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Zoo needs sanctuary level upgrade

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Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Last February, I was requested by the PETA Foundation to assess the living conditions of black bears Ursula and Sierra and mountain lions Bret and Bart Maverick at the Spring River Park & Zoo. My recollection of the first black bear I ever saw was “Smokey the Bear” at the National Zoological Park in Washington D.C. in the early 1950s.

As a youngster I was hardly big enough to peer over the exhibit railing. Years later, I was reunited with Smokey as an intern in zoological medicine at the National Zoo. He was in the same enclosure of concrete and steel wire fencing. He died shortly following my internship in late 1976. His remains were flown to New Mexico where he originally was orphaned by a forest fire.
Today, professionally run zoos are abandoning the old style grotto exhibits that Smokey and the Spring River Park & Zoo bears and lions live, in favor of modern, safer and more humane habitats. Scholars from the relevant scientific community agree that the repetitive, meaningless pacing or stereotypical behavior of bears and lions at the zoo are indicative of compromised welfare.

After assessing the enclosures at Roswell’s zoo, it is my opinion these animals must be elevated to a higher level of care. This can be achieved by moving them to a sanctuary with natural habitats having large open spaces to experience species-typical behaviors.
I understand that the zoo is undergoing fundraising efforts. If the zoo will commit to relocating these animals, I will donate my time to help these efforts to construct a sanctuary that can serve Roswell and New Mexico in maintaining and rehabilitating injured orphan bears and mountain lions.
Please consider these thoughts. The Spring River Park & Zoo will not be giving up these animals, it simply will be providing a higher, more humane level of care before they reach an age when it shall be too late for them to experience a better life.
Philip K. Ensley
Board Certified Veterinarian
Colorado

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