Despite the challenges of the pandemic, including closing their gates for 71 days, staff at the zoo innovated to continue reaching people from all corners of the world, educating them about wild animals and conservation. They created two videos daily—140 videos in total—that reached 52 million people worldwide.
Then, with a week-and-a-half’s notice, the zoo was able to reopen in May 2020, incorporating pandemic precautions like laying down 3,500 paw prints directing one-way traffic, timed ticketing, and reduced visitor capacity.
Archambault says the entire Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo team pulled together to make it happen, from the CEO to the groundskeepers.
“We were reminded how resilient our staff are, how dedicated our volunteers are, and how committed our donors and our members are,” says Archambault. “We felt the love of our community as we tried to find our way.”
The resiliency and dedication of zoo staff is exemplified by Animal Care Supervisor, Barb Campbell. As one of the longest-serving team members—joining in 1979 as a university student—Campbell’s passion for the work she does is palpable.
From hand raising baby red pandas to being present for the zoo’s first ever gorilla birth, Campbell has seen it all. “You never know what’s going to happen in a day when you’re working with living, breathing things,” she says.
As she nears retirement and contemplates a life without daily animal visits, Campbell’s career has come full circle. She was four years into her animal care career during the zoo’s first giant panda loan in 1988, and wrapped things up with Er Shun and Da Mao’s visit.
“I just can’t see me not doing this,” she says, tearfully. “It’s been such an amazing part of my life. We have the best career in the world. We work with some of the most amazing animals in the world. We have such a huge impact on conservation, and if one person that’s come through here or one kid goes home respecting animals or we’ve planted the seed for conservation down the road—man, we’ve done our job right.”
“It just takes one person a day. Everybody can impact one person a day.”
And that work never ends at the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo, as Campbell is called away by a member of her animal care team.
“I have hungry snow leopards waiting for me.”
Visitors can plan their trip to Calgary’s top tourist destination and learn more about the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo’s conservation efforts at CalgaryZoo.com.