Tails From The Zoo

Canadian Lynx January 31, 2010

Filed under: Wild Cats,Zoo Animals,Zoo Knew — Scott Gray @ 7:37 pm
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Chris Reid and I talked about lynx this morning on our weekly radio segment called Zoo Knew (listen at 7:15 am every Sunday on CJOB 68 AM). Here is a quick summary:


We have six Canadian lynx at the Assiniboine Park Zoo. Our elder pair is a male named Oscar (born in 1994) and a female named Ella (born in 1993).

  • Lynx have a lifespan of 15 – 20 years.

Our breeding pair includes a male (born in 2004) named Bizhiw, which is a Cree word for “lynx” and a female (born in 2006) named Shy-anne.

Shy-anne and Bizhiw had four offspring in 2009. Each kitten was named, in Cree, after one of the four directions (east, west, …)


Canadian lynx (Lynx canadensis) are closely related to the bobcat (Lynx rufus), which we have also exhibited at the zoo for many years. Both species are related to the endangered Iberian lynx and to the Eurasian lynx.

Canadian lynx can be identified by their black-tipped ears, their short black-tipped tail, long gray fur, long tufts (ruff) of fur around their face and chin, feet covered with fur, a short body and long legs.


Canadian lynx are ambush predators, lying in wait at night for snowshoe hare, their favourite prey, to pass by.

Lynx are generally found in the boreal forests of Canada and Alaska as well as ranging the Rocky mountains.

Lynx Size:

  • Range in weight from 8 to 14 kg (males are larger)
  • Stand approximately 60 cm tall
  • Are approximately 90 cm long


Compiled by Scott Gray with references from Canadian Geographic, Hinterland Who’s Who and the book “Great Cats – Majestic Creatures of the Wild

Photo available here: http://assiniboinepark.ca/media/animals/pdf/Lynx_Can_23.75×18.pdf


Woodpeckers January 27, 2010

Filed under: Birds,Zoo Animals — Scott Gray @ 2:23 pm
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The Canadian Wildlife Federation recently announced that of the 14 species of woodpeckers in Canada, four are listed as “at-risk nationally”. Twelve are listed as “at-risk” in at least one province. Woodpeckers and other birds are facing a series of pressures on their populations including pesticide use (which poisons their prey), competition from starlings for nesting sites, climate change and loss of standing dead trees (or dead parts of living trees).

Here is some great information on how to help backyard birds survive the winter from Canadian Wildlife Federation’s backyard habitat program.

Sunflower seeds will attract purple finches, cardinals, goldfinches, grosbeaks, juncos, chickadees, nuthatches, and many other birds. Black oil sunflower seeds are especially good due to their higher oil and calorie content. There are also plenty of commercial birdseed mixes available, but be aware that mixes containing a high proportion of ingredients such as hulled oats, rice, peanut hearts, corn and wheat can bring in pests such as pigeons, starlings and house sparrows. Suet provides a high-energy food source for woodpeckers, nuthatches and other insect-eating birds, helping them survive the harsh winter season. Just don’t leave it out in warmer weather; one study showed that partially melted fat caused problems for woodpeckers, causing matting and a loss of facial feathers. Do not put out salty, mouldy, or sugary foods.”


If you would like to see a woodpecker at the zoo, we have a pileated woodpecker that lives with two Steller’s jays next the Native Bird Building.  You can also see downy woodpeckers and hairy woodpeckers in Assiniboine Park and Forest. For a full list of birds in Assiniboine Park, CLICK HERE.


7 Guidelines to Wildlife Conservation January 25, 2010

I am a member of the International Zoo Educators Association and often use the association’s expertise and resources in developing or researching our zoo programs. I came across the following information on their website today. I thought it was really good and worth sharing.

If you have any other ideas on how you can make a difference, please contact me at sgray@zoosociety.com. I will add them to this list or leave a comment on this blog! Thanks for helping and thanks for reading our zoo blog. With a few simple actions, every one of us can make a difference for wildlife. All the best, Scott.


The conservation actions below are sustainable practices based on Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s 7 Guidelines to Wildlife Conservation.

Seek out information about conservation issues.

  • Read a book about your favorite animal and learn all you can about it
  • Subscribe to wildlife conservation magazines like National Geographic or Owlkids
  • Watch wildlife shows on television
  • Contact local chapters of conservation groups to find out what they’re doing in your areas
  • Obtain a list of endangered plant and animal species from CITES or from your national list (For Canada: http://www.cites.ec.gc.ca/eng/sct0/index_e.cfm )


Spread the word to others about the value of wildlife.

  • Encourage your family, friends, and neighbors to reduce, reuse, and recycle (And compost too!)
  • Speak up for wildlife. Let your friends and family know how much you care about animals
  • Teach children to respect nature and the environment (Children can help teach their parents too!)
  • Take children camping, hiking, or on zoo and aquarium trips (Visit the Assiniboine Park and Zoo!)
  • Ensure schools have a balanced environmental education program (Take a field trip to the zoo)


Look for and purchase products that are friendly to the environment.

