Friday, April 17, 2015

Inclement weather reroutes Woodland Park Zoo elephants to San Diego Zoo

Two days ago, Woodland Park Zoo’s female Asian elephants, Bamboo and Chai, departed on a custom-built elephant transport vehicle for their new home at Oklahoma City Zoo. The caravan had to change their route in Salt Lake City due to a storm in Colorado and Wyoming that was expected to increase in severity. Because the reroute would have extended the trip a day longer, a decision was made for veterinary precautions to go to San Diego Zoo and allow the elephants to rest.

Bamboo and Chai at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by Mandi Fillmore/Woodland Park Zoo

A total of three elephant experts, two veterinarians and three staff with the transportation consultant are accompanying the truck transporting Bamboo and Chai. The team has been making stops every few hours for wellness checks on the elephants and to provide food and change water.

According to Martin Ramirez, mammal curator at Woodland Park Zoo, an extra day on the road would have been challenging for Bamboo and Chai. “For their well-being, we made the proactive decision to head to San Diego Zoo. They have expert elephant and veterinary staff, the room to accommodate our elephants and the appropriate equipment on site to unload our elephants,” said Ramirez.

On arrival at San Diego Zoo, Bamboo and Chai have been unloaded from the travel crates into an indoor facility where the elephants will be in quarantine, which is standard procedure for any new animal at the zoo. The indoor facility and outdoor yard are off view to the public.

Woodland Park Zoo’s and San Diego Zoo’s veterinarians have done a preliminary health assessment on each elephant. “Understandably, just as after a long road trip ourselves, both elephants are tired and show signs of muscle stiffness. They both need the time to walk around, stretch their legs, and adjust to their new surroundings. We don’t know how long our elephants will stay at San Diego Zoo. We want to give them time to rest comfortably,” said Ramirez.

“We are extremely grateful that San Diego Zoo has opened its home to accept Bamboo and Chai at this time. We are fortunate that the expert team at San Diego Zoo is available to provide this assistance and accommodation,” said Dr. Deborah Jensen, Woodland Park Zoo President and CEO. “We are disappointed that we couldn’t continue on to Oklahoma City, but the health and welfare of our elephants come first. We did not want to keep them on the road an additional day.”

“The Oklahoma City Zoo team stands ready to assist in any capacity for Bamboo, Chai and our Woodland Park Zoo colleagues. Collaborative efforts among Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) accredited zoos including Woodland Park, San Diego and Oklahoma City continue to focus on the safety, well-being and preservation of the animals in our care,” said Dr. Dwight Lawson, Oklahoma City Zoo Director and CEO.

San Diego Zoo’s Elephant Care Center opened in 2009. San Diego Zoo currently has a mixed Asian and African elephant herd in which the six females are socially integrated and a bull lives separately.

For information, visit

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Show Your Stripes Tour: Art of Conservation

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Editor

Conservation starts with conversation.

To save tigers, we need to get people talking about tigers.

Here at Woodland Park Zoo, we’re transforming the heart of the zoo into the new Banyan Wilds exhibit opening May 2. And now we’re bringing tiger conservation into the heart of the community too.

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

The Show Your Stripes Tour launched today at the base of the Space Needle with the unveiling of 10 tiger statues designed by local artists.

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

With fewer than 3,200 tigers left in the wild, now is the time for action. The zoo challenged each artist to select a conservation issue these endangered big cats face and bring the story to life using any media or style.

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

The results will challenge you. Inspire you. And motivate you.

Are you ready to show your stripes for tigers?

Photo by John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo.

Show Your Stripes

There's an art and a science to tiger conservation.

The Science
Woodland Park Zoo and Panthera, a global wild cat conservation organization, support and collaborate with local, on-the-ground tiger conservation partners in Malaysia. Together we conduct long-term tiger ecology and population research, strengthen anti-poaching activities by assisting law enforcement agencies, and build the capacity of local organizations—all aimed to conserve these critically endangered cats and the forests they need to survive. 

Every zoo visit makes this work possible, and the work must continue here in our communities to make the biggest impact.

The Art
The Show Your Stripes Tour is heading to your communities this summer. Seven of the statues will be featured in summer-long installations around Seattle, Bellevue and Kirkland, while three will hit the road to show up at markets, parades and community events in your neighborhood.

