Tails From The Zoo

See you at the zoo! February 25, 2010

Filed under: Member Notices,The Zoo and You,Uncategorized — Scott Gray @ 12:49 pm

Do you like animals? When was the last time you visited the zoo? I mean really visited the zoo. Packed a lunch and sunscreen or a warm hat and gloves as the case may be right now, and squeezed the entire family into the SUV and decided to spend a day at the zoo?

If you are a zoo member you may do this often. If you are not a zoo member, then what are you waiting for?

How many times have you found yourself on a weekend or day off with a houseful of energetic kids and/or adults who all want to do something but you’re not able to find one thing in common that they all would enjoy? Family outings can be very costly. If only there was a place where you could pay once and go as often as you like? Well, there is!  Really, you could pay just once and visit the zoo each and every day if you wanted.

The Zoological Society of Manitoba is proud to have over 10,000 zoo members who enjoy visiting the zoo every chance they get for one very low price.

Did you know that a family membership for two adults and up to five children living in the same household is only $84.00, taxes included? That is less than .25 cents a day. Wow!  As a mother, I can honestly say that there are very few places in the city that I can pay for once and take my children to every day of the year if I wanted.

As a Zoo Society member, not only can you take the family for as many visits to the zoo in a year as you can fit in, but you also get great discounts on purchases at the Animal Tracks Café and Zoo Gift Shop. If your kids are anything like mine, they will love the experience of attending our Spring and Summer Zoo Camps.  As a member you also get a great discount on Zoo camp registration.  Perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of being a zoo member, (aside from watching the animals and keeping tabs on their crazy antics, new zoo babies and arrivals of new animals throughout the year), is receiving your complimentary Safeway Boo at the Zoo tickets in September before they go on sale to the public!

Safeway Boo at the Zoo is our largest and most amazingly fun family, hair- raising fund-raising event held in October each year.  Our members love to attend Boo and take part in all the spooktacular rides and interactive and specially-themed walk-throughs.

We hold our Annual General Meeting at the Animal Tracks Café in June and all Zoo Society members are invited to join our staff and Board of Directors for a fantastic BBQ where you can find out all about what’s new at the zoo. It is also a great opportunity to meet with everyone and ask questions or even discuss becoming more involved with the Society with some of our many volunteering opportunities. The best part of this special members’ appreciation night is a meet and greet with some of your favorite zoo keepers and zoo animals.

So, next time the family is looking for something to do – think ZOO! Visit us at the Zoo Gift shop or call me, Tricialynn, at 982 0664 to discuss becoming a zoo member.  It’s a zooriffic way to spend time with your family and enjoy your favorite animals.

See you at the zoo!

By, Tricialynn Zacharias, Zoological Society of Manitoba


Animal Shipments February 24, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized,Zoo Animals — Scott Gray @ 8:20 am

I’m sometimes asked, by people on one of our guided zoo tours or even when I’m out in the community, where the zoo’s animals go in the winter. Usually this is a question from someone that doesn’t visit very often or only thinks of the Assiniboine Park Zoo as a summer facility. In fact, the zoo is open every day of the year, including holidays, and so the animals stay here year-round.

That’s not to say that animals shipments are rare, in fact, they happen all the time. The fall/winter season is often the busiest time for shipments as babies that have grown up at our zoo over the past summer or two are moved out to other facilities. Offspring naturally leave their parents in the wild, sometimes after just hours, others after a couple of years. And since we couldn’t house all of the animals born at the zoo year after year, some of them are moved to other facilities that have the room for them.

Here is an example of some of the animal movements going on this winter. A herd of 12 markhor are going to a zoo in Ontario; Arctic foxes and a lynx are moving to a wonderful facility in the Yukon;  a dromedary camel, Bennett’s wallabies and reindeer are moving to Ontario; a few red kangaroos are leaving for Ontario and Texas; crested screamers (large South American birds) are heading to Missouri; and some of our pronghorn are learning French for their trip to a zoo in Quebec.

All animals must go through a month of quarantine, both here at our zoo and again at the zoo they are moving to to insure that they all have a clean bill before moving in with new neighbours. And of course their are piles of travel documents filled out (often by several agencies and facilities) and numerous travel arrangements that must be made. Shipping animals to and from the zoo is a lot of work, often taking months to finalize, but it’s worth it when visitors get to see the animals in their new homes.

There will be more animal shipment news in the months to come. Stay tuned.

Scott G.


Eco-Dates for March 2010 February 23, 2010

Filed under: Biodiversity,Eco-Dates,Uncategorized — Scott Gray @ 10:37 am
Tags: , ,

It’s been a little while since I focused on some of the monthly eco-awareness dates, but January and February are a bit light in that regard. I hope you spent time on February 2, World Wetlands Day, thinking about how biologically diverse wetlands are. They are extremely important as habitat for so many animals and plants. Some animals (like muskrats) are permanent marsh users while others are more seasonal, such as the dozens of species of birds that use marshes as staging grounds during migration.

China’s Year of the Tiger began on February 14th. Happy New Year China! Let’s hope the tiger has a good year in 2010 since they’ve not been doing well in the wild as of late.


We’ve got lots to look forward to in March, including:

March 3-5 – World Sustainable Energy Days

March 7-13 – National Tree Week

March 14 – International Migratory Bird Day

March 15-19 – National Wildlife Week

March 12-20 – National Outdoor Week (UK)

March 20 – Vernal (Spring) Equinox

March 21 – World Forestry Day

March 22 – World Day for Water (UN)

March 23 – World Meteorological Day (UN)

March 27 – Earth Hour (8:30 pm)


I will be writing separate posts for many of these days and hope you will stay tuned. I also hope you will take part in one or more of these special awareness days. It’s so easy to do and it does make a positive difference to our environment. Don’t believe me? If everyone that reads this blog takes a friend out to plant a tree during the week of March 7-13 (National Tree Week), we’ve instantly created lots of new habitat for animals. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of animals (including insects, birds, mammals) will use the trees. Plus, the trees will of course help filter CO2 out of the environment over the years they are growing. The trees, even after they’ve died, will also act as shelter for many animals.

Let us know what you are doing to celebrate some of these awareness days by leaving a comment to help inspire others to get involved.


Cougars at Assiniboine Park Zoo February 22, 2010

Filed under: Wild Cats,Zoo Animals,Zoo Knew — Scott Gray @ 10:05 am

Chris Reid and I talked yesterday (at 7:15 am on CJOB 68’s Weekend Wake-Up Show) about cougars on Zoo Knew. With Ayla the cougar‘s recent passing, we felt it was appropriate to highlight these wonderful animals. You can still see Ayla’s partner Max in his enclosure, located in the North American animal area. The Assiniboine Park Zoo is open all winter from 10 am to 4 pm.


Here are a few fun fast facts that we didn’t have a chance to include in our chat:

  • Cougars are the second largest cat in the Americas. The jaguar is the largest.
  • Cougars are the largest of the three cats that live in Canada (including the lynx and the bobcat).
  • Cougars have the largest range of all terrestrial mammals in the western hemisphere


A Cat of Many Names:

The cougar’s scientific name, Puma concolor, literally means cat of one colour. Regionally though, it is known by many common names, depending on local culture and legend.

  • The Maliseet of New Brunswick call the cougar “pi-twal,” meaning “the long-tailed one.”
  • The English name “cougar” and the French “couguar,” now widely used in Canada, were adapted from the Brazilian native name “cuguacuarana.”
  • The name “mountain lion” is extensively used in the western United States.
  • “Puma” is the native Peruvian name.
  • Other names you may have heard include: mountain lion, Mexican lion, deer tiger, mountain screamer, Florida panther, painter and catamount.



  • The cougar can run as fast as 55 to 72 km/h (35 to 45 mi/h)
  • By comparison, the house cat = 50km and the cheetah = 100km


  • Cougars are obligate carnivores, like all cats, feeding only on meat.
  • Cougars hunt mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, moose calves, and in the west, bighorn sheep
  • Cougars will also eat a large array of available prey species if they are available. These include birds and other mammals, such as the beaver, snowshoe hare, ground squirrel, and rodents.


Big Air:

  • Cougars have an exceptional vertical leap (up), reported at 5.4 m (18 ft) .
  • Cougars can jump horizontally (along the ground) at nearly 12 m (40 ft) from a standing position.




Flamingos for Valentine’s Day February 14, 2010

Filed under: Birds,Fund Raising,Zoo Animals,Zoo Knew — Scott Gray @ 8:17 am
Tags: ,

Chris Reid and I discussed flamingos on this morning’s Zoo Knew segment (heard every Sunday at 7:15 am) on the Weekend Wake-up Show on CJOB 68. Chris’s theme today was Valentine’s Day and what better animal for  February 14th than flamingos!? The zoo is open year round and visiting the flamingos, even in the winter, is a great way to spend an afternoon. You might even be lucky enough to watch the flamingos dance for you! The whole flock gets involved and they use the whole “dancing floor” to strut their stuff, show off their colourful feathers and create quite the noisy ruckus.  If you would like to visit the Assiniboine Park Zoo today to see the flamingos, the zoo is open from 10 am to 4 pm.

For more information on this month’s special Zoodoption Animal of the Month, the flamingo, please visit www.zoosociety.com

  • A special animal is available to be zoodopted every month for the special rate of $25.00. You can Zoodopt any animal of your choice at any level during the year, but if you choose our “Animal of the Month” you will receive the same package as the Friend level for the special price of $25.00.


Information on Flamingos

  • Long legs, a long, curved neck, a gooselike voice, and down-curved bills adapted for filter feeding, are characteristics of all flamingo species.
  • The joint in their leg about halfway up that looks like a backward knee is actually an ankle. And, like all birds, they walk on their toes.


