Woodland Park Zoo Logo

Friday, March 24, 2017

Sharing smiles for over 25 years

Posted by: Kirsten Pisto, Communications

Ryther is a center that provides psychiatric and mental health services for children and youth. Just about 15 minutes away from Woodland Park Zoo, Ryther has been bringing kids to the zoo for over 25 years through the zoo’s free Community Access Program. These are the kids most in need of community and Ryther is one of the best kept secrets in our neighborhood.

They take in some of the most vulnerable children in the Puget Sound and beyond. At Ryther, kids are never turned away. Today Ryther works with the most complex kids. Their mission is augmented by the generosity of the community, their dedicated volunteer base, the Ryther League, from large donations and sponsors to tickets from local institutions such as the Seattle Aquarium and Woodland Park Zoo. 

This is a story about the kids in the Cottage Program. 

Listen to the full story and hear from some of the kids who live at Ryther, their amazing counselors Jasper Knox and Kirstie Arnberg, and Director of Organizational Advancement, Robin Bennett. Listen: https://soundcloud.com/user-731694519/ryther-and-the-community-access-program-at-woodland-park-zoo

Ryther is just one of over 600 Community Access Program partners in the Seattle area and beyond. The zoo’s Community Access Program works with hundreds of organizations such as Ryther to make the zoo more accessible to low-income, at-risk or underserved children and families. Why? Because we believe time spent with wildlife is educational, motivational and restorative.

Ryther offers and develops safe places and opportunities for children, youth and families to heal and grow so that they can reach their highest potential. Before children enter Ryther's Cottage Program they have been at an average of nine placements. 86% of those children transition to a family home setting.  Photo courtesy of Janelle Simms, Ryther
Something as simple as a visit to the zoo can have a profound impact on the lives of these amazingly resilient kids. Counselors bring small groups of children to the zoo to experience time away from the cottages, to connect with animals and nature, to experience their community and to create peaceful, safe and fun memories.

Special thanks to Robin Bennett and Janelle Simms for their time and support in telling this story. Photo by Dennis Dow, Woodland Park Zoo.
Thank you to Ryther for sharing their zoo memories with us, and thanks to our zoo visitors, members and the community for making this partnership possible. 

Because kids don't come with a manual

In addition to the Cottage Program, Ryther offers families and children a suite of outpatient services such as individual and family therapy, drug and alcohol assessments and treatment, teen and young adult co-occurring program for mental health and substance abuse, group therapy, aspiring youth camps and year round social skills groups for youth with autism spectrum disorders/ADHD/ development delays as well as autism assessments and diagnostics. If you know a child or family who might benefit from these services, you can visit www.ryther.org or call Ryther at (206) 517-0234 to speak with them today.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

VIDEO: Pregnant giraffe Tufani eating for two

Posted by: Alissa Wolken, Communications
Video and photo by: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Woodland Park Zoo

Spring has officially arrived, and it’s brought baby fever with it; giraffe baby fever to be specific! 

Like many zoos around the country, we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of a giraffe calf after confirming earlier this year that 8-year-old Tufani is expecting her first baby. With a gestation period of 14 to 15 months, we're expecting a tall delivery anywhere from mid-May to early July 2017.

So, what does it take to keep a pregnant Tufani comfortable and healthy? Lead keeper, and giraffe doula, Katie Ahl gives us the scoop on a few tricks of the trade.

VIDEO: Lead keeper Katie Ahl welcomes us to the giraffe barn where she explains the special enrichment and diet that goes into caring for a pregnant giraffe. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCGPkiqKVo0)

Tufani (left) with her nephew Misawa in 2013. 

The father is handsome 4-year-old Dave of course. This will be the first baby for both parents who were paired under a breeding recommendation made by the Giraffe Species Survival Plan (SSP), a conservation breeding program to ensure genetic diversity and demographic stability. Along with aunt Olivia and mom and dad, the baby giraffe will eventually share the savanna with zebras, gazelle and ostrich.

A Baby Giraffe Registry
You can help provide top notch care for expecting Tufani, and other African Savanna animals, by purchasing items from Woodland Park Zoo’s “baby shower” gift registry on Amazon: www.zoo.org/registry.

