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Zoo community split over best way to lift Michigan’s ban on breeding large carnivores

The John Ball Zoo's Amur tiger
Courtesy of John Ball Zoo
The John Ball Zoo's Amur tiger

The Michigan Legislature is considering a bill that would allow both zoos and other facilities to breed large carnivores, such as lions, tigers, and bears.

Such breeding was outlawed in 2000. But House Bill 5778 would lift that ban.

It's been introduced by Republican Rep. Thomas Albert, R-Lowell, and it's now been referred to the House Agriculture Committee.

And it's set up a debate in the zoo community.

Peter D'Arienzo is the chief executive officer of the John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, which is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

He supports this bill, saying it’s all about conservation breeding, public safety, and animal welfare.

He adds that if someone wanted to keep and breed lions, they’d have to meet strict criteria.

“There is some very specific requirements in the bill that if you want to breed large carnivores in the state of Michigan that you have to meet. And they’re centered around making sure you have well trained staff, making sure you provide choices and mental enrichment for the animals, making sure you have emergency plans, you have adequate climate control for the animals.”

But Ron Kagan, director of the Detroit Zoo, is against the bill.

"In terms of conservation and science and education, there’s really only one entity that’s qualified and capable to evaluate that with respect to exotic animals, and that’s the Association of Zoos and Aquariums."

Kagen says that the bill that's been introduced doesn't really fix the problem cause by the 2000 bill outlawing breeding.

Listen above to hear more about the arguments for and against the bill.

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