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Murder most fowl: Calgary Zoo’s ZooDunnit serves up a night of delicious intrigue

There’s been a murder at the Calgary Zoo, and it’s up to you to solve it.

The zoo will be hosting a live murder mystery game for the first time on Friday, Oct. 22.

Patrons to the zoo’s ZooDunnit will be asked to solve the murder of a prominent conservationist, all while taking part in a beer tasting and progressive dinner throughout the grounds.

“We were looking for something where you could move through the zoo, and have an experience that was not just a sit down dinner murder mystery,” said Gillian Cardwell, manger for special experiences for the Calgary Zoo.

Patrons will travel from station to station, gathering clues shady characters that would be familiar to anyone who has played the eponymous board game, but with a conservation twist.

Guests taking part in the murder mystery will meet genre favourites like the widow, the assistant, and the professional rival. Other zoo-centric characters include hippo fanatics, the conservation investor, and the fundraiser event planner.

“And I believe there’s a veterinarian as well because you need to have a veterinarian in the house,” said Cardwell.

Doors open at 5 p.m. and guests will be able to take in the game at their own pace.

ZooDunnit logo. CALGARY ZOO

Playing the game

Upon entering the zoo, guests will view an introductory video on their phones that will set up the premise for the murder mystery.

Guests will then have to locate characters throughout the zoo while attempting to deduce the whodunit culprit.

“They’ll be given some clues along the way as they eat and drink and enjoy their evening,” said Cardwell.

Once guests think they know who the murderer was, they can submit their answers too the zoothorities and find out if their detective skills were a hit or a miss.

ZooDunnit was designed by Jetpack Creative, the same firm that created the zoo’s Locked Zoo escape room style game.

Working up an appetite to solve crime

This will be first public event for the Calgary Zoo’s new executive chef Kaede Hirooka.

Hirooka comes to the Zoo via the Vintage Group and Marriot International.

Items on the evening’s menu include Quebec duck confit profiteroles, pulled pork bao, scallop and shrimp corn dogs, and mole rubbed Alberta striploin Tacos. There will also be a risotto and a dessert station.

“We’ve had [pulled pork bao] before at another event and everyone lost their marbles they loved it so much,” said Cardwell.

“When you put all the food together you get more than a full dinner,” she said.

There will also be a flambé station where chefs will be making whisky flambé strawberry and rum flambé pineapple in front of guests.

Annex Ale is providing the beer tasting station for the evening.

A cash bar with zoo themed drinks and non-alcoholic beverages will also be available for patrons.

All about conservation

All of the zoo’s special events have been centered around their core message of animal conservation.

“Every single thing we do at the zoo has a conservation message and story involved in it,” said Cardwell. “What the Calgary Zoo’s mission ambition is we want to protect wild spaces and wild places.”

She said that the various adult-focused events tend to bring in new guests that wouldn’t otherwise have visited the zoo. Many potential patrons avoid the zoo because they believe it is just for kids.

“We have grown this amazing group of adults who have been coming to events and bringing in new people to hear what we do, because we are trying to put animals back in the wild.”

Cardwell said that as a registered charity, the zoo puts every dollar they bring in back towards conservation efforts.

“When you come to the zooto an event of any sortyou are saving species,” she said.

Getting tickets for Friday

Tickets for ZooDunnit are available for purchase on the zoo’s website and are $99 each.

Timed ticketing has been implemented for ZooDunnit to improve the murder mystery experience.

“We do that for the distancing so we don’t have a couple hundred people show up at one time at the characters,” said Cardwell. “But we’re also doing it so people can move at their own pace and feel that they’re not in a crowd.”

The zoo is operating under the City of Calgary’s restrictions exemption program bylaw. Proof of vaccination, a privately paid for negative Covid-19 test, or a provincially approved form of exemption must be provided.