Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Quiz: Are you an expert on the nature of love?

Posted by: Kirsten Pisto, Communications

All you smitten kittens, it's time to test how wild at heart you really are. We challenge you to take our new ‎Valentine's Day‬ quiz to see how well you understand the nature of love.

Then join us for an early Valentine's Day celebration on Sat., Feb. 13 when it's time for bouquets, sweet treats and ruby red delights for the animals as keepers hand out valentines to our wild bunch.

Take the quiz now>>

Monday, February 8, 2016

Bring in the New Year Monkey-Style

Posted by: Kristin Quirk, Education

Today marks the beginning of Chinese or Lunar New Year and 2016 is the Year of the Monkey. What better place to celebrate than Woodland Park Zoo? We’ll be celebrating with holiday and primate-themed activities in Zoomazium and the Tropical Rain Forest exhibit now through Sunday, February 14.

Monkeys, like this golden lion tamarin, are at home in the trees and make walking on thin branches up high look easy. Photo: Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Those born in the Year of the Monkey are said to be smart, energetic, happy, curious and enthusiastic. They are also known for having a great memory, being self-confident and good at puzzles. Curious about your Chinese zodiac sign or what an ang pow is? Pop into Zoomazium this week for Chinese New Year inspired crafts, activities and fun.

Now, all monkeys are primates but not all primates are monkeys. So, what is the difference between a monkey and an ape, and what exactly is a lemur? Join us for a daily primate tour of the Tropical Rain Forest through Sunday to find out. We’ll depart from Zoomazium at 1:30 p.m. each day and pick up additional tour members at the great kapok tree that marks the entrance to the Tropical Rain Forest near Jaguar Cove.

Primates observe the world around them, learning skills as they watch family members perform tasks. Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Are you playful like a golden lion tamarin, vocal like a siamang, protective like a silverback gorilla or intelligent like an orangutan? With immersive exhibits that encourage leaping lemurs and swinging siamangs and creative enrichment that sparks orangutans’ clever brains, the primate care at Woodland Park Zoo brings out the natural instincts of these amazing primates.

Taking a quick rest before jumping back into action, the ring-tailed lemurs are very playful and a joy to watch. Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Our primate care extends beyond zoo walls, too. Woodland Park Zoo works throughout the world with projects in the countries where these animals live in the wild. The zoo’s work with collaborators around the globe is making a more sustainable world for people, wildlife and the landscapes we share.

The western lowlands gorilla is endangered and the simple task of recycling your small electronics can help gorillas in the wild. Photo: Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

From Africa to Malaysia, Woodland Park Zoo’s mission to inspire people to learn, care and act strives to connect people to these wild animals so together we can keep species like gorillas, orangutans and colobus monkeys thriving in the wild. Learn more about our Wildlife Survival Fund projects and Partners for Wildlife projects committed to primate conservation.

What we buy matters to orangutans living in Malaysia and Indonesia where 85% of palm oil is grown. Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

These regions have some of the most unique and rare wildlife that needs protection desperately. Always a favorite animal at the zoo, hours can be spent watching these marvelous primates. Learn how you can get involved and help primates in the wild.

Have a lucky and happy 2016 and remember to think monkey!

Primates are incredibly social, creating strong family bonds just like humans! Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

How would a middle schooler design anti-poaching solutions? ZooCrew students offer fresh conservation perspectives

Posted by: Caitlin Potter, Education

For young minds, learning doesn’t stop when the school bell rings and subjects like biology and engineering can really come to life in hands-on experiences beyond the classroom. The projects and advisors behind ZooCrew, our after-school program serving middle school age students through schools and community centers, give students early and positive exposure to how STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) can improve their world, like in our most recent quarter that tackled a pressing conservation issue: poaching.

For 8 weeks last fall, ZooCrew students at three Seattle middle schools, Asa Mercer International, Washington and Denny International, studied the African savanna. In addition to playing educational games, meeting live animals and learning about careers in science, ZooCrew students delved into the topic of poaching. We learned about this complex issue by exploring the different perspectives of people involved in poaching, from the poachers themselves to middlemen, government officials, police and conservationists, all the way to consumers in Washington state and elsewhere.

