Your Country, Your Story: from Germany to a zoo in Central Saanich

In 1951, Brigitte Bauersach Wolff’s family, which included Brigitte’s parents, she and her husband, two sisters and a brother, arrived in Canada.

They had come from Germany, but they had no money to pay their passage.

“So we had to stay in Montreal, Lachine, two years, and work, to pay our fare back” explains Brigitte.

“And my father and my husband could build houses, and so, after we had a bit of money saved, then we figured, it’s time to go to Vancouver Island.”

The family bought thirty-six acres in Central Saanich, and in 1957 opened Rudy’s Zoo.

It was a true family operation.

“My dad” says Brigitte’s son Heiko, “he would get up in the morning, clean out the monkey pen before he went to work.”

Heiko’s brother Frank nods his head in agreement.

“We were always working” says Frank, “feeding animals, or cleaning pens, doing something, even as kids we were doing something.”

“We had lots of lots of visitors” says Brigitte, “from the States, and from Canada.

“In the summertime we took in good money. In the wintertime, we were always broke! Nobody came!

“When it’s raining and messy outside, people don’t come” Brigitte adds with an understanding smile.

Where did the animals come from?

Some came from the Calgary Zoo, from Vancouver’s Stanley Park Zoo, and, explains Brigitte, “we got some from Portland, and some from Europe, we had loggers…they brought us baby bears, and cougars.”

Brigitte explains that her animals were tame – and photos of her sister in the lion cage, in her wedding dress, certainly illustrate that point!

“She had her wedding pictures taken in the lion cage…and in the end he was so frustrated, he ripped her dress. Ha ha ha!”

By the late 60’s, Brigitte’s father Rudy was very ill. The family closed Rudy’s Zoo in 1970.

Most of the animals went to the Vancouver Game Farm in Aldergrove, “except special ones where Disney came and picked up” says Brigitte.

Brigette is grateful for the life Canada has given her family.

“Canada was very good to us. We love Canada. We always did.”