Tails From The Zoo

Eco-Dates – Now and Upcoming December 21, 2009

Filed under: Eco-Dates — Scott Gray @ 7:15 pm
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Well it would seem that November and December are a little light on eco-days. I only know of three but if I’ve missed one, please let me know

November 6 – International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War & Armed Conflict (UN)

November 21 – World Fisheries Day

December 21 – Winter Solstice


Today is the Winter Solstice where the Northern Hemisphere celebrates its short day. Obviously there are still 24 hours in the day but the majority of them are dark. The amount of daylight is at its lowest on December 21. From here on out the amount of daylight we get will slowly increase. That’s the good part – the bad part is that winter solstice also signifies three months of winter and the coldest part of the year.

To warm you up, here’s a primer for January 2010’s Eco-Dates: (If you’re a birder, you’ll love these two)

January 5 is  National Bird Day (in the US)

January 30-31 is Big Garden Bird Watch (in the UK)

As always, you can get a full listing of eco-dates at http://zoosociety.com/education_roots.asp?L=0


Wolverines – Zoo Knew December 20, 2009

Filed under: Zoo Animals,Zoo Knew — Scott Gray @ 10:30 am
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Chris Reid and I talked this morning on the Weekend Wakeup Show on CJOB 68 about wolverines. As I mentioned on air, I try to provide some extra information on this blog about our weekly animal so remember to visit the site each week to learn more. On a side note, the Assiniboine Park Zoo’s wolverines are probably loving this mild winter weather. If you haven’t been to the zoo in a while, the Christmas break is a great time to do so.



We have 2.0 wolverines at the Assiniboine Park Zoo.

  • “Huey” was born in the wild Yukon and arrived at APZ in July 2002.
  • “Grizz” was born in 1999 at Yukon game farm, where he lived for three years. He spent the next seven at the St. Felicien Zoo, moving to our facility in June 2009.
  • The Assiniboine Park Zoo’s first wolverine was name Vishinski and he arrived at the zoo in 1952. The zoo has continuously had wolverines since 1978.
  • Six offspring have been sent to zoos throughout North America over the years including Minnesota, Grand Rapids, Pennsylvania and St Felicien.
  • The Assiniboine Park Zoo’s wolverines are not part of a Species Survival Program at the moment. The IUCN currently lists them as a species of Least Concern in most of the areas that they are found.

General Information:

  • Wolverines do not hibernate but they do den.
  • The wolverine is the largest member of the weasel family.
  • The wolverine is known as Canada’s “Hyena” because of its powerful jaws and large teeth are able to demolish frozen carrion and bone.
  • It has poor eyesight but an excellent sense of smell.
  • Wolverines have thick, dark, oily fur that is highly hydrophobic (“water repellent”), making it resistant to frost. This unfortunately makes them popular for hunting and trapping.
  • Wolverines have anal scent glands for marking territory and sexual signalling. From this potent smell they’ve been given the nickname “skunk bear“.
  • Wolverines communicate through vocalizations and scent marking.
  • Average lifespan of wolverines in the wild is 7 to 12 years.

Distribution and Habitat:

  • Wolverines are circumpolar.
  • Wolverines are sparsely distributed in Canada’s northern boreal forests, but are more plentiful on the tundra and at higher elevations in the Rockies.
  • They are native to the western United States (including Alaska), Canada, Russia, Finland, Estonia, Mongolia, China, Norway, and Sweden.

Natural Diet:

  • They are opportunistic scavengers feeding on carrion (various deer species, seal) whenever possible.
  • They will also hunt smaller prey (rodents, rabbits, ptarmigan)

Zoo Diet:

  • Raw meat, chickens, rabbit and rodents


  • Wolverines are stocky and muscular, with short legs, a broad rounded head, small eyes and short rounded ears.
  • It has broad five-toed paws and a plantigrade posture that help through deep snow. It resembles a small bear mixed with a ferret.

Body length: 65 – 87 cm (25 – 34 inches)

Tail length: ~25 cm (~10 inches)

Weight: 10–25 kg (22 – 55 lb).

  • Large males can weigh over 31 kg (70 lb)
  • Males are around 30 percent larger than the females. It is the largest of terrestrial mustelids.


Arkive, The Wolverine Foundation, IUCN, National Geographic and others

Compiled by Scott Gray, Jenna Harrison and Jesse Kindzierski; December 19, 2009


Animal News from Around the World December 19, 2009

Capybara enjoy a traditional Japanese hot bath:




Extinctions on the rise in the Galapagos: fishing and global warming devastating islands’ species

“If marine species are going extinct in one of the most famous, and most cherished World Heritage Sites, what is happening in the rest of the world that has been so little studied?” asks report coauthor Scott Henderson, Conservation International’s Regional Marine Conservation Director in the Eastern Tropical Pacific.




