Working Together to Build The Edmonton Valley Zoo

Working Together to Build The Edmonton Valley Zoo

This article was originally published in the Winter 2018 Wild Times Newsletter.
Photo Credit: VZDS Facebook Page

The Valley Zoo Development Society (VZDS) raised $1.5 million for Phase III of Nature’s Wild Backyard Part 1. The cheque is part of our $3 million commitment to redevelop the Urban Farm and red panda habitat. An additional $6 million is committed to redevelop Part 2 of Nature’s Wild Backyard. The Valley Zoo Development Society is a small charity, with a big goal and even bigger supporters in the Edmonton community. We are proud of our achievements and humbled by our donors. Thank you! Click here to learn more about Nature’s Wild Backyard.

Wild for the Zoo – World of Wildlife Travel

***UPDATE March 7, 2018. It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of Shauna Treichel, Founder of WOW Travel and the focus of the blog post below.

On February 21, we lost a kind and beautiful friend ~ Shauna. In lieu of flowers, Shauna’s family are respectfully requesting donations in support of the Zoo through our charity. Shauna donated over $8,500 from WOW travel excursions to help revitalize the Zoo with improved habitats for the animals and better opportunities for guests to get closer to animals & nature. She also sponsored exhibits and volunteered countless hours at our various fundraising events. Contributions made to our charity in memory Shauna will help to create a special place that will inspire new generations of ambassadors that care deeply about and are committed to preserving the natural world around us. Memorial donations can be made via THIS LINK.

WOW Travel – making our world a better place through unique travel experiences.

The Valley Zoo Development Society is honoured to have support from individuals, schools, community groups and various businesses in our community. Our supporters are helping to transform the Zoo into a world-class education & conservation facility by-way of hosting third-party fundraisers, requesting donations in lieu of gifts, making monthly donations, and donating a portion of profits from their business. We extend our sincerest appreciation to all of our donors.

In this first edition of “Wild for the Zoo – Community Support Feature”, we would like to highlight World of Wildlife (WOW) Travel.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with the founder of WOW Travel to find out a little more about their business and to find out how we became the lucky beneficiary of their generosity.

PHOTO CREDIT: Dean Treichel

PHOTO CREDIT: Dean Treichel

WOW Travel was established in 2013 by Shauna and Dean Treichel. Shauna is a Travel Agent of Vision Travel and a Certified Virtuoso Travel Advisor. Dean has been with the Edmonton Valley Zoo since 1979, starting as a Zookeeper, then Team Leader and is presently the Operations Supervisor of the Edmonton Valley Zoo. Shauna’s passion to create all-around meaningful experiences for her clients combined with Dean’s expertise and knowledge of wildlife that others seek led to the natural progression of organizing and taking group trips to wildlife destinations to experience animals in the natural world.

WOW Travel is committed to providing unique experiences, and journeys that will open your eyes, broaden your mind and resonate in your soul. What I find separates them from other travel agents is their wildlife expertise, passion and professional connections.

They provide wildlife enthusiasts with worry-free, seamless vacations so they can be immersed in the natural world, and the cultures of these destinations. They believe in sustainable and responsible travel, which includes giving back to the communities they visit. This is what I found truly exceptional.

In addition to supporting the communities they visit, they also support education and conservation here in Edmonton by-way of donating a portion of every booking to the Valley Zoo Development Society.

When I spoke with Shauna about how the Valley Zoo Development Society (VZDS) became their charity of choice, she stated that it is because of the shared values. Both organizations realize the importance of conserving the planet and all species on it, and we both appreciate the important role the Edmonton Valley Zoo plays in our City and around the world.

To date, they have hosted a trip to the Galápagos Islands, Costa Rica, Panama and 3 trips to Africa, and have donated over $8,500 to support the important work of the Edmonton Valley Zoo.

Due to popular demand, the 2018 trip to Peru is already filled. But not too worry, there will be an amazing adventure to Africa in 2019. Details will be finalized and share on their website in January 2018. And there’s a strong possibility that there will be another exciting trip to the Galápagos!

What’s new for 2018? In addition to donating a portion of these exceptional group travel experiences, they are now donating a portion of non-group travel for All-Inclusive, Cruise and Tour packages will also be donated to the VZDS!

PHOTO CREDIT: Dean Treichel

PHOTO CREDIT: Dean Treichel

You need only advise Shauna that you are a friend of the Edmonton Valley Zoo and/or the VZDS and a portion of your booking will be donated to support the work of the Zoo. And do not worry, Shauna reassured me that prices are not increased to make up the donation – you will get honest and competitive pricing. If you’re looking for a personalized travel booking experience for all your vacation travels, look no further!

We’d like to extend our sincerest appreciation to World of Wildlife (WOW) Travel for their incredible and continued support.

