Recap: Behind-the-scenes Animal Encounter at the Valley Zoo!

On Sunday I took Mike for his early birthday surprise at the Edmonton Valley Zoo… featuring a behind-the-scenes animal encounter!!

I had been thinking about this as a birthday gift for a year now and was so happy that it finally came to be. You see, Mike is in love with red pandas. We have only ever been to the Valley Zoo together once before and it was then (about three years ago) that I went to the bathroom and came out to see this sight:

Mike pressed up against the glass watching the red pandas.

Mike pressed up against the glass watching the red pandas.

He could not stop staring at the red pandas! Shortly after, TELUS started featuring red pandas in their commercials and I’ve heard constant squeals (manly squeals of course, lol) from Mike whenever he sees a red panda. So the great idea formed – I would somehow get Mike up close and personal to play with the Valley Zoo’s red pandas! Now I wasn’t even sure if the zoo offered this kind of animal interaction and I didn’t seriously look into it until late last month so now I’ll lay out the details in case you want to spring an adorable animal session surprise on one of your loved ones!

The Valley Zoo Development Society is the one that hooks you up with behind-the-scenes animal encounters!

The Valley Zoo Development Society is the one that hooks you up with behind-the-scenes animal encounters!

I originally emailed the city to see if they could arrange for this birthday surprise and was told that the Valley Zoo itself doesn’t offer any kind of animal encounter but the Valley Zoo Development Society does! The Valley Zoo Development Society is a non-profit organization that raises money to improve the zoo/help the animals at the zoo. They offer something called the “ZooBuilders Program” which offers a bunch of different types of animal encounters/experiences at certain prices – costs that go to support the zoo/animals.

I went the “Foreman” route – which costs $250 to $499. (I paid the minimum amount – $250). The Foreman option is described as: Bring the whole family to the zoo for a day, or discover the fascinating facts about one of our animals at a private behind the scenes animal encounter ** (maximum 2 people/2 hours) led by one of our ZooKeepers. It says one animal but the one animal doesn’t really take two hours so they also ask for a few other animals you’re interested in going behind-the-scenes with so for my ‘wishlist’ for Mike, I chose red pandas, lemurs, otters and arctic foxes. We ended up doing red pandas, seals and lemurs (totally forgot about the otters that day, lol) and we ended up seeing one of their red foxes that they just recently took in (they’re still working to get an outdoor area for the fox).

(Other ZooBuilder program options range from $1,000 to be a ZooKeeper for a day – making regular rounds with an official zoo keeper, $1,500 to have a special animal enocunter with Lucy and she’ll paint a masterpiece for you, $5,000 to have a travelling zoo come to your office, home or school! Lots of neat options (but obviously they come at a price. But remember the price goes to help the animals!!)

Red panda Pip waving hello!

Red panda Pip waving hello!

Our behind-the-scenes tour guide/zoo keeper was a great guy named Derrick. Derrick has been working at the zoo for four years, started out in the petting zoo (got to pay your dues!) and has worked his way up. He’s also studying for a biology degree at the University of Alberta and says his zoo keeper job is pretty much the best job ever. You can tell he loves the animals!

Here are some photos from our behind-the-scenes encounter with red pandas Pip, George and Lola, harbour seal Hula, various lemurs and a cute red fox named Trouble:

Behind-the-scenes with red panda Pip!

Behind-the-scenes with red panda Pip!

Feeding Pip!

Feeding Pip!

Pip grabbing food!

Pip grabbing food!

Pip, George and Lola - the red pandas!

Pip, George and Lola – the red pandas!

Hula the harbour seal being super affectionate (for food!)

Hula the harbour seal being super affectionate (for food!)

The lemurs were very touchy! So fun.

The lemurs were very touchy! So fun.

Mike hanging with a bewildered lemur.

Mike hanging with a bewildered lemur.

'Trouble' the red fox is a bit shy. But super cute.

‘Trouble’ the red fox is a bit shy. But super cute.

We learned tidbits about each of the animals and also learned that most of them are part of a breeding program – so when they do have babies a committee basically decides what zoo those animals will go to once they’re ready to leave their mamas.

