Tails From The Zoo

Arctic Biodiversity Initiative May 20, 2010


Ottawa, May 20 – Canada’s accredited zoos and aquariums are launching a national awareness campaign to engage Canadians in supporting the preservation of biodiversity in our Arctic. May 22nd is the International Day of Biodiversity and many zoos and aquariums are holding special events to mark the occasion.

“2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity” declared Rachel Leger, President of the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums. “CAZA and its partners have identified our Arctic regions as a priority concern for addressing challenges to Arctic species and their habitats. We 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, we will be working closely with our 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 environmental issues in Canada’s Arctic. The variety of life on earth – the plants and animals that make up ecosystems – is called biodiversity. Thousands of organisms – bacteria, insects, plants, birds and mammals – live and thrive above, on and under a single square foot of earth. 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.

At first glance its vast, icy surface might seem empty, but Canada’s Arctic is filled with extremely rich and active ecosystems. From tiny plankton to huge whales, entire communities of animals and plants make their homes on, under or at the edge of the ice.

The unique polar species that live in the Arctic are specially adapted to its extreme conditions – freezing temperatures, strong winds, deep snow, thick ice and permafrost. Even slight changes to the Arctic’s fragile habitats can have a huge impact on these species, and human activities are taking their toll. Pollution, climate change and development all affect Arctic temperature, habitat and available food sources. As their Arctic home continues to change, polar bears, belugas, caribou and the smaller northern animals and plants that support them face an uncertain future.

Protecting species and habitats with national parks, working jointly with Inuit communities to manage these parks, conducting scientific research and spreading the message to Canadians across the country are all part of the cooperative approach inspired by the International Year of Biodiversity and being implemented by CAZA and its three partners. Education programs, lectures, special events, community presentations and other activities will be carried out at each of the participating accredited zoos and aquariums across the country. CAZA members will also help out with Arctic field work and the research that supports it – and will invite Canadians to contribute to this worthwhile endeavour. This special effort is intended to build on the extensive work carried out by Canada’s accredited zoos and aquariums in captive breeding and population management programs.

A wealth of information about the Arctic, its biodiversity challenges and what is being done to address them can be found on a new, specially-designed website at www.ourarctic.ca

On behalf of the people of Canada, Parks Canada protects and presents nationally significant examples of Canada’s natural and cultural heritage, and fosters public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment in ways that ensure their ecological and commemorative integrity for present and future generations.

Polar Bears International (PBI) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the worldwide conservation of polar bears and their habitat through research, stewardship, and education. PBI provides scientific resources and information on polar bears and their habitat to institutions and the general public worldwide.

The Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a not for profit national organization that represents Canada’s 25 accredited zoos and aquariums. It sets standards through its accreditation program, leads and coordinates work in the fields of research, conservation and education, and represents its members’ interests with governments at all levels.

For further information:

Bill Peters

Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums

 

Animal News from Around the World December 19, 2009

Capybara enjoy a traditional Japanese hot bath:

http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/22825103/vp/34380383#34380383

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Extinctions on the rise in the Galapagos: fishing and global warming devastating islands’ species

“If marine species are going extinct in one of the most famous, and most cherished World Heritage Sites, what is happening in the rest of the world that has been so little studied?” asks report coauthor Scott Henderson, Conservation International’s Regional Marine Conservation Director in the Eastern Tropical Pacific.

http://news.mongabay.com/2009/1203-hance_galapagos.html

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Rhino Poaching Surges in Asia, Africa

ScienceDaily (Dec. 2, 2009) — Rhino poaching worldwide is on the rise, according to a new report by TRAFFIC and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091201182626.htm

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When baboon troops go to war: (video contain disturbing images for some people)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/earth/hi/earth_news/newsid_8400000/8400019.stm

“Baboons are one of the most aggressive primates out there”

Miss Rosie Thomas, BBC Life production team member

 

Tale of a Wandering Spider November 7, 2009

In early May, 2009 a story was released by the Russell Banner’s Terrie Welwood about a highly venomous spider — the Brazilian Wandering Spider — from tropical America, which arrived in a box of bananas at an IGA grocery store in Russell, Manitoba.  Through the efforts of a number of people, the 2.5-cm-long spider with long legs and red hairy fangs made its way to the Assiniboine Park Zoo.  Considering that the fear of spiders (arachnophobia) is almost universal, it is remarkable that a chain of individuals cared enough about this little wandering stowaway to ensure that no harm came to it after surviving its over-4000-km trip from the tropics.

