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Evolution of the Magnetic Hill Zoo

1945 – 1979

In the very early 1950's or even the late 40's, the New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources started a small compound west of Moncton at which they housed and cared for the orphaned or injured animals.

In 1954, Mrs Muriel Sikorski wrote a petition to the government to move the rehabilitation compound from its existing location to a spot directly opposite the “Magnetic Hill.” Mrs. Sikorski wished to provide an additional attraction at the hill, but it was also done because the original location could not offer security to the animals at all times and had suffered some casualties during hunting season.

The “Game Farm,” as it was known at that time, served a primary role as a recreational facility and a secondary role as a rehabilitation facility. This role continued for some years.

In 1979, Moncton City Council purchased the Game Farm from the Province of New Brunswick for one dollar. Attendance in 1979 was 54,133.

1980 - 1989

Magnetic Hill Zoo Photo 17The City of Moncton started to bring in new and exotic animals from 1980 on, but the staff at the Game Farm at this time knew little of the spatial requirements or of the psychological needs of the animals in their care. Funding for animal habitat improvements were seldom used and animal facilities were rudimentary at best.

Mr. Art Buck started the search for the zoo manager in 1987, but at that time privatization was a possibility and the city backed of the search. Privatiation did not materialize and the search was begun anew.

In 1989, the City of Moncton hired a zoo manager by the name of Bruce Dougan and the slow transformation of the Magnetic Hill Game Farm to Magnetic Hill Zoo began. It seemed at this time that change would be best achieved with a bulldozer and a construction crew. Because that was not realistic we started to reconstruct the Game Farm one exhibit at a time using a crew of labourers that came from C.S.D. headquarters. In this initial year, the commissary was established and a permanent commissary position was put in place so that diets for the wide variety of animals at the zoo would be consistent and properly prepared, processed and stored.
To enhance the recreational aspect of the Game Farm, a performing parrot show was brought in from Ontario and two Siberian tigers were purchased to be focal animals in the zoo.

Also in 1989, our first two volunteers were to become a very important part of the Magnetic Hill Game Farm and although not so named at the time, “The Friends of the Zoo” were born.


In 1990 we continued to place emphasis on rebuilding exhibits at the zoo and were able to hire a full-time carpenter to assist in expediting this process and to learn the fine points of constructing animal housing and exhibits.

We soon realized that even though the City continued its commitment to the zoo in the form of capital funding, the needs were far greater than the available dollars and additional resources would need to be realized.

At a very opportune time, a teacher and several classes of students from Sunny Brae School approached the zoo with an idea to create an animal adoption program which would enable students to raise money to improve the habitat for animals at the zoo. As a focus of their students at the time was environmental and conservation concerns, the study of many of the species housed at the zoo provided a natural complement to their curriculum. The students researched and illustrated the various species and their work was incorporated into a package, which was distributed to each adoptive parent of the Adopt-A-Friend program. The program has been very successful to date, averaging $10,000 a year raised. Local students raise the majority of the funds. These classes visit the zoo in June as part of their adoption package, and they have the chance to observe more closely the animals they have adopted. If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is the real thing worth?

With the establishment of the Adopt-a-Friend program, the seeds for an extensive Education program had been planted. A partnership with School District 15 (now 2) was begun with the zoo starting an Outreach program, which introduced some of the animals from the zoo to the local school children right at their schools. Presentations were given that emphasized conservation and education. In touch is a similar program, which takes place at the zoo for groups such as Scouts, Brownies etc.

We hired a permanent keeper and two new seasonal keepers and we added zebras and peregrine falcons and came to terms on a contract with Broadleaf Farms to provide pony rides at the zoo. Also, in 1990, the construction of the first domed enclosures (green house structures) were started for the big cats.


We continued to improve animal housing in 1991 and added new animals such as ring-tailed lemurs, scimitar horned oryx, umbrella cockatoo, and Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs.

The parrot show was terminated and an elephant show was initiated. To add to the experience of seeing the elephant demonstration and to help defray costs, elephant rides were made available.


In 1992, our Zoo camps were initiated, which helped to expand the very important educational aspects of the facility. The summer program was run exclusively by local teachers who volunteered their time to make the program successful. It was aimed at elementary students and the focus was on conservation education (with a heavy dose of fun added!).

The Magnetic Hill Game Farm officially changed its name to the Magnetic Hill Zoo in April of 1992. This change of name more clearly reflected the direction we were taking in our development.


Due to the success of the Zoo camps of 1992, we continued to expand our education program to include older children. Zoo camps were continued, with the addition of Zootrek, Junior and Assistant Zookeeper programs, which each addressed a different audience and need. Zootrek was aimed at the older elementary students while the Junior and Assistant Zookeeper programs were weeklong, one-on-one opportunities for students aged 14 and up to experience the working world of the zoo and perhaps to gain some insight to help them in choosing a career. All were held in the summer. All of the money raised from these programs went towards building a specialized library of books and videos that would be available to the community for research on special projects.

As part of our partnership with District 2, and with funding from the Department of Education Excellence in Education initiative, a weeklong Enrichment Camp was held at the zoo in the summer. This provided approximately 18 representatives from local schools with a special opportunity to experience the zoo in a cross-curricular format, including wildlife photography, art, sculpture, geography, and zoology.

