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Monday, November 20, 2017

Grow with Yola, hello 2!

Posted by Kirsten Pisto, Communications

Happy Birthday Yola!

Yola and her vine swing. Photo by Dennis Dow, Woodland Park Zoo.

A very gorilla birthday

Mischievous, playful, smart, curious, adorable and loved—that’s Yola. Today, November 20 is her second birthday. The 2-year-old gorilla won’t be getting a heart-shaped cake or streamers, she won’t be renting a bouncy house either—instead she’ll spend the day with her gorilla group, her family, doing what all 2-year-olds do best. She’ll push boundaries by stealing someone’s stick, she’ll snuggle up close to mom when she feels like it, she’ll play chase with her aunt Akenji, and undoubtedly she’ll investigate whatever Leo is up to—but most importantly she’ll be a gorilla.

Being a gorilla is important. Gorillas are endangered. We hear that word a lot, but let’s think about what that really means. Their habitat and natural range is shrinking every day, and while we’ve made some progress in providing them protection —most of the wild population lives outside these protected areas. Many gorillas live in areas strife with political turmoil, hazardous development and even war. They are endangered due to habitat destruction and human encroachment, they’re slaughtered as bushmeat and hunted by poachers. They also face infectious disease as human populations increasingly overlap with their habitat.

Yola, at 6 months, clings to mom, Nadiri. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Woodland Park Zoo.
According to a 2010 United Nations report, conservationists believe gorillas may disappear from large parts of the Congo Basin by the mid-2020s. Yola will only be around 8-years-old by then. It’s hard to imagine a world without Yola. It’s even harder to image a world without wild gorillas. On her second birthday, let’s promise Yola we will stand up for her wild cousins and protect their future.

Woodland Park Zoo members, guests, staff and volunteers have shown an outpouring of love for Yola since she was born two years ago. We followed along with fingers crossed as dedicated keepers made sure Yola developed a bond with mom, Nadiri, so she would grow up gorilla. We all cheered as Leo, a male gorilla with a somewhat uncertain family history, stepped up to be a true silverback—protecting little Yola and showing affection for her. We watched in anticipation as the young gorilla was introduced to aunt Akenji and have delighted in watching them play together. We’ve watched as children play hide and seek with Yola. We celebrated her species on World Gorilla Day. It’s not hard to look into her eyes and feel your heart grow a little bigger, and for that we are all better off.

Yola at about 2-months-old. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Woodland Park Zoo.

Yola, which means “firefly” in the African language Hausa was chosen because the baby gorilla became a spark that catalyzed and solidified the bonds within her gorilla group, and on her second birthday, it’s clear she has also sparked in all of us a stronger commitment to conservation.

Today we celebrate Yola with an update from her utterly devoted keepers and a promise to be a spark for building a sustainable future for all gorillas.

Yola at 2

Yola and a young guest share a moment. Photo by Dennis Dow, Woodland Park Zoo.
Gorilla keepers Stephanie Payne-Jacobs, Hugh Bailey, Rachel Vass, Judy Sievert and Traci Colwell and curators Kim Szawan and Pat Owen have been with Yola since her birth. They’ve watched her grow and seen her behavior develop and her character blossom. They’ve also been witness to just how much her presence has positively impacted her group—seeing Nadiri, Akenji and Leo become family.

Stephanie and Hugh share a few of their favorite recent moments with Yola:

It always makes me smile when Nadiri goes to retrieve Yola. Yola is usually laughing as she pretends to "struggle" with Nadiri as if to say no to her mom and not come to breakfast or bed. Even though Nadiri usually gets her way (mom knows best), Yola is always testing the boundaries and never passes up an opportunity for play.

There are so many great memories of Yola’s first 2 years, capping with the most recent bouts of play wrestling on exhibit with Akenji and, just yesterday, repeatedly poking Leo in the behind, which caused him to push her away with his foot as he was trying to rest.

I like when she shows her mischievous/curious and playful side the most—when she sits next to Leo while he gets his daily hand treatment and cleaning and plays with the physical rehab props we use with him. Or when she runs past Akenji from a safe distance and playfully tags her. When she squeezes into the door ahead of her mom and swipes the bowl of applesauce her mom gets in the evening—rushing off to eat it in an area that Nadiri cannot easily get to. 