The spider appears to have started its journey by hiding in a load of bananas in Guatemala, and then being transported to Manitoba.  The box of bananas was ultimately shipped to the IGA in Russell, where one night it left its refuge to search for prey.  A cleaning-staff member discovered the spider and succeeded in trapping it in a container.  He handed it over to the Produce Manager, who then in turn gave it to the Major Pratt High School 12th-grade biology class for study.  Using the resources of the internet, the students took up the challenge of identifying it, and they came to the startling conclusion (based on its size and striking red fangs) that it was a venomous Brazilian wandering spider (a species of Phoneutria; Greek name for “Murderess”), the bites of several species of which have resulted in the deaths of small children and seniors in Amazonia.  Although the bites of these spiders are highly sensationalized as the most-venomous and painful in the world, venom is often not released, or is delivered in such small doses that it is insufficient to kill most human victims.

Red-fanged spider

Photo by Darlene Stack

 

Amid stories in the media, the spider was passed on by one of the students to two Manitoba Conservation staff, and with the recommendation from a Canadian Wildlife Service officer, they delivered the spider on May 8th to the Assiniboine Park Zoo for safe-keeping.  It was set up securely in a terrarium for public viewing in the Tropical House by zookeepers experienced in maintaining spiders. Until its identification could be confirmed, it was treated as a potentially dangerous specimen.  When offered a cricket as food, the spider instantly captured and then devoured the insect, so the spider appeared to be in good health after its long journey.

Zoo Curator Dr. Robert Wrigley contacted Dr. Terry Galloway at the Entomology Department at the University of Manitoba, who recommended he speak to Canadian spider specialist Dr. Robb Bennett with the British Columbia provincial government.  Dr. Bennett acknowledged that spiders are easily misidentified, and while this specimen might be a Phoneutria, it was far-more likely to be a harmless species of wandering spider called Cupiennius, a species of which also has the red hairs on the large fangs.  These spiders have been known to be transported in fruit to other North American cities (e.g., Tulsa in March, 2008), where they are usually misidentified by local spider experts as the venomous Phoneutria.  Other large stowaway spiders (e.g., wandering and black-widows) have been turned over to the Zoo and the J.B. Wallis Museum of Entomology (University of Manitoba) over the years, mainly deriving from shipments of produce.  This Manitoba specimen will be submitted to a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, who is preparing a paper on accidental shipments of exotic creatures.  The huge volume of cargo being transported around the world generates frequent opportunities for invasive pests to reach new continents, where they often cause enormous damage to native ecosystems and national economies (e.g., agriculture, forestry).

Manitoba is host to about 700 species of spiders, which occupy almost all terrestrial habitats and some aquatic ones as well.  They play major roles as predators of insects and other small organisms, and serve as food for songbirds and many other kinds of animals.  All Manitoba spiders carry venom to immobilize and digest prey, but none is dangerous to humans, although the bite of a few species can be painful and cause a local irritation or mild allergic reaction.  The public is encouraged to leave spiders alone to carry out their natural lives, and to not destroy them out of needless fear.

In the autumn, many people are alarmed to discover an impressively large spider (with two bumps on the abdomen) in a web around the home, resulting in a call to the zoo, a university, Manitoba Museum, or Insect Control (City Of Winnipeg).  This is usually the Jewel Spider (Aranaeus gemmoides), the females of which have a respectable head-body length of up to 15 mm.  One of western Canada’s largest orb-weaver spiders, it is docile and only bites if repeatedly provoked.  D.Wade from Insect Control noted that by September, the female has mated with the smaller male, and is looking for a secluded site to deposit her egg case, which may contain 800 fertilized eggs. It appears that houses are a preferred site for stashing the egg case.  The female dies and the cold-hardy eggs over-winter, then hatch with the warming days of spring.  On a sunny day, each tiny spiderlings releases a strand of silk and parachutes away on the wind, to renew the species’ cycle of life.

