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History of the Magnetic Hill Zoo

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The Magnetic Hill Zoo first opened in 1953 as a game farm which housed orphaned and injured indigenous species such as bears, owls, and deer. Over the years, the City of Moncton took ownership and began acquiring more exotic species which eventually caused a change in name from the Magnetic Hill Game Farm to the Magnetic Hill Zoo. In 1993, the Magnetic Hill Zoo first acquired its accreditation status from the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums, (CAZA).

Transforming the Game Farm into a Zoo demanded a lot of repairs and improvements.  Therefore, the Zoo needed other revenue sources other than the money offered to them by the City of Moncton.  Three individuals started the “Friends of the Zoo” in 1989, with the prime objective of raising funds to improve animal habitats at the Zoo. The group was very small, consisting initially of Shirley Dingley, Deborah Fisher, and Bruce Dougan. In the first year, Carolyn Dunlop also joined the group and they concentrated on developing the “Adopt-A-Friend” program.

Magnetic Hill Zoo Photo 17After the Adopt-a-Friend program was created, other activities and fundraisers, such as elephant shows, outreaches, in-touches, “Safari Night,” an auction night called “Lions & Bears at the Fox & Hound,” a golf tournament, the Easter EGGstravaganza, Sunday March Winter Openings, and Boo at the Zoo, etc. were put in place to raise even more funds. 

In 1992, the Friends of the Zoo decided that the development of education programs was much needed.  Under the directorship of Deborah Fisher and with the help of Pat Bourgeois and Greig Longaphie,  these programs were launched in the attic of the old operations building. The Education Programs continued to expand over the next few years, and eventually a separate education facility was required. At that time, the City of Moncton was offered a large industrial arts trailer in Richibucto for $1.00 which was relocated to the Zoo and became the first Education Center.

In 1995, the Zoo saw the beginning of a 10-acre expansion called the African Oasis.  By adding this large piece of land to the already fairly sized Zoo, it gave the opportunity to add more animals to the Zoo family and to expand the variety in types of animals.  At this time, the Primate Conservation Center, the frog bog, the koi pond, the bird garden, the Camel-Zebra exhibit, and a children’s playground were added to the Zoo. 

Shortly after, in 1997, the Insectarium was also built.  The bears were moved to their new exhibit, which permitted them to live in a natural habitat for the first time.  Also, the new and improved Entrance Building was built.  In addition to all of these accomplishments, the Zoo’s education programs were given an Achievement Award by CAZA and their programs were modified to offer full week camps instead of one day camps. 

Chukula, a food facility, was added to better meet the public’s needs.  Only one year later, Chubuku, a second food facility, was opened to sell cold drinks, ice cream, and snacks. The barnyard was also remodelled that year.    Magnetic Hill Zoo Photo 18

The former bear “pit” was transformed into a reptile house. This new exhibit was opened in 2003 and called the Ecodome.  The Ecodome was awarded the Environmental Enrichment Award by CAZA. That same year, a few other exhibits were rebuilt for the Barbary sheep and the bison. 

In the following years, many other exhibits were expanded or refurbished, including the otters, the deer contact area, the wolves, the watusi, and eland exhibits.  Animal feeding presentations, presented by the zookeepers, were also added to the daily schedule during the peak summer months.

Within a few years of the relocation of the first Education Center, the education programs outgrew the building once again.  Therefore, in 2003, the Friends of the Zoo build the current Education Center complete with 3 classrooms, washrooms, an office, kitchen, first aid room, and Discovery Center.

The construction of the Pridelands, for lions and ostrich, started in 2005 and the grand opening took place in July of 2006.  The Zoo won the Environmental Enrichment Award for this exhibit. That same summer, the food concession stand was also renovated and the Zoo was awarded the New-Brunswick Top Attraction Status. 

With all these awards and improvements, the Zoo received its re-certification of accreditation from CAZA in 2006, and was given the opportunity to display the 2006 Robert Bateman National Writing and Art Contest winners. 

Magnetic Hill Zoo Photo 19After the construction of the aforementioned exhibits, the Zoo concentrated on making the Zoo more accessible to the public.  The first step was to name the pathways and have signs put up in order to help the public find their way around the zoo. 

The year 2007, was the Friends of the Zoo’s 10th anniversary for their annual Boo at the Zoo fundraiser. To celebrate this anniversary, the Board of the Friends of the Zoo decided to add a 10th venue to the Boo at the Zoo Halloween fundraiser to make it an even bigger event. 

In 2008, the new Cougar Country Exhibit was built which was awarded the Environmental Enrichment Award. The Zoo also received two new acknowledgements: rated fourth of the top ten zoo’s in Canada and rated in the top ten great places to take the kids before they grow up in Atlantic Canada.

In 2009, a new Jaguar Exhibit was built to resemble the Cougar Country Exhibit built the previous year. The Zoo’s animal collection was expanded to include mandrills, a colobus monkey, and two African lion cubs. Because of the continued successful breeding program of the Zoo’s black and white ruffed lemurs, the construction of a new enclosure for these monkeys was started. This new enclosure is located between the eland and watusi, and will display two sets of breeding pair of black and white ruffed lemurs. The former insectarium was renovated and reopened as the “Container.” The Container is a representation of a shipping container to display the Zoo’s invertebrate collection.

The Animal Care Service Foreman position was also created in 2009. The Animal Care Service Foreman is responsible for the management of the animal collection and the animal care staff. At the annual CAZA conference, Mr. Bernie Gallant was awarded the first ever Animal Care Professional of the Year award for his 20 years of significant contribution to the development of both the animal care and educational aspects of the Magnetic Hill Zoo. 

