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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Top 9 in '09

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

For Woodland Park Zoo, 2009 was a year of notable births, conservation milestones, and a few firsts. Here’s my personal pick of the top 9 zoo stories from 2009, in no particular order--some fun, some inspirational, and some just cute.

What were your favorite zoo stories this year?

1. Creating Papua New Guinea’s first Conservation Area


2. Penguins take their first swim


3. Snow leopard twins born to first-time mom


4. How do you exercise flamingo chicks?


5. Zoo hatches a cottonball…err, tawny frogmouth chick


6. Endangered Oregon spotted frogs released into the wild


7. Zoo staff and community team up to restore local habitat


8. Introducing the world’s first GPS-enabled zoo iPhone app


9. Animals get their own downtown art show, critics go wild

Monday, December 28, 2009

Zoo celebrates 110 years

Posted by: Ric Brewer, Communications

Break out the cake--today is our 110th birthday!


(Photo taken by Asahel Curtis from the roof of the old Primate House looking northeast, on July 4, 1924.)


On December 28, 1899, the Seattle City Council officially signed the paperwork purchasing the 141 acres that would become Woodland Park Zoo and surrounding parkland. Once owned by real estate tycoon Guy Phinney, the land and its collection of animals had become a burden for his widow after Phinney died in 1893, so it was sold to the growing city for $100,000 to be developed into a park.

The purchase was controversial as many believed the land, located 5 miles north of downtown Seattle, was so far out into the countryside that no one would visit it! But generations of families have proven that wrong as what became Woodland Park Zoo is now a fixture in the lives of more than one million visitors each year. Over the course of the last century plus, the zoo has changed from an attraction that merely showcased animals for enjoyment into an educational institution that is devoted to wildlife and habitat conservation here in the Northwest and around the world.

(Aerial view of Woodland Park Zoo taken in 2008 by Ryan Hawk. Since 1950 there has been a four-fold increase in the zoo's tree canopy and other plantings.)

Approaching the second decade of the 21st century, the mission of Woodland Park Zoo has never been more evident. As threats to wildlife have grown more complex, the need for the community's support and willingness to assist us by learning, caring and acting to bring real change for wildlife has never been more important. Thank you Seattle and our neighbors for the last 110 years. We hope to continue to evolve with our community to meet the needs of wildlife around the world long into the future.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

ABC News features tree 'roo research

Posted by: Hilary Aten, Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program

Last night, TV viewers across the U.S. discovered an animal few had ever seen before, but are now not likely to forget. Woodland Park Zoo's work to study and protect the endangered Matschie's tree kangaroo was featured on both ABC World News and ABC Nightline--showing rare glimpses of the animal's elusive, tree-top lifestyle in the remote, dense forests of Papua New Guinea.

Click to watch the full story online (will open in a new window):
From November 5-7, 2009, ABC News anchor Dan Harris joined researchers from Woodland Park Zoo-based Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program (TKCP) and National Geographic at the program's Wasaunon field research site in the Papua New Guinea cloud forest of the Huon Peninsula.

Through a generous grant from National Geographic and the Waitt Foundation's exploratory research program, Kyler Abernathy and TKCP's Dr. Lisa Dabek successfully captured and outfitted two wild tree kangaroos with National Geographic Crittercams. The Crittercams captured hours of footage from these endangered kangaroos' perspectives in the tree canopy, providing previously unknown data on the natural animal behavior of wild tree kangaroos, including feeding behavior and times of activity--important information in order to help conserve these animals and their habitat.

Find out more about the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program and how you can help.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Endangered frogs released into the wild

Posted by: Ryan Hawk, Photographer

A few weeks ago, on a rainy, rainy day, zookeeper Kimberly Cooper and I hopped in the zoo’s Prius and traveled to the off-road back areas of Fort Lewis to release the last few of this year’s batch of about 450 Oregon spotted frogs. In the first year of the recovery program at Woodland Park Zoo, the endangered frogs were raised on zoo grounds to be given a head start in the wild. It’s one of several species recovery programs the zoo participates in locally.

Zookeepers like Kimberly raise the frogs from egg to adult in order to increase their odds of survival in the wild. The work takes place behind the scenes in a quiet corner of the zoo’s 92 acres.

Watch the release in this short video.


Woodland Park Zoo participates in the recovery program in collaboration with partners including Northwest Trek, Oregon Zoo, Cedar Creek Correctional Facility, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. And each of these groups were represented as we released groups of frogs into the waters of Dailman Lake.

The next group of frog eggs will be collected in late winter and brought to the zoo to be given a head start.

