Bears Mistaya and Koda will help shed light on those in the wild
By Alex Soloducha, CBC News Posted: Apr 25, 2017 4:12 PM CT
The Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo is beginning a new partnership with the Foothills Research Institute to start a grizzly bear research program in the city.
The five-year agreement between the two organizations will allow Foothills scientists to use Saskatoon zoo facilities to take part in conservation research on a variety of animals of different species currently housed there, starting with two orphaned grizzly bears.
The Saskatoon Zoo acquired two young grizzly bears in 2006. Mistaya and Koda were both orphaned in Alberta, paired at the Calgary Zoo and later transferred to their permanent home in Saskatoon.
Manager of the Saskatoon zoo, Tim Sinclair-Smith, said the organization is working to make research and conservation a priority.
“We shouldn’t have them here at all if we’re just going to display them,” he said.
Foothills researchers have been working on long-term conservation of grizzly bears in Alberta since 1999.
Their primary objective is to understand how the health of individual grizzly bears is influenced by human activities and changing environmental conditions. The second goal is to examine how that health affects the growth, stability and resilience of grizzly bear populations.
The City of Saskatoon will pool in-kind resources to create a Wildlife Health Centre, consisting of a laboratory for Foothills researchers. No changes will be done to the structure of the facilities, which are being outfitted with necessary lab equipment.
“For them to build a facility … you’re talking millions and millions of dollars,” Sinclair-Smith said. “This was a great opportunity for them to be able to utilize the data they can gather from these guys and use them for a baseline for all the research that they’re doing with the bears in the wild.”
The Foothills scientists will test samples of hair, feathers and scales picked up through non-invasive sample gathering.
Their research findings will often be communicated directly with zoo visitors.
With files from Charles Hamilton