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Parc Safari bounds into the summer season

It has been the usual busy spring at Parc Safari, as newborn animals make their appearance and work begins to ensure the Hemmingford-based zoo is ready to welcome visitors for the start of the summer season.

At least six scimitar oryx were born recently, and zoologists are expecting more births within the wildebeest, elk, red deer, and bison populations during the summer. These animals will all be born naturally in the Safari Adventure and can be viewed from aboard the park’s electric bush trucks that will circulate through the four-kilometre trail.

The park’s zoologists are not expecting any other imminent arrivals, but they are very excited about several new additions. Six red kangaroos, including two males and four females, were introduced to the public when the park opened its doors this spring.

Aurélien Berthelot, the director of zoology, says the females are already pregnant. “We are just waiting to see if they will come out,” he adds, explaining that baby kangaroos crawl out of the womb and up to their mother’s pouch after just over a month’s gestation. The wee joeys then spend around nine months nursing and growing before they are ready to leave the pouch.

“We are very hopeful,” says Berthelot, noting that as the adults are relatively young there is a good chance the park will see some joeys. “Perhaps the baby is already in there, but we are not going to check the pouch. We are just going to watch and see how it goes.”

Native to Australia, the kangaroos arrived at Parc Safari from different zoos across Canada to ensure there is genetic diversity within the group. The bouncy new residents can now be viewed as part of the Five Continent Farm.

Berthelot says they have focused on improving the diversity of animals in the Five Continents sector for this season, while other parts of the park are undergoing renovations. At the moment, the Felines’ Tunnels, a section of the Olduvaï Walkway, and the Cheetah’s plain are not open to the public.

“We are going to enlarge our enclosures as much as we can to give our animals more space for their wellbeing, and to bring them into line with gestation and animal welfare standards,” says Berthelot. “It is a project that should be completed this year,” he confirms. “We are going to give our animals more space, more possibilities to move around, and more possibilities to interact.”

 

Parc Safari introduced red kangaroos this spring to its collection of animals featured in the Five Continents Farm sector at the Hemmingford based zoo PHOTO Parc Safari

In the early years at Parc Safari, the lions and tigers used to roam free through the Safari Adventure, along with some very curious baboons. While this has changed, the park is the only zoo of its kind in Quebec that encourages animals to co-exist between species. “In nature, they all live together,” Berthelot says. “So, by giving them this opportunity, we are able to present a lot of animals exhibiting more normal behaviours, because they are interacting with other species and governing themselves.”

Berthelot notes, however, that because the animals are captive, they do not forage or hunt on their own. To ensure they remain healthy, their diets are adapted to each species’ needs. It costs upwards of $15,000 per month to feed the lions alone, and over $35,000 a month to ensure all the animals are properly fed.

Berthelot says proper diets are part of the zoo’s strategy in terms of caring for its animals, especially for those getting on in years. All three of the park’s lionesses are now considered geriatric, he explained. The park lost its tiger to old age and cancer in 2022, and Berthelot says there are no immediate plans to bring in another, as the tiger enclosure also needs to be upgraded.

According to the website, the renovations to the tunnels, raised walkway, and cheetah plains could be completed as early as this July. In the meantime, there are still plenty of reasons to visit, including the electric bush truck tours of the Safari Adventure, and the Afrika Terrace, the Five Continents Farm, the Deer Trail, the Birds’ Garden, and the Discovery Pavilion are all open. The water park will open on June 21.

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