Video by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Penguin exhibit wins Seattle design award

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

Last Thursday, Woodland Park Zoo was recognized by the Seattle Design Commission with a design excellence award for our new Humboldt penguin exhibit!

The award is in recognition of Seattle’s best capital improvement projects. Other honorees were Fremont Peak Park, Thornton Creek, Seattle Center Century 21 Master Plan, and Sound Transit Central Link.

Visitors may be fixated on the nose-to-beak views of the penguins in the exhibit, but it’s the harder to see sustainable elements of the exhibit that captured the Design Commission’s attention.

With support from Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities, we installed an energy efficient ground-based geothermal heat pump that uses the Earth’s below-ground temperature to keep the exhibit’s water at a penguin-friendly 55 degrees year round, as well as an innovative water filtration system. These features will save nearly 22,000 kilowatt-hours of energy and 3 million gallons of water per year. That’s the equivalent of heating five, new two-bedroom townhouses and saving 24 million pints of drinking water each year.

The exhibit is also designed to contain and recycle all stormwater runoff thereby preventing the pollution of natural water sources like Puget Sound.

We are grateful to all the supporters who helped make this now award-winning exhibit and its sustainable features possible!

Photos: (Top) Woodland Park Zoo and City of Seattle representatives accept the Seattle Design Commission award at City Hall. Photo by R. Scott Vance. (Bottom) A young visitor enjoys a close-up view of a Humboldt penguin. Photo by Jennifer Svane.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A holiday greeting to share

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

We're getting into the holiday spirit here at the zoo. Join us in kicking off the holiday season by sharing our new season’s greetings video with your friends and family. You can also now send a zoo-themed holiday e-card to wish that special someone a happy holiday season.




Video produced by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Community food drive at Turkey Toss

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

We’re asking for your help to provide relief for the community by dropping off food donations at our annual Turkey Toss event this Saturday. We’ll be accepting donations of non-perishable food items at the zoo to benefit the Phinney Neighborhood Association (PNA) soup kitchen program.

Food items can be dropped off on November 21 outside the zoo’s South Entrance (N. 50th St. & Fremont Ave. N.) during operating hours, 9:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Zoo admission is not required to donate food, but if you join us that day, you’ll see snow leopards, Komodo dragons, grizzlies, lions and more carnivorous species chow down on raw, store-prepared turkeys—all part of the zoo’s ongoing enrichment program for the animals!

So what kinds of food items should you donate? Our friends at the PNA soup kitchen program tell us the items most in demand are: non-perishable juice, jam, canned fruit, beans, canned vegetables, chili, ketchup and powdered creamers. Every little bit helps for the PNA soup kitchen program, which operates two days a week at St. John United Lutheran Church located across the zoo’s West Entrance and one day a week at Calvary Lutheran Church in Ballard.

Thanks for any help you can provide!
Photos: Lion by Ryan Hawk, Komodo dragon by Dale Unruh.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Remembering Sipoi

On November 12, the zoo lost a beloved staff member, Sammy Kiako Ole Sipoi, to a tragic motorcycle accident in Kenya. Sipoi had worked as a Maasai cultural interpreter at the zoo for two summers, sharing stories about his life on the savanna with zoo visitors, and bringing to life the real conservation issues of his homeland.

Paula Eggertsen, a close friend to Sipoi and former member of Woodland Park Zoo’s education staff, writes this tribute. We welcome you to share your thoughts and memories of Sipoi in the comments section.


Tribute to my “olalashe,” Sammy Kiako Ole Sipoi
Posted by: Paula Eggertsen

The interpretation of cultural values and traditions is nearly impossible, particularly when you’re comparing cultures as different as a pastoralist and a capitalist society. What can easily translate are the qualities of human kindness. Sipoi embodied kindness.

When I first met Sipoi in Kenya in 2004, he rode the bus to Nairobi to greet my sister and me. It took Sipoi three hours of bus transfers, bumpy roads, and walking through a city wearing his traditional clothing to greet us. He immediately was attentive and thoughtful and surprised us by clearly speaking occasional English words. He was obviously extremely connected to his fellow warriors, to his family and to the Merrueshi community.

When we visited Merrueshi, he took us on long walks on the savanna, made sure that we had enough water, shade, that we weren’t trapped in the many acacia thorns, and that we had access to our cameras and backpacks containing various creams and lotions. He was amused by our poor night vision, but protected us from walking directly into bushes, holes and other obstacles at night. We were clearly out of our element and he took care of us.

(Sipoi pictured here in the middle.)

