Thursday 4 February 2016

Happy Birthday, Saskatoon Zoo Society!

The Saskatoon Zoo Society is 40 years old!

The Society, a non-profit organization, was founded in 1976 to provide educational opportunities based around the wildlife at the Saskatoon Zoo. “If you’re going to keep animals behind bars,” explains Greg Fenty, the Society’s Education Coordinator, “you want people to learn about them.”

Today, the Saskatoon Zoo Society and its volunteers conduct more than 500 programs per year with over 30,000 participants. Programs range from pre-school sessions to summer camps. There are programs for school classes and the Saskatoon Young Naturalists, co-sponsored by the Saskatoon Nature Society, offers outings and activities for 5-11 year olds. (A 2011 interview with Greg Fenty provides additional information about the programs the Society offers.)

Volunteer Power 
With only a small number of staff, the Zoo Society credits its success to its enthusiastic volunteers who fill a variety of roles:

Special Event Volunteers help with selling tickets, parking, food preparation, and supervising activities at special events, such as Family Day at the Zoo and the Zoo Run.

Volunteer Interpreters share informative displays with the public and have some opportunities to handle the socialized animals.

Members are needed to fill a variety of positions on the Board of Directors. They’re elected at the Annual General Meeting in March of each year.

If you are interested in volunteering this summer, register now to attend the Volunteer Orientation session on May 25, 2016.

Financial Support 
One of the easiest and most valuable ways to support the Saskatoon Zoo Society is by becoming a member. You’ll be able to visit the Zoo for free and will receive a member’s discount for Society-sponsored programs.

You can raise funds and stay fit by participating in the Zoo Run, a 5-kilometer fun run or 2.5 kilometer walk around the park. Funds raised support the Society’s environmental education programs. The 2016 Zoo Run will be held on April 24

A third option is to Adopt-a-Critter.

Environmental Leadership
A recent study indicates that zoos do far more than just entertain us. They also raise awareness of biodiversity and how to protect animals and their habitats:

“For the first time, there is strong evidence that many people leave these attractions not just with greater awareness but also a better understanding of biodiversity and conservation …. the challenge for zoos and aquariums now is how to use these findings to directly improve the conservation of biodiversity, because it’s important to remember that an increase in knowledge does not necessarily lead to a change in behavior. The next equally important step should be to build on this knowledge to promote pro-conservation behaviour and social change.” 

Zoos also serve as role models for environmental sustainability and promote wildlife conservation. For example:

The Calgary Zoo helped bring black-footed ferrets back to Canada and is leading research on Canada’s only remaining black-tailed prairie dog population.

The Toronto Zoo plans to use animal waste to fuel a 500 Kw biogas facility.

The Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre in Sidney, BC, invites the public to become citizen scientists by sharing information and photos of the species living in the local waters.

The Veterinary Medical Centre at the Oregon Zoo has received LEED Gold certification.

The Santa Barbara Zoo uses solar panels to power the gorilla bedrooms and giraffe barn and is working with partner organizations to protect endangered species, such as the California condor.

Happy Birthday 
Happy Birthday, Saskatoon Zoo Society! And thank you for the important work that you are doing in our community. We look forward to seeing what you will accomplish in the next 40 years.

Photo Credits: Saskatoon Zoo Society and Shelley Ballard McKinlay