Tails From The Zoo

Assiniboine Park – Naturally Educational September 29, 2010

Do you remember the first time you visited Assiniboine Park, the Zoo or the Conservatory? For a child, the thrill of a trip to the park, with its gardens, galleries, playgrounds, riparian forest, animals and open fields, is hard to forget. Assiniboine Park has dedicated itself to providing students of all ages with the highest quality environmental education programs in the province so those memories can continue.

The Assiniboine Park Zoo is Manitoba’s premiere location for animal based education. The Zoo’s Education Centre is designed to promote the concepts of endangered species and wildlife conservation through public education and hands-on, interactive learning. The Pavilion Gallery and Leo Mol Sculpture Garden are first-class locations for art education. The Assiniboine Park Conservatory is one of the most unique plant-based teaching facilities in Manitoba. The extensive living classrooms – the Herb Garden, the Abilities Garden, the English Gardens, the Tropical Palm House and Floral Display Atrium – provide a dynamic year-round setting for exciting lessons. And as always there are acres upon acres of natural beauty that Assiniboine Park freely offers to you to help green your mind, body and soul.

We specialize in walking and trolley tours along with one-of-a-kind programs and workshops on a huge range of themes. Bring your class or group to explore the wonders of the plant and animal worlds and explore the wonderfully expressive worlds of art and sculpture, food and cuisine, music and literacy while you’re here. We incorporate learning outcomes of Manitoba Education Citizenship and Youth curricula in science, social studies, language, recreation and the arts for pre-school to Senior 4 but you can also just come for the fun. A wide variety of teaching strategies are used to connect with many different learning styles from the naturalist to the interpersonal.

We are rededicating Assiniboine Park to providing programming that will create a lasting appreciation of the natural world and to inspire children to get out and be active all months of the year. Parents, teachers and group leaders can relax, knowing that the children are in a safe, playful environment with skilled instructors who truly enjoy working with young people.

Watch for our new Assiniboine Park Programming brochure, detailing all of our new and re-envisioned program options. We are excited about the many subtle and significant transformations that Assiniboine Park is undergoing and we welcome you to experience them with us.  Visit www.assiniboinepark.ca for a preview of our redevelopment.

Let your imagination run wild!

Scott Gray, Director of Park Programming


Transition to Assiniboine Park Conservancy May 17, 2010

Welcome to the new world of the Assiniboine Park Zoo and the Zoological Society of Manitoba!

Why are we emphasizing the words – new world? Well, as the media has so enthusiastically reported over the past 12 months, there has been so many exciting announcements about major and significant improvements to our zoo and the Assiniboine Park overall we are quite literally on our way to a new world-class zoo!

As we have reported over the past number of years, the excitement of the transition of the Zoological Society of Manitoba into the new Assiniboine Park Conservancy is happening.  With that comes the realization of the development of a master plan for the entire park including the Assiniboine Park Zoo.


In fact, under the leadership of the Board of the Assiniboine Park Conservancy and in cooperation with the Zoological Society of Manitoba in the last year over $30,000,000 has been raised for our Zoo and is now being put towards:

Arctic Exhibit –  world-class polar bear habitat and observation exhibit

International Polar Bear Conservation Centre – a unique polar bear conservation and research facility

Steller’s Sea Eagle Enclosure – one of the world’s largest exhibit for one of the world’s largest eagles

Lion Enclosure – we are bringing lions to our Zoo to provide our visitors the opportunity be upfront and close to the King of the Jungle


This is just the beginning! With the transition of the role of the Zoological Society of Manitoba into the Assiniboine Park Conservancy in 2010, our Zoo is on course to becoming the jewel of Manitoba and North America once again!

Furthermore, our members will now have not only the benefits the Zoological Society of Manitoba has provided in the past, but will now be a part of the exciting new world of the entire Assiniboine Park!


The Board and Staff of the Zoological Society of Manitoba have been involved in assisting the Assiniboine Park Conservancy Board and management with the planning and transitional activities associated with the Park overall.  Our commitment to the success of the Assiniboine Park Conservancy has been reflected in turn with the exciting opportunity to work with the Assiniboine Park Conservancy in planning how the Assiniboine Park Zoo will be shaped through significant capital investment into the future.

The time has now arrived for our zoo!  All of these significant improvements and announcements of capital for our Zoo have only occurred due to the creation of the Assiniboine Park Conservancy which includes the plan for the Zoological Society of Manitoba to transition all our operations and assets into the Assiniboine Park Conservancy in 2010.

The Board of Directors of the Zoological Society of Manitoba have worked in cooperation with the City of Winnipeg and the Assiniboine Park Conservancy Board and Management to ensure this transition occurs in the best interest of our Zoo, Members and Staff.  We are confident that the future of our zoo has never been brighter in its 100+ year history.