Rhino Poaching Surges in Asia, Africa

ScienceDaily (Dec. 2, 2009) — Rhino poaching worldwide is on the rise, according to a new report by TRAFFIC and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).




When baboon troops go to war: (video contain disturbing images for some people)


“Baboons are one of the most aggressive primates out there”

Miss Rosie Thomas, BBC Life production team member


Rooby the Red Kangaroo’s Birthday December 16, 2009

Filed under: Member Notices,Uncategorized — Scott Gray @ 8:04 pm
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Staff at the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg are wishing Rooby the red kangaroo a happy 1st birthday this week. The young female marsupial was found back in April 2009 after she had been unexpectedly expelled from her mother’s pouch. Joeys would not survive on their own at such a young age but zoo keepers were quick to take over the care of the 1 1/4 pound youngster.

Rooby became a surprise media star at the Assiniboine Park Zoo, originally described as looking quite “alien”. We thought it was appropriate to let you know that she is doing well and has grown considerably since spending her early days sleeping in a soft towel in a cloth bag to mimic her mother’s pouch. Rooby has matured over the past eight months and vet staff still plan on introducing her to the rest of the troop sometime in the new year.

Congratulations to Rooby on her first year and congratulations the Assiniboine Park Zoo’s keeping and vet staff for the countless hours looking after her.


New Meerkat Baby at the Assiniboine Park Zoo

Filed under: Member Notices,New Animals/Births,Zoo Animals — Scott Gray @ 5:49 pm
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Slender-tailed Meerkats

The Kinsmen Discovery Centre at the Assiniboine Park Zoo has recently been filled with the tiny calls of its first meerkat baby in 20 years!

The zoo’s newest addition was born November 3, 2009 and is the first since 1989. The pup, now six weeks old, is eating some solids but staying close to its mom. The other females in the group are also busy, acting as babysitters just as they would in the wild.

The new pup is full of energy and getting out of the burrows to explore the enclosure. Zookeepers have noticed that this pup is a brave one, even trying to push the adult males off of their food so the pup can eat first.

Don’t wait to visit; meerkats are considered pups only for the first 10 months.

Meerkats at the Assiniboine Park Zoo

  • Our group, as of December 2009, consists of 2.3.1 meerkats.
  • Our two males are from Riverview Park Zoo and the Peterborough Zoo. They arrived at here in November of 2003.
  • Our three females came from the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa in October of 2008. They are born in late 2005/early 2006.
  • Our meerkat colony is not part of a Species Survival Program since the species is listed by the IUCN as a “Species of Least Concern”.

First baby meerkat at the Assiniboine Park Zoo since 1989

A Bit of Biology/Ecology:

Fun Facts:

  • Meerkats are immune to small amounts of scorpion venom and they often prey on them. Meerkats remove the scorpion’s stinger and brush off the body in the sand to remove any residual traces of venom just to be safe.
  • Meerkats can close their ears – to prevent sand entering them.
  • Meerkats have a nictitating membrane, or clear third eyelid, to keep sand out of their eyes.
  • The meerkat (Suricata suricata) is a member of the mongoose family.


  • Dry grassland, often on hard or stony ground, in southern Africa
  • The meerkat is most closely associated with the dry open country of the Kalahari Desert, with its short grass and sparse woody scrub.

Wild Diet:

  • Meerkats could be classified as insectivores as more than 80% of their diet includes insects as well as other invertebrates like scorpions.
  • Meerkats are generally classed as omnivores because they also include bird eggs, plant roots/fruits, lizards and snakes in their diet.

On Guard:

  • Meerkats are active during the day (diurnal) so members of a group take turns watching for predators. There is always at least one of sentinel (standing upright on high ground or termite nest) on active “guard duty” at all times.
  • The meerkats’ main predators are birds of prey.


  • Meerkats share their burrow with African ground squirrels.
  • They also share their burrow with several types of beetles including dung beetles.
  • Meerkats live in multi-tunnel burrows with an average of 15 entrances. There are many rooms in a burrow, many at 1.5 to 2 metres below the ground.


  • A body length of 10 – 12 inches
  • A tail length of 8 – 10 inches
  • Weigh less than 2.2 lbs (<1kg)

Meerkat Groups:

  • A colony or mob averages 15 individuals in the wild. It can range from a single pair to as many as 50 members and contain several related families.
  • The dominant female is the only one to breed when food is scarce. She will allow related females to breed if there is enough food to sustain the extra babies.
  • At all times, non-breeding females will help baby-sit the offspring.


