Canada is synonymous with wildlife. Its soaring mountains, vast national parks, and deep oceans are abundant with creatures. However, behind the scenes, conservationists are working tirelessly to ensure that Canada’s wildlife remains healthy and that it thrives despite the impact human beings have on the landscape.
When you enjoy a holiday in Canada, spotting some of the country’s most famous animals will be high on your to-do list. Grizzly bears, caribou and humpback whales can all be found patrolling the land and seas. But ensuring that Canada’s native wildlife remains protected is a top priority for conservation charities, many of which combine tourism with conservation. You can make a difference when you visit Canada on holiday by supporting conservation charities, staying in eco-resorts and viewing animals responsibly.
Among Canada’s most endangered animals are woodland caribou, blue whales, North Atlantic right whales, American marten, swift foxes and Southern Resident killer whales. We spoke to conservation charities in Canada about the vital work they are doing to protect the country’s wildlife.
Wildlife conservation charities in Canada
Raincoast Conservation Foundation
“The Southern Resident killer whale population is now down to only 75 individuals”
Raincoast is formed of a team of conservationists and scientists, protecting the lands, waters and wildlife of coastal British Columbia. Since launching in 1996, Raincoast has made excellent progress in protecting Canada’s native wildlife and habitats.
We spoke to the team at Raincoast to find out more about their work: “Our efforts over the last 20 years were recognised internationally as instrumental in contributing to the establishment of legalised conservancies in the Great Bear Rainforest. Here our ‘Salmon Carnivore’ program now works in partnership with coastal First Nations communities on a research network of non-invasive bear research initiatives, extending over 490,000 acres. Raincoast has also been at the forefront of stopping the British Columbia grizzly hunt for over 20 years, which the current government banned in late 2017.
“In a world-first, in 2005, we began buying commercial trophy hunting tenures in the Great Bear Rainforest, where we only shoot large carnivores with cameras! We have now acquired the commercial trophy hunting rights in approximately 7.4 million acres of British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest. We extinguish commercial hunting when we purchase the tenures and our ultimate goal is to protect bears, wolves, cougars and other carnivores throughout the entirety of the Great Bear Rainforest.”
Many things depend on wild salmon yet they face a host of threats – including the disease and parasites from open-net salmon farms. You can add your voice to those calling for an end to open-net salmon farming in BC @wildfirstcanada and show your support today at events in Campbell River, Courtney, Port Moody, Vancouver and Victoria. #salmon #wildlife #wildlifephotography #pnw #britishcolumbia #fishfarmsout 📷 Andy Wright
Having already taken great strides to protect Canada’s wildlife, the team at Raincoast have a clear agenda for the country. We asked them which animals/habitats are most at risk today: “As sentinels of ecosystem health, Southern Resident killer whales bear the brunt of harmful levels of noise, lack of food (Chinook salmon), toxic pollutants, and growing vessel traffic.
“The Southern Resident killer whale population is now down to only 75 individuals. They are now recognised as being at imminent threat of extinction. Their fate is also tied to rebuilding Chinook salmon populations – their primary food source. Raincoast is working to ensure this happens using science to advocate for recovery measures such as reducing disturbance from ships, increasing food supply (e.g. Chinook salmon), and addressing pollution.”
This year, the Raincoast Conservation Foundation is focusing on its Safeguarding Coastal Carnivores campaign. By raising $500,000, the charity hopes to purchase a fourth commercial hunting tenure covering half a million acres in British Columbia. The team’s other priority is the vulnerable Southern Resident killer whale: “In the Salish Sea, our key focus is centred around protecting and recovering the endangered Southern Resident killer whale population, as well as restoring and rebuilding Fraser River salmon and their habitat via our multi-year Fraser estuary juvenile salmon research project and a bold new initiative we have launched, to ‘re-wild’ salmon habitat in the Lower Fraser.”
Wolf Awareness Inc
“These animals, although still misunderstood and persecuted by some, are awesome creations of nature”
Educating people about the plight of the grey wolf across Canada, Wolf Awareness Inc. is playing a vital role in supporting this majestic species. The non-profit charity was established in 1987 and strives to promote positive attitudes towards predators in general, with a focus on wolves. Working closely with projects throughout Canada, Wolf Awareness Inc. aims to give people a greater understanding of these intelligent animals, and work as a vital link between scientists and members of the public to achieve awareness.
