The Red Panda/GVZoo’s Rakesh PR Spin Louder Than Grief


In the WeSaid/TheySaid section, you will note that GVZoo manager Jody Henderson states that animals held by GVZoo wouldn’t be able to move to sanctuaries, that the risk would be simply too great to their health. What is difficult to reconcile is that Red Panda Brothers Rakesh and Arun were moved to GVZoo from Assiniboine Zoo. Even after a quarantine period, Rakesh fell ill from a fungal infection and died, about 6 weeks after arriving. The Zoo immediately declared that the infection that killed Rakesh came from Winnipeg, not locally, as if to pre-emptively distance themselves from any fault. While we accept that it wasn’t local pathogens that killed Rakesh, we feel his life should have been respected in the way that Ms. Henderson states other animals are cared for as an absolute. It was ultimately captivity that killed Rakesh, and if GVZooGM believes that animals shouldn’t be moved, why bring in new (live, sentient) exhibits if there is such a risk?

The GVZoo says that Red Pandas are part of a Species Survival Program- which is essentially a way for Zoos to captive breed animals for display to prevent what they call “total extinction.” This does not help the wild population, as it is still in notable decline. Even still, Zoos have almost never saved a species from decline- though they take credit for the black footed ferret (a conservation led effort with some consultation from zoos) the facility that managed the populations was closed to the public and not a for-profit space. Interestingly, more than half the animals in SSP’s aren’t even endangered. The Phoenix Zoo has reintroduced the Oryx it bred to wild herds, and was among the first and only to achieve a feat like this. These are rare occurrences at best, and it still doesn’t mean that other exotic animals should die there just because one positive event happened for another animal.  Zoos have been criticized for selecting animals that are cute, exotic, or other types of advantageous for display or with high public interest. Red Pandas are known to be cute and draw attendance. When profit is the concern like this, one cannot reconcile their actions with their words, as we see with Ms. Henderson. It is worthy to mention that many other species went fully extinct while held in zoos. GVZoo has never published any notable science or participated in any meaningful recovery. Even their conservation efforts as detailed in another post are highly questionable.

A recent study published on SSP efficacy and endangered animal breeding practices shed a lot of light on if it is even feasible or worthwhile to breed endangered species in captivity.

Conservation and Rescue facilities are animal led, release/rehab focussed educational centres that do not profit from captivity. It is not entertainment. These are actions taken in service of animals.