April 23, 2015 - 4:33 PM
KELOWNA – It appears mounting and compounding problems for a reptile and exotic animal exhibition will mean the end for Croc Talk in Kelowna.
The east Kelowna facility doesn’t have a business licence, faces numerous city bylaw infractions, has given up several animals to the SPCA, others have been confiscated by conservation officers or lost, and mounting hydroelectricity bills threaten to put the remaining animals at risk.
Owner Doug Illman first offered an interview but later ignored requests to contact him for this story. He said on the Croc-Talk Facebook page, in a post that has since been removed, the lack of income is having an impact where it hurts most.
“The animals need to eat and bills continue,” he wrote earlier this month in a 400-word complaint about the city bylaw department and numerous fines he's been issued. “I don't understand why the City of Kelowna bylaw-planning dept is focusing on the destruction of CrocTalk… and putting all our animals at risk by refusing a simple business license.”
Kelowna bylaw officer Greg Wise confirmed the City of Kelowna has refused to issue Croc Talk a business licence and they are actively investigating because the facility is on land that isn’t zoned for the current use. Wise refused to provide more information because “things may be going to court” but confirmed Illman “failed to meet regulatory approvals to renew his licence.”
Conservation Officer Barb Leslie says since last July, Illman has been prohibited from showing any of his controlled species — crocodiles, caimans, African wild cats and tortoises — but continued hosting guided tours until January.
“He was told he is not allowed to display any of his controlled alien species under his present permit,” she says. “As of January of this year he is complying."
She confirmed they seized six animals housed at CrocTalk in January 2015.
“He turned over two toads and four... turtles that are classified as native wildlife to the conservation officer service.”
Earlier this week, Illman gave up three pigs to the SPCA because he couldn’t afford to feed them anymore.
“Doug reached out to us for help and I think that’s commendable,” Kelowna SPCA manager Suzanne Pugh says.
On Feb. 21, his Bengal cat Bagheera went missing and still hasn’t been found.
Last October, Illman put out a public plea for help to pay utility bills of $8,000 after Fortis cut power to the facility. But as the problems grow, Illman refuses to give up. Last year, he sought public donations to cover the utility bills and he has now set up another crowdfunding page to help raise funds from the public. He has also considered moving the facility elsewhere.
CrocTalk remains unrecognized by CAZA, the federal agency responsible for certifying a facility as a zoo or aquarium, and without the approval of the city that is not going to change.
“The ball is in their court,” Wise says. “They need to find a new location.”
To contact the reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-718-0428. To contact the editor, email email@example.com or call 250-718-2724.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015