You can ask your zoo keeper/tour guide whatever you want about the animals really! They have so much information to share (so much that I can’t even remember them to list here and I didn’t take notes, lol). It was also really cool because we were ‘behind-the-scenes’ – regular visitors to the zoo could see us through the glass and were obviously thinking how important and lucky we must be to be all up in the animals’ faces the way we were, lol. ;)

To sum up…

I am a frugal person (for certain/most aspects of life) so when I found out making this animal surprise happen for Mike’s early birthday gift was going to cost in the hundreds, I did hesitate at first but in the end I’m so glad I went for it. Mike had a great time. I had a great time. It was such a unique and special experience that you don’t hear people doing very often (even though it is available to the public and now you know, so you can do it too!) I would classify it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! I mean now that we know it is do-able we’ll probably do it again in the future for our future kids or something so maybe twice-in-a-lifetime. ;) But really, how often do you get to play/touch/pet red pandas and seals? How often do you get lemurs hanging off your clothes and jumping on your shoulders? How often do you get to see the areas where zoo keepers prep and set up food to feed the animals? It was so fun and so informative and completely worth the money – especially when you know the money is also going to a charity and the charity is helping the very same animals that your visiting. Win/win! And the animals were just soooo cute!!

I don’t particularly enjoy going to zoos in general because I can get super emotional thinking about animals caged up… but the behind-the-scenes experience was actually quite helpful in that sense because you really do see that these zoo keepers LOVE these animals and are doing their best to care for them and you also learn that a lot of the animals that do end up at the zoo – would have died otherwise due to bad circumstances/health/etc. so they’re actually probably way better off being cared for in a zoo setting!

Thanks to Tammy from the Valley Zoo Development Society for helping set this up and many thanks to tour guide/zoo keeper Derrick! What an amazing animal adventure. :)

Click here for more on the Valley Zoo Development Society’s ‘ZooBuilders Program’


Clicks of the Week: November 12 to 19, 2012 Edition

Thor and Loki Photo of the Week

Welcome to Clicks of the Week: November 12 to 19, 2012 Edition! Clicks of the Week is a weekly round up of news. It used to be Clicks of the Day, but Linda’s life got busy so now it’s a … Continue reading 

Clicks of the Day: Wednesday, June 20, 2012 Edition!

Welcome to Wednesday, June 20 2012’s Clicks of the Day!

Clicks of the Day is a daily round up of news posted Sunday through Thursday with quantity and quality of content differing depending on how busy Linda’s day is.


  • Baumgartner back in Edmonton, awaiting court appearance
  • “After spending the last few days in custody in B.C., the man accused of pulling the trigger in a shooting and robbery on the U of A campus is back in Edmonton… Baumgartner is in custody at the Edmonton Remand Centre; his first court appearance has been scheduled for Thursday morning.”

    Good to hear.

  • Edmontonians could be voting online by 2013
  • “Edmontonians are one click closer to voting online for their city council representatives in the 2013 civic election. On Wednesday, council agreed to send a letter to the province supporting the idea and to participate in a pilot election this fall to test the system. Alberta’s Municipal Affairs is requiring letters from each council for the cities planning to participate in the pilot — which will launch this October. St. Albert and Strathcona County are expected to join the city in the test.”


  • David Swann pleads with province for mandatory ATV helmets
  • “A week and a half after his nephew was killed while riding an ATV, Calgary MLA David Swann is pleading with Alberta’s transportation minister to “reconsider” his position on not making helmets mandatory for users of the off-road machines. On Monday, Transportation Minister Ric McIver said the Alberta government has no immediate plans to introduce legislation that would make helmets mandatory for ATV riders. Even if a helmet law was enacted, McIver said it would be difficult to enforce in rural areas.”

    People should stop riding like idiots… wear helmets. Don’t drink and ride.

  • Lawyers call Alberta’s drunk driving penalties unconstitutional
  • “The lawyer who tackled the country’s assisted suicide laws will take on the Alberta government’s toughened drunk driving penalties. Civil Liberties Association lawyer Joseph Arvay has been retained by Alberta firm Roadlawyers, which specializes in drunk driving cases, one of several that are decrying the Alberta government’s decision to indefinitely suspend licences of drivers who blow over the Criminal Code limit of .08 blood-alcohol content. Drivers police deem are over the .08 limit will immediately have their licences suspended without even seeing a judge, a penalty that will remain in place until the charge is resolved in court. “I think it’s clearly contrary to the Constitution and clearly contrary to the Charter (of Rights and Freedoms),” said Roadlaywer attorney Tim Foster. “We intend to challenge the legislation as soon as we get retained on a file dealing with one of these — we’re going to bring a Constitutional challenge to try to strike the law down.””

    Your thoughts?

  • Taste of Edmonton to offer bigger menu

    “A Taste of Edmonton will return to tempt tastebuds in Churchill Square July 19-28. The festival’s 28th annual edition — launching the same day as the Capital EX parade, will feature seven new restaurants — 65% new menu items and six new gourmet food trucks.”


  • Luka Rocco Magnotta in solitary confinement, under suicide watch in Montreal jail
  • “Luka Rocco Magnotta has been transferred to an east-end Montreal jail where he has been placed into solitary confinement and is under a 24-hour suicide watch while awaiting his next court appearance. Magnotta is currently under “super protection,” which means he has no contact with any of the other prisoners. Beyond that, he’ll receive no special treatment while in the jail… “To see that much security, it feels like we’re dealing with Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs.””



