Tails From The Zoo

Mayor Officially Welcomes Zoo’s Lions June 15, 2010

Thanks to ChrisD.ca for the following video from today’s press conference:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0RsRyhdw58Q

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From the City of Winnipeg’s Press Desk:

The Mane Attraction: Zoo visitors will be excited to hear that lions are now back on display at the Assiniboine Park Zoo.

While the Zoo has displayed a number of lions over its long history, a decision was reached in 1981 to discontinue with this species due to inadequate winter facilities. Continuing public enquiries about lions prompted Zoo officials to bring in a family of lions on a temporary basis in 2005, and visitors were enthralled by the King of Beasts. Consequently, the Assiniboine Park Zoo and the Zoological Society of Manitoba began planning a major renovation of the former Giant Panda building to permanently house a pair of lions.

The Zoological Society contributed $350,000 to help upgrade the facility, and to create a new interpretive hall and displays, which could also serve as an attractive space for educational activities and meetings. The displays focus on the lion’s natural history, family life, current status, how human cultures have viewed the lion over the millennia, and the ancestry of big cats and Sabretooths around the world.

The young lions have now arrived from a zoo in Ontario, and are undergoing a period of introduction. The 4-year old female is named Kaya and the 3-year-old male is Xerxes, who has not yet developed his full mane. This beautiful Pavilion of the lions gives visitors an idea of the exciting developments being planned at the Zoo and other locations at the Assiniboine Park.

Additional background:

  • Although the lion evolved in Africa 3.5 million years ago, it diversified into various races as it spread over temporary land bridges into Eurasia, North America and South America.
  • This species had the largest-known distribution of any large mammal and was common throughout the Americas (including Manitoba) until it died out here 10,000 years ago.
  • The American lion (Panthera leo atrox) was the largest cat that ever walked the earth – at least a third larger (up to 380 kg; 838 lbs) than today’s African lion.
  • Originally numbering in the millions over its vast world range, the lion has been persecuted for thousands of years, and currently fewer than 18,000 survive in Africa and 300 in India. There is concern that the species may be eliminated from the wild by the end of the century.

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Check out Chris D’s sea eagle video too:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8WheJCOgfl8

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Kookaburras – The Bushman’s Clock April 18, 2010

Filed under: Birds,Zoo Animals,Zoo Knew — Scott Gray @ 6:24 am
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Chris Reid and I just finished talking about the kookaburra on Zoo Knew (Sundays at 7:15 am on CJOB 68) . These birds can be seen in the Tropical House at the Assiniboine Park Zoo.

Kookaburra (aka: Laughing kookaburra): Is sometimes called the Bushman’s Clock because of its habit of calling in the morning and evening. Their call sounds like loud, raucous laughter.

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Laughing Kookaburra

The (laughing) kookaburra

Food: The kookaburra is a carnivorous bird and is known as a stand and wait hunter.

  • The kookaburra eats both invertebrates (worms, insects, snails) and vertebrates (birds, rodents, lizards, amphibians and snakes)
  • Small prey is crushed while larger prey is killed by bashing it against at branch or by dropping from a height.

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Size: Length: 45 cm  (18 in),  Weight: 0.5 kg  (1.1 lbs)

  • The kookaburra is gray-brown above and gray-white on the head and underparts. It has a dark eye stripe and a barred tail. It has a long, stout (broad), dagger-like bill. It has a large head, a stubby tail and short legs.

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Habitat: The kookaburra lives away from water in woodland and scrub. It is a tree (or wood) kingfisher,  which is the most numerous of the three families of birds in the kingfisher group. The other two families are the river kingfishers and the lake kingfishers.

Distribution: South and East Australia. Introduced to Tasmania and other islands.

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Find out more about the Assiniboine Park Zoo’s kookaburras here: http://www.assiniboinepark.ca/media/animals/pdf/Laughing%20Kookaburra.pdf

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Compiled by Scott Gray, Zoo Education Director

References: Birds of the World (Paragon Publishing, 2005), the National Zoo, http://www.avianweb.com.

 

(Woody) The Pileated Woodpecker April 17, 2010

Filed under: Birds,Zoo Animals,Zoo Knew — Scott Gray @ 8:54 pm
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Chris Reid and I talked about the pileated woodpecker last Sunday on Zoo Knew (Sundays at 7:15 am on CJOB AM)

  • The pileated woodpecker, made famous by inspiring the cartoon character Woody the Woodpecker, is Canada’s largest and North America’s second largest woodpecker species.
  • Pileated woodpeckers range is length from 40 – 50 cm (16 to 19.5 in), with a wing length of 68 – 76 cm.
  • Pileated woodpeckers are mostly black when at rest but show a burst white underwings when in flight.
  • The sexes are similar in appearance, although the males have a larger red crest and a red moustache.

