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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Coexisting with Carnivores: Recent Events

Editor’s note: Morgan Jensen is a high school senior at Bear Creek High School in Redmond, Washington. Morgan completed his graduating Capstone project as a community affairs intern at Woodland Park Zoo. Next month, he is heading to South Carolina, where he'll begin college at The Citadel. Morgan spots carnivores often in his backyard in east King County, and thinks it's pretty cool.

Posted by Morgan Jensen, Community Affairs Intern

The City of Issaquah and Woodland Park Zoo have something in common: each provide an opportunity to see many great animals up close. Surrounded on three sides by forested mountains and Lake Sammamish to the north, the Issaquah area is also home to abundant wildlife, including some of Washington’s most charismatic carnivores: black bears, coyotes, bobcats, and cougars. While sharing space with these animals has potential to lead to conflict, residents can take many actions to ensure a peaceful coexistence with carnivores. This is where the zoo steps in.

Photo of black bear by @miguelb via Flickr

Coexisting with Carnivores, a Woodland Park Zoo and City of Issaquah collaboration, is an exciting program providing Issaquah residents with opportunities to appreciate these local creatures, as well as practices that make coexistence easier—both for people living in the community, and the animals that call Issaquah home.

In early May, residents gathered at two community launch events, one at Blakely Hall in the Issaquah Highlands and one at the Rogue Ales Issaquah Brewhouse. Residents shared their feelings about living with carnivores. The majority thought it was ‘pretty cool’ that they live in a place where they may see a bear in their front yard. One resident wrote, “I enjoy seeing them. It is always a good surprise.” Another said, “I feel grateful because I live where I have the opportunity to see beautiful carnivores and other wildlife.” Though not everyone in the community thinks living with these animals is such a positive experience. For example, one resident wrote “I feel scared [to live with carnivores] because of my small dogs”, while another stated, “One thing I sometimes worry about is raccoons killing cats and chickens.” Concern for small pets was the most common worry voiced during the Coexisting with Carnivores events.

Particiapnts check out some Pacific Northwest biofacts.
As residents learned, a majority of these fears can be avoided with practices such as putting garbage cans out the morning of pick up rather than the night before, and keeping pets inside at night. Those who attended the community event tried out a wildlife-resistant trashcan. The same can has been tested by our very own grizzly bears, who have never been able to open it, despite the delicious salmon smell coming from a fishy treat left inside the can by their keepers (Don’t worry, the bears still received a fish for their participation). Other engagement stations included a carnivore tracking activity complete with kinetic sand, carnivore pelts and skulls, a camera trap matching activity, information from waste management company Recology, and an interactive carnivore map. University of Washington Master’s candidate and carnivore expert, Michael Havrda, joined with camera trap photos and data about local carnivores.

Coexisting with Carnivores will continue with future events, including talks by some of Washington’s best and brightest carnivore experts. The zoo will also partner with the City of Issaquah Parks Department to help volunteers conduct camera trapping in the region, to learn more about the carnivores that live in and near Issaquah. Residents will also have the opportunity to join community groups whose goal is to create and implement solutions to help prevent carnivore conflicts in their neighborhoods.

Guests take a look at some of the camera trap photos collected from nearby locations.
Programs like Coexisting with Carnivores allow community members to determine which are the most important problems that face their community, and create solutions that meet a community’s specific needs. As this program develops, Woodland Park Zoo and the City of Issaquah hope that residents will feel empowered to address some of the most difficult issues that come with living alongside these local critters.  

To learn more, please visit: www.zoo.org/coexisting

Friday, June 8, 2018

Meet Papú, the newest zoo ambassador-in-training

Posted by: Elizabeth Bacher, Staff Writer

Meet Papú, our newest and smallest ambassador-in-training.
 Hello Papú! Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/ Woodland Park Zoo
Ambassador animals have an important role at Woodland Park Zoo—they allow visitors to have up-close experiences and serve as catalysts for educating about their species. By interacting with them, we learn more about their wild cousins. We learn more about ourselves and our impacts on the ecosystem. We are moved to protect them and the wild spaces they represent. Simply put, we love them and they inspire us to make conservation a priority in our lives. It’s a big responsibility.

What does it take to become an ambassador—to fulfill such an important role connecting people to wildlife? The answers to these big questions can often be found in the littlest places—and in this case, an egg barely the size of a ping-pong ball. The tiny egg came to Woodland Park Zoo from Sacramento Zoo, where its parents were not able to incubate it.