  • As long as 12 to 15 years in captivity
  • Up to 10 years in the wild but the average is only 3 years.

Compiled by Scott Gray, Education Director, Zoological Society of Manitoba

References: Arkive, National Geographic, Kalahari Meerkat Group, Assiniboine Park Zoo


Woman arrested for keeping zoo in condo December 14, 2009

Filed under: World News — Scott Gray @ 8:17 pm
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Woman arrested for keeping zoo in condo

Christina Tan – Tue, Dec 08, 2009, The Star/Asia News Network

Bears and leopard cats can be found in the wild or in zoos, but what about in a condominum in the city?

That is what enforcement officers from the Selangor Wildlife Department discovered when they raided a unit in Desa Pandan, Kuala Lumpur last Friday. They arrested a 25-year-old woman who had been keeping a baby honey bear, a leopard cat and a slow loris in individual cages.

And this discovery is just the tip of the iceberg, according to department deputy director Mohammad Khairi Ahmad.

“We believe many out there are keeping wild animals as pets in their homes. It is not the way to love wildlife, as they belong in the wild,” he said.

Khairi said his officers raided the condominium following a tip-off from the public. Initial investigations showed that the animals could have been brought from orang asli in Negri Sembilan and kept as pets in the condominium for the past three months, he told a press conference in Shah Alam yesterday.

Khairi said the baby bear could be sold for about RM5,000 (S$2,049), while the cat and the slow loris were worth about RM500 each (S$204).

The woman, a hotel worker, has been released on bail till Dec 29 after giving her statement. She lives in the condominium with a male relative in his 30s. The authorities are looking for him to help in investigations.

Khairi warned the public not to keep or buy wildlife as it was against the law. He also said that usually, to get a baby bear, a hunter had to kill its mother first, which was a cruel act on an animal that was still feeding on mother’s milk. He added that the department would get a court order to send the seized animals to the Malacca Zoo or release them back into the wild.


Arctic Fox – Zoo New Segment on CJOB December 7, 2009

Scott Gray and Chris Reid spoke about the Assiniboine Park Zoo’s Arctic foxes this past Sunday on the Weekend Wakeup Show at 7:15 am. We hope you’ll tune in every Sunday morning to listen to the show and our new zoo segment.

Arctic Fox

We currently have 2.3 Arctic foxes at the Assiniboine Park Zoo

  • In the zoo world, “2.3 foxes” is a quick way of saying two males and three females.
  • If young foxes were born (let’s pretend four of them) and zoo staff don’t yet know yet if they are male or female, they would say there are 0.0.4 with the .4 meaning unknown gender.
  • Another example: 3.5.1 means 3 males, 5 females and 1 unknown gender

All of our Arctic foxes arrived at the Assiniboine Park Zoo as pups in November 2003. Our two breeding pairs have had 28 offspring to date. These offspring have been shipped to zoos all over the world including Switzerland, France, and the US and throughout Canada.

Arctic Fox Litters:

  • Are very large – between 10 and 25 depending on lemming populations.
  • This is the largest litter size of all the carnivores
  • This species of fox becomes sexually mature at 9 to 10 months
  • Survival rate is low being about 25% for kits and 50% for adults

A Bit of Biology/Ecology:

  • There are 20 species of fox worldwide.
  • Arctic foxes live throughout the treeless Arctic and alpine tundra
  • Their circumpolar population is several hundred thousand. They are not yet part of an species survival program because of a relatively stable wild population.


  • Height: ~1 foot at the shoulder
  • Length: Average about 21 inches long in addition to an 11-inch tail
  • Weight: 6 to 11 lbs


Arctic foxes are opportunistic hunters, preying on lemmings, voles, squirrels, birds and their eggs, berries, hare and fish. They will also eat carrion, often scavenging scraps of meat from wolves and polar bears.

Cold Hardy Adaptations:

Arctic foxes were made for living in the cold.

  • They have short muzzles, short legs, and small ears, which reduces heat loss and the chance of frostbite.
  • Their metabolic rate only starts to increase at -50C and they begin to shiver at -70C.
  • They have three times as much underfur as the red fox.
  • They have densely furred feet pads, which helps prevent slipping and greatly increase warmth of the foot.
  • Their feet can remain just above freezing thanks to specialised muscles and blood flow (peripheral thermoregulation). Other animals, like caribou and some northern waterfowl have this feature where cold blood is warmed as it moves into the body.

Compiled by Scott Gray, Education Director, Zoological Society of Manitoba

References: WAZA, Woodland Park Zoo, Oppenheim Zoo, Detroit Zoo