About Assiniboine Park Zoo
About Assiniboine Park Zoo
A Brief History of the Assiniboine Park Zoo
Located minutes from downtown Winnipeg in beautiful Assiniboine Park, the Assiniboine Park Zoo provides visitors with the opportunity to interact with animal species from all corners of the globe. With over 80 park-like acres to explore, the Zoo has been a favourite destination for families, tourists, school groups, and animal lovers for over a century.
Today, the Zoo is undergoing a dramatic transformation that includes significant renovations, new exhibits designed to meet modern standards, enhanced facilities for visitors, and a more visible and active contribution to environmental and wildlife education, research, and conservation in Manitoba.
Take a look at some of the most memorable moments in the history of Assiniboine Park Zoo!
The Zoo welcomes a pair of Przewalski’s horses (pronounced per-zhih-VAHL-skeez), a species once declared extinct. Now, there are nearly 1,500 living in zoos and breeding facilities and another 400 can be found in the wild. Przewalski’s horses are a part of a Species Survival Program facilitated by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA).
The Assiniboine Park Conservancy (APC) launches the public phase of its Imagine a Place Campaign with the 30-Day Million Dollar Challenge. During the month, all gifts of up to $5,000 were matched by anonymous donors. The original $1 million goal was shattered with a total of $2.1 million raised to support the redevelopment of the Park and Zoo.
June - August
Birds in Flight shows return, offering another exciting season of aerial manoevres and displays.
April – May
The Zoo says goodbye to its African lions and hello to a pair of Asiatic lions. The African lions had been on loan to the Zoo from an Ontario facility since 2010. The female gave birth to a healthy cub earlier in April and the whole family was returned to the Ontario facility on May 24. A few weeks later, after some renovations, the Asiatic lions moved into their enclosure. The twin brothers, Bhanu and Kamal, are two years old and arrived April 19th from the Zoologischer Garten Magdeburg in Germany.
The Assiniboine Park Conservancy opens the International Polar Bear Conservation Centre (IPBCC). As a key component of the 10-acre Journey to Churchill exhibit currently under construction, the IPBCC will be a centre of global influence in the field of polar bear research and conservation.
The Assiniboine Park Zoo introduces a new Safeway Boo at the Zoo Mascot! Icky is a strange but wonderful creature discovered by scientists in a remote area of Manitoba’s vast boreal forest. Icky has a bright purple coat, one large eye, and a diet that consists solely of Halloween candy!
Kendra, the Zoo's 12-year old Amur tiger, gives birth to two cubs - a male and a female. The cubs made their first public appearance on October 3. They were given the names Sarma (female) and Reka (male) following a public poll on the Assiniboine Park & Zoo Facebook page that attracted over 2,000 votes.
The Shirley Richardson Butterfly Garden opens for its first season at the Assiniboine Park Zoo. The seasonal exhibit, named in recognition of leadership support for the project from the family of Shirley Richardson, will grow into a permanent attraction inside the new Assiniboine Park Conservatory.
June - August
Zoo visitors watch and learn about the amazing aerial acrobatics of the Peregrine Falcon and other fascinating predatory birds at the Zoo’s new Birds in Flight Shows, presented in partnership with the Canadian Raptor Conservancy.
The Assiniboine Park Conservancy unveils the first new exhibit as part of the Assiniboine Park Zoo’s redevelopment plans – Toucan Ridge, a vibrant exploration of animal, bird and plant life of the new world tropics of Central and South America. Toucan Ridge is located in what used to be known as the Tropical House.
The Province of Manitoba and Assiniboine Park Conservancy jointy unveiled the original plans for Journey to Churchill, which will set a new international standard for polar bear exhibits and be a world-class attraction for the province.
On June 8, plans for the new International Polar Bear Conservation Centre are unveiled. The IPBCC will form part of the new Arctic Exhibit (now called Journey to Churchill). The Centre will be a hub for research, education, and the rescue and rehabilitation of orphaned or abandoned polar bear cubs from northern Manitoba.
In June, the Assiniboine Park Conservancy unveils a comprehensive $200 million redevelopment plan for Assiniboine Park & Zoo that will be completed over 10 years in three distinct phases.
Assiniboine Park enters a new era with the establishment of the Assiniboine Park Conservancy (APC), a private/public, not-for-profit, charitable organization with a mandate to develop, govern and manage the Park and its amenities, including the Assiniboine Park Zoo. APC is given a 50-year lease with the City of Winnipeg, which owns the property and assets. Faced with aging facilities and the growing challenge of maintaining them, APC is charged with the task of charting a course for the future of the Park and all of its entities that would ensure its long-term viability.
