Neither a zoo, nor a botanical garden – Montreal’s unique Biodôme is now open

veterinarian Emiko Wong - Biodome

Passionate about her work and seen with the colourful Macaws, veterinarian Emiko Wong is the Division Head for the Living Collection
Photo: Beverley Kerr

After a two year renovation challenge that required some animal relocation and much new construction, the Biodôme is now open again. Not only a place to see animals, fish, birds and plants in their unique ecosystems; it’s now also an architectural work of art. Rami Bebawi of KANVA architects (a McGill Grad) proudly describes the new Biodôme as an inspiration for all the senses.

The original Velodrome vault created for the 1976 Olympic Games has been exposed; letting in wonderful natural light to welcome visitors into a dazzling white reception area. From there, each of the five ecosystems of the Americas is accessible through curved fluid walkways and ramps, creating exceptional opportunities to see the Biodôme residents in their natural habitats.  Elevated walkways above the Tropical Rain Forest, the Laurentian Maple Forest, and the Gulf of St Lawrence are new additions – for a bird’s eye view of these ecosystems.

Former Mayor Pierre Bourque oversaw the original transformation from Vélodrome to Biodôme in 1992. The mission of education, research and conservation remains its primary purpose. Public awareness about environmental issues is increasingly critical for us to successfully share our planet. “Reconnecting with nature, appreciating it, and getting to know and understand it better are the first steps to what is becoming a crucial movement to protect it.” says Charles-Mathieu Brunelle, Director of Espace pour la vie.

The Ecosystems

I began by walking through the new ice tunnel to view the Sub-Artic Island and the Labrador Coast.  We humans can feel the climate conditions that the penguins, puffins and other birds inhabit. The penguins provide a never-ending show. And five chinstrap penguins from New York’s Central Park Zoo are scheduled to soon arrive and join the birds already in residence (once the borders reopen).


“Come on in – it’s cold!” the penguins put on a show in their natural habitat
Photo:Espace pour la vie, Claude Lafond

The Gulf of St Lawrence ecosystem includes the original aquariums where huge sturgeon, bass, halibut and a small shark swim by, inches away from the viewing window. Close by, the beaver can be seen both underwater and from above swimming by the dam; which by the way was built with pieces of wood the beaver cut with its own teeth.

A new habitat has been added and built from scratch in the Tropical Rainforest. This area is now home to a very social population of six beautiful and colourful macaws.  In another area of the Rainforest, two broad-snouted caimans are also new residents of the Biodôme.  Monkeys are sighted at play in the treetops, while a foreboding black vulture lurks below.

Every visit to the Biodôme is unique. You may see a lynx high on the Laurentian forest cliff. You may hear the macaws talking. It might be feeding time in the fish tank. Or the raccoon will be searching for food, hidden by one of the Biodôme team, so that the animal can find its food itself, as in nature.

And finally, the Biodôme shop is a treasure chest of books, stuffed animals and hands-on projects for all ages of children at heart.

Education, Research and Conservation

Canadian Lynx

Canadian Lynx
Photo: Espace pour la vie, Claude Lafond

The Biodôme’s education teams are always available to inform and answer questions.

In addition, the Bio-machine is a new area of displays and interactive stations that give visitors a sense of the back-stage skills, tools and expertise required to present and care for the plants and animals.

With a brand-new mobile app, you’ll be able to wonder around as if you really were in nature – and see animals like the wolf, not actually, but virtually, in their natural environment. (Safer for us all)

We only protect the things we cherish. The animals, birds and fish at the Biodôme have optimum living conditions (no predators, regular medical attention, successful breeding opportunities, etc.) and many live longer than they would be expected to in the wild. A visit to the Biodôme is a walk in nature, both for pleasure and inspiration to do your part in protecting our own relationship with nature.

A Few Facts and Figures

● 2500 animals of more than 200 species

● Over 800 species of tropical and temperate plants

● Senior residents – 4 sturgeons over 46, plus a 37 year old Atlantic puffin, and several murres and turtles past 30 years old

● The Biodôme team has successfully bred the rare Panamanian golden frog that no longer exists in the wild. And the team is very proud of a unique birth of a northern rockhopper penguin chick in 2019 when in a temporary penguin habitat.

During this time of COVID, visits to the Biodôme will be limited in number. Everyone is asked to choose a set time for a visit, and book tickets in advance at

Espace pour la vie oversees the Biodôme, Botanical Gardens and Planetarium in Montreal.

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