With heavy wildfire smoke smothering southern Alberta, the Calgary Zoo is taking precautions for the safety of its animals and staff.

The Air Quality Health Index was rated at 10+ Friday which is considered to be very high risk and a serious concern for the health of people and animals.

Staff at the zoo say while the smoke may not bother some animals too much, others are more susceptible to it.

"We have a couple of animals that are very sensitive to smoke," said Matt Korhones, curator at the Calgary Zoo. "Birds and reptiles, these are animals that tend to be a little more sensitive to environmental change."

He said turtles and tortoises aren't able to cough or sneeze because of their hard belly plate, so they were being moved inside for the day.

calgary zoo

Despite the smoke, Korhones said the zoo would remain open, but staff have specific policies and protocols in place to monitor their animals.

"You’ll probably find our flamingos indoors today where they have a beautiful air filtration system," Korhones said.

The zoo has a team of animal experts to watch and monitor them to make sure there’s no abnormality or distress because of the smoke.

"Animals at the zoo, for them this is no different than any other day. We have our native wildlife moving around right now that are doing fine."

As for pet owners wondering what they can do to help keep their furry friends safe from smoke, experts including Korhones have some tips:

  • Keep pets indoors with windows closed
  • Use air conditioning, if possible, to filter the air
  • Keep pee breaks short
  • Avoid long walks and other prolonged outdoor exercises
  • Keep pets well hydrated
  • Watch for signs of respiratory stress and eye inflammation. If your pet shows symptoms, see a veterinarian immediately

Back at the zoo, staff and animals were avoiding any strenuous activities for the day.

"It’s important we take it slow on a smoky day," said Korhones.

chameleons at the Calgary Zoo