Tails From The Zoo

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


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


Debby Continues to Inspire January 22, 2009

Debby the polar bear continues to inspire many of us, even after her death in late 2008 at the age of 42. While she continues to be missed, her memory lives on in books and sculptures and pictures and stories. Debby and her partner Skipper were such an integral part of the Assiniboine Park Zoo for more than four decades that it’s not surprising but it is heart warming.

Here at the zoo we are working hard to continue Debby’s legacy by launching the Polar Bear Conservation Fund. Several thousand dollars has already been raised even before our big fund raising kickoff in March. We hope you can join the Zoological Society of Manitoba on Sunday, March 22 for our first ever Polar Run. We’re hoping to raise tens of thousands of dollars over the coming months and years to allow us to build a state of the art polar bear conservation centre here at the Assiniboine Park Zoo. The zoo is poised to be the world leader in polar conservation and education but this campaign is a grassroots campaign and we need your help to make it possible. If you would like to donate, in memory of Debby, please visit www.zoosociety.com.

And please keep your stories and pictures and tributes to Debby coming! At Portage Ave and Main St, just in front of the TD Tower, I got to see a huge new snow sculpture depicting Debby, that was just completed yesterday for Winnipeg’s Festival du Voyageur celebration. Over the Christmas holidays Debby was the inspiration for many home snow sculptures, including the photo below. Plus, the Zoo Gift Shop and other local Winnipeg bookstores will soon be selling a book highlighting Debby’s life, written by local author, comedian and celebrity, Jon Ljungberg.

Debby during Christmas 2008

Debby during Christmas 2008


Facebook groups pop up in honour of Debby November 23, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized,Zoo Animals — Scott Gray @ 2:40 pm
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With the recent passing of Debby, the Assiniboine Park Zoo’s matriachal polar bear, a number of Facebook groups have sprung up to allow people to remember her.

Facebook Groups in Honour of Debby:

Rest In Peace Debby The Polar Bear From Winnipeg MB, Canada

Current Size: 664 members

World’s Oldest Polar Bear

Current Size: 231 members

RIP Debby the Polar Bear

Current Size: 46 members

R.I.P Debby the Polar Bear

Current Size: 65 members

debby the polor bear

Current Size: 8 members

Debby you will be missed

Current Size: 132 members

Members of these groups are from all around the world and such international attention seems appropriate as polar bears have become such an iconic species in the fight to save endangered species world wide. Debby’s passing was even note worthy enough to be mentioned on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update.


I Heart Debby T-shirts! November 20, 2008

Filed under: Zoo Animals — Scott Gray @ 9:29 pm
Tags: , ,

The HOT 103 Zoo Crew Fund in memory of Debby The Polar Bear!

“I Heart Debby” T-Shirts are now on sale with all proceeds going to the Zoological Society of Manitoba.
Get a shirt for only $10 at HOT 103 Studios (3rd floor – 177 Lombard Ave.) now until Friday, Novemeber 21

Make a donation of $20 or more at any Carpathia Credit Union location from Monday, November 24 – Friday, December 5.

950 Main Street / 80-2200 McPhillips Street / A-1341 Henderson Hwy.
There are only a limited number of these shirts available, so get yours before they’re all gone.
“I Heart Debby” T-Shirts support the Assiniboine Park Zoo and keep the memory of Debby the Polar Bear alive!

Thanks Ace and Chrissy for all your love and support of Debby and the Assiniboine Park Zoo!


Debby – In the words of one of her friends and keepers. November 19, 2008

The emotion that Bob is holding back must be immense but this is a very touching video with one of Debby’s keepers and friends.



Celebrating Debby around the world November 18, 2008

Because online news stories don’t always stay front and centre, we are providing the following “news clippings” to help you follow the celebration of Debby’s life that is moving around the world. We have been receiving hundreds of condolences and best wishes from people from around the world who saw Debby over her 42 years at the Assiniboine Park Zoo, as well as others who never met her but now how special she became.

We are providing the stories as is and all rights and copyright remain with their authors.

Debby the polar bear euthanized

Updated: Tue Nov. 18 2008 11:36:53 From: ctvwinnipeg.ca

Debby the polar bear, one of the world’s most-famous and loved bears, was euthanized at the Assiniboine Park Zoo Monday.

Zoo officials say Debby’s medical condition has been gradually declining for several months, but that she remained active and alert until Monday, when a clinical exam indicated multiple organ failure. They say she spent her last moments surrounded by her caring zoo-keepers and veterinarians.

Born in the Russian Arctic in 1966, and arriving at the Assiniboine Park Zoo as an orphaned cub in 1967, Debby spent most of her life with her mate Skipper, with whom she produced six surviving offspring.

When Debby was 41-years-old, she was entered into the 2008 Guinness Book of Records as the oldest living polar bear. At 42 she was within the top three longevity record-holders for all eight species of bears.

“Debby played a dominant role in the Winnipeg Zoo’s animal family for over four decades, generating great public appeal and important contributions to the Zoo’s interpretive programs,” said the zoo in a press release. “She epitomized what one orphaned animal can achieve in promoting the conservation of her species and other wildlife in light of mounting ecological and environmental challenges like global warming.”

Dr. Gordon Glover, Assiniboine Park Zoo’s coordinator, recalled Debby’s ability to “strike magnificent and charming poses,” which resulted in her being featured in many photos and films. “She will be missed by millions of Zoo visitors,” said Glover.

The public is invited to celebrate Debby’s remarkable life at a ceremony to be held in the Zoo’s Animal Tracks Café from Noon to 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 22, 2008.

Oh Debby… you were so lovely…

Tue, 2008-11-18 04:33. Ace Burpee, Ace Burpee’s blog

Just a couple of weeks shy of her 42nd birthday, our wonderful Debby the polar bear has passed away. When I first heard I just put my head in my hands and sat there for ages. Then I phoned my mum. I wasn’t sure what to do. I woke up this morning and it’s the first thing that popped into my mind. I’m now convincing myself to celebrate the positives about her life instead of just being sad about her passing. She was so cool. I’m so lucky that I got to meet her. It’s still so vivid in my mind and I’ll never forget it. I’ve been to the zoo alot and just stood there watching Debby… wondering what she’s thinking, how she’s feeling. As soon as I would see her I would smile. I love her. I also told her so to her face so I feel good about that. I suppose I was aware this day would come eventually, but I don”t like to think about things like that. We’re lucky we had her for so long. For most of us, there’s never been an Assiniboine Park Zoo without Debby. She’s been here since 1967. Now she’s with her mate and best friend Skipper, who she’s been apart from for almost 10 years. I love you Debby. Many did.