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Monday, February 5, 2018

6-week-old sloth bear twins open eyes and wiggle around

Posted by Alissa Wolken, Communications

Hello, little ones!

Footage of 6-week-old sloth bear cubs in the den with mom, Tasha. (https://youtu.be/mbOJOale-Fs)

Tasha's 6-week-old sloth bear cubs have opened their eyes! New footage, captured on the zoo’s maternity den cam, shows the growing cubs becoming more mobile and opening their eyes. The two cubs, born December 27, 2017, are the offspring of 13-year-old mother Tasha and 17-year-old father Bhutan.

Cub kiss! Tasha gives her cubs a bath and snuggles them in the den. Screenshot from the keeper cam used to monitor the family.

The mother and newborn cubs remain in an off-view maternity den to allow for their best possible welfare. This time is critical for maternal bonding and undisturbed nursing. Animal care staff is monitoring the new family via a camera inside the maternity den to ensure the cubs continue to thrive. Currently, the cubs are doing well and developing well. 

Woodland Park Zoo is a participant in the sloth bear Species Survival Plan (SSP), a cooperative breeding program under the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) that ensures genetic diversity and demographic stability among North American zoos. In addition, the zoo funds Wildlife SOS and their sloth bear research through the Wildlife Survival Fund.

For updates on the 2018 twinsies, check back right here and we'll keep you posted on their development milestones and any information on when you might be able to visit the cubs.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Chinta the orangutan celebrates her milestone 50th birthday!

Posted by Gigi Allianic, Communications

Chinta, our eldest female orangutan, is turning the big 5-0—a cause for celebration! Join us on February 17 for Chinta's birthday bash. The zoo will shower Chinta and her fellow companions with gift-wrapped presents full of favorite treats, streamers and flowers. And, of course, birthday cake! Chef David Van Gelder with Lancer Hospitality, the zoo’s food concessionaire, will bake a ginger-carrot cake fit for an orangutan and loaded with favorite ape ingredients including carrots, sweet potatoes and ginger.

Chinta cools off with a shower in summer 2017. Photo by Carolyn Sellar, Woodland Park Zoo.
The birthday girl is the oldest animal currently living at Woodland Park Zoo and one of the oldest female orangutans in North America.

Save the date for Chinta's birthday bash!
  • Saturday, February 17, 10:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m.
  • Cake and presents for Chinta: 10:30 a.m.

 Birthday activities will take place at the orangutan exhibit located in Trail of Vines. 

Born at Woodland Park Zoo in February 1968, Chinta is distinguished by ragged bangs gracing her eyebrows and by her sweet personality. Worldwide, she and her late twin brother Towan gained instant celebrity status as the first-known twin orangutans born in a zoo. Photos of the pair as infants appeared around the globe, including in “Life” magazine. While other twins have since been born, twin orangutan births are still a rare occurrence. Towan passed away in 2016. 

From the Woodland Park Zoo archive. Physicians and nurses from the University Hospital Center for premature infants and University of Washington Regional Primate Center pitched in to care for the infant apes in 1968. 

Birthday festivities include: complimentary cake pops courtesy of Woodland Park Zoo Board Member Kevin Schofield (while supplies last); a meet ‘n’ greet with animal care staff as they shed light on the quality care program for orangutans and the importance of geriatric care; a photo collage of Chinta; docents with discovery stations sharing fascinating biofacts; and free Chinta collector cards. To show love for Chinta and orangutans in the wild, guests are invited to take a palm pledge to choose consumer products that don’t have an adverse impact on tropical rain forests and the animals that live there. In addition, guests can enter a free drawing for a chance to win a commemorative painting created by one of the zoo’s orangutans, an orangutan ZooParent Adoption package and other prizes. 

From the Woodland Park Zoo archive. Eric Sano with Towan and Chinta in 1968.
A special guest will reunite with Chinta at the birthday party: Eric Sano, who was 6 years old when he named the orangutans in 1968 through a naming contest co-sponsored by The Seattle Times and KVI radio. As the winner, Sano won the privilege to be keeper of the baby orangutans for a day. Today, Sano is a captain with the Seattle Police Department.