For more information on both group and non-group travel, please contact Shauna at WOW Travel:
Phone: (587) 290-0033
Toll-free: 1 (855) WOW-TRVL (1-855-969-8785)

PHOTO CREDIT: Dean Treichel

PHOTO CREDIT: Dean Treichel

Working Together to Build the Edmonton Valley Zoo

Partnerships are based on trust, collaboration, and mutual visions and values. In 1988, the Edmonton Valley Zoo entered into a unique and exciting partnership. A group of Edmontonians, passionate about their local zoo, established a charity dedicated to raising awareness and funds.

Almost 30 years later, the Valley Zoo Development Society (VZDS) continues to play an important role in the revitalization of the Edmonton Valley Zoo. With two full-time and three part-time employees, and a 12-member volunteer Board of Directors, the VZDS has established itself as an integral and valuable partner.

The VZDS’s mission to raise funds and promote awareness to ensure the continued development of the Edmonton Valley Zoo is achieved through the many events and programs the VZDS runs throughout the year. The VZDS organizes annual fundraisers including ZooFest and the Zoominescence Festival of Light, facilitates the Adopt an Animal and Adopt an Exhibit programs, develops partnerships with individuals, corporate and community leaders, and operates the gift store, appropriately named the Zoo-tique.

Each year, the VZDS donates thousands of dollars to the Edmonton Valley Zoo for development and improvement. Past projects include upgrading the elephant, red panda and lemur habitats, the Zoo Veterinary Clinic, and the creation of the design plans for Nature’s Wild Backyard. The VZDS also donates funds to various charities including the International Elephant Foundation, Red Panda Network and Snow Leopard Trust.

The VZDS has committed to raising more than $9 million to fund Nature’s Wild Backyard, the next phase of the Edmonton Valley Zoo’s redevelopment.

Together, the Edmonton Valley Zoo and the Valley Zoo Development Society have exciting plans to shape attitudes about animals and the environment within Edmonton, the province and around the globe. But, we need your help!

Former Mayor of Edmonton, Stephen Mandel, and his council recognized the importance of this partnership saying: “Our council made the right decision in investing in the future of the Edmonton Valley Zoo and making it a very special place. It doesn’t always have to be just all public money; we need as private citizens to invest in the kinds of things we see are important to our city, and we should take a look at how we can support the Valley Zoo Development Society and allow them to invest in special projects at the Zoo that will make our Zoo an even better place to be.”

We invite you to partner with the Valley Zoo Development Society and play a key role in the stunning and sustainable transformation of the Edmonton Valley Zoo. Join us in creating a special place that will inspire new generations of Earth ambassadors committed to preserving our one and only planet for all life – plants, animals and humans.


A Gift of Bonding with Family and Nature




When Samantha contacted me about a Zoobuilders Experience for her daughter’s 16th birthday, I thought ‘wow, that is such a good idea.  It is so hard to buy a cool gift for a teenager!’.

But it was her feedback after the experience that truly surprised me.  She said ‘it gave me an amazing opportunity to bond and learn with my daughter’.

Zoos are so much more than just looking at animals. They provide us with a unique opportunity to bond not only with animals, but with nature and with our fellow human-beings. Zoos allow you to explore the world and your surroundings in a whole new light. It is an incredible environment that encourages family bonding.

Instead of me articulating Samantha’s experience for her, I asked her to provide me with her thoughts that I could share with others:

“Thank you so much for organizing this experience for me and my daughter. The program is AMAZING and absolutely blew me away!  My daughter was so happy she could have cried. She couldn’t stop telling me how cool this was and its the best present ever.  And at 16 its hard for mum to impress her!  We had a great time together and it made her birthday so special.

We had so many take-aways:
– I was amazed at how dedicated the staff are to enrichment programs.  Every animal we saw Greg (our Zookeeper) talked about the enrichment programs they do.
– My daughter found it interesting to hear about how dedicated all zoos are to genetic diversity and how they all work together.  It was interesting to hear about the programs zoo staff participate in for animals in the wild.  (For example Greg told us how the ferrets in Saskatchewan were near extinction and how the zoos came together and now there are thriving in the wild).
– Our biggest take away was just how dedicated zoos are to animals well-being.  Zoos are an amazing tool to educating people about the animals.  Hopefully through this education we can learn to respect and appreciate animals and the world around us.

This experience gave us so much more than I could have hoped for and it gave me an amazing opportunity to bond and learn with my daughter.  I highly recommend this experience to anyone who wants to give a special gift to their loved one. I’m so grateful for all your help, to Greg and the Edmonton Valley Zoo for this amazing day.”

If you’re struggling to find a unique gift for that hard-to-buy person in your life, please consider our Zoobuilders Program.  You’ll put a smile on the face of a loved one AND you will help transform the Edmonton Valley Zoo into a world-class education and conservation facility.  Funds raised through this program will support the next phase of the Zoo’s revitalization, called Nature’s Wild Backyard.

Happy Holidays!


