The Journey to Churchill exhibit at Assiniboine Park Zoo (Crosier Kilgour & Partners Ltd.)
Location: Assiniboine Park Zoo
- 2595 Roblin Blvd, Winnipeg, MB R3R 2N7, Canada (Zoo entrance)
- 55 Pavilion Crescent, Winnipeg, MB Canada, R3P 2N6, Canada (mailing address)
Telephone: +1 204 927 6000
Exhibit: Journey to Churchill
Aurora (female). Born around November 2012 in the wild. Arrived 28 October 2013.
Kaska (female). Born 2012 in the wild. Arrived 19 November 2013.
Nanuq (female). Born 2015 in the wild. Arrived 22 November 2016.
Star (female). Born 2013 in the wild. Arrived 27 September 2014.
Willow (female). Born 2016 in the wild. Arrived 6 December 2017.
Baffin (male). Born 2016 in the wild. Arrived 6 December 2017.
Siku (male). Born 2015 in the wild. Arrived 9 December 2016.
Storm (male). Born 2010 in the wild. Arrived 9 October, 2013.
York (male). Born 2014 in the wild. Arrived 27 October 2015.
The Journey to Churchill exhibit opened to the public on 3 July 2014. The site covers 10 acres (40,500 square metres) and is described by the Zoo as “the greatest northern species Zoo exhibit anywhere in the world”. As well as the polar bear habitat the site also contains Arctic fox, muskox, snowy owl and seal habitats. It includes a 360 degree theatre (“Manitoba’s largest”) and has underwater viewing tunnels in the Sea Ice Passage together with what is described as a tundra landscape. The salt water pools have an inbuilt water filtration system and heating and cooling of the exhibit’s buildings is geothermal.
The Zoo describes “the exhibit’s expansive enclosures, pools, rugged landscapes, and shaded dens” designed to provide the polar bears with a “stimulating environment inspired by their natural habitat and plenty of space for exercise, exploration and socialization”.
Assiniboine Park Zoo is also home to the Leatherdale International Polar Bear Conservation Centre, an education, research, and transition facility that is the first home for ariving polar bears before they move to the public exhibit area.
All polar bears arriving at the Zoo undergo a 30 day quarantine period in the Centre where they are cared for and “transitioned” to life in a zoo. The Centre’s webpage says that “Polar bears may eventually be moved to other accredited facilities to act as ambassadors for Churchill, Manitoba, and the species. In this role they are meant to connect people to northern ecosystems and to cause them to make changes in their lifestyle to conserve these regions.”
- There are increasing concerns over the means of acquisition of the Zoo’s polar bears through the almost routine transfer of captured orphaned or abandoned cubs from Churchill to the Zoo. An alternative to be explored would be to have a holding and rehabilitation facility in Churchill with the aim of releasing the cubs back into the wild once they are deemed able to fend for themselves.
- The facilities at Assiniboine Park are undoubtedly some of the best and most modern in the world. However, the space provided for the bears is inadequate (although it meets the Manitoba Standard). We suggest a minimum of at least 8,000 square metres (2 acres) per animal.
- Whilst no captive breeding programme is yet in place this has not been ruled out for the future.
We do not at present have reliable information on the feeding, exercise, medical and enrichment regimes at Assiniboine Park.
The video below shows the Zoo’s underwater viewing tunnel and also the feeding of a bear (Hudson who has since returned to Toronto Zoo).