Chinta hanging int he Trail of Vines in 2008. Photo by Dennis Dow, Woodland Park Zoo.
In addition to Chinta, two female orangutans currently live at the zoo: 46-year-old Melati and 36-year-old Belawan, daughter of Towan and Melati. The two males, who happen to have the same birthdays as Chinta, are: Heran, son of Towan and Melati, who will turn 29; and Godek, a Sumatran orangutan introduced last summer to Chinta and Melati, who will turn 9. 

From the Woodland Park Zoo archives. Towan and Chinta in 1968.
Chinta and twin brother Towan were handreared because the mother didn’t know what to do or how to feed them. The twins spent their first several weeks in an incubator converted from a snake enclosure. Since the zoo did not yet have its own veterinary staff, physicians and nurses from the University Hospital Center for premature infants and University of Washington Regional Primate Center pitched in to care for the infant apes. The twins were never reintroduced to their mother; they were handraised by zoo staff and a team of volunteer “babysitter moms” until they were about 5 years old. Animal care practices have evolved, however, and today, there are more options for developing maternal care in adult orangutans or using surrogates, so there is rarely any need for handrearing.

Orangutans, a critically endangered species, belong to the family Hominidae, which includes all four great apes: gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans. There were previously two distinct species of orangutans known—the Bornean orangutan and Sumatran orangutan native to the islands of Borneo and Sumatra in Southeast Asia. Last November, a third species was announced—the Tapanuli orangutan found in Sumatra. Overpopulation, logging, agriculture, conversion of forests to unsustainable oil palm plantations, and other human activities are rapidly destroying forest environments required by orangutans for survival. This palm oil guide can be used to find sustainable, deforestation-free products when shopping: www.zoo.org/palmoil.

Photo by Dennis Dow, Woodland Park Zoo
Learn about Woodland Park Zoo’s partnership with Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Project in Borneo, whose focus is to help build a future where orangutans and other wildlife can thrive alongside local villages. 

From the Woodland Park Zoo archive. Baby Chinta in 1968. 
Happiest Birthday, beautiful!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Not as simple as it seems: ZooCrew students tackle wildlife trafficking

Posted by: Ryan Driscoll, Education
Photos by Ryan Driscoll, Woodland Park Zoo

The issues of poaching and wildlife trafficking can seem black and white—it’s bad news.  At least that was the initial sentiment of many of the middle school students who participated in this last semester’s ZooCrew, Woodland Park Zoo’s after-school program. However, as the students explored the issue, they started to realize just how complex the causes and solutions can be.  

One student explained why poaching in Africa can be a difficult issue, “people poach because they need the money and they can’t find a job that will pay them enough.  They need to have a way to feed their families.”  This led the students to explore a range of solutions such as recruiting those poachers to become rangers (who protect wildlife), building sustainable industries and supporting local communities that offer alternative employment.  They then explored ways that people here in Seattle could help. They created projects based on these ideas which were presented to others on their zoo field trips throughout January.  Here are just some of the highlights, activities and projects from this last semester:

ZooCrew students greet an Egyptian tortoise.

ZooCrew students spend time together making conservation props.
Bowling for Rhinos

One of the most iconic victims of poaching is rhinos.  For the second year, ZooCrew partnered with the Puget Sound Area Association of Zoo Keepers (PSAAZK) to prepare projects that will be presented at Bowling for Rhinos, an annual fundraiser for the LewaWildlife Conservancy in Kenya.  Some groups chose to make videos to inform guests at the event about the threats rhinos face and ways they can help protect them.  Other groups aimed to share similar information in the form of trading cards.  Students and their projects will attend the Bowling for Rhinos event on May 5th to educate participants as well as enjoy a night of bowling, taco bars, and raising money and awareness for rhino conservation. 

Conservation Innovation

Four groups used their creativity to find new solutions for wildlife trafficking and poaching.  One group explored ways to keep predators and livestock separated to reduce retaliatory killing in ranching areas by creating living bamboo fences.  Another group looked at the illegal pet trade and how it impacts animals like servals—advocating for domestic cat species that have similar appearances but aren’t wild animals.  Two more groups discovered alternatives to poached products—focusing on the use of tagua nuts as a replacement for ivory soap carvings.  Another looked at a variety of alternative products including synthetic furs, skulls and possible replacements for traditional medicines made from endangered species.

