The Archibald Biodiversity Centre (ABC) is Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo’s newest conservation facility and it's right in Strathmore's backyard.
The centre itself has been painstakingly planned and construed over the course of five years and is focused on rehabilitating and reintroducing endangered and at-risk species back into the wild.
Lea Randall a population ecologist working at the ABC explains some of the programs that are working towards building up sustainable populations for these endangered species.
“So we have a northern leopard frog captive breeding program, and we're working to reintroduce northern leopard frogs into parts of their range in British Columbia, where they've been extricated from. We also have a burrowing owl program where we take runt burrowing owls that wouldn't likely make it in the wild, and then we bring them into our facility and overwinter them there. We release them again in the spring and we'll pair them up with their mates in the hopes that they will re-populate parts of the grasslands where they're no longer found.”
Randall is also working to help a whooping crane captive breeding program, the Vancouver Island Marmot population and recovering the sage grouse population.
The ABC was set up in Wheatland County for a myriad of reasons, chief among them was the issue of expansion. As the zoo's previous conservation centre was bordering wetlands and an ever-expanding Calgary was continuing to creep up on the previous conservation centres' borders.
Wheatland County gives the ABC room to grow, a remote area to raise animals in and fewer concerns about their neighbours (Siksika nation and Namaka Lake) building or developing the area around the facility.
The 330-acre land the facility is on is being looked at for further development for conservation efforts.
Randall speaks about what's coming next for her and the facility
“We've just finished doing some reintroductions of leopard frogs into British Columbia we did some wild to wild translocations and we did some. we released some head-started individuals from the Edmonton Valley Zoo. Next on the agenda, we will hopefully be releasing some tadpoles from Vancouver Aquarium which also have a captive breeding program for northern leopard frogs.”
In addition to giving endangered critters a helping hand, Randall also hopes that the ABC will uplift the communities around it in a similar way.
“When we were looking at this facility. Initially, we did meet with some of the stakeholders, so we have a memorandum of understanding with Siksika that will hopefully provide both benefits for the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo as well as Siksika Nation. We also spoke to other land owners that were around there and it was quite valuable for us too because. just seeing how people set up their operations in the area, we were able to learn from them…I think it's been a really valuable partnership for both of us and I hope that there will be some more benefit to our neighbours.”
With more and more discussion on climate change and its impacts on ecology and wildlife in the news, it's good to see Wheatland County becoming a place that helps both the wildlife in the Archibald Biodiversity Centre and the people that work with and around this new state of the art facility.