In November, people from around the world mourn the death of Debby the polar bear, who captured the record for being the world’s oldest polar bear at the age of 42. Debby arrived at Assiniboine Park Zoo on September 6, 1967, and was admired by over 15 million people over four decades. She spent most of her life with her mate, Skipper, with whom she had six surviving offspring.
Zoological Society of Manitoba partners with the Manitoba Museum, Imax and the Zoo to bring in Chimp Quest, which includes a visit to Winnipeg by Dr. Jane Goodall.
ZSM involved in the promoting the arrival of African lions and their new born cubs to all Manitobans.
ZSM Education Centre becomes an official APE Roots & Shoots chapter.
Boo at the Zoo celebrated its 10th anniversary with three new attractions (the Pumpkin Patch Maze, Area 54 and Boo Alley) plus many of the old favourites. A record 57,400 visitors attended!
Education Centre Design Build - as part of a joint venture with the University of Manitoba Architecture Department, the Society contributed to a substantial building enhancement to our Education Centre. One of the key roles of the Society is to promote the education value of the Zoo to the youth of Manitoba.
White (Bengal) tigers are the major attraction. The Society worked cooperatively with zoo staff and the City of Winnipeg to promote the education value and opportunity for Manitobans to visit this rare colour phase.
The Zoo Education Centre hosts nearly 300 Girls Guides and their leaders for a sleepover at the zoo. The Girls Guides returned in 2005 for another early summer sleepover to wrap up their season of programming.
In April, en route to the Baltimore Zoo, a tundra buggy is on exhibit at the Zoo for several days – education programs and general tours are a big hit with the Winnipeg population.
The Society provides the financial and marketing support to return Limba the Asian elephant to the Assiniboine Park Zoo for the summer – resulting in significant gate increases from prior years in July and August. A new Limba Kiosk was built with the generous donation of John Holman – the Kiosk replaced the old Prairie Dog Snack Shack after Limba returned to the Bowmanville Zoo. The Saturn shuttle was also operational as the Limba Express for the months of July and August.
The alliance with the University of Manitoba Summer Camps continues and Mini U Zoo continues to be a success.
"Fables, Myths and Legends" provides a successful theme for 2002’s Boo at the Zoo. Boo at the Zoo continues to be a popular event each year with approximately 35,000 visitors in 2002.
A generous grant of $10,000 from the DeFehr foundation provides an opportunity to renovate the unused Bison Restaurant Kiosk into the Palliser Interpretive Center the headquarters for ICE Camp.
An alliance with the University of Manitoba Summer Camps initiates Mini U Zoo a sell out in the first season, where campers spend one week at the University and one week at the Zoo.
Summer Zoo Camp reaches capacity for most weeks of the summer – with a new themed format, new drop off and pick up procedures receives glowing accolades from both campers and parents.
The Society initiates the development of the first full colour zoo map, produced by Sherlock Publishing.
The Society assists in funding the publication of Polar Bear Encounters by Dr. Robert Wrigley, Curator of the Assiniboine Park Zoo. The book reaches the number one best seller at McNally Robinson Booksellers and is a popular purchase at the Zootique Gift shop.
Work on the Master Plan continues with public introduction of the concept at the Annual General Meeting of the Zoological Society in June. The Plan takes on new parameters with some specialized Park introductions including discussions with Partners in the Park about a Winnie the Pooh tie-in.
The decision is made to relinquish the Lights of the Wild and the lights are sold to Portage Island of Lights. Portage recognizes the Zoological Society and the Lights of the Wild in their new program.
The Society and the Zoo begin work on the development of a new Master Plan Development Proposal for the Assiniboine Park Zoo. Initial proposals are developed for the redesign of the existing Polar Bear enclosure. This eventually grows into a much larger Master Plan Development project with the securing of Ace Torres Incorporated and Economic Research and Associates as the lead designers and economists for the project.
With a generous grant from the Winnipeg Foundation the first Inner City Explorers (I.C.E.) Camp is held. Over 150 inner city children has the chance to experience a week at the zoo. The camp was an overwhelming success and eventually runs for four years.
The Mayor's Award for Volunteerism is awarded to the Zoological Society of Manitoba for the work with volunteers at Boo at the Zoo.
A second corporate picnic for the Palliser Furniture Company is held. Again, 5,000 Palliser employees and their families are in attendance.
The Carousel Restaurant was renamed the Animal Tracks Café. The Society and the Zoo initiated the first comprehensive Master Plan for development since 1960. The animal encounter entitled “Birds of Prey” ran for the summer.