After learning about these many different viewpoints, the students took action to help endangered animals by working on a variety of projects:

WildCam Gorongosa and Chimp & See

One of our projects this quarter was contributing to two app-based citizen science initiatives based in Africa. With WildCam Gorongosa, students helped scientists working in Mozambique identify and categorize photos from camera traps. In Chimp & See, students identified animals and analyzed their behavior on remote video cameras. In both projects, participants learned about the wide variety of animals living on the savanna, many of which are threatened by poaching, and became experts at identifying them from remotely-triggered cameras. They created posters, dioramas and conservation messaging about their projects, and taught zoo staff and guests about the importance of camera traps and scientists in the fight against poaching. Both these apps are free to the public to use, and the scientists behind them greatly appreciate your participation! Take a page out of the ZooCrew book and help out!

Engineering for Conservation

A second project this quarter challenged ZooCrew students to identify an aspect of poaching that could be addressed with an innovative design project. Students at all three schools took this task to heart, and designed and constructed some impressive final projects! One group was interested in the illegal pet trade, and after meeting a live Egyptian tortoise, created a “robo-tortoise” complete with habitat and facts about why a robotic tortoise pet is a better choice than a wild-caught one. Two other groups were inspired by a presentation from Pembient’s Matthew Markus. One group designed a synthetic rhino horn substitute, and the other created a faux-leopard glove and scarf set to combat the demand for leopard pelts. A final group created a prototype of a video game that educates consumers about the dangers of poaching from the perspective of various African savanna animals dodging obstacles in the savanna. All in all, zoo staff and visitors were inspired by the students’ inventive and creative designs!

Conservation Art

ZooCrew students also learned about the power of art for conservation advocacy. They got in touch with their creative side by creating special edition trading cards and poaching artwork for the upcoming Spring Safari: African Wildlife Conservation Day at the zoo, advocating for elephants and endangered tortoises through sculptures and drawings, educating their peers about poaching with a Powerpoint presentation, and even creating a collage of ivory products in the shape of an elephant to teach consumers about where their trinkets come from. Please join us at the zoo on April 16 to see some of their fabulous conservation art in person!

Green Seattle Day Restoration Field Trip

Another highlight of the quarter was ZooCrew’s participation in a Green Seattle Day restoration event at Cheasty Greenspace. ZooCrew students and their families came together on a rainy Saturday to help community members restore their neighborhood park by planting trees, mulching, and pulling out invasive ivy and blackberry. As you can see from the photos, everyone had a great time despite the weather!

Zoo Field Trip 

We closed our exciting, action-packed quarter with a special outing to the zoo. Despite the chilly, rainy weather, the students had a great time playing games, exploring zoo grounds on a huge scavenger hunt, and presenting their projects to other ZooCrew students, their families, school staff, ZooCorps and zoo staff. They even got to meet African savanna zookeepers and wildlife up close and personal!

All of us here at ZooCrew would like to extend a big THANK YOU to our wonderful ZooCrew students for all of your hard work this quarter. We are so proud of you and what you accomplished! A special thanks also goes out to our community partners, ZooCorps volunteers and interns, and the zoo staff who help make this program possible every quarter. We are looking forward to another great ZooCrew term, this time studying climate change and the animals of the Northwest!

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Night Exhibit rises

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Editor

Indian flying fox fruit bats. Photo: Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

It’s a new dawn for the Night Exhibit.

Since the popular exhibit closed in the wake of the 2009 recession, we’ve heard one message from you all loud and clear—the dark night must return.

With the all new Banyan Wilds tiger and sloth bear exhibits now complete, and butterflies returning later this year, the time is right to shine a light, so to speak, on nocturnal animals once again.

In 2018, we plan to re-open a renovated Night Exhibit showcasing nocturnal animals in the dark.

The Night Exhibit will be renovated with a planned opening in 2018. Photo: Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Our night vision will come together over the next two years as we design, renovate and open the exhibit thanks to a public-private partnership, using funds available for major repairs from the city of Seattle Park District, along with private philanthropy.

Approved by voters in 2014, the Seattle Park District provides more than $47 million a year in long-term funding for Seattle Parks and Recreation including maintenance of parklands and facilities, including major maintenance at the zoo and aquarium; operation of community centers and recreation programs; and development of new neighborhood parks on previously acquired sites.

Artist’s rendering depicts exhibit entry where daytime visitors adjust their eyes as they transition into darkness.

To make the building more efficient and the exhibit more engaging, we anticipate the cost of the renovations to total $3-4 million. While a formal fundraising campaign has yet to begin, we have received a substantial early gift from The Nysether Family Foundation, which in the past has helped build several capital projects at Woodland Park Zoo, including most recently Banyan Wilds and the Historic Carousel Pavilion. You can contribute during this early phase by selecting the "Night Exhibit" from the Area of Designation in our online donation cart.

