Parks Canada outreach at the Toronto Zoo

Pukaskwa National Park

By Nancy Saunders and Erin Hansen

The Toronto Urban Outreach Team, a group of energetic, engaging summer students, will be delivering Parks Canada content at venues across Toronto this summer, including the Toronto Zoo. It was decided the focus for its northern Ontario program messaging would be on Species at Risk in Pukaskwa National Park, specifically woodland caribou.

Nancy Saunders, Public Outreach and Education Officer, armed the team with a wealth of information about the unique features and flavours of all four sites managed by Parks Canada in northern Ontario. Nancy and Erin Hansen, our Outreach Officer summer student, worked on activities and content to send to the Urban Outreach Team. The activities include a guessing game, a real hoof, antler and pelt from a caribou, a replica hoof track with a sand box to make tracks, and even some rubber caribou scat!

Erin documented her experience researching all things caribou in order to provide background to the Urban Outreach Team, and to develop the fun activities they’ll be delivering at the Toronto Zoo. Here’s her story:

“Before I started creating content for the Toronto Zoo’s caribou display, I knew little to nothing about woodland caribou. I didn’t even know they were the animal on the Canadian quarter! This project gave me the opportunity to learn a significant amount about an incredible animal that is unfortunately classified as a Species at Risk in Ontario and Canada. It was a unique opportunity to learn about caribou lifestyle and adaptions to their environment, and I also learned about what factors are jeopardizing their survival.

The caribou activities at the Toronto Zoo allow visitors to learn about a creature that used to have a common presence in Northern Ontario. Now, caribou are a rare sight to see, even in Pukaskwa, Ontario’s only wilderness national park.

The research I compiled has been organized into activities that can communicate important information about caribou to children and their parents. The children will be able to touch, see, and hear about different items relating to caribou and will subsequently understand why these items are important. For instance, while children may initially laugh at the caribou scat replica, it will catch their interest. Once it does, the students will have the opportunity to explain why scat is important as a non-invasive method for Parks Canada to monitor the presence, health, and activity of caribou in and around Pukaskwa.

We are excited to see how the information and tools we have shared with the Urban Outreach Team will allow them to act as ambassadors for Parks Canada’s work in woodland caribou conservation, as they teach Canadians and other zoo visitors about caribou and what Pukaskwa National Park is doing to restore woodland caribou habitat in the park.”

Caribou kit to be used for outreach programming at the Toronto Zoo
Caribou kit to be used for outreach programming at the Toronto Zoo © Parks Canada

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