  • “Adopt” an animal or habitat as a present for family or friends  (Get a Zoodoption from the Zoo Society of Manitoba HERE)
  • Take a thermos for lunch instead of a juice box to save on packaging
  • Shop for school supplies that are made from recycled materials
  • Use organic fertilizers
  • Don’t buy ivory, or other products, made from wild animals
  • Purchase shade grown coffee that benefits wildlife by conserving forests


Create habitats for wildlife in your backyard.

  • Hang a bird feeder, put out a birdbath, or plant a small tree to show you care for wildlife
  • Plant a wildlife garden with flowers that butterflies like
  • Help your family build a bat box to eat all the mosquitoes in your backyard
  • Create a small pond in your backyard for aquatic wildlife
  • Contain domestic pets so they do not disturb wildlife
  • Help children discover the many wonders of their backyard, like the tiny world of insects (Zoo Camp is a great way to do this)


Reduce, reuses, recycle and replenish.

  • Recycle everything you can; newspapers, glass, cans, foil, etc.
  • Turn off the water when you brush your teeth. This saves precious water
  • Ride the bus, the subway, bike or walk to school instead of taking you car — this saves energy and keeps you fit too!
  • Use cold water in the washer whenever possible (both your dishwasher and your clothes washer)
  • Take unwanted, reusable items to charitable organizations or thrift shops
  • Lower your thermostat one degree per hour for every hour that you are away


Choose your pets wisely

  • Leave wild babies where you find them, their mothers can care for them best
  • Be a responsible pet owner. Make sure they have food, water, and a safe, comfortable place to live
  • Learn everything about the pet you want. Some pets have a very long life span – a tortoise or parrot may live over 100 years!
  • Veterinary expenses for wild or exotic pets can be high
  • Be sure the pet you choose was not taken from the wild (Learn about the illegal pet trade at one of our school and group programs)
  • Some animals have special care needs; be sure you are aware of these and can provide the care and costs that are required


Support conservation organizations through contributions and volunteerism.

  • Join a beach or river clean-up
  • Visit a nature park where the money will go to help wildlife
  • Join a conservation organization
  • Volunteer at your local zoo or nature center
  • Contribute dollars to conservation programs (Contact the Zoological Society for donation information: http://zoosociety.com/fundraising_donations.asp )


Thanks to Disney’s Animal Kingdom and IZE for the list


More Bad News for Tigers

Two recent stories by the Associated Press highlight how precariously close to extinction some of our iconic species really are. The Amur (aka Siberian) tiger is doing very poorly in the wild, and an upturn in poaching and pollution will likely decrease an already low population.

The first story highlights the ongoing issues of oil pipelines and transportation, the second highlights poaching demands:


WWF fears for Siberian tiger after Russian oil leak

MOSCOW — A leak from Russia’s new Siberian oil pipeline shows the potentially damaging consequences the project could have for the endangered Siberian tiger, an environmental campaign group warned on Friday.

Please CLICK HERE to read the whole story


Poachers threaten Malaysia’s defence of tigers: WWF

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – Conservationists called on Wednesday for a war on the poachers who are undermining Malaysia’s ambitious goal to double its population of wild tigers to 1,000.

With 2010 declared the Year of the Tiger according to the Chinese zodiac, experts fear there will be an upsurge in poaching of one of the world’s most endangered species.

Please CLICK HERE to read the whole story


If you would like to learn more about tigers and other big cats or if you would like to learn more about the issues facing endangered animals, please contact the Zoo Education Centre to book a tour or school program. You can also visit our website at www.zoosociety.com for more information on our programs.


The Assiniboine Park Zoo houses two Amur tigers, a male named Baikal and a female named Kendra. They are part of a Species Survival Program.


Pet Valu Helps the Zoo January 22, 2010

Filed under: Exhibits,Fund Raising,Uncategorized,Zoo Animals — Scott Gray @ 9:44 am

On December 21, 2009 the Assiniboine Park Zoo Animal Enrichment Committee received a wonderful Christmas present from the staff of the Pet Valu Better Nutrition stores.  The six Pet Valu stores, located at 963 Henderson Hwy., 1670 Main St., 1600 Ness, 3326 Portage Ave., 200 Meadowood and 27 Marion St. banded together to raise money to assist the animals at the Assiniboine Park Zoo.  Pet Valu staff held Halloween Pet photos and Pet photos with Santa and generously donated the proceeds to the Zoo’s Animal Enrichment Committee.  Close to $1,900 was raised and the staff and animals at the Zoo were thrilled to receive this generous donation.

The Zoo’s Animal Enrichment Committee is dedicated to improving the health and welfare of our animals by giving them new experiences to benefit their physical and behavioural health.  Enrichment can also be used as a tool to assist in animal management and to enhance visitors experiences while at the Zoo.

Behavioural enrichment involves variation of the animal’s daily routines using items that require the animal to search for their food, adding new scents in their enclosure, introducing toys to play with, water misters for hot days and items to help alleviate stress.   Enrichment comes in many forms from simple recyclable items such as cartons, sheets and towels to larger items such as fire hoses, lumber, PVC pipe and used street sweeper brushes for the Camels and other hoofed stock to rub against.   Natural substances to enrich enclosures include items such as wood chips, burlap, soil, limestone blocks, logs and food items such as pumpkins, spices and exotic fruit.

