Tails From The Zoo

White Bison Calf Donated to Sioux Valley Dakota Nation April 3, 2010

Filed under: Presentations,Special Events,Zoo Animals,Zoo Knew — Scott Gray @ 4:08 pm
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The Assiniboine Park Zoo donated a white bison (aka white buffalo) to the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation on Monday, March 29. The 11 month old female and her brown brother (born in April of 2009) were gifted in a ceremony witnessed by Mayor Sam Katz, Chief Donna Elk, Elder Roger Armitte, along with members of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota Oyate reservation, Sioux Valley, Assiniboine Park Zoo officials and invited guests. The white bison is considered a strong spiritual symbol denoting renewal. Arvol Looking Horse from Green Grass, S.D., the 19th generation carrier of the sacred bundle and pipe believed to have been given to the Dakota people many centuries ago by the White Buffalo Calf Woman was also in attendance.

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Bison video courtesy of the Winnipeg Free Press: http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid1529573193?bctid=74714257001)

Read the CBC‘s coverage of the friendship ceremony here: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/manitoba/story/2010/03/29/mb-white-bison-calf-winnipeg.html

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Blizzard, the Assiniboine Park Zoo’s white bison, came to us in March 2006 and instantly became a huge draw for interested zoo visitors and, more importantly, for Aboriginal people. Here is a press clipping from the summer of ’06.

Top-secret mission brings rare white bison to Winnipeg zoo

WINNIPEG – A rare white bison made his official debut yesterday at the Assiniboine Park Zoo after a top-secret mission to bring him to Canada in recognition of his spiritual significance to aboriginal people.

By The Ottawa Citizen June 6, 2006

WINNIPEG – A rare white bison made his official debut yesterday at the Assiniboine Park Zoo after a top-secret mission to bring him to Canada in recognition of his spiritual significance to aboriginal people.

Blizzard marched solemnly before the cameras, displaying the instincts of a show horse on parade. He arrived in a blizzard in March from an anonymous American rancher and the zoo kept him a secret from the public until yesterday.

His coming is especially significant to First Nations because of a 2,000-year-old legend of the Lakota, a northern plains First Nation, which tells of a mystical maiden who appeared bearing a sacred pipe she used to teach the people to pray.

On leaving, she promised to return some day and usher in a time of great peace. As she moved away, the maiden turned into a white buffalo calf.

Scientists, who say the proper name is bison and not buffalo, say a white calf is born only once in 15 million births. The animals do not have albinism — their colour comes from a rare surfacing of a recessive gene that goes back in time thousands of years.

One of the last was a calf named Miracle who drew pilgrimages of aboriginal people to her owner’s ranch in Wisconsin a decade ago.

Zookeepers are poised for pilgrimages to Winnipeg. Never before has a white bison been linked to Manitoba, which holds the bison as its provincial symbol, said zoo curator Bob Wrigley.

© (c) CanWest MediaWorks Publications Inc.

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For information on Blizzard, please visit: http://assiniboinepark.ca/media/animals/pdf/White%20Buffalo.pdf

To read the story of the White Buffalo Calf Woman, please visit: http://www.naturenorth.com/Zoo/White_buffalo_rightside.pdf

 

European Bison March 14, 2010

Filed under: Extinction,Zoo Animals,Zoo Knew — Scott Gray @ 7:10 am
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The European bison, also known as wisent, is the cousin of the North American bison. Wisent are currently listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN, but their status was much worse nearly a century ago. Due to a combination of habitat loss, war and poaching, the wisent was declared extinct in the wild after the last one was shot in 1921. Thankfully, 56 wisent survived in zoos scattered around Europe and a joint breeding program was quickly set up to save the species. It took nearly thirty years but the European bison began to be reintroduced throughout the forests of Belarus, Poland, Russia, Lithuania and the Ukraine in the early 1950’s.

The current wild wisent population is less than 2,500 as their success is still hampered by a lack of habitat but nearly 1,400 live in 250 zoos and game preserves around the world. We currently have 1.6 (one male, six female) European bison at the Assiniboine Park Zoo.

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Are bison and buffalo the same thing?

No. Bison belong to the family Bovidae, which include wild and domestic cattle as well as buffalo, but there are a number of significant differences between the two.

Bison:

  • Live in North America and Europe
  • Have long shaggy hair
  • Have large shoulders and pronounced humps
  • Have short horns

Buffalo:

  • Live in Africa (cape buffalo) and Asia (water buffalo)
  • Have short thin hair
  • Have smaller shoulders and no humps
  • Have long horns

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Life Span: up to 27 years

Habitat: Mixed and deciduous forests, meadows

Height (at the shoulders): 1.8 – 2 metres

Weight: 800- 1000 kg

Body Length: 2.9 metres

Tail Length: 80 cm

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Thanks to everyone that listens to Zoo Knew every Sunday morning at 7:15 on CJOB68, where we talked about bison this morning. I hope you’ll take a chance to visit the Assiniboine Park Zoo today or in the near future to view both our European and our North American bison herds. If you’re not in Winnipeg, take a visit to your nearest zoo to find out about all of the amazing animals that live there. Take part in a guided tour or read some of the interpretive signs and find out what your local zoo is doing to save and preserve endangered species. I think you’ll be surprised how much work zoos do! Please feel free to send me your comments or links to success stories.

 

Conrad the Wisent July 4, 2009

I met Conrad back in 1996. He was the most impressive looking bison I had ever seen, and he rivals every other one I’ve seen since. Conrad spent nearly 20 years living at the Assinboine Park Zoo, until his death yesterday July 3, 2009.

Conrad

My favourite memory of Conrad was when he would decide to wander over to the pond (beside the visitor path) and quietly stand just out of reach of the public, seemingly enjoying their company. At more than 2000 lbs, Conrad easily caught your attention and his absence in the herd will be obvious.

conrad2

European bison, a.k.a Wisent, were hunted for decades but eventually went extinct in the wild thanks to Russian government sanctioned poaching and WWI. The last truly wild wisent was killed by a poacher in 1921. Thankfully, conservationists immediately started a captive breeding program using zoo animals.  There are currently 200 European bison breeding centres found in 27 countries worldwide. Wisent numbers eventually increased enough to be released back into the wild. At the present time, there are no more than 3000 European bison in the wild – the vast majority of which are found in four reserves in Poland, the largest of which is in the Bialowieska Forest.

The Assiniboine Park Zoo also houses plains bison, another species with a troubled past. Although wisent are smaller in overall size, they have a thickset body shape with a short neck and a pronounced shoulder hump.