Meet the resident animals of the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo

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This intimate glimpse of zoo life in Saskatoon shows resident animals brimming with personality as they prepare for winter.

Author of the article:

Thia James

Publishing date:

Dec 10, 2021  •  December 10, 2021  •  5 minute read  •  Join the conversation A dingo at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo. Photo taken in Saskatoon on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. A dingo at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo. Photo taken in Saskatoon on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. Photo by Michelle Berg /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

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StarPhoenix reporter Thia James ventured around the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo to meet the animals on a bright October morning. Some of the animals with outdoor habitats were preparing for winter, while others were having fun indoors. 

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This year, the zoo received two awards at the 2021 Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums Annual Awards of Excellence. It received the Thomas R. Baines award for excellence in habitat design and development and using unique approaches in animal care and welfare. It also received the Eleanore Oakes Award for Education Program design.

Dingoes 

Hello there, my name is Maple. You can tell I’m not Euci because she has a nose that is all brown and she has less white fur on her tail. We like to play in the sun. It’s been getting colder, so at night, we go inside our heated den to stay warm. We love trying to smell our visitors through the gaps in the glass. When I’m hungry, I like to eat a raw diet of chicken, beef and fish and the special kibble made just for us.

Writer’s note: Although Maple and Euci are two years old, they are considered fully grown. Yet, they have the energy of dingo puppies. Our guide, Jeff Mitchell tells me dingoes were most likely domesticated dogs about 4,000 years ago which spread throughout Australia. Dingoes have noticeably large ears, which is an adaptation. If you watch them closely, you’ll notice they’re able to turn their heads almost 360 degrees.

A dingo at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo. Photo taken in Saskatoon on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. A dingo at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo. Photo taken in Saskatoon on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. Photo by Michelle Berg /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Grizzly Bears 

My name is Koda, this is Mistaya. We’re busy getting branches, hay and straw into our dens for winter. We’ve been eating a lot more lately, part of our preparation to go into torpor. We start to gain weight at the end of the summer as we get ready for winter, and we lose up to 80 kilograms as we rest for four months. When we come out of torpor in the spring, we’ll start with a diet of greens — including four kilos of romaine lettuce. By the end of summer, we eat more meat — salmon, chicken and beef, and fruits and vegetables.

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Writer’s note: The bears like to stretch out across the boulders in their habitat and rest, as they were doing quite a bit during our visit. During the winter, while in their torpor, the bears will wake up and move around a bit. However, they won’t drink, eat or defecate when they briefly wake up. Their coats get a bit thicker as time for torpor approaches.

Grizzly bears at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo. Photo taken in Saskatoon on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. Grizzly bears at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo. Photo taken in Saskatoon on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. Photo by Michelle Berg /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Goeldi’s Monkeys 

Writer’s note: Evy trots over to the glass that separates me from her habitat, and she stops to look at me as I take notes. It’s almost as if she’s trying to see what I’m writing. Evy is one of Leah’s three daughters, and I watch as Leah is groomed as she rests under a UV lamp on a perch. Grooming is a means of social bonding. Goeldi’s monkeys are social creatures — in the wild, they’d live in a big family group.

They also are strict vegetarians, fed specially formulated monkey biscuits, fruits and vegetables, apple sauce, which is high quality, similar to food for humans.

Mitchell explains that the zoo is part of the Species Survival Plan that works with other zoos and aquariums on matchmaking and breeding. The SSP was developed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. There is an SSP for the Goeldi’s monkeys, and others at the zoo, including the snow leopard.

Goeldi’s monkeys at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo. Photo taken in Saskatoon on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. Goeldi’s monkeys at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo. Photo taken in Saskatoon on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. Photo by Michelle Berg /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Hermann’s Tortoise 

Hello, down here. I’m Willy. I know you think I’m small for a tortoise, but that may be because you are more familiar with the Galapagos tortoises that can live to the age of 200. I’m also fully grown. Tortoises like myself originate from the Mediterranean. But habitat loss and climate change mean we are an endangered species. I don’t have a lot of predators because my shell is pretty hard to get through. It also offers me camouflage.

Writer’s note: Willy moves slowly through the soil, pushing it away from him while working toward a plate of salad. When he gets to it, he appears to look at it and then move away. Willy stretches his legs out when it’s chilly, allowing him to get warmth from the lamp. Mitchell picks Willy up for a closer look. The skin of his feet and arms are rough, somewhat like sandpaper, but scaly.

A tortoise at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo. Photo taken in Saskatoon on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. A tortoise at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo. Photo taken in Saskatoon on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. Photo by Michelle Berg /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Porcupine

I’m Georgia, and I’m a shy little rodent. My outer quills are safe to touch. They’re soft and made of keratin. Be wary of my inner quills, though. But don’t worry, I won’t shoot quills at you. I see you hesitating.

Writer’s note: I’m handed a piece of a carrot and encouraged to feed Georgia. She locks eyes with the carrot and scampers toward me. I hold out my hand. She puts her front paws on a branch I am standing behind and quickly snaps up the carrot. Mitchell encourages me to touch Georgia’s outer quills, and I do.