Sadie Parr, executive director of Wolf Awareness Inc, said: “In many parts of Canada, the opportunity remains to experience and preserve unique cultures of wolves, honed over millennia to become apex predators that rely on highly organised and co-operative families, very much like humans. These animals, although still misunderstood and persecuted by some, are awesome creations of nature, affecting many other species and processes both directly and indirectly to maintain ecological integrity in Canada’s wilderness areas.
“Wolf Awareness INC has worked closely with wolf research projects across Canada, receiving the most up-to-date information about studies while providing donated funds to support research that has improved understanding of this extremely intelligent and social large carnivore.”
The grey wolf is one of the world’s most widely-distributed animals, but one third of its range has been reduced by human persecution or habitat loss. In recent years, ecologists and conservationists have taken great strides in learning about the importance of large carnivores such as wolves to the country’s wildlife. However most parts of Canada don’t offer protection for wolves, allowing them to be trapped or hunted.
Sadie added: “Wolves in Western Canada are in desperate need of improved tolerance and improved wildlife management practices. Alberta and British Columbia are engaged in aerial gunning of wolves under the guise of caribou recovery, yet critical range for dwindling caribou herds continues to be compromised by human interests. Both provinces have been killing wolves for more than a decade and plan to continue, yet caribou numbers have not increased.
“Large carnivores require vast territories and habitat in order to secure enough food for survival. This often brings them into contact, and sometimes conflict, with people who may view wolves as competition for human food resources. As our population continues to expand, human tolerance and a willingness to coexist with large carnivores is becoming ever more important on a global scale.”
According to Sadie, the main threats to wolves today are the loss of habitat due to destruction, development and encroachment of humans, however the species is also persecuted in many ways. She added: “As other countries are re-wildling landscapes by reintroducing wolves and other carnivores in an effort to restore ecological balance, many provinces in Canada are still exploiting wolves and apex predators using inhumane methods.”
Despite the many hurdles they face, the team at Wolf Awareness Inc. have taken great strides in order to protect the species. Working with predator-friendly livestock producers to promote responsible husbandry methods and non-lethal preventative practices, leading pioneering research on predator-prey interactions among wolves and wild horses in BC’s Chilcotin region in partnership with the Xeni Gwet’in community of the Tsilqhot’in Naion, providing crucial information to the Banff National Park Bow Valley Study on the effects of human disturbance on wolves and helping to establish greater protection for wolves in Algonquin Park, Ontario, are just a handful of the group’s achievements.
In 2018/2019, Sadie says WAI will continue to provide school and public programmes for all ages about how wolves affect the health of entire ecosystems. They will also continue to share scientific and community approaches to wolf conservation and “expose outdated and/or inhumane wolf management practices”. Wolf Awareness Inc. will be focused on two key projects: Working with ranchers on carnivore coexistence as part of their Wild Canid Coexistence Program, and banning pesticides (wildlife poisons) across Canada. Sadie said: “Ultimately, we will foster coexistence among wolves and humans at every level of society, and seek to preserve wolves as part of vibrant and functioning ecosystems wherever they occur.”
Northwest Wildlife Preservation Society
“It is our hope and our mission to ensure that a life-long commitment to the environment is fostered”
Focusing on conserving wildlife in the Pacific Northwest, this organisation believes that preservation through education is the key. The Northwest Wildlife Preservation Society introduces locals to the natural world, hoping to inspire them and encourage them to gain a better understanding of their surroundings, and the importance of wildlife.
By running indoor wildlife workshops, hosting nature walks and youth environmental leadership programmes, the charity offers year-round, free opportunities to inner-city school children and at-risk youths in low income areas to give everyone the same chance to reconnect with nature.
As well as focusing on educating British Columbia about the importance of Canadian wildlife, the charity also protects wildlife through their Manley Farm Bird & Wildlife Sanctuary. The 240-acre property brings together multiple habitats, providing a haven for many species. The endangered northern red-legged frog and barn swallow call this place home. NWPS has played a crucial role in preserving Canada’s wildlife. Some of their key achievements include:
-Delivery of over 2,000 education programs to over 200,000 students throughout British Columbia
-Restoring a major wetland in Cobble Hill in 2015
-Playing a prominent role in helping to stop the North American wolf cull in the 1980s
-Stewardship of 240 acres for wildlife sanctuary and sustainable farming since 2010
-Cleaned over 12km of shoreline in BC and clearing some 2000lbs of rubbish
-Planted 2,500 trees in Surrey to reclaim forestland to celebrate their 25th anniversary in 2012
-Cleared 50,000lbs of industrial woody debris from Fraser River Estuary over the last 10 years
Having already achieved so much to support Canada’s wildlife and habitats, we wanted to find out what NWPS has planned for 2018/2019: “NWPS focuses on preservation through education every year,” said executive director Kristine Krynitzki. “The ecological integrity of British Columbia’s environment is under threat, primarily due to human-induced stressors.
