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.


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


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


Snow Leopards February 7, 2010

Filed under: Teacher's Resources,Wild Cats,Zoo Animals,Zoo Knew — Scott Gray @ 7:31 am
Tags: ,

SNOW LEOPARDS          Panthera uncia

We have 1.1 snow leopards at the Assiniboine Park Zoo.

Yashin (male):

  • Born May 23, 1996
  • We received him in December 2008, from the Papanack Park Zoo

Lhassa (female):

  • Born July 11th, 1994 in Granby, Quebec
  • Came to us (from Granby) in December of 1997
  • Between 2000-2005 she had 18 offspring, usually triplets but one time had quadruplets.


Did you know?

The cats’ long, powerful hind limbs help the snow leopard leap more than 30 feet – 6 times its body length!

The snow leopard cannot make the low and intense “roars” of which the other big cats are capable. This is because its vocal fold is less developed than in other pantherines, lacking a thick pad of fibro-elastic tissue.


General Information:

Status: Listed as Endangered

  • Unfortunately the snow leopards numbers have been so reduced that the few remaining animals and populations are widely scattered.
  • It is estimated that there are between 3,500 and 7,500 snow leopards left in the wild. It is very hard to have an exact count as their habitat is harsh and they are hard to spot.
  • There are about 400 of these cats in zoos around the world according to ISIS


  • Demand for leopard pelts has been the main reason for its reduction or extermination in many regions.
  • Traditional Asian medicine uses their bones and other body parts.
  • Due to wars, hunting and competition with grazing livestock there is a decline in numbers of wild prey.
  • Herdsmen who accuse the leopards of killing their livestock persecute them. The people, however, are actually causing the problem by bringing their livestock high up into the snow leopards’ range.
  • Much of the snow leopard’s territory is along international borders, which does not make it easy for conservation of the species, since trans-boundary conservation efforts are complicated.

Distribution and Habitat:

  • Arid alpine regions
  • The snow leopard is restricted to the high mountain, from Afghanistan eastwards through the mighty Himalayas and north to western China and Mongolia. (Includes Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.)

Natural Diet:

  • Over most of their range they hunt sheep, goats, marmots, and hares.
  • In the Himalayas they eat blue sheep, ibex, and wild argali

Zoo Diet: Raw meat, rabbits, chickens


Zoo Notes:

  • Snow leopards have an average life span of 15 years; up to 19 in zoos.
  • Snow leopards live a solitary life in the wild, except during the breeding season. Average of two-three young are born (range 1 to 5) after a gestation period of 90-100 days.
  • The cubs become independent after about 18-22 months

Adaptations for living on a mountain:

  • Well-developed chest
  • Short forelimbs with large paws for walking on snow
  • Long hind limbs for leaping
  • Long flexible tail for balancing

Adaptations for cold weather:

  • Enlarged nasal cavity
  • Long fur with wooly undergrowth
  • Thick furry tail for wrapping around body and face
  • The fur on their bellies is up to 12 cm (nearly 5 in) long


  • Snow leopards weigh between 75-120 pounds. Males average 45 – 55 kg and females average 35 – 40 kg.
  • Body length ranges from 100 – 130 cm (39-51 inches)
  • Tails measure almost as long as their bodies (length: 80 – 100 cm (32-39 inches))



www.arkive.com , www.snowleopard.org , www.snowleopardconservancy.org , www.waza.org

Compiled by Scott Gray and Jenna Harrison; February 7th, 2010


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.


Amur Tigers – CJOB Zoo Knew December 4, 2009

Amur tigers were discussed on “Zoo Knew”, Sunday November 29, 2009 on the CJOB 68 Weekend Wakeup Show with Chris Reid and Scott Gray.

Amur (Siberian) Tigers

Tigers at the Assiniboine Park Zoo:

  • Kendra – 10 years old. Arrived in 2007 from St Louis zoo via Memphis Zoo.
  • Baikal – 13 years old. Arrived in March 2009 from Toronto Zoo via the Cherrybrook zoo.

