The Zookeeper

My profile about retired Calgary Zoo director and world-renowned zoo keeper Peter Karsten appears in the current issue of Alberta Views magazine. I had the great pleasure of being a guest in Karsten’s home on Denman Island last year.

Peter and his wife Margarit are charming hosts. They fed me fried Fanny Bay oysters and homemade kiwi wine and told me about their journey from Germany to the Canadian West. Karsten toured me through his aviaries where he raises Pekin Robins and other birds. I watched him feed the family of mule deer that passes through his property every day at dawn. At the end of my visit, he gave me a copy of the book he wrote on breeding Pekin Robins. Instead of just signing it for me, he dipped his paintbrush into a palate of watercolours and painted a robin on the title page.

Most of all, though, The Peter talked about his experiences at the Calgary Zoo. He told me about his early days as a keeper when he used to bring infant animals home with him to care for through the night. Photos of tiger and lion cubs fill his family photo albums. He told me about his promotion to zoo director, and his commitment to ‘ban the bars.’ And he revealed his fears that the Calgary Zoo, and zoos around the world, seem to have lost their way.

I’ve never met anyone as devoted to animals as the Karstens. Peter and Margarit are a marvelous couple, and my article about them is the first real love story I’ve ever written.

The story, called “The Zookeeper,” is not online, but the magazine website is here.