As Ontario moves into Step 3 of its reopening plan, staff at Riverview Park and Zoo in Peterborough, Ont., are looking forward to welcoming more visitors back to the park.
“We are so excited to welcome people back,” said program supervisor Cathy Mitchell. “We have been missing visitors at the zoo, so in Stage 3 we are able to offer more tours a day and to more people across Ontario.”
When the province entered Step 2, limited guided tours began at the zoo. It was the first time visitors have been invited back since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020.
And it seems staff aren’t the only ones excited to have people back at the park. Mitchell said some of the animals have noticed the visitors’ return as well.
“The animals are noticing all of the guided tours, they sense you, they feel you, it is a part of their enrichment,” said Mitchell. “By bringing people back into the zoo, they are again able to have that enriched day, they check you out, you check them out. It’s about the stimulation and interest.”
And the visitors aren’t the only addition to the zoo. Mitchell said they have upgraded a number of exhibits and have welcomed two new residents to the park.
“We have our two newest residents, Hollister and Mack. They are our alpacas who have joined us from Trent University,” said Mitchell. “They were retiring from their animal care program, and we were found to be the most suitable home.”
She said the pair will be in quarantine likely until the end of August, not due to COVID-19, just standard procedure.
However, Mitchell noted that some animals at the zoo are susceptible to COVID-19 and, because many exhibits are up close and personal, it is a main reason why they have remained closed.
“We have seven animals here that are susceptible to COVID and another three that are suspected susceptible,” said Mitchell. “Our job is to protect them. We don’t yet have vaccines for the animals, they can’t mask, they can’t stay distanced so we make sure that we do to protect them.”
She said by hosting guided tours, staff are able to monitor numbers, make sure everyone is properly distanced and take contact tracing precautions.
Tours are released every other Wednesday at 10 a.m. on the Riverview Park and Zoo website. If you aren’t online and are looking to visit the park you can call 705-748-9301 ext. 2304.