Murchison, TEXAS—A group of exotic wild animals who spent their lives at a deplorable roadside zoo in Canada are now receiving proper care and living their happily-ever-after at the 1,400-acre Black Beauty Ranch, a sanctuary that is part of the Humane Society of the United States. The animals include a family of kangaroos named Ross, Rachel, Joey and Chandler, two tigers, a lion, a zebra, a wildebeest, a nilgai and an emu.
In 2019, Humane Society International rescued over 200 wild exotic animals from decrepit, barren and disturbing conditions at an unaccredited facility in Canada. In 2021, the former owner of the Saint-Édouard Zoo pleaded guilty to animal welfare violations relating to how and where the animals were kept, including inadequate and unsanitary facilities, and lack of veterinary care. They were ultimately able to go to Black Beauty and other accredited facilities.
Kelly Donithan, director of animal disaster response for Humane Society International, was part of that three-month rescue operation and explained, “It was like most roadside zoos—to a visitor it may have seemed okay as most of the cruelty was hidden from paying customers. But we saw failing, dangerous fences and cages, chewed stalls holding malnourished and lonely animals, dead animals just below the soil, and animals who need to be in social groups anxious and alone. Down the dark corridor of a dilapidated, dank barn, through the pervasive spider webs and air thick with ammonia and dust, we found rows of stalls with isolated animals including a zebra, wildebeest, kangaroos, and so many others. A big cat ‘house’ was basically a shed over a filthy cement floor with enclosures fraught with unsafe and weakened spots from the cats’ chewing on them.”
Noelle Almrud, senior director of Black Beauty Ranch, said, “These animals will never be neglected or have to face darkness ever again. They are receiving all of the proper care they deserve, and now have the opportunity to relax in the sun or under a tree, graze in the tall grass, play, enjoy a proper diet and plenty of treats, and be the wild animals they are.”
The animals from the rescue who are now living at Black Beauty include:
- Kangaroo family Rachel, Ross, Joey, and Chandler, who were named by the rescue team, who are all avid fans of the television series Friends. Found in a tiny, dark indoor pen huddled together, Ross and Rachel are now exploring their new home and are very laid-back, curious and friendly. Joey (“Jo Jo”), their young female offspring, was barely a year old when they were rescued and had never seen sunlight. Now she is learning to trust her caregivers and starting to willingly go up to the gate to get treats from them. Young Chandler never experienced the neglect his parents and sister went through, having still been in the pouch upon arrival. He now weighs a healthy 120 pounds.
- Tigers Serenity and Theodora, both about seven years old, were housed together when they were rescued, and share their large yard at Black Beauty. They are very affectionate with each other and greet the staff with chuffs and rubs along their fence. Theodora enjoys staring at her reflection in her pool and Serenity loves to keep an eye on Zuko the zebra in his pasture across the way.
- Douala the lioness, estimated to be four years old, is at a healthy weight of 330 pounds and has won the hearts of the sanctuary care staff. She loves sitting on her platform and greeting her caregivers at the fence when they arrive with treats.
- Once living in the dark trying to chew his way out of his tight enclosure, Zuko the zebra is thriving and “spunky,” say his caregivers. He is curious and likes to herd his two close addax friends.
- Wolfgang the wildebeest is still learning to trust his caregivers who report that he likes to lounge near Zuko and relax in the shade on hot Texas days and explore his expansive habitat.
- Norman the nilgai is very laid back and has made a friend with Nigel, the other nilgai living at Black Beauty.
- Nemu is a very curious emu and is often seen hanging out in his large pasture with Lily, a bighorn sheep. He follows other emus around but hasn't joined the group quite yet.
Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States and CEO of Humane Society International, said, “Roadside zoos put profit over public safety and the welfare of animals. No animal should be forced to languish in deplorable conditions. At Black Beauty Ranch, these animals are finally getting a chance to be themselves and express their natural behaviors. That nightmare is finally over for them.”