Tails From The Zoo

Construction To Begin On Zoo’s Old Bear Range June 8, 2010

The Assiniboine Park Zoo and Assiniboine Park Conservancy announced plans today for its new International Polar Bear Conservation Centre at a unique “snow-turning” ceremony today. Construction is scheduled to begin next week on a new transition centre for orphaned polar bear cubs. The $4.5-million education and research facility and polar bear “transition centre” in Assiniboine Park Zoo will be a world-wide centre for Arctic conservation. The new building is to be constructed behind the zoo’s existing bear enclosure.

The transition centre will be off limits to the public most of the time but a new state-of-the- art Arctic exhibit, with room for six adult polar bears will open in 2013 for public viewing of bears.  The Province of Manitoba has committed $31 million to the project, including $4.5 million for the conservation centre and more than $26 million for construction of the polar bear arctic exhibit.


For more information on this story, please see the following coverage:

Winnipeg Free Press: Work Set to Begin On Rescue Facility

ChrisD.ca:  Snow Turned on First Phase of Polar Bear Centre


(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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


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


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).


Ayla the Cougar Passes Away February 9, 2010

Filed under: Wild Cats,Zoo Animals — Scott Gray @ 12:01 pm
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One of the Assiniboine Park Zoo’s popular cats, Ayla the female cougar, had to be put down due to health complications of old age last week.

Ayla, at nearly 20 years of age, had a good long life here at the zoo. She spent here first 14 years with Riel (aka Buddy). Max, her mate since 2004, will certainly notice her passing and the zoo will be looking to acquire a replacement for Ayla. Ayla originally came from the Edmonton Valley Zoo and came to the zoo here in Winnipeg in 1991. Max arrived from a zoo in Ontario in 2004.

Cougars (which are also known as puma, mountain lions, catamounts and/or panthers) are normally solitary in the wild. In captivity however, cats are often kept in pairs or small groups to provide them with companionship. Max and Ayla were not part of a breeding program.

Ayla is will always be prominently featured on our cougar interpretive sign, which you can see here: http://assiniboinepark.ca/media/animals/pdf/cougar.pdf


Manitoba Biodiversity February 4, 2010

Filed under: Biodiversity,Uncategorized — Scott Gray @ 11:20 am
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Here are a couple of good biodiversity articles. The first one focuses on biodiversity issues from a Manitoba perspective:



The second one is an article by Bob Wrigley, the Assiniboine Park Zoo’s Curator. It’s a great introduction to biodiversity around the province with a historical context. Here’s a quick excerpt:

There are 635 vertebrate (back-boned) animals, over 31,000 invertebrates (“lower” animals), 2433 plants, 800 lichens (a symbiotic association of fungi and algae), 3000 fungi, and a staggering 36,000 algae in Manitoba; certain of these figures will continue to rise with new studies.

Please click here to read the full article: Buzzword Biodiversity


Is the Assiniboine Park Zoo Accredited? October 8, 2009

Filed under: CAZA,Exhibits,Uncategorized — Scott Gray @ 11:13 am
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The Assiniboine Park Zoo is a proud accredited member of the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which is at non-profit organization established to promote the welfare of animals and encourage the advancement of education, conservation and science.


Here is a list of all of the CAZA Institutional Members across the country.

British Columbia:

  • British Columbia Wildlife Park
  • Greater Vancouver Zoo
  • Kicking Horse Grizzly Bear Refuge
  • Mountain View Conservation & Breeding Centre Soc.
  • Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre


  • Calgary Zoo, Botanical Garden & Prehistoric Park
  • Marine Life Department, West Edmonton Mall
  • Valley Zoo & John Janzen Nature Centre


  • Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo


  • Assiniboine Park Zoo


  • African Lion Safari
  • Bowmanville Zoological Park
  • Indian River Reptile Zoo
  • Jungle Cat World Inc.
  • Marine Land of Canada Inc.
  • Riverview Park and Zoo
  • Safari Niagara
  • Toronto Zoo


  • Aquarium du Québec
  • Biodôme de Montréal
  • Ecomuseum
  • Parc Safari (2002) Inc.
  • Société Zoologique de Granby Inc.
  • Zoo Sauvage de St. Felicien

New Brunswick:

  • Cherry Brook Zoo Inc.
    Magnetic Hill Zoo

Spirit of the Earth Award Winner July 5, 2009

I am happy to announce that the Zoo Education Centre was one of the recipients of the 2009 Spirit of the Earth Awards, a project of Manitoba Hydro. The program that we won for is called Aboriginal Animal Teachings.

Aboriginal people have always used storytelling as a way of teaching important lessons to children, as well as entertaining members of their family or community. Elders, both women and men, kept animal legends, their message and morals, alive throughout the generations. It is our hope to help continue to keep these stories and legends alive for future generations, with the Aboriginal Animal Stories program. The objectives of the Aboriginal Animal Teachings program include:

  • Introducing people of all ages, especially youth, to indigenous North American animals.
  • Creating a connection between art, science and culture through wildlife.
  • Introducing people to Aboriginal beliefs, values and stories, especially as they pertain to the natural world.
  • Creating an awareness of the value of storytelling as a way of passing information from one generation to another

Spirit of the Earth Awards Program

Manitoba Hydro fosters environmental awareness and encourages initiatives that improve our environment. At the same time, Manitoba Hydro recognizes the significance of Aboriginal people and their culture to the Province of Manitoba. Manitoba Hydro wanted to link these initiatives, and in 2002, introduced a program called Spirit of the Earth Awards. Now in its seventh year, the annual Spirit of the Earth Awards publicly recognizes positive environmental achievements by Aboriginal people or that directly involve Aboriginal people.

The intent of the Spirit of the Earth Awards is to promote environmental awareness and to recognize the culture and history of Aboriginal people.

2009 Award Winners:

The following list includes some wonderful programs that were recognized this year. Congratulations to all of the recipients. Spirit of the Earth Awards were presented on National Aboriginal Day, June 21, 2009.

  • Mino Aski (Good Earth) Culture Camps, Misipawistik Cree Nation Health Authority – week-long camps that promote a healthy lifestyle for youth.
  • Darryl Nepinak – internationally recognized Aboriginal filmmaker who explores the Anishinabe people and their culture, and uses humour to break down cultural barriers.
  • Friendship Garden – Erickson Elementary School, Erickson, MB.
  • University of Manitoba Graduation Pow Wow – honours Aboriginal graduates from the University of Manitoba and the University of Winnipeg.
  • University College of the North – Aboriginal Midwifery Baccalaureate Program.
  • Promoting Métis Culture – Channing, Chelsea and Christie Lavalee, for their collective contributions toward the preservation of Métis culture.
  • Zoological Society of Manitoba – Aboriginal animal teachings.
  • Urban Circle Training Centre – holistic approach to training and employment for Aboriginal women and men.
  • Laura Warenchuk, Buchanan School, Winnipeg – The Spirit of Buchanan School program encourages eco-conscious activities and crafts.
  • Traditional Area Advisory Councils (Hollow Water & Black River First Nations) – working on land use and moose management programs with Manitoba Conservation, in consultation with Manitoba Model Forest Inc.

$180 million dollar park makeover June 19, 2009

The Assiniboine Park Conservancy (www.assiniboinepark.ca) has just embarked on a new $180 million dollar fund raising campaign for the Assiniboine Park and Zoo, over the next 10 years.

From the Winnipeg Free Press:



From the Winnipeg Sun: