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BC Wildlife Park to host national conference

The annual conference of Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums will take place in Kamloops in October
BC Wildlife Park grizzly Dawson
Dawson the grizzly greets the morning with some bruin yoga. Dawson is one of dozens of animals that live at the B.C. Wildlife Park, which is hoping for a more normal year, tourism-wise, in 2022.

The BC Wildlife Park will host the annual conference of Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA) this October, a recognition for the park’s hard work and achievements.

Hosting the conference in Kamloops is a feather in the cap for Kamloops and the staff and dedicated volunteers at the BC Wildlife Park, according to executive director Glenn Grant.

“We’ll have all the zoos and aquariums from across Canada here in October,” Glenn Grant said. “Every year, CAZA, our accrediting body, hosts an annual conference and, for the first time in a long time, we’re going to do it in person and we’re going to do it here in Kamloops. It’s great news.”

The conference will be hosted at the Delta Hotel downtown, with 125 delegates attending.

Last fall, the park had its inspection from CAZA in order to maintain membership in the group.

The five-day inspection ensures the BC Wildlife Park is meeting the highest animal-care and veterinary standards, has proper facilities and is on track with its education goals and conservation.

“We claim we have the highest standards, but it’s great to be able to back it up with accreditation from CAZA,” Grant said.

Meanwhile, Grant said he is hopeful that, with pandemic restrictions easing, all regular daytime activities and events will be returning.

Four days of egg and chocolate hunts are planned for the kids during the Easter long weekend (April 15 to April 18), while the Victoria Day long weekend in May (May 20 to May 23) is expected to see a live entertainer for the amphitheatre.

In the summer, Aug. 20 will see the Okanagan-based Chris Buck Band and Canadian singer Bobby Wills co-headline an outdoor country music concert, while plans for the Labour Day and Thanksgiving long weekends are still in the works,

“That will lead us right back into Wildlights,” Grant said of the popular annual event that arrives in December. “It will be great to have a full, fun year of activities that we’ve missed since 2019.”

Grant said plenty of work has been done to improve access within the park by paving all the roads and changing out the washrooms for full accessibility. The efforts led to the park being a finalist for the Accessibility Award at last week’s BC Tourism and Hospitality Awards.

Going forward, Grant said expansion of and upgrades to, the grizzly habitat are on the do-to list.

“They are two icon animals [Knute and Dawson] that should really have a lot more space than they currently have, have better housing than they currently have,” Grant said.

That means re-shuffling a few animals around in the park, specifically the raccoons — allowing the grizzly habitat to expand by another 50 per cent, and also build them a new holding area and a new building.

“It’s important to get done,” Grant said. “We’ve got to give them enough space to act like bears and have the best life that we can provide them.”

Grant noted the park relies heavily on the residents of Kamloops to visit and spend money, along with tourists.

“It’s great that tourism is on its way back,” he said. “There are a lot of things to be positive about.”

Look to see new improvements in the years ahead as the park finalizes its five-year master plan, with plans to to add a large, indoor, insect and bug area where the current eagle gallery is located.

“Kids love insects and bugs and we wanted to do something that they could see 12 months a year,” Grant said. “When it’s hot, people want to come in where it’s climate controlled; when it’s cold, people want to come in where it’s warm.”