- Associated Press - Sunday, July 6, 2014

ROANOKE, Va. (AP) - An animal advocacy group is targeting the Mill Mountain Zoo in its campaign to draw attention to animals used for entertainment.

Roanoke Animal Advocates plans to protest at the zoo on July 12, a day after the zoo holds a fundraiser.

The 35-member group wants the zoo to close and the animals to be sent to sanctuaries, Susan Thomas, who formed the group in January, told The Roanoke Times ((https://bit.ly/1zhUCKc ).

Thomas, a professor at Hollins University, said she would prefer to see a camp for children or more hiking paths on Mill Mountain.

“It comes down to a philosophical argument,” Ray-Eric Correia, Mill Mountain Mill Mountain Zoo’s executive director, told the newspaper. “These folks are well-meaning and don’t think zoos should exist at all. We believe they serve a purpose.”

The nonprofit Mill Mountain Zoo serves three purposes -conservation, education and recreation, he said.

Mill Mountain Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and it works with the association on species survival plans to propagate species that are in danger of extinction. Twenty-one of the 65 species at the zoo are at risk, he said.

None of the zoo’s 163 animals were taken from the wild.

“The zoo does not define itself as an attraction,” Correia said. “The exhibits tell the story of animals at risk. The animals serve as ambassadors of their counterparts in the wild.”

Andy Clingempeel, a member of Roanoke Animal Advocates, said he is attempting to secure the necessary permits from the city for the protest.

“It’s an ethical issue,” he told the newspaper. “I have come to believe as a species that it is not our right to imprison other animals in any way, shape or form.”

While his views differ from the group’s views, Correia said, “we all go to sleep at night with the same concern: the health and safety of the animals.”

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Information from: The Roanoke Times, https://www.roanoke.com


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