|Date closed||October 10, 2016|
|Location||340 King Street East, Clarington, Ontario, Canada|
|Land area||42 acres (17 ha)|
|No. of animals||300|
Bowmanville Zoo was a zoo in Clarington, Ontario, Canada. Founded in 1919, at the time of its closure, in 2016, it was the oldest private zoo in North America. It was a large supplier of animals to the U.S. film industry.
The land now occupied by the zoo, on the banks of Soper Creek, was part of the grounds of the Cream of Barley Mill, located further south on the creek. The mill owner developed a campground and park for tourists, aptly named "The Cream of Barley Campground", on the part of the property that was near the highway. Later, a petting zoo was added to the park.
By 1928, the mill, camp, and park (which now included tourist cabins) were owned James Morden and operated by Alfred Shrubb, formerly a world-renowned long distance runner. By 1946, the park included tennis courts.
Over time, the zoo aspect of the business became more prominent, and the cabins were turned into animal shelters and storage buildings.
Michael Hackenberger was the final owner of the Bowmanville Zoo. In April 2016, Hackenberger was charged with 5 counts of animal abuse by the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) due to a video obtained by PETA of Hackenberger whipping a young leashed tiger profusely while swearing at it.
The zoo once had seven elephants with a mix of African and Asian.
Limba was the lone Asian elephant at the zoo, arrived in 1989 and was euthanized in late 2013 at the age of 50 after a malignant tumor was found in her abdomen. The pachyderm was well known for appearing in Bowmanville's annual Santa Claus Parade and several movies. With her death and closure of Toronto Zoo's elephant exhibit, the only zoo in Ontario with elephants is the African Lion Safari.
Two camels, Shawn and Todd, along with Jonas the tiger, went missing for two days on the way home from one of these trips when their trailer, along with the truck pulling it, was stolen near Drummondville, Quebec in 2010. All three were found in good health and returned to the zoo.
The zoo participated in breeding programs for endangered species, and also accepts retired circus animals.
In December 2015, the Bowmanville Zoo owner, Michael Hackenberger was accused by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) of animal cruelty. PETA released a video taken secretly which showed Hackenberger cursing and cracking a whip numerous times at a young Siberian tiger named Uno.
In response to PETA's allegations, Hackenberger released his own video statement. In it, he asserts that although his "language is atrocious and I apologize for that," "PETA, once again, is lying." He stated that only two of the 19 cracks of the whip shown in the video struck the tiger, with the remainder striking either the air or the ground immediately adjacent to the tiger. He also challenged PETA to release the full length of the video taken.
Earlier in 2015, Hackenberger was filmed on live television swearing at a baboon for failing to complete a trick, which involved its jumping off the back of a miniature pony.
On April 13, 2016, as a result of the video of Michael Hackenberger whipping the leashed tiger, five animal cruelty charges were brought against him. The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says it began investigating alleged abuse at the Bowmanville Zoo immediately after reviewing the footage that emerged in December. The agency said the zoo's owner, Michael Hackenberger, was charged with four counts of causing an animal distress; causing an animal distress by striking the animal with a whip handle, causing an animal distress by repeatedly striking an animal with a whip, causing an animal to be in distress by striking the animal in the face with a whip, and causing an animal distress by pushing his thumb into the animals eye. The last charge was one of failing to comply with the prescribed standards of care for an animal. Three of the distress charges relate to the use of a whip, and one related to Hackenberger pushing his thumb into the tigers eye. The OSPCA said it would continue to conduct inspections of the zoo and continue to closely monitor the animals there.
On March 23, 2017, the charges against Michael Hackenberger were judicially stayed. They were automatically withdrawn 1 year later, on March 23, 2018. Mr. Hackenberger always maintained his innocence. In fact, Mr. Hackenberger was, and is, legally innocent, as accused persons are all innocent until proven guilty.
On June 23, 2016, the zoo announced that it would close its doors at the end of the 2016 season, just three years short of its 100-year anniversary which was to occur in 2019. Zoo officials announced that the closure would occur as a result of financial issues caused by a catastrophic decline in attendance following the zoo's owner being charged with animal cruelty. The zoo officially closed its doors on October 10, 2016.