In this episode, Kathryn Sussman and Zoocheck founder Rob Laidlaw, take a moment to celebrate the symbolic victory of Canada’s historic decision to ban whale and dolphin captivity, and analyze what it really means in the short term for cetaceans currently still in captivity in the country.

The precedent-setting Bill S-203 was extensively talked about in the media after it was adopted at the House of Commons on June 11, 2019. Kathryn and Rob discuss the ways in which this new legislation will not only ban the import and export of cetaceans into and out of captivity in the future, but also how it will put pressure on existing facilities that hold captive animals, like Kiska, that aren’t required to be released or moved to sanctuaries. They examine whether Bill S-203 dictates in depth the conditions in which cetaceans should be kept in marine parks, as well as how enforcement will be delivered and by whom.

“It’s not a discussion that’s over. It’s ongoing. It will be ongoing for many years, and if we all keep engaged in the discussion, perhaps we can direct it in a way that’s going to be most beneficial to the animals themselves.” – states Rob Laidlaw.

Encouraged that this Bill exemplifies how Canadians are becoming more ethically concerned about animals, Kathryn ponders how this piece of legislation will set the stage to effect change for other animals that don’t do well in captivity, such as bears and elephants. Considering the condition of Edmonton Valley Zoo’s Asian elephant Lucy, Kathryn and Rob compare the plight of Asian elephants (the ones most frequently showcased in zoos and circuses around the world) to their African cousins. They discuss the lack of space and stimulants in many zoos where elephants are kept around the globe, while also losing out on habitats to human disturbance in their natural settings in Asia. As Rob points out, while public awareness is growing, it is zoos themselves that need to act upon establishing new rules for keeping large animals in captivity. He believes that governments must follow-up on the latest scientific reports on a variety of species’ cognitive abilities and social structures, enforcing new laws, and adapting practices to these new perspectives, just like they have now done for cetaceans here in Canada.

Now you know!

Be part of the change

  • Speak out to friends and families that visiting elephants in zoos is wrong.
  • Simply avoid going to facilities that are housing elephants and other wide-ranging animal species.
  • If you do go to visit a facility housing elephants, express your concern or voice your displeasure with these exhibits.
  • Do not attend circuses that still use wild or exotic animals, such as elephants, as acts.
  • If possible, participate in respectful and ethical eco-tourism, to see elephants and other large animals in their natural habitat instead of in captivity.
  • Learn about elephants online, on television, in movies and in books.
  • Contact your local elected officials asking for legislation that discontinues captivity of elephants and use of elephants in circuses.
  • Contact organizations and take action in establishing viable solutions for the future of these animals.
  • Help us spread the word by sharing this podcast in your network.

What’s next?

• Send a letter as an individual, or as a group, class, or school, to the 4 zoos that still showcase elephants in Canada, telling them that elephants and large mammals do not belong in Canadian zoos. Send it to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and to the premiers of Ontario, Quebec or Alberta. You can also send it to your local MP and MPP.
• Ask your officials to give Bilateral aid in support of elephant conservation in Asia and Africa.
• Beware of zoos that say they are conservation facilities, but are really only populating their own or other zoos. These animals are rarely returned to the wild.
• Support organisations such as The Amboseli Trust for Elephants or the Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary.
Stay engaged in the discussion about keeping large mammals in captivity and follow-up on the enforcement of Bill S-203 on cetaceans, leading the way to future such regulations about other animal species.

If you’ve enjoyed listening to our podcast, we’ve a favour to ask. A lot of volunteering goes into making Now You Know, but it still takes money to run. If you’d like to help us make future Now You Know podcasts, please consider donating. Thank you!

Kathryn, Gen and the Now You Know team.

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