It was an honor when he gave both my sister and me Maasai names. Both in Kenya and in Seattle he referred to me as “enganashe,” or his sister. This was the ultimate honor to be considered a family member.

The closeness of communities whose members are part of a whole and look out for the well being of the group is something unique and wonderful. Sipoi and the Merrueshi community demonstrate values that would benefit our lives in America.

The loss of Sipoi is great on so many levels. He was a wonderful human, a husband and father, a comrade, an important community member, and a cross-cultural ambassador. He was extremely intelligent, well-educated, and held so much promise for great things to come.

I will miss my “olalashe” (brother) greatly. I am certain that members of his community are grief-stricken and suffering from his sudden loss. My heart goes out to my dear friend Kakuta, to Sipoi’s family, to his fellow warriors, and all who had the good fortune to know him well.

If you would like to contribute a memorial donation to Sipoi’s family, you can send a check made out to: Maasai Association, PO Box 868, Medina, WA 98039.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A walk down Flamingo Road

Posted by: Mark Myers, Curator

Back in September we announced the hatching of the first Chilean flamingo chicks in Woodland Park Zoo’s history. For the best possible care, we’ve been hand-rearing them behind the scenes.



But they still need their exercise for healthy development, so at least once a day, the chicks are taken outside (depending on the weather) and raced up and down to help them stretch out and gain strength in their long legs and developing wings. You can watch zookeeper Ernie Rose take the flamingos for a walk in this video, including a stop by the back of the flamingo exhibit to see the adult birds.

Chicks are hatched with a gray, downy coating. At around 1 year of age, the familiar pink coloration will develop as the adult plumage grows in, the color derived from beta carotene— the same naturally occurring nutrient that gives carrots and other vegetables their coloration. Once the chicks are large enough, they will join the rest of the flock in the exhibit.

Video produced by Ric Brewer.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

TV show featuring Zoo Doo wins enviro award

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

We just heard the great news that an episode of public television’s Biz Kid$ featuring Woodland Park Zoo’s own Dr. Doo and our Zoo Doo program won a prestigious Environmental Media Award in the category for Children’s Live Action.

Here’s the segment on Zoo Doo from the now award-winning episode “The Green Economy & You.” You’ll follow the whole Zoo Doo process, from poop scooping, to the compost yard with Dr. Doo, then see the finished product. Dr. Doo talks the business side of what comes from the backside of our zoo animals!



If you’re in the region, you can catch the full episode when it re-airs Saturday, November 7 at 10:30 a.m. on KCTS 9. Biz Kid$ is an Emmy Award-winning financial education series broadcast on more than 330 public television stations.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Animals show Sounders spirit

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham & Gigi Allianic, Communications

Woodland Park Zoo is cheering for the Seattle Sounders FC as they head to the first round of MLS Cup playoffs this week. This morning, the animals got into the spirit of the playoffs their own way. While we didn’t see any banana kicks or diving headers here, the zoo’s grizzly bears, twin snow leopard cubs, and Humboldt penguins did have quite the time playing with and kicking around soccer balls.



The soccer balls for the animals are a form of enrichment as part of the zoo’s animal care program to help enhance the lives of the zoo’s animals, promote natural animal behavior, keep animals mentally stimulated and engage zoo visitors. The cubs playfully tumbled with the soccer balls, the bears crushed them with their jaws, and the penguins excitedly dove around the soccer balls floating in their pool.

Do your own cheering as the Seattle Sounders FC face the Houston Dynamo in the MLS Cup Playoff Western Conference Semifinals on Thursday, Oct. 29 at Qwest Field.

Photos by Ryan Hawk.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Bird Man of Russia

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

Check out this latest conservation interview featuring Dr. Sergei Smirinski, a Woodland Park Zoo Partner for Wildlife, on endangered cranes and other plants and animals of Muraviovka Park in Russia.



The Cranes of Asia conservation project works to protect the red crowned crane, hooded crane and oriental white stork, all of which rely on protection of the habitat in Russia's Muraviovka Park. Some of the critical threats facing the cranes and their habitat include long-term drought, fires that eliminate the dead grass necessary for nest camouflage, predators and competitors due to the growing impact of the drought and fires, disturbance by spring hunting on waterfowl, collisions with power lines, and use of pesticides and herbicides.

For more information on Dr. Smirinski's work to conserve the cranes of Asia, check out our newly updated Partners for Wildlife website.

Video by Ryan Hawk, photo by Dennis Dow.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Hippos bob for pumpkins

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications


We’re gearing up for Pumpkin Bash this Saturday and Sunday—and our three hippos helped to get the party started with the first chomp yesterday. Keepers tossed out whole pumpkins to 46-year-old Gertie, 31-year-old Water Lily and 10-year-old Guadalupe, and it didn’t take long for them to smash them open.

