Tails From The Zoo

Winnipeg Lions Roar at National Awards Ceremony October 25, 2010

Assiniboine Park Zoo Wins Prestigious Award

Winnipeg, October 26, 2010 – The Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums recently announced that the Assiniboine Park Zoo‟s new „Pavilion of the Lions‟ exhibit has won its top national award – the Baines Award for outstanding achievement.

Voted as the best new animal exhibit in Canada this year, it is an innovative exploration of the Lion‟s evolution, ecology, conservation, as well as prehistoric and historic relationships with people.
“We‟re absolutely thrilled to have this exhibit recognized in such a special way,” says Bob Wrigley, Curator for the Assiniboine Park Zoo. “Pavilion of the Lions is just one element of a massive redevelopment plan for the Assiniboine Park Zoo so we‟re proud to say this is the first of many stellar improvements in the works.”
The exhibit was described at the awards ceremony in Montreal as combining the best in animal care with a design that maximizes the visitor experience. Indoors and outdoors, visitors can safely go nose-to-nose with “the King of Beasts,” separated only by glass.
Exciting educational programs are also underway, such as “ZoosnooZ – Snore and Roar” – a sleep-over with the Lions.
Further information regarding the exhibit and award can be found at http://www.assiniboinepark.ca and http://www.caza.ca/en/news.


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


Reducing our Zoo Footprint July 28, 2009

The Zoological Society of Manitoba and Assiniboine Park Zoo have been busy over the past couple of years significantly reducing our carbon footprint. What does that mean you may ask? Well, simply that we are trying to do as many things at the zoo that reduce our negative impact on the earth and the environment. I’ve listed many of our activities in previous blogs, but if we just sat back and said, “Look what we did”, we really wouldn’t be leading by example. So instead, we’re continually trying to find ways of greening the zoo.

Most recently, the education department built five new mobile interpretation stations using reclaimed wood. On a much grandeur scale, the Asian lion exhibit is being built with our impact in mind. Our project engineers and architects have been assisting us by ensuring we reuse or reclaim as much of the old building materials as we can. Here’s a run down of what they’ve been able to do.

New Construction:

  • Rubber Curb Edging:  100% recycled (134 feet)
  • Retaining Wall: 5% flyash recycled material
  • Steel Work: Rail re-used
  • Fibreglass insulation: 55% recycled (287 cu ft)
  • Glass: 5% recycled (18 cu ft)
  • Flooring Materials: Polished Concrete floor – 15% Flyash recycled material (265 cu ft) – note that by utilizing a polished concrete floor, we eliminate the need for additional flooring material.  Typically, this is a leading source for harmful off-gasing from carpets or other flooring materials and/or adhesives

Existing Building:

  • Structure: 97% remains
  • Wall Panels: 88% remains
  • Existing Roofing: 100% remains
  • Glazing (Outdoor Exhibit): 57% removed
  • Platforms, Handrails: 92 % removed with 4% re-used on site and the rest re-use or recycled by the zoo

We will strive to make our zoo and our park as green as possible over the years and will keep you up to date as to how we’re progressing.


Lion Exhibit Moving Forward June 5, 2009

Filed under: Exhibits — Scott Gray @ 10:56 am

Activity around the former panda/special animal building has been at a high the last three weeks. Workers have been busy demolishing and removing old parts of the building and preparing the site for new construction. Sandblasting has started while new concrete floors and paths are being laid over the next week. Once finished, some of the new features of the building will begin to appear.

We will keep you up to date as construction progresses and will add a few pictures in the coming weeks.


New Asian Lion Enclosure May 1, 2009

This article appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press today, May 1, 2009. It is reprinted in its entirety and all rights are reserved by the Free Press.

Winnipeg’s zoo is turning its old panda enclosure into a $1-million manor for rare Asian lions to lure more visitors and funding for the struggling city attraction.

“This is all part of the goal to revitalize the park and zoo,” said Mike Stevens, president of the Zoological Society of Manitoba and member of the board of the Assiniboine Park Conservancy.

“And it’s all part of master plan to have a best-in-class facility.”

The 2000 master plan for the park called for a massive overhaul. Phase One was to include a new zoo entrance at Corydon Avenue and a multimillion-dollar revitalized polar bear exhibit.

Stevens said converting the unused 20-year-old panda bear enclosure into an Asian lion home got bumped up on the list of things to do because it was affordable, fit the criteria for promoting conservancy and education, and the lions would boost attendance.

“About four years ago, we had the African lions and they had some cubs,” said Stevens. “It was extremely successful and it became pretty obvious that lions are a top attraction.”

Zoo spokesman Dr. Bob Wrigley said 450,000 visitors came to see the lions.

“We knew everyone wanted to see the king of the beasts.” Now the zoo is hoping to successfully breed nearly extinct Asian lions, said Wrigley.

“We’re hoping we can be the first zoo in North America.” The warm-weather cats will have space to roam and a cosy abode in cold winters, Wrigley said. And their fans won’t be forgotten.

“It’ll be a four-season place for people.”

A two-storey mural and exhibits aim to bring people closer to the lions and their history, Wrigley said.

“We’ll have interpretive programs, special dinners and sleepovers with the lions,” said Wrigley.

“We want to show people’s relationship with the lion over 20,000 years of art and hunting” — from primitive cave paintings to the near-extinction of today.

There were lions in the wilds of North America at one time, he said.

“They would have been here before the last ice age and died out 10,000 years ago,” said Wrigley. The American lion came across the Bering Strait and was genetically related to the Asian lion, he said.

“It probably had longer hair because of the colder climate and it was larger.” Wrigley marvelled at the amazing range of the kings of the beasts who also inhabited Europe.

“It was pretty adaptable and yet it’s been so persecuted for thousands of years that now it’s just about disappeared.”

At the turn of the last century, there were only 100 Asian lions left in the world, said Wrigley. Today, there are about 250 Asian lions in the Gir Forest and zoos of India. The Assiniboine Park Zoo is hoping to swap India some macaques for an Asian lion couple.

Nearly one-third of the cost of the $1-million panda enclosure retrofit was raised by the Zoological Society of Manitoba.