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History of the 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.

The Zoo celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2013. The 60th anniversary celebration was held on July 6, 2013 and included magic shows, inflatable playsets, special zookeeper presentations, several musical entertainers, and Highland dancers.

The Zoo experienced a record breaking attendance in 2013 with 141,155 visitors!

Midway through the summer, the Zoo was asked to assist the floods ravaged Calgary Zoo and a reptile facility in Campbellton, New Brunswick. Resulting from assisting these two facilities, the Zoo provided homes to giant anteaters, Andean condors, hyacinth macaws, and Sulcata tortoises.

A reorganization of the zoo staff was completed. The new positions included: a zoo coordinator, an animal care working foreman, an animal health technician, and a horticulture supervisor.

Bruce Dougan was the proud recipient of the 2013 Chief Executive Officer's Award of Excellence presented by Parks Canada. The Parks Canada CEO’s Award of Excellence is the most prestigious honor awarded by the Agency and was established to recognize employees and partners who have demonstrated a high level of excellence or achieved outstanding results. Bruce accepted this award on behalf of the Zoo Staff for their work with the Piping Plover Recovery Program.

The new Amur region of the zoo has five phases of construction. The first two phases were completed in 2013 and final three stages will be completed in 2014.

The pony ride area was re-established to compliment the pony barn that was built in 2012. The new pony ride area included a shaded staging area for ponies to rest in between rides, a nicely landscaped lawn area, a photo op area for parents, and a wooded trail. The new pony ride area, called Circle M ranch, was so popular, that the ridership increased by 72%!

A large cedar log enclosure was built for bald eagles, in the Americas section of the Zoo. Unfortunately, the transfer of the eagles that were promised to the Zoo was held up due to legal issues. Therefore, the newly completed exhibit opened populated by a large parliament of barn owls. Shortly after the owls were placed in the exhibit, the Calgary Zoo requested assistance in the placement of a pair of Andean condors. Therefore, the barn owls were relocated elsewhere in the zoo, and this cedar log enclosure now, officially, belongs to the condors.

In preparation for the arrival of the new Amur tigers and leopard, the Zoo’s quarantine facility was upgraded. Two fully enclosed large outdoor enclosures were constructed leading to three indoor bedrooms. This facility can accommodate most large carnivores and primates.

Due to deteriorating conditions of the Zoo’s wooden style playground, a new playground was installed. This new playground is the tallest playground structure in all of the Maritimes and includes three stories of play space, seven slides, shaded spaces for parents to wait, and a smaller structure appropriate for toddlers.

The Education department’s website received a new facelift and a new promotional video was produced and donated by Meet Moncton/Voici Moncton. For the first time ever, the Zoo’s summer day camp registration was converted from a pen and paper system to a real time online registration system.

In the 20th year of the “Animal Care Apprentice Program,” this program was completely revamped, expanded, and re-branded as “Keeper Camp.” Keeper Camp now accommodates more campers per week, has a designated educator as a camp leader, has a designated “bush camp” as a home base for the campers, has a formalized curriculum to follow, has scheduled daily “hands-on” work times with zookeepers, provides many opportunities for hands on interactions with animals, and is a lot of fun. The department was pleased that half of the available spots were filled after increasing the total number of available spots by 350% compared to 2012. The keeper campers most enjoyed hand feeding the primates, making enrichment items for the lions, and watching the zookeepers give these items to the lions. A small cabin was constructed, in the woods behind the Education Center, for these new campers. The cabin was used as a home base for the campers to store their belongings, have breaks, create enrichment items for the animals, and receive instruction from their camp leader.

The Education department was the very proud recipient of a national award presented by the Association, Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums, (CAZA). 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. This award was given to recognize the newly revamped Keeper Camp Program. The awards committee lauded the Keeper Camp Program because it was designed to inculcate key concepts such as the value of zoos, the challenge of preserving endangered species, conservation, animal classifications, proper animal handling techniques, animal enrichment and husbandry.

A jaguar cub was born in August 2014.  The birth of this cub was very significant because the cub was the first jaguar ever born at the Magnetic Hill Zoo, as well as, the first raised in s Canadian zoo in several years. Two beautiful Western cougar cubs were obtained from a Zoo in Ontario, in October.

The Zoo completed the first wave of the construction of a new laboratory and quarantine facility. The lab area is now fully functional and includes a computer, scales, microscopes, and storage.

