When red panda cub Kiah tumbled into the world in the summer of 2012, she joined both an endangered species and a family of zoo animals that number more than 2,000 and sort into nearly 200 different species. Kiah’s new home, Assiniboine Park Zoo, has been welcoming creatures like her for more than a century—the zoo traces its roots to 1904, when the city Parks Board acquired native animals such as bison and elk. In the decades since then, the zoo has spread over 80 acres, blossoming into one of Tourism Winnipeg’s Top 10 Must Sees.
Today, visitors can glimpse the stripes of a siberian tiger or a zebra, marvel at Asiatic lions, enjoy other big cats such as snow leopards and cougars. While passing through the tropical oasis of Toucan Ridge, they can peer at South and Central American animals and plants, such as caiman crocodiles and goeldi monkeys. Next door, air-locked entry vestibules open into the Shirley Richardson Butterfly Garden’s two 2,000-square-foot quonsets open from late spring to early autumn.
Although these exhibits are impressive, the zoo hasn’t been content to rest on its laurels. Instead, it has initiated a massive, multiyear construction project, the first part of which opened in January 2012: the International Polar Bear Conservation Centre. Part of the upcoming 10-acre Journey to Churchill exhibit, the IPBC aids orphaned cubs from northern Manitoba, supports research efforts that help polar bears survive, and educates the public about the bears’ plight and our fragile Arctic ecosystem. Next up in the zoo’s construction plans is the Polar Playground—an interactive, indoor play area—will open in January 2013.