While camping with our daughter and her family at Bottrel, Alberta we were less than an hour away from the Calgary Zoo so we made a day trip into the city to spend a few hours there. I’ve loved visiting the zoo ever since my days as a University of Calgary student in the early 1970s. In those days it was a great place to take a relaxing break from my studies. Now it’s fun to share it with my grandchildren!
One of the city’s favourite family destinations, the Calgary Zoo is home to almost 1000 animals from 119 unique species. One of only five zoos in Canada accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, its mission is to become Canada’s leader in wildlife conservation. I love the fact that the zoo is committed to high quality care, housing only those animals that they can best care for and being intentional about providing habitats that are well suited to each species. The Calgary Zoo is also an urban forest boasting more than 7000 trees and numerous smaller shrubs and flower beds that add to its beauty.
The zoo is very spacious requiring lots of walking, but we bought Melaina and the kids annual passes for Christmas this year, so they’re able to visit often and we didn’t feel compelled to try to see everything on our recent visit. Before we left the campground, I asked the children which animals they most wanted to see. The penguins, said one. The tiger, said another, but for me this visit was all about the giant pandas!
The panda has been my favourite animal for as long as I can remember, probably going back as far as the big black and white stuffed teddy bear that I loved as a very wee child. In 2012, I was delighted to hear that a pair of giant pandas were coming to Canada on a ten year loan from the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Szechuan, China! Da Mao and Er Shun would spend their first five years in the Toronto Zoo and then come to Calgary for the second half of their stay. Simon wasn’t even born yet, but I determined then that I would be taking my Calgary grandchildren to see them!
Five-year-old female, Er Shun, and four-year-old male, Da Mao, arrived in Toronto on March 25, 2013. Canadians across the land were delighted when Er Shun gave birth to two cubs, Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue, on Canadian soil in late 2015! All four were moved to Calgary earlier this year.
When we arrived at the zoo, we stopped first at the Penguin Plunge. Agile in the water and entertaining on land, all four varieties are delightful to watch. Here, the little fellows basking in the sun are Humboldt penguins and most of the larger ones shown inside their temperature controlled habitat are King penguins. If you look very closely, there’s also a Rockhopper penguin in the centre of the second photo. He can be distinguished by the yellow crests on both sides of his head.
On our way to the Panda Passage, we stopped to watch the flamingoes. I love their beautiful colouring. Though these two look rather elegant, a group of their mates were having quite a squawking match.
Then came the moment I’d waited over five years for! After my hand to paw experience with a giant panda at the Dalian Forest Zoo when we were living in China, I was afraid I might be disappointed, but that was not to be the case and we didn’t even have to wait in line! Da Mao, in his separate enclosure, was rolling around playfully.
Next door, Er Shun was resting right in front of the plexiglass window. If it hadn’t been there, we could have reached out and touched her.
Though his sister was hiding and we didn’t see her, Jia Panpan entertained us by playfully tearing up a large sheet of cardboard.
Outside the panda enclosure Drew, Simon, and I had our photo taken with this giant pretender!
After lunch at the on-site Kitamba Café we continued on to see many more of the animals. The baby Bactrian camel, with his two humps just beginning to form, was quite hilarious looking.
The Amur tiger didn’t disappoint, coming right up to the fence in front of us.
Though I didn’t take pictures of every animal we saw, I had to photograph one of the zebras, symbol of my neuroendocrine cancer.
Perhaps the most fun of the entire day was watching and listening to four year old Simon as he watched the antics of the comical little meerkats following their keeper around their enclosure and getting underfoot as he prepared to bring in their food! Simon laughed and laughed! Unfortunately, neither he nor most of the meerkats would stay still long enough for a photo, but this one little character decided to chill while his buddies scurried around. Perhaps he was posing for me!