All of the fencing in the barnyard area was replaced with new Kentucky ranch style fencing that matched the pony ride area that was constructed in the previous year. The entrance of the goat contact area was also relocated.

An outside enclosure was built for the Sulcata tortoises to allow these animals to enjoy the warm summer weather, to bask in natural sunlight, and to graze on fresh grass. The enclosure was built next to the Ecodome.

The Zoo started a new initiative in domestic livestock preservation. All of the domestic livestock are now being displayed in the Zoo’s barnyard and are rare Heritage purebred varieties, most of which arrived in 2014. These new breeds include Californian rabbits, Suffolk sheep, call ducks, bearded silky chickens, Japanese chickens, and Sebright chickens.

The Zoo hosted the 2014 CAZA-AZAC annual conference in September 2014.

Cathy Simon was the very proud recipient of a national award presented by the Association, Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums, (CAZA). The Zoo and Aquarium Professional Award recognizes innovation and significant contribution to the zoo and aquarium field by a permanent staff employed at a CAZA/AZAC institutional member.

The Zoo experienced a record breaking attendance with 170,397 visitors in 2015 with a 22% increase over the attendance in 2014!

During the winter months, the Zoo partnered with the Maritime Aquarium Club to install and display a 280 gallon Amazon themed aquarium in the Discovery Centre to display several tropical fish and live plants.

The Sunday Winter Openings and Easter EGGstravaganza fundraisers were cancelled due to too much snow.

Bruce Dougan, Manager of the Magnetic Hill Zoo, received the Tourism Industry Pioneer Award from the  Tourism Industry of New Brunswick. This award recognizes individuals who have made pioneering efforts in promoting tourism and the province of New Brunswick. 

The Asian exhibits were completed to include enclosures for Amur tigers, an Amur leopard, and barn owls. Replicas were constructed of a railway station, a border crossing, a conservation station, a stuck truck, and Russian scientists and biologists. A timeline of the life of Tomar, our former mascot and well-known Amur tiger, was installed at the bottom of the Amur tiger exhibit. 

The new and interactive exhibit, called Guinea Pig World, was constructed to appeal most especially to the Zoo’s younger visitors. The species housed in this new area included guinea pigs, a colorful flock of free-flying budgies, as well as attractive and rare Sebright, silky, and Japanese bantam chickens.

A 6 part web-video series was launched in 2015 and will be completed in 2016. The purpose of these web-videos is to increase awareness of the value of the zoo in the local community via social media platforms. The first three videos were well received, most especially with the Wild Lights video reaching over 45,000 views.

During the summer months, 34 large posters were displayed along Magic Mountain road for the “The 34 Wonders of the World” exhibit. The City of Moncton and the Consulate General of France in the Atlantic Provinces collaborated to display this outdoor bilingual exhibition. Each poster gives an overview of one of the world’s hotspots, the animals and plants that live there, the threats to the area, and actions being carried out to protect it. The posters were designed by Terre Sauvage Magazine, the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund, and the Nature Photo Library. The goal of the exhibit was to raise public awareness about threats to biodiversity around the world, as well as the actions being implemented to protect these areas. It also brought an additional artistic and cultural element to the City of Moncton in the form of an outdoor photographic exhibit, the first of its kind in the city.

The animal information signs and new wayfinding signage were revamped to compliment the style and color scheme of the new Amur tiger and leopard exhibits; and the new visitors’ walking map. 

The Friends of the Zoo entered a float in the 2015 Greater Moncton Santa Claus Parade on November 28. The purposed of their float submission was to generate awareness about the new Wild Lights special event scheduled to begin the week after the parade. A small team of volunteers designed, decorated, and animated the float using many of the light displays that were displayed inside the zoo during the Wild Lights special event. The Friends of the Zoo float received first place in the non-profit division.

Wild Lights was held on December 3-23 and 26-30. Visitors enjoyed viewing hundreds of thousands of holiday lights all around the zoo; visiting the zoo animals in the Primate Center, Discovery Center, and Ecodome; viewing a bilingual, winter-theme short film that is projected on a big screen; and warming up at the outdoor bonfire. The zoo was open during evening hours on weekdays and from 2-9 on the weekends and during the second half of Christmas break. During daylight hours, visitors could view the outdoor winter hardy animals, weather permitting. 

Detailed Magnetic Hill Zoo history