Day 0. This egg, barely the size of a ping-pong ball came to Woodland Park Zoo from Sacramento Zoo, where parents were not able to incubate it. Photo by Susan Burchardt/Woodland Park Zoo
On April 17, a feisty little bird pipped its way out of that egg. Meet Papú, a male. His name, which is pronounced like paw-POO, with emphasis on the second syllable, means “burrowing owl” in the dialect of the Yakama tribes of Eastern Washington and it is also the name of his species. Little Papú, who also goes by the nickname Pippin, was barely a few inches long, covered in white downy plumage, and like all birds at hatching, his eyes were not open yet.

Barely 2 days old and only inches long, Papú rests in the hands of one of his dedicated keepers. Photo by Susan Burchardt/Woodland Park Zoo
Right away, he captured the hearts of the dedicated animal keepers who will feed him, raise him, train with him throughout his life, and generally just let him become his best little owl-self. He is quickly capturing our hearts too.

Papú and animal keeper, Susan. Photo by Susan Burchardt/Woodland Park Zoo
Burrowing owls (Athene cunicularia) are small, long-legged owls found throughout open landscapes of North and South America. These tiny predators—they’re only 8 to 11 inches tall and weigh between 5 to 8 ounces when fully grown—can be found in grasslands, rangelands and throughout the Great Plains.

When fully grown, an adult burrowing owl has mottled brown and white plumage with yellow eyes and a yellow bill. Photo by Karen Riesz via Flickr, Creative Commons.
They nest and roost in underground burrows that might have been dug out by prairie dogs or ground squirrels, although they can create their own burrows if needed. Unlike most owls, burrowing owls are often active during the day, doing most of their hunting for beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, mice and small lizards between dusk and dawn. The burrowing owl is endangered in Canada and threatened in Mexico. Although still common in much of the U.S., its population numbers are in decline and they are listed as threatened in several states due to the eradication of prairie dogs and loss of habitat.

Day 15. Papú’s eyes are open now so he (and we) can see his long legs! Evolving in open grasslands as opposed to forests, allowed the burrowing owl to develop longer limbs that enable it to sprint, as well as fly, when hunting. Photo by Susan Burchardt/Woodland Park Zoo
Over the next weeks and months, we’ll follow Papú as he grows and bonds with his keepers. We’ll provide lots of updates on what he’s learning and what we’re learning from him. For now, his education involves short trips outside (in the arms of one of his keepers) mixed with lots of exploring around the zoo’s raptor barn. Every day he spends time bonding with his keepers as he exercises and learns to coordinate those long burrowing owl legs.

Day 31. A trip outside in the arms of one of his keepers. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/ Woodland Park Zoo
His curiosity is rewarded with lots of little breaks for tasty cricket snacks—a burrowing owl favorite.
He’s 7 weeks old now, and already adult-size, although he still has some of the downy plumage of a chick. Most baby birds are the same size as their parents by the time they’re ready to leave the nest—and Papú is just at that age. Adult feathers, which are mottled brown and white, are already starting to grow in, including those all-important flight feathers.

Day 43. Six weeks old now, Papú is starting to get some adult feathers and is exercising his wings as his flight muscles develop. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/ Woodland Park Zoo
At this point, his flights are limited to mostly practice take-offs and soft, but not always graceful, landings on his keepers’ laps or the ground. Within another week or so, he will probably take his first real flight, and by early autumn Papú will have his adult plumage and his eyes and beak will start turning yellow.

 Papú in his cozy basket. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/ Woodland Park Zoo
In the coming months, he’ll work with his keepers—they are his family—to master the most important role of being an ambassador animal: meeting and greeting zoo guests. We'll check in on his progress as he grows, but for now, he’s just a cute and curious young owlet. Welcome to the world, little one!

Papú and his proud Animal Keeper, Susan. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

Papú enjoys an afternoon head rub. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo
We’re already in love with you!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Perfect plants for a pollinator-friendly garden

Posted by Elizabeth Bacher, Communications

It’s almost butterfly time at Woodland Park Zoo!

Molbak’s Butterfly Garden will open for the season on May 25, 2018. You’ll be able to walk among nearly 500 free-flying butterflies representing at least 15 species native to North America. An arching tent structure will enclose a landscape of approximately 3,000 square feet filled with flowering plants provided by Molbak’s Garden + Home store in Woodinville. Behind the garden is the year-round Microsoft Pollinator Patio, where guests can enjoy a beautiful stroll among pollinator-friendly plants.

Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo https://www.zoo.org/butterflygarden 
We asked our friends at Molbak’s to suggest their favorite flowering plants that provide lots of good food for butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and other pollinators. Here are five flowers to make your backyard a pollinator-perfect destination. 

Agastache (Hyssop)

Slender and stylish, the fragrant hyssop blossoms are hummingbird magnets! Flower-filled spikes of red, pink, violet, peach or blue cover these hardy perennials, luring winged visitors all the way through summer and into autumn. 

Photo by Bart Souverijns via Flickr @poepoei 
Gaillardia hybrids (Blanket Flower)

You can create a quilt of fiery color in your yard with blanket flowers! These drought-tolerant perennials bloom non-stop from summer through the first frost – and pollinators find it hard to resist their sunset shades of red, orange and yellow. 

Photo by Pauline Rosenberg via Flickr @auntiepauline 
Monarda (Bee Balm)

Adding bee balm to your garden is like adding floral fireworks bursting with reds, pinks, whites or purple. These perennial blossoms will explode in colorful petals and they also give off a pleasing minty-basil fragrance. The hummingbirds, bees and butterflies are big fans of this summer flower, too!

Photo by @littlehonda_350 via Flickr
Salvia elegans (Pineapple Sage)

Pineapple sage is a fragrant annual that grows dramatic spikes bursting with bright red blossoms – perfect for luring hummingbirds and butterflies. BONUS: They’re also a great add-in for teas and infusions, cooking, sachets and potpourris. Anyone up for a banana, pineapple sage smoothie?

Photo by Sean Hoyer via Flickr @seanhoyer 
Salvia splendens (Salvia)

Want to add some zing to your garden? Salvias are like a flower-filled exclamation points of color!
These easy-to-grow annuals will be covered in red, purple or yellow blossoms all summer … and they’re a menu favorite for many species of hungry pollinators.

Photo by Himanshu Sarpotdar via Flickr
Most of these flowering beauties, and many more are available at Molbak’s Garden + Home store in Woodinville and at other local gardening or nursery retailers. You can also find more information about attracting pollinators to your yard at Woodland Park Zoo in the Molbak’s Butterfly Garden and Microsoft Pollinator Patio.

Guests enjoy the Molbak's Butterfly Garden at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

A Julia butterfly says hello to the camera. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Celebrate Endangered Species Day, May 18

Every single day, we work to protect wild animals and wild places. 

This week, and on Endangered Species Day, May 18, we can celebrate many conservation success stories, but there is more work to do.

Taj wading into Assam Rhino Reserve. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

Thanks to the Endangered Species Act and the hard work of conservationists and activists, the bald eagle, green sea turtle, American alligator, peregrine falcon, and many other species were kept from disappearing forever. Your zoo has given Western pond turtles a head start and helped protect thousands of acres of pristine cloud forests. We would do anything for animals, and with your support, we can.

Getting ready to release a pond turtle into a protected Washington wetland. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

Working with conservationists and researchers, Woodland Park Zoo focuses on a conservation strategy that includes: habitat and species conservation, research, education, local capacity building and community support. These effective collaborations are divided among three field conservation programs at the zoo:

Living Northwest
The zoo supports projects in the Pacific Northwest through our Living Northwest, including projects focused on native raptors, turtles, butterflies and carnivores, and the shrub-steppe, wetlands and forest habitats they depend on to survive.

Partners for Wildlife
Our Partners for Wildlife international projects focus on Pacific Rim, Central Asia and Africa. Conservation priorities include efforts as far ranging as tree kangaroo conservation in Papua New Guinea to migratory crane conservation in Far East Russia.

Wildlife Survival Fund
We invest in endangered species before it’s too late. Our Wildlife Survival Fund supports field projects and initiatives recommended by zoo curators and the Association of Zoos & Aquariums Species Survival Plan programs.

Celebrate conservation successes this Endangered Species Day while doing your part to stop extinction. Here are 5 ways you can celebrate #savingspecies.

Enjoying Molbak's Butterfly Garden. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

Become more than a member. Receive unlimited zoo admission for your family and help endangered species with the Conservation Partner membership. https://www.zoo.org/membership

A Fiji Island banded iguana, Brachylophus fasciatus, at the Los Angeles Zoo. © Photo by Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark

Look. Visit the zoo April 20 – October 7, 2018 to see the National Geographic Photo Ark project, led by National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore which aims to document every species living in the world’s zoos and wildlife sanctuaries. Open your eyes to the beauty and wonder we can #SaveTogether as you take in 56 stunning animal portraits displayed across Woodland Park Zoo. Free with zoo admission or membership.