The zoo’s sloths were relocated to the Adaptations Building after the Night Exhibit closure in 2010. Photo: Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

When the Night Exhibit closed six years ago, some animals were moved to other zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and others remained on exhibit elsewhere at the zoo. As planning begins, we’ll look at our options for which nocturnal species will call the new exhibit home, such as fruit bats, sloths or small, arboreal primates.

Artist's rendering of an exhibit viewing window.

We heard from so many of you that in addition to the fascinating animals, a big appeal of the Night Exhibit is the sensory experience of being plunged into darkness. You walk a little slower, you breathe a little more deeply, you listen a little more closely and when you finally spot a critter on the move, the heightened moment makes your heart quicken.

Like the original exhibit, we’ll reverse the light cycle so that during the day you’ll be surrounded by the dark, with new features being considered like a night vision station and digital signage to help you find your way and see nature’s night shift at work.

The night shift begins. Photo: Ryan Hawk Woodland Park Zoo.

Look for project updates coming soon with more information about how to show your support. Can’t wait to begin your night watch? Keep tabs on our colony of Indian flying fox fruit bats streaming live 24/7 on the Bat Cam.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

A jaguar visits the dentist

Posted by Kirsten Pisto, Communications

Photos by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren

Providing terrific animal health care is one of the benchmarks of the zoo's mission and that includes dental care. Just like in humans, a healthy mouth is tantamount to the overall wellness of an animal. If you've ever wondered about how we provide that care, here is one detailed look at a jaguar's visit to the dentist.

Its 9:30 a.m. on Friday, January 15, and the hustle and bustle of the Woodland Park Zoo Animal Health building is well underway. The Animal Health team has prepped the procedure room for a special patient this morning, a 16-year-old male jaguar, Junior. He is here for an endodontic tooth repair on one of the biggest teeth in this big cats mouth, the right maxillary canine. The upper dental arcade of teeth are termed maxillary and the bottom teeth are the mandibular teeth. In the wild, jaguars use their canines to apprehend and potentially pierce the skulls of their prey. This tooth is really big, very strong and kind of terrifying, but one that needs a dentist nonetheless!

Curators are not sure how Junior broke his canine, but it was most likely due to old age. In the wild, jaguars live about 11 years, while in zoos they can live up to 22 years. Junior, at 16 years old, is well passed middle aged, and both his teeth and claws show typical signs of aging. Photo by Dennis Dow/WPZ.
A little backstory:
When keepers noticed Junior’s tooth didn’t appear normal and that his upper right canine was partially broken, veterinary staff called on the expertise of a local veterinary dentist consultant, Allen Matson, DVM, DAVDC of Eastside Veterinary Dentistry in Woodinville, one of only a few board certified veterinary dentists in the country. Lucky for the zoo, Dr. Matson is fairly close by and generously offered to volunteer his time to take a look at Junior’s broken tooth.

Dr. Matson visited Junior behind-the-scenes for a preliminary consultation. Keepers regularly work with both jaguars in open-mouth training to facilitate oral exams so that they can visually check for any dental health concerns. In circumstances like this, Dr. Matson was able to diagnose the problem. After visually examining the tooth each time Junior snarled, lifting up his lip and exposing his gum line, Dr. Matson saw that the break was rather large and the pulp cavity of the tooth was exposed. Because of this, the tooth would have to be treated to prevent infection and painful nerve damage inside the tooth root canal. After the visual exam, an appointment was made for Dr. Matson to return to the Animal Health Complex with his veterinary assistants to attempt to repair Junior’s tooth.

The set up:
On Friday morning, Junior is called into his holding area where veterinary staff carefully inject him with an anesthetic before safely moving him to the zoo’s Animal Health facility in a specially equipped zoo ambulance. After arriving at Animal Health, Junior is quickly lifted onto a stretcher using a cargo net. It takes five or six people to safely lift the 159.5 lb. cat. As soon as he is placed on the procedure table the zoo’s veterinary technicians place the anesthesia breathing tube into his trachea and secure it with a small string around his head to ensure he is getting the proper amount of oxygen and gas anesthesia. 

