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Thursday, January 5, 2017

It may stink like a skunk, but new wildlife research technology works like a charm

Posted by: Gigi Allianic, Communications

A zoo research camera catches a glimpse of a wolverine checking out the new scent lure. Photo: Woodland Park Zoo.

As part of a Woodland Park Zoo and Idaho Fish and Game wildlife study, remote cameras and new, innovative scent lure dispensers installed last winter in Washington’s Cascade Mountains have successfully captured images of wolverines, a carnivore rarely seen in the wild.

Research scientists deploy motion sensor remote cameras and odorous scent attractants to capture images of elusive species such as wolverines, lynx, fishers, cougars, grizzly bears and gray wolves but, in the past, have faced challenges during the winter.

Scents naturally fade and need to be refreshed every few weeks, said Robert Long, PhD, a carnivore research ecologist and a senior conservation fellow in Woodland Park Zoo’s field conservation department. “Deep snow and dangerous avalanche conditions in the Cascades typically make it too risky in backcountry terrain to routinely change out baits or replenish odorous lures,” explained Long. “We needed an electronic device that would predictably dispense a small but regular amount of liquid scent.”

A winter sighting of a wolverine. Photo: Woodland Park Zoo.

Long teamed up with an Idaho Fish and Game colleague and Mike Sinclair, a Microsoft research engineer, to build the device. Sinclair designed the missing piece—a processor board—that ultimately led to a high-tech dispenser lure capable of dispensing scent all winter long.

Researcher Robert Long prepares the scent lure. Photo: Woodland Park Zoo.

Long installs the lure securely to last through the winter season. Photo: Woodland Park Zoo.

Twenty-four new dispensers were deployed in the North Cascades over the 2015-16 winter and were retrieved in early July. Long reports that wolverines were detected at 13 of the 24 stations, with a possibility of four to seven individuals represented. This is an extremely positive result given how widely these individuals roam and the vastness of the survey area. The cameras also lured other animals including Canada lynx, cougars, bears, Pacific martens and at least one gray wolf.

A bear checks out the scent lure. Photo: Woodland Park Zoo.

A cougar, too. Photo: Woodland Park Zoo.

“The new scent dispensers did their job,” said Long. “When used in the winter, or even in the summer, the dispensers dramatically increase the period of time that carnivore survey stations can be left out in the wild. Places too dangerous to access by researchers in the winter can be surveyed and researchers in the summer don’t have to revisit stations every three to four weeks to replenish scent or bait. This amounts to a tremendous savings in resources and increased safety for researchers.”

An upgraded version of the dispenser has been developed and 20 units are being deployed again this winter for testing. Long said the goal is to develop effective, non-invasive survey methods and protocols for wolverines. A version 2.0 dispenser coupled with changes such as rotating the cameras vertically and installing them above the high snow line could potentially result in a very effective survey approach. “This can get us closer to the overarching objective of creating a long-term monitoring program that will contribute to a better understanding of how the species is recovering and how individuals respond to climate change over the long term,” said Long.

We detected wolverines at 13 of 24 stations. Photo: Woodland Park Zoo.

Forty dispensers also are being tested at survey stations as part of a much larger wolverine study spanning Washington, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, which will generate even more test data next spring. The new scent dispensers have potential to help researchers monitor not only wolverines but other animals such as fishers, martens and Canada lynx in hard to reach locations in the winter and other seasons, explained Long.

The North Cascades terrain. Photo: Woodland Park Zoo.

Under the federal Endangered Species Act, the wolverine is currently being considered for protection as a threatened species. Trapping eliminated the species from Washington, Oregon and California by the mid-1990s and from most or all of its historical range in the contiguous U.S. as well. Today, researchers suspect there could be 20 to 40 wolverines living in the Pacific Northwest, representing the only existing population in the contiguous U.S. outside of the Rocky Mountains. The primary threat facing the North American wolverine is habitat and range loss due to climate warming, although studies are currently examining whether backcountry recreation and human disturbance also are negatively impacting populations.