Adopt Taj and Glenn! Photo by John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo.

Adopt a ZooParent. Help fund the care of all the amazing animals at Woodland Park Zoo and make a difference for wildlife by becoming a ZooParent. Your gift helps support conservation programs in the Pacific Northwest and around the world. Plus, you'll receive a personalized adoption certificate, color photo of your animal, fun facts and more! Adopt an animal for yourself or give as a gift to the animal lover in your life.

Zoo staff celebrate with a new filling station. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

Ditch the plastic! Join us in going plastic free this summer. As plastic waste in our environment becomes an increasingly important global topic, Woodland Park Zoo is celebrating a milestone in our own resource conservation journey with the announcement that we are no longer selling beverages in single-use plastic bottles or plastic straws. Learn more about how we made the switch and ways you can do the same at home. http://blog.zoo.org/2018/04/woodland-park-zoo-goes-plastic-bottle.html

Shop to save animals!
Shop glassy baby on May 18! On May 18th, Endangered Species Day, glassybaby will donate 10% of all sales in their Bellevue, Madrona and University Village stores to Woodland Park Zoo’s conservation programs. Proceeds will benefit species like Malayan tigers, rhinos and Western pond turtles.

Malayan tiger at Banyan Wilds. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.
Thank you for loving animals as much as we do. 

Friday, April 20, 2018

Woodland Park Zoo Goes Plastic Bottle Free

Posted by Zosia Brown, Resource Conservation and Sustainability

As plastic waste in our environment becomes an increasingly important global topic, Woodland Park Zoo is celebrating a milestone in our own resource conservation journey with the announcement that we are no longer selling beverages in single-use plastic bottles.

Refill, please! Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/ Woodland Park Zoo.
Woodland Park Zoo is committed to protecting and preserving wildlife and habitat for generations to come. It is our role to inspire our zoo guests and communities across our region to meaningfully reduce their own impact on the planet. Our Sustainable Zoo Plan guides our own operations following a Natural Step model that aims to: take no more from the earth that it can sustainably provide; provide no more to the earth more than it can sustainably absorb; and eliminate "waste" of all kinds from our operations, instead viewing waste as a resource.

The zoo as a green oasis in Seattle's Woodland Park. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.
Single-use plastic bottles are highly resource intensive to produce, transport and refrigerate. Their disposal has a direct impact on wildlife and habitats, threatening the well-being of animals and disrupting ecosystems. Although plastic water bottles can be recycled, on average only 1 in 5 bottles make it to a recycling facility.  As many as 30 billion water bottles are disposed of in US landfills each year, where they take approximately 450 years to break down. Plastic bottles that do not make it to landfill often end up on our beaches and oceans, where the debris breaks down into smaller pieces (microplastic) and can be ingested by marine life, working its way up the food chain.

In Seattle, our tap water comes from one of only a few pristine, protected mountain watersheds in the country. Together, the Tolt River and Cedar River represent more than 100,000 acres owned and controlled by the City of Seattle and the U.S. Forest Service. Every day, Seattle Public Utilities provides about 120 million gallons of drinking water to 1.4 million people in the greater Seattle area. With outstanding drinking water readily available, we are encouraging our guests to join us in ditching the plastic bottle and tap our greatest resource!

Tolt watershed. Photo via City of Seattle.
To support drinking from the tap, Woodland Park Zoo has over 14 water fountains distributed throughout zoo grounds. We are in the process of converting several of these to reusable bottle filling stations for those who prefer to carry water with them. Look for a bottle filling station at our South Plaza, North Meadow, and Assam Rhino Exhibit.

Zoo staff test out the new water stations. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.
 When visiting the zoo, be sure to bring your own reusable bottle to fill at one of our water bottle filling stations or concessionaires. If you don’t own a reusable bottle, you can find a range of sizes and options available for purchase at our ZooStores. Our Rain Forest Food Pavilion and Pacific Blue Chowder House will sell fountain drinks served in compostable cups instead of plastic bottled beverages.

In partnership with food concessionaire Lancer Hospitality and gift shop operator Event Network, Woodland Park Zoo has eliminated the sale of single-use plastics for beverages including water, juice and soda. 
You may notice that our vending machines have been replaced with all-can machines, with no pre-packaged water sold.  Aluminum cans are viewed as a preferred alternative to single use plastic bottles or cartons. As a material, aluminum is infinitely recyclable, recycled most often, recycled locally (within Washington state – not shipped abroad) and takes as little as 60 days to turn into a new can or bottle.

