Zebras adjusting to life in Moncton zoo after being seized in Saskatchewan

The zebras are currently under observation, living in a pen with a heated barn. (Zoo de Magnetic Hill Zoo/Facebook  - image credit)
The zebras are currently under observation, living in a pen with a heated barn. (Zoo de Magnetic Hill Zoo/Facebook - image credit)

A pair of zebras have found a permanent home in New Brunswick after a wild year that saw them smuggled across the Canadian border, seized by officials in Saskatchewan and eventually transported across the country to Moncton.

Koffee, a young male, and LeeLoo, a young female, were part of a group of five zebras illegally brought into Canada in June of 2023. All five were initially moved into a zoo in Saskatoon. But with two males in the herd, it wasn't an ideal situation.

In the wild, herds of plains zebras have "one single male with a harem of females" and having two males is "not a social grouping that is natural or possible" as they are territorial and will likely fight, said Jill Marvin, director of Magnetic Hill Zoo.

Marvin said zoos often work together, and she immediately saw an opportunity.

Moncton's Zoo Director Jill Marvin says Koffee and LeeLoo will be the ambassadors for their specie at the Magnetic Hill Zoo.
Moncton's Zoo Director Jill Marvin says Koffee and LeeLoo will be the ambassadors for their specie at the Magnetic Hill Zoo.

Zoo director Jill Marvin says Koffee and LeeLoo will be ambassadors for their species for visitors. (Rhythm Rathi/CBC)

Magnetic Hill Zoo already had a suitable habitat, she said, but their last zebra had died of heart failure in January.

"I think they're strikingly beautiful," she said of the new arrivals.

Since the zebras arrival Mitchell says they've been working very closely with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine and that the health and wellbeing of the animals is priority number one.
Since the zebras arrival Mitchell says they've been working very closely with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine and that the health and wellbeing of the animals is priority number one.

Jeff Mitchell, operations manager at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo, visited Moncton to see Koffee and LeeLoo in June. (Liam O'Connor)

Across the country in Saskatoon, Jeff Mitchell at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park & Zoo, has been following the progress of Koffee and LeeLoo closely after taking care of them the past year. He even visited Moncton on his vacation last month to check in on them.

WATCH | Koffee and LeeLoo move into Magnetic Hill Zoo: 

"They have a huge new exhibit space with an indoor area.... They are right next to some Watusi cattle, so they're learning the new Watusi," he said with a laugh.

"They were doing great and I was really happy to see that."

New life in Magnetic Hill

Koffee and LeeLoo are still adjusting to their new environment and will be able to run across the yard in a few weeks.
Koffee and LeeLoo are still adjusting to their new environment and will be able to run across the yard in a few weeks.

Koffee and LeeLoo are still adjusting to their new environment and will be able to run across the yard in a few weeks. (Rhythm Rathi/CBC)

Magnetic Hill Zoo caretaker Melanie Prince has been working with the zebras since they arrived in early June.

Zebras are known to be nervous and always on alert, but Koffee and LeeLoo are doing well and already have a close bond, she said. Koffee is the curious one, while LeeLoo follows him around.

They are living in a small pen with a heated barn but will soon have access to their entire yard and will meet their yard mates, the African Watusi cows.

The zoo plans to eventually introduce the zebras to their new yardmates - the African Watusi cows.
The zoo plans to eventually introduce the zebras to their new yardmates - the African Watusi cows.

The zoo plans to eventually introduce the zebras to their new yard mates, African Watusi cows. (Rhythm Rathi/CBC)

Mitchell said they're also getting used to their new neighbours down the path from their pen.

"They heard lions roaring for the first time, and so the zebra were really excited and kind of wondering what was going on," he said. "It's really neat to hear all those types of things."

The zebras have a heated barn they can access during the winters.
The zebras have a heated barn they can access during the winters.

The zebras have a heated barn they can access during winter. (Rhythm Rathi/CBC)

Marvin said the new zebras will be ambassadors for their species for visitors to the zoo. She said unfortunately there is a lot of wildlife smuggling, and zoos play an important role in caring for animals like LeeLoo and Koffee.

"These are animals that are not pets," she said. "The reason that the zoo has them here is because we want to raise awareness about how we can protect these animals out in the wild."