June 10, 2004

Extending knowledge and an appreciation for wildlife are the driving forces behind a successful wildlife centre located in one of Ontario’s most naturally beautiful regions.

The Muskoka Wildlife Centre (MWC) has provided a diversity of benefits to both people and animals since its opening in 2000.  Dale and Jody Gienow, who share a passion for wildlife, created the centre to increase public awareness of animals that are native to Ontario.  The MWC provides long-term care for animals that are unable to survive in the wild.  Visitors of the centre can interact with wildlife and interpretive staff educate visitors with factual information, unbiased by personal opinions.

“We believe that once equipped with the knowledge, people will be able to come to an educated, well informed opinion of their own,” says Jody.  “Our public education has had an enormous effect on wildlife through the actions of people we teach.”

The Gienows’ efforts towards educating the public are not limited to the centre.  Their backgrounds in zoology and extensive knowledge of wildlife have inspired many creative initiatives, including Ontario’s first overnight children’s zoo camp and taking over a live animal outreach program, which tours across the province, making it the largest one of its kind in Canada.  Accompanied by the animals capable of travel, Dale and Jody make visits to libraries and schools across Ontario, delivering over 1,300 on-site and off-site presentations each year.  They have also participated in documentary films and several children’s education programs.

While learning the importance of wildlife protection, the 100-acre boundaries allow visitors to experience the natural beauty of the area and get personal with animals that many do not receive an opportunity to see.  The species they care for vary greatly and include moose, wolves, lynx, owls and coyotes.

In Ontario, there are two types of wildlife centres.  When an animal is in need of help, it is assessed at a rehabilitation centre and if it is determined that it cannot be released back to the wild, it will be forwarded to a long-term facility like the MWC.  The animals come to the centre from organizations such as the SPCA, the Ministry of Natural Resources, and some they encounter themselves.  Whether it is injured wildlife or abandoned pets, Dale and Jody will help them, which could mean taking them in or finding a suitable home for them.

Future plans involve expanding upon the work they have been doing.  They hope to add a classroom to the main building, which would be constructed using environmentally responsible methods and materials.  Other plans include an eco-based day camp for children, starting a regularly circuited newsletter and holding various wildlife seminars.  In addition to their current efforts, they also plan to be more actively involved in wildlife legislation.  With some help and a lot of hard work, the Gienows have reached a great level of success with the MWC.  It is likely that they will continue to find new ideas to include in this unique experience that leaves visitors with a valued appreciation for wildlife.  “We are tremendously proud of what we have accomplished to date,” Jody says.  “We believe that we have had and will continue to have an incredible impact on the well-being of the precious wild creatures we share our province with.”