Kangaroo escape in Oshawa highlights concerns about unregulated zoos in Ontario


Published December 4, 2023 at 1:40 pm

oshawa kangaroo found
Police officers found and captured a missing kangaroo on Dec. 4. Photo: Durham Regional Police

A kangaroo escape in Oshawa highlights the need for stronger zoo and transport regulations in Ontario, an animal protection organization and the Toronto Zoo say.

The kangaroo had been on the loose in north Oshawa since Thursday (Nov. 30) but was finally captured this morning (Dec. 4). The kangaroo was staying overnight at the Oshawa Zoo as a stop on its way to a zoo in Quebec when it escaped its handlers during the transfer process.

Durham Regional Police announced this morning that officers found the kangaroo and followed it to the area of Wilson Road North and Winchester Road East in north Oshawa, according to a press release from Durham Regional Police.

After the escape on Thursday, the officers were briefed on the safe capture techniques for kangaroos, including grabbing the animal by its tail. When they saw the kangaroo stop and take a break, the officers sneaked up on her and grabbed her tail, police said.

“The kangaroo gave up and surrendered peacefully to police officers,” police said.

Other reports said the kangaroo punched one officer in the face.

Police then transported the kangaroo in a police K9 kennel back to the zoo where she is being examined, police added.

While many are breathing a sigh of relief that the kangaroo appears to be safe and the search is over, the World Animal Protection Canada and the Toronto Zoo released a statement on concerns about the incident and others.

Back in October, a serval African cat escaped from a sanctuary on Corrigan Road in Bonnechere Valley Township, west of Ottawa. The cat is reportedly still missing.

“These recent incidents highlight the major gaps in laws and regulations of captive wildlife animals,” said Michèle Hamers, wildlife campaign manager for World Animal Protection Canada.

Ontario has long been criticized for its patchwork of laws that allow unregulated zoos in some parts of the province, often referred to as “roadside zoos.” Hamers said there are also concerns about inter-provincial wildlife trade, which is federal jurisdiction.

“Because there is no oversight, we have no idea where this kangaroo came from, whether the animal was transported in suitable conditions, the vaccination status of the animal, or any requirements for facilities accepting the animal, even temporarily,” said Hamers.

The Oshawa Zoo is an unregulated facility and was one of the 11 zoos profiled in the 2022 World Animal Protection investigation Nothing New at the Zoo, according to World Animal Protection Canada.

A spokesperson for the Oshawa Zoo gave a brief statement to insauga.com later on Monday stating “there doesn’t need to be more controls, they just need to enforce them.”

“It doesn’t help that we’re heaped in with the dozens of awful roadside institutions that are also considered roadside,” the statement continued.

They noted escapes from other zoos and say the Oshawa Zoo has protocols in place that keep animals from escaping.

They blamed the handlers for the kangaroo escape.

Ontario’s solicitor general Michael Kerzner reportedly says the province will investigate a kangaroo’s escape.

The Toronto Zoo is an Association of Zoos and Aquariums accredited not-for-profit organization and also has concerns about the well-being of animals in unregulated zoos.

“We are grateful the kangaroo has been found safe and this incident highlights how there are far too many private owners and unaccredited facilities operating in our communities,” Dolf DeJong, CEO of the Toronto Zoo. “These sites often do not have adequate systems and training in place to ensure animal wellbeing and welfare.”

Although there are laws in place, they aren’t strong enough to protect exotic animals. In Ontario, it’s largely up to municipalities to regulate roadside zoos, with only half having regulations of any kind.

Also, there is no government agency responsible for the tracking and oversight of the movement of captive non-native wildlife across the country. World Animal Protection polling found there are an estimated 1.4-million non-native wild animals kept as pets across the country, with nearly 600,000 in Ontario, the highest of any province or territory.

“We strongly urge the Government of Ontario to enforce the existing and further strengthen regulations to truly protect exotic animals currently in unaccredited roadside zoos and in private ownership. This is the right thing to do to improve the quality of care for these animals and in the interest of public health and safety,” DeJong added.

World Animal Protection and the Toronto Zoo say they have been advocating for the Government of Ontario to overhaul the captive wildlife system and are staunch supporters of the Jane Goodall Act, currently before the Senate which would significantly restrict the ownership of wild animals in Canada and lead to the end of most under-regulated substandard zoos (also known as roadside zoos) in Canada.

Editor’s note: This story had an incorrect date for the kangaroo escape. It was Nov. 30. And this story was updated around 2:45 p.m. with a statement from the Oshawa Zoo.

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