Thursday, August 16, 2007

Willy can educate us about the plight of animals in captivity

Letters to the Editor - Niagara This Week - Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sadly, if Willy (the escaped Syrian brown bear) has any purpose in life whatsoever, it is to educate humankind on the plight of animals in captivity. Prior to Aug. 7, I had never heard of Willy. Yet, since that day, I like others, have bonded with him.

I ponder Willy's meagre 15 hours of freedom. When the news reported Willy was spotted in a nearby creek, I'd like to believe he stopped to drink of the cool, flowing waters and hope he chanced upon free-swimming fish, awakening in him a long forgotten, albeit forged, ancestral instinct.

Did Willy have a chance to bask in the warm and rosy dawn of his first day of freedom, rekindling the will to survive unfettered in his new surroundings? Then, with a pang in my heart, I envision Willy recovering from the powerful sedative that took him down, only to awaken and gaze upon the electrified, barred, small enclosure where he must spend the rest of his days in servitude to a paying public.

My prayer for Willy is that he cherish those precious hours of freedom, for they must serve to last him his Earthly lifetime. Godspeed Willy!

L. Coleman
Lyons Creek Road
Niagara Falls

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Zooz gives the bear facts

RAY SPITERI / Osprey News Network Local News - Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Willy's escape from the Zooz animal park last week has "opened the eyes" of local emergency services and made the Stevensville theme park more aware of its responsibilities to the public, says Fort Erie Fire Chief Jim Douglas.

Douglas is putting together a report for town council next month outlining what municipal resources were utilized in the search and apprehension of the 135-kilogram Syrian brown bear.

He will meet with Zooz officials, Niagara Regional Police and other emergency personnel to formulate a detailed plan in the event a similar animal escape occurs again.

"This incident really flew under our radar," Douglas said, who was on scene with about 40 volunteer firefighters and dozens of police officers to assist with traffic control and help inform residents living in the immediate area of Zooz about what was going on.

Willy took a tour of the backfields in Stevensville after he burrowed his way under his enclosure at the popular tourist attraction around midnight last Tuesday. He was captured 15 hours later less than 500 metres from his home at the park.

Tim Tykolis, general manager of Zooz, said the family-owned business has an emergency preparedness plan in place but it has not been laid out for public emergency services.

"We look forward to meeting with everyone and getting a protocol on all of our files so that something like Willy's escape won't happen again. We want to cover all emergencies, including potential escapes, medical issues, fires and more," he said.

"We will do whatever it takes to ensure our animals remain here, our visitors can enjoy a peaceful and fun day out at the park and that the surrounding community feels safe."

Tykolis spoke at a town council meeting Monday where he thanked members of the Fort Erie Fire Department, Niagara Regional Police and the Niagara Falls, N.Y. sheriff's department, which deployed a helicopter to conduct an aerial search of the Stevensville area to find the runaway bear.

He also apologized for the interruption the incident caused to neighbouring residents and businesses, as roadblocks were set up at either end of Stevensville Road and on a number of side streets and back roads during the search.

Zooz has reopened except for a rear portion of the park that contains two bear exhibits housing four bears, including Willy. An additional backup system to Willy's pen is being installed - a special enclosure surrounded by a three-metre-high chain-link fence with a strand of electrified wire.

"We have already reinforced his enclosure and the parks perimeters," Tykolis said.

"Starting (today) and lasting four days, we will put concrete against the enclosure and install a fence liner about three feet under the cage."

Along with Willy burrowing his way about two feet under the cage, there was also a malfunction of the electrical system within the enclosure, Tykolis said.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Bear that escaped zoo finally captured

St. Catharines Standard Local News - Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A bear that had escaped a zoo in Stevensville has been captured and sedated near the corner of Fox and Ott roads in Fort Erie, police said Wednesday afternoon.

Police had been searching Stevensville by land and by air today in hopes of capturing the bear that escaped from the ZooZ animal zoo in overnight.

There's no official word on how the animal escaped although ZooZ officials said they were notified by a Stevensville resident who spotted the bear in town just before midnight.

The animal is about 136-kg and is a six-year-old Syrian brown bear.

The bear, named Willy, was born in captivity and has been at ZooZ for about five years.

Although the bear is accustomed to people, and has been described as "well-tempered" ZooZ officials note the animal is not used to direct interaction with people because visitors to the park are not allowed to feed or touch the animals.

Earlier Wednesday, Marianne Tykolis-Casey, one of the owners of ZooZ said, “We want our little Willy to come home, but our number one priority is the safety of the community.”

Police and other experts searched an ever-expanding area and a helicopter from the Niagara County Sheriff's office in nearby New York State was also been flying just above the tree tops in the largely rural area to try to locate the bear.

Residents were warned not approach the bear.