Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums 2016 – Connecting for Conservation

21 Oct 2016

The Wye Marsh is home to a variety of different critters, they reside in our fens, forests, fields, marshes and every habitat in between! Not only does the Wye Marsh offer sanctuary for wildlife, but also to our very own team of educational ambassadors! Our captive wildlife consist of various species of reptiles and birds of prey, and they are a part of a team that strives to educate our visitors about their ecology, species at risk, invasive species and more! Read on to learn more about CAZA, the organization that helps keep the Wye Marsh committed to keeping up with the highest standards of animal care, conservation, science and education!

CAZA - Connecting People to Nature
Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA) is a private charitable organization that represents Canada’s leading zoological parks and aquariums. This organization is committed to the ongoing advancement of zoos and aquariums that are accredited as humane agencies of animal welfare, conservation, science and education. Due to their comprehensive accreditation program and Code of Professional Ethics, CAZA accredited facilities are recognized for their high standards of animal care. As mentioned, CAZA is a registered charity that is able to support its members though an array of engaging information initiatives in addition to partnering with other similar organizations that share common goals and interests.

Educational Affiliate

The Wye Marsh is considered an Educational Affiliate in the eyes of CAZA. We are a centre of excellence for wetlands research, interpretation and education based on the principle of stewardship and the importance of environmental awareness. For many of our programs we are fortunate enough to have the help of our educational ambassadors – our captive wildlife, to help us educate the thousands of visitors we welcome to our marsh every year. Maybe you've seen them in action during one of our Wet and Scaly presentations or Bird of Prey shows that happen every weekend here at the Wye Marsh! Have you learnt something from our scaly and feathered friends?

CAZA 2016 Connecting for Conservation

Every year CAZA organizes a conference for its accredited members. This year was the 40th annual CAZA conference and was held north of 60, in Whitehorse, located in the Yukon Territory. The theme of this years conference was Connecting for Conservation, majority of the conference programming would explore topics around this theme, in addition to engaging it's members in intimate workshops. Since the Wye Marsh became an accredited member of CAZA, our Executive Director Sara Street has been sent as a representative for the Wye Marsh. This year was a little different because our Outreach and Captive Wildlife Care Technician, Katelyn West (that’s me!) was invited along to participate in a week of networking, sharing knowledge, action and adventure!

Getting There

I won’t go into detail, but we traveled across Canada via plane. And with a canceled flight, two different airlines, a short layover and two checked pieces of luggage that were lost for what felt like forever – but then found! We arrived in the city of Whitehorse!

North of 60

Sara and I arrived in Whitehorse on Monday September 19th, we spent our afternoon walking around various sections of Whitehorse, and getting comfortable with the cooler temperatures and the vast mountain ranges that surrounded us. On day two the airline found our lost luggage, and we ventured out on a 30 km guided kayak tour! Our guide Steve from Up North Adventures was very knowledgeable and charismatic as he guided us down the winding (and freezing cold) Yukon River. At one point of the tour we went through Miles Canyon, a staple in the portion of the river we were able to paddle. It has an interesting history to it, but I wasn’t able to listen to Steve very well because I was too focused on not tipping over in the fast currents and swells of the canyon. This tour was very different than the kayak tours that we offer back at the Wye Marsh that’s for sure!

The 40th Annual CAZA Conference

The 2016 CAZA conference ran from Wednesday September 21st to Saturday September 24th. The conference started on Wednesday evening with a lovely icebreaker at the MacBride Museum in downtown Whitehorse. At the museum Sara and I connected with old friends and made some new ones! We got into the real meat and potatoes of the conference on Thursday morning, with the daily theme of Connecting through Education at the Kwanlin Dun Conference Centre, also located in downtown Whitehorse. The conference centre resembled a first nations long house, and if that didn’t make me feel totally submerged in the Yukon’s culture, a welcoming prayer from Norm Adamson a Ta’an Kwäch‘än Elder and a demonstration of traditional dancing by the Chundäy K’anat’a (Flying Eagle) Dancers certainly did! I really adored the fact that this conference celebrated the Yukon First Nations, a fact that was present for the duration of our stay. Feeling welcomed, and comfortable in our seats, we were able to listen to an inspiring presentation by Dr. Axel Moehrenschlager, the Director of Conservation and Science at the Calgary Zoo. Dr. Moehrenschlager discussed how we need to partner for change and start to make an effective difference for conservation action through zoos. With the rate of species decline in the world today, the conversation was both relevant and intriguing. For the remainder of the day we listened and participated in Local Learning and Refreshment Walks, Panel Discussions and Educational Break-Out sessions. Fridays theme was Conservation, we listened in on an intense panel discussion about if zoos were up to the task in assisting with the conservation crisis. Next, we participated in conservation workshops that kept us brainstorming about cool and proactive ideas to bring back to the Wye Marsh! On Tuesday afternoon we were able to visit what I now consider to be one of the most beautiful places on earth, the Yukon Wildlife Preserve. The preserve is a non-profit facility home to 11 different species of northern Canadian mammals who live on a generous portion of Yukon wilderness that encompasses over 700 acres of their actual natural habitats (the Mountain Goats can actually explore on a legitimate mountain-scape, and the moose have a massive wetland to roam). The preserve is dedicated to upholding the highest standards in wildlife and environmental conservation, wildlife rehabilitation, captive wildlife care, and environmental education. Overall, this place is pretty much heaven on earth for someone like myself who is both passionate and highly invested in the field of environmental education and conservation. There also happened to be quite the coincidence because I'm in love with moose, and I had the pleasure of meeting JB one of the two resident moose at the preserve and giving her a good ol' fashioned head scratch! Learn more about JB here: The third and final day of the conference focused on collective action, we participated in a concurrent session to inspire us to engage the visitors, members, and followers of the Wye Marsh in the digital realm. Saturday evening, the CAZA 2016 conference concluded with a wonderful closing banquet where all of the representatives from the leading Zoo’s and Aquariums across Canada got together to reflect and celebrate what we had learned at the conference and from our accomplishments over the past year. In conclusion we were informed that CAZA 2017 will be held in our nations capital, Ottawa! For more information about CAZA 2016 visit

One Month Later

It has been a month since the CAZA conference in the Yukon and as I have settled back into my normal routine at the Wye Marsh, I am frequently thinking back to some of the lessons that I had learnt at the conference. Many of the topics that were discussed, and the conversations that were had, have resonated with me and even though the Wye Marsh is a significantly smaller organization with only a handful of captive animals. I keep these things in mind as I strive to provide our animals with the care that a nationally known facility could provide. Overall, I am truly thankful for this once in a life time experience. I would like to give a special thank you to Sara, our Board of Directors and my co-workers for making my trip possible!

And thank you for reading my first post for the Wye Marsh blog! I look forward to continuing to educate our visitors with the help of our amazing captive wildlife co-workers that I am so privileged to help take care of daily!

Katelyn West