New CK zoo owner promising change in face of critical report

Lion enclosure at Greenview Aviaries via World Animal Protection report

The new owner of a popular zoo in Chatham-Kent says significant improvements are already underway, following a scathing report by an international animal rights organization that alleges several possible animal welfare concerns at the facility.

Greenview Aviaries in Morpeth was listed in World Animal Protection’s investigative report into roadside zoos in Ontario, which the organization released on Wednesday.

According to a media release from World Animal Protection, the investigation was done to highlight a string of perceived existing violations as well as the organization’s work to push the provincial government to develop a mandatory licensing program for all facilities, businesses and institutions housing native and exotic animals.

According to the organization’s website, World Animal Protection is an international non-profit animal rights organization that has been in operation since 1981.

Of the approximately 50 Ontario zoos, wildlife displays, and zoo-type exhibits housing wild animals, 11 were visited throughout the summer of 2022 by World Animal Protection staff. According to the report, the 11 facilities were selected based on their accessibility, the size and variety of their animal collection and the absence of an official affiliation or recognition from a professional industry association.

“Observations were documented of factors critical for meeting animal health and welfare and visitor health and safety standards as set out in the Ontario Regulation 444/19 Standards of Care and Administrative Requirements,” the report stated.

Greenview Aviaries, which is home to around 450 animals including several big cats, was visited on June 29, 2022. Zoo owners and staff were not notified about visits.

As a result of the visit, a complaint was submitted to the Provincial Animal Welfare Services (PAWS) Inspectorate raising concerns over standards of care for captive wildlife, and basic standards of care for a variety of animals at the Greenview Aviaries.

According to the complaint submitted to the PAWS Inspectorate, standards of care for captive wildlife and basic standards of care for a variety of animals at Greenview Aviaries included:

-Unsafe interactions between the public and primates (ring-tailed lemurs)

“Stand-off barrier is missing at this enclosure and there is unsupervised interaction between visitors and the ring-tailed lemurs,” the complaint stated. “Including small children putting their hands through the fence.  Ring-tailed lemurs are quick, agile, have sharp teeth and can significantly injure a person.”

-The keeping of primates in undersized enclosures, inhibiting the animals from engaging in their full range of natural behaviour

-Standards of care for captive wildlife concerns for:

-Ring-tailed lemur

-Tigers

-Lions

-Monkey-enclosures

-Flamingoes

The report referred to the monkey enclosures as being “grossly undersized, dark, minimalistic enclosures housing crab-eating macaques, black-and-brown lemurs, and ring-tailed lemurs.”

Monkey enclosure at Greenview Aviaries via World Animal Protection report

Monkey enclosure at Greenview Aviaries via World Animal Protection report

World Animal Protection staff also criticized the flamingo enclosures at the facility.

“Flamingoes kept in the enclosure without appropriate water features. One flamingo displayed feeding behaviour on dry land, which is abnormal behaviour since flamingoes do not feed on dry land. This enclosure does not provide the surface to accommodate natural movement and behaviour,” the complaint read. “Flamingoes usually live on large mud flats and saltwater habitats. When feeding they take a mouthful of water and filter the organisms they will then eat.”

Flamingo enclosure at Greenview Aviaries via World Animal Protection report

Flamingo enclosure at Greenview Aviaries via World Animal Protection report

Additionally, the complaint raised concerns about the condition of several specific animals, including a dove that appeared to have pulled out its own feathers and a chicken with “abnormally thickened” feet, which staff noted could be caused by “improper husbandry/nutrition, infectious, or traumatic conditions.”

Chicken at Greenview Aviaries via World Animal Protection report

Chicken at Greenview Aviaries via World Animal Protection report

Dove at Greenview Aviaries via World Animal Protection report

Dove at Greenview Aviaries via World Animal Protection report

According to World Animal Protection, Ontario is the last major jurisdiction in Canada that has not licensed or restricted the keeping or use of exotic wild animals in captivity. Instead, the responsibility continues to be on individual municipalities, resulting in a variety of different bylaws across the province.

“The lack of enforcement of what little regulation exists for these facilities is deeply concerning,” said World Animal Protection Campaign Manager Michèle Hamers. “This wild-west, patchwork system that has been in place for years just doesn’t work, and we know that – it needs an overhaul to protect the public and captive wildlife.”

The 50-acre property at Greenview Aviaries, which had been run by the previous owners for nearly four decades, went up for sale in January. It was eventually purchased by a Ridgetown family.

According to Owner Alicia Patten, the family took over the property on June 1. Although the family had some past experience with running their hobby farm, Patten had previously said they were still working on learning the ropes when it comes to caring for exotic animals at the zoo. She also previously said that making improvements and upgrades to the animals’ enclosures was of utmost importance to the family and one of the main priorities that they were working towards.

When reached for comment by CK News Today regarding the World Animal Protection report, Patten said it was upsetting, but she knew going into it that big changes had to be made, adding that she and her family continue to work towards making positive improvements at the zoo.

Patten also provided CK News Today with several photos of what she said are improvements made by her family so far inside the winter enclosures for the primates as well as upgrades to the monkey building to add more natural light, space and airflow, a new fountain to keep the water moving for the health of the water foul and new perimeter fencing for lemurs so there is no touching of the animals. Patten also said work is underway for improved big cat enclosures.

“I just read through that report and I have to say that I don’t disagree with most of it,” she said. “There should be standards that need to be followed for the best interest of any animal in captivity, as well as for the safety of the public. I just want to defend our zoo by saying that we are, and will continue to make the many changes that need to be made to give these animals the best life possible. Our priority in owning this zoo is animals first. We have many plans drawn up for new enclosures, enrichment projects, breeding programs, Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums certification, etc. and will be complying with the latest standards released in the near future for enclosure safety and animal wellbeing. We are committed to providing education to the public on these animals and their status in the world. Experiences with animals in captivity for some will be the only time they will see many of these animals. Learning about them in zoos will hopefully pique interest in wanting to protect and care for the natural environment that these beautiful creatures come from so that they will continue to exist in our world.”