Veterinary Technician, Linda Moneymaker, expertly draws a blood sample, adjusts the breathing tubes and monitors the anesthetic depth during the dental procedure. Junior’s body relaxes and,  as soon as this happens, everyone in the room jumps into action. 
Junior’s enormous paws are draped delicately over the exam table. His regal-looking spots stand out against the insulated blanket that maintains Junior’s body temperature during the procedure.  
All hands on jaguar

Dr. Darin Collins, director, Animal Health Programs at Woodland Park Zoo is orchestrating the procedure today. The team shaves off a few patches on Junior’s legs to place an indwelling catheter for intravenous fluids. A blood pressure cuff is placed on Junior’s right front paw to assist with monitoring his vitals during the anesthesia. Dr. Collins signals to veterinary tech Kim Dawson to start the blood draw and IV drip. While Kim begins the blood sample collection, volunteer veterinary tech Janna O’Conner holds Junior’s legs and forms enough pressure to assist Kim in finding the veins.

Dr. Collins listens to the heart and lungs, while closely monitoring Junior’s  level of anesthesia and watches for any signs of discomfort or agitation.
Between inoculations, blood draws and monitoring the anesthesia machine, the veterinary technicians give Junior’s back and legs some reassuring pats. Standing off to the side are Junior’s keeper, Jamie Delk and collection manager, Erin Sullivan, who will stay with Junior through today’s procedure until he is safely back in his den.
Junior receives a cozy blanket inflated with warm air to keep his body temperature at the right levels during the procedure.
Dr. Darlene DeGhetto , a volunteer veterinarian, sets up the electrocardiogram that allows the vet team to monitor Junior’s heart activity during anesthesia. Linda continues to oversee the anesthesia and throughout the almost three hour procedure she will monitor the jaguar’s vital signs. All of this safeguarding and monitoring serves a purpose, and that is to allow Dr. Matson and his veterinary assistants to work on Junior’s tooth with safety in mind for both the jaguar and the humans in the room.

Dr. Collins checks Junior’s eyes in a blink test, the last step to be sure the anesthesia has taken hold. Then he gives the go-ahead to the veterinary dentistry team. It’s time to fix that tooth.

The tooth

Dr. Matson lifts up Junior’s lip and takes a close look at the tooth while his assistants, Kim Heilbrunn and Trisha Romanosky, prepare the workspace. They wheel over a tray of instruments like you might see at your own dentist’s office; a table with many different dentistry instruments laid out, a large overhead light, a dental x-ray machine and the familiar air and water syringe. Dr. Matson begins right away on the problem tooth, first cleaning and disinfecting the area. 

There are eight veterinary staff, each performing a task, a bustling of activities coupled with the whir and beeps of the machines while quiet directives are being given which prompt the delivery of larger tools or more gauze. While most hearts might skip a beat when staring into Juniors propped open mouth, the veterinary dentists trust the anesthesia. This is all quite routine for them.

A series of x-rays are taken from different angles to get a detailed look at the fracture. Junior’s tooth is so large that the team has to try a few x-rays for the right angles. 

For the next hour and a half, Dr. Matson will work on Juniors tooth. He will file off the canal, remove the nerve and clean the canal out. The tooth itself is dead, but if Dr. Matson can replace the soft tissue inside the tooth with this inert filler substrate material, then Junior wont likely lose this large canine during a possible extraction procedure in the future.

This team of veterinary technicians are pros at working with dogs and cats, but a cat this large offers a few new challenges. Dr. Matson remarks that the largest tooth he had worked on previously was a large dog canine that measured maybe 45 millimeters long. Junior’s tooth is 70 millimeters long, so special tools and resourcefulness are key for today’s success.

That’s a wrap
Dr. Matson tells Dr. Collins that there is a little bit of persistent bleeding right at the tip of the tooth where the blood vessels come in. Since that could not be stopped today, Dr. Matson will put a dressing called calcium hydroxide in there which will cauterize the area and then he will place a temporary filling on the tooth. Then in two months Dr. Matson and his team will come back to open up and clean out the tooth. Afterwards, the dentist will use permanent material to fill up the canal just like a human root canal.

With Junior’s tooth in good shape for now, the veterinary technicians prepare the jaguar for transport back to Jaguar Cove. Kim hooks Junior up to intravenous fluids to make sure he is fully hydrated. Radio calls are made by the collection manager to alert staff at the receiving end that Junior is almost on his way home.

