Innisfail’s Discovery Wildlife Park says animal care remains its top priority and the efforts of central Albertans to “support local” during the pandemic has made that possible.
“We’ve been very, very fortunate that the level of care we’re providing has not decreased in the slightest. We’re not willing to sacrifice the care of the animals. Care of the animals is first and foremost,” said zookeeper Serena Bos.
“We’re not going to not get hay in. We’re not going to not have the vet do the care they require.”
She said their 19-year-old tiger has arthritis and requires expensive, daily arthritis medication, so that’s what she gets.
Large zoos across Canada have likewise been impacted by the pandemic, but Discovery is smaller with fewer buildings to heat and maintain so overhead costs are lower, she said.
Last year Discovery was restricted to vehicle traffic in May and June and the animals noticed the difference.
“A lot of them could not understand why those people weren’t getting out of the vehicles to come talk to them. They do truly enjoy having the public around. When we were able to open for foot traffic on July I, it was so fun watching the animals watching the people. All the animals just lit up.”
“It’s kind of a win-win. The animals benefit, and visitors can also enjoy the animals.”
She said the park will reopen May 1 one way or the other.
“We do have reason to believe we’ll be able to reopen for foot traffic, not a drive thru. But if the pandemic takes a turn and that’s not possible, we will make accommodations so we can still open and be safe.”
Safe, recycled playground equipment is being installed around the 90-acre park young visitors, she said.
“They don’t have to be near other people. People can come out and can feel safe even though we’re in a pandemic. It’s a wonderful opportunity for people to still be able to actually get outside, do something fun with their families and get to experience wildlife.”
She said in addition to buying season memberships and staying at the park’s campground, people can support the park by donating freezer burnt meat they plan to throw away, refundable bottles and cans, or by making monetary donations.
“It means the world to us. Without people supporting us, we can’t do what we do.”
— with files from The Canadian Press