So please join us at our Annual General Meeting on June 21, 2010 to come and see all the new exciting activities happening at our Zoo and how the new Assiniboine Park Conservancy is going to be our future together.


On behalf of the Board of Directors, I would like to personally thank:
All of our Society Staff and the Assiniboine Zoo management and staff, Event volunteers, Assiniboine Park Conservancy Board and Management, Assiniboine Park non-profit partners, City of Winnipeg, City Council, and most importantly our Members for their incredible commitment and our collective goal in2010 and onward as we help the Assiniboine Park Conservancy in its success in making the Assiniboine Park Zoo achieve its full potential into the future.

Mike Stevens, President
Zoological Society of Manitoba


New Zoo Radio Segment on CJOB 68 December 4, 2009

The Zoological Society of Manitoba’s Education Department recently began a new weekly zoo segment on CJOB’s Weekend Wakeup show, every Sunday morning at 7:15 am.

Weekend Wakeup Show with Chris Reid

Join Chris Reid for The Weekend Wakeup Show on CJOB 68! From news, sports, entertainment to what’s happening in your community, Chris covers it all. With kids riddles on Saturday morning and birthdays & anniversary wishes on Sunday, you won’t want to miss a moment of The Weekend Wakeup Show. And hey, it’s a part of your balanced breakfast!

Each week, Chris and Education Director, Scott Gray wil be discussing a new zoo animal along with new happenings at the zoo. Scott will also be posting an animal review the following week, with extra information about the animals discussed on the program. To date we’ve done two segments, the first featuring Steller’s sea eagles, the second featuring Amur tigers. This weekend we will be featuring Arctic foxes. Stay tuned every Sunday at 7:15 am.


Grandparent’s Day at Assiniboine Park September 6, 2009

Join us on Sunday, September 13 for a park-wide celebration of grandparents. Here’s our Grandparent’s Day Activity Schedule:

Assiniboine Park Zoo – Open 10a to 4p
Free Zoo Admission to grandparents accompanied by grandchild
10:30a – Dedication of Polar Bear statue in front of the bear exhibits
11a to 1p – Free coffee or tea at the Animal Tracks Café for Grandparents
11a to 12p – Join us for cake at the Animal Tracks Café
11a to 2p – Free Trolley Tours for Grandparents when accompanied by paying grandchild
11a to 4p – Free interpretative talks
11a to 3p – Grandparents membership special
10a to 4p – Receive a Debby magnet or paperweight with any purchase of $20 or more at the Zoo Gift Shop

Leo Mol Sculpture Garden – Open 11a to 5p
1p; 2p; & 3p – Tours of Gallery, Schoolhouse Studio and the grounds of the Garden
Grandparents with a grandchild receive a package of Leo Mol Art Cards (value $7) while quantities last.

Pavilion Gallery Museum – Open 10a to 5p
Grandparents with a grandchild will receive a Pavilion Gallery Museum catalogue (value $15) while quantities last.

Conservatory – Open 9a to 4p
Conservatory Palm House self guided scavenger hunt maps
10a to noon – Conservatory bouquet making
Noon to 2p – Abilities Garden demonstration and samples from the “Pizza Garden”


Bear Shelter August 18, 2009

Filed under: Exhibits,Zoo Animals — Scott Gray @ 11:08 pm
Tags: , ,

For anyone who has been to the Assiniboine Park Zoo over the last couple of weeks, you will have noticed that our male grizzly has been moved.  Waldo was moved over to the former polar bear exhibit temporarily while zoo staff do a few repairs on his enclosure and, more fun for Waldo, build a new wooden sunshelter for him. Walso will return to his regular space once the big log shelter is finished.

This shelter is one of many animal enrichment projects that the Enrichment Committee has initiated over the past few months. Many of the changes are not always obvious to the human visitor but are extremely important for the animal that lives at the zoo. Work has been done to improve badger and wolverine enclosures as well as the native water birds, Eurasian red squirrels, takin and many more. As a member of this committee, I am very proud of the work that has happened and know that the animals are benefitting immensely from their newly enriched living quarters. But while I’m a committee member, the real work has been done by the many zookeepers that are an integral part of the  enrichment group as well as other keeping staff who have hopped on board to make the exhibits more enjoyable to live in.

Kudos to everyone and here’s hoping Waldo likes his new addition!

If you would like to help out the animals too, our enrichment group will be hosting a giant zoo garage sale on Saturday September 12, 2009 from 9 am to 2 pm at the South Gate entrance on Corydon Ave. Everyone is welcome!


Conrad the Wisent July 4, 2009

I met Conrad back in 1996. He was the most impressive looking bison I had ever seen, and he rivals every other one I’ve seen since. Conrad spent nearly 20 years living at the Assinboine Park Zoo, until his death yesterday July 3, 2009.


