The announcement by the Thompson Zoological Society that the Thompson Zoo would be closing from September until spring 2013 to allow construction of the new Boreal Discovery Centre to commence caught a lot of people off guard, and stirred some rumors as well.
Andrea Hatley, Chairperson of the Thompson Zoological Society spoke with the Thompson Citizen and made sure to clear any misinformation that might have been circulating.
"None of the animals will be euthanized," said Hatley, "that's something that started on line and there's misinformation going around."
80 animals call the zoo home, including some local favorites like Hercules the pig, Popa the timber wolf who has been with the zoo for more than 10 years, and a pair of bobcats that have also been in Thompson for 10 plus years.
What may have got lost in the shuffle is that not only does the zoo's closure affect the animals, but the zoo's executive director and a two zookeepers were also put in positions where they would have to seek out new work.
"The staff would have been laid off," said Hatley, "one of our zookeepers handed in their resignation. We would have guaranteed them work until the end of September and after that they would get a lay off."
Hatley did not disclose names of the employees affected, but did make note that the acting executive director handed in a resignation over two weeks ago and had found another job.
"Once we told the employees what the plan was to start the transition to the Boreal Discovery Centre, they immediately started looking for work," said Hatley, "one of the zookeepers was successful and hopefully the other zookeeper finds work very quickly."
The vast majority of the animals will be moving to Elmville Zoo in Ontario, while the deer must remain in Manitoba and will travel to Assiniboine Park Zoo. The sturgeons from the zoo will be moved to another tank in town, possibly to Manitoba Hydro.
"The Elmville Zoo came highly recommend to us by Bob Wrigley who is our animal consultant," said Hatley, "he says that the conditions that the animals will have there are far superior to what they have right now. They will also have available, 24/7 designated veterinary care."
The care and facilities the animals will be treated to will no doubt be top notch, but one can never tell how an animal will react to being moved, especially some of the zoo's older animals.
"The move may very well be difficult on some of the animals," said Hatley, "but this is not an uncommon practice, it's a normal thing in zoos, animals get moved all the time."
Employees, animals, won't somebody please think of the children? Ellen Dale has been quite vocal on the zoo being taken away from the children of Thompson, and wasn't happy with the way it was handled.
Dale, a teacher in Thompson for the past 40 years has taken her students on countless field trips to the zoo and is upset to see it go.
"They could have stayed open at least through September so we could take the kids for one last field trip," said Dale, "the kids had no chance to say goodbye to the zoo. No thought was given to the children."
Hatley says that she too found it unfortunate that it happened so quickly, but that at the end of the day it comes down to logistics.
"We weren't anticipating this, we issued the press release that went out Friday (Aug. 24) and I was still thinking at that time that we would have until the middle of September," said Hatley, "I found out at about 5:00 on Friday that this whole thing could come together next weekend; to get all the handlers and to get the shipper and to get everybody in one place again might not happen again for another month, so it's a case of do we run with this now or do we chance not having those people there."
Hatley affirms that the animals will be given the best care, and the staff in charge of transporting them are some of the best in Canada.
The zoo will re-open in Spring 2013 as a community garden and petting zoo.