OTTAWA (May 29, 2020) By Jim Facette, Executive Director, CAZA

As we approach the 10/11-week mark of Canada’s lock down due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, there is hope. We read about accelerated vaccine and cure studies, including one here in Canada at the University of Toronto, we are also beginning to see provinces announce re-opening strategies. This has injected hope into Canada’s 30 accredited zoos and aquariums.

At our second re-opening industry committee meeting within CAZA, our members shared best practices and early re-opening experiences. Assiniboine and the Calgary Zoo are both open with the Toronto Zoo open for a ‘drive-thru’ experience. We continue to share documentation, there was a central theme in what we heard from all three, ‘they will come’.

Assiniboine and Calgary each implement somewhat similar early strategies and phasing in who came in first. Staff and their respective families, members and corporate supporter days provided each with an opportunity to fine tune new measures. Victoria Day weekend Assiniboine welcomed seven-thousand visitors over a three-day period while the Calgary Zoo’s first weekend, May 23-24., saw seventy-five hundred visitors. In Toronto, after Toronto health officials approved the drive-thru experience plan for the Toronto Zoo, demand is so high the zoo’s online ticketing system was overloaded.

As more and more institutions develop re-opening strategies based on provincial guidelines, there are common elements across Canada. On-line advanced ticketing, high risk area closures, suspended programming, limited food and beverage, reduced capacity limits, social distancing measures, one-way directions, extensive signage depicting social distancing and sanitary guidelines, promotion of cashless transactions and wearing of masks are a few of the measures being taken across Canada.

These strategies were shared with our special guests from Queensland Australia Tourism and our Australia sister organizations representatives. Of note, in the strategy was the effort to phase-in the opening through ‘trials’ thus providing an opportunity to sort out details. Our guests were also interested in the possible use of contact tracing and online ticket strategies.

British Columbia and Quebec are trending in the direction of the next set of provinces where CAZA’s 30 accredited zoos and aquariums can open. British Columbia health authorities are poised to green light member-plans I hope, while the province of Quebec is taking a sectoral approach. CAZA members participated in the development of re-opening plans for zoos and aquariums submitting a proposal to the Quebec Ministry of Tourism. No clear dates have been set.

As Canada slowly begins to come into a new normal, Canada’s 30 accredited zoos and aquariums do so with the knowledge each jurisdiction is unique, we must respect health authority guidelines. CAZA members also do so with the intent of using this experience to provide visitors with a better experience going forward.

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