Thursday, March 28, 2013

Behind the Scenes at Toronto Zoo

The Animal Science Society organised a trip out to Toronto Zoo including a behind the scenes tour of the nutrition centre and health centre and I thought since it's vaguely related to my degree I should go. Also who doesn't love a trip to the zoo!

As we woke up an an ungodly hour, still feeling the pain from extreme lawn bowls (curling), we were piled onto a classic American school bus which was a complete novelty for me. You could tell these buses were built for children - they'd give Ryanair a run for their money with legroom, or there-lack-of.

Our first stop was the education centre deep within the depths of the zoo and home to the heath and nutrition centre. The nutrition centre  was essentially like an industrial restaurant kitchen but with the constant background stench of sheep feed and the tupperware was labelled 'lions' or 'elephants' filled with industrial amounts of vegetables. The birds were given 'fruit loop' coloured feed to satisfy their acute colour vision. The  fridges were full of chilled bamboo shoots imported for the zoo's new arrivals but there was everything from frozen mice to regular cat food. You never really think of the diet of the animals at the zoo but their diets are really specific and are thoroughly calculated by nutrition experts (mainly from Guelph!).

Sounds like a great start to the week...
After the nutrition centre we were taken around the Health centre which started off in a lab which looked not dissimilar to any human clinic, until you see the tranquiliser guns lying on the table. They actually don't need to use the tranquiliser darts all that often as they have trained a lot of the animals to respond well to tests and treatment. For example elephants will stick their ear through the bars to get a blood test and the monkeys will stick their arms through. There was a holding room for poorly animals and this included cheetahs, macaques and the very rare Vancouver Island Marmot.

After the tour we got to tour the rest of the zoo ourselves and this was the first time I had ever been to a zoo during winter, well a Canadian winter. Our first stop was the Tundra which was appropriate as it was probably the only enclosure with all of the animals out enjoying their enclosure. Beyond Africa there wasn't much too see, except the lions but even that seemed wrong watching them sleep in the snow. In Canada all packaging and instructions are shown in English and French but in the Africa zone the signs were in English and Swahillli, which made me reminiscent of Summer...

The majority of animals were in the Indo-Malay or Rainforest Pavilions to stay out of the snow. The gorillas and organutans were housed in these pavilions and it's always fascinating to watch. It's bittersweet to watch them as they seem so familiar to us and for that reason you feel they shouldn't be housed behind glass.

I ended up in the rhino house after dodging the butterfly house but there was a lack of a rhino on display but he still made sure he could be heard. It wasn't long before we were back at the entrance and that meant it was time for food and the gift shop. This was my first taste of Beaver Tails which are like flattened doughnuts smothered in some kind of sweet sauce which are wonderfully delicious and unhealthy.

It was really interesting to see the parts of the zoo you never really think about when you go visit. It was really strange to see a zoo in winter and covered in snow and how- although it should be un-logistical- it is still open like normal.

An un-identified wild animal

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