A new bill aims to prohibit the keeping of wild animals in captivity in Canada.
Senator Marty Klyne reintroduced Bill S-241, also known as the Jane Goodall Act, in the Senate on March 22. If passed, the bill would ban new captivity of a number of wild animals—including bears, wolves, and big cats. This would effectively end the use of exotic animals in roadside zoos, giving wild animals some legal protections in a court of law. It would also phase out elephant captivity throughout the country.
The proposed bill—which is supported by anthropologist and conservationist Jane Goodall—was originally introduced by Senator Murray Sinclair back in 2020. However, the bill died after Sinclair retired from the Senate in 2021.
“Today is an important day for animals. So many of them are in desperate need of our help and the Jane Goodall Act establishes protection and support for animals under human care,” Goodall said.
“It is a monumental step forward for animals, people, and the environment,” she added. “I am honoured to lend my name to this world-leading legislation that is supported by a wonderful coalition of government, conservationists, animal welfare groups and accredited zoos.”
Canadian bill tackles the issue of animals in captivity
The new bill would impact wildlife attractions across Canada, estimated to number between 100 and 150.
Removed from their natural habitats, captive wild animals often suffer physical and emotional issues as a result. Insufficient or unnatural diets and lack of adequate physical activity can cause the animals severe distress and zoochosis, symptoms of which include pacing, head-bobbing, or excessive licking.
If passed, the proposed bill would act as an extension to Canada’s Bill S-203, which was passed in 2019. Spearheaded by Senator Sinclair, the “Free Willy” bill phased out the use of cetaceans like whales and dolphins in captivity.
A number of zoos—which would be exempt from the captivity ban—support Bill S-241, including the Granby Zoo, the Calgary Zoo, and the Toronto Zoo. The former, a zoo in Quebec, has announced its intention to phase out its captive elephants over the next few years.
“Given the fact we have to agree that the elephant standards are getting more and more tough to keep them in zoological institutions, and given the fact the bill is coming and we supported it, we have decided as a group in Granby to transition out,” said the zoo’s CEO, Paul Gosselin.
Since the bill bans elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn imports, Goodall said the bill would help put a stop to illegal wildlife trafficking. It would also create a new distinction for accredited “animal care organizations,” such as aquariums, zoos, and sanctuaries, which would be able to continue caring for wild animals. All other organizations would have to apply for a permit in order to breed wild animals or acquire new ones.