Greater Vancouver Zoo offers explanations to visitor

Greater Vancouver Zoo strives its best to offer a good visitor experience and take good care of its animals.

Editor: We at Greater Vancouver Zoo were concerned to hear about Shanaya Smith’s recent experiences here and would like to respond to her comments (The Times, Aug. 14) .

First we would like to sincerely apologize for the unpleasant greeting she received at our front admission. When visitors are greeted at the zoo, we want it to be a great first impression.  We work hard at providing appropriate training and coaching to our staff, and without hearing from our guests as to how we are doing, we sometimes are not aware of where we need to focus more efforts on additional training.

In respect to pricing, we charge $22.25 for adults of which $0.25 of that goes towards conservation efforts in the wild.

Currently we are supporting three projects — the Iranian Cheetah Project, the Guatemalan Yellow-Naped Amazon Parrot and the Indian Horned Bill Nest. One hundred per cent of the proceeds go directly back to these projects. Even though we don’t house these animals, we want to help support them in the wild.

I agree the Calgary Zoo is a fantastic facility, and they charge $21 for adults — similar pricing to ours. It is a city-run facility with much more corporate and government funding than we have. Our funding comes directly from admission, school groups, private events, behind the scenes, corporate groups and small camp groups.

It is expensive to run a facility such as ours and we are always looking for new ways to help raise funds to continually enhance what we are doing.

The Bald Eagles have an enclosure in the North American section of the zoo and are rescue eagles. The eagles were hit by vehicles and would have been euthanized since their wings were broken. We were called by conservation officers and asked if we would take them in our facility for educational purposes.

After careful consideration, the zoo decided to take on the project and build a new facility strictly for these bald eagles that were unable to fly anymore.

The rhino — our dear sweet “Charlie” — is the oldest animal at the zoo. We believe he is in his mid-40s. Charlie is by himself at this stage in his life — it would be too stressful to introduce another friend to him.

He does have rheumatoid arthritis, as many seniors do, and he definitely is slowing down, although he routinely goes out to graze. We refill his mud hole so that he can have his regular mud baths.

We trim his horn regularly as he ages, as he seems less interested to maintain his horn trimming on his own. When younger, rhinos maintain their horn trimming for a defensive territory for females. As Charlie ages, this has lessened over the years leading his horn shape to change.

His horn is made of compressed keratin fibers, the same material that is found in our fingernails and hair, so it doesn’t hurt him to do this. He is starting to lose his hearing and is on regular medication to help him with his aches and pains.

He loves his daily rubs, leg massages and scratches in addition to many special treatments that he receives from our dedicated animal care staff. On a daily basis, he moves around both his indoor and outdoor enclosure, along with eating (on a restricted senior diet).

He receives regular check-ups with our animal health technician and our veterinarian.

The wallaby that we believe she referred to is called “Coco.” She may have been asleep, as when they sleep they sit back on their tail and usually stay a little bit away from the fence area in order to have some quiet time. Obviously people get excited when they see animals, and sometimes will talk or even yell at times to get the animals’ attention.

The shaking behaviour referred to we have never seen, although it would be helpful in the future if anyone who visits our facility sees unusual behaviour in any of our animals to report it to a keeper or the front admission immediately. This allows us to check on the animal at that exact time.

In respect to construction, there is a large sign at the entrance of the zoo that explains our construction areas. Signs are also posted where the construction is happening.

We tried to complete the construction during the off season. Unfortunately, we were not able to complete it during that time for numerous reasons.

I would be more than happy to talk further with Shanaya is she wants to contact me directly at We are the first to admit we are not perfect, although I don’t think anyone is perfect in the world. We are always making efforts to move forward and always looking at ways to enhance the lives of the animals that are in our care.

Everyone at the Greater Vancouver Zoo is very passionate about animals and their well being. We hope that you might consider giving us another chance, now that you have heard a bit more.

Jody Henderson, general manager,

Greater Vancouver Zoo




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