The 2012 Yorkton Exhibition and Summer Fair got a taste of the wild this year, with the Bowmanville Zoo – based just out of Toronto – bringing out some predators and prey for show as well as to educate people about the many different animals in the wild, from the biggest cats to small hares, and many things in between.
The show featured a variety of animals, including lions, tigers, wolves, zebras, bison and camels. Lindsay Paats with the zoo says the goal is to teach kids about how the animals interact with each other and how they live in the wild.
“A snowshoe hare is what a lynx would eat, so we have a lynx and a snowshoe hare, so kids can make that connection... We can talk about how they defend themselves or how they hunt,” she explains.
Most of the animals have been hand raised, and Paats says as a result they are easy to deal with and are often well behaved. She says that for training the focus is on positive reinforcement, with meat and treats for animals if they do well, but she admits that sometimes they can be a bit stubborn.
The animals themselves are often rescues or from different facilities, Paats says and having a veterinarian on staff allows them to raise animals from a young age. She notes that the lion cub in the show was an animal which was given to the zoo from another facility because the mother wouldn’t raise it.
“She was up every three hours just like a baby for the first three months, and now you can see how good she is, just really comfortable around people. A lot of dedication,” she says.
The show attracted crowds throughout the weekend, and Paats says part of the reason is that they offer something not many people see.
“There are less and less zoos, and it’s nice to bring kids to a show like this and give them an education. Just for them to be able to see these big cats, there’s always horses and things like that here, but not that many people get to come out an see a full grown lion,” she says.
The show provides two important functions for the Bowmanville Zoo overall. One, it allows the zoo to stay in operation and feed and take care of the animals. Paats says that it’s a fully private zoo, so they receive no government funding, which makes raising money important. Two, it’s a way to enrich their relationship with the animals.
“Being able to take them on a leash, at night time or in the morning before anyone gets here. Being able to do shows, it’s good for them. It’s enrichment, they see different things, and it keeps their minds active. That’s one of the most important things, especially with big cats.”
Paats says that they will be doing the western Canadian fair circuit all summer, and if people see their show to come check it out.