In the evenings, she becomes a wild child and swings and somersaults—being an overly-energetic 2-year-old when we’re trying to feed her dinner. She’ll grab a piece of food in one hand and set off for a swing, eating as she goes.

When she tries to elude her mom’s embrace when we’re shifting them around for meals. (Nadiri knows that she needs to wrangle her baby and shift with her, which Yola doesn’t always want to do.) Yola wants to be with Nadiri and would be upset if we shifted Nadiri away, but she loves the thrill of escaping her mom’s arms and running off… much like any toddler.

We’re just all so glad that she seems to be equally stimulated by her group members and the public at the viewing windows. She seems to genuinely find enjoyment engaging with the kids that come to see her, more so than the adults.

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Woodland Park Zoo.
Keepers tell us that just like any 2-year-old she isn’t shy about showing her preferences either, one of which is tossing unwanted food items out of her room, towards her keepers. It’s usually a raw carrot or a cucumber chunk, but they say even flying vegetables are pretty adorable when it’s coming from Yola!

Happy birthday Yola! Hope year 2 is full of your favorite fruits, lots of play time and plenty of treetop adventures.

What you can do for gorillas

Yola is at the center of her gorilla family. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Woodland Park Zoo.

All gorillas are threatened by habitat loss, wildlife trade, hunting, disease and human conflict. Critically endangered and losing ground every day in the wild, gorillas need our help.

Recycle cell phones for gorillas

Come recycle your handheld electronics with us through ECO-CELL to preserve gorilla habitat. By reclaiming the minerals in your electronics and diverting them from landfills, we can reduce demand for mining in gorilla habitat. 

How: Bring any old cellphones, MP3 players, or tablets hanging around your house to the zoo and drop them off at our ECO-CELL station at Woodland Park Zoo's West Membership.

Funds generated from recycled electronics will go toward our Mbeli Bai Gorilla Project that works to protect gorilla families like Yola’s in the Republic of Congo. 

Buy sustainable wood

By purchasing FSC-certified forest products, you can help protect gorilla habitat by encouraging sustainable forestry and curbing illegal logging. Without the FSC label, your timber might come from illegal or destructive sources in central Africa. Do the right thing and support companies that are FSC certified.

Adopt a ZooParent gorilla

ZooParent adoptions are the perfect gift for budding conservationists. Your ZooParent adoption helps us provide exceptional care for all of Woodland Park Zoo's amazing animals. Plus, your support contributes to our conservation efforts at the zoo and around the world.

Visit the zoo

Every visit to Woodland Park Zoo helps support conservation efforts like our Wildlife Survival Fund project, the Mbeli Bai Study. The study researches the social organization and behaviors of more than 450 lowland gorillas living in the Republic of Congo, providing the scientific basis for conservation strategies.

Yola learning the ropes earlier this year. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Woodland Park Zoo

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Sunbittern chick makes fluffy debut

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

The cutest, fluffiest little sunbittern chick hatched recently in the Tropical Rain Forest (TRF) canopy!  

Hello, little one!
At  two or three weeks old, it can already be seen stretching its legs and its trademark long, thin neck around the nest. If you are willing to crane your own neck a bit, you can get a good view!

Camouflage fluff keeps baby hidden in the nest.
Sunbitterns typically look for dips in tree branches to lay their eggs, lining the nests with mud, moss, plant fibers, and other soft materials. Females lay between one and two eggs, and both sexes share the nest guarding, incubation, and brooding duties.

Once the egg(s) hatches, usually in about thirty days, the parents will continue to share feeding and brooding duties.

A lesson in how to gulp grubs makes for a picture perfect image.
Sticking close to mom, for now.
Our chick fledged the nest recently and its downy plumage is already beginning to be replaced with adult feathers. Those same feathers will result in the sunbittern’s signature plumage, which when displayed with spread wings will appear to be a large, colorful set of eyes. The birds use the impressive display for courtship, and to deter potential threats and predators. 

The chick is already showing the beautiful linear patterns of black, grey and brown.
It’s been four years since our last sunbittern chick hatched and hand-reared by keeper staff. That same bird, a female, is now the mother of our newest chick !

