The Greater Vancouver Zoo is pleased to say we were able to maintain our conservation commitments amidst the pandemic. Endangered species are a near constant discussion for exotic animals, but we often forget the work done in our own backyard.
The Greater Vancouver zoo is dedicated to local and global conservation efforts. Along with our head starting programs we are also involved in the Species Survival Plan (SSP) which is an international effort to save threatened and endangered wildlife, and the local Salmon River Restoration Program with the help of many dedicated partners.
Wildlife Preservation Canada (WPC), along with the Greater Vancouver Zoo and other local and national partners, are working to protect species at risk, with some BC natives being the Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly, Oregon Spotted Frog, and iconic Western Painted Turtle. These three conservation projects at the Greater Vancouver Zoo are led by Biologist Andrea Gielens (WPC) and Animal Care Manager Menita Prasad (GVZoo).
We help these animals in three main ways: Captive breeding, head-starting, and habitat restoration/maintenance. Habitat loss from urban development and invasive species means the wild populations don’t have enough areas to breed or live, so captive breeding and habitat restoration go hand in hand for supporting their recovery. Head starting is when the babies are reared until they are deemed old enough to survive in the wild and then released into their protected habitats. By helping them through their most vulnerable life stage the more mature animals have a much better chance of surviving. Captive breeding and head-starting for these species is done at the Greater Vancouver Zoo, but is also supplemented with breeding efforts at the Vancouver Aquarium and husbandry assistance from the Toronto Zoo and Calgary Zoo.
The Taylor’s Checkerspot Recovery Program was a massive success with 786 caterpillars released on Hornby Island this year. These caterpillars did metamorphize into butterflies, marking the first time in 20 years that these butterflies have flown here, and hopefully persisting to be the third known population in British Columbia. WPC is also happy to report a potential 1353 caterpillars ready for next year’s release which will continue to bolster these wild populations.
The Oregon Spotted Frog and Western Painted Turtle projects had similar successes with 1,458 tadpoles, 505 adult frogs, and 146 turtles released this year. One unexpected challenge that the Western Painted Turtles faced were high floods in the mating season this spring. Usually, any flooding is done before the turtles lay their eggs, but this year had uncharacteristically late and high floods that almost washed away wild egg clutches and required quick action to move them to higher ground.
Although this year has been challenging for everyone it is great to hear that conservation projects are able to continue making a difference. Expanding support networks with groups like the Denman Island Conservancy and an active interest by locals and landowners to help maintain and create suitable habitats for these animals has made a world of difference. If you ever feel like you might want to get outdoors, enjoy the fresh air, and save a species or two, maybe consider volunteering with Greater Vancouver Zoo or WPC. You would be surprised what you might find in your own backyard.
Animal Care Manager
Wildlife Preservation Canada