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


Biodiversity – Our Life May 21, 2010

The Assiniboine Park Zoo and Canada’s other 24 accredited zoos and aquariums are launching a national awareness campaign to engage Canadians in supporting the preservation of biodiversity — the animals, plants, and countless other life forms that make up the world’s ecosystems.  May 22nd is the International Day of Biodiversity and many zoos and aquariums are holding special events to mark the occasion.  The Assiniboine Park Zoo is hosting a Biodiversity Display and Turtle Talk on May 22, 11 am to 3 pm, in the Tropical House, and is highlighting biodiversity conservation in many of its annual programs, such as school presentations, Spring and Summer Zoo Camps, and interpretive talks around the zoo.  Biodiversity promotional materials will also be available to zoo visitors.

2010 Biodiversity Logo

2010 is also the International Year of Biodiversity, and the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums and  its partners have identified the Arctic region as a priority concern for addressing challenges to Arctic species and their habitats. They are reaching out to Canadians everywhere to enlist their support in ensuring a sustainable future for this vital part of our country.  In connecting with Canadians from coast to coast to coast, CAZA will be working closely with its partners – Parks Canada, the Canadian Wildlife Federation and Polar Bears International.”

Throughout International Biodiversity Year 2010 and into the future, CAZA member zoos and aquariums will present a broad range of information and education about wildlife and environmental issues in Canada’s Arctic. Thousands of organisms – including bacteria, insects, plants, birds and mammals — live above, on and under a single square metre of the earth’s surface. All of these species are connected like the strands of silk in a spider’s web. If a species is lost or habitat disappears, the web starts to fall apart. When we lose this biodiversity, we lose life itself.

“It’s easy to forget that people are an integral part of Nature and that our lives are tied intimately to the living things around us.” said CAZA President Rachel Leger. “Biodiversity provides us with the oxygen, food, water, fuel, fibre, and medicine we need to survive. And our actions can either preserve or destroy these resources.”


Fun Friday Zoo Facts April 30, 2010

Filed under: Biodiversity,Birds,Carbon Footprints,Eco-Dates,World News — Scott Gray @ 3:30 pm
Tags: ,

Saving the Earth is a lot easier than you think!

  • A gas-powered lawn mower for one hour can emit as much pollution as driving a car more than 320 kilometres.  Trade in your gas-guzzler for an electric or solar powered lawn mower!


Following up on the recent zoo baby announcements:

  • The Assiniboine Park Zoo now has baby stones sheep, European bison, and reindeer.


Upcoming National and International Days
International Composting Awareness Week – May 3 to 9 –
Visit: The Composting Council of Canada
International Migratory Bird Day – May 9 – Visit: http://www.birdday.org/
International Day for Biological Diversity – May 22 – Visit Biodiversity Canada
World Turtle Day – May 23 – Visit: Turtle Day Celebrations


Not-so-stupid Animal Tricks April 6, 2010

Filed under: Biodiversity,Uncategorized,World News — Scott Gray @ 12:58 pm

I couldn’t pass up posting this article from Mental Floss!


Not-so-stupid animal tricks

By David Goldenberg, Mental Floss

April 2, 2010 10:05 a.m. EDT

Mental Floss


  • Some animals use tools to get their dinner or drinks
  • Some dolphins use sea sponges as masks when they fish
  • Crows shape sticks into hooks and spears to probe for insects
  • Green-backed herons drop insects or feathers into waters they “fish” for fish

(Mental Floss) — For centuries, philosophers claimed that the ability to make tools separated man from beast.

But in 1960, a young wildlife researcher named Jane Goodall told her boss,anthropologist Louis Leakey, that she’d witnessed chimpanzees stripping leaves from twigs and using them to “fish” for termites.

A stunned Leakey responded,”Now we must redefine tool, redefine Man, or accept chimpanzees as humans.” Of course, we now know that chimps were only the beginning.

1. Elephants drink bottled water

Not only do elephants use branches to swat flies and scratch their backs, but they also use tools to plan for the future. In South Africa, biologist Hezy Shoshani observed a pachyderm chewing bark into a large ball and then using the ball to plug up a nearby watering hole. The result was an elephant-size water bottle! Later, the animal came back to the spot, removed the ball, and quenched his thirst again.

2. Dolphins cover their mouths

In addition to bouncing balls on their noses, dolphins are also handy with sponges. Georgetown University researcher Janet Mann reported that bottlenose dolphins in Australia’s Shark Bay have been seen carrying sea sponges in their mouths while fishing along the ocean floor.

When they dig into the sand to stir up hidden fish, the sponges apparently act as a kind of mask. But, of the thousands of bottlenose dolphins identified in Shark Bay, only 41 have been observed doing this. Almost all of them were female, and the behavior seems to be something mothers teach their daughters.

3. Owls make the most out of cow poop

Some burrowing owls have a strange habit of scattering cow manure around the entrances to their homes in the ground. Until recently, scientists thought this behavior evolved as a way to mask the owls’ scent from potential predators.

But researchers recently determined that the cow manure actually functions as bait to lure dung beetles, one of the owls’ favorite foods.

Mental Floss: 7 creative uses for poop

4. Vultures cast stones

Egyptian vultures love the taste of ostrich eggs, but they can’t break the thick shells by just pecking at them. So hungry vultures go in search of rocks for the job, sometimes venturing up to 50 yards away. When they return, they dip their heads violently and hurl their rock at the egg, smashing open the shell.

Surprisingly, this technique appears to be an innate behavior. When presented with tasty eggs, even vultures raised alone in captivity will go hunting for stones.

5. Crows have a lot to crow about

New Caledonian crows are widely renowned as the tool-using champs of the bird kingdom. To hunt for insects, they shape sticks into hooks and spears that allow them to probe tree crevices. They also modify those sticks into the correct size and shape by whittling them with a complex process of snips and tears.

What’s more, New Caledonian crows can make new tools out of old ones and pass along their new inventions to others.

Mental Floss: 10 technologies we stole from animals

6. Chimps build nutcrackers

Chimpanzees of the Ivory Coast’s Tai Forest are the Bob Villas of their species. In order to crack open the hard oil-palm nuts they adore, the chimps use two tools at once. First, they place a nut on a flat stone for traction, then they smash it with a pointed hammer-like stone.

The skill takes young chimps several years to master, but once they get the hang of it, they’ll store their favorite tool sets in certain places and bring their nuts there for cracking. A recent archaeological dig found that Tai Forest chimps have been making nutcrackers like these for 4,000 years.

7. Herons go fishing

Like Jane Goodall’s chimpanzees, wild green-backed herons “fish” for their food. Using insects, feathers, or even flowers, they drop their clever bait into the water and then gobble up the curious fish that come to the surface for a meal.

Herons can be remarkably persistent fishermen, too. Reportedly, one researcher in Africa watched a heron drop the same bait into the water 28 times in a row before a fish finally bit.

Mental Floss: Is a dog’s mouth cleaner than a human’s?

For more mental_floss articles, visit mentalfloss.com

Entire contents of this article copyright, Mental Floss LLC. All rights reserved.

Original article link: http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/wayoflife/04/02/mf.animals.using.tools/index.html?hpt=Sbin


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.


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.