What started as an exciting opportunity for the B.C. Wildlife Park has developed into an animal rights conflict after an online petition was generated to release Clover the Kermode bear back into the wild.
The rare bear, also known as a spirit bear and known for its cream-coloured coat, arrived at the park Oct. 24. It has since been the subject of news headlines and controversy because it's the only known Kermode bear in captivity. It also escaped from the park once already, forcing conservation officers to tranquilize the bear in public and bring it back to the park.
Most recently, a petition started in early November to release the bear back into the wild.
About 550 people have contributed to the petition that was posted by Kamloops resident Ruth Madsen.
Support has been posted on the site spanning from Abbotsford, B.C. to Dublin, Ireland.
A post generated by a user from Kamloops named Wendy Vallaster said, “The bear should be in its own environment, in the wild, breeding with other bears.”
Lifeforce, a non-profit ecological group that raises awareness of the interrelationship between people, animals and the environment, has shown support for the petition.
"The petition is important," said the latest news release regarding Clover put out by Peter Hamilton, the founding director of the group. "It shows the growing local and international opposition to the inhumane imprisonment of the Spirit Bear."
On Nov. 1 a post was published on the Lifeforce website encouraging people to 'help save the spirit bear taken to a zoo' with two open letters available directed at Premier Christy Clark and the opposition's NDP leader Adrian Dix.
"The zoo would make a lot of money off this rare bear," it read.
Glen Grant, general manager of the B.C. Wildlife Park, said there are a lot of misconceptions about Clover.
"I wish those people who are activists or are filing petitions would get the facts straight first," he said noting that the history of the bear should also be considered.
He said Clover is underweight and habituated to human contact.
"There's a lot of proof that a fed bear is a dead bear. He doesn't have the weight on him or fat content on him to survive the winter. Releasing him would be a death sentence," Grant said.
"I believe he never will be released," he added. "I can't see any reason why any organization would want him to be released to put him in a situation that would put him to his demise."
— Jessica Wallace