Most of the more than 1.4 million annual Calgary Zoo guests view their visit to the zoo as an opportunity to get close to animals and plants they are unlikely to connect with otherwise. The zoo is a place for them to spend time with their families, make memories and watch their children play safely.
The experience of being immersed in a natural and appealing landscape which is also home to a diverse and meaningful living collection connects visitors to nature in a way that touches every one of their senses. The care of the animals and their ongoing welfare resonates clearly through every action and dynamic learning opportunities are presented at many levels. Conservation and commercial activities are compatible and support respect for our living world.
A trip to the zoo can be many things to many people – most of which are obvious. However, just as with a treasure hunt, finding the hidden gems requires some effort. The Calgary Zoo’s gems are the many stories that are woven into its very being. Together, they create a meaningful legacy:
• Whooping cranes and Vancouver Island marmots might be extinct in the wild were it not for the zoo’s participation in their recovery.
• The zoo’s research on black-tailed prairie dogs in Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan helped secure the successful reintroduction of the black-footed ferret to Canada in 2009 and continues to support their survival.
• The zoo’s investment in and ongoing presence in Wechiau, Ghana not only preserved an entire hippo population and ecosystem, but also helped create a sustainable community in that region.
• The zoo’s two cougars are rescued orphans from British Columbia and Grizzly Bear #16 would have been destroyed as a “problem bear” if the zoo had not offered him a home.
These are just some of the stories worth telling that inspire care and support from individuals and corporations. Sharing stories and experiences, raising awareness and awakening curiosity – all play a critical role in bringing about an Inspiring Change. As guests immerse themselves in diverse and meaningful experiences – connecting with amazing animals living in stunning natural landscapes, programs and interpretation unite that experience with dynamic learning opportunities to inspire both consideration and discussion. This level of commitment encourages guests to share in caring for wildlife on a global scale. One of the many additional benefits of building landscapes that replicate wild habitat, aside from the obvious benefits to the animals that live there, is that they allow the message of interdependence between animals and their ecosystems – and the human impact on both – to be shared.
Keeping in mind the zoo’s importance as a living classroom and an integral part of the Calgary community, a number of engagement strategies guide the planning for education, interpretative programs and facilities, including:
• Establishing a clear zoo identity that resonates with its mission.
• Providing appropriate transitions between experiences.
• Creating a hierarchy of interpretative opportunities for different learning styles, group sizes and weather.
• Incorporating areas of discovery and play to stimulate active inquiry and learning.
• Providing opportunities to learn what goes on behind the scenes.
• Creating places people can enjoy without congestion or confusion.
• Planning for seasonality and making guest comfort a top priority.
• Maintaining an effective, cohesive, and engaged workforce that embraces the zoo’s mission, vision and values.
• Achieving sound financial outcomes so the zoo is able to continue to meet operational needs and invest in worthwhile conservation initiatives.