After some delay, Oaklawn Farm Zoo in Aylesford will be opening for the season on Good Friday.
Although it was originally slated for an April 12 opening, weather concerns prompted the zoo to push the opening date back to April 18.
“Up until a couple of days ago, you couldn’t have even driven in the parking lot,” says Gail Rogerson, who co-owns the zoo with her husband, Ron. The winter has been a long one, with lots of shovelling just to get around the property.
Rogerson doesn’t think the late start to the season will have any real impact though – she cites weather as being a much more important factor.
“We could have great weather and a terrific season, or it could start raining and not as many people come.”
This year, the zoo will be introducing “library days,” partnering with the Annapolis Valley Regional Library on two dates this summer. Participants will be given free admission, the bookmobile will be on site and activities will be held in various locations throughout the zoo.
Library Outreach Services manager Wendy Kearnes describes it as a “terrific partnership,” and hopes it will “open the door” to children who might not have otherwise gotten to visit the zoo. Anyone under the age of 18 is eligible to participate in the program.
The stars of the show will be the animals living at the zoo. One major draw for Oaklawn Farm has always been its small pride of lions. Esther, now 20 years old, was recently moved into her own enclosure. The last remaining lion of the zoo’s original pride, Esther is “to an age where she doesn’t have to put up with young energy,” says Rogerson – namely, Sterk, who will be two in August, and Nyah, who is about 16 months old.
Sterk became a bit of a celebrity this winter after showcasing his hockey skills.
“People are very interested in seeing how animals grow and mature, so I think he’ll get a lot of attention and a lot of people will come to see Sterk the hockey-playing lion,” says Rogerson.
But the youngest lion in the group is Obi, who was acquired by the zoo last fall. Now six-and-a-half months old - and much bigger - he spent the winter months living with the Rogersons and their more traditional pets.
“It’s like living with a kitten that’s much bigger,” Rogerson laughs. “(Lions) like to be playful and you have to give them toys they can wreck.”
Once the nice weather is here to stay, Obi will be moved in with Sterk and Nyah; he has been introduced to both, although all three haven’t been together yet.
“Nyah’s actually quite good with him. Sterk finds him a little entertaining. Obi has to be to the point where he shows submission, but not fear,” Rogerson said, before he can be moved in with them.
Obi isn’t the only baby that’s growing up: Boo Boo the white-handed gibbon had a little one in July. Now much more independent, Rogerson thinks that the baby will be a big draw this year. Unlike its brother, Gideon, this baby doesn’t have a name yet; that will come this season. Rogerson says there could potentially be a ‘name the baby’ contest, but she isn’t committing to anything just yet.
Right now, Rogerson and her staff are getting the zoo ready for the season, ahead.
“There’s always lots to do at the last minute,” she says.
See a slideshow of photos here.