  • Greece ushers in government after weeks in limbo
  • “On Wednesday, Mr. Samaras, the leader of the New Democracy party, was sworn into office, ushering in a new coalition government that will put Greece back at Europe’s bargaining table and ending a seven-week leadership vacuum that had destabilized this already fragile nation and cast a shadow over the euro zone’s future.”

    Good luck, Greece.

  • US trafficking report reveals ‘modern slavery’ toll
  • “More than 42,000 adults and children were found in forced prostitution, labour, slavery or armed conflict in 2011, a US government report has found. Some 9,000 more victims were identified around the world than in 2010, the state department report said. But the number is just a fraction of the estimated 800,000 people trafficked across borders every year.”


  • New 9/11 doc – Gov admits it hasn’t explained WTC collapses
  • “More scientists & building professionals (about 1700) now formally oppose the official 9/11 story than support it. Experts unite against the government’s “unscientific” collapse theory in new film, “9/11: Explosive Evidence – Experts Speak Out.” A group called Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth (AE911Truth) has spent the last six years gathering forensic evidence to explain the extremely rapid destruction of the World Trade Center Towers, which, they contend, could not have been caused by the airline impacts and fires alone.”

    Absolutely it couldn’t have. ~Government conspiracy~


  • Judge to rule on whether obesity a factor when deciding if parents are fit to raise children
  • “In a family court case to be ruled on soon, a judge will, in part, decide whether a 38-year-old Ottawa man is too fat to be a dad. The Royal Ottawa Hospital’s family court clinic, which does court-ordered assessments on parents, is now using obesity as a factor when deciding if parents are fit to raise children.”


  • Boozing while pregnant OK?
  • “New research has found moms who had up to eight drinks per week while pregnant had no significant effect on their children’s IQ and attention span.”

    I still wouldn’t have it.

    Technology/Social Media/Internet

  • Social media helping autistic children ‘navigate the world’
  • “Jordan Hilkowitz is layering household products into a beaker for his latest science experiment. Right beside his mom’s coffeemaker on the kitchen counter, he is preparing a video entitled Layers and Density, describing each step for his 3,800 YouTube channel subscribers and more than 1.5-million viewers. It’s an extraordinary feat considering that five years ago, the 10-year-old autistic boy was non-verbal. Jordan, better known as Doctor Mad Science, also has an audience of researchers who are intrigued by the fact that social media could be useful therapy for children with autism.”

    Very cool.

  • Facebook shares world’s most social places
  • “Today, the company took a peek at the location data people are sharing with their friends and family to find what it calls the “world’s most social landmarks.” The data that Facebook used came from its own built-in location product, as well as 3rd-party apps like foursquare, that use its API… In 25 cities worldwide, the top landmarks include sports stadiums, public areas, amusement parks, concert arenas and shopping centers.”

    Let’s hit them up!!

  • Mobile phones surge in Asia, to overtake PCs, says Google
  • “Asia-Pacific is leading a surge in the use of mobile devices as they play a more central role in people’s lives and are on track to replace conventional computers, a top Google executive said on Wednesday. Aliza Knox, managing director of commerce for Google Asia Pacific, said smartphones and tablets were now becoming the primary means to access the Internet in the region.”


  • [Infographic]: Is social media destroying real-world relationships?
  • “Consider this: 24% of respondents to one survey said they’ve missed out on enjoying special moments in person because — ironically enough — they were too busy trying to document their experiences for online sharing. Many of us have had to remind ourselves to “live in the now” — instead of worry about composing the perfect tweet or angling for just the right Instagram shot… A survey by the social site Badoo, meanwhile, found that 39% of Americans spend more time socializing online than in person. 20% actually prefer communicating online or via text message to face to face conversation, while a third said they’re more likely to approach someone new online than off.”

    I think I’m still being social in reality but I can see where this is coming from, lol.


  • RIM shares slide as job cuts start
  • “Research In Motion Ltd. has confirmed it is in the middle of implementing layoffs as part of a broader restructuring that is aimed at helping the struggling BlackBerry maker cut up to $1-billion in costs by the end of fiscal 2013. Shares were down 52 cents or about five per cent at $10.44 in trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange on the news.”

    Layoffs are always sad.


  • Ancient turtles died while having sex
  • “German palaeontologists have dug up the remains of nine turtle pairs that died while mating some 47 million years ago, sinking into poisonous waters while locked in a final embrace, a report said Wednesday… The discovery at the Messel Pit fossil site between Darmstadt and Frankfurt in Germany allowed the team to deduct that the waters of the Messel Lake had been hospitable enough to allow turtles to live and mate. But the animals died accidentally when they sank while locked together into deeper, poisonous layers, their skins absorbing the noxious substances in the volcanic lake.”

