It’s been 5 years since Friends of HSI assisted the Montreal SPCA in the largest zoo animal rescue in Canadian history. The operator of the Zoo St. Edouard, an unaccredited roadside zoo in Quebec had been charged with two counts of criminal cruelty and neglect following an investigation by the SPCA, and the animals were seized. Friends of HSI and our global team assumed the on-site care of the animals, including lions, tigers, kangaroos, bears, and far more, and then transferred them to partner sanctuaries and accredited facilities across North America.  

When our animal rescue team first arrived at the facility, we were immediately overcome by the scale of the problems, and the animal suffering that resulted. Over 200 animals, comprised of dozens of species, were housed in dilapidated, dank enclosures, devoid of enrichment and unsuited to the animals. Proper food and water was unavailable in many cases. Animals confined in these appalling conditions displayed stereotypic behaviours and other obvious signs of distress. Some of the more exotic animals were held in dark, windowless barns, standing in piles of excrement, and we wondered how long it had been since they had last breathed fresh air or seen sunlight.  

The rescue operation, which spanned three months, was one of the most complex we have ever carried out. But because of our intervention, the animals received specialized nutrition, veterinary care and expert support, and now have better lives in their new homes.  

Friends of HSI’s affiliated Black Beauty Ranch in Texas took in a variety of the rescued animals, including kangaroos, lions, tigers, an emu, a nilgai, a wildebeest, and the beloved Zuko the Zebra, providing them with a safe and nurturing environment free from neglect and abuse. These animals are now receiving proper care and enrichment on expansive lush pastures that span many acres.  

Meet some of the rescues  

Zuko the Zebra 

Zuko, the Zebra was found in a dark, decrepit barn. His door had been chewed through from apparent frustration. When our team discovered him, Zuko was pacing back and forth in his small stall, deprived of food and water, enrichment, and ventilation. Zuko now roams proudly on his 10-acre pasture at Black Beauty Ranch, forging friendships through the fence with fellow survivors like Wolfgang the wildebeest. While he will never be able to return to the wild, he is receiving optimal care in a better habitat, surrounded by caretakers who put his wellbeing first.  

Douala the Lioness 

When we first encountered Douala at the zoo, we saw that her enclosure was poorly designed and constructed. It was fraught with weakened spots from her nervous chewing—putting the big cats, their caregivers and the public at risk. Now, Douala is thriving in her new environment. She enjoys observing her surroundings from her perch in cooler weather and seeks shade in the forest during hot days. Douala’s playful nature is evident, as she creates impromptu toys from items in her habitat. If you’re lucky enough to be on the grounds early in the morning before breakfast time, you might get a chance to hear Douala roar. (Fun fact: You can hear a lion’s roar up to 8 kilometers away!)  

Theodora and Serenity the Tigers 

Serenity and Theodora have adapted well at Black Beauty Ranch. Both have begun to recover from their ordeal, and they now have found a favorite spot in their enclosure—a pool with a spout that shoots water, which they enjoy very much during warmer days!