Tails From The Zoo

Debby – In Pictures November 15, 2009

Filed under: Zoo Animals — Scott Gray @ 11:53 pm
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Here is a wonderful site to view Debby the polar bear. Thanks to Dennis Fast for sharing these photos on the web.



Debby the Polar Bear Continues to Inspire October 12, 2009

A new memorial statue was recently unveiled at the Assiniboine Park Zoo to honour Debby the polar bear. Debby passed away in November of 2008 at the age of 42 and was the icon of the zoo. She was in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest living polar bear at the time of her passing.

A lot of work has gone on behind the scenes since Debby’s death in order to pave the way for not only new polar bears at the Assiniboine Park Zoo but for a new, state -of-the art polar bear enclosure. The Zoo, Zoological Society of Manitoba, Manitoba Conservation, Polar Bears International, Assiniboine Park Conservancy and many other partner organizations have rallied around this call for action and plan to make Winnipeg the premier place to view, learn about and help conserve polar bears in the world.

The Zoological Society of Manitoba got things rolling by establishing the Polar Bear Conservation Fund in Tribute to Debby. This fund has received many donations from individual citizens and companies from Manitoba as well as being the main recipient for fund generated by the Zoo Society throughout 2009. The Society has contributed money from two fun runs, from its June social event and proceeds from the Safeway Boo at the Zoo event are earmarked for the fund. The Society has also partnered with companies like Pizza Hotline, Hot 103 FM and Carpathia Credit Union to raise additional funds for the new conservation centre.

Bear Debby leaves a hole

Despite memorial, zoo visitors lament polar bears’ absence

By: Staff Writer, 25/09/2009

Debby the polar bear may have departed this perilous planet, but her likeness lives on at the Assiniboine Park Zoo.

The province of Manitoba has donated a statue of the Guinness record-setting carnivore to the zoo to help celebrate the life of its famous resident.

Click here to read more: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/life/bear-debby-leaves-a-hole-61437642.html

The Assiniboine Park Conservancy has recently announced plans to assist in the construction of a world class arctic exhibit. For information on their plans, please visit: http://www.assiniboinepark.ca/mnufuture-vision#zoo


D.D. Leobard Winery Remembers Debby December 16, 2008

Filed under: Conservation Programs,Fund Raising — Scott Gray @ 8:38 pm
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Look for the polar bear on your next visit to the wine store!

Look for the polar bear on your next visit to the LC or wine store.

D.D. Leobard Winery is donating $0.50 from every bottle of its Polar Bear Wine sold in the month of December to the Zoological Society of Manitoba in support of our Polar Bear Conservation Fund.

The Zoo Society would like to thank D.D. Leobard Winery for their wonderful support of the Assiniboine Park Zoo by remembering Debby’s legacy. I personally just bought a bottle of both the white and the red at the Liquor Commission yesterday and will be sampling them this weekend and I encourage everyone to pick up a couple of bottles during December. (They make great holiday gifts!)

Please join the Zoological Society as we support both polar bear conservation and our local Winnipeg wineries.



Debby, A Short History November 27, 2008

A Short History:

Debby the polar bear was accepted into the Guinness World Records Book for 2008 – at 41years of age, she was the oldest living polar bear. The longevity record for a polar bear is 43 years, 8 months is still held by Doris, a wild-born female who lived at the Detroit Zoo from 1948-91. Debby was featured in countless media articles and shows, posed for thousands of photographs, contributed to several research studies. What is responsible for her extraordinary longevity? Excellent genetic inheritance, special care by devoted zoo keeping and veterinary staff and proper diet and exercise. Her most significant health problem were two root canals performed by Dr. Vaughan Glover in 1989.

Significant Dates:

1965 – Skipper, a male polar bear whose mother was shot on Baffin Island, arrives in Winnipeg with great fanfare and becomes a major attraction at the Assiniboine Park Zoo.