    Poor turtles :(

  • Wildlife extinction threatens human life as well: study
  • “A feared mass extinction of wildlife also endangers billions of humans who depend on them for food and livelihood, according to a new assessment of species loss issued Tuesday at the Rio+20 conference. Experts presented a grim tableau of the planet’s biodiversity as world leaders began arriving for a three-day summit on Earth’s environmental problems and enduring poverty. Out of 63,837 species assessed, 19,817 run the risk of following the dodo, they said.”

    So sad. (Not surprising).

  • Will arctic sea ice reach record low this year?
  • “Recent years have brought unprecedented melting to Arctic sea ice, the white cap that covers the far north. Now, months before the sea ice reaches its annual minimum extent, this summer looks likely to follow suit, bringing unusually ice-free waters… Recent years rank as the lowest on record since continuous record-keeping began in 1979, and scientists blame a combination of natural weather fluctuations, such as wind patterns, and global warming caused by the greenhouse gases humans emit.”

    Oh the consequences of global warming.

  • All the water it take sto producer a burger
  • “Hamburgers, like many enjoyable things in life, have a resource-intensive production process. In addition to meat, burger production requires water–lots of it. The USGS estimates that it takes 4,000 to 18,000 gallons of water to produce a juicy hamburger, depending on conditions that cows are raised in. The water doesn’t go directly into your burger; rather, it is used to feed, hydrate, and service cows.”

    That’s … a lot.


  • Kristen Stewart is the highest-paid actress in Hollywood, according to Forbes
  • “Kristen Stewart — known for her expert blinking, gasping and staring, as well as Twilight — tops Forbes’ list of highest-paid actresses. The actress earned a reported US$34.5-million last year, edging out Cameron Diaz, who made US$34-million.”

    This is appalling. Barf.

    Weird News, Other News & Fluff

  • ‘Forest boy’ admits to weaving tale
  • “The mystery “forest boy” who turned up in Berlin claiming to have spent five years living wild in the German woods has admit-ted to fabricating the entire story after being identified as a Dutch runaway. The youth, whose true identity had baffled German police for 10 months, was finally named as Robin Van Helsum, a 20-year-old from Hengelo in the Netherlands who had disappeared from his home last year without a trace. He arrived in the German capital last September, claiming to have spent five years living in the woods with his father, sleeping rough in caves and tents… However, it emerged Friday that he had simply caught a train to Berlin after walking out on his Dutch family, including his two-year-old son, “to start a new life.””

    Disappointed this turned out to be a hoax.

  • Detroit man gambles away $1.5 million accidentally given by ATM
  • “Ronald Page seemingly had it made when Bank of America unintentionally changed his account status, allowing the 55-year-old man to make unlimited ATM cash overdraft withdrawals. But ABC News reports that Page, who in reality had only $300 in his checking account, used the accidental loophole to withdraw more than $1.5 million—losing it all on gambling. And even worse for Page, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit says he is now facing 15 months in prison after pleading guilty to charges of theft of bank funds.”

    Wow. Some people who get the money are so undeserving of it!!

  • Millie the cat gets job guarding children’s presents
  • “Millie the Bengal cat, thought to be the world’s first ever feline security guard, has been hired to guard some of the UK’s best-selling toy ranges… Millie’s excellent climbing abilities and loud purr made her the prime candidate for the role, with deliveries expected to come in thick and fast over the coming weeks… ‘With the appointment of Millie the security cat, our toys are now very well protected.'”

    SOOO CUTE!!! I hope she doesn’t get hurt.

  • 5,000 ducks cause traffic jam as Chinese farmer herds feathered friends to pond
  • “More than 5,000 ducks brought traffic in the Chinese coastal city of Taizhou to a standstill Sunday when a duck farmer and his herd traveled to a nearby feeding pond, the Herald Sun reports. As the ducks waddled into the street, pedestrians and scooters wove around the herd as onlookers watched with amazement. Armed with only a couple of long sticks, not one duck was lost over the half a mile trip, an annual ritual in China’s Zhejiang province, according to the Daily News.”

    So cute!!

  • Dancing 2012: Matt Harding returns with new dance around the world viral video
  • “It’s been a long four years, but the wait for a new “Where The Hell Is Matt” video is finally over, and this one’s pretty jaw-droppingly great. For fans of viral videos that make you want to hug your neighbor, Matt Harding’s oeuvre is pretty much the gold standard.”

    Very heartwarming.

Thor (and/or Loki) Photo of the Day:

Morning cuddles with the cats on a day off.

Have your say on some of these Clicks of the Day’s! Leave a comment! Or tweet me!