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


Zebra Cleans Hippo’s Teeth March 13, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized,World News — Scott Gray @ 2:26 pm

I couldn’t help but think that this was a fantastic article. We often learn in school about the relationship between certain birds and large African mammals. Birds like oxpeckers can often be seen cleaning the ears, nostrils and body of hoofed animals like water buffalo. The birds get the benefit of a tasty meal (lice, ticks, larva) and the hoofed stock get the benefit of having potentially harmful parasites removed.

In this case, a zebra and hippo are working together! The following article and picture can be found at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8564834.stm


A zebra at Zurich Zoo appeared to be staring into the jaws of death when visitors saw it nose to nose with an open-mouthed hippopotamus.

But the hippo had no intention of having the zebra for lunch – it was having its teeth cleaned.

The extraordinary sight was captured by photographer Jill Sonsteby, from Jacksonville, Florida.

She said the teeth-cleaning session lasted 15 minutes and the zebra came to no harm.

“The zebra was in the same enclosure as the hippo and its baby,” said Ms Sonsteby, 34.

“The hippo opened its mouth and let the zebra in there to clean.

“Everybody was snapping pictures. It was so great to be there at that moment.”


The hippopotamus is regarded as one of the most aggressive creatures in the world and has a bite that can cut a small boat in half.

Hippos can weigh up to three tonnes and are the third largest land mammal in the world.

Although they rarely kill each other, hundreds of fatal attacks on people in Africa have been recorded.

Despite its bulky frame, the hippo can outrun a human on land over short distances.

Copyright by BBC News.


Animal News from Around the World December 19, 2009

Capybara enjoy a traditional Japanese hot bath:




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.




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).




When baboon troops go to war: (video contain disturbing images for some people)


“Baboons are one of the most aggressive primates out there”

Miss Rosie Thomas, BBC Life production team member


Woman arrested for keeping zoo in condo December 14, 2009

Filed under: World News — Scott Gray @ 8:17 pm
Tags: ,

Woman arrested for keeping zoo in condo

Christina Tan – Tue, Dec 08, 2009, The Star/Asia News Network

Bears and leopard cats can be found in the wild or in zoos, but what about in a condominum in the city?

That is what enforcement officers from the Selangor Wildlife Department discovered when they raided a unit in Desa Pandan, Kuala Lumpur last Friday. They arrested a 25-year-old woman who had been keeping a baby honey bear, a leopard cat and a slow loris in individual cages.

And this discovery is just the tip of the iceberg, according to department deputy director Mohammad Khairi Ahmad.

“We believe many out there are keeping wild animals as pets in their homes. It is not the way to love wildlife, as they belong in the wild,” he said.

Khairi said his officers raided the condominium following a tip-off from the public. Initial investigations showed that the animals could have been brought from orang asli in Negri Sembilan and kept as pets in the condominium for the past three months, he told a press conference in Shah Alam yesterday.

Khairi said the baby bear could be sold for about RM5,000 (S$2,049), while the cat and the slow loris were worth about RM500 each (S$204).

The woman, a hotel worker, has been released on bail till Dec 29 after giving her statement. She lives in the condominium with a male relative in his 30s. The authorities are looking for him to help in investigations.

Khairi warned the public not to keep or buy wildlife as it was against the law. He also said that usually, to get a baby bear, a hunter had to kill its mother first, which was a cruel act on an animal that was still feeding on mother’s milk. He added that the department would get a court order to send the seized animals to the Malacca Zoo or release them back into the wild.


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


Inside Edition at the Assiniboine Park Zoo October 8, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized,World News,Zoo Animals — Scott Gray @ 9:11 am
Tags: ,

Inside Edition paid a visit to the Assiniboine Park Zoo in September, bringing along a young boy named Michael who can imitate dozens of animal sounds. Here is the result of their visit, highlighting Micheal’s ability to communicate with the zoo’s residents.

The Boy Who Talks to Animals

Wednesday, 10/07/09

INSIDE EDITION meets the boy who can communicate with any animal at the zoo!

Rooby the Red Kangaroo June 1, 2009

Filed under: New Animals/Births,Zoo Animals — Scott Gray @ 7:25 pm
Tags: , , ,

The Assiniboine Park Zoo and Zoo Society have been getting many calls and emails from people, across Canada, that are interested in following the progress Rooby the red kangaroo. The latest information from the zoo’s veteranarian is that she is doing well and her outlook is a bit better than originally thought.

Rooby the red kangaroo

Rooby the red kangaroo

Here is the original press release:

Alien-like Creature Kept Alive at Assiniboine Park Zoo Hospital

Winnipeg, MB – The Zoo Hospital staff is hopping-busy these days keeping alive one of nature’s more bizarre-looking creatures – a baby red kangaroo.  The four-month-old female joey, weighing only 560 grams, was found lying helpless on the floor of the enclosure after being ejected from the pouch of one of the adult females.  Baby kangaroos seldom survive out of the pouch at this early age, since they are dependent on their mother’s milk inside the pouch for up to a year.  With feedings of milk formula every three hours, around the clock, the baby’s chances of survival are improving every day.  She spends most of the time sleeping soundly, nestled in a soft towel within a cloth bag, which substitutes for her mother’s pouch.  If the youngster makes it through these precarious early weeks, she will need zookeeper care for another eight months, until she can be reunited with “the mob” – the name given to a group of kangaroos.

Like other marsupial mammals, baby kangaroos are born at a remarkably early stage of development – after a gestation period of only 33 days and just 2.5-cm long and weighing less than one gram.  This blind and naked baby must then climb unassisted all the way from the mother’s birth canal to the abdominal pouch, crawl inside, and find a nipple, to which it remains attached for over 70 days.

The red kangaroo is the largest living marsupial, with males standing up to 2.1 metres (7 feet) high and reaching 95 kg (210 lbs) – a 135,715-fold increase in body weight from birth.  The female is considerably smaller, averaging 30 kg.  Under good habitat conditions, a female may breed continuously, with one embryo in a resting stage in the womb, one joey in the pouch, and a dependent joey living outside the pouch.  This species may live up to 25 years and makes a fascinating zoo exhibit due to its unusual appearance and bounding gait on its powerful hind legs. The red kangaroo is native to most of Australia, where it fulfills the role of a major herbivore, which sometimes places it in conflict with sheep and cattle ranchers.

Web links to Rooby:





Rooby being feed

Rooby being feed