Limba, a female Asian elephant was the first animal to be highlighted as part of Animal Encounters, a summer educational show presented by the Society and the Zoo. Limba was a very popular animal to all the Zoo’s visitors. The Saturn Shuttle and Kiosk information booth projects were established. The Society, in co-operation with the Winnipeg Foundation, installed $70,000 worth of electrical infrastructure into the Zoo. The Society’s special events department held a corporate picnic for the Palliser Furniture Company for 5,000 Palliser employees, which was a Zoo first. The Boo at the Zoo was the most successful year to date with nearly 50,000 in attendance.
The “Saturn Playground” was constructed, in conjunction with the Saturn Company and the Society. Also in 1997, the Society assumed operation of the food services operations and renovated the main restaurant facilities, in co-operation with Hilderman, Thomas, Frank, and Cram.
The Society and the Zoo opened the first “Boo at the Zoo” Halloween event, of which 40,000 people attended over a ten-day period.
New enclosures for the camels, yaks, and zebras opened in the northwest end of the zoo. A new “Camel Oasis” Interpretive Playground, which was designed and built by Osen Design, in conjunction with the Federal Government of Canada and the Zoological Society of Manitoba, opened at the same time. And finally, the first “Lights of the Wild” special event, featuring animal light sculptures presented by the Zoo and the Society, opened for 3 weeks in the winter, and was a resounding success. Total Zoo attendance for 1995 was 70,000 during the event.
An admission fee to the zoo was instituted in March. The “Winnipeg Down Under” Australian exhibit featuring koalas ran from May to September. The koalas were from the San Diego zoo, and when they went home Matchie’s tree kangaroos replaced them.
A special statue honouring Lt. Harry Colebourn and Winnie the Bear was unveiled in front of the Kinsmen Discovery Centre. The statue was relocated in August 2012 and now has a new home inside the Nature Playground at Assiniboine Park. Find out more information on the bear that was made famous as Winnie-the-Pooh.
The Kinsmen Discovery Centre opened. The Centre won the Hal Rogers National Service Shield, the highest Kinsmen Club award.
The Panda Project began to take form. It was a huge undertaking by the Society and was successful. After the panda’s left, the zoo placed spectacled bears in the new facility where they remained for over ten years.
The East Gate main entrance was reconstructed to include a new Gift Store operated by the Zoological Society of Manitoba. The Carousel Restaurant was also redesigned and renovated for better customer service.
The concept of a new children’s centre within the zoo began. The Society enlisted the assistance of the Kinsmen Club of Winnipeg as its main partner in developing and building the Kinsmen Discovery Centre.
The Zoological Society of Manitoba was revived. During the 1970’s and early 1980’s, the Society had lost nearly all involvement with the Zoo. With its revival, the Society began to have more input into zoo affairs. The Society began by providing money for new signage, exhibits, infrastructure and other projects.
Construction of the Native Animal Exhibit at the south end of the zoo was completed. In addition, the completion of a South Gate allowed entry to the zoo from two locations.
Construction began on the Tropical House.
The bear enclosure was renovated to modernize it and the upper story was constructed. 1967 also saw the arrival of Dennis and Debby, two orphaned polar bear cubs. Dennis lived at the zoo for 8 years until he left for the Calgary Zoo while Debby lived 42 years, until her death in 2008.
The snow leopard enclosure was added to the leopard enclosure.
Skipper, a wild orphaned polar bear cub, arrived at the zoo. He lived 34 1/2 years.
The gibbon/monkey house was completed.
The Assiniboine Park Zoo became the official name of the facility.
The Society helped raise and develop the beloved children’s petting zoo “Aunt Sally’s Farm”.
The Zoological Society of Manitoba was formed. With the guidance of an Advisory Committee, they formed the first vision for the zoo and assisted it to become one of Canada’s most respected. Charitable Number: 10823 1598 RR0001
Carmicheal recieved a partner - a female named Clementine.
The zoo's first polar bear, a wild orphaned cub, arrived and went on display in April. His name was Carmicheal.
The Khartoum Shriners donated a female lion, the zoo's first ever.
The zoo budget was $8,000 ($1,800 for food, $4,200 for labour, and $1,158 for new construction). Today’s budget totals $2,497,173 ($161,800 for food and supplies, and $1,952,707 for labour). As of 1998, the animal collection has increased to include 77 different mammal species (390 animals), 151 different birds (700 specimens), and 14 reptiles (34 specimens). Total collection is approximately 271 species with 1,193 specimens.
The zoo had 116 different animals of 19 different species.
City of Winnipeg, Parks Board purchased a number of native animals, deer, bison, and elk. 1908 Bear enclosure was built and followed in 1916 with another enclosure.