Magnetic Hill Zoo Photo 19We were very proud this year to be the recipients of the Tom Baines Award - the highest achievement in the Canadian Zoo industry. The Magnetic Hill Zoo was in the running for this award with the Biodome of Montreal and the Canadian Wilds exhibit of the Calgary Zoo.

This was also the year that the Magnetic Hill Zoo received its Cazpa accreditation for the first time. It was certainly a very proud year for the Magnetic Hill Zoo.


We made an attempt at our first winter openings, opening on Boxing Day, one Sunday in January and Valentine's Day. These openings proved to be successful and we vowed to continue them in the future.

The zoo staff went on strike this year and the work stoppage that started on February 18 lasted for close to eleven weeks. This strike caused us to delay the zoo opening until the June 11. District 2 started the school year a week earlier this year so it had an adverse effect on our attendance. Our annual fundraiser, Safari Night, was cancelled because of the strike.

We acquired our first education centre, an old double school portable, that we refurbished for our education programs. We constructed and improved exhibits such as a new dam at the duck pond, a new Mouflon Sheep exhibit, new washrooms and a newly designed Elk/Reindeer exhibit.

We also acquired a new mate for Molly, our white-handed Gibbon Ape, a pair of Vulturine Guinea fowl and a pair of Marabou Storks.


1995 saw the beginning of a 10-acre expansion of the Magnetic Hill Zoo. Construction was started on the new Primate conservation centre, the frog bog, the Koi pond, the bird garden, the camel-zebra exhibit and a children's playground. A static exhibit, Animundi, was opened as well this year.

We acquired such animals as the gentle brown lemurs, capybara, chinchillas and the white bearded gnu.
We decided to try to raise money to purchase a mate for Charlie, our dromedary camel. We were successful in raising $12,000 and purchased Camilla from the Connell's of Ontario.

1995 was the year that the zoo went to tender to find a company that would develop a master plan for the facility. Portico of Seattle Washington developed a master plan for the zoo and a vision for the future.


In 1996, we saw the beginnings of the new dry moat bear exhibit. This very modern and well-appointed exhibit was nearing completion by the end of 1996. We were very excited to have a bald eagle hatched (Spirit) and decided early on that we would try to have her released in the immediate appropriate area. To facilitate this we had her sent to a facility in Delta, British Columbia, where she could be adopted by surrogate parents and taught how to survive. With Spirit being a coastal bird she was taught how to fish as well. To teach her this trait they built a pond in her flight cage and stocked it with live fish.

Magnetic Hill Zoo hosted the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums Annual General Meeting and had a very well known keynote speaker in the person of Dr. David Suzuki. The AGM was highlighted with a trip to Broadleaf Farms and a spirited auction that was led by former leader of the opposition, Mr. Dennis Cochrane.

1996 saw the resignation of the Friends of the zoo's original president, Mrs. Shirley Dingley. Shirley had been the president of the Friends of the Zoo since its inception in 1990. Shirley spent countless hours walking Lester the Llama, going out with the outreach programs to local schools, seeking donations, helping with winter openings, working with Wild Things Gift shop and helping to organise the annual zoo conference. Shirley left to pursue interests with the local humane society. She will be sorely missed!


The insectarium was built and opened in the African Oasis. The bears moved into their new home and the Magnetic Hill Zoo was again recognised with a national award for its education programs from the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

We received a pair of Coatimundis and three additional outdoor primate exhibits were constructed at the primate conservation area.

Our zoo education programs were redesigned to run full weeks rather than just single days.

Magnetic Hill Zoo Photo 18We finally completed the most exciting bear exhibit in Canada with mature woods, water, and lots of space. It was a joy to see the bears discovering trees for the first time, lying in the tall grass chewing on wild flowers and enjoying a swim on hot days. Many days it is a challenge to find them in their vast expanse.

The new entrance building was built, complete with a large meeting room, offices, a kitchen, washrooms, and a souvenir boutique as well as our admissions reception area.

The bald eagle chick Spirit was returned from the rehabilitation facility in Delta, British Columbia. Spirit was hatched at the Magnetic Hill Zoo and then underwent an extensive rehabilitation program to prepare her for release and survival in the wilds of coastal New Brunswick. Spirit's release on August 18, 1997, was a successful one.

We were also a national finalist in the Communities in Bloom contest. All in all, one could say that 1997 was a wildly successful year for the Magnetic Hill Zoo.

A very familiar face at the zoo, Mr. Charles Mason, was appointed to the position of Zoo foreman. Charlie has worked for the City since graduating high school in 1976. As a city employee, Charlie held positions at Centennial Park, the Coliseum and the City Garage. In January of 1989, Chuck began to work at the then Magnetic Hill Game Farm with bears and monkeys. Prior to his appointment as zoo foreman, Chuck worked in the zoo commissary for five years preparing all of the diets for the animals in the zoo.

