Tails From The Zoo

Assiniboine Park – Naturally Educational September 29, 2010

Do you remember the first time you visited Assiniboine Park, the Zoo or the Conservatory? For a child, the thrill of a trip to the park, with its gardens, galleries, playgrounds, riparian forest, animals and open fields, is hard to forget. Assiniboine Park has dedicated itself to providing students of all ages with the highest quality environmental education programs in the province so those memories can continue.

The Assiniboine Park Zoo is Manitoba’s premiere location for animal based education. The Zoo’s Education Centre is designed to promote the concepts of endangered species and wildlife conservation through public education and hands-on, interactive learning. The Pavilion Gallery and Leo Mol Sculpture Garden are first-class locations for art education. The Assiniboine Park Conservatory is one of the most unique plant-based teaching facilities in Manitoba. The extensive living classrooms – the Herb Garden, the Abilities Garden, the English Gardens, the Tropical Palm House and Floral Display Atrium – provide a dynamic year-round setting for exciting lessons. And as always there are acres upon acres of natural beauty that Assiniboine Park freely offers to you to help green your mind, body and soul.

We specialize in walking and trolley tours along with one-of-a-kind programs and workshops on a huge range of themes. Bring your class or group to explore the wonders of the plant and animal worlds and explore the wonderfully expressive worlds of art and sculpture, food and cuisine, music and literacy while you’re here. We incorporate learning outcomes of Manitoba Education Citizenship and Youth curricula in science, social studies, language, recreation and the arts for pre-school to Senior 4 but you can also just come for the fun. A wide variety of teaching strategies are used to connect with many different learning styles from the naturalist to the interpersonal.

We are rededicating Assiniboine Park to providing programming that will create a lasting appreciation of the natural world and to inspire children to get out and be active all months of the year. Parents, teachers and group leaders can relax, knowing that the children are in a safe, playful environment with skilled instructors who truly enjoy working with young people.

Watch for our new Assiniboine Park Programming brochure, detailing all of our new and re-envisioned program options. We are excited about the many subtle and significant transformations that Assiniboine Park is undergoing and we welcome you to experience them with us.  Visit www.assiniboinepark.ca for a preview of our redevelopment.

Let your imagination run wild!

Scott Gray, Director of Park Programming


A Sea Eagle Update May 7, 2010

Filed under: Birds,Exhibits,Teacher's Resources,Zoo Animals — Scott Gray @ 11:33 pm
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Now that the eagles have landed in their new home at the Assiniboine Park Zoo, I thought it would be good to update our Steller’s sea eagle fact sheet. So here you go!


At the Assiniboine Park Zoo:

  • The relocation of our sea eagles places them into the Asian area of the Assiniboine Park Zoo, across the path from our Amur tigers.


  • Our male came to us in 2006 from the Lieberec Zoo in the Czech Republic. He was born in 2005.


  • Our female came to us in 2005 from the Tallinn Zoo in Estonia. She was born in 2003.


Fast Facts:

  • Scientific name means “Eagle of the open seas”
  • The Steller’s sea eagle has been designated a national treasure in Russia. They are also honoured in Japan where they are known as “O-Washi”.
  • Persecuted by hunters and poachers for stealing trapped animals.
  • They are diurnal (active during the day)
  • Adult eagles have about 7000 feathers.
  • They are named after Georg Steller (1709-1746), a German biologist. He also lent his name to the Steller’s jay, Steller’s sea lion (endangered), Steller’s eider (a type of duck – vulnerable), and the Steller’s sea cow (extinct).


Status in the Wild: Vulnerable

  • Wild population estimated at 5000 and dropping according to the IUCN.
  • The wild population is declining due to habitat loss, water pollution (from DDT/PCB’s), over-fishing (loss of prey), lead shot hunting (lead poisoning from scavenging) and other factors.


Sea Eagles:

  • Steller’s sea eagles (Haliaeetus pelagicus) are one of eight species of sea eagle
  • The Steller’s sea eagle is also known as the Pacific eagle and the white-shouldered eagle.
  • The Steller’s sea eagle is considered the most powerful and aggressive of its cousins, the bald eagle and the white-tailed sea eagle
  • This group frequent coasts, lakes and rivers
  • This species is dark brown but dramatically coloured when mature with a white tail, white shoulders, white rump, and white thighs

Stella and Stanley inspect one of their new nest boxes. Photo by Darlene Stack, Assiniboine Park Zoo

Height, Weight, Length:

  • Males: weigh up to 6kg
  • Females: weigh up to 9kg
  • Females average 2 to 4kg larger than males
  • Steller’s sea eagles are amongst the largest and heaviest eagles in the world. They are similar in size to the Philippine eagle and the harpy eagle from South America.