Goodbye to Galapagos

The Silverseas Galapagos is considered an Expedition Cruise …which you probably figured out if you followed this blog. We had on average 4 options every day which included hiking, kayaking and snorkeling. There are plenty of options to do that here, however none like Silverseas. We knew going in this was a top of the line experience which respected the ecosystem and ensured it supported the local economy and all the rules in place to protect and preserve these fragile habitats.

The ship itself is incredible. The staff friendly, knowledgeable and local.

Of course the first class experience was largely due to the staff. Our room steward Enrico, our favourite waiter Allan, the bar staff Tyrone and Joffre, and most importantly the expediton guiding staff Walter, Jorge, Angela and Karina. We were travelling with a great group of people – we had a lot of late night laughs with those from Mexico – Lorenzo, Raoul, Jorge Luis and Claudette, dozens of great couples Amy and Ed, Dorothy and Tom, Harris and Wendy, Don and Mary Lou, Christina and Willy. Katleyn and her family from Galveston, Matthew and his family, all the boys from the states – Milton, Mitch, Joseph, Robert, and the ladies. Cindy, Cindaye and Janey…and many more. And the obvious, my travel partners – Cindy, Kasia and Mel it was a blast.

Shauna and Dean – thank you. In case you were wondering what exactly this blog has to do with the VZDS and the Edmonton Valley Zoo, its this dynamic couple. Dean works at the Edmonton Valley Zoo as Operations Supervisor and has over 30 years of animal care and knowledge. Shauna is a travel agent operating as World of Wildlife Travel. Together they offer amazing travel for animal lovers, to locales you’ve only dreamed about, and they ensure that the operators, guides, hotels and excursions are as conscientious about the environment and animal stewardship as we are.

On top of all this, when supporters of the EVZ book their group travel, they donate some of their proceeds back to help build our zoo. If you are looking for travel with adventure and purpose, you can do no better than WOW travel.

As we board our flight to Quayaquil and we say our goodbyes, I’ll leave you with my favourite photos from each of Galapagos rare creatures. Thanks for following along.

Origins – Santa Cruz

This morning we disembarked at 7:45 a.m. for the island of Santa Cruz. It wasn’t our most orderly exit, many of us had stayed up late into the night dancing and we were feeling it this morning! Still we are now ship to zodiac skilled passengers and the crew had all 100 of us off-loaded in 15 minute blocks.

Santa Cruz is the location of the Giant Tortoise Research Centre, our first visit. We headed to Los Gemelos, or the highlands. We started to see a few wild tortoises along the road as we headed out of town. These were the shorter dome shaped giant tortoises.

Santa Cruz, like San Cristobal, is only allowed to use 3% of the island for production and human habitation. Santa Cruz is the producer of the area’s coffee and ranch lands. Because they do not use pesticides, all the the yogurt, cheese and milk is 99% certified organic and some of the best in Ecuador. They also produce citrus, avocado, and cacao. Unlike San Cristobal, Santa Cruz does not have fresh water…all water must be desalinated. Our ship uses all products sourced in the Galapagos, or Ecuador – part of the restrictions on travel on the area. Both a boon to the local economy, and more importantly a safeguard against chemicals, invasive plants, or any accidental change introduced into this ecosystem.

At the reserve we saw tortoises weighing over 500 lbs and some that were over 100 years of age.

We got to traverse down into and through a lava tunnel and truly understand for the first these unique geological formations that crisscross all these islands.

Then it was to the national park for a hike and to see lava sink holes created by giant pools of lava that were dormant under a layer of earth and eventually just melted back through the crust.

This afternoon half the group will go to see a traditional sugar cane moonshine production and coffee plantation, the other half will being heading to see another subspecies of giant tortoise and the Charles Darwin’s Information Centre.

The Darwin Research Centre is where lonesome George lived after he was discovered on Pinta Island and where researchers spent years hoping he would mate with a closely related sub species to try and preserve his subspecies.  Although they were unsuccessful in that endeavour, lonesome George became a universal symbol for conservation. Today the centre breeds other saddle-back giant tortoises from Wolf Island, Espanola, and one of the areas of Isabella. They are also the focal point of many international research and conservation efforts. We learned about the efforts to save the mango finch (San Diego Zoo Global is a partner in this project – another full circle for me as I just visited there in September). They also study the land iguanas there.

A unique endeavor is taking all of the hybrid tortoises that were bred trying to save George’s line and before they had identified all the subspecies and using those animals, who by their hybrid nature are sterile, and putting them on Pinta – the island George came from that is now devoid of tortoises and seeing some ecological changes without its largest plant eater.

After a stroll through the interpretive centre we walked throuh town and went by the fish market.  Local boats were selling all manner of fish including yellowfin tuna and lobster.  The vendors have developed a unique relationship with local sealions, gulls and herons who bad clean up after a customer chooses his fish and it is cleaned.