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  • The pileated woodpecker is an uncommon species, found in coniferous, mixed and hardwood forests. It prefers dense, mature forest but has begun to frequent woodlots in the past couple of decades.
  • Pileated woodpeckers excavate characteristically oval holes in trees to find ants and other wood-boring insects (and their larvae). They will also eat berries and nuts.

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  • The pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) is related to other Manitoba woodpecker species like the more common yellow-bellied sapsucker, the downy woodpecker, the hairy woodpecker, the red-headed woodpecker and the northern flicker.

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For more on some of the wonderful birds that can be seen (wild) at the Assiniboine Park, please visit: http://www.assiniboinepark.ca/index.php?option=com_birds&task=birds&Itemid=12

To hear this woodpecker’s call, please visit: http://www.assiniboinepark.ca/media/birds/P/Pileated%20Woodpecker.mp3

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Compiled by Scott Gray with references from Peterson Field Guides (Eastern Birds), Manitoba Birds (Andy Bezener & Ken De Smet), and The Field Guide to the Birds of North America (National Geographic Society).

 

Wild Weeks in March March 10, 2010

Filed under: Biodiversity,Carbon Footprints,Eco-Dates,Uncategorized — Scott Gray @ 11:21 am
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We are in the middle of National Tree Week, which runs from March 7 to 13, and I’m wondering what you are doing to celebrate. Have you hugged a tree yet? Okay that’s maybe a little simplistic but what child doesn’t like hugging a tree?

The aim of National Tree Week is to raise awareness about trees and to encourage local communities to participate in forest walks and tree plantings. Planting a tree you can help to reduce carbon emissions. Trees take in carbon dioxide from the air and convert much of it into wood. The by-product of doing so is the production of oxygen. Trees also provide habitats for birds, insects, small mammals and even a few frogs!

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Next week, March 15 – 21, is National Wildlife Week in the US. You can celebrate the week by getting outside and enjoying nature. “Climb trees, chase butterflies, dig in the dirt and celebrate nature. You’ll become healthier, happier and more connected to the world around you.” Keep your momentum going and send your child to our Spring Day Camp at the Assiniboine Park Zoo – where our policy is no child is left inside!

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If you’re more of a bird person, keep a note on the calendar for March 14th, International Migratory Bird Day. I’ll be posting a separate blog for this day later in the week.

 

Flamingos for Valentine’s Day February 14, 2010

Filed under: Birds,Fund Raising,Zoo Animals,Zoo Knew — Scott Gray @ 8:17 am
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Chris Reid and I discussed flamingos on this morning’s Zoo Knew segment (heard every Sunday at 7:15 am) on the Weekend Wake-up Show on CJOB 68. Chris’s theme today was Valentine’s Day and what better animal for  February 14th than flamingos!? The zoo is open year round and visiting the flamingos, even in the winter, is a great way to spend an afternoon. You might even be lucky enough to watch the flamingos dance for you! The whole flock gets involved and they use the whole “dancing floor” to strut their stuff, show off their colourful feathers and create quite the noisy ruckus.  If you would like to visit the Assiniboine Park Zoo today to see the flamingos, the zoo is open from 10 am to 4 pm.

For more information on this month’s special Zoodoption Animal of the Month, the flamingo, please visit www.zoosociety.com

  • A special animal is available to be zoodopted every month for the special rate of $25.00. You can Zoodopt any animal of your choice at any level during the year, but if you choose our “Animal of the Month” you will receive the same package as the Friend level for the special price of $25.00.

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Information on Flamingos

  • Long legs, a long, curved neck, a gooselike voice, and down-curved bills adapted for filter feeding, are characteristics of all flamingo species.
  • The joint in their leg about halfway up that looks like a backward knee is actually an ankle. And, like all birds, they walk on their toes.

Habitat:

  • Brackish inland lakes, coastal shores, mudflats, saltpans, saline lagoons

Diet:

  • Algae, small crustaceans, molluscs, and aquatic insects in the wild
  • Poultry pellets, dried shrimp, meat and bone meal at the zoo
  • Here at the zoo we include synthetic canthaxanthin (a carotenoid pigment) to the flamingos diet to avoid their feathers losing the beautiful colouring. A similar pigment is found naturally in the crustaceans that they eat in the wild.
  • The angled beak of the flamingo has a sieve‑like structure for capturing small aquatic organisms. They will stamp their webbed feet in the mud to stir up food from the bottom. They then tip their heads upside down, flutter their bills and strain water through their bill, catching food in their lamellae.

