Tails From The Zoo

Zoo Baby Update June 11, 2010

Filed under: New Animals/Births,Zoo Animals — Scott Gray @ 5:38 pm

We are getting lots of questions from zoo visitors and school groups about what animals are having babies this year. Well, June is a great time of year to visit our new additions, which includes offspring from the following species:

Wisent (European bison)

Stone’s sheep (a thin horned sheep from the northern Rockies)

Alpine ibex (a species of wild Eurasian goat)

Ring-tailed lemurs

Reindeer (six of them!)

Golden eagles

Black-tailed prairie dogs

Pronghorn (pictured below)

Newborn Pronghorns

We also have lots of “non-zoo” animals that make the zoo their home to raise a family. Those that have had babies that you can see this year include Canadian geese, Richardson’s ground squirrel, wood ducks, and several species of frogs (lots of tadpoles in our ponds).


White Bison Calf Donated to Sioux Valley Dakota Nation April 3, 2010

Filed under: Presentations,Special Events,Zoo Animals,Zoo Knew — Scott Gray @ 4:08 pm
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The Assiniboine Park Zoo donated a white bison (aka white buffalo) to the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation on Monday, March 29. The 11 month old female and her brown brother (born in April of 2009) were gifted in a ceremony witnessed by Mayor Sam Katz, Chief Donna Elk, Elder Roger Armitte, along with members of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota Oyate reservation, Sioux Valley, Assiniboine Park Zoo officials and invited guests. The white bison is considered a strong spiritual symbol denoting renewal. Arvol Looking Horse from Green Grass, S.D., the 19th generation carrier of the sacred bundle and pipe believed to have been given to the Dakota people many centuries ago by the White Buffalo Calf Woman was also in attendance.


Bison video courtesy of the Winnipeg Free Press: http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid1529573193?bctid=74714257001)

Read the CBC‘s coverage of the friendship ceremony here: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/manitoba/story/2010/03/29/mb-white-bison-calf-winnipeg.html


Blizzard, the Assiniboine Park Zoo’s white bison, came to us in March 2006 and instantly became a huge draw for interested zoo visitors and, more importantly, for Aboriginal people. Here is a press clipping from the summer of ’06.

Top-secret mission brings rare white bison to Winnipeg zoo

WINNIPEG – A rare white bison made his official debut yesterday at the Assiniboine Park Zoo after a top-secret mission to bring him to Canada in recognition of his spiritual significance to aboriginal people.

By The Ottawa Citizen June 6, 2006

WINNIPEG – A rare white bison made his official debut yesterday at the Assiniboine Park Zoo after a top-secret mission to bring him to Canada in recognition of his spiritual significance to aboriginal people.

Blizzard marched solemnly before the cameras, displaying the instincts of a show horse on parade. He arrived in a blizzard in March from an anonymous American rancher and the zoo kept him a secret from the public until yesterday.

His coming is especially significant to First Nations because of a 2,000-year-old legend of the Lakota, a northern plains First Nation, which tells of a mystical maiden who appeared bearing a sacred pipe she used to teach the people to pray.

On leaving, she promised to return some day and usher in a time of great peace. As she moved away, the maiden turned into a white buffalo calf.

Scientists, who say the proper name is bison and not buffalo, say a white calf is born only once in 15 million births. The animals do not have albinism — their colour comes from a rare surfacing of a recessive gene that goes back in time thousands of years.

One of the last was a calf named Miracle who drew pilgrimages of aboriginal people to her owner’s ranch in Wisconsin a decade ago.

Zookeepers are poised for pilgrimages to Winnipeg. Never before has a white bison been linked to Manitoba, which holds the bison as its provincial symbol, said zoo curator Bob Wrigley.

© (c) CanWest MediaWorks Publications Inc.


