Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
The Greater Vancouver Zoo has an interesting history that began in 1970 when it was the Vancouver Game Farm, and continued to be until the mid 1990’s. Oddly, what started out as a game farm became a facility that rescues and rehabilitates and releases animals back into the wild when possible. Often, animals cannot be returned to their wild homes, and the zoo now houses many of those animals, including a grizzly bear named “Shadow”. Shadow had been abandoned by her mother and did not learn the skills she would need to survive in the wild, so she stayed with her rescuers at the zoo. Other animals given sanctuary are several cats species, reptiles, and birds often rescued from the illegal pet trade or who were taken as pets and then abandoned.
The zoo is situated on 120 acres, and is home to 600 animals of 135 different species. There are many ways to see the zoo, including quadracycle rentals. It is also a great place to have a picnic, or even a barbeque, and there is a park complete with gazebos and grills for just that purpose. There are also mini train rides offered for the kids.
There are many of the animals you would expect to see at a modern zoo, including rhinos, lions, hippopotamus, and giraffe. There is also a great Artic Section, including Musk Ox enclosure that opened in 2008. Guests can also see the Artic wolf, Artic Fox, Snow Goose and Eurasian Lynx in this area featuring animals who come from the coldest regions. Also unique is the “Animalasium”, and educational training center where conservation focused programs are held and where private parties, such as birthdays or luncheons, can be held.
The Greater Vancouver Zoo places a lot of value on interactions, and to that end offers daily experiences for people to get closer to the animals, or to witness something special, hoping to create a memorable and inspiring experience. The most thrilling of these offerings might be Meet the Big Cats, where guests can watch the tigers and lions being given large chunks of raw meet by their keeper. It’s an opportunity to see the enormous cats up close and to learn from the keeper what it takes to keep them happy in captivity and to help conserve them in the wild. Other exciting experiences include The Giraffe Snack, a hippopotamus feeling and talk, the Lemur Feeding, Camel Talk and a Moose Talk. For reptile lovers, there is also Meet a Reptile, also featuring a related keeper talk.
In addition to the keeper talks that go on throughout the day, there is the fascinating “Radical Raptor Birds of Prey” show, featuring eagles, hawks and falcons flying and diving up to 100 miles per hour. And once day a week, there is the chance to watch a baboon feeding and interaction, but schedules vary. A visitor should also be sure not to miss the striking Scimitar-horned Oryx, thought to be completely extinct in the wild and part of a conservation program at the zoo, and the Eland, the largest of the antelope species. There is also a Children’s Farmyard, for those guests with children who love the hands on experience offered in a petting zoo.
One of the most unique animals at the zoo is “Charlie”, the Southern White Rhinoceros who is the oldest and largest resident. Thought to have been born in 1971, Charlie came to the United States in 1973. The part of Africa from which he arrived is now home to approximately 11,000 Southern White Rhinos, up from a population low of about 50 animals in the 1960’s. The Northern White Rhino, genetically similar but different species, was not so fortunate and at print there are fewer than seven remaining in two parks in the world. Both species of rhino have been hunted relentlessly for their horns, despite anti-poaching laws, which are thought to be medicinal and bring a higher dollar value than gold. Fortunately for Charlie, his very large horn is safe and he will continue to live out the rest of his days with daily belly rubs and mud baths.
While there is plenty to do at the zoo, for guest that want to take their experience to another level there are additional programs offered for an additional cost. Behind the scenes experiences can include visiting the giraffe, lion, tiger, jaguar and hippos, hanging with the zookeeper and handing out treats.