Dozens of animals died during Montreal Biodome revamp

The two-year remodel of the Montreal Biodome spruced it up quite nicely -- but some of the animals who called the place home never made it back. 

The stress of the move and several accidents proved to be too much for about 75 of the wildlife centre's animals, 3,000 of which were moved while their new ecosystems were being constructed. 

Staff of the facility say the move was really taxing and they didn't predict what effect certain decisions would have on the animals.

“I think it’s kind of normal that we have these difficult moments throughout such a large renovation project that lasted two years,” said Biodome veterinarian Emiko Wong.

“With hindsight, we could have done these things this way, that way, but for sure we didn’t anticipate all of them.”

There were several accidents that led to animals' deaths.

In the temporary cages housing bats, for example, the mesh proved too abrasive, damaging the delicate skin on their wings and leaving them susceptible to infection.

“Some of them, we saw that the damage would lead to a very poor prognosis to return to flight, so we took the decision of humane euthanasia,” said Wong.

Forty-six bats from three different species died or were put down between April 2018 and March 2020.

Some 30 birds were also killed by the move, including twelve terns and four seagulls that were killed by a weasel that snuck into their enclosure.

“In [weasels'] biology, they will not necessarily eat what they kill, so it just killed many birds, one after the other,” Wong said. 

Other animals had underlying health conditions that staff suspect were exacerbated by the stress of the move.

Two king penguins will remain at the Calgary zoo to save them further stress of being moved back to Montreal.

Now that the move is complete and the animals are back in their permanent enclosures, the Biodome can take stock of what went right, and what went wrong.

“There are certain decisions that were obviously to be readjusted, and other decisions that we saw, in hindsight, that were the proper decision,” Wong said. “So we have heaps to learn from all this.”

She said she’s confident that the newly renovated Biodome will improve the lives of the animals, who she said are cared for by dedicated and passionate staff.

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