A wide variety of exotic animals from Cuvier dwarf caimans, pythons, tortoises, tarantulas, a

black lemur and opossums are being brought to Whitehorse for the Canadian Accredited Zoo & Aquarium (CAZA) Professionals 2016 Conference running Sept. 21 to 24.

These animals will be showcased in select elementary schools in Whitehorse and at a series of public events on a by-donation basis, such as at the Canada Games Centre on Saturday, Sept. 24.

The educational and hands-on sessions for the general public will be run by the Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo and Hand’s on Exotics; both organizations have a significant outreach presence in their communities.

All the animals will have travelled quite a distance to arrive in Whitehorse, flying in via Air North from as far afield as Ottawa. However, great care has been taken in ensuring their comfort and suitability for travel.

“The public outreach aspect of bringing these animals to the Yukon is to get people to care about the biodiversity in North America and beyond in a tangible way. Not everyone in the Yukon is able to see such animals, but these animals allow us to share what CAZA is all about, that is, conservation and education” says Jake Paleczny, Director of Programming and Education of the Yukon Wildlife Preserve. “You only care about what you understand.”

Many species of the lemur, for example, are listed as critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable from a host of human-made factors including deforestation, hunting, climate change and capture for the exotic pet trade.

The exotic pet trade is an important educational aspect for CAZA with these programs, as some of the animals showcased have been rescued after being purchased as pets by the general public.

Without the necessary knowledge or appreciation of the significantly different care required to ensure the wellbeing of the animals, groups like Hand’s on Exotics have to rehome or otherwise rescue these pets.

This is the 40th Annual Conference for CAZA and the first time this conference is being held north of 60. The Yukon Wildlife Preserve, which is hosting the conference, is its only accredited member this far north.

The CAZA conference will run for four days and will focus on education of its members through seminars and networking. Among the many topics to be tackled is the controversy concerning zoos and aquariums and how they might do better in the future.