In December of 1997, the Friends of the Zoo presented Mr. Ian Redmond at Moncton High. Mr. Redmond had spent many years in Africa working with Dian Fossey, studying Rwanda's mountain gorillas. Mr. Redmond also spent many years studying the underground elephants of Kitcum Cave in Kenya. Ian's sense of humour, coupled with his passion for his subject, provided a fascinating experience.


1998 saw the construction of the winter birdhouse. With the completion of all of the primate exhibits at the primate conservation centre it was necessary for us to construct a facility to house birds in the winter.
We also established and held our very first Boo at the Zoo. This first attempt was dampened by the weather as it rained very hard all weekend. We still managed to have 300 people come to Boo, and they seemed to enjoy it, even though it was a wet one.

We sold the Japanese Macaques to a zoo in Manitoba and moved the baboons to the largest of the five outdoor exhibits at the Primate conservation area.


In 1999 we remodelled and opened our first food service (Chukula), which is Swahili for “food.”

Demolition of the old housing area was started on the bear pit-style exhibit. This would be a two-year project. Mr Drake Durette of Maritime Cutting and Coring volunteered his time and equipment to assist us in cutting the holes in the concrete wall necessary to continue construction of the new Ecodome.


The year 2000 saw the long awaited opening of the newly refurbished bear exhibit that we now call the Ecodome. This exhibit is now home to many reptiles, birds, and small primates.

Chubuku, our second food service outlet, was opened on the deck at the back of our entrance building. This facility sold cold drinks, ice cream novelties and snacks.

We completely rebuilt the barnyard replacing the whitewashed 4x4's with 1x6 rails with round cedar posts and rails. In the renovations we also redesigned the garden to include a large rabbit warren.


We completely rebuilt the Bison exhibit using a brand new concept of a 42” outside fence with a 6x6 bumper rail. This area was close to three times the original exhibit size and the Bison look great in it. We also rebuilt the Barbary sheep pen and took over the management and labour of the pony rides.


In 2002, the Friends of the Zoo, as well as the Magnetic Hill Zoo, partnered in a number of animal habitat initiatives that included the complete refurbishment and expansion of the river otter exhibit, the redesign and renovation of the fallow deer contact area, a new, refurbished artic wolf exhibit and an expansion to the zoo that included a new watussi and eland exhibit.

Milk Maritime sponsored a daily show here on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. This show proved to be very popular and was well received by zoo camp participants as well as our regular visitors.


In 2003, the new Education and Discovery Centre opened.  The Education Centre construction cost an estimated 1/2 million dollars, and was funded by the Friends of the Zoo.  This Education Centre helps foster the fun-filled, educational atmosphere of our Zoo Camp.


In 2004, the Zoo made improvements to our two food concession outlets, facade improvement to our barnyard, and paved the visitor's entrance parking lot.  Some of the pathways throughout the Zoo were also paved.  The Friends of the Zoo contributed funds raised from Boo at the Zoo towards the development of architectural plans for a new African Lion Exhibit to expand upon the existing African Oasis.


In 2005, we lost our Winter Bird House to sudden fire on the property.  Construction of a new Winter Birdhouse was completed by October, 2005 and continued development proceeded on the African Lion Exhibit with a targed opening date scheduled for summer season, 2006.  The Magnetic Hill Zoo hired a full time Education Coordinator in September, 2005.


We celebrated the grand opening of the long-awaited African Pridelands which included the African Lion Exhibit, new Ostrich Exhibit, and the Przewalski horses being put on public display for the first time.  The Magnetic Hill Zoo was awarded the CAZA Environmental Enrichment Award and also received recognition from the Robert Bateman Get to Know Program by being awarded the exhibition of original winning artwork from the 2005 contest winners.  Sherry Mercer and the People of Bioko Facepainters joined the Magnetic Hill Zoo attraction as an added benefit for the patrons visiting during our high summer season.


2007 was a year of great loss for the Magnetic Hill Zoo with the passing of our long-time mascot, Tomar the Siberian Tiger.  Tomar was 20 years of age when he passed away.  Local author, Artemise Blanchard commemorated the memory of Tomar with the release of her children's book in English and French entitled "Tomar the Siberian Tiger."  The book can be purchased at the Zoo's Wild Things Gift Boutique.  The aged tiger and cougar exhibits were demolished soon thereafter, and architectural plans were prepared for the new "Cougar Country Exhibit."  The Audienceview Ticketing system was implemented during May, 2008 and Zoo patrons were introduced to online ticket purchasing during Boo at the Zoo 2007.


Construction commenced on Cougar Country in early 2008 and the exhibit was opened to the public in October, 2008.  Improvements were made to the picnic area of the Chukula Food Takeout, and the Entrance Building green space.  The walking path to the African Pridelands was paved, and the park benches throughout the zoo were painted with brilliant animal patterns.  The City of Moncton purchased the Wild Things Gift Boutique as well as the Education Department of the Magnetic Hill Zoo from the Friends of the Zoo during the early part of 2008.  The Magnetic Hill Zoo was again awarded the CAZA Environmental Enrichment award for the "Cougar Country" exhibit.  The Robert Bateman Get to Know Program added the national winning artwork for 2007 to the Magnetic Hill Zoo's collection.  Alpacas were added as an exhibit during our summer season 2008.


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.