After 25 years, Montreal Biodôme's oldest animals celebrate milestone birthday

The Montreal Biodôme first opened its doors 25 years ago and that means some of its long-standing residents are also celebrating a special anniversary this week.

Living museum home to high-profile births, rescues over last 2 decades

As of 2017, Montreal Biodôme is home to 4,600 animals. (Submitted by Espace pour la vie)

The Montreal Biodôme first opened its doors 25 years ago and that means some of its long-standing residents are also celebrating a special anniversary this week.

Within the walls of the Biodôme, there are five separate ecosystems where animals, plants and aquatic life from near and far have lived alongside staff members, such as director Rachel Léger, since 1992.

"We have some penguins that were here at the beginning," Léger said.

"We have some black sturgeons from the St.Lawrence and as well as caimans in tropical rain forest that were here as part of the collection when we opened the Biodôme."

Penguins are just one of the 225 different species the Montreal Biodôme has. (Courtesy of the Montreal Biodôme)

Some of the oldest sturgeons even date back to the former Alcan Aquarium on Île Sainte-Hélène. They were moved and became a fixture at the Biodôme after the aquarium shut down in 1991.

Léger said the species and the vegetation at the living museum in Montreal's east end have changed and grown a lot over the past two decades, and now it is home to more than 4,600 animals.

"It's a living place, so it changes all the time," she said.

"We have a lot more reproduction, we have some animals that were there at the beginning, we have a lot of animals that came after and we have a lot of birth."

Grand opening

The building was originally home to the Velodrome as part of the 1976 Montreal Olympics, but once concluded that it was underused, the plans for the Biodôme were born.

The Velodrome was converted into the Biodôme museum in the 1980s. (City of Montreal archives)

Léger, who was at director of the aquarium of the time, worked alongside staff from the Montreal Botanical Garden and the zoo to create a multi-ecosystem concept for the Biodôme.

In 1989, the construction of the Biodôme was announced, and three years later it opened on June 18, 1992 — where hundreds of eager visitors lined up around the block to get inside.

The Montreal Biodôme was constructed in the late 1980s. (Courtesy of Montreal Biodôme)

Since then, the facility has been home to a large array of public moments, including the rescue of Goliath, a seven-kilogram lobster, from a Quebec grocery store in 2013. The jumbo crustacean joined other lobsters in the Biodôme's Gulf of St. Lawrence ecosystem.

Goliath the lobster pictured in 2013.

It's also seen a number of high-profile births, including a trio of bouncing baby lynx in 2013. The two males and female would go on to meet the public at the Biodôme that summer.

Biodôme staff and Montrealers alike were also excited upon learning that one of the sloths, a staff favourite, was pregnant for the first time in 2014. The healthy, baby sloth was born right before Christmas in 2014. 

The baby lynx made a splash at the Biodôme a few years ago.

As the Biodôme gears up to celebrate its 25th birthday this weekend, Léger said she is excited for visitors to see what life is like behind the scenes and for the project to keep growing.

"I believe the Biodôme has another good 25 years, at least, to go," she said.

With files from Salim Valji