Discovery Wildlife Park won a provincial tourism award for its sustainable practices that include composting animal waste and using solar power.
The 90-acre Innisfail zoo took home the top prize in the Sustainable Tourism category at the 2011 Alberta Tourism Awards, which were presented at the Banff Springs Hotel on Monday night.
“By us setting an example on how to (be sustainable), other people can do it,” said Doug Bos, owner of Discovery Wildlife Park.
“It will reduce the impact on our environment, with our animals and our water. And hopefully it will make a better home for them in the wild.”
The park has taken a number of steps to reduce its ecological footprint, such as building facilities out of materials destined for the landfill, installing some compost toilets and using solar power on the electric fences. It also runs eco-tours and educational programs for school groups.
Housing the approximately 150 animals is another successful conservation practice, Bos said.
The park has more than 40 different species. Many of the native animals, such as bears, were orphaned in the wild and brought to the zoo by Alberta Sustainable Resources.
Exotic species — like tigers and an alligator — have come from other zoos facing closure.
Bos plans to continue exploring sustainable initiatives, such as expanding the park’s use of solar power and creating a large public washroom with only compost toilets and water-free urinals.
The Alberta Tourism Awards, also known as the Altos, were presented in conjunction with the Travel Alberta Industry Conference.
Tourism Parks and Recreation Minister Jack Hayden presented the awards, which covered nine different categories from excellence in service, marketing and an individual ambassador award. Winners were determined by an independent evaluation of 24 industry volunteer judges.
This is the second Alto Award for Discovery Wildlife Park. The Central Alberta zoo won for marketing excellence up to $25,000 in 2007.
Discovery Wildlife Park is currently closed for the season and will reopen on May 1. They get about 30,000 per year.
Bos said updates and videos of the animals will be posted to the parks’ Facebook page over the winter.