained.’  Private individuals and roadside operators can acquire and keep exotics.

GuZoo: Alberta’s shame

April 1, 2011 Provincial officials are promising to conduct a thorough review and investigation yet again of GuZoo, a private roadside zoo northeast of Calgary after evidence surfaced that animals are being mistreated there. This, after some photos posted on Facebook about a week ago went viral. The zoo was first granted a permit in 1987. The facility had previously held only a fur farm licence. Since then there have been continual complaints from the public, animal welfare agencies, Zoocheck, provincial agencies like Fish and Wildlife, and others. GuZoo owner , Lynn Gustafson, been cited multiple times on issues like inadequate caging and inappropriate shelters for animals, decaying carcasses strewn about, inappropriate feeding practices, lack of sanitation, uncontrolled feeding of zoo animals, abnormal behaviour in animals, injured animals, and ongoing public health and safety concerns. In 1989, Gustafson was convicted of illegal possession of exotic animals, and in 1994 was convicted a second time for illegal possession and trafficking in exotic animals. In 1992, he was convicted under the Animal Protection Act for failing to relieve the distress of a zoo animal. In 2000, W5, produced an expose on GuZoo called Cruel Cages.  Indeed, this hellhole is akin to a concentration camp.

Unbelievably, it’s still operational, having repeatedly been given its permit to operate by Alberta Sustainable Resource Development. It’s $100 licence fee was up today, and it was granted a conditional 60 day permit while the investigation into animal welfare concerns continues. The ASPCA is working with Sustainable Resource Development and Agriculture and Rural Development on the probe. A meeting of the provincial zoo advisory committee will also be convened to deal with discrepancies between rule enforcement for zoo versus non-zoo animals at the facility, officials said.

In 2007 Zoocheck Canada documented over 100 violations of provincial standards for zoos at GuZoo Animal Farm.

June 3, 2011 The provincial government has ordered the zoo closed. Julie Woodyer of Zoocheck Canada said it has provided a list of sanctuaries and zoological facilities where the animals could be accommodated and has offered to pay animal relocation costs. Dave Ealey, spokesman for Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, said the province is still working with the owners to develop a plan for decommissioning the zoo, the first closure since new zoo standards were legislated in 2006. He further added that euthanasia (read kill) is an option if the animals can't find other homes.

July 6, 2011 GuZoo has received a reprieve and is again open for business. A judicial review forced the government to stay an order to decommission the operation while the legal process the government used to rule against the zoo is examined.  A hearing is scheduled for Sept. 28.

Gustafson’s past bids to keep GuZoo open included threatening taxidermy and calling his property a “parsonage.” He claimed the designation would mean his animals would be protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

December 22, 2011 GuZoo to remain open after deal reached with Alberta government

Comments: "And since when has animal welfare in the province of Alberta fallen under the portfolio of Alberta Tourism?!?!? This smacks of shady back-room deals and political cronyism." "I notice that the Herald has heavily edited this story overnight, and all mentions of Alberta Tourism have been removed, along with other facts. Highly suspicious?"

We agree; this hellhole should have been shut own long ago. Gustafson’s in for the money. A spiteful, cold-blooded old man who’s victimized these poor animals over and over in one way or another, year after year.

August 28, 2014 Tiger dies in Guzoo Animal Farm

Comment: This is a hell on earth for the animals kept captive at this facility. There has been plenty of documentation regarding the filth, the lack of husbandry, care and compassion for the animals, the unsuitable and barren housing environments, public safety hazards, and an overall disinterest by Gustafson to provide the Five Freedoms of animal welfare.

March 5, 2015 ESRD comments on surprize inspection at Guzoo

April 2nd update: Rabbit Advocacy has been advised that Lynn Gustafson, owner and operator of GuZoo, has not been given the usual one year renewal permit, but has rather been given an ultimatum of 30 days to fix the deficiencies and general lack of compliance with provincial zoo standards. If after 30 days Guzoo has not become compliant, the decommissioning of the zoo will begin. Let’s hope this roadside hellhole will be shut down permanently.

Gustafson has until April 15 to formally notify the province that he's decommissioning the zoo, and until the end of June to get rid of all of the wild animals. Source: CTV News

April 30, 2015 Guzoo shut down after failure to meet provincial standards

The sad story behind GuZoo Animal Farm: a review of GuZoo and the lack of enforcement of the Alberta Wildlife Act. (March 2005)

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