A Canadian zookeeper is in hot water after loading up a Kodiak bear in his passenger seat and taking him through the drive-thru of a local Dairy Queen.
Berkley is a 1-year-old bear that is a resident at Discovery Wildlife Park, a small zoo located in Alberta, Canada. Her zookeeper decided to treat her by taking her out for a little ice cream. A video surfaced on the park’s Facebook page, which has now been removed, of Berkley being fed spoonfuls of ice cream by the drive-thru worker.
Doug Bos, the owner of the zoo, was severely criticized after posting the video, but he says, that people are missing the point. He claims that the video was posted to educate the public about interacting with bears.
“Anyone who watched the whole video on our Facebook page, the message was not to feed bears in the wild,” Bos told The Dodo. “The whole thing … was to get people’s attention. In my opinion, you need to be a little out-of-the-box to get people to get it.”
Despite the zoo owner’s intentions, the public felt that the actions in the video were dangerous to both the bear and the public.
“It seems like a crazy and counterproductive way of trying to get that message across,” Rob Laidlaw, executive director of Zoocheck, a wildlife protection organization, told The Dodo. “The whole thing was misguided and ridiculous. To take a bear out in a vehicle to a local drive-thru to get ice cream — to me, that would tell me, ‘Hey, these are just cute, cuddly animals. They can be treated like pets, and we don’t need to be too concerned about them.’”
Berkley has been raised at Discovery Wildlife Park since he was a cub after his mother passed away at another facility. He had been bottle-raised and had lots of interaction with humans. Because of this, Bos feels that that outing was not dangerous whatsoever.
“This is not the first time we’ve done something like this, and it’s not a wild bear out of the wild,” Bos says.
Berkley has appeared on TV shows, commercials, and movie sets, so Bos feels that there was absolutely no harm in taking the bear out for ice cream. Laidlow, however, says that the bear is still a wild animal and you never know how they will react.
“You get animals that have been handled from birth, sometimes for decades, and then something happens,” Laidlaw said. “You may have an animal that seems relatively docile and calm, and you move it into a novel situation, and there can be something that triggers it differently…like a backfiring car.”
Despite how ‘domesticated’ the bear could be, Laidlaw says that the zoo was still breaking the law.
“The reason they have that is that the government doesn’t want the animals to pose any disease or parasite risk, and they don’t want the animals to pose a public safety hazard, so they require advance notice when dangerous animals are going to be taken off the property, and they want to know for what purpose and under what conditions.”
Since the video was posted, the zoo has been charged for taking the bear to Dairy Queen without consent, and for not telling the authorities that the bear went to a private home for nightly feedings in 2017, according to The Guardian.
Surprisingly, despite being charged, the zoo owner says that he is glad that they were caught.
“I’m embarrassed that we forgot, and we put protocols in there so we hopefully don’t forget next time,” Bos said. “We implemented that double check system so it doesn’t happen again.”
This isn’t Discovery Wildlife Park’s first run-in with the law. Back in 2005, the zoo was charging $20 for visitors to lean over an electric fence to receive a ‘kiss’ by a grizzly bear by having them lick their face.
“This is one bizarre manifestation of that whole attitude that it’s OK to take animals out into public,” Laidlaw said. “But people should be aware that these kinds of things are happening all over North America, they’re happening in Europe, they’re happening in Japan. Animals are being taken out of warehouses or zoos or people’s homes, and being shunted around to all these locations, without very much regard to their welfare, and with very little regard to human health and safety.”
Zoos are a fun place to visit to see wild animals that you’d otherwise never see, however, it’s important to research and look into their practices before planning a visit.
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Source: The Dodo