Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A beastly guide to giving thanks

Posted by: Kirsten Pisto, Communications

Each Thanksgiving season we try our best to put into words just how grateful we are for your friendship and support. With your passion for saving wildlife and wild spaces, with your generous support in providing the most nutritious diets and state-of-the-art animal health care, and most of all your love for each and every creature here at the zoo—we are incredibly lucky to call you our zoo family.

If we could invite you all to a Thanksgiving feast we would, but unfortunately the animals might get grumpy if we start sharing their grub. Instead, here is a little Thanksgiving-inspired fun to share with your loved ones. This holiday, know we are thinking of you and sending you love from the zoo. Stay cozy and enjoy your pie!

Here are 10 ways to give thanks (like an animal):

Whether it is a tasty fish or a pumpkin pie, give thanks for a full belly.

Be thankful for family, young and old (and everyone in between).

Show your appreciation by being polite. This goes way beyond the dinner table.

The earth provides us with nutrient-rich soil to literally grow our food. It doesn't get much better than that! Remember to thank the earth (the worms, the rain and the dirt!).

Competition breeds creativity. Show your peers you appreciate them by offering a simple compliment. They will be grateful!

Be yourself, let loose. Give yourself gratitude for what makes you, you!

Show your family and friends you care by taking the time to ask them questions. And really listen. Those quirky stories make your family special!

Life is hard work. Give props to those who have helped you out in difficult times or were just there to get you out of a pickle.

One of the simplest ways to show thanks is feeding others. Consider volunteering at a local food bank or donating items to a food drive at your grocery store.

Appreciate the simple comforts in your life. Best buddies and a cozy place to sleep off that Thanksgiving meal are a good place to start.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Apple-loving porcupine predicts Apple Cup winner

Posted by: Gigi Allianic, Communications

The porcupine made a clear choice for her pick to win! Photo: John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo.

With the Apple Cup upon us, we asked apple-loving porcupine Skyáana to try her hand at predicting the winner of the big game. Faced with a choice of apples overflowing from a Husky and a Cougar snack helmet, the 1.5-year-old prickly predictor picked the WSU Cougars for the win!

Here’s the play-by-play: The keeper calls the audible. Skyáana makes a rush down the field. She drops out of the pocket and runs a naked bootleg! She’s down to the 40, the 30, the 20, across the 10 yard line, into the Cougars end zone! Touchdown, Cougars!!!! Are you kidding me??!! Holy apples, I don’t believe it!!

Photo: John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo.

As she went for a second apple from the Cougars helmet, Skyáana made it perfectly clear that she is confident in her choice. But here's the deal: this is Skyáana’s first pick for a game. She has no track record, so we’ll have to see how she does after Friday’s game!

The prescient porcupine currently weighs 19 pounds and was born to parents Molly and Oliver who live in the zoo’s award-winning Northern Trail exhibit. Skyáana, whose Haida name means “to be awake,” is off public exhibit and will be featured in next summer’s new presentation programs on zoo grounds.

Zoo’s conservation program receives $2.6 million grant to strengthen biodiversity protection around the globe

Posted by: Alissa Wolken, Communications

We have some very wonderful news to share! Woodland Park Zoo's international field conservation initiative, the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program (TKCP), will receive $2.6 million from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the Government of Papua New Guinea (GoPNG) facilitated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to support its efforts to protect endangered species and improve the livelihoods of the indigenous people in the Pacific island country of Papua New Guinea.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo

Woodland Park Zoo plays a major role in protecting wildlife and biodiversity through its many field conservation projects that span the globe; one, in particular, being the zoo’s collaboration with the national government of Papua New Guinea through its Conservation and Environment Protection Authority (CEPA) and UNDP under its long-term partnership with the award-winning Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program.