Feed me! The chick will demand lots of snacks from its parents as it grows.
Once our new chick is grown and independent, its final home will be determined by the Species Survival Plan for sunbitterns, which Woodland Park Zoo coordinates for accredited conservation zoos nationally.

But until then, pay a visit to the TRF canopy and be sure to look up!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Home Sweet Home Thanks to Seattle Park District Funds

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

There really is no place like home. Home is where we rest, relax and where we go to recharge. For our residents—the 1,200 animals who call Woodland Park Zoo home— home is where they snooze, play, explore and snack.

Seeing Woodland Park Zoo as a home is crucial to how we care for our animals—and just like your home—the zoo needs improvement from time to time to stay in top condition.

We are extremely grateful to Seattle voters for passing the Seattle Park District ballot measure nearly three years ago. The funding provided by the Park District—about $1.8 million a year—goes toward maintaining our dens, trees, caves, hot rocks, roofs and watering holes.

With this funding, we are able to update old parts of the zoo and keep new parts well-maintained. We consider this “home improvement” to also be preventative maintenance. We’d like to highlight a couple of important projects we have done around the zoo this year.  

Keep warm, keep well 

Some of our favorite memories are made around warmth. Snuggled up under blankets, cozy and sharing the heat with people we love. Baby gorilla Yola and mom Nadiri share the warmth with each other in the gorilla den they call home.

The gorilla dens at the zoo just got a major upgrade. With the design and final installation of a new air-handling and heating system, the gorillas will be cozy for months to come. These additions were completed at the end of September. This type of improvement allows the zoo to continue to provide excellent welfare just in time for the winter months. Thanks to Seattle Park District funding for making it possible to stay cozy. 

Walk this way

The zoo’s Northern Trail Boardwalk replacement project has begun! With Seattle Park District funding, Woodland Park Zoo will be able to entirely replace the original wood structure which has stood since 1993.

The Northern Trail mimics the habitat of Alaska’s tundra and taiga region and features animals that make this area their home including: brown bears, Roosevelt elk, river otters, snowy owls, mountain goat and Steller’s sea eagles. The new design was completed in June of 2017, followed by construction, which will continue throughout the end of the year. The new boardwalk leading in and out of the area will make it easier for guests to visit the animals and was made possible by Park District funding.

Could I trouble you for some browse?

When we are not busy making changes for home improvement and preventative maintenance we are busy sharing meals with those we love. At the zoo meals for several animals is browse—branches, twigs, and other forms of vegetation—and is typically collected by the horticulture team. 

This past month the zoo’s Horticulture team received a helping hand from City of Seattle Parks and Recreation. After hearing from the zoo, Parks promptly responded and helped the zoo collect willow and alder to be shared by #seattlestallestdad Dave. In all, two truckloads of browse were dumped at the giraffe barn.

Although there is an existing connection to Parks through the Seattle Parks District, this food gathering was a unique experience. This was the first joint collection of browse between Woodland Park Zoo and Seattle Parks for Dave. We plan on continuing this collection work together moving forward.

We are very thankful to Seattle voters and Seattle Parks for helping us make the zoo a better home for all of our animals! 

Friday, November 3, 2017

Welcome Joy and Scarlet, new maned wolves

Posted by Alissa Wolken, Woodland Park Zoo
Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Woodland Park Zoo

We have some new long-legged creatures to introduce you to! We welcomed two female maned wolves, sisters Joy and Scarlet, from the Little Rock Zoo in mid-October. You can now visit them at their exhibit in the zoo’s Wildlife Survival Zone.

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.
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. 

The arrival of Joy and Scarlet followed the departure of the our sole maned wolf, Vinny. Vinny was recommended to be sent to Fossil Rim Wildlife Center to be paired with a female for breeding under the maned wolf Species Survival Plan, explains Shawn Pedersen, a collection manager at Woodland Park Zoo. Little Rock Zoo was looking for a home for their two young females, so we were able to move Joy and Scarlet here.

Since arriving in mid-October, the nearly 1-year-old sisters (born December 21, 2016) are settling into their new home quite well. “These two are young, playful and are adjusting well to their new surroundings,” says Pedersen. “Joy and Scarlet are relaxed around people; they even take their food gently from the zookeepers.” Some of the girls’ favorite foods include any meat or prey items, dry kibble and bananas; one of their least favorite foods is tomatoes. Other things the girls have in common, “they love chasing sprinklers and they seem to be avid hunters.”