“Kids are especially less connected to the natural world than at any time in history. With less unstructured outdoor play time, an increasingly ‘plugged-in’ culture, and decreasing wildlife habitat in urban cores where most people live, there is a lack of opportunities for children to gain exposure and appreciation for the natural world.
“NWPS is the only organisation in GVRD (Greater Vancouver Regional District) that addressed the problem at its core in an inclusive, accessible and comprehensive way. Programs are provided free of charge, thanks to our generous donors, breaking the financial barrier that typically prevents thousands of children from such life-changing opportunities.
“It is our hope and our mission to ensure that a life-long commitment to the environment is fostered and it starts with our programs. We recognised that the students of today are business people and entrepreneurs of tomorrow. Many program participants go on to re-imagine green businesses that will help change our environmental footprint for the better, at home and beyond.”
“Mountain caribou, greater sage grouse and northern right whales are at most risk in Canada today”
Nature Canada is the oldest national nature conservation organisation in Canada. Reginald Whittemore founded what would become Nature Canada when he launched Canadian Nature magazine in 1939, in honour of his late wife, Mabel Frances, an educator and nature enthusiast. Today, the organisation is devoted to connecting Canadians to nature, with more than 80,000 members.
Some of the organisation’s biggest achievements to date include:
-Playing a lead role in establishing a system for listing the status of endangered, threatened and at-risk species in Canada
-Established a network of over 600 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Canada with partner Bird Studies Canada
-Established the South Moresby National Park Reserve in 1988
-Nature Canada was instrumental in convincing the federal government to create Canada’s first urban national park in Toronto’s Rouge Valley
-In 1999, Nature Canada pulled all of Canada’s major environmental groups together to present a unified request that the federal budget invests in nature conservation. The coalition has won important funding, including the 2018 federal investment of $1.3 billion over 5 years to establish new protected areas and to recover endangered and threatened species
Having already achieved so much for Canada’s wildlife, Nature Canada has set its sights on some exciting projects for 2018/2019. The team said: “Nature Canada keeps a constant watch on government promises and plans to create protected areas. Presently, the main focus for Canada is achieving the target of conserving at least 17% of Canada’s terrestrial areas and inland water, and 10% of coastal and marine areas.
“Together with other environmental groups and scholars, we have prepared a series of detailed proposals for reforming these federal environmental laws for consideration by the Trudeau government. We are also currently rolling out our Cats & Birds program with various partners across the country to keep cats safe and save bird’s lives.”
Eco tourism in Canada
While conservationists are doing their utmost to protect the country’s wildlife, there are ways you can help during your holiday in Canada. Why not check out one of these eco-resorts to watch wildlife and help keep their surroundings pristine at the same time?
Clayoquot Wilderness Resort – This luxury wilderness resort with safari-style tent lodging works with the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation to protect the special temperate rainforest of the Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve. They use bio methods to dispose of all waste and donate to a legacy program which restores salmon habitat.
Nimmo Bay – As well as striving to be climate friendly in their luxury wilderness resort, Nimmo Bay runs the scheme Bullets for Binos which encourages hunters to trade in their coveted trophy licenses in exchange for a bear viewing holiday at Nimmo!
Tweedsmuir Park Lodge – This stunning log cabin resort composts leftover food, uses water from an untreated mountain well, buys local products and uses eco-friendly cleaning practices. Book a stay here on an incredible wildlife holiday.
Calgary Zoo – Calgary Zoo’s conservation efforts to protect giant pandas have drawn visitors from all over the world. According to the Calgary Herald, more than 190,000 people visited the zoo in May 2018, breaking the previous record of more than 147,200 set in 2003, when the Destination Africa zone opened.
Lindsey Galloway, senior director of customer experience and corporate services at the zoo, told the newspaper: “Panda Passage is off to a great start. We are also seeing record numbers of memberships – in fact, we now have 90,000 active members. The support from our community is astounding – it makes our critical wildlife conservation work possible.”
Panda Passage, which opened on May 7, 2018, welcomed two adorable giant pandas Da Mao and Er Shun, and cubs Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue. The adult pandas will be cared for by Calgary Zoo for five years, while the two cubs will be returned to China after 18 months. So if you’re hoping to visit the giant pandas, be sure to book your holiday sooner rather than later!