A porcupine at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo. Photo taken in Saskatoon on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. A porcupine at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo. Photo taken in Saskatoon on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. Photo by Michelle Berg /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Here’s a video of Georgia the porcupine:

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Georgia the porcupine enjoying some pumpkin 🎃

Posted by Saskatoon Zoo Society on Friday, November 6, 2020

Ball Python 

I’m Pretzel, a small but fully grown python. I’m called a ball python because I ball up as a defence mechanism. If you see my neck stretched out, you know I am calm. But if you see my neck in an “S” pattern, it means I’m preparing to strike. I am fed a mouse every two weeks. I slow down in the winter and can go weeks without eating, even though my habitat doesn’t change.

Writer’s note: According to the zoo, poaching and the pet trade threaten the wild population of ball pythons. The constrictors are generally found in Africa and can live up to 40 years. Mitchell explains the small pits around the front of Pretzel’s mouth are akin to heat sensors. He encourages me to let Pretzel coil around my arm. With fleeting hesitation, I do. She coils around my arm, and I note that she has incredible core strength. Her scales are soft and smooth.

A ball python at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo. Photo taken in Saskatoon on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. A ball python at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo. Photo taken in Saskatoon on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. Photo by Michelle Berg /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

  1. A Hermanns tortoise in its new home at the Forestry Farm Park and Zoo.

    Saskatoon’s Forestry Farm Park and Zoo set to reopen popular exhibit

  2. New light installations of BHP Enchanted Forest were displayed at Light up the Forest event at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park, Nov. 18, 2021.

    Enchanted Forest calls for snow with new feature scene

  3. Kazi, a snow leopard, will be the newest addition to the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo. (photo courtesy City of Saskatoon)

    Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo welcomes new snow leopard, Kazi

If you enjoyed the tour, here are more photos:

Buddy the wolf at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo. Buddy is social and is much more engaging with visitors since the death of Zepplin, who was more of the alpha of the two. Buddy is 14 years old. The zoo keepers provide him with enrichment items, such as old antlers to chew. Photo taken in Saskatoon on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. Buddy the wolf at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo. Buddy is social and is much more engaging with visitors since the death of Zepplin, who was more of the alpha of the two. Buddy is 14 years old. The zoo keepers provide him with enrichment items, such as old antlers to chew. Photo taken in Saskatoon on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. Photo by Michelle Berg /Saskatoon StarPhoenix A lynx at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo. There are two lynx, Thelma and Louise. In their habitat are items made of repurpose fire hose. The Saskatoon Fire Department gives the zoo old fire hose, which the zoo repurposes into items such as hammocks for the habitats. The zoo uses positive reinforcement with different animals at the zoo, such as the lynx. Through positive reinforcement, animals learn to present a side for vaccines, for example. Photo taken in Saskatoon on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. A lynx at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo. There are two lynx, Thelma and Louise. In their habitat are items made of repurpose fire hose. The Saskatoon Fire Department gives the zoo old fire hose, which the zoo repurposes into items such as hammocks for the habitats. The zoo uses positive reinforcement with different animals at the zoo, such as the lynx. Through positive reinforcement, animals learn to present a side for vaccines, for example. Photo taken in Saskatoon on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. Photo by Michelle Berg /Saskatoon StarPhoenix Sarah, the arctic fox, at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo. Sarah is a relatively new addition to the zoo. Her coat was grey during the warmer months, but for winter it turns white. She can use her puff tail to wrap around her for warmth and she has bigger paws which function like snowshoes.  Photo taken in Saskatoon on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. Sarah, the arctic fox, at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo. Sarah is a relatively new addition to the zoo. Her coat was grey during the warmer months, but for winter it turns white. She can use her puff tail to wrap around her for warmth and she has bigger paws which function like snowshoes.  Photo taken in Saskatoon on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. Photo by Michelle Berg /Saskatoon StarPhoenix Dawson and Juno the bald eagles at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo. They are rescues and due to injuries they sustained before coming to the zoo, they cannot be released into the wild. Contrary to what you hear in movies, bald eagles do not screech.  Photo taken in Saskatoon on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. Dawson and Juno the bald eagles at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo. They are rescues and due to injuries they sustained before coming to the zoo, they cannot be released into the wild. Contrary to what you hear in movies, bald eagles do not screech.  Photo taken in Saskatoon on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. Photo by Michelle Berg /Saskatoon StarPhoenix Meerkats at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo. Meerkats don’t get ready for winter and have an indoor habitat at the zoo. They like to dig and are very social. They also have a hierarchy and have skirmishes and struggles, but they won’t fight to the death. hey do hive into groups, which don’t mix together. They also cuddle for warmth. Photo taken in Saskatoon on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. (Michelle Berg / Saskatoon StarPhoenix) Meerkats at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo. Meerkats don’t get ready for winter and have an indoor habitat at the zoo. They like to dig and are very social. They also have a hierarchy and have skirmishes and struggles, but they won’t fight to the death. hey do hive into groups, which don’t mix together. They also cuddle for warmth. Photo taken in Saskatoon on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. (Michelle Berg / Saskatoon StarPhoenix) Photo by Michelle Berg /Saskatoon StarPhoenix A bison at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo.  Photo taken in Saskatoon on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. A bison at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo.  Photo taken in Saskatoon on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. Photo by Michelle Berg /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

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