Settled in the heart of Peterborough, Ontario along the picturesque Otonabee River is Riverview Park and Zoo. Within the park is a free zoo that is open year round. Along with the zoo, the park, covering over 55 acres, also has an extensive playground with mini rock climbing rocks, a water park, snack bar, a vintage miniature train – the ride only costs $2.00 and beautiful scenery and views of the Otonabee River.
In 1933, the zoo began with a pair of alligators by Ross Dobbin who was at the time the General Manager of the Peterborough Utilities Commission. The zoo acquired more animals and so grew in size as well as in popularity. The Peterborough Utilities Commission took over full responsibility in 1968 for financing and operation. The zoo now has 27 exhibits and is home to over 48 species from camels to plated lizards and macaws to several big cat species.
Upon entering the zoo grounds I was met with a towering totem pole, it was stunning. I looked all the way up and there upon the top animal was a seagull – it seemed perfect and made me giggle. The totem pole was carved by Norman Knott of Curve Lake in 1973 and presented to the zoo by Whetung Ojibwa Crafts.
For a small, free city zoo I was unsure what I would find, though I’d only heard good things from friends, I went with no expectations. I must admit, but for the chain-link fencing, I was impressed. Every enclosure was spacious if not large, all filled with natural vegetation and many with water features and numerous ones included multiple species.
I felt like an excited kid at a new zoo, bouncing from exhibits only to spring back to charismatic animals like the North American river otters. When I first arrived at their world-class exhibit the two boisterous otters were swimming around their large pool that also had under water viewing and a beautiful waterfall feature. It’s always entertaining to watch these sweet creatures dive and swim so effortlessly. At the time of my arrival they had just been fed and were munching on some fish, it was adorable to watch them hold the fish in their front paws, much like a child, and munch away at it. About 20 minutes later when I was walking by the top side of their exhibit these little balls of energy were chasing each other through the bushes, into the other pool and down the slide into the larger pool and back again. Too cute!
Like I always stress, I love multi-species exhibits! They’re great for animal enrichment, socialization and give visitors an idea as to the native habitat and what different species share an ecosystem. So, I was thrilled to see that the Riverview Park and Zoo had various exhibits like this. There were the squirrel monkeys darting around a lazy lizard, lemurs lounging while various birds flutter about and took in a bird bath and the tortoises watching the cheery meerkats, to name a few.
Who doesn’t love meerkats? These curious, little mongooses are always a highlight at zoos. But something about Riverview Zoo’s family of meerkats tugged at my heart strings. I’m pretty sure I stood there watching them for over half an hour two separate times when at last I finally tore myself away. Perhaps it was the pregnant female who looked like she was about to burst and tried hopelessly to snooze while the other three, possibly juveniles, wanted nothing but to play. I couldn’t help but beam with smiles as I watched the female trying to doze off but was interrupted by her head jerking back up only to make its way back down to nod off again, not unlike my father attempting to watch t.v. on the couch. Then the other three decided to dart in and out of their tunnels, catch one another and play wrestle, this play was interspersed with short periods of cuddle time with “mom”. At one point it seemed the female realized her nap was done and when she got up she made a curious noise, much like a gurgled purr, I was shocked, I’d never heard them make such a noise before. I immediately crouched down and mimicked her noise. She responded and looked in my direction. I made the noise again and every time I did she would respond. Then as I continued to make the noise she would respond and then she started towards me, closer each time I purred, until it seemed she could go no further and we looked at each other. I was overwhelmed, much as I always am to have an encounter with such an amazing animal, it was like we were communicating. It was pure joy! There is probably nothing sweeter then communicating with an animal, it is an amazing experience.
The Riverview Park and Zoo is a great place to take the kids to play and learn about animals, take a stroll through the park and have a picnic overlooking the river, or visit everyday like I probably would if I lived nearby – did I mention it’s free!
For more photos check out Lady of the Zoo on Facebook!