Tails From The Zoo

White Bison Calf Donated to Sioux Valley Dakota Nation April 3, 2010

Filed under: Presentations,Special Events,Zoo Animals,Zoo Knew — Scott Gray @ 4:08 pm
Tags: , ,

The Assiniboine Park Zoo donated a white bison (aka white buffalo) to the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation on Monday, March 29. The 11 month old female and her brown brother (born in April of 2009) were gifted in a ceremony witnessed by Mayor Sam Katz, Chief Donna Elk, Elder Roger Armitte, along with members of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota Oyate reservation, Sioux Valley, Assiniboine Park Zoo officials and invited guests. The white bison is considered a strong spiritual symbol denoting renewal. Arvol Looking Horse from Green Grass, S.D., the 19th generation carrier of the sacred bundle and pipe believed to have been given to the Dakota people many centuries ago by the White Buffalo Calf Woman was also in attendance.


Bison video courtesy of the Winnipeg Free Press: http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid1529573193?bctid=74714257001)

Read the CBC‘s coverage of the friendship ceremony here: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/manitoba/story/2010/03/29/mb-white-bison-calf-winnipeg.html


Blizzard, the Assiniboine Park Zoo’s white bison, came to us in March 2006 and instantly became a huge draw for interested zoo visitors and, more importantly, for Aboriginal people. Here is a press clipping from the summer of ’06.

Top-secret mission brings rare white bison to Winnipeg zoo

WINNIPEG – A rare white bison made his official debut yesterday at the Assiniboine Park Zoo after a top-secret mission to bring him to Canada in recognition of his spiritual significance to aboriginal people.

By The Ottawa Citizen June 6, 2006

WINNIPEG – A rare white bison made his official debut yesterday at the Assiniboine Park Zoo after a top-secret mission to bring him to Canada in recognition of his spiritual significance to aboriginal people.

Blizzard marched solemnly before the cameras, displaying the instincts of a show horse on parade. He arrived in a blizzard in March from an anonymous American rancher and the zoo kept him a secret from the public until yesterday.

His coming is especially significant to First Nations because of a 2,000-year-old legend of the Lakota, a northern plains First Nation, which tells of a mystical maiden who appeared bearing a sacred pipe she used to teach the people to pray.

On leaving, she promised to return some day and usher in a time of great peace. As she moved away, the maiden turned into a white buffalo calf.

Scientists, who say the proper name is bison and not buffalo, say a white calf is born only once in 15 million births. The animals do not have albinism — their colour comes from a rare surfacing of a recessive gene that goes back in time thousands of years.

One of the last was a calf named Miracle who drew pilgrimages of aboriginal people to her owner’s ranch in Wisconsin a decade ago.

Zookeepers are poised for pilgrimages to Winnipeg. Never before has a white bison been linked to Manitoba, which holds the bison as its provincial symbol, said zoo curator Bob Wrigley.

© (c) CanWest MediaWorks Publications Inc.


For information on Blizzard, please visit: http://assiniboinepark.ca/media/animals/pdf/White%20Buffalo.pdf

To read the story of the White Buffalo Calf Woman, please visit: http://www.naturenorth.com/Zoo/White_buffalo_rightside.pdf


Spirit of the Earth Award Winner July 5, 2009

I am happy to announce that the Zoo Education Centre was one of the recipients of the 2009 Spirit of the Earth Awards, a project of Manitoba Hydro. The program that we won for is called Aboriginal Animal Teachings.

Aboriginal people have always used storytelling as a way of teaching important lessons to children, as well as entertaining members of their family or community. Elders, both women and men, kept animal legends, their message and morals, alive throughout the generations. It is our hope to help continue to keep these stories and legends alive for future generations, with the Aboriginal Animal Stories program. The objectives of the Aboriginal Animal Teachings program include:

  • Introducing people of all ages, especially youth, to indigenous North American animals.
  • Creating a connection between art, science and culture through wildlife.
  • Introducing people to Aboriginal beliefs, values and stories, especially as they pertain to the natural world.
  • Creating an awareness of the value of storytelling as a way of passing information from one generation to another

Spirit of the Earth Awards Program

Manitoba Hydro fosters environmental awareness and encourages initiatives that improve our environment. At the same time, Manitoba Hydro recognizes the significance of Aboriginal people and their culture to the Province of Manitoba. Manitoba Hydro wanted to link these initiatives, and in 2002, introduced a program called Spirit of the Earth Awards. Now in its seventh year, the annual Spirit of the Earth Awards publicly recognizes positive environmental achievements by Aboriginal people or that directly involve Aboriginal people.

