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A cheetah at Parc Safari roams its grassy enclosure.
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Parc Safari zoologist Francis Lavigne looks across the park at the pair of elephants. He and other staff lavish them with care, he says.
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Many types of animals, including giraffes, await visitors at Parc Safari. Wolf pups and cheetahs are among the main and popular attractions this year. (Rob Fountain/P-R Photo)
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Cheetahs are among the popular attractions at Parc Safari this year. (Rob Fountain/P-R Photo)
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Parc Safari President Jean-Pierre Ranger talks about the philosophy of the zoo Wednesday in Canada. (Rob Fountain/P-R Photo)

Parc Safari continues to invest in future

By: DAN HEATH

HEMMINGFORD — The birth of four Arctic wolf pups is part of Parc Safari's mission to aid in preservation of endangered and otherwise threatened species.

Staff have nursed the four pups back to health after they were abandoned by their mother shortly after birth in May. The goal is to reintroduce them to the park's Arctic wolf pack. 

President Jean-Pierre Ranger said that since the original wolves were introduced at the park, they have taken part in breeding and research at prestigious facilities such as the San Diego Zoo. The wolves have also gone overseas to facilities in England, Austria, Germany, Holland and the Czech Republic.

"It is a privilege for us to have that species here and present them to the public. It also helps other institutions present them to the public," Ranger said,

NEW ANIMALS ARRIVE

Head Zoologist Francis Lavigne said they have once again welcomed a number of new animals to the park over the winter. They have some of the largest herds of eland, addax and oryx anywhere in Canada, the latter extremely important as they are extinct in the wild.

"We're lucky enough to have good success breeding them here," Lavigne said.

They have also welcomed two baby zebras, which are somewhat rare at Parc Safari. He said it appears a few more may be on the way.

Their male giraffe is off for a breeding attempt at another facility. Two females, age 24 and 4, are still at the park for breathtaking views of the graceful, tall herbivores.

Ranger said they have invested about $18 million in the park's infrastructure since 2002. A lot of that took place behind the scenes to make winter quarters for the animals more comfortable. 

He said that in addition to helping meet international zoological standards, it was simply the right thing to do.

"I think in that area, we have surpassed those standards," he said. 

Improvements, such as using pavers rather than crushed gravel or dirt for the walkways has helped improve access for people with disabilities. The park also provides motorized mobility scooters and has eliminated attractions that require stairs.

"We have spent to make it as pleasant as possible for the animals and for our visitors," Ranger said.

INVESTMENT CONTINUES

Parc Safari continues to invest in its future. Ranger said they plan to spend at least another $11 million in the coming years to continue those efforts.

The most successful attractions are able to integrate financial considerations while telling their own story.

"Here the story is about the animals," Ranger said.

They rely heavily on feedback from visitors, with frequent studies guiding the way to the future.

"The path to growth is written in these comments from our guests," Ranger said.

One example is the park's water attractions, specifically designed for younger children. Ranger said that's because they realize it is families who make up their visitor base, and thus don't need to compete with the huge rides found at other water parks.

Marketing Specialist Sebastien Prairie said one new program this year, Cheetah Cash, is aimed at attraction of tourists from New York and Vermont. The park will give $30 in gift certificates for use in the gift shop and restaurants to those who show they have an enhanced drivers license from those states upon arrival at the park before the end of the season.

"It's a way to say thank you for coming over," he said.

Email Dan Heath: dheath@pressrepublican.com

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