Tiger Subspecies and Population Estimates (from the IUCN Red list):

Living subspecies:

Amur tiger = ~500 (with a biologically effective breeding population of ~35)

Sumatran tiger = 400

Northern Indochinese tiger = 1000

Indian (Bengal) tiger = 1850 – 2460

Malayan tiger = 400 – 500

South China tiger = 30 (functionally extinct)

Extinct subspecies:

Caspian tiger – Extinct in 1970

Javan tiger – Extinct in 1976

Balinese tiger – Extinct in 1930


Timeline Highlights:

1900: Estimated population of 100,000, which included 40,000 in India

1906: Last known tiger shot in Pakistan

1922: Last known tiger shot in Georgia

1930’s: Bali(nese) tiger becomes extinct

1940’s: Amur tiger (in Russia) fell below 30 animals

1950’s: Tigers disappear from South Korea

1959: Chinese government declares the South China tiger a pest and encourages its persecution

1970: Last known tiger killed in Turkey

1970’s: The Caspian tiger goes extinct

1976’s: Javan tiger goes extinct

1996: Amur tiger listed critically endangered


Tiger Ecology:

Amur Tiger Distribution: Russian far east and Northern China

Habitat: Boreal forest

Life span: 10 -15 years in the wild, up to 20 years in zoos

Speed: 65km over short distances (house cat = 50km/ cheetah = 100km)


  • Their main diet includes deer and wild pigs. Will also take birds and carrion.
  • Requires 150kg of meat a month
  • Kill with a bite to the back of the head or neck

Size and Weight:

  • 95 to 300kg (250 to 650lbs). The Amur is the largest subspecies
  • Average 2.2 lbs at birth
  • Males can reach 3 metres in length (that’s as long as a station wagon)
  • Stand 3 ft at the shoulder

Sexual maturity: 4-5 years for males and 3-4 years for females


    Fast Facts about tigers:

    • Amur tigers have the palest colour and the fewest stripes
    • Can eat 30 to 40lbs of meat in one sitting
    • Must catch prey at least once a week to survive
    • 5% to 10% success rate in hunts
    • Were once known as Siberian tigers, but have been reclassified as Amur tigers because they are only found there.
    • Good swimmers, often found near streams and lakes
    • No two tigers have the same stripe patterns and each side of the tiger is different.
    • They are stalk and ambush predators
    • Require lots of cover and lots of space to roam and hunt
    • There are 36 species of wild living cats (22 of which are listed as vulnerable or endangered)

    Compiled by Scott Gray, Education Director, Zoological Society of Manitoba

    References: IUCN Redlist, Arkive, San Diego Zoo, National Zoo, APZ Reference books


      Funding Announcement for Polar Bears at the Assiniboine Park Zoo December 3, 2009

      Premiere Greg Selinger was on hand at the Assiniboine Park Zoo today to announce a huge commitment to polar bear conservation at the Assiniboine Park Zoo. Here are a few news articles for more information:

      Big Funding for Polar Bear Exhibit, Rescue Shelter

      Dec. 03, 2009 at 2:30 pm CDT in News

      Posted by Sarah Klein

      A big funding announcement was made Thursday for major upgrades to the Assiniboine Park Zoo’s polar bear exhibit.

      A $31-million investment will help create the world headquarters of Polar Bears International and a state-of-the-art rescue shelter right here in Winnipeg.

      The International Polar Bear Conservation Centre will conduct and co-ordinate polar bear rescue research, conservation and public-education initiatives, Premier Greg Selinger and Hartley Richardson, board chair of the Assiniboine Park Conservancy, said in a statement.

      A new arctic exhibit will feature a polar bear enclosure with underwater and above-ground viewing opportunities to enable visitors to come face to face with up to six bears. Current plans call for the exhibit to also feature caribou, arctic fox, snowy owls and musk oxen, said Selinger.

      Winnipeg hasn’t had a polar bear since Debby passed away last November.

      Construction is slated to begin in 2011.

      Polar bear exhibit, shelter eyed for Winnipeg zoo

      Last Updated: Thursday, December 3, 2009 | 12:30 PM CT

      CBC News

      Debby is seen in her enclosure in Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park Zoo in December 2006, during celebrations of her 40th birthday. (CBC)

      A new polar bear rescue shelter and polar bear exhibit will be the centrepieces of a conservation centre to be constructed at Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park Zoo.

      Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger announced the plan, as well as a contribution of $31 million, on Thursday.

      Construction on the centre, which will include a state-of-the-art polar bear enclosure, will start in 2011, said Hartley Richardson, board chair of the Assiniboine Park Conservancy.