Maned wolves aren’t as vocal as other wild dogs; instead they use their pungent urine as a clear form of communication.
In their short time at Woodland Park Zoo, Joy and Scarlet’s animal care team has also picked up on physical and behavioral traits that individualize the girls. “Joy is the dominant and more aloof wolf,” said Pedersen. “Scarlet is much less shy around people and the more playful of the two. Physically, the biggest difference seems to be the tips of their ears. Though subtle, Scarlet's ears have more of a flattish top.”

Maned wolves are large canids that have fox-like characteristics, an impressive red coat, large ears, and stilt-like legs, adapted for living in the grasslands and scrub forest of central South America, from Brazil to the dry shrub forests of Paraguay and northern Argentina.

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.
In the wild, the gentle and timid maned wolves are primarily solitary, although a breeding pair usually remains monogamous and shares the same territory. Maned wolves are listed as near threatened due to loss of habitat by encroaching human populations, the introduction of certain diseases and hunting for their body parts, believed to have medicinal healing powers. Only about 13,000 remain in the wild.

Curious and always checking out the scents in their new digs.
Accredited zoos are responding to species decline and are leading the way in preserving animal populations, including maned wolves. Conservation breeding of threatened and endangered animals is conducted through Species Survival Plans (SSP), conservation breeding programs coordinated through the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. Woodland Park Zoo participates in 108 SSPs. 

Testing out Pumpkin Bash treats in late October.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Holy bat exams!

Posted by Gigi Allianic, Communications
Photos by John Loughlin, Woodland Park Zoo

Bats may be top of mind on Halloween, but these amazing mammals should be revered every day of the year. Woodland Park Zoo’s six bats—Indian flying foxes—recently received their annual exams and are healthy and thriving.

A radiograph shows off the massive wingspan of the Indian flying fox.
The zoo’s animal health team performed the wellness exams at the zoo’s veterinary hospital. Ranging in age from 8 to 11 years old and weighing between 1.3 and 1.8 pounds, each bat received an overall health assessment that included body weights, bloodwork, dental and radiographs. The checkups are a part of Woodland Park Zoo’s exemplary animal welfare program.

The Indian flying fox, also known as the greater Indian fruit bat, has a widespread range on the Indian subcontinent that extends from Pakistan to Southeast Asia and China, and south to the Maldive Islands. 

“There were some small wing web holes and a few dental issues, all of which are not uncommon in bats,” said Dr. Tim Storms, an interim veterinarian at Woodland Park Zoo. A radiograph revealed previous fractures in one of the bat’s wings and knee that has resulted in some restricted range of motion in the affected joints, but this bat’s injuries were stable and didn’t require treatment. “Overall, our bats are healthy and continue to fascinate our guests in the Adaptations Building.” 

Fans of the nocturnal winged mammals can check out the zoo’s live Bat Cam, equipped with night vision, at all hours. The lights go down in the exhibit at 8:00 p.m. PT, and the bats become even more active during the night. Watch the colony of six male fruit bats as they dine, groom each other and chill out upside down at www.zoo.org/batcam.

The animal health team carefully handles one of the bats during a health exam.
Halloween is an opportune time to debunk myths surrounding bats such as bats are pests, are blind, are bloodsucking vampires, carry disease and are dirty. “Unfortunately, this extraordinary group of mammals is misunderstood. Many critical, ecological benefits come from bats,” says Jenny Pramuk, PhD, a curator at Woodland Park Zoo. “Bats voluntarily eat up to 600 mosquitoes an hour, while you are sleeping, protecting us from malaria, West Nile Virus, dengue and yellow fever. Bats help keep insect numbers down. They are a natural pest control and play a big role in helping pollinate flowers and fruit trees. And they’re no more likely than other wild animals to carry disease. We need bats.”

Bats are in danger. More than 1,300 species of bats exist across six continents, with 15 species found in Washington state. Their populations are declining across the world due to multiple threats including habitat destruction and roost disturbance, wind turbine disruption, and being hunted as a food source. According to Bats Northwest, white-nose syndrome, a devastating fungal disease, has killed more than 6 million insect-eating bats in North America since it was first documented in 2006.