The lift-net is draped carefully  under Junior and then he is rolled onto his side while the net is tucked underneath him. Then, with an “on three,” command the vet staff has whisked him out the door and into the ambulance. 
After a few minutes the radio buzzes and we hear confirmation that Junior is back in his den. Keepers will keep a close eye on him as he begins to wake up. They’ll make sure he is hydrated and that his appetite returns, a healthy cue for any animal.

The veterinary dentist and his team collect their tools and unplug the special dental x-ray machine they have brought with them. I ask Dr. Matson about this experience and what makes this patient different than others. He tells me, “The thing is that this is just beautiful. You know, he’s such a beautiful animal; it’s awe-inspiring being next to him. That’s the biggest thing. I just feel privileged to be that close to him.”

Huge thanks to Dr. Allen Matson and his veterinary assistants Kim and Trisha for volunteering their time and professional expertise at the zoo. Junior may not remember their loving hands, but his tooth is already looking better! 
Special thanks to our entire team of Animal Health experts who are the absolute best at providing top-notch, excellent patient care to all of the animals here at the zoo.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Baby gorilla at two months old; curious and strong

Posted by: Gigi Allianic, Communications
Video and photo by: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren

Nadiri and her baby are getting to know each other and learning new things about each other day by day. 

Here is video of our girl exploring new tactile sensations and trying out a few luscious leaves. Keeper Traci Colwell gives us a quick update on the newborn’s progress.

Video of the baby gorilla exploring new tactile sensations and tasting a tiny leaf.

The baby gorilla receives attentive care by keeper and veterinary staff in a den behind the scenes of the gorilla exhibit, where Nadiri can see her baby and her baby can see her mom throughout the day, every day. “For the long-term benefits and welfare of the baby gorilla, it’s important for her to know she’s a gorilla, not a human. She never leaves the gorilla den. Here, she is exposed to her mom and can also see, hear and smell the zoo’s other gorillas,” said Martin Ramirez, mammal curator at Woodland Park Zoo. “It’s also a step toward integrating her into a family.”

Multiple times a day, the mom and baby gorilla are introduced to each other in the same den. During recent sessions, the two have lain just inches apart. “This is definitely progress. The close proximity is a good sign they’re comfortable together and getting to know each other,” said Ramirez.

An intimate view of Nadiri and baby behind the scenes in their cozy, private den. Photo by Woodland Park Zoo.

Meanwhile, the baby, currently weighing 8 pounds, continues to thrive and achieve the appropriate milestones at 2 months old. “She’s getting stronger every day and developing motor skills. Like a typical baby, she’s curious and exploring her surroundings,” said Ramirez. The baby also has cut new teeth. “Her fourth tooth just came in, so like most typical baby mammals, she has the urge to chew. She’s chewing on leaves her mom offers.” 

Getting her lips around a fresh sprig of leaves is a new experience for this tiny gorilla. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

In February, Nadiri turns 20. She, herself, was hand raised as an infant because her mother, Jumoke, experienced complications during labor and a team of human physicians were called in to assist the zoo’s veterinary staff with the delivery. Despite daily attempts to introduce Jumoke to her newborn, she didn’t show any interest in her baby. During Nadiri’s time of birth, it was customary, and acceptable with current scientific knowledge, to hand raise great apes with expert care staff in sterile nurseries.

Two decades later, as animal care and husbandry practices have evolved, gorilla infant care has shifted from a human-centric program to a gorilla-centric upbringing.

“Gorillas are intelligent animals that live in complex, social groups. Constantly being with a mom is natural for an infant gorilla. This gives the infant confidence and a sense of security. These are critical characteristics for a gorilla to live a healthy, social life with multigenerational gorillas, which is a natural grouping for the great ape,” explained Woodland Park Zoo General Curator Nancy Hawkes, who has a PhD in biology and specializes in mammal reproduction. “This is why raising a baby gorilla needs to be gorilla-centric from the start. Today, following proven, advanced practices, we are focused on making sure she is exposed around the clock to tactile, visual, auditory and olfactory stimuli by her mom and other gorillas.”

The zoo will continue its hands-on care program for the baby gorilla for approximately the next two months before evaluating next steps, and will continue mother and infant introductions as long as the sessions remain positive.

In mid-February, the zoo will reach out to the community to help name the baby gorilla. A naming contest will be announced and information will be available on the zoo’s website at

Related blogs:
First time gorilla mom gives birth
Baby gorilla thrives, introduction sessions between mom and baby continue