By Dr. Robert E. Wrigley

Curator, Assiniboine Park Zoo

 

October’s Eco-Dates October 6, 2009

So what did you do on October 4? Did you celebrate World Animal Day? I hope so. In fact I hope you celebrate animals everyday, but in case you missed this year’s celebrations, here’s a re-cap.

World Animal Day, October 4

We celebrate World Animal Day to express our compassion and concern for all creatures. World Animal Day’s mission is to: celebrate animal life in all its forms; celebrate humankind’s relationship with the animal kingdom; acknowledge the diverse roles animals play in our lives; and be thankful for the way in which animals enrich our lives. To find out more, please visit: World Animal Day

As a reminder, there are a couple more upcoming dates to celebrate.

Waste Reduction Week runs October 19-25

Waste Reduction Week aims to inform and engage Canadians about the environmental and social impact of our wasteful practices. It strives to educate, engage and empower Canadians to reduce, reuse and recycle waste. Everyone, including schools, businesses, and individuals can all get involved! Visit Waste Reduction Week Canada at http://www.wrwcanada.com/ for more information and resources.

International Day of Climate Action is on October 24

Scientists now know that an environment with carbon in the atmosphere that tops 350 parts per million will not support life as we know it. Sadly, we’re already past that number, at 390 parts per million, which is why the Arctic is melting and drought is spreading across the planet. 350 gives us a target to aim for. Join the international movement on October 24 to take a stand for a safe climate future and raise awareness about this important number (350). Make a statement to get the attention of the world’s leaders, before they meet in Copenhagen in December to reach an agreement on a new climate treaty. Visit www.350.org to make a difference before it becomes too hard to reach our goal.

 

Arctic Fox Shipments April 9, 2009

Filed under: World News,Zoo Animals — Scott Gray @ 6:40 pm
Tags: , , ,

The last few months have been interesting at the Assiniboine Park Zoo’s animal hospital with all sorts of Arctic fox shipments. The zoo had ten young foxes born in June of 2008, after a gestation of about 52 days. Their exact birthdates are unknown as they are born underground and the babies are not seen for a few weeks. One set of parents had seven kits while the other had three. The new additions made for a wonderful summer of viewing and learning at the fox exhibits.

Arctic fox do not hibernate and can withstand temperatures as low as -50 degress Celsius (perfect animals for a zoo in Winnipeg!). They have a life span of about ten years, with both parents looking after the young. Nine subspecies of Arctic fox live in the Arctic regions of Europe, Asia and North America. Arctic fox are pure white in the winter and grey-brown, light brown, gray, chocolate, or even black with a bluish hue in the summer, depending on their range. Arctic foxes are omnivorous, but feed particularly on small mammals (lemmings), eggs, carrion and berries.

Zoo keepers and vet staff had a fox round-up in early November, and after all of the kits were caught up, they were transferred to the zoo hospital. The ten kits were given a physical, vaccinated, and tattooed and micro-chipped at the hospital. This was all done while they were anesthetized as they are wild animals. After a clean bill of health they were ready for their new homes and were set up in pens with both indoor and outdoor access. It was relatively easy to find homes for the youngsters as Arctic fox are not well represented in zoos. Over the winter the foxes were sent to other zoos across the continent and across the ocean. The majority of them went by plane but one went by truck. They went to Tacoma, Washington, St.Paul, and Minnesota in the U.S., to Edmonton, Toronto, Thunder Bay and New Brunswick in Canada and also to Switzerland. There is one fox still waiting for his flight to his new home in France.

Thanks to Jacquie for this update from the zoo hospital!

 

More Weird Zoo News January 31, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized,World News — Scott Gray @ 2:41 pm
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Funny Zoo Signs

Here are a bunch of hilarious zoo signs. http://www.zuzafun.com/zoo-signs

  • If you have fun zoo signs of your own – send us a copy and we’ll post them!