Long, a carnivore research ecologist, is known for spearheading innovations in non-invasive wildlife research methods and conducts carnivore research in North America. He is currently focused on wolverine research and conservation in Washington state, and is helping to expand Woodland Park Zoo's Living Northwest conservation program which includes the Washington Urban–Wildland Carnivore Project.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Meet Rufous: He is very social, enjoys hay and is fond of back scratches

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


Ahem, drum roll please... Meet Rufous!



Rufous is the newest member of the Family Farm. This miniature Jersey cow is just 9 months old, but he has already become a barnyard favorite. Right now he weighs about 415 lb, but he'll be full grown at about 3 years old and could weigh between 1000-1200 lb. His tawny red fur is especially handsome.




His main diet is Timothy Hay, a high fiber basic grass hay. The young cow enjoys playing with and eating his browse, fresh edible plants provided by his keepers. Rufous received a Christmas tree, which he nibbled on and also turned into a sparring partner. Sparring is definitely one of his favorite pastimes, a natural behavior for young bull calves. He pushes his ball around the yard with his forehead and feet. Keepers also hung a jolly ball in the barn for Rufous to knock around.





Like his barn-mates, miniature donkeys Sam and Rico, Rufous likes to run and jump and kick, but the donkeys mostly keep their distance, so we are working on getting Rufous another young steer companion.




Rufous is playful and sweet with his keepers and enjoys chin rubs and back scratches. He seems to enjoy being brushed and he uses the large car wash brush in the yard to rub against, too.

Keeper Diane Abbey tells us he's very social and curious. He greets guests and often stands for petting and occasionally gives a surprise lick! 

Next time you stop by Family Farm, make sure to say hello to Rufous!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Quiz: Generate your green New Year's resolution

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Editor

It's great to make personal goals for the New Year, and while you are at it, consider making a promise to wildlife too. Use our green New Year's resolution generator to find an action that fits you. Then commit to making 2017 a brighter year for wildlife and wild places.

Are you an email subscriber or is the quiz not showing up in your browser? You can also take it here.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Change this country's wild future with a graduate degree

Have you been thinking of going back to school? Are you searching for a way to make a positive difference on the community and environment around you? Now accepting applications, Woodland Park Zoo’s Advanced Inquiry Program (AIP) offers a groundbreaking graduate degree from Miami University focused on inquiry-driven learning as a powerful agent for social and ecological change. Designed for a broad range of professionals, from education and conservation to business and government, AIP could be the next step in your career that you’ve been looking for.

Applications are accepted until February 28, 2017 for summer enrollment, and info sessions are coming up:



Since the program began in 2011, Woodland Park Zoo’s students and graduates have been enacting amazing environmental stewardship and social change in their communities. We’ve collected some of their stories about how the program has positively impacted their personal and professional lives both locally and globally.

Here, AIP graduate Sandra Becka shares how her AIP journey empowered her to be a voice for positive wildlife-human relationships.


WPZ: Why did you apply to the Advanced Inquiry Program?

Sandra Becka (SB): To best understand the why behind my motivation in applying to the Advanced Inquiry Program, I need to share a story—one that began close to a decade ago.

I was working as a wildlife biologist in New Mexico when I realized that efforts to captive breed and release Mexican gray wolves was no solution as their fate was, at the end of each day, the same. As a mere biologist I had no power to change this. Also exhaustingly the same was the fighting, name-calling and threats coming from those that owned land around Mexican gray recovery and release areas. It didn’t help that the diatribe was too often repaid.

Mexican gray wolf, 2007

There in the middle of nowhere, or at best, somewhere in the New Mexican desert I had an epiphany. I was going to go back to school and learn how to speak with the cowmen. I wanted to better understand the importance of ranching, the ranching culture and livelihood, and learn to educate the importance of the carnivore while working directly with communities. It took me longer to get here than I originally anticipated… but what an exciting time to be here!

I returned to Washington state (from New Mexico) mid-2008, just as the first wolf pack had returned after more than 80 years following extirpation, and I am here now as the grizzly bear is establishing a comeback in the Northwest.

