Croc Talk owners face Wildife Act charges

The beleaguered owners of a defunct exotic animal refuge are facing a new round of troubles.

The beleaguered owners of a defunct exotic animal refuge are facing a new round of troubles.

Doug Illman and Brenda Bruce closed down Croc Talk last year, and now they are facing a series of charges under the provincial Wildlife Act.

Illman alone faces five charges from section 108.5 of the act, which largely has to do with the licensing requirements related to having exotic animals.

Illman and Bruce together face a series of charges under section 33.1, which has to do with attracting dangerous wildlife.

Illman declined a request to be interviewed by the Capital News on his latest series of troubles, but in the past he’s been upfront about his struggles with finances, finding appropriate shelter for the creatures he housed and convincing varying levels of government to grant licences so he could operate the zoo.

The outlook wasn’t always so dire.

Illman opened the facility in 2002, with the intention to promote conservation efforts for crocodilians, African wild cats and tortoises through educational events called “Croc Talks.”

From its inception it proved popular with visitors, but financially and legally it was less loveable. As Illman said himself on a number of occasions, the bills kept rolling in while the dollars raised never matched.

Thinkgs kept getting worse, and by 2012 the operation looked completely untenable.

Looking at a bill of $4,000 in 2012, Illman went so  far as to say he’d consider putting his creatures down if he didn’t raise funds, prompting some questions about the legitimacy of the business.

“I’m not going to Mexico; I haven’t been on a holiday in 20 years. Any income that comes in to Croc Talk, goes to Croc Talk,” Illman told a Capital News reporter at the time.

“It costs me $8,000 a month to operate this facility.”

That money provides veterinarian costs, utilities, the building lease, insurance, food and dietitian needs for the animals.

Fundraising efforts saved the day, but not for long.

By the start of 2015 the east Kelowna facility was in dire straights, having lost its business licence with the city and several of its creatures to conservation officers. Illman was even being evicted.

By summer it was shutting its doors and shipping animals off to other refuges across the country.

Illman has maintained that he opened the facility with the best of intentions, and he never got a break.