Tails From The Zoo

Visitors Are Always Welcome March 23, 2010

Filed under: Fund Raising,Uncategorized — Scott Gray @ 3:20 pm

We love to have visitors at the zoo, and even better when they come bearing gifts. And when those gifts are for the bears!?

I was lucky enough today to get a visit from the “senior representatives” of the hardest working polar-inspired family in Manitoba. The Vickery family presented me with a cheque for $350 for the Polar Bear Conservation Fund in Tribute to Debby. (They brought a whole load of pennies for us too!)

The Vickery’s are also known as the Canuck Nanooks, which include but are not limited to Miranda, Rebekah and Rachael. They have been making a difference for polar bears in the wild and here at our zoo for awhile now.

Canuck Nanooks

The Canuck Nanooks and I, at Debby the polar bear's memorial

The Nanooks don’t believe in lip-service when it comes to care for the earth. They want the natural world to change for the better, and the Nanooks know that this requires hard work, dedication and a little ingenuity. They are succeeding and we are proud to be albe to share in that success.


If you would like to donate to our Polar Bear Conservation Fund, please visit zoosociety.com



Filed under: Member Notices — Scott Gray @ 12:48 pm

This year’s Polar Run was wildly successful! We saw a 40% increase in money raised over 2009, with proceeds going towards our Polar Bear Conservation Fund in Tribute to Debby.

Thank you to all of the runners and volunteers who joined us at the zoo on the morning of March 21st.


Markhor – Our Wild Goats March 21, 2010

Filed under: New Animals/Births,Zoo Animals,Zoo Knew — Scott Gray @ 10:46 pm
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The Assiniboine Park Zoo introduced a new young breeding male to its herd of female markhor. Here is some information to introduce you to these wonderfully active and agile wild goats with huge spiraling horns.

  • The markhor (as well as the zoo’s Alpine ibex) is a member of the goat family, indigenous to Central Asia. There are three subspecies, of which the Assiniboine Park Zoo exhibits Capra falconeri heptneri

IUCN Status: Endangered

  • Population: 2,500 worldwide with no sub-population more than 250
  • The reasons for the markhor’s decline include intensive hunting (for trophies, meat and the Asian medicine market), disturbance and loss of habitat due to expanded human settlement, and competition from domestic livestock.


  • The range of the markhor has historically extended through the mountainous regions from Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern India (Kashmir)

Biology and Ecology

Head-Body Length: 140 – 180 cm

Weight: Females weigh 30 – 40 kg+ (70 – 90 lb+). Males weigh 80 – 110 kg (180 – 240 lb)


  • The markhor lives on dry mountain cliff-sides at altitudes ranging from 700 m (2300′) from November to May up to 4000 m (13,000′) in the summer.
  • It avoids deep snow.
  • The markhor occupies arid cliff-side habitats in sparsely wooded mountainous regions at altitudes ranging from 700 m (2300′) from November to May up to 4000 m (13,000′) in the summer.

Reproduction and Lifespan:

  • Mating occurs during winter
  • Births occur from late April to early June
  • Birth Rate: one or two
  • They live to at least 13 years

Food in the Wild:

  • The markhor is a grazer in the spring and summer where it mainly grazes on tussocks of grass. It turns to browsing when the grasses have dried up, eating leaves and twigs.

Fun Facts

  • The markhor is a browser and will climb trees in search of nutritious leaves, even as high as 4 – 6 m (15 – 20′) above the ground.
  • Markhor horns are in demand for traditional Asian medicine. They are also one of the most desired of all hunting trophies due to length, which can exceed 1.5 m (60″).
  • The name markhor is derived from the Persian mar, a snake, and khor, eating. This name is puzzling, since the markhor is a vegetarian, although it has been known to kill snakes.

Zoo Pictures: Markhor



Compiled by Scott Gray


Zoo Enrichment Club March 15, 2010

Filed under: Eco-Projects,Zoo Animals — Scott Gray @ 11:58 am

The University of Winnipeg Enrichment Club members are passionate students from a variety of fields and faculties within the university. The focus of the club is to help improve the welfare of the animals at the Assiniboine Park Zoo through the implementation of various enrichment projects. These projects may include environmental, feeding or sensory enrichment and are created in collaboration with keepers. The club has regular meetings to discuss new ideas and “create” the projects. At the February meeting the club worked on phase one of paper-mache treat feeders and constructed several treat boards for the macaques, squirrels and other animals. Club members are also working on a tunnel system for the meerkats. The Enrichment Club can be contacted at uofwenrichment@hotmail.com

Large seed board

Macaque with large treat board


European Bison March 14, 2010

Filed under: Extinction,Zoo Animals,Zoo Knew — Scott Gray @ 7:10 am
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The European bison, also known as wisent, is the cousin of the North American bison. Wisent are currently listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN, but their status was much worse nearly a century ago. Due to a combination of habitat loss, war and poaching, the wisent was declared extinct in the wild after the last one was shot in 1921. Thankfully, 56 wisent survived in zoos scattered around Europe and a joint breeding program was quickly set up to save the species. It took nearly thirty years but the European bison began to be reintroduced throughout the forests of Belarus, Poland, Russia, Lithuania and the Ukraine in the early 1950’s.

