Bowmanville Zoo closes for good after animal abuse claims against director

Above Photo: The zoo director, Michael Hackenberger, stepped down earlier this year after being charged with animal cruelty.  (RACHEL MENDLESON / TORONTO STAR

Zoo billed as North America’s oldest has closed after controversy regarding animal treatment, with animals’ future homes unknown.

The controversial Bowmanville Zoo closed its doors for the final time on Monday, after allegations of animal cruelty led to a dramatic drop in attendance.

The zoo’s director, Michael Hackenberger, stepped down earlier this year after he was charged with animal cruelty, following the release of a video by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals that appeared to show him mistreating a Siberian tiger during a training session. (Click Read More)

Thanksgiving Monday marked the zoo’s last day in business. They offered free admission to visitors, with an option to donate at the gate to fund the relocation of the zoo’s animals.

“As we as a zoo gather at the table of Thanksgiving tomorrow on our final day of operation, the thing we are most thankful for are our loyal supporters and followers who have stood with us through thick and thin,” read a statement posted on the zoo’s Facebook page.

Angus Carroll, the director of communications at the zoo, said that the video released by PETA led to an estimated 65 per cent reduction in attendance numbers in an interview with the Star in June.

“The decision was only made . . . when it became apparent, financially, that we couldn’t continue,” Carroll said.

The future of the zoo’s animals is now the next big question.

While Carroll said that dozens of staff have lost their jobs in the closure, some keepers and trainers will stay on until new homes are found for all of the animals.

The zoo, which first opened in 1919, billed itself as the oldest zoo in North America.

The Star was unable to reach the zoo’s staff or comment on Monday.

With files from Noor Javed

See The Dykstra’s Trip To The Bowmanville Zoo