Bucket lids, chew balls and a molasses lick...what more could a pregnant giraffe (and her dedicated keepers) ask for?

Visit the baby giraffe registry www.zoo.org/registry
Your generous in-kind gift can qualify as a tax-deductible contribution. Please include your name, address and email in the "Gift Message" field when checking-out so we can send you a tax receipt and say thank you! For tracking purposes, please forward your purchase confirmation to donations@zoo.​org.
If you're as excited about this news as we are, then you'll be pleased to hear that we will be sharing updates on Tufani and crew right here as soon as we have more news to share. Thank you for showing your love for giraffes and all African Savanna animals.

Save the Date
Spring Safari: African Wildlife Conservation Day
Saturday, April 8, 2017

Celebrate the African savanna and the amazing animals that live there. This full day of activities focuses on migration patterns of African animals, educational keeper talks and special enrichment sessions to heighten awareness about issues such as illegal poaching and habitat loss, and how your choices and actions can help save giraffe, lions, ostrich and other critical savanna animals.
Gazelle and zebra in the mixed species African Savanna exhibit.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Hello, Hudson!

Posted by: Kirsten Pisto, Communications
Photos by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Woodland Park Zoo

Handsome pup! Hudson, an arctic fox and Woodland Park Zoo ambassador animal, shows off his finest pose.

When it comes to enchanting creatures, it’s hard to find a more charming species than the arctic fox. Seemingly pulled straight from a fairy tale, these captivating canines are incredibly tough and inhabit some of the most frigid habitat. One little fox in particular is already getting quite a lot of attention as his handsome mug graces the cover of our Spring membership magazine, MyZoo. 

Starting this spring, and even more-so this summer, you'll have the opportunity to meet a host of incredible creatures during our Ambassador Animals programs at thAlvord Broadleaf and Wildlife theaters. Depending on how his training goes, Hudson will be one of them, giving guests the chance to see some of his awesomely Arctic adaptations such as leaping, pouncing and being entirely silent on his padded paws. 

Resourceful, energetic and smart, this fox can adapt to any season and extreme environments. In the wild, arctic foxes are opportunistic and omnivorous feeders; they will eat virtually anything edible. Small mammals make up their preferred summer diet, but they also eat plants, bird eggs, insects and fish. Winter diets include marine mammals, birds, seals, invertebrates and carrion. They also eat berries and seaweed. 

We asked Regina Smith, one of Hudson's dedicated keepers and trainers, to give us the scoop on this little snowball.

Born: Great Bend Zoo and Raptor Center, May 20, 2016

Favorite things: Heavy duty dog squeaky toys, cardboard paper towel rolls and lightweight cardboard boxes (that have squeaky toys hidden inside).

Favorite treats: Dog kibble, mixed veggies (except one*), silverside fish and meatballs!

Least favorite treats: *Lima beans

Favorite activity: Sneaking up on his keepers and then running away at top speed when we try to catch him.

Where does Hudson hang out when he is not visiting with guests or training? If Hudson is not participating in a training session, he is usually curled up in one of his outdoor runs keeping an eye on what zoo staff and volunteers are doing. Hudson most often chooses to sleep next to a small stump.

Arctic foxes have extremely long and bushy tails that muffle the sounds made by their bodies crossing terrain. They also have incredible hearing and wide, front-facing ears, which allow them to locate the precise position of their prey beneath the snow. When an arctic fox hears its next meal under the snowpack, it leaps into the air and pounces, breaking through the layer of snow right onto the prey beneath.
Tell us a bit about Hudson: As an Ambassador Animal, Hudson does not live on exhibit; his role will be to give zoo guests the opportunity to have an up-close encounter with an arctic fox and hopefully an opportunity to watch him do some natural behaviors during a stage program. Hudson is very playful, intelligent, and is always ready to interact (aka have fun) with his keepers. He seems shy at first with new people, but quickly warms up to them— especially if they have treats for him!

Is he especially bonded to one of his keepers? That’s a hard question! I think I have the closest relationship with him, but it may be due to the fact that I was able to work with him when he first arrived. Hudson does well with all his keepers, but when we are asking him for new behaviors or ones that make him more nervous, he is more willing to try them with me.

What type of training has he received? As you will see, Hudson is a smart fox and a quick learner. He responds to target and clicker cues and can play follow-the-keeper or stand on a scale to be weighed. He loves to show off his signature arctic fox pounce!

Does he hang with any of the other Ambassador Animals? Hudson’s neighbors are Edna the chicken, Sky√°ana the porcupine, Lucy the raccoon, Calvin the opossum and Blueberry the hornbill.

Adorable level: 10

While many mammals hibernate during the winter, the arctic fox remains active throughout the frigid months. Their physical characteristics of superb insulation with fur and fat, combined with a stocky body shape enable the arctic fox to conserve body heat. During winters, their densely furred paws prevent heat loss through their feet. 
They appear, and disappear, into the snowy landscape. This seemingly magical creature, beloved by many and celebrated in indigenous folklore around the North, is a reminder of nature’s incredible ability to thrive. This summer, you'll get a chance to meet Hudson and learn about his wild counterparts and their amazing ability to live in some of the harshest landscapes on earth.

Snow day! Winter wonder: Arctic foxes have a tremendous tolerance for cold. Their metabolic rate only starts to increase at -58° Fahrenheit and they only start to shiver when temperatures reach -94° Fahrenheit!

You may already know that temperatures in the arctic fox’s native range are rising at twice the rate of the rest of the globe. Reduced sea ice, melting permafrost and rising sea levels are all signs of a warming trend in the Arctic. These trends threaten all species who make their home on the ice including polar bears, wolves, narwhal, walrus, whales, caribou, many sea birds, plankton and the arctic fox. 

The good news is that you can do something about it just by making small changes at home. Look for ways to reduce your carbon footprint by consuming sustainable resources, educating your family and friends about eco-friendly solutions for transportation and travel, adjust your thermostat, buy local, plug in compact florescent bulbs and unplug your gadgets! 

These small actions may seem simple, but just think, if each WPZ member household did just one action a month, that would be 43,000 steps closer to a healthy arctic landscape.

Special thanks to our generous donors for their support of the Alvord Broadleaf Theater and Wildlife Theater. 

Ambassador Animals and raptor programs made possible by support from: Rick and Nancy Alvord, Al Buckingham, Chevron Corporation, The Hanlon Family, Ben and Ginny Holtman in memory of Jack Holtman, Kenneth and SaSa Kirkpatrick, Darinee and Scott Louvau, D.V. & Ida McEachern Charitable Trust, Julia and Adam Ryan, The Sunderland Foundation and anonymous.
Meet Hudson and friends this summer

Thanks to our generous donors, you'll be seeing more of Hudson in our Ambassador Animals programs this summer. Over the years, guests have watched the impressive flying and hunting skills of birds of prey at the zoo’s Raptor Center. This summer, a diverse cast of ambassador animals will be added to the up-close, animal experience, Earn Your Wings, including pot-bellied pigs Annabelle and Bailey along with a rotating cast of guest appearances by flamingo chicks Paco and Pluma, arctic fox Hudson, raccoon Lucy, a skunk and others. Seating at the new Wildlife Theater will triple in a newly renovated visitor viewing area, better vistas will be offered and the sound system will be enhanced.

The new Friends by Nature program at the Alvord Broadleaf Theater offers zoo-goers an opportunity to meet a variety of ambassador animals including a hornbill, porcupine, and kookaburra through engaging, up-close experiences that incite empathy and the desire to take action for wildlife. 

Celebrate Hudson the arctic fox with a ZooParent adoption special, just $69: www.zoo.org/zooparent
If you just can't wait to meet Hudson, you can always adopt a ZooParent in his likeness. When you make a symbolic adoption, your gift directly supports conservation efforts at the zoo and around the world.

Friday, March 17, 2017

How Green Are You?

Posted by: Kirsten Pisto, Communications

Don't get pinched! This Saint Patrick's Day, make sure you are green inside and out. Take this quiz to see where you land on the zoo's green'o'meter.

While we're in the mood to rock all shades of green, let's see just how green you really are. Take the quiz at http://www.bit.ly/greenasgreen 

Good luck!

Are you as green as a waxy monkey frog? Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Zoo vets perform surgery on lizard that weighs less than one pound

Posted by: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Communications
Photos by: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Woodland Park Zoo

Misho gets a pre-operation inspection from veterinary staff.