  • Adult Steller’s have an average wingspan of 2.3 metres (7.5 ft)
  • Females have a larger wingspan than males
  • Sea eagles stand 85 to 94cm high


  • Russia: Kamchatka / Amur river, Northern Korea, China and Japan
  • Breeds in Russia and over winters in Japan


  • 4 to 5 years for sexual maturity
  • 6 to 8 years for adult plumage

Sea Eagle Diet:

  • 80% fish (e.g. cod), 10% birds (ducks, gulls), 5% mammals, and 5% other (crabs, shellfish, squid, carrion)
  • Like other eagles, Steller’s also steal food from other birds.
  • Four Steller’s sea eagle hunting techniques have been recorded:

1. Diving off a perch for food

2. Flying over the water and picking up food

3. Wading in shallow water for food

4. Stealing food from other birds, a practice known as “kleptoparasitism”



  • IUCN Redlist, Arkive, Birdlife International, San Diego Zoo, National Geographic Society, Assiniboine Park Zoo Education Library
  • Revised May 3, 2010

Compiled by Scott Gray, Education Director


Snow Leopards February 7, 2010

Filed under: Teacher's Resources,Wild Cats,Zoo Animals,Zoo Knew — Scott Gray @ 7:31 am
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SNOW LEOPARDS          Panthera uncia

We have 1.1 snow leopards at the Assiniboine Park Zoo.

Yashin (male):

  • Born May 23, 1996
  • We received him in December 2008, from the Papanack Park Zoo

Lhassa (female):

  • Born July 11th, 1994 in Granby, Quebec
  • Came to us (from Granby) in December of 1997
  • Between 2000-2005 she had 18 offspring, usually triplets but one time had quadruplets.


Did you know?

The cats’ long, powerful hind limbs help the snow leopard leap more than 30 feet – 6 times its body length!

The snow leopard cannot make the low and intense “roars” of which the other big cats are capable. This is because its vocal fold is less developed than in other pantherines, lacking a thick pad of fibro-elastic tissue.


General Information:

Status: Listed as Endangered

  • Unfortunately the snow leopards numbers have been so reduced that the few remaining animals and populations are widely scattered.
  • It is estimated that there are between 3,500 and 7,500 snow leopards left in the wild. It is very hard to have an exact count as their habitat is harsh and they are hard to spot.
  • There are about 400 of these cats in zoos around the world according to ISIS


  • Demand for leopard pelts has been the main reason for its reduction or extermination in many regions.
  • Traditional Asian medicine uses their bones and other body parts.
  • Due to wars, hunting and competition with grazing livestock there is a decline in numbers of wild prey.
  • Herdsmen who accuse the leopards of killing their livestock persecute them. The people, however, are actually causing the problem by bringing their livestock high up into the snow leopards’ range.
  • Much of the snow leopard’s territory is along international borders, which does not make it easy for conservation of the species, since trans-boundary conservation efforts are complicated.

Distribution and Habitat:

  • Arid alpine regions
  • The snow leopard is restricted to the high mountain, from Afghanistan eastwards through the mighty Himalayas and north to western China and Mongolia. (Includes Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.)

Natural Diet:

  • Over most of their range they hunt sheep, goats, marmots, and hares.
  • In the Himalayas they eat blue sheep, ibex, and wild argali

Zoo Diet: Raw meat, rabbits, chickens


Zoo Notes:

  • Snow leopards have an average life span of 15 years; up to 19 in zoos.
  • Snow leopards live a solitary life in the wild, except during the breeding season. Average of two-three young are born (range 1 to 5) after a gestation period of 90-100 days.
  • The cubs become independent after about 18-22 months

Adaptations for living on a mountain:

  • Well-developed chest
  • Short forelimbs with large paws for walking on snow
  • Long hind limbs for leaping
  • Long flexible tail for balancing

Adaptations for cold weather:

  • Enlarged nasal cavity
  • Long fur with wooly undergrowth
  • Thick furry tail for wrapping around body and face
  • The fur on their bellies is up to 12 cm (nearly 5 in) long


  • Snow leopards weigh between 75-120 pounds. Males average 45 – 55 kg and females average 35 – 40 kg.
  • Body length ranges from 100 – 130 cm (39-51 inches)
  • Tails measure almost as long as their bodies (length: 80 – 100 cm (32-39 inches))



www.arkive.com , www.snowleopard.org , www.snowleopardconservancy.org , www.waza.org

Compiled by Scott Gray and Jenna Harrison; February 7th, 2010


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


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.