With Christmas just days away, the Calgary Zoo announced Friday its caribou are ready to stand in for Santa’s reindeer should any of the animals need a break from pulling Jolly Old St. Nick’s sleigh.
Trish Exton-Parder told 770 CHQR the zoo’s three female caribou have the strength and stamina needed for the task.
“Not a problem at all,” she said.
LISTEN: The Calgary Zoo’s caribou are ready to pull Santa’s sleigh if needed
While reindeer are native to Lapland – the Arctic homeland of the Indigenous Sami people of Finland, Sweden, Norway and northwest Russia – they are similar to caribou, which call North America home.
“Things like the way they dig to find food – the lichen that they have under the snow – the clicking of the hooves, if you will,” Exton-Parder said, explaining some of the shared traits.
Exton-Parder said the trio of caribou at the zoo are “very healthy” thanks to a good diet and constant care and attention from their keepers.
“The keepers provide enrichment, keeping them in fine top form.”
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She said the animals at the Calgary Zoo may even be able to fill in for the most popular reindeer of all – Rudolph.
“Caribou have the very tight blood vessels in their nose – they’re quite close together. So some of them do shine a wee bit,” she said. “So, even the top-dog role of Rudolph could potentially be snagged by one of our three.”
Exton-Parder said caribou are hardy and used to travelling great distances, which is a requirement for the job.
“Ours are in very good shape. So if Santa calls, we’re ready.”
She suggested that the Calgary Zoo may even be willing to give up one of the caribou, should Santa want to bring one of the animals back to the North Pole to train full time.
Exton-Parder said the zoo is also helping to light Santa’s way this Christmas, pointing to the 1.5 million glittering lights at Zoolights as a beacon for the jolly old man as he navigates his way in and out of Calgary.
“You know, when he’s up there he definitely knows where Calgary is.”