The intent of the Spirit of the Earth Awards is to promote environmental awareness and to recognize the culture and history of Aboriginal people.

2009 Award Winners:

The following list includes some wonderful programs that were recognized this year. Congratulations to all of the recipients. Spirit of the Earth Awards were presented on National Aboriginal Day, June 21, 2009.

  • Mino Aski (Good Earth) Culture Camps, Misipawistik Cree Nation Health Authority – week-long camps that promote a healthy lifestyle for youth.
  • Darryl Nepinak – internationally recognized Aboriginal filmmaker who explores the Anishinabe people and their culture, and uses humour to break down cultural barriers.
  • Friendship Garden – Erickson Elementary School, Erickson, MB.
  • University of Manitoba Graduation Pow Wow – honours Aboriginal graduates from the University of Manitoba and the University of Winnipeg.
  • University College of the North – Aboriginal Midwifery Baccalaureate Program.
  • Promoting Métis Culture – Channing, Chelsea and Christie Lavalee, for their collective contributions toward the preservation of Métis culture.
  • Zoological Society of Manitoba – Aboriginal animal teachings.
  • Urban Circle Training Centre – holistic approach to training and employment for Aboriginal women and men.
  • Laura Warenchuk, Buchanan School, Winnipeg – The Spirit of Buchanan School program encourages eco-conscious activities and crafts.
  • Traditional Area Advisory Councils (Hollow Water & Black River First Nations) – working on land use and moose management programs with Manitoba Conservation, in consultation with Manitoba Model Forest Inc.

Bear Stories at the Zoo June 8, 2009

Filed under: Education Programs,Presentations — Scott Gray @ 3:18 pm
Tags: ,

Winnipeg welcomed Else Poulsen, Canadian bear behaviourist and former zoo keeper at the Calgary and Detroit Zoos, this past weekend. Else was in town for the first time to promote her book “Smiling Bears” and to share her stories with zoo visitors.

I had an opportunity to tour Else around the Assiniboine Park Zoo on Saturday morning. We spent quite a bit of time in the bear exhibits and I had a wonderful, personal introduction to Else’s vast bear knowledge and experience. Else also spent time talking to many of the zoo keepers and providing insights about animal enrichment and animal care.

If you missed Else bear presentation on Saturday evening but would still like to read her stories, her book “Smiling Bears” can be found at McNally Robinson booksellers. I would also like to wish Else the best of luck as she begins a new job managing the Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary (www.aspenvalleywildlifesanctuary.com)

The Zoological Society is looking at developing a monthly “Speaker Series” as many of us feel that networking with other zoo and animal professionals is not only good for staff, but will be of interest to zoo members and visitors. Keep an eye on our website (www.zoosociety.com) in the fall.


Understanding Bear Behaviour May 26, 2009

Filed under: Presentations,Special Events — Scott Gray @ 10:47 pm
Tags: , , ,

Canadian bear expert will be in Winnipeg to explain the emotional side of bears at the Assiniboine Park Zoo

Else Poulsen, author of Smiling Bears: A Zookeeper Explores the Behavior and Emotional Life of Bears, will be speaking about bear behavior at the Assiniboine Park Zoo on Saturday June 6, 2009 from 7 to 9 pm.

Join Else for some wonderful stories about her work with bears at the Animal Tracks Cafe. Please enter through the Zoo Gift Shop. Please note that Else will be available for questions and to sign books at the end of her talk.

The cost for this presentation is $10, with all proceeds going to support bear education programs right here at the zoo and to the Polar Bear Conservation Fund.

Assiniboine Park Zoo, Animal Tracks Cafe, 54 Zoo Drive, Winnipeg, MB R3P 2N8

Brought to you by the Zoological Society of Manitoba, Greystone Publishers, McNally Robinson Booksellers and the Assiniboine Park Zoo.

Smiling Bears

Smiling Bears

SMILING BEARS:  A Zookeeper Explores the Behavior and Emotional Life of Bears
Publication date: March 21, 2009
Hardcover · $29.95 CDN · 272 pages
ISBN: 978-1-55365-387-5