“We are incredibly grateful to the GEF, UNDP and CEPA for awarding this significant grant and recognizing the importance of our work,” said Lisa Dabek, Woodland Park Zoo’s senior conservation scientist and TKCP founder and Program Director. Dabek, who has a PhD in animal behavior and conservation biology, said, “The grant will allow us to enhance the management of the 180,000-acre Yopno-Uruwa-Som (YUS) Conservation Area, which protects the endangered Matschie’s tree kangaroo and a wide range of other endemic rare and endangered species.” Created by indigenous communities with the support of the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program, the YUS Conservation Area is PNG’s first and only nationally-recognized conservation area. “Based on our model, we hope to see the PNG government establish more conservation areas by the end of this five-year project.”

 Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo

TKCP received the grant from GEF. Established in 1992, the GEF has become a widely admired international partnership of 183 countries, international institutions and civil society organizations working together to address global environmental issues. The grant supports a national five-year project titled “Strengthening Management Effectiveness of the National System of Protected Areas” and will be implemented by CEPA in collaboration with UNDP, the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program through Woodland Park Zoo and Tenkile Conservation Alliance. 

TKCP’s portion of the project will focus on strengthening the capacity of local communities to manage the YUS Conservation Area and will support sustainable livelihoods throughout 50 remote villages nearby. “Through this project, the YUS Conservation Area will officially serve as the model for community-based conservation in the country,” said Dabek. “Building on our work over the past 20 years, the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program and Woodland Park Zoo are playing a major, unprecedented role in protecting wildlife and biodiversity at the national level in Papua New Guinea.” TKCP’s lessons and insights gained in YUS will guide the development of national policies for managing protected areas, to be applied throughout PNG – one of the most biodiverse countries on earth.

Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo

TKCP was created by Dabek and TKCP team in 1996 to study the endangered Matschie’s tree kangaroo and find ways to conserve the species in partnership with the local people. Over the past 20 years, the program has grown and evolved into a holistic program supporting habitat protection for a wide range of threatened species, as well as initiatives to enhance local community livelihoods and access to government services. Such initiatives include: training the country’s first Conservation Rangers to patrol protected areas and monitor wildlife in the area; partnering with Seattle’s Caffé Vita to help farmers produce and export high-quality, conservation-friendly coffee beans; providing scholarships to help YUS students earn teaching certificates and return to teach in village schools; and partnering with health professionals to provide basic health training and supplies for preventive care, sanitation, nutrition and reproductive health.

TKCP is a leader in taking a multidisciplinary approach to conservation and has received several accolades including the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ (AZA) International Conservation Award in 2002 and 2014 and the United Nations Equator Prize in 2014. In addition, Dabek has recently been nominated for the prestigious Indianapolis Prize in recognition of her groundbreaking wildlife conservation efforts through the program.

Cheers to TKCP and the wonderful work its staff and volunteers are doing to protect the diverse landscapes of Papua New Guinea!

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo

Monday, November 23, 2015

Baby gorilla thrives, introduction sessions between mom and baby continue

Posted by Gigi Allianic, Communications

Baby girl, cozy and in the care of her attentive keepers.

As you may have heard, a female baby gorilla was born on Friday, November 20, to first time mom, Nadiri. First, let us thank you all for your congratulatory notes and kind words for keepers and staff. We appreciate your enthusiasm and support for this special new girl who has stolen our hearts.

The baby is thriving. Under special care of keepers and veterinary staff, the western lowland gorilla is receiving round-the-clock care and is currently off public view. She is being bottle-fed human infant formula.

Just so sleepy after her birth journey.

Although Nadiri gave birth naturally, without intervention by staff, she did not show appropriate maternal behaviors. After giving birth, she walked away to the other side of the den and staff had to step in for the safety and welfare of the baby and to let the new mom rest. Because Nadiri was partially hand-raised and does not have experience with motherhood, zoo staff prepared for different eventualities.

Attempts over the weekend to introduce Nadiri to her baby have not been successful. According to Martin Ramirez, the zoo’s mammal curator, Nadiri’s interactions are positive but minimal. “She keeps her baby within line of sight and we hear content grunting, but she has not shown any interest beyond this and has not made a move to pick up her baby. While this is not the outcome we hoped for, we remain optimistic that her maternal behaviors will kick in,” said Ramirez. “The best thing for a baby gorilla, or any animal, is to have its mom take care of it."

Staff is caring for the baby in a bedroom next to Nadiri’s den where the mom and other two gorillas in her group can see the little one.

Wrapped snug in a fleece blanket, this little one is getting lots of love from keepers and vet staff who are caring for her in a room next to mom, Nadiri. Mom and baby can see each other as keepers provide human infant formula.

“The good news is that the baby is flourishing. We’re very pleased with the baby’s first 72 hours, a critical period for newborn gorillas. She’s feeding sufficiently and maintaining her body temperature,” explained Ramirez. “Our focus over the next several days is to ensure this baby remains healthy and to keep moving forward with attempts to unite Nadiri with her baby. We just need to be patient.”

We would like to thank our dedicated keepers and veterinary team who have stepped in to ensure this precious baby girl gets the utmost care and the best chance at reuniting with her mom. Updates on Nadiri and the baby will be posted here just as soon as we have more news to share.

Thank you for your patience and your warm thoughts; we are grateful to have such an amazing zoo family.

There is nothing sweeter than this little girl.

Friday, November 20, 2015

First-time gorilla mom Nadiri gives birth

Posted by: Gigi Allianic, Communications

An image taken from a closed circuit keeper camera showing Nadiri during labor in her den this morning. Photo: Woodland Park Zoo.

Curator Martin Ramirez monitors Nadiri via closed circuit camera during labor. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

After a night of restless tossing and turning, we knew pregnant gorilla Nadiri was close. Then the contractions started around 8:00 a.m. today and just about 4 hours later at 11:30 a.m. it finally happened—Nadiri brought her first offspring into the world.

Within moments of giving birth, Nadiri moved a few feet away from the baby and walked to the other side of her den. Keepers watching closely could see the infant was moving, though still wrapped in the amniotic sac. We made the call for the safety of the baby: it was time to intervene.

Curator Martin Ramirez explained that while we hoped Nadiri would immediately hold and care for her baby, we stepped in for the safety of the newborn and made the decision to let the new mom rest. All along, we’ve been preparing for all outcomes to ensure the health and well-being of the infant is the top priority.

Stepping in and removing the baby allowed the zoo’s animal health team to perform a neonatal examination on the baby.

It’s a girl!

Lead zookeeper Hugh Bailey and zoo veterinarian Dr. Darin Collins take a close look at the newborn girl behind the scenes at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo: Woodland Park Zoo.

According to Dr. Darin Collins, Woodland Park Zoo’s director of animal health, the average weight for a gorilla at birth is 4 pounds. “Our new baby weighs a healthy 5 pounds. Her vital signs look good and she is physically normal,” said Collins.

Following the exam, staff placed the baby in close proximity to Nadiri to evaluate her interest. Unfortunately, Nadiri didn’t approach her baby or show any interest. At this time, a bedroom adjacent to Nadiri’s den is being set up so she can see and hear her baby. Our goal is to methodically expose Nadiri to her baby and help kick in that maternal instinct. She remains within visual contact and has content vocalized toward her baby, so she’s showing some interest. We’ll continue these efforts as long as we see positive interactions.

The first 72 hours are the most critical for a newborn gorilla. “The baby has successfully taken her first bottle, and we are prepared to bottle feed and provide round-the-clock care until Nadiri shows signs she wants her baby,” said Ramirez. The new mom and baby will remain off view in the sleeping dens where it is a hushed, comfortable environment and staff can keep a close 24-hour watch.

The newborn marks the first gorilla born at the zoo in eight years and the thirteenth gorilla birth at the zoo.

The father of the newborn is 36-year-old Vip, who has sired six other offspring with three different females at the zoo.

