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Zoo puts the Boo into annual Halloween festivities

The Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo is inviting guests of all ages to don their favourite costumes, and spend the Halloween weekend with their favourite animals.

The zoo’s annual ZooBOO is back for 2022 with some returning favourites, new activities, and a Halloween themed brunch.

“Kids want to wear their costumes as many times as they can, so this gives them an opportunity to come down and learn a little bit a little bit more about animals, and have fun,” said Gillian Cardwell, manager of special experiences at The Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo.

The zoo will be setting up four treat stations throughout the island for the youngest zoo patrons. Returning from last year are the treat slides, which proved popular with kids.

“We are using the treat slides again, just because they’re so fun,” Cardwell said.

“One of our stations will be fruit, we have two that are candy, and then we have one that is actually compostable pens with lemurs on them, which are really cute.”

Cardwell said that they know not all of their guests will want candy this year. The zoo partnered with the Calgary Produce Marketing Association to provide something different.

“There’s a little bit of something for everybody.”

Animal safe costumes encouraged

She said that the zoo would be open for their regular hours on the Halloween Monday for ZooBOO.

“There’s kids who aren’t in school all day, there’s kids that are not in school, or kids that are only in school in the mornings or the afternoons, and since not everybody goes trick or treating this gives them an opportunity to have a special day on that day if they want,” Cardwell said.

“Some might come after school, so the entire day that we’re open we’re doing our treat stations and our activities.”

Adults are also being encouraged to dress up as part of their zoo visit during ZooBOO. Although, said Cardwell, they are placing some limitations as to not affect the welfare of zoo animals, which can react to some types of costumes.

“We just ask that people remember not to cover their full faces, as that can be kind of alarming to some of the animals,” she said.

Among the costumes the zoo is asking adult patrons to not wear are full body animal costumes, inflatable costumes, or realistic costumes that could cause animal welfare concerns.

Cardwell said that those types of costumes are less of an issue for animals when they’re on children.

“We know kids wear full face things— that’s not so bad, it’s the adults that are the bigger issue,” she said.

As part of the costumed fun, the zoo will be placing a number of selfie stations throughout the island.

“Big huge photo ops that you can have your costume on and get to take your picture next to it, so that you’ll remember the year.”

Enrichment activities for animals throughout the weekend

As part of the Halloween weekend fun, the zoo’s care teams will be doing fun things for the animals as well.

In what the zoo is calling surprise and delight activities, the animals will be getting either pumpkins or Halloween coloured items.

“Some of them get a pumpkin that they will squish or sit on, some will have it opened up with maybe maybe crickets inside or other food hidden inside, and some animals,depending on the weather, might get frozen popsicles,” Cardwell said.

One of the highlights for the weekend will be the hippos, which often like to sit on their pumpkins and cause them to pop inside their mouths.

Cardwell said that the enrichment will be dependant on the day, and done with the care of animals in mind. Because of that, she said that there wouldn’t be a posted schedule online of what animals will be receiving enrichment, but those details will be available at the zoo from staff.

“Some animals if they got pumpkins every day that would make them sick, so we have to be careful about how often they get it,” she said.

“Wherever they go, there will be things happening throughout, and then we have our awesome visitor experience team who point out things that are happening on the day.”

ZooBOO will taking place on Oct. 29, 30, and 31. All of the activities are included as a part of the regular zoo admission.