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.

 

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

 

Zoo Vision Begins With Bears June 10, 2010

Plans for Phase 1 of the Assiniboine Park Zoo’s new Master Plan have got Manitobans all abuzz about the positive changes coming to Assiniboine Park. Construction plans for the first project were rolled out on Tuesday, June 8 for a new research and education centre called the International Polar Bear Conservation Centre.

Snow Turning to kick off construction

Polar bear rehabilitation, research and public education will be the focus of the first-of-its-kind, world-class International Polar Bear Conservation Centre.

Click here to see the new zoo plans : http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/making-room-for-polar-bears-95937289.html

Visit www.assiniboinepark.ca to learn all about the revisioning of Assiniboine Park.

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Follow up with a bit more of the coverage we’ve received:

Winnipeg Sun: http://www.winnipegsun.com/news/winnipeg/2010/06/08/14315936.html

CBC News: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/manitoba/story/2010/06/08/mb-polar-bear-rescue-centre-winnipeg.html

 

Transition to Assiniboine Park Conservancy May 17, 2010

Welcome to the new world of the Assiniboine Park Zoo and the Zoological Society of Manitoba!

Why are we emphasizing the words – new world? Well, as the media has so enthusiastically reported over the past 12 months, there has been so many exciting announcements about major and significant improvements to our zoo and the Assiniboine Park overall we are quite literally on our way to a new world-class zoo!

As we have reported over the past number of years, the excitement of the transition of the Zoological Society of Manitoba into the new Assiniboine Park Conservancy is happening.  With that comes the realization of the development of a master plan for the entire park including the Assiniboine Park Zoo.

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In fact, under the leadership of the Board of the Assiniboine Park Conservancy and in cooperation with the Zoological Society of Manitoba in the last year over $30,000,000 has been raised for our Zoo and is now being put towards:

Arctic Exhibit –  world-class polar bear habitat and observation exhibit

International Polar Bear Conservation Centre – a unique polar bear conservation and research facility

Steller’s Sea Eagle Enclosure – one of the world’s largest exhibit for one of the world’s largest eagles

Lion Enclosure – we are bringing lions to our Zoo to provide our visitors the opportunity be upfront and close to the King of the Jungle

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This is just the beginning! With the transition of the role of the Zoological Society of Manitoba into the Assiniboine Park Conservancy in 2010, our Zoo is on course to becoming the jewel of Manitoba and North America once again!

Furthermore, our members will now have not only the benefits the Zoological Society of Manitoba has provided in the past, but will now be a part of the exciting new world of the entire Assiniboine Park!

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The Board and Staff of the Zoological Society of Manitoba have been involved in assisting the Assiniboine Park Conservancy Board and management with the planning and transitional activities associated with the Park overall.  Our commitment to the success of the Assiniboine Park Conservancy has been reflected in turn with the exciting opportunity to work with the Assiniboine Park Conservancy in planning how the Assiniboine Park Zoo will be shaped through significant capital investment into the future.

The time has now arrived for our zoo!  All of these significant improvements and announcements of capital for our Zoo have only occurred due to the creation of the Assiniboine Park Conservancy which includes the plan for the Zoological Society of Manitoba to transition all our operations and assets into the Assiniboine Park Conservancy in 2010.

The Board of Directors of the Zoological Society of Manitoba have worked in cooperation with the City of Winnipeg and the Assiniboine Park Conservancy Board and Management to ensure this transition occurs in the best interest of our Zoo, Members and Staff.  We are confident that the future of our zoo has never been brighter in its 100+ year history.

So please join us at our Annual General Meeting on June 21, 2010 to come and see all the new exciting activities happening at our Zoo and how the new Assiniboine Park Conservancy is going to be our future together.

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On behalf of the Board of Directors, I would like to personally thank:
All of our Society Staff and the Assiniboine Zoo management and staff, Event volunteers, Assiniboine Park Conservancy Board and Management, Assiniboine Park non-profit partners, City of Winnipeg, City Council, and most importantly our Members for their incredible commitment and our collective goal in2010 and onward as we help the Assiniboine Park Conservancy in its success in making the Assiniboine Park Zoo achieve its full potential into the future.

Mike Stevens, President
Zoological Society of Manitoba

 

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

 

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

 

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