  • Brackish inland lakes, coastal shores, mudflats, saltpans, saline lagoons


  • Algae, small crustaceans, molluscs, and aquatic insects in the wild
  • Poultry pellets, dried shrimp, meat and bone meal at the zoo
  • Here at the zoo we include synthetic canthaxanthin (a carotenoid pigment) to the flamingos diet to avoid their feathers losing the beautiful colouring. A similar pigment is found naturally in the crustaceans that they eat in the wild.
  • The angled beak of the flamingo has a sieve‑like structure for capturing small aquatic organisms. They will stamp their webbed feet in the mud to stir up food from the bottom. They then tip their heads upside down, flutter their bills and strain water through their bill, catching food in their lamellae.


Fast Facts:

  • The word flamingo is originally derived from the Portuguese for ‘red goose’
  • Flamingos are an ancient group of birds. Their fossil records date back about 10 million years ago.
  • Both male and female, provide their young with a type of milk called crop milk.
  • Flamingos have different leg coloring from species to species.
  • Flamingos are naturally born white.

  • Most flamingo populations require a large colony for successful breeding. This poses difficulties for breeding flamingos in zoos. Small groups have been tricked into displaying breeding activity by using mirrors (making it look like the group is larger than it really is).
  • There are six species, four native to the Americas and two living in parts of Africa, Europe, and Asia. Some authorities recognize five species and consider the Caribbean and greater flamingos to be sub-species.


Caribbean Flamingo: (Phoenicopterus ruber)

  • We have approximately 30 Caribbean flamingos, housed in two flocks at the zoo.
  • The Caribbean flamingo is also known as the American or roseate flamingo.

Size: Approximately 80 – 145 cm (31 –57 in.) long

  • Females tend to be smaller than males

Weight: Approximately 1.9 – 3 kg (4.2-6.6 lbs)

Range: South America and the Caribbean with a small population in the Galapagos

Status: Not threatened

  • Population decline due to pollution, loss of habitat and hunting.
  • Total population is estimated 80,000 – 90,000 birds.


Greater Flamingo: (Phoenicopterus roseus)

  • The Assiniboine Park Zoo acquired a dozen greater flamingos in the winter of 2007.
  • The greater flamingo is lighter in colour then the Caribbean and is the most widespread of all flamingo species.

Size: 91 to 127 cm (36 to 50 in)

  • Wingspan is 140-165 cm

Weight: Average 8.75 lbs (4 kg)

Range and Status:

  • Southern Africa: 55,000 (decreasing). West Africa: 30,000-60,000 (trend unknown). Eastern Africa: 35,000 (decreasing). West Mediterranean: 80,000 (increasing). East Mediterranean and Asia: 500,000 (stable)



  • World Association of Zoos and Aquariums
  • BirdLife International
  • Sea World Infobooks
  • Assiniboine Park Zoo Education Archives

Compiled by Scott Gray and Jenna Harrison, Zoological Society of Manitoba

Revised February 13, 2010


New Exhibit Update February 12, 2010

Filed under: Birds,Exhibits,Member Notices,New Animals/Births — Scott Gray @ 1:29 pm
Tags: ,

Steller’s Sea Eagle Enclosure
Stanley and Stella are just waiting for spring to arrive and  for the completion of the landscaping of their new home before moving in.  The new enclosure is in the Northwestern section of the zoo, next to the Sichuan takin enclosure and across the path from the Amur tigers.

The Lion Pavilion
The Lion Pavilion is nearing completion with lions expected to arrive in the spring.  This is a very exciting development for the Assiniboine Park Zoo.  Lions have not had a permanent home here in Winnipeg in 40 years. Lions made a visit to the Assiniboine Park Zoo back in 2005 as a summer special and were a crowd favorite. Watch for news of the arrival of our new friends coming soon.


Ayla the Cougar Passes Away February 9, 2010

Filed under: Wild Cats,Zoo Animals — Scott Gray @ 12:01 pm
Tags: ,

One of the Assiniboine Park Zoo’s popular cats, Ayla the female cougar, had to be put down due to health complications of old age last week.

Ayla, at nearly 20 years of age, had a good long life here at the zoo. She spent here first 14 years with Riel (aka Buddy). Max, her mate since 2004, will certainly notice her passing and the zoo will be looking to acquire a replacement for Ayla. Ayla originally came from the Edmonton Valley Zoo and came to the zoo here in Winnipeg in 1991. Max arrived from a zoo in Ontario in 2004.

Cougars (which are also known as puma, mountain lions, catamounts and/or panthers) are normally solitary in the wild. In captivity however, cats are often kept in pairs or small groups to provide them with companionship. Max and Ayla were not part of a breeding program.

Ayla is will always be prominently featured on our cougar interpretive sign, which you can see here: http://assiniboinepark.ca/media/animals/pdf/cougar.pdf