Say hello to Misho the chuckwalla, a member of our Woodland Park Zoo family since he arrived here in 2000.

Chuckwallas are lizards native to the southwestern US and northern Mexico, typically measuring a little over one foot in length. Like many plant-eating reptiles, they enjoy basking on rocks in the sun and eating leafy greens.

At 25 years old, Misho is certainly getting up there in age. And recently keepers noticed he hadn’t been feeling all that well.

Misho at the zoo's animal hospital. 

Reptiles like Misho certainly aren’t known for being the most emotive creatures, and he can’t exactly tell keepers what’s wrong. So how can keepers tell when a lizard isn’t feeling himself?

“It has to do a lot with posture and behavior,” explains Dr. Kelly Helmick, Woodland Park Zoo veterinarian. Healthy and happy chuckwallas spend a lot of time basking, raising themselves up off the rock a just bit. “If he’s flattened out on the rock—if he’s not basking and his color changes and he’s sitting there with his eyes closed—that’s what lethargy looks like in a lizard,” said Dr. Helmick.

Which was exactly what keepers noticed in Misho.

Our animal health team stepped in to give Misho a diagnostic exam: listening to the heart and lungs, taking blood samples, and feeling his abdomen. And that last test is when the vets felt something that should not have been there.

Radiographs soon confirmed what the vets could feel: Misho had grown himself a giant bladder stone.

“That’s a really big stone...in a very small lizard,” recalled Dr. Helmick after her first look at the radiograph.

Misho's radiograph. The stone can be seen clearly just above his tail, between his hind legs.

The stone, it would later turn out, weighed just shy of six grams and most likely took months to years to build up. For a critter that weighs in at a mere 220 grams (less than 1 pound), six grams is hardly a trivial addition: it accounted for nearly 3% of his entire body weight. To put that into human terms, the average US adult would have a four to five pound rock nestled conveniently inside their bladder.

“And that’s probably why Misho didn’t feel well,” said Dr. Helmick. “As the stone shifted around, it made him uncomfortable,” she said. The stone was clearly affecting his day to day quality of life, and it was clear it had to go.

Several weeks later,Misho is resting comfortably inside of a warm, roomy incubator in the animal health building, presurgical antibiotics, fluids, and analgesics administered, awaiting his now imminent surgery.

Anesthetizing lizards isn’t easy, and as the surgery gets underway, Misho isn’t proving to be an exception. They can go minutes without breathing, making it harder for the gas to take effect. That, plus our reptilian friend’s size also makes inserting a critical breathing tube challenging.

Misho is so small, in fact, that no one manufactures a breathing tube small enough to fit; vets on staff custom-make their own out of other materials for him and others his size.

Vets hold up Misho as they administer anesthesia.

“Everything about this surgery is miniature. Some of the things we need for surgery and anesthesia just aren’t made that small. So we adapt and make our own,” said Dr. Helmick.

After a tense stretch of thirty minutes, the customized tube settles in and the anesthesia begins to take full effect. Dr. Helmick makes an incision, and after a little bit of searching, finds the stone. Luckily it easily pops out, and Misho loses six grams.

“The stone was even larger than I expected,” said Dr. Helmick.

Dr. Kelly Helmick, left, stitches up Misho after removing his bladder stone.

Dr. Helmick finished the operation by carefully stitching Misho back up, a process she described as “careful, but quick.”

Misho recovered well enough that he was discharged the next day back to his behind-the-scenes home, temporarily relocated from the Day Exhibit after the December 2016 fire. One thing remains a reassuring constant for Misho: rejoining his 16-year-old daughter and companion, Dembi.

As Misho continues to recover in the coming weeks, keepers and vet staff will keep a close eye on him to make sure he’s feeling well.

For Dr. Helmick, the surgery is part of another day on the job. “It’s part of the fun of a being a zoo veterinarian,” she said. “We provide the best care for our patients regardless of their size.”

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Youth climate leadership needed now more than ever

Posted by: Eli Weiss, Community Engagement

Among climate scientists and activists there is clear consensus that climate change is a global crisis and urgent action needs to be taken. 

As the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report indicates, there is no time to waste if we hope to limit global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Given this urgency, we are confident that the Seattle Youth Climate Action Network is needed now more than ever.

