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article imageGiraffes' Deaths Lead to Scrutiny for BC Conservation Centre Special

By Derek Leschasin     Jan 13, 2010 in Environment
A veterinarian has determined the cause of death of at least one of two giraffes that died suddenly last month at Mountain View Conservation Centre in Fort Langley, British Columbia.
Dr. Bruce Burton told the Langley Advance that the adult giraffe examined had died from a condition stemming from an excess of grains in its diet, leading to internal problems which left the animal unable to produce enough abdominal fat to survive a cold snap in December. It's still unknown if the younger animal died from the same conditions.
Burton said he believes the animal was selectively eating grain and not enough greenery, resulting in the fatal condition. Other giraffes on-site were apparently eating a more varied diet, and were able to survive the cold. Giraffes at Mountain View have faced far colder temperatures in the past.
"Those giraffes that are there right now may not even be subject to this," Burton said.
But since the animals' deaths, the SPCA has begun an investigation into conditions at Mountain View, and ordered the facility to install heaters in the giraffes' barn.
"It's outrageous that tropical animals died in an unheated barn in freezing temperatures," Peter Fricker, of the SPCA, said in a statement. "Mountain View only installed heat under orders from the BC SPCA after the giraffes were dead. Their callous excuse that heat hadn't been an issue before is unacceptable."
Mountain View fell under the spotlight of animal rights groups and critics of zoos last year, after current and former employees of the facility forwarded a laundry list of complaints to the SPCA and other groups, detailing poor living conditions for numerous species, improper medical care and euthanasia, improper feeding, and other concerns. The allegations call into question the very reasons for Mountain View's existence, since they differ from the facility's stated goal of breeding endangered animals and attempting to release them into the wild.
"Heat is a serious issue at Mountain View," the staff say in their report. "(owner) Gordon Blankstein does not like to pay for heat for the animals, but wants tropical animals. As a result, many of the tropical species get no heat at all during the winter months (e.g. Zebras, Giraffe, Addax, Sable Antelope) and the rest get far less heat than they need. As a result, many of the animals at Mountain View have died from exposure to the cold over the years."
"There are all sorts of problems at the facility, including large number of animals dying and left untreated once injured or sick," said Julie Woodyer of Zoocheck Canada, a zoo-monitoring organisation to which the employee's complaints were forwarded.
Currently, no charges of animal cruelty or neglect against Mountain View have been laid, but the SPCA is calling for a formal inquiry by the BC provincial government, according to the Globe and Mail.
Mountain View Conservation Centre is a 250-acre piece of land on the outskirts of Metro Vancouver, founded in 1986. According to the facility's website, there are over 50 species of rare or endangered animals on-site. The Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums presented Mountain View with two awards in 2008 for its work helping to restore populations of Northern Spotted Owls and the Oregon Spotted Frog.
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