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

by Robert MacDonald
Presented by Jungle Party Co-Chairs
Location: Space Needle/Seattle Center
Debuts: April 16, 2015

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

by Nathan Dean, Kent Holloway and Greg Federighi
Presented by U.S. Bank
Location: Woodland Park Zoo
Debuts: May 2, 2015

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

by Valerie Collymore
Presented by The Bellevue Collection
Location: Bellevue Square
Debuts: May 18, 2015

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

by Sherry Raisbeck
Presented by Brown Bear Car Wash
Location: Washington Convention Center
Debuts: May 11, 2015

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

by Ryan Henry Ward
Presented by MarketPlace @ Factoria
Location: Traveling schedule

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

by Kelly Lyles
Presented by the Harrelson Family
Location: MOHAI
Debuts: May 13, 2015

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

by Rickie Wolfe
Presented by Morton Wealth Management of RAYMOND JAMES
Location: Traveling schedule

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

by Ian MacNeil
Presented by Kirkland Life Chiropractic
Location: Maison DeLille, Kirkland
Debuts: May 20, 2015

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

by Steve Jensen
Presented by Katharyn Gerlich
Location: Seattle Public Library Central Branch
Debuts: May 7, 2015

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

by Piper O’Neill
Presented by Seattle Seahawks
Location: Traveling schedule

#ihearttigers Contest

To spread the tiger love, we issue a challenge to you:

Each artist has hidden a heart on their tiger—find it, snap a photo, share using #ihearttigers and tell us why you love tigers.

Photo by Kirsten Pisto/Woodland Park Zoo.

You’ll be entered for a chance to win a private, catered breakfast with the tigers for you and four friends at Banyan Wilds. Get complete rules and prize details for the #ihearttigers contest.

Love tigers and tigers will live on.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Elephants are on the road to Oklahoma City Zoo

Chai and Bamboo at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

A new chapter began for female Asian elephants Bamboo and Chai when they stepped into elephant-sized travel crates, were loaded on the flatbed truck, and left Woodland Park Zoo for their new home at Oklahoma City Zoo. The truck pulled out at 6:15 p.m. PST today, April 15.

Bamboo and Chai at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by Mandi Fillmore/Woodland Park Zoo.

Bamboo, 48, and Chai, 36, were the last remaining elephants at Woodland Park Zoo. Their departure came after four months of planning to ensure they can join a family of Asian elephants and live in a socially enriching environment.

The 2,000-mile journey to Oklahoma City will take approximately 35 to 40 hours. A total of three elephant experts, two veterinarians and three staff with the transport consultant are accompanying the truck. The trip will be straight through except to stop every few hours to check on the animals’ well-being and to provide food and change water; the elephants will have continuous access to water during the trip, not just at stops. The truck has a 65-gallon water tank, which will be refilled as needed along the way.

“We understand that many zoo members and members of our community may be disappointed by the departure but legal disputes against Woodland Park Zoo complicated our ability to announce notice in advance,” said Dr. Deborah Jensen, Woodland Park Zoo President and CEO. Further, for the safety and security of Bamboo and Chai, the exact timing of departure could not be announced. “Our priority was to help our elephants make a smooth and safe transition into the crates and onto the truck without incident.”

Chai at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

The elephants also are being monitored via wireless cameras in the truck. “There is always an inherent risk in transporting animals and we are taking every precautionary measure to ensure that Bamboo and Chai arrive safely, as we do for all of our animal transfers,” said Martin Ramirez, Woodland Park Zoo’s mammal curator. As a contingency plan, zoo veterinarians and elephant experts are available along the travel route pre-arranged to respond if needed.

“Just like people pack coolers and food for road trips, we ‘packed a trunk’ for our elephants consisting of 200 pounds of pellets, 660 pounds of hay, four cases of watermelon, one case of cantaloupe, one case of honeydew melon, two ball toys, five bags of wood shavings for the crates and feed tubs,” added Ramirez.

Preparing elephants for a move required extensive planning. For the past two months, Woodland Park Zoo keepers worked diligently to acquaint the elephants with their travel crates. On a daily basis, the elephants were given access to the crates. “They became comfortable rather quickly and keepers offered positive reinforcement with food rewards and verbal praise,” said Ramirez.

Woodland Park Zoo's veterinary staff pose in scrubs painted by Chai and Bamboo as a special memento before their departure. Photo by Woodland Park Zoo.

