Ask veteran zookeeper Heather Elliott what her favourite animal is and, like any diplomatic mother, she’ll deny she has one. No easy feat considering she’s worked with hundreds of animals during her 17 years at the Calgary Zoo.
Currently based in Eurasia—home to the Komodo dragons, flamingos, ibex, fallow deer, Japanese serow, snow leopards, red pandas, tigers, Eurasian wild boars, a rhino and far more—the region, she says, is a terrific zone to visit in the winter.
“So many of our animals actually prefer the winter,” says Heather. “The snow leopard, red pandas, and tigers are just three species who love to play in the snow, rather than loll about in the heat. The Japanese macaques [a.k.a. snow monkeys] are also more active in the winter.
“The serow just seem to puff up like they’re wearing big fur coats. The macaques’ facial hair fills in around their eyes so they look adorable—like frosty little kids in snow suits.”
This winter, be sure to watch the Japanese macaques play with the mirrors that the keepers put in for enrichment. Some appear to recognize their pink faces in the reflection while others grimace; some even snuggle up to the mirror, rubbing their heads against it as though they’ve found a mate.