Human-wildlife and human-environment conflict is in full swing; unfortunately this is what the media communicates on a consistent basis. However, there is so much more than opposition to this story. I believe that accounts of antagonism are misleading and distract us from the real issues and true stories—stories of shared hopes and visions for coexistence with wildlife.

This is why I wanted to be part of the AIP, as the core principles—community involvement and voice, environmental stewardship, and leadership—were my way to connect with communities so to share these stories and the true voices of real people.


WPZ: What impact has the program had on you personally and professionally?

SB: The biggest impact of this program for me was carrying out my community engagement project. During my Engaging Communities in Conservation Solutions class, I sought to connect the consumer of farmed goods, such as meat, cheese, eggs, honey and wool, to the power of their consumptive choices, making us more aware of how our choices can benefit predators and entire ecosystems.

There are only a small handful of farmers and ranchers out there that have made coexisting with carnivores an everyday choice as conventional farming practices, meaning those using lethal wildlife management praxis, are still the norm in North America. 44% of the landscape in the United States alone is farmland, farmland that wildlife utilize for migration, breeding or birthing ground, hunting and general habitat, making the choices of farmers critical to the future of wildlife. Wildlife and predator friendly farmers and ranchers need our support!

Crossing the Continent for Coexistence: travel route to 13 wildlife/predator friendly farms and ranches

I traveled to 13 Certified Wildlife Friendly® and Predator Friendly® farms and ranches across the lower 48 and Canada.

Participating farmers and ranchers were interviewed to capture their voices as well as explore, record and document a variety of non-lethal, adaptive management practices, including individual or unique innovations in wildlife coexistence.

This was executed via video, sound, photography and written case study. The goal was to create a database of non-lethal management techniques/tools from collected and recorded stories, ideas, thoughts and photographs.

Sandra's first stop was a chicken, sheep and goat farm near Eugene, Oregon where she met Sharon. Sharon's border collie Bucky and llama Lou are livestock guardian animals. They are part of the non-lethal predator disincentives that Sharon uses to protect her livestock from local cougar and coyotes. 

I wanted to make this information publicly available, thus acknowledging consumers and their buying power, inspiring conventional farmers and ranchers to move towards adaptive management methods, and to create wildlife conservation solutions through these certified farms and ranches.

Heading towards one of two Certified Wildlife Friendly® farms in Florida.

I traveled by car with a total travel time of four months. It was truly the most amazing learning experience of my life!

I am happy to report that my Crossing the Continent for Coexistence story is being put together as a book. This will be inclusive of farmer and rancher interviews, storytelling from the cross-country journey, and photos from the changing landscape. The goal is to reach a larger audience, inspiring wiser consumptive choices, as well as to share the stories and voices of wildlife friendly farmers and ranchers who are successfully coexisting with large carnivores throughout North America.


WPZ: What impact has this program had on your community?

SB:
As a result of this program, and the wonderful people I have met along the way, I decided to start a predator friendly farm myself, near to my local learning community in a rural-remote area of Washington. I’ve named my farm Wolves & Sage to celebrate the fact that when I started this Master’s program, Washington state had eight official wolf packs, and today we have at least 19.
I regularly monitor wildlife on the property using cameras and basic wildlife tracking techniques to examine species overlap and general population counts. I was inspired to learn about camera trapping in my Biology in the Age of Technology class during the course of this program, and it has become a standard practice on the farm as a way to tell our story of wildlife coexistence.



I attend local farmers markets in Seattle to share my farm goods and have expanded my community to include farmers, ranchers, and consumers of farm goods all across Washington. I have regular opportunities to discuss coexistence, to listen to the challenges of others and to propose solutions. I continue to do farm visits, as I did for my Crossing the Continent for Coexistence project, but within Washington. I maintain helping farmers, as well as documenting successful, non-lethal predator deterrents utilized in a variety of situations.