ZooCrew students present their ideas to zoo staff and volunteers.

Those sheep are safe thanks to bamboo barriers, great idea!

Citizen Science with Camera Traps

Camera traps are necessary tools for conservationists to study animals in the field, but they can often lead to large caches of photos that need to be sorted.  In some cases, researchers have turned to the public for help.  Two groups assisted with a back-log of images by sorting through hundreds of photos from various projects in Africa and coding them based on the animals they contained.  Not only did they learn how to tell a wildebeest from a gazelle, but they helped create a database that scientists will use to determine the population size and distribution of various species on the savanna. The ZooCrew students encourage you to head to www.zooniverse.org and find a project to help with!

Conservation Advocacy

Two groups aimed their projects at a broader audience with the intent of informing people about why poaching is a problem and what they can do to help.  One group focused on poaching here in Washington state and highlighted actions like reporting suspected poaching to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.  The other group focused on the Amur leopard and researched organizations that help not only the leopards but local communities.

Restoration Field Trips

ZooCrew doesn’t just happen in schools and the zoo.  Each semester, we aim to get out into the community to help improve the green spaces around the students’ homes.  In October, we participated in Green SeattleDay and helped to plant trees in Jefferson Park—right next to one of our school sites!  Together with other community members, we helped plant over 100 native trees and shrubs at our work location.  In November, we braved the rain to help remove invasive ivy from Lincoln Park in conjuncture with Friends of Lincoln Park.  A special thank you to the family members that came out to help make our green spaces a better place for animals and people!

Zoo Field Trip

At the end of each semester, students and their families from all three sites come together at the zoo.  They started the day being toured around by some amazing teens from the ZooCorps program.  This was followed by our customary pizza lunch and a wonderful presentation by Sarah Werner, the zoo’s Senior Interpretive Content Developer.  Sarah discussed the design process her team goes through when working on the signs and interpretive elements around the zoo. She also gave us a sneak peak of the new Assam Rhino Reserve exhibit space coming this spring! Groups then headed off to special keeper talks at the Tropical Rain Forest dome and the giraffe barn. Finally, they presented their projects to a group of staff and volunteers.   

Giraffes check out the ZooCrew team.
As the fall program wraps up, we wanted to extend a giant THANK YOU to our community partners, ZooCorps volunteers, and the zoo staff who help make this program possible.  We also wanted to thank the parents and guardians who make so many of these opportunities possible for their students.  We look forward to our spring semester where we will delve into climate change action and the ecosystems of the tundra, taiga, and temperate forest!

Great work ZooCrew!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Become a citizen scientist for local “wetlands watch” program

Posted by Gigi Allianic, Communications

How would you like to lend a helping hand to frogs, toads and salamanders in our backyard?
You can by becoming a volunteer citizen scientist to monitor our ponds and wetlands!

Pacific treefrog spotted at Forterra's Hazel Wolf Wetland. Photo: Mike Mallitt. 
Over a six-month period, citizen science volunteers will monitor eight different species of frogs, toads, and salamanders in wetlands throughout western Washington, which may include Mercer Slough Nature Park, parks in Seattle and King County and, potentially, Snohomish County Public Works sites.

Volunteers are required to participate in a classroom and field training session on February 10 or February 17. Teens between ages 14 and 18 are welcome and encouraged to join a monitoring team with at least one other teen participant. Sign up for a training session at www.zoo.org/amphibianmonitoring.

We will team up with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to conduct the field training. Participants are equipped with hip waders, GPS units, aquascopes, and other monitoring tools as they learn how to identify and document egg masses of different amphibian species in a way that’s safe for people, wildlife and habitats. Once trained, volunteers will form teams and choose a wetland or pond to monitor on a monthly basis—recording data and taking photos of any amphibians they encounter.