As a stepping stone, while we continue to roll out bottle filling infrastructure, we and our food concessionaire, Lancer Hospitality, have partnered with Green Sheep, a small Midwest business, that produces screw-top aluminum bottled water, made from 70% recycled aluminum content and sourced within the USA. Green Sheep is a 1% for the planet company, which means 1% of each sale comes back to Woodland Park Zoo to support our field conservation efforts.

Green Sheep Water keeping it chill. www.greensheepwater.com
Thank you for joining us in celebrating our natural resources, reducing single-use plastic consumption, and sharing habitat more sustainably with wildlife now and into the future!

So refreshing! Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo
For more on sustainability at Woodland Park Zoo, visit www.zoo.org/greenzoo 

#byob #thisishowwezoo

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Camera trap footage from the wild reveals sloth bear mama and three playful cubs

Posted by: Elizabeth Bacher, communications

While you’re getting to know our curious sloth bear cubs, Deemak and Kartick, we thought you’d also like to know more about their wild cousins and how Woodland Park Zoo is working with conservation partners on the ground in their native habitat to help to protect them.

Sloth bears are endangered, mostly due to habitat loss or degradation from human expansion, retaliation from human-bear conflict and to a lesser degree, poaching.  It is believed that no more than 10,000-20,000 sloth bears remain in the wild. That’s one of the reasons why Woodland Park Zoo partners with a conservation organization like Wildlife SOS.

Currently, the research study that Wildlife SOS is conducting focuses on the two types of dens that wild sloth bears use – maternal dens which are used to give birth and raise cubs, and day dens which are used as a place to safely rest during daylight hours when sloth bears are not as active. Here is some new camera trap footage recently captured by Wildlife SOS. You can see a mom and her three cubs explore near their den.

Video from Wildlife SOS: https://youtu.be/cSOpqN-EIi0

Thomas Sharp, the Director of Conservation and Research for Wildlife SOS tells us that by learning more about the den locations, sizes and the differences between the two den types we’ll be able to better understand how these bears use the landscape around them. We’ll also be able to better assess the impacts that habitat disturbance may have on sloth bear ecology, prioritize conservation strategies to minimize conflicts with humans and protect them from threats like poaching.

The information we get from Wildlife SOS can also influence how we look after sloth bears that are in human care. Understanding how they use their landscapes and dens in the wild will help zoos to design exhibit spaces and dens that better meet their needs. Woodland Park Zoo’s state-of-the-art sloth bear exhibit, which opened in 2015, includes lots of digging pits, a ravine for climbing, a termite mound and logs where they can claw for enrichment treats like honey, bugs and fruit.

Deemak and Kartick hitch a ride on mama Tasha’s back at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo.

The sloth bear is an insect and fruit-eating bear species with a range that includes areas in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Compared to brown and black bears, sloth bears have lankier builds, long, shaggy coats that form a mane around the face (similar to that of a lion), long, sickle-shaped claws, and a specially adapted lower lip and mouth structure used for sucking up insects. It is thought that the species got its name because 18th century explorers mistook them for “bear-like-sloths” after seeing those long claws, the way they can hang from branches and carry their babies on their backs. Scientists later realized that the species was a bear and not at all related to sloths, but the name stuck–the sloth bear.

Deemak and Kartick at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo.

Sloth bears in the wild could use your help. You can show them some love with any or all of these three actions:

1. Every visit to Woodland Park Zoo supports conservation in the wild.
We hope you’ll come visit as Deemak and Kartick continue to grow and explore their space—under the watchful eye of their mom Tasha, of course.

2. Buy wisely.
Choose Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper and wood products to protect forest habitat and wildlife. By purchasing FSC-certified forest products, consumers help to protect sloth bear habitat by encouraging sustainable forestry and limiting overharvest of forest products (timber, fuelwood, fruits and honey). Without the FSC label, your timber may come from illegal logging and forests that are not responsibly managed.

3. Help us fill the Honey Jar!
Sloth bear mama Tasha takes great care of her cubs, and she's got a dedicated team behind her: keepers, veterinarians, and you! Help us fill the honey jar—a nod to these bears' favorite sweet treat—with a gift of any size. Your generosity helps us provide a nutritious diet (there's a lot more to it than honey!), medical check-ups, a cub-proofed home designed for safe exploration, and dedicated human friends (also known as keepers) to assure Tasha and the cubs receive the best care.