Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them at KPU
Features / October 31, 2016
Alyssa Laube, Staff Writer & Joseph Keller, Web Editor
Although rare, the days that paws and claws touch KPU soil are often the happiest ones. There’s nothing like a fuzzy face to make nine hours of gruelling classwork a little easier to stomach, but both pets and wildlife can be tragically tough to find here. The university grounds are teeming with people and covered in flora, but fauna is seldom seen. Even commonplace critters like squirrels and birds are difficult to spot, despite rumours that Surrey has a live-in turtle in its pond, that bears have been seen wandering about, and that burrows of rabbits live in the underbrush by the forest.
Those claims have yet to be photographically proven, but it is true that the university welcomes stress puppies around midterms each year, guide dogs are allowed on-campus, and for one blissful day, the KSA had a cat named Simba in their office. Still, it took a little digging before we found the rest of KPU’s creatures, both big and small, near and far, aquatic and terrestrial. After three weeks of investigating, meeting mammals and reptiles, and traipsing around with cameras, we present the fantastic beats of KPU.
Pigs, Chickens, and Bees (Oh My!)
The Tsawwassen Farm School is home to the four-legged, two-legged, and winged. Chickens are brought up there for fresh eggs, and pigs are raised for their meat. The latter is potentially controversial—and frankly, it does come as a shock that KPU produces its own pork—but the farmers assure that the pigs live out long lives on large, lush pastures amongst other piggies.
“[The pigs are] for educational purposes, for the community, for students, also just for being able to provide good quality, pasture-raised pork for our community members, students, and staff,” says Daniel Garfinkel, a student at the Tsawwassen Farm School. “We have an open-door policy and we’re really proud of the way we raise our animals. We do want to showcase them and we do want to show them off.”
“The bottom line is that if we’re taking business away from industrial farming and the terrible agriculture that’s going on within farms and industrial livestock—if we’re encouraging a market that respects the products more and respects the meat more and the animal’s life from beginning to end, I think it’s a fantastic thing.”
Bees have also arrived at the Farm School, but entirely by chance. One day, in a beautiful twist of fate, they just showed up there. Farmers have been taking care of them ever since. The dream is to harvest and sell their honey in the future, but for now, they’re more concerned about keeping the hive healthy and prosperous.
People love the farmstock in Tsawwassen both for economic and personal reasons. Community members appreciate them for their products and their friendly presence, and often pay visits to the chickens and pigs.
Kittens at Cloverdale
Over the summer, a makeshift habitat in the Cloverdale campus maintenance courtyard served as a temporary home for four little balls of fuzz and razorblades and their doting mother. For the past several years, a feral cat—named Clover by KPU staff—has made the campus her home. Not particularly trusting of humans, Clover largely avoided interaction with her bipedal neighbours until this past July when she gave birth to four adorable kittens.
The first kitten, a black cat who would later be named Kaypuh, was found by the campus plumbing department. Soon after, a nest made of shredded bits of cardboard containing three more tiny kittens was discovered in a storage unit by KPU first aid attendant Sandra Hoffman.
“So then we kind of mobilized and said ‘okay, what are we going to do about this?’” says Hoffman.
What followed was a coordinated effort to trap and house all five. So as not to separate the kittens from their mother, they were left alone and monitored until staff could trap all five together. They spent the summer housed in a habitat made from four sections of fence donated by Yellow Fence rentals. Furnishings, toys, food, and litter were all donated by Costco as well as members of the community.
Kaypuh, the black one, is “kinda the baby of the litter. He’s a little more shy but when he starts to play he really plays,” says Hoffman.
Richmond, the largest of the four, is also the friendliest. “He’s a real mama’s boy,” says Hoffman. “If momma’s upset he’ll go into the nest with her and purr like mad.”
Surrey is the smallest. “She’s a very lovely girl,” say’s Hoffman. “Probably the shyest of the litter.”
Lastly we have Langley. “Her fur is like velvet,” says Hoffman. “For some reason it’s really short and dense.”
The four kittens have captured the hearts of everyone on campus, with students regularly visiting during class breaks. Kaypuh, Langley, Surrey, and Richmond all went to their new homes to early this month.
“We found four wonderful homes, and the families have all been here regularly for the time they’ve been in the habitat,” says Hoffman “So there’s that connection.”
Mom, still the loner type despite the time around her human caretakers, has been spayed and released back onto the campus grounds. Next time you’re on the Cloverdale campus keep an eye out and you might just spot Clover skulking around her territory.
The Langley Mousers
The Agriculture department at the Langley campus keeps a few furry feline employees on staff. The department has adopted several barn cats to act as guardians of the greenhouse, hunting down and taking care of any rodents that might otherwise decimate the department’s crops. These guys do their job remarkably well, ensuring that this feature will have no section on the Langley rats.
When they’re not busy hunting down and murdering Mickey and Minnie, the Langley mousers like to be lay around the greenhouse, visit with the students, and even occasionally take a ride around on the forklifts. Despite having the freedom to come and go as they please, the cats rarely leave their campus home for long, due to the benefits they receive as KPU employees.
“These are spoiled cats,” Lori Karr, a member of the educational support for Langley, told The Runner last September. “They own the place. They go to the vet, they’ve got all their shots, they get good food and fresh water every day, they have catnip growing outside, and they get toys and treats. Who wouldn’t want to live here?”
The Cloverdale campus regularly plays host to guests of the equine variety. On any given school day horses can be found in the campus’s custom farrier workshop. These majestic creatures come to KPU from clients around the Lower Mainland to work with KPU students.
While in the care of KPU students and staff the horse’s safety and comfort is priority number one, according to Gerard Laverty, an instructor for the program. Laverty says that the workshop has the dual purpose of being a space for learning and work as well as for housing animals. With the students’ work area in the middle of the barn, the horses have the perimeter to themselves, well away from any work related hazards. Each horse has an individual space to move around in and receives ample water every four hours. The use of restraints, drugs and force on the horses is strictly banned in the program. Students entering the program must have at least two years experience working with horses. All these practices are to ensure that the animals are safe and happy during their time at KPU.
Biology Lab Treasures
Who would have thought that a sterile lab would be chock full of life? Biology lab technician for the Surrey campus, James Callander, said in an email Oct. 7 that they “currently have a variety of animals on display such as crested geckos, Japanese fire-bellied toads, a Chilean rose tarantula, purple pincher hermit crabs, an axolotl, hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, prickly walking sticks, planaria, a variety of freshwater fish, [and] beetles.”
A visit to the lab revealed that they are all there, healthy, and as interesting as they sound. The crested geckos—a couple known for biting at each other’s tails—were friendly and curious enough to crawl around on their handler, and Gladys the tarantula wasn’t nearly as scary as she looks. The hissing cockroaches lived up to their name when taken out of their enclosure, but the rest of the creatures were relatively quiet and inactive.
And rest assured, none of them are physically experimented on.
“If you’re going to have animals in a lab, you should take care of them properly,” says Callander, who has been working on improving their cages since he started at KPU. “[Having them in the lab] is a little bit more exciting than a DNA model or something like that. It just really engages the students.”
In a perfect world, animals would roam freely on KPU campuses and therapy pets would be around every day. Until then, keep this guide close and contact The Runner if you see any friends to add to our ever-growing list of fantastic beasts.