My favourite memory of Conrad was when he would decide to wander over to the pond (beside the visitor path) and quietly stand just out of reach of the public, seemingly enjoying their company. At more than 2000 lbs, Conrad easily caught your attention and his absence in the herd will be obvious.


European bison, a.k.a Wisent, were hunted for decades but eventually went extinct in the wild thanks to Russian government sanctioned poaching and WWI. The last truly wild wisent was killed by a poacher in 1921. Thankfully, conservationists immediately started a captive breeding program using zoo animals.  There are currently 200 European bison breeding centres found in 27 countries worldwide. Wisent numbers eventually increased enough to be released back into the wild. At the present time, there are no more than 3000 European bison in the wild – the vast majority of which are found in four reserves in Poland, the largest of which is in the Bialowieska Forest.

The Assiniboine Park Zoo also houses plains bison, another species with a troubled past. Although wisent are smaller in overall size, they have a thickset body shape with a short neck and a pronounced shoulder hump.


Zoos offer family bonding May 25, 2009

Filed under: The Zoo and You — Scott Gray @ 3:55 pm
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Zoos offer great location for family bonding

By: Bonnie C. Hallman and Mary Benbow / Learning Curve / Winnipeg Free Press

The following article was posted on the Winnipeg Free Press online site, http://www.winnipegfreepress.com on 19/05/2009, 1:00 AM. All rights reserved (by the Wpg. Free Press).

What is a zoo worth to a community and its people?

Zoos are cultural institutions which reflect the social and cultural values of that community, as much as other urban institutions such as libraries, museums, parks and schools do.

Zoos reflect our shared views of the natural world, of the animals which inhabit that world and of how we humans interact with nature. Accredited zoos across the globe place great emphasis on their role as environmental and biological science educators. Zoos are also important in the protection, conservation and breeding of rare and endangered species, often acting as animal “arks.”

Thus, zoos have great value as leaders in the shift to a culture of environmental and human sustainability and contribute to many aspects of our everyday lives.

However, zoos are not only nature-based cultural institutions. They are also public spaces and landscapes that, on closer inspection, are places where people spend time together. Drawing on our own research, zoos contribute significantly to social sustainability, especially in their central importance to meaningful personal and family time.

We have found in our research on families with young children that people engage in highly valued experiences and find meaning in the zoo visit overwhelmingly for personal fulfilment — satisfaction at being a ‘good’ parent — and facilitating a family experience.

Our research, conducted at Assiniboine Park Zoo as well as larger national studies in the United States, found that parents use zoos as unique opportunities for conversation, for focused yet unstructured child-centred interaction and to be active with their children. The zoo becomes a vehicle for meaningful and rich family time, thus helping to build and maintain family bonds.

As a father in one of our studies put it, “The kids think that’s why we go to the zoo, because the animals are there. It’s a good reason for them, for us it’s family time, burns off some energy. It gives us something to do.”

Parents also expressed the value of the zoo as a place for the growth and enrichment of their children and as a place where they had the opportunity to really observe and mark (often through family photographs) the growth and changes in their children.

As one mother, commenting on a photograph taken during a recent zoo visit, said, “This picture is special I guess, you know when she is standing in front of the pond. I’ll remember where it is in front of the pond with the ducks in a couple of years,” and see how much she has grown.

“That’s kind of special.”

We know zoos such as the Assiniboine Park Zoo are places of value because of their unique role as places which support the social fabric of our communities. They are one of the few public spaces to which parents bring their children to teach them, spend time with them and encourage them, all in an atmosphere that gives children greater freedom.

In a visit to the zoo, children often direct where the family group goes and what they look at, an opportunity rarely afforded elsewhere. Safety concerns often find parents unable to relax with their children, but zoos provide an environment where parents can step back and enjoy the experience. As one parent noted, “The big thing when we go to the zoo as a family is the kids are kind of clustered together and the adults are to the side watching them walk along.”

The Assiniboine Park Zoo is the oldest public zoo in Canada and an important resource for the City of Winnipeg. Many initiatives — new exhibit for the Steller’s Sea Eagles, renovation of the former Panda exhibit to accommodate Asian Lions and the Polar Bear Conservation Fund (in memory of the late Debby the Polar Bear) — demonstrate the energy and commitment of the zoo’s staff.

Additional research shows the zoo is a popular venue for healthy activity for seniors, and, analyzing its enclosures and environments, is also a healthy place itself. Recent events at the zoo reveal the great breadth of people interested in the zoo, such as the well-attended Night Tour of the Zoo in April. The real value and meaning of the zoo may well be not only what is in the zoo, but what is in the quality of the experiences it affords for families and for us all.

Dr. Bonnie C. Hallman and Dr. Mary Benbow are professors in the Department of Environment and Geography, Clayton H. Riddell Faculty of Environment, Earth, and Resources at the University of Manitoba.