I found myself inspired by fellow students who had applied for various grants, such as for school gardens, and non-profit funding ideas. During the AIP program I applied for and was awarded a Washington State Department of Natural Resources financial grant to restore the Wolves & Sage farmland. The ecoregion is a semi-arid landscape and known for our wildfires and intense wildfire seasons. The grant will fund the thinning of portions of our overly lush pine forests and fuel reduction on the land to prevent future fire damage, and will also be used to create more healthy wildlife habitat. All of this allows for the growth of new food plants on the property to be utilized by both wildlife and human communities.

Wild Western serviceberries (Amelanchier alnifolia) on the Wolves & Sage farm, with the Cascade Mountain range in the distance. These berries are a favorite of local black bears and grizzly bears, as well as humans. 

Through this program I’ve managed to coalesce several factors and practices of great value to me—wildlife conservation, reconciliation ecology, herbalism, farming, simple living, and community building—all into a tightly knit platform that I call Wolves & Sage. I had no idea that my life would be so transformed in just three years! The greatest measures are my accomplishments throughout the Advanced Inquiry Program and how they will continue to live on with each farmer interaction that I have, and with each wild serviceberry that I decide not to harvest and rather leave for the bears who enjoy them so much, and of course with the predator photos that I capture with my wildlife camera and share with others—telling my story of the challenges and rewards that come with electing to coexist with large carnivores each and every day. My experience has given me a voice, one of confidence and authority, to help bring positive change to conservation.

Sandra and her farmhand, aka her dog Shiloh. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program: 20 Years of Awesome

Posted by: Alissa Wolken with Lisa Dabek PhD, TKCP Director and WPZ Senior Conservation Scientist
Video and photos by Ryan Hawk

As we reflect on 2016, one of our proudest milestones is a conservation program at the heart of the zoo’s mission to protect wild things and wild places. The Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program celebrated its 20th anniversary this year. Since its debut in 1996, the Papua New Guinea-based Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program (TKCP) has transformed from a humble, Woodland Park Zoo supported field conservation project into one of the world's leading community-based conservation programs.


In September, high in the cloud forests of Papua New Guinea, the partners of this program came together to celebrate their hard work, community partnerships and commitment to conservation with a beautiful celebration called a sing-sing. Neighbors from all over the Yopno-Uruwa-Som area came together at Weskopkop village to reflect and celebrate their achievement with dancing, speeches, elaborate costumes and friendships that have spanned the Pacific for two decades. 

The stunning colors and artistry of the festivity, which lasted for three days (no sleep!) are a testament to the accomplishments of everyone involved in this program. 
We feel exactly like this when we think about TKCP.

To celebrate TKCP’s 20th anniversary of building community and saving the Matschie's tree kangaroo, we sat down to talk with the program's founder and WPZ's senior conservation scientist, Lisa Dabek (LD), to see what it takes to protect this diverse landscape. Dabek, who has a PhD in animal behavior and conservation biology, studies the Matschie’s tree kangaroo and works with the TKCP team to protect the species in partnership with the local people.

A tree 'roo looks on as folks gather under colorful umbrellas.

WPZ: What inspired you to begin researching tree kangaroos in the first place?

LD: Two key people that introduced me to the world of tree kangaroos were Judie Steenberg (retired WPZ lead zookeeper ) and Larry Collins (Curator at Smithsonian Institution’s Center for Wildlife Conservation). I started studying Matschie’s tree kangaroos at Woodland Park Zoo (WPZ) in 1987 nearly 30 years ago! As part of my graduate studies at the University of Washington, I studied the behavioral development, mother-young interactions and the reproductive biology and behavior of female captive tree kangaroos. 

WPZ: Tell us about the Matschie’s tree kangaroo.

LD: The Matschie’s tree kangaroo belongs to the kangaroo or Macropod family. Matschie’s tree kangaroos live only on the Huon Peninsula of northeastern Papua New Guinea, in dense highelevation cloud forests. They have thick reddish fur to keep them warm in their cool, wet habitat and camouflage themselves among the reddish-brown moss growing on the trees. They mainly eat leaves, ferns, flowers, moss and tree bark. 

Matschie's tree kangaroo.

WPZ: How did TKCP get its start?