In 2010, the Jaguar Junction exhibit was awarded the Environmental Enrichment award, now the fourth time the Zoo has won this award. A new zoo logo was created by Hawk Communication and this logo received international recognition in a competition in New York City, being awarded the bronze in an event that had 3200 competitors. A barrier free viewing deck was built at the Prezwalkski horse exhibit, a new viewing deck was built at the frog bog, and a new enclosed exhibit was added to the Ecodome to house channel billed toucans and cottontop tamarins. The Zoo also welcomed Kate Whalen as the interim Visitor & Education Programs Coordinator while Cathy Simon was on maternity leave.

2011 was an exciting year at the Magnetic Hill Zoo. The Zoo had a record breaking attendance of over 137,000 visitors. Crowned Crane chicks were hatched for the first time ever. A second Colobus monkey was acquired. A special guest arrived in early June for a week-long stay: Limba, the Asian elephant from Bowmanville Zoo, who even gave rides to many of our visitors.

On January 1st, a new squirrel monkey was born. Unfortunately, due to complications during birth, the mother soon passed away. The staff and students of the Atlantic Veterinarian College hand raised the new born squirrel monkey by providing around the clock care and named him Sheldon. Once Sheldon reached the appropriate size and maturity, he was successfully integrated back into the troupe of squirrel monkeys at the Magnetic Hill Zoo.

In the spring of 2011, the Zoo received a pair of orphaned bear cubs who were discovered on the top of a hydro pole in northern New Brunswick. These cubs were nursed back to health by the zookeepers. The cubs generated much media attention and were well loved by the zoo visitors.

In partnership with Parks Canada and with the continued permission from Environment Canada, the Zoo continued its participation in the Piping Plover Recovery Program. Twenty two eggs were brought to the Zoo from two maritime National Parks. Thirteen of these eggs were not viable and nine eggs hatched under the care of the Magnetic Hill Zoo animal care staff. Once these hatchlings reached the appropriate weight, they were transported back to their original National Park for eventual release. These chicks were placed in a large flight pen where they learned, in a natural but protected area, the necessary survival skills like finding food, learning how to fly, and hiding from predators. In the end, five chicks were successfully released into the wild.

The Zoo was scheduled for accreditation renewal in August 2011. Two inspectors visited all Zoo departments; inspected the entire animal collection and its facilities; interviewed staff; and reviewed records, policies, and manuals. The two areas of improvement noted by the inspectors included reviewing the key management system and designating an alternate location to perform necropsies.

The points of achievement noted by the inspectors include: the Zoo’s strong community presence; the Zoo’s educational programs; the Zoo’s Piping Plover Conservation Program, the Zoo’s strong conservation vision; the Zoo has set a good foundation for the development of a stronger veterinary program; and the Zoo shows continuous improvement and creative solutions for safety and animal care requirements.

The Magnetic Hill Zoo was the very proud recipient of three national awards in 2011. These awards are presented to deserving individuals and institutions by the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums, (CAZA).

The Col. G.D. Dailley Award recognizes achievement in propagation and management programs that lead to the long-term survival of at-risk animal species or populations. The Magnetic Hill Zoo won the Col. G.D.Dailley award for its involvement and commitment to the Piping Plover recovery program.

The Eleanore Oakes Award recognizes significant achievement in animal husbandry, exhibit design or education. The focus of this award is to recognize projects of a smaller scope or budget. The Eleanore Oakes Award went to the Magnetic Hill Zoo’s education department for its significant growth and impact in recent years.

The Animal Care Professional Award rewards innovation and contribution to a zookeeper or aquarist employed at a CAZA-accredited institution. The animal care professional award went to the Magnetic Hill Zoo’s senior zookeeper of birds and primates/curator, Jamie Carson.

In 2012, Jamie Carson, the Senior Zookeeper of birds and primates, also assumed the duties of Animal Curator. After more than 30 years of service to the City of Moncton and the Magnetic Hill Zoo, Chuck Mason retired from his position as Maintenance Foreman.

The Zoo acquired Demoiselle cranes, African crested porcupines, Arctic wolves, and crowned crane chicks were hatched. Surveys to the visitors were conducted to learn about the general public’s perceptions of the value of captive breeding. The Zoo’s record systems were upgraded to the ZIMS system.

A new African themed washroom was built in the African Oasis; the wolves received a new house and larger enclosure; a new pony barn was built next to the pony rides, and the construction for a new exhibit for the eagles was started. The Zoo’s food service locations, Chukula and Chubuku, were operated by East Coast Foods.

For the first time ever, the Friends of the Zoo have embarked on a non-event based fundraiser called the Big Cats Campaign. The donations received through this campaign will be used to build an Asian section in the Zoo, which will include Amur tigers, Amur leopards, red pandas, and relocated the Zoo’s existing white handed gibbons and Reeves’ muntjacs. The demolition of the oldest section of the zoo began in November and December 2012, in preparation for the beginning of construction of this project in 2013.

The Friends of the Zoo also revamped their volunteer recognition program in 2012.

The education department offered self-guided parties in April, September, and October. These parties provide a reduced admission rate to the group, the use of a party room, and a scavenger hunt to complete while visiting the Zoo. The hosted birthday party program continued as usual from May to August. New locker-room like cubbies were built and installed for the summer day campers to use in the education center. Murals of animal scenes were painted above these cubbies in each classroom. A television was also installed in the Discovery Center to display a short video about the Piping Plover Recovery Program.

The registration process for Adopt a Friend program was converted to an online system. This system provided all the necessary information teachers and group leaders require to make an informed decision regarding their visit and to apply online. All applications received were time and date stamped to ensure complete fairness when staff were awarding requests for tour and presentation requests.

Detailed Magnetic Hill Zoo history