Staff at the Ecomuseum Zoo in Sainte-Anne de Bellevue are in shock after they discovered that Kola, a raven in their care, was missing from its enclosure.
Ecomuseum executive director David Rodrigue said animal keepers were doing their rounds Tuesday morning when they saw the bird was missing.
Upon closer inspection, however, staff noticed a large opening in the aviary and saw that the access gates to the zoo had been broken into as well.
“It was pretty obvious at that point that somebody broke in the zoo and actually made their way to the to the raven aviary and just broke him out of there,” Rodrigue said.
The incident has left many scratching their heads.
“First of all I just couldn’t believe it,” said Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue Mayor Paola Hawa. “Who would do such a thing? What kind of senseless, savage, misguided act is that?”
Rodrigue said he can’t understand it either.
“Was the bird actually taken or was it just quote, unquote, set free,” he asked.
Either scenario is cause for concern, according to Rodrigue, who says Kola needs specialized care.
“He came to us from a rehab centre, so he was found with multiple injuries and a broken wing,” Rodrigue explained.
But as is often the case with broken wings, they don’t always heal the way should and birds can be left with a permanent disability.
That’s what happened to Kola.
“So he can’t fly very well or very far,” Rodrigue said, adding the bird also suffers from a chronic renal condition that requires daily medication.
Hawa urged whoever may have taken the bird to bring him back.
“Have the courage and the compassion to do the right thing and to return the bird,” she said.
Rodrigue made the same plea, adding no questions would be asked.
“To put it bluntly, he just won’t survive in somebody’s home. So all we’d like at this point is to have him back in our care,” Rodrigues said.
The bigger concern, however, is that Kola was set free and left to fend for itself.
“They may not agree with animals in human care, and I respect that everybody’s entitled to their opinion,” Rodrigue said. “But there’s a way to have a discussion, an educated discussion and an act of extreme activism like that is certainly not the way.”
He referred to the possible scenario as “misguided activism.”
“Whoever did that is really a disgrace to both their message and all the people that they think they represent,” Rodrigue said.
“And they’re certainly a disgrace to the animal because they just killed them by doing that if they let him out. He absolutely cannot make it on his own in the wild.”
Marco Festa-Bianchet, biology department director at the Université de Sherbrooke, agreed releasing captive animals into the wild isn’t the ideal solution.
“A lot of these actions, the only benefit goes to the people who do them because they feel better, but they’ve done something that either they’ve potentially stolen somebody’s property and in many cases they’ve done something that’s not very good for the animal.”
Bianchet said released animals often die, and those that survive can potentially create ecological problems depending on the case, including the introduction of exotic species to a habitat or polluting the gene pool of local wildlife.
Hawa added that many misunderstand the ecomuseum’s role.
“A lot of people assume that it is just a regular zoo where animals are kept in captivity but the reality is the ecomuseum is a refuge…for animals that can longer take care of themselves,” she said, adding the zoo’s mission is also centered on environmental education.
Rodrigue said an investigation is underway in connection with the break-in and thanked police for taking the issue seriously.
Patrols have been stepped up in the area, and the zoo has added additional security cameras in a bid to prevent future intrusions.
— With files from Global’s Brittany Henriques