Sunday, May 15, 2011


There are several surprising things about Killman Zoo.

Firstly, it is home to one of the largest collections of big cats in Ontario.

Secondly, despite this first point, it has almost no signposting. My GPS unit point blank didn't believe it existed and tried taking us to a school instead; the only location of note it could detect in the rural fields around Hamilton's tiny airport. Google maps did acknowledge the zoo's existence and took us down a rough gravel track where we eventually saw a small square sign directly opposite its entrance. The website for the zoo describes it as "truly one of Ontario's best-kept secrets". Evidently, they're completely serious about that.

Thirdly, several of the cages contained two cats of different species. A female lion and tiger shared a run and a cougar with a lion. Everyone seemed okay with this....

Finally, it has possibly the most unfortunate name for a place containing large carnivorous animals. Since its founder was a man named Murry Killman, the origin of said name is understandable, but I think in such a circumstance I might have changed my name to Willnotkillman.

The animals are housed in cages that look like they've been cobbled together out of salvaged wood. In fact, the whole area has the feel of a animal rescue centre, except for the fact the pens contained GIANT MAN EATING CATS rather than, you know, raccoons. On the other hand, maybe Hamilton is frequently plagued by wild jaguars and the zoo is just very good at rounding them up. It would explain why the local Canadian football team is known as the Tiger-cats.

In addition to lions, tigers, cougars, jaguars and panthers, the zoo is home to a bear, emus, pigs, turkeys and a whole bunch of bunny rabbits. Evidently, there had been some concern for the fate of said fluffy bunnies, since there were large signs all around the zoo stating 'we do not use live prey'. Since there was one pen that was labelled 'African porcupine' but now seemed to consist only of rabbits, this precaution might have been introduced for the reverse reason than most would presume. 

The cages themselves appeared not to be terribly big which left you with the mixed feelings of pleasure at being so close to the animals mingled with concern for their welfare. However, a closer inspection showed that the cages interlinked to give a more respectable sized run, and each cage had a door into one of the large open areas that were alternately occupied by the zoo's inhabitants. Nevertheless, the website indicates that not everyone is satisfied with this solution since it lists warnings to PETA and Zoo Check that Killman Zoo is private property.  To me, the cats looked healthy and one suspects if they were very unhappy, those cages wouldn't hold them for long. Undoubtedly though, any such containment is a hard moral call.

With me on this trip were a couple of friends and their eight-month old son. While we all admired the cats, the baby's all time favourite site was .... a tree. This was likely due to the meanness of his parents in not letting him stroke the large tiger. With one hand on the tree bark, he looked at me and grinned.'


 I raised an eyebrow. I see the logic kiddo, but your generalisation is too great.

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