Peter graduated as an agriculturist from the Federal Institute of Agriculture in Germany in 1962 and emigrated to Canada the next year. In 1964 he started at the Calgary Zoo as a Keeper, and by 1974, was the Director of the Zoo and the Executive Director of the Calgary Zoological Society. Peter honed his leadership and management skills at the Banff School of Advanced Management . He became the first President elected by the newly founded Canadian Zoo Association in 1975, and President of the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums in 1993. For ten years after leaving the zoo Peter worked on modern zoo design with international architect firms to create modern zoos in Asia, South and North America.
Peter retired in 1994 to Denman Island where he and Margrit now live.
In his ten years as Director of the Zoo, the traditional menagerie type zoo changed to a world class education and conservation facility. Peter initiated a zoo keeper in-service training program and advanced public zoo education and veterinary services. He ensured that animals were housed in habitat appropriate to the species and that their husbandry was based on their behaviour. He made breeding of many wild animal species a special focus, concentrating on endangered species of the northern hemisphere to fit the Alberta climate. The Zoo was highly successful with northern swift fox, wood bison, whooping cranes and Vancouver Island Marmots.
Captive breeding, which he likes to call “breeding in human care” is very much part of what he does. He bred amphibians, reptiles and insects as a child, and hand-raised a long list of wild animals in his home while working for the zoo. Upon retirement, he decided to breed softbills (soft food eating birds: insectivores/frugivores) at his acreage on Denman Island and built 20 aviaries. He breeds European finches, tits, thrushes and warblers, but concentrates on Pekin Robins (red-billed Leiothrix). This species was rarely bred in captivity; little was known about its needs. He established a husbandry protocol, created a studbook, and raised over 170 offspring to independency since 2000. This success led in 2007 to his comprehensive hand book: “Pekin Robins and Small Softbills – Management and Breeding”.
Pekin Robins require a steady supply of high quality food insects, and Peter has successfully propagated six species of insects for the last 13 years. This experience gives him confidence in captive breeding as one option to assist the endangered Taylor’s checkerspot, a butterfly which in Canada only exists on Denman Island, British Columbia, where he lives. (Endangered populations are also found in Washington and Oregon.) He has built a butterfly breeding facility modeled after the successful Taylor’s checkerspot and silverspot butterfly ex situ breeding project at the Oregon Zoo.
Peter is an accomplished wildlife painter.
Karsten, P. 2000. “Pekin Robins: Care and breeding Part I”. The Avicultural Journal 23, no 1: 33-39. Avicultural Advancement Council of Canada
Karsten, P. 2000. “Pekin Robins: Care and breeding Part II.” The Avicultural Journal 23, no 2: 21-27. Avicultural Advancement Council of Canada
Karsten, P. 2001. “Puppet Rearing of Pekin Robins (Leiothrix lutea)”. The AFA Watchbird 28, no. 2: 38-41. American Federation of Aviculture. Phoenix
Karsten,P. 2001. “Breeding of Oriental White Eyes (Zosterops palberosus) with the help of nest site supports”. The AFA Watchbird 28, no. 4: 58-60. Phoenix
Karsten, P. 2002. “Pekin Robins: Information on Their Care and Breeding”. The AFA Watchbird 29, no. 2: 56-68. Phoenix
Karsten, P. 2002. “Raising Waxworms as Food Insects for Birds and Reptiles”. The AFA Watchbird 29, no. 4: 56-68. Phoenix
Karsten, P. 2007. “Das Rotkehlchen – seine Pfelge und Zucht”. Gefiederte Welt – Voliere, Vol . 10/2007 ; 298-301. Backnang, Germany . ISSN 0016-5816
Karsten, P. 2008. “Erfahrungen mit Blaumeisen in der Gemeinschftsvoliere”. Gefiederte Welt – Voliere, Vol. 7/2008 : 8-13 . Backnang, Germany . ISSN 1866-3400
Karsten, P. 2008.”The European Robin Erithacus rubecula – Its Care and Breeding in Aviculture. Avicultural Magazine /The Journal of the Avicultural Society, Cornwall, England. Vol. … No… ISSN 0005 22256 (received DHS RIDSON AWARD 2008 for best authorship)
Karsten, P. 2011. “Eine Zusammenarbeit zwischen dem oeffentlichem und privaten Sektor zur Erhaltung von Biodiversitaet in der Vogelzucht”. Der Zoologische Garten. N.F. (2011) 203-211. Translation from: Public and Private Sector Collaboration to preserve Biodiversity in Aviculture. World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, 65th Annual Congress proceedings, 2010
Karsten, P. 2011. 1) Breeding Pekin Robins and Silver-eared Mesias. Pages 18 -30 2) Breeding European Finches and Softbills. Pages 31-42 3) Propagation of Live Food. Pages 56-66. Fourth International Finch Convention Brisbane Australia, Proceedings “Finches 11” 2011