Pet Valu and Zoo Staff

The donation from the Pet Valu stores will go toward purchasing balls, toys, play tubes, enclosure enhancements, specialty foods and other items for our fish, birds, reptiles, small animals and monkeys.



International Year of Biodiversity Gets Started January 15, 2010

International Year of Biodiversity Officially Launched
Merinews, 15 January 2010
GERMAN CHANCELLOR Angela Merkel and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon officially launched the International Year of Biodiversity on 11th January. Launching the International Year of Biodiversity in Berlin, the German Chancellor urged the world to take the necessary steps to protect the biological diversity of the Earth.
More: http://www.merinews.com/article/international-year-of-biodiversity-officially-launched/15794253.shtml


UN biodiversity year aims to slow species extinction
Irish Times, 12 January 2010
BERLIN – German chancellor Angela Merkel urged industrialised and emerging countries to invest more in protecting wildlife and said the UN should create a body to refine scientific arguments for saving animal and plant species.
More: http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/world/2010/0112/1224262120782.html


UN launches 2010 as International Year of Biodiversity
Xinhuanet, 12 January 2010
UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) — As the United Nations Monday kicked off its official launch of 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity to highlight the continued devastation on the world’s species, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called it a “wake-up call” to protect the globe’s natural resources.
More: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2010-01/12/content_12793207.htm


International Year of Biodiversity is not just a celebration, but a call to action
Bird-life International, 12 January 2010
The United Nations has launched 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity (IYB) at an event in Berlin, Germany. Speakers included Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, and a video message from UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon.
More: http://www.birdlife.org/news/news/2010/01/biodiversity_year.html


World must step up efforts on saving species: Merkel
Reuters, 12 January 2010
BERLIN (Reuters) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged industrialized and emerging countries to invest more in protecting wildlife and said the U.N. should create a body to refine scientific arguments for saving animal and plant species.
More: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/environment/~3/uh0i2edrxm0/idUSTRE60A32420100111


Arranca el Año Internacional de la Biodiversidad
El Mundo , 12 January 2010
La canciller alemana, Angela Merkel, equipara la importancia de la defensa de la biodiversidad con la lucha contra el cambio climático.  Leer . Escuchar
More: http://www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2010/01/11/ciencia/1263224980.html


Ban urges global alliance to save biodiversity as UN launches International Year
UN News Centre, 12 January 2010
11 January 2010 – As the United Nations officially launched the International Year of Biodiversity today, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon called the failure to protect the world’s natural resources a “wake-up call” and urged each country and each person to engage in a global alliance to protect life on Earth.
More: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=33450&Cr=biodiversity&Cr1=


World’s biodiversity ‘crisis’ needs action, says UN

Richard Black—BBCNews.co.uk.

The UN has launched the International Year of Biodiversity, warning that the ongoing loss of species around the world is affecting human well-being. Eight years ago, governments pledged to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010, but the pledge will not be met. The expansion of human cities, farming and infrastructure is the main reason.



Manitoba Biodiversity Network January 13, 2010

Filed under: Biodiversity,Eco-Dates — Scott Gray @ 9:44 pm
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The Manitoba Biodiversity Network (Bio-Net for short)

We are an committed group of individuals and agencies that is passionate about nature and concerned about protecting it. Bio-Net is lead by representatives from Manitoba Conservation, Assiniboine Park Zoo, Zoological Society of Manitoba, Living Prairie Museum, Ft Whyte Alive, Invasive Species Council of Manitoba, Manitoba Museum, Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre and the University of Manitoba, as well as a number of private citizens.

One of the members, Nature North, is acting as our central hub for all of our articles, events, resources and I hope you have a chance to visit the site. www.naturenorth.com


To get things started, here is the UN proclamation announcing International Year of Biodiversity:

UN Proclamation

“The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity. This year coincides with the 2010 Biodiversity Target adopted by the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity and by Heads of State and government at the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002.

The celebrations of the International Year of Biodiversity are a unique opportunity to raise public awareness about the vital role of biodiversity in sustaining life on Earth and of its importance to human well-being and poverty reduction.

The main goals of the year are to:

• Enhance public awareness on the importance of conserving biodiversity and on the underlying threats to biodiversity;

• Raise awareness of the accomplishments to save biodiversity by communities and governments;

and to:

• Promote innovative solutions to reduce these threats;

• Call on individuals, organizations and governments to take immediate steps to halt biodiversity loss;

• Initiate dialogue among stakeholders on necessary steps for the post-2010 period. “

(David Ainsworth, Secretariat, Convention on Biological Diversity)


Check out our Bio-Days chart if you’re not sure how to get involved or think a whole year is too big a commitment. You can pick one or two ecologically important dates to help do be greener. View the calendar here: www.zoosociety.com

2010 Biodiversity Logo