1967 – Debby and Dennis, a pair of orphan bears from Russia, arrive in Winnipeg via the Tillburg Zoo in Holland. Debby becomes Skipper’s mate, while Dennis is moved to the Calgary Zoo in 1971.

1975 – Debby’s first cub, a male, is sent to Kyoto, Japan.

1977 – Debby has two more cubs, one male and one female. Both are sent to Ruhr, Germany.

1982 – Debby has two female cubs. Both are sent to Belfast in Northern Ireland.

1985 – Debby’s sixth and final cub, a female, is sent to Sendai Yagiyama, Japan.

1999 – Skipper dies at age 34 of cardiovascular problems. His ashes are scattered on Baffin Island.

2006 – Debby celebrates her 40th birthday.

2008 – Debby is euthanized at the age of 42 on November 17, due to multiple organ failure.

Demonstrating the great adaptability of her species, Debby was active outside every day of the year, braving temperature extremes from wind-chilled -49C in winter to humid +38C summer days.

On a blustery, -30C in December, 2006, a hardy group of people, representing staff of the Zoo and Zoological Society of Manitoba, adoring public visitors, and the media, attended a 40th-birthday celebration for Debby, at which time she was presented with a snow cake topped with a number of smoked goldeye.  She gave every indication of enjoying the event, especially the fish cake. The increase in attention this celebrity garners as each year passes is quite astonishing.  Many visitors, who were youngsters when Debby arrived, were now bringing their children and grandchildren to see this famous and loveable bear.

Even as a senior, Debby still loved to swim and play with a large plastic barrel in her pond, and eagerly awaited the arrival of her zookeeper each day, who provided a variety of tasty food items for enrichment.  Like most bears, her favourite activity was eating, and she was offered quite a variety of foods.  She received a daily ration of fish, moistened dog food, red meats, fish and a few vegetables. Many of these items and special treats, like smoked oysters, soups, salami and veggie-dogs, were donated by local grocery stores. When Debby required medications or supplements she quickly learned to open her mouth to accept, from a syringe, containing her meds dissolved in a high protein health drink.

Skipper (1964 – 1999) and Debby (1966 – 2008) – With us in spirit forever!


Debby November 18, 2008

Filed under: Zoo Animals — Scott Gray @ 2:36 pm
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There is so much that can be said about a friend that you have known all of your life and yet sometimes, it’s hard to know where to start. On Monday, November 17, Debby the polar bear passed away as the result of the complications of old age. She was surrounded by veterinary staff and by her many loving keepers at the time of her passing.

Debby came to the Assiniboine Park Zoo as an orphaned cub 42 years ago and spent many of those years with her partner Skipper. The pair produced six surviving offspring over their early years and then lived together until Skipper’s death at the age of 34, several years ago. Debby will be remembered by the millions of visitors who saw her and photographed her and affectionately proclaimed her the Assiniboine Park Zoo’s Matriarch.

Debby’s passing was due simply to old age. She had been well over the last few years but in slow decline as anyone at such an advanced age would be. In the end, organ failure led zoo staff to make the decision to euthanize her so that she did not suffer the effects of organ shutdown. The Assiniboine Park Zoo is known around the zoo world as the place where many of its animals life very long, record breaking lives. Bobby-Jean, our Javan gibbon was 50 years of age when she passed away last year. Luke the hyena was the oldest hyena on record at his passing at the age of 23. There have been many others and I can only sum it up to the love and care that the animals at that Assiniboine Park Zoo receive from their keepers.

Whether zookeeper, zoo educator, park administrator or even zoo visitor, Debby made an impression on all of us that spent time with her. I will fondly remember the time I was able to spend with her and can only imagine my life is richer for it. If Debby made an impact in your life in some way, you are invited to help celebrate her life at the zoo on Saturday, November 22, from noon to 1 pm at the Animal Tracks Cafe.  Memorials will be set up and there will be an opportunity for you to sign a condolence card.

More information will be available at www.zoosociety.com as details are worked out.

I hope to share more stories about Debby, and Skipper, in future blogs.