Woodland Park Zoo announced in February that Bamboo and Chai would move to Oklahoma City Zoo to join a family with a larger, multi-generational herd, which was a primary recommendation of the Woodland Park Zoo’s Elephant Task Force. Jensen said Oklahoma City Zoo was selected because it meets Woodland Park Zoo’s set of criteria based on recommendations from animal welfare experts including: a social herd of Asian elephants into which Chai and Bamboo may successfully integrate, a state-of-the-art facility, a healthy environment free of active infectious disease, excellent keeper and veterinary care, a restricted contact management system (keepers and animals are always separated by protective barriers), and an established history of stable finances and leadership.

According to Dr. Nancy Hawkes, Woodland Park Zoo’s general curator, elephants in the wild live in multi-generational herds. “We’re very excited about the opportunity for Bamboo and Chai to join a growing family at their new home where they’ll have the chance to be companions and even aunts to younger elephants. This is a very natural social grouping for elephants,” said Hawkes.

Oklahoma City Zoo currently has an Asian elephant family of four females and a male, ranging in ages from 2 months old to 47 years old: female Asha, 20; female Chandra, 18, sister of Asha; female Malee, 4, the daughter of Asha; female Achara, born December 2014, the daughter of Asha and Rex; and sole male Rex, 47, the father of Achara.

Female elephants at Oklahoma City Zoo. Photo courtesy of Oklahoma City Zoo.

Upon arriving at Oklahoma City Zoo, Bamboo and Chai will be unloaded from the travel crates into the barn where they will be in quarantine for 30 days, which is standard procedure for any new animal at the zoo. During the quarantine period, the elephants will have access to two stalls inside the barn and one exhibit outdoor yard, and will have visual, auditory and olfactory contact with the other elephants. Their new keepers will provide them with a variety of enrichment items and favorite toys to help keep them stimulated and comfortable as they adjust to their new surroundings. In addition, Woodland Park Zoo’s elephant staff will spend as much time as necessary with Bamboo and Chai to help ease their transition to a new facility and help settle them into their new surroundings.

Oklahoma City Zoo has expertise in integrating herds and will follow a methodical plan that socializes Bamboo and Chai with the herd in incremental steps. According to Laura Bottaro, an animal curator at Oklahoma City Zoo, introductions will begin in the barn where the elephants can see, smell and touch one another through protective barriers. “During the introduction process, elephants work out a social hierarchy. This process can be immediate or it can take months. We will follow the cues of the animals,” said Bottaro.

Factors in the Decision

Woodland Park Zoo Society Board announced in November 2014 it would phase out its on-site elephant program after several months of working to implement the recommendations of the Elephant Task Force to grow its Asian elephant herd and program. Adding to the herd of our two elephants to create a multi-generational herd was not realistic in the foreseeable future and would work against the broader social welfare of Bamboo and Chai.

WPZ’s analysis included consideration of many of the other 32 facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums that currently hold Asian elephants in the U.S. and the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) facility located in California. PAWS currently has only one female Asian elephant remaining, which is not a natural social grouping for elephants, and is struggling with an active tuberculosis infection.  As a consequence of the TB infection at this facility, Woodland Park Zoo’s elephants would be required to be socially isolated from, not integrated with, other Asian elephants. These circumstances alone—active TB infection in the herd and social isolation instead of herd integration—are insurmountable disqualifiers regardless of the potential space that may be available at the Performing Animal Welfare Society facility.

Elephants in Borneo, courtesy of Woodland Park Zoo Partner for Wildlife Hutan Elephant Conservation Program.

Woodland Park Zoo will remain committed to supporting its elephant conservation projects in Borneo and Tanzania and will continue to play a key role in seeking legislation to ban trafficking in elephant ivory in the state of Washington.

For more information, including a Q&A for your reference, please visit

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Building Banyan Wilds

By Kirsten Pisto, Communications
Photos by Kirsten Pisto, Woodland Park Zoo (unless noted)

At the heart of the zoo, we’re putting the finishing touches on our most ambitious exhibit project in nearly two decades. Banyan Wilds is our new home for three Malayan tigers, three sloth bears, an entire family of frolicking Asian small-clawed otters and a colorful aviary. We are eager to open this immersive exhibit to the public on May 2. As we watch the final details come together, we can’t help but share with you a sneak peek at some of the elements you’ll find in the tigers' and sloth bears' new home and a look back on what it took to get here!

