Montreal·Photos

Montreal's newly renovated Biodôme is set to reopen after two-year closure

It took one year longer than expected, but Montreal's Biodôme is finally reopening to the public after major renovations.

Renovations include new walkways, an ice tunnel and dedicated mobile app

Montreal Biodôme set to reopen after two years of renovations

2 years ago
Duration 1:39
The new and improved Biodôme and its many animal residents will start receiving guests August 31.

The macaws have new friends, the lynx has upgraded digs and the broad-snouted caimans are back.

It's all part of a $37.2-million overhaul of Montreal's Biodôme, set to reopen to the public on August 31.

The original opening date was supposed to be September 2019 but construction delays and the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the date back a year.

"It took two years to make the experience even better," said Mayor Valérie Plante, at a news conference offering a behind-the-scenes look at the renovations and modifications.

The new walkway in the Gulf of St. Lawrence ecosystem allows people to look down into the various habitats. (Ivanoh Demers/CBC)

The major changes include two new walkways in the Tropical Rainforest and Laurentian Maple Forest ecosystems, an ice tunnel into the Sub-Antarctic Islands and a mezzanine that allows a unique perspective looking down onto three ecosystems.

"The most exciting part is that it's a renewed vow," said Emiko Wong, the Biodôme's head of the live collection, the animals.

"It's kind of saying that the Biodôme is an important institution for Montrealers with our missions of education, conservation, and research."

Emiko Wong stands in front of the new habitat for the macaws in the Tropical Rainforest ecosystem. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

Conservation is the mission

Wong says the key mission of the Biodôme is conservation but hand-in-hand with that comes the welfare of animals.

"If we cannot provide adequate welfare to an animal, we have to be honest with ourselves and say, okay this is not working out, and maybe find another solution for the species or individual," Wong said.

Wong says the challenge of ensuring the welfare of all the animals was formidable during the renovations.

A golden lion tamarin attempts to look fierce inside the Tropical Rainforest ecosystem. The monkey is about 20 centimetres tall. (Charles Contant/CBC)

"Of course, we can't build a Biodôme next door to relocate temporarily. We can't offer the same lushness, the same ecological approach" she said.

Some animals were transferred to other institutions like the Calgary Zoo. Others, like some of the penguins, were put in temporary housing in the basement of the Olympic Stadium.

"We were, of course, very stressed out," Wong said.

Without specifying, she said some animals did not survive the move.

"We had some cases in the Botanical Garden greenhouses of other birds from the wild flying in," Wong said.

"They introduced some infectious diseases so we did have a few cases of that."

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante poses in the Biodôme's renovated reception hall. Architects wanted the hall to be neutral so that people could be awash in colour, sounds and smells once they stepped inside one of the ecosystems. (Ivanoh Demers/CBC)

Fun facts

  • There will be 2,500 animals from more than 200 species, and more than 800 species of plants.
  • The oldest animals are also the Biodôme's largest fish: Four Atlantic sturgeons are over 46 years old.
  • The beaver lodge in the Laurentian Maple Forest features wood cut by the beaver's own teeth. 
  • Penguins living in the building's basement during the renovations brought some new chicks into the world in October 2019.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah Leavitt

Journalist

Sarah Leavitt is a multimedia journalist with CBC who loves hearing people's stories. Tell her yours: sarah.leavitt@cbc.ca or on Twitter @SarahLeavittCBC.

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