An Amphibian Monitoring volunteer surveys Magnuson Park for egg masses with her team, which is comprised of ZooCorpsteen volunteers. Photo by Lyra Dalton, WPZ staff
The Citizen Science Amphibian Monitoring program is offered through Woodland Park Zoo’s Living Northwest program, in partnership with Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Launched in 2012, the program provides much-needed data on amphibian populations for Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The volunteer scientists gain knowledge of and appreciation for amphibians and their wetland habitats, and the skills to do relevant, hands-on scientific data collection.

The ancient class of amphibians includes salamanders, newts, an obscure group of legless creatures known as caecilians and, of course, the icons, frogs and toads.

Participants must attend one of the following training sessions:

February 10, 9:30 a.m.–noon at Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center in  Bellevue
February 17, 9:30 a.m.–noon at Camp Long in West Seattle

To sign up for a training session, go to www.zoo.org/amphibianmonitoring.

Rough-skinned newt observed near Redmond Watershed Preserve by iNaturalist user daval
We'll see you there!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Red panda receives special therapy sessions

Posted by Kirsten Pisto, Communications

Photos by John Loughlin, Woodland Park Zoo

Hello Yukiko! The 12 ½ year old red panda lives behind the scenes in Woodland Park Zoo’s red panda yard where he and Hazel take part in the Red Panda Species Survival Plan.
While standing on his green balance bone, Yukiko the red panda moves his head from side to side, then up and down. The movements work his abdominal and back muscles as well as spine flexibility. The red panda is undergoing therapy which includes massage, laser therapy and exercises which work his muscles and strengthen his core.

Yukiko is 12 ½ years old, so he is showing the normal signs of aging which include minor spondylosis, aging in the spine. Yukiko’s keepers noticed a slight decline in mobility as he moved around his enclosure and especially going up and down the ramps. After deciding on a therapy program with our veterinary team, keepers introduced Yukiko to the therapy equipment, such as his green balance bone and the laser therapy equipment.

Barb applies laser therapy to Yukiko’s spine while keeper Jamie asks him to target train.
Because Yukiko was already very comfortable around his keepers, his therapy was a breeze. The positive relationship he shared with keepers combined with simple behaviors he already knew, such as targeting, following and allowing keepers to touch different parts of his body made his introduction to laser and physical therapy that much easier.

Jamie Delk, one of the red panda keepers, and Barbara Brush, a veterinary technician, worked together to introduce the new moves to Yukiko and make sure he was comfortable during the procedure.
Since Jamie had previously worked with Yukiko on target training and following, it wasn’t too difficult to have him do the same moves, except this time while standing steady on his balance bone. They soon added massages and laser therapy to the routine. Yukiko now allows Barb to use the laser equipment and to physically massage him.

Standing on the training bone mimics an uneven surface which allows Yukiko to work his core, much like a balance ball at the gym.
After just a few sessions, his spine flexibility and back muscles have improved. “Yukiko was a great patient to work with from the beginning. He just needed some familiarity with the laser therapy equipment. His quality of life is improved thanks to proactive laser therapy that capitalized on a strong foundation in training.” says Barb. Yukio had a noticeable gait change when we started his therapy, but now he moves about normally and with confidence.

Training with touch and targeting is just one way our caregivers are able to work closely with our animals to provide the best welfare at all times throughout an animal’s life.

Laser therapy works to loosen tight or atrophied muscles. The only difference between people and red panda laser therapy is all that red fur!
Looking good, Yukiko!

A reflection on the success of the treatment regime, Yukiko was seen breeding with Hazel last week after only a relatively brief introduction!  (The zoo hopes to see red panda cubs in our future!)

While Yukiko and Hazel remain off-exhibit where the two can spend time together through the breeding season and beyond, you can visit our other male red panda, Carson, anytime in the Wildlife Survival Zone. 

The plight of this vulnerable species is an issue that needs your support. In the wild, fewer than 10,000 red pandas remain in their native habitat of bamboo forests in China, the Himalayas and Myanmar. Their numbers are declining due to deforestation, increased agriculture and cattle grazing, as well as urban sprawl.

Woodland Park Zoo supports the Red Panda Network working to conserve this flagship species in Nepal. To help support the project and celebrate Yukiko's health, you can adopt a red panda by becoming a ZooParent.

