This article was originally published in the Winter 2018 Wild Times Newsletter.
Photo Credit: Wade Krasnow (Above Photo: Three Harbour seals, each with their own crate, arrive by plane from Quebec.)
People often ask, how do you move animals from one zoo to another? There is no simple answer. Many modes of transportation are used to safely transport animals, it all depends on the circumstances.
The Edmonton Valley Zoo belongs to several North American and global breeding programs. That means an animal destined for our zoo may travel a short distance from Calgary or all the way from Japan.
The fastest way for any animal to travel is by plane. While this may seem as simple as booking a space on the next flight, there are a many considerations. First, we need to ensure that International Air Transport Association (IATA) regulations are followed. These regulations dictate the type of shipping crate or container the animal needs, food and water requirements, type of substrate, temperature parameters, and safety considerations. In addition to this, our zoo has strict standards that must be adhered to when transporting animals.
Then, the flight needs to be booked. As there is limited space and size restrictions for crates, this is not as easy as it seems. Lastly, the animal must be transported to the airport by vehicle, arriving at least two hours prior to take off.
International shipments are even more complicated, and require documents such as import or export permits from various levels of government. As well, veterinary inspections are required upon landing in Canada and between connecting flights. Luckily, we can hire a broker who ensures the animal arrives safely into the country and onto its final destination.
When it comes to larger animals, they are usually moved by animal haulers in a livestock transport trailer. These haulers are experienced, and specialize in exotic animal transport. As with the airlines, haulers must follow federal guidelines for animal transport to ensure the animal’s safety and comfort.
Smaller animals often travel by car or van, especially if it’s a short distance. Boats and trains are also options. Sometimes, more than one type of transport is used to transfer an animal from one part of the world to another. The goal is always to choose the method that will cause as little stress and disruption for the animal.
Here at the Edmonton Valley Zoo, our red pandas, meerkats, Arctic wolf, golden lion tamarins, and harbour seals all arrived via air. The takins, reindeer, snow leopard, and camels came by truck. When Penelope the juvenile white-handed gibbon was transferred to an Ontario zoo, zookeepers picked her up in a car and accompanied her across Canada till she reached her new home.
Perhaps in the future, transporting animals will be as simple as it is on Star Trek – we will beam them from one place to another. But for now, it is trains, planes and automobiles!