Thursday, December 07, 2006

Ontario legislation helps protect wildlife in captivity

By Janice Enright
Wednesday, December 6, 2006

For the record: the OMNR is not the only one responsible for the new regulations that were implemented into the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. For years, wildlife rehabilitators (custodians) have been demanding that our government create laws that would address incompetent and substandard captive management practices of injured and orphaned wildlife in the province of Ontario.

As a result, the OMNR has been working closely with licensed wildlife custodians for many years, compiling the data necessary to introduce new laws. Rehabilitators who chose not to become involved were still at liberty to state their position on any given topic at any time. If Aspen Valley was not in agreement with these regulations, in part or in whole, they could have said so years ago.

I was one of many people who played a role in the development of this new legislation that now protects wildlife. Since these changes were implemented, many centres have thankfully ceased to operate. Human emotion and a ‘Disneyland’ attitude is not part of the rehabilitation process; knowledge and species awareness are.

Professional rehabilitators do not allow the public to view the wildlife they care for, nor do they collect unreleasable wildlife for display. A wild animal that has known only its natural habitat will instinctively avoid humans with the same aggression that they avoid predation. They fear us and will only occasionally cross the line under extenuating circumstances (eg. starvation).

It is very easy to take the animal out of the wild, but it is absolutely impossible to take the wild out of the animal. Their fear of people exists for a reason and it is not enough that we know that we mean them no harm. It is, therefore, highly inappropriate to force wildlife to accept permanent captivity.

In the wild, great horned owls mate for life and will not tolerate other owls in their territory. They eat live prey and can fly away from danger. I have witnessed centres housing this adult species in enclosures measuring 10’x10’x10’, introducing other great horned owls in the same enclosure (males or females), feeding them chicken and other dead foods and forcing them to endure volleys of people year after year with no refuge or escape.

In the end (under these conditions) this species just freezes up when approached or flies into the surrounding wire. They develop stress-related disorders which eventually (and thankfully) take their lives... so much for sanctuary.

So, why do some organizations practice this inhumane and cruel treatment? The answer usually revolves around money, ignorance of the species and no regulations.

As an example, if humans are in close proximity to captive wild great blue herons (referred to in Aspen Valley’s euthanasia list) isolation must be a priority as stress levels are so critically high in this species. Were these wild herons made to endure high levels of stress from being on display? (Quote Aspen Valley newsletter November 6 “up close”). Did the OMNR only put a stop to their suffering?

Adult wildlife conceals pain and stress to their last breath. They will never display vulnerable behaviour as it invites predation. The public is not required to recognize these behavioural subtleties; however, the responsible wildlife custodian is. Entertaining the public with injured wildlife has no place in the rehabilitation community and will no longer be tolerated. Congratulations to the OMNR for implementing and enforcing regulations that prohibit confinement whenever normal life in the wild is no longer an option.

Thank you for allowing me to share this information.

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