Though the coronavirus has disrupted many annual initiatives and goals across the globe, the Greater Vancouver Zoo was still able to maintain conservation commitments amidst the pandemic.
Animal care manager Menita Prasad told the Aldergrove Star that endangered species are a near constant discussion for exotic animals, but we often forget the work done in our own backyard.
“Along with our head starting programs we are also involved in the Species Survival Plan (SSP) which is an international effort to save threatened and endangered wildlife, and the local Salmon River Restoration Program with the help of many dedicated partners,” Presad explained.
Wildlife Preservation Canada (WPC), along with the Greater Vancouver Zoo and other local and national partners, are working to protect species at risk, with some BC natives being the Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly, Oregon Spotted Frog, and iconic Western Painted Turtle.
“We help these animals in three main ways: captive breeding, head-starting, and habitat restoration/maintenance. Habitat loss from urban development and invasive species means the wild populations don’t have enough areas to breed or live, so captive breeding and habitat restoration go hand in hand for supporting their recovery,” Presad said.
Head-starting is when the babies are reared until they are deemed old enough to survive in the wild and then released into their protected habitats.
She noted that 786 caterpillars were released on Hornby Island this year, which metamorphosed into butterflies, marking the first time in 20 years that these butterflies have flown in that area.
A potential 1353 caterpillars are ready for next year’s release which will continue to bolster these wild populations.
The Oregon Spotted Frog and Western Painted Turtle projects had similar successes with 1,458 tadpoles, 505 adult frogs, and 146 turtles released in 2020.
“One unexpected challenge that the Western Painted Turtles faced were high floods in the mating season this spring,” Presad noted. “Usually, any flooding is done before the turtles lay their eggs, but this year had uncharacteristically late and high floods that almost washed away wild egg clutches and required quick action to move them to higher ground.”
Greater Vancouver Zoo announced plans in 2020 to spend up to $20 million on a four-phased revamp to turn its current Aldergrove facility into a “zoo of the future.”
The zoo’s old entrance was demolished in April to make room for a much larger admissions entrance, corresponding gift shop, staff offices, and public washrooms.
General Manager Serge Lussier added that the evolution of the zoo will show even more over the new year, many projects are underway or will be shortly and expects 2021 to be the zoo’s best year yet.
“The pandemic caused all of us difficulties to overcome and we still must protect ourselves and others. A priority for me was to offer a safe one-way walk into an open-air park with experiences and discoveries along the way,” Lussier explained. “It was the support from our zoo community that allowed us to persevere. The popularity of the zoo grew with the feeling of connecting to nature, because nature will always offer us solace by reminding us of what is important.”
By 2021, Lussier wants to “create a piece of Africa in the heart of B.C.” in the form of sprawling open acreage that will serve to expand zoo animals’ enclosures.
Presad added that expanding support networks with groups like the Denman Island Conservancy and an active interest by locals and landowners to help maintain and create suitable habitats for these animals has made a world of difference.
More information can be found at gvzoo.com.
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