Back in August, the Montreal Biodome triumphantly reopened after more than two years of renovations, but we’re now learning more about the toll the revamp took on the animals who live there.
It turns out dozens were killed by preventable mistakes.
“It’s always extremely devastating to lose an animal,” said Emiko Wong, the Biodome’s head of live collections, conservation and research.
In total, 76 animals died after being moved to temporary homes during the renovations. The deaths of seven others could not be definitively linked to the renovations.
The casualties were revealed after an access to information request filed by Radio-Canada.
“Basically we can call them three tragedies where we had a cluster of animals that unfortunately passed away,” Wong told Global News.
Read more: Montreal Biodome reopens after multi-million-dollar renovations
A portion of the deaths were caused by human mistakes. For example, 15 birds native to the St. Lawrence Estuary, including terns and gulls, were transferred to a sanctuary in Saint-Eustache.
A weasel snuck into their enclosure and picked them off one by one.
“Weasels, they don’t necessarily eat their prey right away,” Wong explained. They kill their prey, and then after they killed a second. So it was kind of ‘one after the other’ situation.”
Forty-six bats were put into an enclosure with the wrong kind of netting, severely damaging their sensitive wings. The mesh chosen was too abrasive, according to Wong. She said they changed to mosquito netting as soon as the problem came to light, but many bats had already been injured.
“We can’t maintain a bat that cannot fly. We consider it unethical in a certain sense,” she said.
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A cluster of tropical birds died of a fungal infection in their temporary enclosure, which Wong says was exacerbated by the stress of the move.
“Any small stress is basically a bigger stress for them than for us humans,” she said.
Seven deaths could not definitively be linked to the move. A callimico monkey died of a kidney problem, for example.
“Maybe it was the dehydration caused by the stress? We can’t make a clear connection. It was an uncertain case,” Wong said.
She said two years is a long stretch in the life of an animal, and that the amount of deaths during the renovations was not that much higher than usual.
“We looked at the the mortality rates during this renovation period and we looked at the mortality rate during the five years before this renovation, and it’s quite similar, actually.”
She said the team will take the lessons learned from the tragic deaths and use them to improve care across the board.
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