      The enclosure will have underwater and above-ground viewing opportunities to enable visitors to come face to face with up to six bears, he said.

      It will be part of a new arctic exhibit that will also feature caribou, arctic fox, snowy owls and musk oxen, said Selinger.

      The zoo has been without a polar bear since its long-time resident, Debby, died in 2008 at age 42. The zoo has not been able to get another polar bear because its enclosure no longer met provincial standards.

      Polar bear research

      The first of its kind in North America, the polar bear centre will conduct and co-ordinate polar bear rescue research, conservation and public education initiatives, said Selinger.

      It will also co-ordinate a relocation network that will facilitate the process for permanently placing orphaned or injured animals in qualifying zoos.

      “As the home of Churchill, the world’s polar bear capital, there is no better place than Manitoba to host this centre of research and education on the impact climate change is having on our polar bears,” Selinger said.

      ‘As the home of Churchill, the world’s polar bear capital, there is no better place than Manitoba to host this centre of research and education on the impact climate change is having on our polar bears.’—Premier Greg Selinger

      Added Richardson: “Manitoba has been a world leader in the management of polar bears, which have become an international symbol for climate change’s effects on the world. We are very pleased to see this exciting initiative is moving forward.”

      Polar Bears International, a non-profit organization dedicated to the worldwide conservation of polar bears and their Arctic habitat, applauded the province on the plans and leadership involving the animals.

      “The Polar Bear Alert program and the Manitoba standards for polar bears in zoos are just two examples of this leadership,” said Robert Buchanan, CEO of Polar Bears International.

      “By providing funding for the international polar bear conservation centre, Manitoba will remain on the cutting edge in terms of polar bear research and stewardship.”

      Assiniboine Park Conservancy is a non-profit corporation mandated to establish a vision for the park, create a plan to ensure it realizes its visions and govern the implementation of strategies toward the revitalization and transformation of the park.

      Polar bears’ early arrival eyed

      Province to announce funding; construction could start in 2011

      By: Bartley Kives and Bruce Owen

      3/12/2009 1:00 AM

      The Assiniboine Park Zoo has been without a polar bear since Debby died last year at age 42.

      The Assiniboine Park Conservancy may begin building a state-of-the-art polar-bear enclosure in 2011, years earlier than previously expected.

      This morning, the Manitoba government plans to announce a contribution toward the International Polar Bear Conservation Centre, a $5-million enclosure and education facility slated for Assiniboine Park Zoo.

      The largest zoo in Manitoba, the self-proclaimed polar bear capital of the world, has been without a member of the iconic Arctic species since 2008, when 42-year-old zoo resident Debby died. The zoo is unable to acquire another adult polar bear because its existing bear enclosure, built in the 1950s, no longer meets Manitoba Conservation standards for the species.

      Young polar bears, however, could be housed at the zoo temporarily as part of a plan to make Winnipeg the centre of international polar-bear education as well as rescue efforts for orphan polar bears found anywhere in the Arctic.

      The non-profit Assiniboine Park Conservancy plans to build a polar-bear centre that will include a new enclosure with an underwater viewing area, an interactive link to polar-bear denning grounds near Churchill as well as a polar-ecology and climate-change research facility.

      Young polar bears could arrive even before construction begins.

      “If a polar bear becomes available, we’ll do our best to ensure it finds a home,” zoo co-ordinator Gordon Glover said in June, when the plan was first announced.

      “We will have a facility that will allow them to survive in way that’s decent and respectful for them,” Premier Greg Selinger said Wednesday.

      Zoo visitors likely won’t be able to see the orphan cubs, which will be fed and cared for behind closed doors in order to acclimatize them for life in other zoos.

      Orphan polar bears are never returned to the wild, where they would die of exposure, starvation or cannibalistic predation.

      “We’re not doing this to show people polar-bear cubs, as cute as they are. We’re doing this to keep cubs alive,” Bob Williams, the Canadian chairman for Polar Bears International, also said in June.

      Selinger would not say Wednesday how much the province will contribute to the new polar-bear centre. No federal funding is involved, but the conservancy is seeking private donors.

      The polar-bear facility is the most dramatic aspect of a $90-million Assiniboine Park Zoo revitalization plan.

      bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

      Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 3, 2009