STATEMENT - Extreme measure to move caribou herd to the zoo shows scale of crisis in Quebec's forests

Press release - April 25, 2017
24 April 2017 (MONTRÉAL) — Greenpeace, l’Action boréale and the David Suzuki Foundation are dumbfounded by the Québec government’s decision to relocate the last few woodland caribou from Québec’s Val-d'Or region to a zoo 400 kilometres away.

Environmental groups respond to the Québec government’s decision to move the Val-d’Or caribou to the Saint-Félicien zoo

24 April 2017 (MONTRÉAL) — Greenpeace, l’Action boréale and the David Suzuki Foundation are dumbfounded by the Québec government’s decision to relocate the last few woodland caribou from Québec’s Val-d'Or region to a zoo 400 kilometres away.

This decision sets a dangerous precedent for all endangered species in Québec and in Canada. While the herd of endangered animals remain in their habitat, the Quebec and federal governments have legal responsibilities to protect them - under both the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) and Quebec’s caribou recovery plan. Although the government may describe the move as an extreme but necessary step, it looks more like abandoning responsibility for protecting this species in the wild, perhaps as a precursor for the expansion of forestry and other industrial development into the area.

Environmental groups representing the voices of concerned Quebecers are calling on the government not move these caribou to a zoo and to consider all possible steps to strengthen protection of the species, its habitat and the biodiversity of the entire boreal forest across the province to avoid similar crises in the future.

The fate of this herd and the disappearance of a keystone species from forests that have sustained them for millennia must serve as a political wake-up call. The circumstances in Val-d'Or highlight the danger of delaying action to protect remaining caribou habitat. As habitat is destroyed and animal numbers decline, so do chances of survival.

Although the Canadian government released the boreal woodland caribou recovery strategy under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) nearly 5 years ago, concrete action at the provincial level has been lacking. The strategy developed a threshold of risk for managing caribou and set guidelines to maintain or restore each herd range. This science, coupled with Indigenous knowledge, urgently needs to be applied on the ground in places like the Montagnes Blanches and Broadback Valley, so that the demise of this herd and its forest habitat is not repeated elsewhere.

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Notes to editors:

  • Woodland caribou are a key indicator of the boreal forest’s health overall. Its effective conservation maintains vital freshwater sources, carbon stores and habitats for a range of other species.
  • The Quebec government estimates that between 6,000 and 9,000 Woodland caribou still live in herds scattered across the province but that there are only about 15 remaining in the Val-d’Or herd.
  • According to the Quebec government, a minimum of 50 caribou are necessary to ensure the stability of a herd, and the Val-d'Or herd is far below this with little hope currently of increasing its numbers in the wild.
  • Woodland caribou face many threats including disease and climate change, but disturbances caused by humans, primarily logging activities, have been identified as the most important cause of caribou decline.
  • The woodland caribou is listed as “threatened” under Canada’s Species at Risk Act and Ontario’s Endangered Species Act, and it is listed as “vulnerable” under Québec’s Act Respecting Threatened and Vulnerable Species. Globally the species is listed as “vulnerable” by the IUCN Red List, meaning it is “considered to be facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.”
  • Located north of Quebec City near Lac Saint-Jean, the Saint-Félicien zoo is a 485 hectare complex where large North American mammals roam free. However, Environment Canada states in their Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou documentation that the threshold size for a caribou herd is defined as 50,000 hectares.
  • In 2015, nineteen caribou died suddenly at this zoo.
  • Woodland caribou require large areas of mature undisturbed forest for their survival, but each year the cumulative impact from industrial disturbances to their forest homes further threaten this species.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Philippa Duchastel de Montrouge, Greenpeace Canada, 514-929-8227,

Diego Creimer, Communications, David Suzuki Foundation, 514-999-6743

Henri Jacob, president of l’Action boréale de l’Abitibi et Témiscamingue, 819-738-5261,

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