For information on Blizzard, please visit: http://assiniboinepark.ca/media/animals/pdf/White%20Buffalo.pdf

To read the story of the White Buffalo Calf Woman, please visit: http://www.naturenorth.com/Zoo/White_buffalo_rightside.pdf


New Meerkat Baby at the Assiniboine Park Zoo December 16, 2009

Filed under: Member Notices,New Animals/Births,Zoo Animals — Scott Gray @ 5:49 pm
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Slender-tailed Meerkats

The Kinsmen Discovery Centre at the Assiniboine Park Zoo has recently been filled with the tiny calls of its first meerkat baby in 20 years!

The zoo’s newest addition was born November 3, 2009 and is the first since 1989. The pup, now six weeks old, is eating some solids but staying close to its mom. The other females in the group are also busy, acting as babysitters just as they would in the wild.

The new pup is full of energy and getting out of the burrows to explore the enclosure. Zookeepers have noticed that this pup is a brave one, even trying to push the adult males off of their food so the pup can eat first.

Don’t wait to visit; meerkats are considered pups only for the first 10 months.

Meerkats at the Assiniboine Park Zoo

  • Our group, as of December 2009, consists of 2.3.1 meerkats.
  • Our two males are from Riverview Park Zoo and the Peterborough Zoo. They arrived at here in November of 2003.
  • Our three females came from the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa in October of 2008. They are born in late 2005/early 2006.
  • Our meerkat colony is not part of a Species Survival Program since the species is listed by the IUCN as a “Species of Least Concern”.

First baby meerkat at the Assiniboine Park Zoo since 1989

A Bit of Biology/Ecology:

Fun Facts:

  • Meerkats are immune to small amounts of scorpion venom and they often prey on them. Meerkats remove the scorpion’s stinger and brush off the body in the sand to remove any residual traces of venom just to be safe.
  • Meerkats can close their ears – to prevent sand entering them.
  • Meerkats have a nictitating membrane, or clear third eyelid, to keep sand out of their eyes.
  • The meerkat (Suricata suricata) is a member of the mongoose family.


  • Dry grassland, often on hard or stony ground, in southern Africa
  • The meerkat is most closely associated with the dry open country of the Kalahari Desert, with its short grass and sparse woody scrub.

Wild Diet:

  • Meerkats could be classified as insectivores as more than 80% of their diet includes insects as well as other invertebrates like scorpions.
  • Meerkats are generally classed as omnivores because they also include bird eggs, plant roots/fruits, lizards and snakes in their diet.

On Guard:

  • Meerkats are active during the day (diurnal) so members of a group take turns watching for predators. There is always at least one of sentinel (standing upright on high ground or termite nest) on active “guard duty” at all times.
  • The meerkats’ main predators are birds of prey.


  • Meerkats share their burrow with African ground squirrels.
  • They also share their burrow with several types of beetles including dung beetles.
  • Meerkats live in multi-tunnel burrows with an average of 15 entrances. There are many rooms in a burrow, many at 1.5 to 2 metres below the ground.


  • A body length of 10 – 12 inches
  • A tail length of 8 – 10 inches
  • Weigh less than 2.2 lbs (<1kg)

Meerkat Groups:

  • A colony or mob averages 15 individuals in the wild. It can range from a single pair to as many as 50 members and contain several related families.
  • The dominant female is the only one to breed when food is scarce. She will allow related females to breed if there is enough food to sustain the extra babies.
  • At all times, non-breeding females will help baby-sit the offspring.


  • As long as 12 to 15 years in captivity
  • Up to 10 years in the wild but the average is only 3 years.

Compiled by Scott Gray, Education Director, Zoological Society of Manitoba

References: Arkive, National Geographic, Kalahari Meerkat Group, Assiniboine Park Zoo


Zoo Babies So Far July 23, 2009

Filed under: New Animals/Births — Scott Gray @ 5:29 am
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We’re getting lots of questions from zoo visitors these days about what they can new animals that can see at the zoo. At the moment, lots of babies. The Assiniboin Park Zoo has had many youngsters born this year including fox, markhor, reindeer, elk, zebra, eagle, crested screamer, caribou, bison, wisent (European bison), musk ox, fruit bats, cotton-topped tamarins and several other species of bird. The zoo has also recently acquired a group of White’s tree frogs.

Pronghorn newborns


Rooby the Red Kangaroo June 1, 2009

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