LD: I created the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program in 1996 in collaboration with the local communities in a very remote area of PNG’s Huon Peninsula called Yopno-Uruwa-Som or YUS. I wanted to apply the zoo-based knowledge of the endangered Matschie’s tree kangaroo to help the species survive in the wild in Papua New Guinea. My research began at Woodland Park Zoo, one of the first supporters of TKCP. Woodland Park Zoo has been our base of operations for the last 11 years, and the zoo is now partnering with our newly-established, non-governmental organization in PNG to run the program.

WPZ: In 2009, TKCP worked with local landowners to establish Papua New Guinea’s first national conservation area. How did this breakthrough come about?

 LD: TKCP uses a community-based approach to species and habitat protection, involving local landowners in decision-making and working with communities to address their needs. In PNG, more than 90% of the land is owned by indigenous clans. Land cannot be bought or sold; it is passed down from generation to generation. TKCP spent years meeting with the landowners and communities, building trust and a mutual understanding of wildlife conservation. The landowners in YUS chose to pledge portions of their clan lands to create the YUS Conservation Area so that future generations can depend upon their natural resources and carry on their cultural traditions. One of the greatest assets for protecting species and habitat is the leadership of local communities in managing resources sustainably. 

Dr. Lisa Dabek thanks the village and TKCP partners for 20 years of hard work during the sing-sing.

WPZ: What are the key elements that make TKCP successful?

LD: TKCP is successful because of the community-centered strategies we use to accomplish our mission of “ensuring sustainable health and prosperity for the living YUS landscape, biodiversity, people and culture.” Those strategies include:

 •Managing the YUS Conservation Area, including monthly YUS ranger patrols and establishing ecological monitoring
• Tree kangaroo research including studies on home range, habitat use and feeding ecology
• Land-use planning, in which landowners and communities zone their land and collectively define how their resources will be used
• Community needs, in which we address the community members’ needs for sustainable livelihoods as well as access to health and education
• Capacity building and training, including skills training and education as well as building partnerships to provide YUS communities with alternative opportunities 

Junior Rangers are the future and it is awesome.

WPZ: This year marks the 20th anniversary of TKCP. Can you reflect on the past 20 years?

LD: I never could have imagined we would be where we are. TKCP is actually involved in the first and only nationally recognized Conservation Area for the entire country. We are leading the conservation effort in PNG. The commitment of the YUS community and TKCP staff has been amazing.

WPZ: What have been some of the most memorable experiences?

LD: Every trip I take to PNG is memorable; having the opportunity to be with the community members in YUS whom I have worked with for so long is always significant to me. I also vividly remember the first time I saw a wild tree kangaroo! 

Late into the night, the sing-sing is still vibrant.

WPZ: What would you say is the biggest “aha” moment you’ve had?

LD: The decision by all of the YUS landowners to create a YUS Conservation Area. This was unprecedented for the country!

WPZ: TKCP is one of WPZ’s most comprehensive conservation programs. Why do you think conservation programs like TKCP are important in this day and age?

LD: If we do not focus on community-based conservation and sustainable living, we will not succeed in conserving endangered species. Conservation is ultimately about people!

WPZ: How can zoo guests and members be involved in TKCP?

LD: Lucky for us, zoo members and guests can directly support conservation in YUS by buying YUS Conservation Coffee at the ZooStores and through Caffe Vita! They can also visit zoo.org/treekangaroo to learn about other ways to get involved. Every visit to the zoo is a vote for conservation.

Danny Samandingke welcomes visitors to Weskopkop village for the celebration. Danny is Leadership Training and Outreach Senior Coordinator, TKCP.

WPZ: TKCP was awarded the Equator Prize in 2014 for its extraordinary community-based conservation initiatives and livelihoods development. This year, the @UNDP United Nations Development Program’s Equator Initiative published a case study on TKCP. Can you tell up about that?

