Skip to main content

Amur tigers brush up against one another at the Calgary Zoo on Nov. 28, 2013. The zoo has fully reopened after being closed due to severe flooding last June.

JEFF McINTOSH/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Hundreds of grownups and children pressed up behind a purple banner Thursday as they waited for the chance to reconnect with furry, feathery, scaly and leathery friends at the Calgary Zoo.

A cheer went up when Mayor Naheed Nenshi ripped through the banner that read: "Welcome Back. We're Open," to officially throw wide all doors to the zoo five months after it was shut down by major flooding.

"Make no mistake. It was devastation to one of the most special places in our city," said Nenshi.

Story continues below advertisement

"The mud, the silt, the broken buildings and the broken hearts were evident all over this island."

About a third of the zoo reopened at the end of July, but the greater portion remained closed to repair damage caused by raging flood waters that swamped the animal park in June after torrential rains hit southern Alberta. The zoo is built on an island east of downtown and not far from where the Bow and Elbow rivers meet.

Forty buildings, including the African Savannah exhibit, were severely hit.

The zoo was forced to move 160 animals to higher ground at the height of the flood. Zebras were moved to the zoo's wildlife conservation centre outside the city. Two hippos almost escaped when high water levels lifted them close to the top of their enclosure.

Giraffes that were standing up to their bellies in cold water were ailing after the flood, but recovered. Two peacocks, a pot-bellied pig and a variety of fish died.

The park sustained $50-million in damage and had to find new homes for dozens of animals, closed several buildings and laid off about 300 employees.

"Today we're so pleased to give you back your zoo, to connect you with nature and hopefully build our future conservationists," said Clement Lanthier, the zoo's president and CEO.

Story continues below advertisement

Lanthier paid special tribute to staff and volunteers.

"It's just amazing how they've been able to support and inspire."

The zoo's location on an island became a hot matter of debate when it came to deciding whether to rebuild, Nenshi told reporters after the opening celebration.

"What we have here is partially some basic math," said Nenshi.

"If we can build a berm and protect the zoo from future flooding events for $10-million, instead of spending hundreds and hundreds of millions moving and re-establishing the entire thing, does that make sense?"

"And the second important part is this is a special part of the city and we cannot let our fear of the water control everything we do in the city."

Story continues below advertisement

The zoo usually receives 1.3 million visitors a year. It estimates it lost $160,000 a day in revenue.

Monica Wiersma and her four-year-old daughter Emilie were thrilled to be able to visit the animals once again.

"The zoo is one of her favourite places to come when she's not in school and it's something we sometimes do twice a month," said Wiersma.

"She has really missed not being here for the last five months."

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter
To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies