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Ontario to investigate how kangaroo escaped handlers near Toronto; animal apprehended

A kangaroo that escaped its handlers last week during a pit stop on its journey to Quebec and was seen running loose east of Toronto has been found. A grey kangaroo hops along a hill side at a conservation reserve near Taralga, south west of Sydney, Australia, Aug. 18, 2016.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Rob Griffith

Ontario will investigate a kangaroo's escape from its handlers east of Toronto during a journey to Quebec, the province's solicitor general said Monday as advocates called for stricter regulations to protect captive wildlife.

Michael Kerzner said it's very important to look into how the kangaroo – named Nathan – got away on Thursday during a pit stop at the Oshawa Zoo. The animal was spotted multiple times over the next few days before being caught early Monday.

"The good news is he's safe," Kerzner said.

"And that's very, very important. We're going to look into exactly what transpired with all the circumstances."

Police have said a delivery driver transporting Nathan and another kangaroo last week had made a stop at the Oshawa Zoo so the animals could stretch their legs and Nathan then hopped away.

Details on where exactly the animals were coming from and going to remain unclear. The Oshawa Zoo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Michèle Hamers, the wildlife campaign manager for the advocacy group World Animal Protection Canada, said Monday she's glad the province is investigating and hopes "something good comes out of it."

Hamers said the kangaroo escape highlights what she called major gaps in laws and regulations around captive wildlife.

"There are so many outstanding questions and this will continue to happen until we have better regulations in the province," she said in a phone interview.

She said zoos in Ontario currently are not required to have a licence to display exotic animals, and it is not mandatory for them to follow an official protocol on how animals are transported across the province and country.

"A kangaroo escaped, next time it could be a lion, who knows, because there's no oversight and no monitoring of this trade at all," she said.

"I know zoo owners that have transported crocodiles in the back of their car."

She said stricter legislation can also ensure zoos meet the highest standard of animal welfare and public health and safety.

"It's really time for the government to step up and to solve this once and for all," she said.

Dolf DeJong, CEO of the Toronto Zoo, also called on the province to strengthen its animal protection laws.

"This is a clear example of how many animals are falling through the cracks and end up in harm’s way," DeJong wrote in a statement on Monday.

"We strongly urge the Government of Ontario to enforce the existing and further strengthen regulations to truly protect exotic animals currently in unaccredited roadside zoos and in private ownership."

– With files from Liam Casey.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2023.

Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press

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