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Saskatoon zoo earns two awards

The Saskatoon zoo was the recipient of the Thomas R. Baines and Eleanore Oakes awards
Canada’s Accredited Zoos and the Aquariums Annual Awards of Excellence honours the Saskatoon Forestry Farm & Zoo.

SASKATOON — The Saskatoon Forestry Park & Zoo received two industry awards at the 2021 Canada’s Accredited Zoos and the Aquariums Annual Awards of Excellence.

The new Prairie Dog Exhibit at the zoo was the recipient of the Thomas R. Baines Award, which recognizes excellence in habitat design and development as well as the ability to apply unique approaches to animal care and welfare.

“We are so proud of our new Prairie Dog Exhibit and to receive an award recognizing the new habitat is very exciting. A big thank you our zookeepers and our partner organizations including the Saskatoon Zoo Foundation, that came together to make this exhibit a reality,” said zoo manager Jeff Mitchell.

The Prairie Dog Exhibit was designed to feature a naturalistic habitat and provide a new permanent home for the prairie dogs at the zoo.

The exhibit is over nine feet deep with one-inch stainless steel mesh covering the entire bottom of their habitat allowing the prairie dogs to show their natural behaviours of digging and exploring.

The design also allows for visitors to the zoo to get a closer look at the prairie dogs with over 40 feet of glass for great viewing opportunities and is anchored with original artwork created by the Saskatoon Community Youth Arts Program.

A shifting area was created behind the scenes to provide space for future medical and physical checks for the animals.

Another honour given was the Eleanore Oakes Award for Education Program Design to the Saskatoon Zoo Society. The award recognizes outstanding achievement and innovation in education program design that enhances conservation knowledge. 

“Our team developed virtual programs when restrictions from the Covid-19 pandemic forced our programming to move to a virtual environment,” said SZS education manager Kathleen Zary.

“We were so thankful to receive support from several [donors] to deliver over 350 virtual programs designed to connect students to nature by bringing animals and students together through interactive education while fostering a respect for nature with a Saskatchewan focus.”  

The SZS developed five virtual environmental education programs for children in kindergarten to the eighth grade. Each program featured animal interactions in real time, experienced educators that deepened conversations facilitated throughout the program and professionally taped video tours.

The programs also matched the Saskatchewan curricular objectives and incorporated Indigenous-focused content. The five programs developed include: Story Time at the Zoo (pre-K and kinder), Meet the Creature (Grades 1-2 and 2/3 split class), Habitat and Adaptations (Grades 3-5 and 5/6 splits), Owl and Owl Pellets (Grades 3 and up), and Species at Risk (Grades 7-8).