A tiny stethoscope does the job!
As pollinators and pest controllers, the conservation of bats has a positive impact on the ecological health of the planet. To help protect bats and their habitats, join Woodland Park Zoo in supporting Bats Northwest, which helps protect Pacific Northwest bat populations through education and research. For the past four years, Bats Northwest has conducted acoustic surveys for bat species at several King County locations east of Seattle to develop new information on bat species in this region and their seasonality and habitat use. The survey data also is helping Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s assessment of potential impacts to local bats from white-nose syndrome.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

UW Husky football physician helps zoo vets treat gorilla with leg injury

Posted by: Gigi Allianic, Communications
Photos: John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo

A zookeeper holds Jumoke's hand.

Concussions, ACL tears, and knee cartilage damage are among the common injuries the UW Medicine sports medicine and head physician of University of Washington’s football team diagnoses and treats. Over the weekend, Dr. Kimberly Harmon brought her sports medicine expertise to help diagnose an injured gorilla at Woodland Park Zoo.

The zoo called in Harmon and other human and animal medical specialists for a diagnostic examination on Jumoke, a 32-year-old, female gorilla who was born and raised at the zoo. The 275-pound western lowland gorilla sustained leg wounds during a scuffle off exhibit in the sleeping dens with a young female gorilla in her group named Uzumma.

Woodland Park Zoo's animal care staff prepare Jumoke for her exam. 

Martin Ramirez, Woodland Park Zoo’s mammal curator, said gorillas are generally calm animals, but scuffles are not uncommon, especially younger gorillas challenging older gorillas. “Uzumma, who turns 10 years old this week, initiated the interaction with Jumoke. It was a display of natural adolescent behavior like a human teenager acting out,” said Ramirez.

While Jumoke has been going outdoors daily in the public exhibit, the gorilla keepers had observed progressive mobility issues. “Jumoke was having difficulty bearing weight on her right leg. Since animal patients can’t talk and tell their veterinarians where it hurts or describe the severity of the pain, we needed to intervene on her behalf by calling in a team of specialists to examine her for a bone or soft-tissue injury,” said Dr. Darin Collins, Woodland Park Zoo’s director of animal health. “Who better to call than the head physician of one of the nation’s top ranked football programs? We were very fortunate she used her expertise for Jumoke’s welfare.”

Jumoke was examined at the zoo’s veterinary hospital. Radiographs diagnosed a fracture of the tibia, one of two bones in the lower leg. Harmon was joined by Dr. Albert Gee, a sports orthopedic surgeon at UW Medicine, and Dr. Alex Aguila from the Animal Surgical Clinic of Seattle. The bone fracture is already showing signs of healing; no surgical fracture repair will be attempted at this time. The patient will receive antibiotic and pain medications, and have limited activity. “This type of fracture in a human is typical of a blunt force impact and should heal if a bone infection does not complicate the healing,” said Dr. Kimberly Harmon.

Jumoke also will undergo physical rehabilitation therapy to help her fully recover from her injury. Non-weight bearing exercises that maintain the normal range of motion of the leg joints will return her to normal function. 

Drs. Aguila, Gee, and Harmon.

As a part of the zoo’s animal health program, physical rehab is used to alleviate pain from an injury or surgery; to improve circulation or range of motion and coordination; and to enhance an animal’s quality of life, explained Collins. “The techniques of physical rehabilitation are non-invasive. Used in conjunction with traditional veterinary medicine, physical rehab provides additional medical care options to improve the recovery of patients with both chronic and acute conditions,” said Collins.

Dr. Leslie Eide using the shockwave therapy unit.

Harmon is a UW Medicine physician specializing in sports medicine, family medicine and orthopedic health. Also joining Harmon and the zoo’s veterinary team for the exam was Dr. Leslie Eide with Animal Surgical Clinic of Seattle, who is certified in canine rehabilitation with a focus in sports medicine.

“We take care of more than 1,000 animals at the zoo. To ensure we provide top-notch care to each animal, we consult with experts throughout the country when it’s necessary. Locally, we rely on a network of volunteer medical specialists to consult and perform exams, procedures and surgeries. We are so grateful to this network and especially to Harmon, Eide and the other specialists who donated their time and expertise to help our injured gorilla,” said Collins.