I often find myself with mixed feelings surrounding animal amusement facilities. I have seen movies like Blackfish and know that many of the attractions that feature wild animals provide spaces that are too confined for the way that nature intended animals to live. I know that there are many animals whose population is threatened because of man, industry, nature and all the environmental themes that Tolkien so eloquently wrote into his books. I am also a realist, an omnivore, a supporter of farms and scientific research. One of the best excursions Chris and I have ever been on was a whale watching tour in the Bay of Fundy with marine biologists who fund their research by giving tours. It was amazing. I know that technology is there to help a number of species procreate (humans included) and I'm thankful for that.
When I received an offer earlier this summer from African Lion Safari to bring the minions out to experience a day out there I completed a little bit of research before I accepted. African Lion Safari has worked with its' vision of conservation and preservation of threatened and endangered species since they first opened 45 years ago. In support of these goals they have been able to release animals bred and raised in captivitiy into the wild through reintroduction programs including Barn and Burrowing Owls, Trumpeter Swans, Ferruginous Hawks and a Bald Eagle. They are recognized internationally for their breeding programmes with many ground breaking research projects in the fields of animal welfare, reproduction, behaviour, nutrition and conservation having been initiated at African Lion Safari.
9 Things I learned on my trip to African Lion Safari:
- It is "the" place to see elephants in the greater Toronto area (especially since the elephants left the Toronto Zoo) and is home to the largest Asian elephant herd in any zoological facility in North America, maintains excellent genetic diversity with 14 calves born originating from 5 different fathers and 6 different mothers. They have had more second generation births than any other facility in North America. The park welcomed the first artificially inseminated elephant born in Canada in November 2009. Go Science, or for you Breaking Bad fans, "Science, Bitches!" We arrived at noon, just in time for the elephant swim.
2. Weigh your options for how you travel through the reserve, if you take the bus you need to get tickets, wait in line and deal with any bad child behaviour in a public forum. If you take your own car, monkeys may steal your windshield wipers....the choice is yours.
3. If you opt to take the safari tour bus, book your tickets in advance to avoid waiting a long time with cranky toddlers who you can only amuse by feeding them cotton candy and other confections that will make it virtually impossible to stay still on the bus. Good luck with that.
4. Be prepared for your three year old son to be more excited about being on a bus than the animals he is seeing outside the bus. Singing of The Wheels on the Bus may ensue.
5. With the unique approach of exhibiting animals with the visitor caged in the car while animals roam in a 2 to 20 hectare (5 to 50 acre) reserves and giant gates, there will a lot of jokes about Jurassic Park.
6. The staff will remain pleasant, patient but firm when they remind your son to stay seated on the bus, like 100 times over the course of the hour. Mom and dad may not remain so calm, especially mom.
Jack after warning 44 to "please, remain seated on the bus"
7. There are two playgrounds (one regular and one splash pad) to help kids blow off some steam (aka energy, sugar, "can't help its") between shows and tours. These are well worth scheduling into your day!
8. There are plenty of places for outdoor picnicking or indoor shade for hungry critters.
9. When you ask your daughter what her favourite animal in the park is, try to hide your disappointment when she tells you that it was the bunnies from the petting zoo.
To plan your trip to African Lion Safari click here They are open daily until mid-October!
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