The Calgary Zoo announced last week they will be partnering with the Animal Care Centre (ACC) of Strathmore in a new initiative to provide the zoo with veterinary support services so the zoo can expand their wildlife conservation work with high risk and endangered species.
“The ultimate goal of this partnership is wildlife conservation and we are so excited to be involved in this. [Wildlife conservation] is a door we haven’t been able to open before,” said Dr. Jodi Viste, veterinarian and owner of ACC.
ACC will be hiring five new fully-qualified staff members by May to work at the animal health centre at the Calgary Zoo: one veterinarian, two vet technologists and two animal care assistants for zoo keepers, to assist the two current staff vets at the zoo.
Currently, ACC has 28 staff members, all of whom will continue to work at the clinic. ACC veterinarian Dr. Rand Davis will be spending some time managing the new staff throughout the transitional phase in collaboration with the Calgary Zoo.
Viste’s primary goal through this partnership is to uphold and maintain the quality of care to all patients at ACC, and continue those same values and mission with the care of the animals at the zoo and wildlife conservation centre.
“For current staff members, there will be opportunities for them to join in some volunteer programs to get some experience with zoo animals, and they will be able to receive some training if they wish to pursue this avenue. Or they can just get some hands-on experience with zoo animals that they can be proud of,” said Viste.
Viste, who grew up in Calgary, also has her zoology degree as well as her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. She believes that for her everything has come full circle: she is a vet, she has the degree and now she is tied in with the zoo that she grew up loving. Viste is excited about the opportunity to get behind the scenes and possibly get her hands dirty.
Currently the zoo also runs and manages the Devonian Wildlife Conservation Centre (DWCC) near De Winton, Alta. At the DWCC, several high risk and endangered species are held in captive breeding and release programs, including the burrowing owl, northern leopard frog, greater sage grouse, Vancouver Island marmot and Przewalski’s wild horse among other species. Due to population encroachment, the zoo is looking to move the facility to a parcel of land just south of Strathmore.
“The city is getting closer and closer (to the DWCC) and that is starting to become a challenge. Our concern with breeding sensitive and endangered wildlife species is that we want to be somewhat isolated, and right now we are becoming too populated in the area where our current facilities are,” said Jamie Dorgan, director of animal care at the Calgary Zoo, adding that the zoo is looking to expand their current conservation program to help other species within Western Canada, such as the woodland caribou.
The zoo had been looking at several potential options within the past year to help with current vet care and to give them a greater overall efficiency and flexibility. Because the ACC is a mixed practice and deals with both small and large animals, their strong standard and quality of animal care and their shared values in conservation of endangered species, they were an ideal candidate for the zoo to partner up with. A bonus is their location near Strathmore.
“The Town of Strathmore should be very proud that the zoo is in the process of trying to move the DWCC so close to town. We can take pride that wildlife conservation effort are being done in our municipality,” said Viste adding that it is a great opportunity to help even more endangered species, and that businesses in Strathmore will benefit by having the centre so close to town because it will create jobs.
“If we can be involved in ensuring that many more endangered species [are helped] in Alberta here, that is phenomenal. That is the main reason we are excited about this project,” said Viste.
Another reason for the two centres merging is that they will be able to learn from each other, use each other’s resources and share experiences working in conservation.
“This is a good opportunity to potentially use the resources of the ACC clinic, whether that is people, equipment or the clinic itself,” said Dorgan. “It is always exciting to get more people involved in what we are doing. We are looking forward to getting Jodi and her staff on board to continue what we are doing and helping with the conservation of even more animals.”
Viste believes the knowledge she and her staff will gain from this partnership will benefit the ACC and how they understand the species they take care of daily.
“This allows us to grow and tap into the knowledge from the current vet team at the zoo about those exotic animals. Any kind of education and knowledge that we can gain about any species will help us better understand the species that we deal with all the time,” she said.
