panda.jpgNOVEMBER 20/2001, TORONTO - A $3 million plan by the Metro Toronto Zoo to import a pair of pandas from China is running into strong opposition from The Humane Society of Canada (HSC). The animal protection organization is also convinced that once again the Canadian Government is working to undermine international treaties to which Canada is a signatory party.
"Zoo officials claim this is a breeding loan to help conserve the species. However, we believe that the animals will be used to boost ticket sales, and help the zoo with its annual budget crisis," said HSC Executive Director, Michael O’Sullivan.

The Humane Society of Canada has written directly to the zoo, a public institution funded by tax dollars and donations, asking them for a full disclosure of all internal documents relating to this plan.

"There are only about 600 pandas left in the wilds of China. The major threats facing pandas are habitat destruction, poachers and a desperate need for a stronger law enforcement presence in China. In my opinion, putting two individuals of the world’s most critically endangered species into a crate and shipping them halfway around the world is not only dangerous, but a waste of $3 million; tax dollars and donations which should be put to much better use protecting this species in the wild," explained O'Sullivan.

O’Sullivan is also concerned that the Canadian Government is following its traditional pattern of behaviour by undermining the effectiveness of CITES (The Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species) which it signed in 1975. Over 150 countries, including Canada, are signatories to CITES. O’Sullivan has been an accredited non-governmental observer to the United Nations administered treaty since 1987 and has continually fought with Canadian government officials over what he describes as their mismanagement of the treaty.

"Pandas are listed as a critically endangered Appendix I species under the CITES treaty. They can only be brought into Canada for scientific and not for primarily commercial purposes," said O’Sullivan. "In countries like the United States, there is a 90-day public comment period before any permits are issued, but the Canadian Wildlife Service has repeatedly refused to allow experts to review their work. So much for transparency and public participation," said O’Sullivan.

In the past, the Canadian Wildlife Service tried to block efforts to list black bears on CITES, even though there was overwhelming evidence that the species was being decimated by the illegal trade in bear gall-bladders and parts. A trade that to this day, the Canadian Wildlife Service has done nothing to combat.

The same federal officials worked to help reopen the trade in ivory, which has already resulted in the deaths of thousands of elephants, a species which was also listed as endangered.

And just two short years ago, federal wildlife officials issued CITES permits to a group of American Natives, which would have allowed them to export whale meat from Canada. "This violated CITES, the ban on the international trade in whale meat put in place by the International Whaling Commission, the NAFTA Environmental Accords, and criminal laws relating to conspiracy, prohibited weapons, cruelty to animals and immigration laws," said O’Sullivan.

"When we accused them of issuing the permits, they flat out lied to us - even though I had copies of the permits in front of me on my desk. The civil servants and politicians back-pedalled and said the permits had been issued due to humane consideration for the whales that were the target of an illegal whale hunt," continued O’Sullivan.

"What can you expect from a federal government that since 1969 has failed to pass a federal Endangered Species Act in Canada. Tax weary Canadians are fed up with back room deals. They expect more from their elected officials and civil servants. We are going to explore every possible legal avenue to open this entire process and stop the federal government from putting endangered species in harm’s way," vowed O’Sullivan.

CONTACT: Michael O'Sullivan by toll free 1-800-641-KIND or Michael on his cell phone (416) 876-9685 or at www.humanesociety.com via twitter at www.twitter.com/HSCanada and on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Humane-Society-of-Canada/211468055538280

[For more than 17 years, Al Hickey was the Chief Executive of the BC SPCA and before that headed up the Alberta and BC Chambers of Commerce, and was the Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vancouver. He has been The HSC Western Regional Director for over 12 years. He has 4 children and 6 grandchildren. For his lifetime of achievement dedicated to helping people, animals and the environment, we have bestowed upon him our prestigious Heroes for Animals Award, shared by only a handful of people and organizations.

A father with two children, and a houseful of dogs and cats, Michael O'Sullivan has worked across Canada and in over 110 countries during the last 40 years helping people, animals and nature.]

The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) works to protect dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits and small animals, livestock, lab animals, wildlife and the environment. We carry out hands on programs to help animals and nature, mount rescue operations, expose cruelty through hard hitting undercover investigations, work to pass laws to protect animals, use a multidisciplinary approach, support animal shelters and wildlife rehabilitation centres, and spread the word about how to help animals and nature through humane education.

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