The current wild wisent population is less than 2,500 as their success is still hampered by a lack of habitat but nearly 1,400 live in 250 zoos and game preserves around the world. We currently have 1.6 (one male, six female) European bison at the Assiniboine Park Zoo.


Are bison and buffalo the same thing?

No. Bison belong to the family Bovidae, which include wild and domestic cattle as well as buffalo, but there are a number of significant differences between the two.


  • Live in North America and Europe
  • Have long shaggy hair
  • Have large shoulders and pronounced humps
  • Have short horns


  • Live in Africa (cape buffalo) and Asia (water buffalo)
  • Have short thin hair
  • Have smaller shoulders and no humps
  • Have long horns


Life Span: up to 27 years

Habitat: Mixed and deciduous forests, meadows

Height (at the shoulders): 1.8 – 2 metres

Weight: 800- 1000 kg

Body Length: 2.9 metres

Tail Length: 80 cm


Thanks to everyone that listens to Zoo Knew every Sunday morning at 7:15 on CJOB68, where we talked about bison this morning. I hope you’ll take a chance to visit the Assiniboine Park Zoo today or in the near future to view both our European and our North American bison herds. If you’re not in Winnipeg, take a visit to your nearest zoo to find out about all of the amazing animals that live there. Take part in a guided tour or read some of the interpretive signs and find out what your local zoo is doing to save and preserve endangered species. I think you’ll be surprised how much work zoos do! Please feel free to send me your comments or links to success stories.


Zebra Cleans Hippo’s Teeth March 13, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized,World News — Scott Gray @ 2:26 pm

I couldn’t help but think that this was a fantastic article. We often learn in school about the relationship between certain birds and large African mammals. Birds like oxpeckers can often be seen cleaning the ears, nostrils and body of hoofed animals like water buffalo. The birds get the benefit of a tasty meal (lice, ticks, larva) and the hoofed stock get the benefit of having potentially harmful parasites removed.

In this case, a zebra and hippo are working together! The following article and picture can be found at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8564834.stm


A zebra at Zurich Zoo appeared to be staring into the jaws of death when visitors saw it nose to nose with an open-mouthed hippopotamus.

But the hippo had no intention of having the zebra for lunch – it was having its teeth cleaned.

The extraordinary sight was captured by photographer Jill Sonsteby, from Jacksonville, Florida.

She said the teeth-cleaning session lasted 15 minutes and the zebra came to no harm.

“The zebra was in the same enclosure as the hippo and its baby,” said Ms Sonsteby, 34.

“The hippo opened its mouth and let the zebra in there to clean.

“Everybody was snapping pictures. It was so great to be there at that moment.”


The hippopotamus is regarded as one of the most aggressive creatures in the world and has a bite that can cut a small boat in half.

Hippos can weigh up to three tonnes and are the third largest land mammal in the world.

Although they rarely kill each other, hundreds of fatal attacks on people in Africa have been recorded.

Despite its bulky frame, the hippo can outrun a human on land over short distances.

Copyright by BBC News.


Wild Weeks in March March 10, 2010

Filed under: Biodiversity,Carbon Footprints,Eco-Dates,Uncategorized — Scott Gray @ 11:21 am
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We are in the middle of National Tree Week, which runs from March 7 to 13, and I’m wondering what you are doing to celebrate. Have you hugged a tree yet? Okay that’s maybe a little simplistic but what child doesn’t like hugging a tree?

The aim of National Tree Week is to raise awareness about trees and to encourage local communities to participate in forest walks and tree plantings. Planting a tree you can help to reduce carbon emissions. Trees take in carbon dioxide from the air and convert much of it into wood. The by-product of doing so is the production of oxygen. Trees also provide habitats for birds, insects, small mammals and even a few frogs!


Next week, March 15 – 21, is National Wildlife Week in the US. You can celebrate the week by getting outside and enjoying nature. “Climb trees, chase butterflies, dig in the dirt and celebrate nature. You’ll become healthier, happier and more connected to the world around you.” Keep your momentum going and send your child to our Spring Day Camp at the Assiniboine Park Zoo – where our policy is no child is left inside!


If you’re more of a bird person, keep a note on the calendar for March 14th, International Migratory Bird Day. I’ll be posting a separate blog for this day later in the week.