Opinion

Killman Zoo, Where Animals Are Living Entertainment

People who see wild animals as pets or living entertainment should not be allowed to own wild animals.

By Jan Wolf
Published June 25, 2014

I have nothing against animal facilities that take care of the animal's natural needs and tendencies first and foremost. Why does Killman Zoo dislike their coyotes and wolves, and apparently also the rest of their wildlife? I don't care about words: I am focusing on actions.

In 2013, when I visited our local zoo on 33 acres of land, Killman Zoo, I was angry beyond words.

The wolves were pacing in an enclosure the size of my one-bedroom apartment. The coyotes lived in a glorified dog kennel.

The jaguar had about 100 square feet of space and one ledge to jump onto. That's all. Nothing to climb, nowhere to roam. He was sleeping the day away.

The tigers also lived in glorified dog kennels. The jaguars and cougars, tigers, and leopards, were allowed to interact.

A lone hen followed me around the enclosures. She was tame and friendly. I followed the hen.

The lion at the lake was sleeping, surrounded by a swarm of flies. The lioness growled at me. No question why: this is the biggest and most realistic enclosure at Killman, and the big cats are only entitled to take turns sleeping there on various days of the week.

This lioness snarled and paced the tiny pond where she held her territory, a tiny and pathetically small replica of a watering hole where a wild lioness, along with her pride, would gather and drink before heading off across miles and miles of desert and scrub to hunt their prey, as is natural.

Lionesses tend to be active, and even male lions, despite their reputation, tend to be formidable predators when they decide to kill an antelope for their pride.

No wonder male lions sleep for days after a great meal: they've spent all that energy taking down a kill and defending their territory against potentially lethal foreign males, male lions who would easily kill the current pride's cubs because of genetics if they could win the fight and rule the pride.

It's a constant battle, but it's natural, and that's how lions are. That's how they live. Not in tiny enclosures where they're occasionally allowed access to a small pond; where they sleep all day not because of a hard day's work fighting off rivals and feasting, but because of boredom; where they're harassed by flies not because they're roaming in Africa, but because they're too inactive from a life of dullness.

According to past visitors, the zoo owners used to bang on the big cats' enclosures at feeding time to irritate the cats and get them to snarl and roar to please the audience.

They have European lynxes. The lynx enclosure had one layer of fencing between the lynxes and the property beyond, where goats and other natural prey were roaming happily, only metres away from the frustrated lynxes, who kept advancing toward the fencing.

The ducks' pond was filthy. Even if ducks are less intelligent than you or me, their species is intelligent enough to appreciate good, nutritive water, as opposed to foul and smelly water.

Ducks would recognize this even better than people would. Murky water in a bay thick like Hamilton Harbour with algae and seeds and insects and crustaceans is not the same as murky water in a zoo, stale and rotten and foul and empty.

As for education? Killman has a small blurb on each enclosure with a few sentences about each animal. The coyote enclosure featured a picture of Wile E. Coyote and said only that the animals tend to be tan-grey and that they are smart.

The zoo owner told me personally that he dislikes coyotes because "they will eat anything". That is a misrepresentation of an animal maligned for "killing livestock", when the animal is actually omnivorous, eating mice, rabbits, sometimes deer, and often berries, fruit, nuts, and insects, which helps farmers who dislike the mice and voles and gophers on their properties.

But "eating everything" actually implies eating livestock, and not eating mice and rabbits and berries, as coyotes actually do. They will eat anything, but "anything" is rarely livestock unless farmers don't practice good husbandry. If it happens, it's rare.

I wanted to see the tigers sent to a sanctuary with hundreds of acres of wild land, and so on for the rest of the animals, but a local sanctuary for big predators informed me that it's more likely that all of the animals will be euthanized if the zoo is shut down.

Killman Zoo told me that they plan to take the coyotes to school audiences as part of an educational program they are developing.

Coyotes are people-shy, skittish animals. It would be literal torture for them. They are also curious, roaming animals who deserve a much bigger territory than a dog kennel, as do the predators, and in fact most of the wildlife at Killman.

I left Killman Zoo filled with disgust toward the selfish need to view animals as property, automatons with no minds or wills or rights of their own. No one who visits that centre is learning anything about the animals.

Only the hen was happy.

People who see wild animals as pets or living entertainment should not be allowed to own wild animals.

Jan Wolf is a long-term wildlife advocate and a nonprofit admin who wants to open a small educational animal facility in 2015.

8 Comments

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted June 25, 2014 at 21:28:24

Related: raisethehammer.org/article/431/killman_zoo_of_horrors

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By Kevin (registered) | Posted June 25, 2014 at 21:33:18

I know a guy, who feeds deer all winter, domesticating them. Then, he shoots them when it's legal. He calls it hunting. Another (obese) guy hides in the woods (with snacks and a laptop) and prays a deer walks by, so he can kill it. He calls himself an outdoorsman.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted June 25, 2014 at 22:07:01 in reply to Comment 102862

From the 2006 article:

"At the Welland Humane Society, which has jurisdiction over Killman, cautious employees would only point to a lack of enforceable laws and that the case involving Killman was ongoing so no comment could be made."

As that was eight years ago, I presume that the case came to some conclusion. I wonder what it was?

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By Not a Fan of Killman Zoo (anonymous) | Posted June 26, 2014 at 01:57:56

This place should have been shut down long ago. They also have a poor black bear who all but lives on peanuts panhandling them from anyone who comes by to gawk at her. Thanks for updating and sharing the horrors of this place.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted June 26, 2014 at 05:53:22 in reply to Comment 102863

And what do you call yourself?

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By itsazoo (anonymous) | Posted June 26, 2014 at 10:59:32

I'm curious, if you were so disgusted why did it take you over 6 months to write about your visit? I wonder if you can even recall the details properly from that long ago?
It also seems a little hypocritical when you yourself plan on opening an "educational animal faculty". Unless of course your faculty will have no animals at all.

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By Kevin (registered) | Posted June 26, 2014 at 21:54:52 in reply to Comment 102869

DowntowninHamiltonbitch

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By what's the difference (anonymous) | Posted July 06, 2014 at 01:21:28

@Itsazoo, I think your comment would be stronger if you actually wrote about the actual article subject rather than criticize the author simply for taking time before writing. I can remember details of a trip I unfortunately took there from a much earlier time so why shouldn't the author remember? Especially as it affected them strongly. Maybe they took notes? As for the facility, until you have details there is little to accurately criticize there as well. Maybe ask questions before making judgments.

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