The Alaska Zoo has long been a resource for animal education in the Anchorage area, with an overarching theme of conservation and protection of species that reside in the circumpolar north. It’s the only zoo in Alaska, too, drawing thousands of visitors annually, thanks to a year-round opportunity to view a wide variety of creatures who call the space home. Kids, particularly, can find many classes and programs to attend, and early spring always brings two events we find interesting and full of information.
Do you know Alaska’s state sport? Hint: There are no skates or sticks involved.
Dog mushing was established as Alaska’s official state sport in 1972, when I was but a wee lass. Dogs and their sleds (and the men and women who drive them) have a critical place in Alaska’s history, and are as culturally significant as snow. But who are these creatures, and why have they evolved from the bulky, fluffier Siberian Husky or Alaska Malamute (Alaska’s state dog, by the way) into lanky, shy, racing machines? And how did this happen?
The Alaska Zoo, in celebration of our own version of “March Madness,” has hosted a popular Idita-Zoo event for several years to rave reviews from parents and kids who wish to know more about dog mushing as both a sport and a tool for surviving an Alaska Bush winter. And why not? Dogs are smart, adorable, and love their people with hearts and souls. An opportunity to spend a day learning more about them is the least we could offer them back.
Join the Alaska Zoo, local mushers, and other families on Saturday, March 14 from 12-4 p.m. on the zoo grounds for the 2015 Idita-Zoo program. Take a scavenger hunt, complete with authentic “checkpoints,” hear a special story, meet sled dogs, and learn more about the equipment required to turn a group of dogs into a team of hardworking canine athletes. The event is free with zoo admission, but contact the Alaska Zoo if you have questions. Dress for chilly weather, lots of movement, and bring the camera!
Also coming up at the Alaska Zoo is a more somber occasion, but one of equal importance to every living thing on planet Earth.
Earth Hour is a worldwide awareness campaign happening on Saturday, March 28. The Alaska Zoo has chosen once again to participate in Earth Hour, and they invite all members of the community to join them in a night walk around the zoo, lit only by the candles we carry. It’s an opportunity to showcase our planet’s delicate environment, to stop, look, and listen at what the night may bring, and take action to preserve the fragile nature of what is obviously changing around us.
During this event, kids and parents can sign a poster, make a donation, and watch the polar bears partake in an evening enrichment activity. We have attended the last few years, and find Earth Hour at the Alaska Zoo to be a worthwhile two hours of learning and growing as a family. Won’t you join us? This event is FREE, but donations are greatly appreciated, and expected.