LD: The case study is part of a growing series by the Equator Initiative that describes vetted and peer-reviewed best practices intended to inspire the policy dialogue needed to take local success to scale, improve the global knowledge base on local environment and development solutions, and serve as models for replication. We were incredibly honored to receive the Equator Prize in 2014 and we are thrilled the Equator Initiative chose to publish a case study on our program. We hope the study helps other conservation organizations incorporate more community-based initiatives into their programs to ensure sustainable health and prosperity for living landscapes, biodiversity, people and culture.

WPZ: What’s next for TKCP?

LD: We are very excited to have just received two new, five-year grants, one from the Global Environment Facility (through the United Nations Development Program) in close partnership with the Government of Papua New Guinea to strengthen the country’s protected areas efforts, and another through the Rainforest Trust to expand the 187,000-acre YUS Conservation Area to a 391,000-acre landscape-level protected area. The partnership serves as the national model for community-centered conservation, further protecting tree kangaroos and other endangered species, as well as growing our sustainable livelihoods projects, including YUS Conservation Coffee and cocoa. Above all, we will continue working in partnership with the communities of YUS and providing support for their leadership of conservation efforts.

The incredible beauty of  Papua New Guinea.

While we would love to invite each and every one of you to visit YUS area, please know that your support and visits to the zoo help make this benchmark possible, thank you.

Over two decades, TKCP has expanded to become a holistic, community-based program that responds not only to the needs of wildlife, but also to the local people and the ecosystems on which they depend.

Together with local landowners in 50 remote villages on PNG’s Huon Peninsula, TKCP has helped to create and manage the country’s first nationally-protected Conservation Area. The Yopno-Uruwa-Som (YUS) Conservation Area encompasses more than 180,000 acres stretching from coastal reefs to 13,000-foot mountain peaks, protecting ecosystems and habitat for the tree kangaroo and other rare and endangered species.

We are proud to support TKCP and can't wait to see what can be accomplished in 2017!

Friday, December 16, 2016

One Zoo

Posted by: Kirsten Pisto, communications

Thank you for your continued support and thoughts for the zoo during the event Thursday night and afterwards.

We’d like to update you with more details of the fire and the recovery efforts.

Fire crews fight the blaze from the roof of the Night Exhibit on Thursday, Dec 15. Photo courtesy of Seattle Fire Department.
At approximately 3:15 p.m. Thursday, 12/15, a fire was reported in the Night Exhibit. Within minutes of making the call, the Seattle Fire Department responded. The zoo’s Emergency Response Team also responded. The fire was contained at 4:30 p.m. Visitors were safely evacuated and there were no staff or visitor injuries.

Our staff practices emergency drills throughout the year. In fact, we had held a venomous snake drill the day before the fire.  These protocols helped immensely during the incident Thursday night, as everyone knew where they should go and what role to play. Because of our training and practice throughout the year, every team member was organized which allowed for an immediate emergency response.

The Seattle Fire Department reported that two firefighters sustained minor injuries during the event last night. Fortunately, they have been treated and released. Our thoughts are with them for a speedy recovery. 

Animals are removed from the Day Exhibit. Photo by Photo by Keith Neitman/Woodland Park Zoo.

Zoo staff and SFD work to secure a perimeter and evacuate animals from the Day Exhibit. Photo by Keith Neitman/Woodland Park Zoo.

Smoke spread to the adjacent Day Exhibit where about 200 animals—a variety of reptiles, amphibians and a tree kangaroo—call home.  Even as the fire department was working to put out the flames on the Night Exhibit’s roof, pairs of keepers, after given the okay by the fire chief, bravely ventured into the Day Exhibit to begin evacuating the animals. They wore respirator masks to protect them from high carbon monoxide levels, had assignments for evacuating specific animals, and were observed by the SFD’s medical team on exit to ensure they were ok. The keepers entered the building and hooked and bagged snakes by headlamp. They waded into pools to rescue turtles and crocodiles. The animals living in the Day Exhibit were evacuated and swiftly transported in warm vehicles to eight locations around the zoo, all within a two hour period. Our keepers always go the extra mile for the animals they care for and yesterday was no different.

