Sweeping changes will be implemented at the Calgary Zoo in light of several high-profile animal deaths, but a critic says the problems begin and end at the top of the organization.

The 36-point action plan comes after a scathing report released Thursday by an independent review panel. It said the number of human error-related animal deaths at the zoo in recent years has been trending upwards and is “significantly greater” than other North American facilities.

Communication breakdowns, improper training, failure to follow policies and procedures, and aging facilities were only part of the criticisms levied by the report, which also pointed out the zoo may have been too caught up in trying to enhance visitor experiences.

Despite the proposed action plan, Zoocheck Canada spokesperson Julie Woodyer said nothing at the zoo will change until the head of the organization — president and CEO Dr. Clement Lanthier — resigns his post.

“Problems start at the top and roll down, and this is something where changes are needed at the top and it starts with him,” she said.

Furthermore, she wants to see the zoo’s accreditation revoked until the changes are made.

Lanthier did dispute some of the report’s conclusions, but overall he agreed with the report and said the zoo’s first priority will be “not to let the animals down.”

“It is not possible for me to promise there will be no other mistakes again, but the ... plan is to minimize the likelihood of avoidable mortality,” Lanthier said.

He said the zoo’s action plan will be implemented over the next year and the popular city attraction will “become the best zoo” it can be.

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