“It’s very enriching for a gorilla to give birth and raise a baby, and natural overall for gorillas to have babies in their groups,” said Ramirez. “Despite hitting this road bump, we have had high hopes for Nadiri to get pregnant and have her own baby, so this is a very happy day for us!”

Because Nadiri was partially hand-raised as an infant and is an inexperienced mom, the zoo’s gorilla keeper staff took extra measures to prepare her for raising a baby. Through daily sessions, Nadiri was trained to pick up a burlap “baby” to present to the keepers in case supplemental feedings are needed for her baby. On cue, she presented the burlap baby to the keepers to allow them to feed through the mesh, using a custom-made bottle extension and to closely inspect the burlap baby.

The zoo’s goal is to allow Nadiri to raise her baby on her own. As long as Nadiri continues to provide solid maternal care, the gorilla’s human caretakers will remain hands off. We want to assure a healthy future for the little one.

Wrapped up in this new bundle of joy is a touching reminder of what's at stake in a world where gorillas face extinction in the wild. She carries very valuable genes underrepresented in the gorilla population, which is managed together across conservation zoos through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan.

In Africa, Woodland Park Zoo supports conservation efforts for the critically endangered western lowland gorilla through the Mbeli Bai Study, one of the zoo’s Partners for Wildlife. The study researches the social organization and behaviors of more than 450 lowland gorillas living in the southwest of Nouabale-Ndoki National Park, Republic of Congo. The data collected enables scientists to assess the vulnerability of populations to habitat threats and predict their ability to recover from decline.

That research is an investment in a future with gorillas in it, a future we fight for everyday thanks to your support.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The definitive guide to making hippo kisses

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Editor

If "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" is your holiday jam, brace yourself: this is as close as it gets!

This Fri., Nov. 20, head to the Zookeepers' Holiday Silent Auction to bid on a chance to go behind the scenes with 15-year-old female hippo Guadalupe to create your very own hippo-kiss painting.

Photos: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

With a mouth that can open to a massive 150 degrees and lips that are 2 feet wide, a hippo's kiss is unforgettable. As you can imagine, it's not always easy to make a hippo-kiss painting. But don't worry, we've got a how-to guide for that:

The silent auction is held by the Puget Sound Chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers. Along with the hippo kiss painting experience, this year’s auction will feature extraordinary experiences found only at the zoo, including opportunities to paint behind the scenes with a colony of Humboldt penguins, meet the zoo’s snow leopards up close and learn about the adaptations that allow them to live high in the mountains, and enjoy a private keeper talk and enrichment program with the zoo’s Komodo dragon.

Zookeepers' Holiday Silent Auction

  • Friday, November 20, 2015
  • 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. - Bake/lunch sale, auction preview and guaranteed bids 
  • 4:00-7:30 p.m. - Silent auction and bake/dinner sale
  • Woodland Park Zoo Education Center, located adjacent to the South Entrance at N. 50th St. and Fremont Ave. N. Free parking available after 4:00 p.m. in the south parking lot at N. 50th St. and Fremont Ave. N. (located next to the Rose Garden). Entrance to the auction is free; access to the zoo is not included. 

Proceeds help support animal and habitat conservation projects around the world, the advancement of the zookeeping profession and education outreach. The Puget Sound American Association of Zoo Keepers (PS-AAZK) is a nonprofit volunteer organization made up of professional zookeepers and other interested persons dedicated to professional animal care and conservation. The PS-AAZK chapter aims to provide excellence in animal care by providing grants and scholarships for members to attend workshops, conferences and training seminars. The organization supports conservation efforts for bees, lions, vultures, tree kangaroos, iguanas and many more.  It has created an emergency fund to respond quickly when other facilities have emergent situations, such as the confiscation and follow-up care of over 3,800 critically endangered Philippine forest turtles by the Turtle Survival Alliance facility earlier this year.