Smoke can be seen coming from the Night Exhibit. Photo by Kieth Neitman/Woodland Park Zoo.
While the Night Exhibit has been closed to the public for nearly seven years and has no longer housed animals, a special room in the basement was used for turtles hibernating in the winter. Two black-breasted leaf turtles and four Indochinese box turtles had been placed in a hibernation chamber in the Night Exhibit building. While there were early indications that no animals were harmed, it was later learned that these six small turtles likely perished in the fire. We still do not have access to this building. Any loss of life is hard, but this loss is especially heartbreaking given the tireless work of our staff to evacuate all of the animals they could reach. The cause of the fire remains unknown but Seattle Fire Department has indicated the fire was initiated in the building’s basement. As you can imagine, our reptile and amphibian keepers would have done anything they could to retrieve these six turtles. Please keep them in your thoughts.

Zoo staff prepare temporary quarters for evacuated animals from the Day Exhibit. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/ Woodland Park Zoo.

Staff swiftly transport reptiles and amphibians to other areas of the zoo after removing them from the Day Exhibit. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/ Woodland Park Zoo.
Some snakes were put into pillowcases for safe transportation during the evacuation. Photo by Kirsten Pisto/Woodland Park Zoo.
As staff set up a perimeter and began to evacuate the surrounding exhibits, the entire zoo acted to assist in any way they could. Staff from many departments around the zoo helped out with gathering transport crates, bringing blankets for animals, warm jackets for staff, and other supplies needed for the operation. They found room in a fridge for the antivenom we store on zoo grounds. They made room in other animal units to hold the evacuees. They formed a command center to coordinate communication and logistics throughout the afternoon and evening.  Animal Health performed health assessments for as many animals as possible last night, and they are continuing that work today. 

The evacuated animals are all doing well as of this morning, and we have developed an action plan for their interim care until we get word we can return them to their homes in the Day Exhibit. 

A frog sits in its temporary home after being evacuated. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/ Woodland Park Zoo.

Relocated reptiles and amphibians are placed in temporary home after being evacuated. Photo by Kirsten Pisto/Woodland Park Zoo.
“The safety of our animals, guests and staff is our number one priority. Our animals are in good condition and we have an action plan for their interim care until the Day Exhibit can be safely re-occupied. Meanwhile, we’ll continue to keep a vigilant eye on each animal, and support our staff involved in their care,” says Nancy Hawkes, PhD, the zoo’s general curator. “The efforts our staff took to save these animals and their commitment and teamwork were heroic. They put themselves in harm’s way to save these animals. We are so grateful to the amazing support from SFD who put their lives at risk every day, and to the outpouring of support from our community.”

When you work at the zoo, it’s easy to see every day examples of the commitment and compassion our entire staff have for the animals that live here. Yesterday was especially hard for the zoo community, but it was also a testament to the kind of people who work here. Every single member of our zoo assisted in some way, and they were eager to help.

Jennifer Pramuk, PhD, curator of reptiles and amphibians manages the situation on Friday morning. Photo by Kirsten Pisto/ Woodland Park Zoo.
Just a few of the 200 animals that were relocated to temporary homes across the zoo. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

Zoo staff tend to the animals that were evacuated from the Day Exhibit. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/ Woodland Park Zoo.
The amazing support we received from SFD and the commitment, teamwork and heroics we saw from our staff and will continue to see over the coming days is heartening. 

As of now, the cause of the fire is still unknown, but SFD will provide more information as it is forthcoming. The firefighters were amazing to behold in their quick and efficient response. 

And you, our community of zoo fans and members, you sent us encouraging comments and thoughtful support throughout the night. We have also received great support from our zoo colleagues nationwide.

Many of you have asked if there are ways that you can help. Besides your continued support and uplifting words, if you’d like you can donate directly to amphibian and reptile care, by visiting https://www.zoo.org/donate, and designate “Reptile and Amphibian Care”.

The zoo is open this weekend with normal zoo hours 9:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. and we would love to see you.

Thank you for being on our team.


Thank you from Woodland Park Zoo General Curator Nancy Hawkes.