Although they are still in the early stages of planning and setting up the partnership, and the exact fate of the DWCC has yet to be decided, Viste said she is confident her team will thrive with this new unique opportunity and they should all be proud to work in conservation efforts for endangered species.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be working in collaboration with the Calgary Zoo,” said Viste. “To say I was excited when we were approached by the zoo is an understatement.”
The ACC won the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association 2016 Practice of the Year award.
Family Day Unplugged 2017 was fun-filled and full of activities for families to participate in and to stay “unplugged” from technology so participants could connect with their friends, family and the community.
The Town of Strathmore organized this year’s Family Day celebrations in conjunction with several community partners who hosted several of the planned events.
The day started off with a pancake breakfast put on by the Cheadle Lions Club, complete with magicians and a face painter.
During the breakfast, Strathmore Mayor Michael Ell announced the winner of the Strathmore 150 logo contest. The contest, launched in December, saw entries from Grade 7 to 12 students from Strathmore and Wheatland County. The top five entries were chosen, and over 500 votes were made by members of the community on their favourite logo. The winner was Grade 8 student Emmeline Keeling, and four runners-up were Kiera McQuinn, Katie Zakariasen, Jayla Kenney and Kylie Bishop.
Keeling’s winning logo included a train in the centre of a maple leaf, surrounded by wheat, a cattail and people holding hands.
“I knew I wanted the maple leaf in it to represent Canada and something to show the diversity in this town [people], as well as the train because that’s how this town first started: we were ‘the town that moved.’ I also wanted to show nature – the wheat and cattail – because the natural beauty is my favourite part of Strathmore,” said Keeling.
The logo was printed onto 150 buttons for people who attended the Family Day breakfast. Keeling herself received a shirt with the logo printed on it.
“This represents the strength of our community and joining hands and working together and being proud of Canada,” said Strathmore mayor Michael Ell on the winning logo.
Ell noted the Family Day celebrations are the kick-off to the town’s Canada 150 celebrations. “This is all about celebrating Canada and our Canadian history and the Canadian future that we have,” said Ell. “One of the ways to do it is to celebrate Family Day, which originally started in Alberta.”
The Youth Club of Strathmore also hosted a carnival with several games and many prizes for children while the breakfast was going on.
Ice fishing and skating on Kinsmen Park Lake were cancelled due to thin and melting ice.
Other events held at Kinsmen Park included hot chocolate served by Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) and donated by Simply Elegant Catering, and hot chicken noodle soup donated by Rocky’s Bakery.
HEAL organized wagon rides by Stewart Farms, donated by the Lions Club.
The Strathmore Fire Department was also on hand with a giant fire pit to help keep participants warm, and they handed out whistles and other small gifts to children.
“We started the ‘great skate’ 10 years ago, and at the time, there wasn’t anything else going on. It has gradually built up and now there are a lot of activities in town,” said Robert Breitwieser, media spokesperson for HEAL.
The Real Estate REPs handed out freshly popped popcorn.
“We come to Family Day events every year faithfully. It’s my favourite day in Strathmore to be honest,” said Jennifer Jousset who has lived in Strathmore for eight years and has attended eight Family Day events in Strathmore. “I like that every year it changes and gets bigger and bigger. There is something new to do every year and it just gets better.”
Later in the day, 5 for Life hosted a free family swim at the Civic Centre where participants could swim, drink hot chocolate, play games and win prizes.
“The Town of Strathmore, Lions Club, and other volunteers are fantastic for putting this on,” said Jousset. “I hope they keep it up and that people keep coming so the event will keep growing and more stuff will be added to it.”
As owner of Anarchy Motorsports, Jousset added she would like her business to be involved in next year’s Family Day celebrations.
That sits right with Breitwieser.
“We want to get people in the community together and build community that way,” he said. “Family Day in Strathmore has grown over the years. It gets people out and away from their TVs and computers and gets them outside to get fresh air and meet people. This is really important.”