Reptile refuge downsizes after caiman deaths

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November/December 2010:


SURREY, B.C.–Urban Safari Rescue Society and Cinemazoo
Animal Agency founder Gary Oliver on November 23, 2010 agreed to
reduce by about a third the number of animals housed at the former
Rainforest Reptile Refuge.
The Urban Safari Rescue Society came under investigation by
the British Columbia SPCA after three caimans died of suspected

BC/SPCA senior animal protection officer Eileen Drever told
Tracy Holmes of the Peace Arch News that the BC/SPCA will accept
about 25 snakes, gecko lizards, and turtles, mostly red-eared
sliders. The BC/SPCA may kill those who cannot be placed with
“approved rescues,” Drever said. “By order of the Ministry of
Environment, 21 controlled alien species–including alligators and
venomous snakes–are being donated to a facility in Drumheller,
Alberta,” Holmes added.
Said Oliver, “I’m backed into a corner, without a doubt,
for many reasons: for the circumstances of the facility not being
adequate enough to house the animals, and not having enough
volunteers or money.”
Lack of volunteers and money have handicapped the project
from the beginning. Former Calgary Zoo and Edmonton Valley Zoo
reptile caretaker Clarence Schramm and his wife, dairy hand turned
animal advocate Christine Schramm, cofounded the Rainforest Reptile
Refuge Society in a two-bedroom apartment in 1986. In 1992 they
leased the present location, a former convenience store situated a
mile north of the truck route border crossing between Blaine,
Washington, and Surrey, British Columbia.
For the next eight years the Schramms lived in a travel
trailer parked behind the building. Clarence Schramm subsidized the
operation as a gardener at a nearby nursery; Christine Schramm was
an around-the-clock curator, talking constantly to the animals, who
often startled visitors with their ability to recognize and respond
to their names and basic commands.
Donations and sales of toys and t-shirts to visitors never
came close to covering the cost of heating, animal food, and
veterinary care, the Schramms told ANIMAL PEOPLE. But they
established a reputation for running one of the best herpetological
rescue facilities in the world, and accommodated parrots as well,
plus a few formerly feral cats and a pair of stray dogs who just
wandered in and stayed.
The Schramms split in 2000. Revenue Canada filings show that
Christine Schramm built revenues to $123,461 by 2003, paying herself
$35,000, but operations cost $135,896.
On departure Christine Schramm turned the Rainforest Reptile
Refuge Society over to a committee of volunteers. Revenue fell to
$88,816 and $92,339 during the next two years. For 2006 the
Rainforest Reptile Refuge Society submitted a Charity Information
Return including no financial figures. In September 2007 it closed
to visitors. On December 13, 2008 the Revenue Canada Charities
Directorate revoked the Rainforest Reptile Refuge’s charitable status
due to failure to file a Charity Information Return.
Meanwhile Gary Oliver founded the Cinemazoo Animal Agency in
1988, exhibiting a variety of reptiles, birds, insects, and small
mammals at “birthday parties, schools, petting zoos and information
booths,” according to the Cinemazoo web site. As the Rainforest
Reptile Refuge Society collapsed, Oliver in July 2007 formed the
Urban Safari Rescue Society, with an entirely different board of
directors, and eventually took over the Rainforest Reptile Refuge
About 100 animals will remain at the refuge, Oliver told
Holmes of the Peace Arch News, but it is not expected to reopen to

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