As luscious bamboo starters are positioned to plant, here is one view into the new tiger yard. The blue tape on the windows reminds workers that glass is in place.
This view of the tiger stream is for tiger eyes only, but visitors will be watching from another viewpoint as tigers splash and play in the cool water.

Building this exhibit has been a labor of love and loads of hard work. This project began in early 2010, when the very first sketches of the plan were imagined. Like many projects of this scope, plans were envisioned, drafted, reworked, and sometimes reworked again and again and again. When it came to ensuring the safety and welfare of our residents, we admit, we were sticklers for precision. It took many meetings between guest experience experts, our animal management team, sustainability gurus and our fabulous in-house interpretive crew to nail down (no pun intended) the blueprints for what would become Banyan Wilds.

Drawings such as these sketches by interpretive designer R. Scott Vance help shape the look and feel of the exhibit.

In 2012 we broke ground on the first part of the exhibit. Completed in time for summer 2013, this portion of the exhibit introduced guests to a brand new species for Woodland Park Zoo, the Asian small-clawed otter. The playful family has become a highlight of the zoo and a must-see for many visitors. In addition to the otters, we unveiled a very choral aviary currently home to azure-winged magpie, Chinese hwamei, Nicobar pigeon and great argus. And if you’ve visited the zoo with anyone under 10 years old, you’ve undoubtedly been introduced to the play space at the entrance of the exhibit—complete with wobble logs, balance beams and the ever popular zip line.

The first half of the exhibit was complete in 2013, and we can’t wait to watch you experience Banyan Wilds in its entirety. Photos by Ryan Hawk and Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Since last summer, we’ve been busy bulldozing, digging, laying rock, sculpting banyan trees, painting ant hills, planting bamboo and completing a myriad of construction to-dos in the remaining tiger and sloth bear exhibits.

Pouring cement for the new crossroads between the two exhibits, you can see the sloth bear viewing window in the background.
Hand painted detailing comes after the sculptural elements are in place.
Dirt, dirt, dirt… many kinds, many uses and in great supply.

The blueprint for this exhibit reads like a walk through the forest, at each vista guests are shown a glimpse of a larger story. Each element—tiger pool, sloth bear cave, Field House (where you'll get to know our field partners in Malaysia and the conservation projects they are undertaking), Asian-small clawed otter spring, caretaker's place (where you'll have the opportunity to learn more about sustainable palm oil) and the great banyan tree—is a sliver of life in the Asian tropical forest. Deliberately composed, these tangible features form what we hope is a lesson in living landscapes. 

Our goal is that while you'll visit the tigers and sloth bears to get up close to these awe inspiring animals, you'll also take away lessons about the people who share the forest and the communities that rely on its resources; sometimes in harmony and sometimes in competition with wildlife.

Get up close and you’ll notice our design crew’s intricate attention to detail, such as these lichens, which were hand painted on this cement banyan buttress.   
Sloth bear footprints lend a spark of intrigue to the pathways.

From the texture on a single vine to the shadows made by a forest gate, our interpretive team has poured over each and every detail in this immersive new space. Designers have drawn from the rich landscapes of India (where sloth bears reign), the Malay Peninsula (where tigers reign) and 12 South Asian countries in between (Asian small-clawed otters are found throughout South Asia). These regions are also home to Asian elephants, tapirs, civets and numerous wild cat, primate and bird species. Banyan Wilds invites you to witness the diversity of Asia’s tropical forests and contemplate the crossroads we face in learning to coexist with wildlife in an ever-changing landscape.

Inspired by the natural rock formations in India, the sloth bear yard has plenty of space for napping, exploring and climbing.

With features that allow keepers to perform state-of-the-art animal care and enhanced enrichment opportunities, the exhibit is also an occasion to showcase and celebrate our commitment to animal health and excellence in zookeeping. A jostle tree built especially for a curious tiger, hot rocks that makes a tiger’s poolside nap just a bit more relaxing, a termite mound (full of grubs) for a snacking sloth bear—the new exhibit serves to please our animal residents most of all.

Capital Projects Manager and stunt woman Monica Lake demonstrates the jostle tree, a tiger enrichment element that blends into the exhibit. Tigers can shake the tree and if treats are placed inside, they will land on the ground nearby.
This termite mound in the sloth bear yard will dispense real insects as special enrichment for the vacuum-like snackers.
Keeper Bret Sellers gets up close with one of the boys. The tiger training wall area lets guests watch keepers perform health checks and daily training with the big cats. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

When you visit in May we hope you’ll be inspired to connect with our animals and their story; leaving with a better knowledge of how truly linked we are to their world. Discover how communities are learning to coexist with wildlife—and how our actions can make a difference all the way across theglobe.

