Central Alberta’s Discovery Wildlife Park opens on May 1 every year.
But whether the Innisfail attraction will open this season, and when, is uncertain.
Head zookeeper Serena Bos said the hope is to open sooner, rather than later, but they are following the government’s guidelines and will open when they get that green light from officials.
Because the park is privately owned, it relies on memberships, admissions and tour fees, as well as sales from the gift shop to provide care for the animals.
“When people purchase memberships, all of that money goes to the animals. In fact, any money that the park makes stays in the park. It goes directly to the animals,” Bos said.
The money provides the animals with feed and medical care and it pays for the zookeepers, who take care of the animals.
Spring is also a time when the park gets calls about orphaned animals that need a home. That means additional costs.
“We’re not in a position to say no to those orphans, because we’re a forever home for wildlife in need,” Bos explained.
Money from the adjacent campground at the park also helps the animals.
Bos said the hope is the campground can open for the May long weekend, but whether that’ll happen is not known.
Bos said food and veterinary care for the animals at the park – bears, lions, a tiger, cougars, wolves, elk, deer, and smaller animals and reptiles – is expensive.
Discovery Wildlife Park has nine bears, and each of the bruins consumes about 20 pounds of meat per day.
“So if you imagine what it costs for you to buy one pound of meat, then times that by 20 pounds,” she said.
Veterinary bills are another major expense.
The zookeepers have calculated how much it will cost to feed the animals in their care for the next few months, and the figure came to about $75,000. And that’s the goal of the online fundraiser.
The park also has an adopt-an-animal program and other ways to donate listed on its website.
To bring joy to the community in these times, the park has also launched a mini-video series on Facebook and YouTube, where zookeepers provide behind-the-scenes clips.
The idea for the videos surfaced before COVID-19 hit, but in these troubling times, the zookeepers are hoping the animals bring smiles to people’s faces.
The animals are safe at the park, said Bos, with precautions such as work-home quarantine for the zookeepers.
“We do not interact outside of those situations, so we can keep ourselves safe and keep our animals safe,” Bos said.
To donate, visit Discovery Wildlife Park on Facebook, or find the GoFundMe Support Discovery Wildlife Park Animals fundraiser online.