THANK YOU! Thank you to Dr. Peter Jenkins, SpectraVET owner, for donating the therapeutic Laser system to our Rehabilitation Therapy Program.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Philanthropy is sweetness for the soul: Remembering Floyd Udell Jones

Posted by: Carolyn Stevens-Wood, Staff Writer

Financial Trader.
All-around sweet guy.

Floyd Udell Jones

(1927 – 2018)

Goldie stood to the right upon entering Floyd’s sitting room.

He had a place of honor right behind a sofa on a small platform by the window.  Goldie the lion sculpture was purchased on a trip to South Africa Floyd took with his companion, Alene Moris, a number of years ago. The purchase was a quick decision, something for which Floyd was well known, on a side trip during a delay en route to the airport. Floyd was taken with the beauty of the lion, a piece of incredible artwork composed of thousands of tiny gold beads in intricate handiwork. Goldie served as a reminder of the safari they took and the extraordinary memories of seeing lions in their wild habitat. Floyd was keenly aware that most people will not have the chance to see the majestic, awe-inspiring lions in Africa as he did, and wanted them to be able to see them up close at the zoo. “I didn’t get the chance to go to the zoo as a child, so I want to make it possible for as many children as I can to be able to go”.

As a child in Missouri in the 1920s and 30s working in the cotton fields as the son of a sharecropper, making learning a priority was not easy. Floyd credited a number of people in his life who encouraged him to pursue his education. Floyd’s mother was an immense influence in this area, inspiring him not to give up. A special teacher in high school was also a keen motivator for Floyd. She made it her mission to teach the children from his rural community about the arts and literature. Even though this was not something many of his peers could utilize at the time, she was convinced that all children, no matter what their circumstance, should be exposed to all types of books and poetry. In many different ways, this made a lasting impact on Floyd.

Although Floyd took his career in a different direction, making finance and trading his lifelong work, he was always drawn to the written word. “I learned that you can say a lot with few words, and this was very valuable.” From writing an artful corporate letter to his own personal poetry, Floyd found great pleasure in delivering a message in this way. “I began writing poems for people and they seemed to enjoy them.” Tributes to his colleagues, friends, family and his beloved wife, Delores, became a passionate pastime for him. “I always asked Delores if she approved of my poems before I sent them off, and she always said yes!”

Upon moving to Seattle in 1953, Floyd and Delores lived right across the street from Woodland Park Zoo, where they were residents of the Phinney Ridge Apartments. “We’d hear the animals making all kinds of noises, they were our next door neighbors” he remembered. Floyd worked at the Boeing Company as a returning serviceman in the evenings and studied at the University of Washington during the day while Delores worked as a social worker. Balancing full-time work and school was very demanding for Floyd and Delores one day suggested to him that he quit his job and focus solely on his studies while they lived on her earnings. “This was the greatest gift she could have ever given me,” Floyd said. “Immediately, I was able to focus more and my grades went up!” Floyd went on to become extremely successful in the financial management field, landing his first post-college job at the Tacoma office of Dean Witter & Co.

“Against all odds, I’ve lived the American dream, you could say.” Floyd lived well, indeed. As many people helped Floyd along his path, he felt that he wanted to do the same. He intended to leave legacy gifts to a number of Puget Sound organizations including KCTS Public Television, Hopeworks, the Nordic Heritage Museum, Virginia Mason, Youthcare and Woodland Park Zoo. “I want to do the most good in the community as possible and make it better for all.”  Floyd’s good friend, Pamela Eakes, saw this firsthand. “Floyd knew what it’s like to be poor and he knew what it’s like to have dreams. He wanted all children to be able to have hope and dreams to aspire to, and believed this can start with something like a trip to the zoo. This will be his legacy.”

As our recent visit was coming to an end, I had one last question for Floyd. What does philanthropy mean to you today? Without missing a beat and with a tear in his eye, “philanthropy is sweetness for the soul,” Floyd said.

I couldn’t agree with you more and by the way, we all think you were a pretty sweet guy yourself, Floyd. On behalf of the 1,200 animals and millions of children who will benefit from your kindness, it’s our great honor to help bear your legacy.