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Fast Facts:

  • The word flamingo is originally derived from the Portuguese for ‘red goose’
  • Flamingos are an ancient group of birds. Their fossil records date back about 10 million years ago.
  • Both male and female, provide their young with a type of milk called crop milk.
  • Flamingos have different leg coloring from species to species.
  • Flamingos are naturally born white.

  • Most flamingo populations require a large colony for successful breeding. This poses difficulties for breeding flamingos in zoos. Small groups have been tricked into displaying breeding activity by using mirrors (making it look like the group is larger than it really is).
  • There are six species, four native to the Americas and two living in parts of Africa, Europe, and Asia. Some authorities recognize five species and consider the Caribbean and greater flamingos to be sub-species.

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Caribbean Flamingo: (Phoenicopterus ruber)

  • We have approximately 30 Caribbean flamingos, housed in two flocks at the zoo.
  • The Caribbean flamingo is also known as the American or roseate flamingo.

Size: Approximately 80 – 145 cm (31 –57 in.) long

  • Females tend to be smaller than males

Weight: Approximately 1.9 – 3 kg (4.2-6.6 lbs)

Range: South America and the Caribbean with a small population in the Galapagos

Status: Not threatened

  • Population decline due to pollution, loss of habitat and hunting.
  • Total population is estimated 80,000 – 90,000 birds.

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Greater Flamingo: (Phoenicopterus roseus)

  • The Assiniboine Park Zoo acquired a dozen greater flamingos in the winter of 2007.
  • The greater flamingo is lighter in colour then the Caribbean and is the most widespread of all flamingo species.

Size: 91 to 127 cm (36 to 50 in)

  • Wingspan is 140-165 cm

Weight: Average 8.75 lbs (4 kg)

Range and Status:

  • Southern Africa: 55,000 (decreasing). West Africa: 30,000-60,000 (trend unknown). Eastern Africa: 35,000 (decreasing). West Mediterranean: 80,000 (increasing). East Mediterranean and Asia: 500,000 (stable)

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References:

  • World Association of Zoos and Aquariums
  • BirdLife International
  • Sea World Infobooks
  • Assiniboine Park Zoo Education Archives

Compiled by Scott Gray and Jenna Harrison, Zoological Society of Manitoba

Revised February 13, 2010

 

Woodpeckers January 27, 2010

Filed under: Birds,Zoo Animals — Scott Gray @ 2:23 pm
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The Canadian Wildlife Federation recently announced that of the 14 species of woodpeckers in Canada, four are listed as “at-risk nationally”. Twelve are listed as “at-risk” in at least one province. Woodpeckers and other birds are facing a series of pressures on their populations including pesticide use (which poisons their prey), competition from starlings for nesting sites, climate change and loss of standing dead trees (or dead parts of living trees).

Here is some great information on how to help backyard birds survive the winter from Canadian Wildlife Federation’s backyard habitat program.

Sunflower seeds will attract purple finches, cardinals, goldfinches, grosbeaks, juncos, chickadees, nuthatches, and many other birds. Black oil sunflower seeds are especially good due to their higher oil and calorie content. There are also plenty of commercial birdseed mixes available, but be aware that mixes containing a high proportion of ingredients such as hulled oats, rice, peanut hearts, corn and wheat can bring in pests such as pigeons, starlings and house sparrows. Suet provides a high-energy food source for woodpeckers, nuthatches and other insect-eating birds, helping them survive the harsh winter season. Just don’t leave it out in warmer weather; one study showed that partially melted fat caused problems for woodpeckers, causing matting and a loss of facial feathers. Do not put out salty, mouldy, or sugary foods.”

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If you would like to see a woodpecker at the zoo, we have a pileated woodpecker that lives with two Steller’s jays next the Native Bird Building.  You can also see downy woodpeckers and hairy woodpeckers in Assiniboine Park and Forest. For a full list of birds in Assiniboine Park, CLICK HERE.

 

Extinction by the Numbers January 5, 2010

Filed under: Biodiversity,Extinction,Uncategorized — Scott Gray @ 4:09 pm
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Here’s are a few numbers that most people don’t know, but need to:

● Up to 30,000 species (including plants, animals, fungi) per year are going extinct: three per hour.
● Fifty percent of all primates and 100 percent of all great apes are threatened with extinction.
● Three of the world’s nine tiger subspecies became extinct in the past 60 years; the remaining six are all endangered.
● Humans have already driven 20 percent of all birds extinct.
● Twelve percent of mammals, 12 percent of birds, 31 percent of reptiles, 30 percent of amphibians, and 37 percent of fish are threatened with extinction.

Learn more about the extinction crisis from www.biologicaldiversity.com