Farting Gorillas Force Brussel Sprouts Off Zoo’s Christmas Menu

ZOO managers have taken Brussels sprouts off the Christmas menu after the vegetable caused an attack of flatulence in their gorillas. The staff at Chessington Zoo fed the giant apes on the seasonal favourite as they are filled with nutritional goodness. However, they hadn’t reckoned with the gassy qualities of the tiny veggies. Now the zoo has issued an apology after guests at the zoo expressed their horror at the potent smell that started emanating from the gorillas’ enclosure.

Gorilla keeper Michael Rozzi said: “We feed the gorillas brussel sprouts during the winter because they are packed with vitamin C and have great nutritional benefits. Unfortunately, an embarrassing side effect is that it can cause bouts of flatulence in humans and animals alike. However, I don’t think any of us were prepared for a smell that strong.”

Zoo’s Penguin Afraid of Water

Keepers at a British zoo said a resident penguin with a fear of water has become a hit with curious park visitors. Staff at Blackbrook Zoological Park in Leek, England, said 11-year-old Kentucky the Humbolt penguin developed a phobia of water because he was born a runt and had problems with losing feathers too quickly, making the water too cold for his comfort, The Sun reported Thursday.


“It’s a bit too cold for him in the water, so he spends all his time on the rocks just walking around,” said Adam Stevenson, the zoo’s assistant bird keeper. “It’s a bit of a pain having to go over especially to him to feed him because he won’t go in the water, but he’s a real character and everyone at the zoo loves him. We’ve got one of the biggest collections of birds in Europe here but Kentucky is a bit of a crowd pleaser.”


“He has become quite famous because it’s quite unusual for penguins not to like the water,” he said. Stevenson said keepers douse Kentucky with water at least twice a day to keep his feathers healthy and clean.

  • LEEK, England (UPI) – © 2009 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Published: Jan. 22, 2009

Zoo Drops ‘Ranga’ Free Day Campaign

ADELAIDE Zoo has dropped an ad campaign offering free visits to all “rangas” to highlight the plight of orang-utans after sensitive redheads complained. Last week, advertisements ran offering “free Zoo entry for all rangas” during the school holidays. “Ranga” – an abbreviation of orang-utan – is a common nickname for redheads.

“We seem to be getting quite a bit of a negative reaction to that request,” said Zoos SA’s director of conservation programs Kevin Evans, The Advertiser reported. “People are possibly more sensitive about it than we thought,”  he said. “We have a campaign over the school holidays because of orang-utans being an endangered species – and so are human redheads,” Mr Evans said.

Less than 2 per cent of humans have red hair. “Because of the way people move around these days, the genes that carry redheads are breeding out to brunettes and blondes,” Mr Evans said. “Eventually it looks like they are going to be extinct as well.”

The zoo will continue to offer free entry to people with red hair for the next two weeks to raise awareness about orang-utans being endangered in the wild. The campaign is timed to coincide with the birthday of the Zoo’s male orangutan, Pusung, and will include daily talks about the species.

Dyed red hair will qualify for free entry and zoo staff will not seek proof that patrons are natural redheads.

“We’re not actually checking tops and tails, or anything like that,” Mr Evans said.

  • By Patrick McDonald, The Advertiser, September 29, 2008
 

February Eco-Dates January 30, 2009

Each month we will be highlighting upcoming eco-dates on your calendar. While we missed January, we’ve got February ready to go!

February 2      – World Wetlands Day

February 12    – Darwin Day

February 23    – National Heritage Day

February 28    – National Science Day

Admittedly, not a busy month but a big one if you’re a fan of Darwin and of evolution. February 12 will mark both the 200 birthday of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversery of his seminal book, The Origin of the Species. Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection turned a lot of head back in the day and skeptics and scholars were aghast that something called evolution could be at work in the natural world. For more information on Darwin Day, please visit http://www.darwinday.org/

Both the Zoological Society of Manitoba and the Assiniboine Park Zoo are planning lots of activities for many of this year’s upcoming eco-dates including Biodiversity Day, Endangered Species Day, Turtle Day, World Animal Day and more. I hope you can make it out to the zoo over the coming weeks and months and join us as we celebrate the natural world and highlight the work that is being done to preserve and conserve the thousands of plants and animals that are losing their battle for survival.

The Assiniboine Park Zoo – open today and every day.