Tails From The Zoo

Construction To Begin On Zoo’s Old Bear Range June 8, 2010

The Assiniboine Park Zoo and Assiniboine Park Conservancy announced plans today for its new International Polar Bear Conservation Centre at a unique “snow-turning” ceremony today. Construction is scheduled to begin next week on a new transition centre for orphaned polar bear cubs. The $4.5-million education and research facility and polar bear “transition centre” in Assiniboine Park Zoo will be a world-wide centre for Arctic conservation. The new building is to be constructed behind the zoo’s existing bear enclosure.

The transition centre will be off limits to the public most of the time but a new state-of-the- art Arctic exhibit, with room for six adult polar bears will open in 2013 for public viewing of bears.  The Province of Manitoba has committed $31 million to the project, including $4.5 million for the conservation centre and more than $26 million for construction of the polar bear arctic exhibit.


For more information on this story, please see the following coverage:

Winnipeg Free Press: Work Set to Begin On Rescue Facility

ChrisD.ca:  Snow Turned on First Phase of Polar Bear Centre


The Ghosts of Madagascar May 2, 2010

Filed under: Extinction Crisis,Primates,Zoo Animals,Zoo Knew — Scott Gray @ 10:37 pm
Tags: ,

They go from completely motionless to full-out balls of boundless energy, bouncing from branch to branch in a split second. And a visit to the Assiniboine Park Zoo would not be complete without spending a little time at the Tropical House watching these prosimians parade through their exhibit with their tails held high.

Sadly though, the ghosts of the Madagascan forests are quickly living up to their name. Of the more than 70 species of lemur on the island of Madagascar, two-thirds are endangered with extinction. Lemur, which means ghost, is an apt name for these mysterious primates that are disappearing from their island home at an alarming rate. Thanks to deforestation by humans, lemurs have lost more than 90% of their forest home in the last 100 years. Add on the illegal pet trade and hunting for bushmeat, humans are dealing a death blow that many species will not survive.


Arguably the most well-known of the lemur species, the ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta) was the focus of our discussions on Zoo Knew this morning. (Listen to CJOB’s Weekend Wake-up Show every Sunday at 7:15 am). The ring-tailed lemur, known for its black and white tail rings and black eye mask is the most common species exhibited in zoos around the world. Here are some fun facts that we discussed this morning, and some we didn’t get a chance to.


The Assiniboine Park Zoo currently displays nine primate species including three species of lemur. http://www.zoosociety.com/ZooAnimals_animalfacts.asp?L=1

Ring-tailed lemur



  • Ring-tailed lemurs have a long fox-like snout and a highly sensitive sense of smell.
  • Scent marking is extremely important to lemurs. They can pass on information to other members of their troop or other troops about their age, gender and social status.


  • Social grooming is an important bonding tool for many primates and lemurs are no exception.
  • Ring-tails have a special claw on their second toe and a tooth comb (on their lower jaw) to aid in grooming.


  • Ring-tails are omnivorous, eating items that are seasonally available.
  • They eat many types of fruits, flowers, grasses, leaves (especially tamarind) as well as sap.
  • They are also opportunistic hunters, eating spiders, insects and lizards when they can catch them.


  • Mouse lemurs (approx. six species) are the smallest lemurs, weighing less than a pound.
  • The indri is the largest of the lemurs at more than two feet tall and approximately six pounds. Oddly enough they have the shortest, stubbiest tail of all the lemurs.
  • The ring-tailed lemur is about the size of a house cat and it’s tail is longer than its body.



  • Male and female ring-tailed lemurs look nearly identical although the male will often have a heavier head and bulkier shoulders.
  • Lemurs live in a matriarchal society, with the females dominating the group.


Randomly Fun Facts:

  • Ring-tailed lemurs are diurnal, meaning that they are active during the day.
  • Lemurs are hunted by hawks, domestic dogs and cats and humans.
  • Lemurs tend to live an average of 17 years in the wild and 20 to 25+ years in zoos.
  • Ring-tails spend more time on the ground than any other species of lemur.
  • A group of lemurs is call a troop. Troops average 18 individuals.


Compiled by Scott Gray – Assiniboine Park Zoo


Planning to welcome African cats April 15, 2010

No Asian lions for Winnipeg zoo

Planning to welcome African cats, instead

By: Carol Sanders, Winnipeg Free Press


WONDERING where the Asian lions are?

Well, the pair the Assiniboine Park Zoo was preparing to welcome this summer aren’t coming.

“Although we did our best to enter the Asian lion breeding programs in Europe and India, we were informed there is a waiting list of dozens of zoos ahead of us,” zoo spokesman Dr. Bob Wrigley said.

“The animals are so rare, and the breeding so carefully controlled among participant zoos, that it will likely be many years before we are selected.”

Now, the zoo is planning to get some equally majestic, albeit less-rare and exotic, African lions, he said.

There are just 350 Asiatic lions left in the wild — all of them in the Gir National Park and Lion Sanctuary in northern India.

The animals were almost wiped out by sport hunting over the last two centuries, the Asiatic Lion Information Centre reports.

When the lion hunt was outlawed in the 1900s, the greatest threat came from the destruction of habitat. Vast tracts of jungle forest were cleared for timber to sell and to make way for the increasing human population. To bolster the endangered Asiatic lion population, co-operative inter-zoo breeding programs were set up. In 1990, two Asiatic lion couples from India were brought to the London Zoo, the Asiatic Lion Information Centre said. Zoos in Zurich and Helsinki received lions in 1991 and 1992 respectively. By the end of 1996 some 12 zoos were participating in the Asiatic lion breeding program. Ten years later, there were 99 lions at 36 zoos, the information centre said.

The Zoological Society of Manitoba was hoping Winnipeg’s zoo might be the first in North America to house Asiatic lions.

Last year, it decided to spend $1 million to convert the unused 20-year-old panda bear enclosure into a home for Asian lions. It was seen as an investment in promoting conservancy and education, and a way to boost zoo attendance. The warm-weather cats needed space to roam and a cosy abode in cold winters. Later this spring, the renovated panda pad will house a pair of African lions, said Wrigley. “…We have made great progress on the lion exhibit — including the indoor exhibit area, a beautiful interpretive space and renovations to the outside enclosure.”

Around five years ago, the zoo had some African lions who had cubs. Nearly half a million visitors flocked to the zoo to see the king of beasts. They are no longer at the zoo. “I believe the new lions will be a real hit,” he said.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 10, 2010 B2


More Bad News for Tigers January 25, 2010

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.


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.