It's your generous support—and the support of more than 1,250 individual, foundation and corporate donors—that has made this exhibit possible, and we can't wait to celebrate with you. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Banyan Wilds: 1 month away, years in the making

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Editor

The return of tigers and the opening of ‎Banyan Wilds‬ on May 2 are less than a month away, but they've been years in the making.

One of Woodland Park Zoo's Malayan tigers testing out the new exhibit. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Follow the story of how an exhibit comes to life and a community comes together for a better future for wildlife and people:

Video: Tigers return to Woodland Park Zoo, Thrive 2015. Produced by VIA Creatives for Woodland Park Zoo.

We'll continue to share updates on the project each Tiger Tuesday as we count down to the grand opening. Thanks for making all this possible. We can't wait to celebrate with you!

Monday, April 6, 2015

New maned wolves: Hello, Vinny and Lana

Posted by: Kirsten Pisto, Communications

The newest residents of the zoo have made their debut! Welcome maned wolves Vincent (Vinny) and his mom, Lana, to the Wildlife Survival Zone.

Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

After arriving last week, the two maned wolves scoped out their digs in the former cheetah exhibit, which has now been re-contoured to meet their needs. They meticulously investigated every stick, log, berm and napping cave in their grassy exhibit.

Neither a fox nor a wolf, Chrysocyon is a species all its own with stilt-like legs, a pointed muzzle, an impressive red coat and dark mane along the back.

Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

At home in the grasslands and scrub forest of central South America, these crepuscular canines roam the marshes and woodlands at dawn and dusk in search of fruit, small mammals, birds, eggs and invertebrates. They are particularly fond of a tomato-like fruit called lobeira (nicknamed the wolf apple) as well as bananas, apples and avocados. Incredible adaptations such as superb sense of smell, long legs and keen eyesight assist in hunting and running through tall, thick grasses.

In the wild, maned wolves are shy and primarily solitary, although a breeding pair usually remains monogamous and shares territory. Pups are born in litters of one to five during late summer. The female has help from her mate in grooming and defending the pups, and sometimes the male will help feed them by regurgitation. At about one year, the pups will leave their family to live on their own.

Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Maned wolves aren’t as vocal as other wild dogs; instead they use their pungent urine as a clear form of communication. A maned wolf can tell a lot by sniffing another’s scent mark. Often used as a means of marking territory, the strong “perfume” can act as a warning to other maned wolves up to a mile away.

While they don’t have many natural predators, maned wolves are vulnerable to domestic dog attacks and diseases that feral dogs might spread. Highways and urban sprawl remain especially dangerous to these animals, since they are often struck by vehicles while hunting at night. In addition, habitat loss and agricultural expansion chip away at habitat and isolate subpopulations.

Our maned wolves are settling in to their new schedule and will get to know visitors. As mother and son, they lived together at the Greensboro Science Center in North Carolina before arriving in Seattle in March. All maned wolves in zoos are owned by the Government of Brazil, so they are technically on loan. Lana, a female born January 9, 2009, weighs 55 lb and her son Vinny, a male born February 6, 2011, weighs 62 lb.

Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Lana is a bit smaller than Vinny and is the lighter colored of the two; Vinny’s coat is a bit darker and redder.

To see the maned wolves, head to the Wildlife Survival Zone at the southwest end of the zoo (where our visiting cheetahs were housed last summer). The duo will probably be most active in the mornings and afternoons, as mid-day hours will be used for dozing!

See the Maned Wolves at Party for the Planet

Make a day of it when you visit during Party for the Planet, Apr. 11 - 19, our spring break celebration of all things wild. Take part in learning about the planet through fun conservation activities, live musical performances for kids, eco tours, keeper talks and raptor flight demonstrations.

Join a text message scavenger hunt throughout the zoo by texting “planet” to 56512 to get started. Everyone who completes the hunt will automatically be entered for a chance to win a behind-the-scenes encounter for four at the award-winning Humboldt penguin exhibit.

And don’t forget to visit elephants Bamboo and Chai before they head to their new family at Oklahoma City Zoo. Look for special keeper talks at the elephant exhibit on April 11 and 12 to learn more about these amazing animals. Get the full Party for the Planet schedule.