Since 2015, Woodland Park Zoo has focused our efforts to address climate change on working with youth and community partners through the Seattle Youth Climate Action Network (CAN). Seattle Youth CAN empowers teens to address climate change in their communities through education, leadership and action. Through this project, Woodland Park Zoo convenes community support for youth to gain the skills and confidence needed to become leaders in the continued fight for a better future for people, animals, and planet earth.  


When we developed the idea for Seattle Youth CAN in late 2014 with a group of passionate ZooCorps teen volunteers, we were responding to the call for tangible opportunities for youth to take action to address climate change. After several years of supporting and facilitating climate change focused engagement activities at the zoo, our teens were ready to lead by example and action to reduce their carbon footprint, in addition to encouraging our zoo visitors to do so. Two year later, close to 500 teens have participated in Seattle Youth CAN events, trainings, and our annual Climate Action Summit. We are proud of our progress and of the many teens and community supporters who have helped shape this exciting new project.

With two years of funding from The Ocean Project to pilot this program, support from the zoo’s education department, and commitment from Seattle Aquarium and Pacific Science Center (our two founding partner institutions) we have developed a model for local collaboration in support of youth-driven climate action and leadership. This year we are continuing to grow the project, and are working to make the network accessible and relevant for all youth in the Seattle area. 

Seattle Youth CAN has the potential to be the regional hub for youth climate engagement and action, and is also a model that can help inspire a national youth climate movement. This project has been a great experiment in local collective impact for the zoo and our community partners (see my full report on The Ocean Project Blog), and we continue to learn as a community about supporting youth driven action and working across sectors for conservation-focused youth development. 

Youth Action 

The past two summers, teen leaders developed and led an action campaign focused on getting peers to make transportation choices that reduce CO2 emissions. During the 2016 summer challenge, over 100 teens participated in events, social media and a team transportation challenge by logging 7,513 miles not driven alone which equals 3,214 pounds of CO2 saved! On a related note, in early 2016, teen project leads worked with King County Metro on a campaign to encourage youth to consider public transit and make the connection between public transit and fighting climate change. From this project, Metro produced a range of online resources including this video

This is how SYCAN has transformed my life. I now bus, carpool, or walk everywhere I go”  
-Masayuki, Youth leader and participant in the summer transportation challenge
(read his blog)


Soon after, a team of 11 teen leaders helped to organize the 2nd annual Youth Climate Action Summit at the zoo. The summit was held at Woodland Park Zoo and 100 youth participated, representing a wide range of schools and youth programs. We also had support from many of our community partners and local climate experts and activists, both in leading workshops and participating in the Climate Action Fair. Throughout the day, youth attendees had opportunities to connect with peers from around the region and engage with local climate leaders. 


This is an exciting time for the project and we have been busy gathering input from youth participants and community stakeholders to help us focus future programming on opportunities that are relevant and inclusive of all youth from our diverse community. In 2017, we plan to build on our successes with monthly events, opportunities for youth driven action, and our annual Youth Climate Summit. This year we will be forming a community steering committee to ensure that we have broad support for the project from both youth leaders and partners. In addition, we will be piloting a month-long Summer Learning Program for Seattle teens focused on climate literacy and careers, and hope to create paid internship opportunities to increase our capacity to support youth leadership and training.

Our youth are ready to take action and lead their communities on a more sustainable future path. Please join us in our journey as we work on regional solutions to tackle on of our planet’s greatest challenges. 

Seattle Youth CAN was really positive, especially when sending out my college application….I put a little of it into my college essay and actually got a note on my acceptance letter from one of my schools saying, ‘By volunteering for the Seattle Youth Climate Action Network you are making the world a better place.’ [SYCAN is] so unique and it’s not something most teens get to experience!
- Member of the 2016 Seattle Youth CAN Leadership Committee

Join Us!

Woodland Park Zoo and our partners are able to provide this program for youth in our community with generous support from our donors. To learn more about how you can support this program please email Kim Callahan, Annual Giving Officer, or call 206.548.2547.

Teens! For monthly email updates on events and opportunities to get involved with Seattle Youth CAN please sign up here or join our Facebook group.

Supporters! To keep up with our exciting progress you can follow us on Instagram and Twitter.