The difference between a zoo/pet store and an accredited zoo
By Bry Loyst
In the past week, I have been interviewed over 100 times by newspapers, radio and TV about the tragic unnecessary deaths of two young children as a result of negligence in the keeping of a dangerous large snake.
I cannot comment on the details of this horrific event, even though I have visited the scene as a consultant and to assist with the removal of numerous dangerous reptiles. It is police matter involving RCMP, Environment Canada and New Brunswick Ministry of Natural Resources. The courts will decide the charges and the outcome.
During my many interviews, I did comment on the characteristics of the African Rock Python; but I also tried to advise everyone about the difference between an accredited zoo and a roadside zoo/exotic pet store. There is a significant difference.
The problem is that none of the media gave much ink or many seconds to this topic. Most were seeking a sensational comment. The message that I want the public to understand is outlined below.
Each year, millions of people, young and old visit zoos; but few stop and consider the difference between a roadside zoo, an exotic pet store zoo and an accredited zoo/zoological institution.
There is a big difference and if people will listen it is simple to explain.
A roadside zoo is a business establishment that displays animals and is often located in a strip mall or a tourist area. Often a roadside zoo will use shock tactics to captivate the audience. This method gives erroneous ideas about wildlife and even worse puts undue stress on the innocent animals.
A roadside zoo does not contribute to conservation; nor, is it regulated by any governing bodies.
Many roadside zoos are extensions of pet stores and many pet stores call themselves zoos. They sell animals. Some obey federal and municipal laws, many donít.
The store owner may be knowledgeable. But, staff generally have very little training in the care and handling of reptiles. Enclosures can be anything from secure, locked fiberglass units with light and water to glass aquariums with screen tops held down with a brick.
Exotic animals for sale can range from harmless geckos to lions, tigers and venomous snakes.
To achieve accredited status (CAZA or AZA) a zoological institution is subject to extremely high standards and accreditation must be renewed on a regular basis. The facility must provide the most secure enclosures, stimulation, dietary and enrichment needs of the animals.
The animals are treated ethically and humanely first and always. Zoo Keeper and animal safety are paramount and only the most current information and educational material is put forward to the public.
An accredited zoo justifies keeping animals in captivity by contributing to regulated captive breeding programs such as the Species Survival Plan. It networks internationally with other accredited institutions to insure problems such as inbreeding do not arise and works to make sure that the species will be available for future generations to enjoy.
Only accredited zoos can participate in programs such as the Species Survival Plan. A CAZA/AZA accredited facility is a zoological institution. CAZA is the Canadian Accredited Zoos and Aquariums. AZA is the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
The Indian River Reptile Zoo is the only CAZA accredited reptile zoological institution in North America and is a registered charity (#80522-2253-RR0001) with not for profit status. By supporting accredited zoos, you are contributing directly to reptile conservation, education and research.
Reptile Zoo and Dinosaur Park
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