Step 1: Toss

Step 2: Chomp

Step 3: Enjoy

The pumpkin treats are part of the zoo’s ongoing enrichment program to help enrich the lives of the zoo’s animals, promote natural animal behavior, keep animals mentally stimulated and provide added enjoyment for visitors.

See it yourself this Saturday and Sunday, 10:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. at Woodland Park Zoo’s Pumpkin Bash presented by Franz Bakeries. Enjoy a repertoire of animal behavior as hippos, bears, elephants, monkeys, and other animals crunch, smash or stomp on pumpkins. A full schedule of animal enrichment events is available online.

Photos by Ryan Hawk and Dennis Dow.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dinner on the hoof

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

*Species Spotlight: Common Vampire Bat (Desmodus rotundus)


Forget Dracula—the common vampire bat stealthily feeds on the blood of mammals, and sometimes domesticated birds.

Let’s set the scene…

Flying about 3 feet off the ground, the bat uses its sharp sense of smell and echolocation to find a “victim.” This bat is lucky—there’s a sleeping cow right ahead!

So as not to alert the cow, the bat lands on the ground and easily crawls or hops to its snoozing dinner, using its thumbs, forearms and wings. It lightly climbs onto the cow and uses heat sensors in its nose to find where blood is near the skin’s surface. The bat licks the site clean with its tongue and then trims the cow’s hair with its teeth. It then painlessly cuts through the skin and injects saliva containing a chemical to prevent blood clots. The bat then laps oozing blood with its tongue. The bat soon becomes engorged with blood and is too heavy to fly away. It crawls off the cow and moves along the ground to a safe place while digestion lightens its heavy load.

The bats you spot out here in the Pacific Northwest are not vampire bats; their wild range keeps them to northern Mexico, Argentina, Chile, and the islands of Trinidad and Margarita off the coast of Venezuela. But if you want to see vampire bats up close, come check them out at the zoo’s popular Night Exhibit, which also features species of fruit bats.

(*Adapted from our Animal Fact Sheets. For a full list of Animal Fact Sheets, go to www.zoo.org/animal-facts or download the zoo’s new iPhone application.)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Zoo iPhone app is available!

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

Earlier this week Woodland Park Zoo released our first iPhone application that allows you to track your location on zoo grounds, discover more about the animals, and access daily activity schedules to make the most of your next zoo visit. This handy tool features:

- GPS-enabled zoo map with "Near Me" recommendations for animal exhibits, play areas, concession stands and restrooms

- daily schedule of zoo activities including zookeeper talks and children's programs

- educational animal fact sheets

- special discount offers redeemable at concession stands

- "Friend Finder" to locate other iPhone users in your party on zoo grounds

- zoo news and happenings

- easy access to Facebook and Twitter so you can share your zoo experience

Here it is in action:

The application, designed in collaboration with Austin-based developers Avai Mobile Solutions, is available now to download for $0.99. iPhone users can go to the iTunes App Store and search for "Woodland Park Zoo" to download or follow this link. Proceeds from each application sale go toward the zoo's animal care, education, conservation and operation costs.

Don't have an iPhone? A mobile version of the zoo's award-winning website is now available for any smartphone user when you point your browser to http://www.zoo.org/. (GPS features not available on the mobile site.)

We will roll out additional features over time, but we're pretty thrilled with this first version and we hope you will be too. Even if you have been to the zoo dozens of times, you'll still find new information in the app. And having an app handy that tells you where the nearest restroom is solves the biggest issue families have out on zoo grounds!

If you download it, let us know what you think.

Photo and video by Ryan Hawk.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Vote “turtles” and help save a species

Posted by: Kate Neville, Development

Here’s your chance to help us save endangered turtles—all you have to do is cast a vote!
Woodland Park Zoo has been selected as one of three local conservation organizations to participate in the 2009 Patagonia Voice Your Choice Program.

From September 24 through October 24, customers at the downtown Seattle store will learn more about each of the three selected organizations. Customers can then vote for their favorite organization.

Grants will be awarded based on the voting—First place: $2,500, Second place: $1,500, and Third place: $1,000.

Proceeds from this program will go to Woodland Park Zoo's Western Pond Turtle Recovery Project, a collaborative, grass-roots effort to restore Western pond turtle populations in Washington state. Funds will help cover the costs of Woodland Park Zoo's headstarting program, in which baby turtles are reared in captivity, then released into the wild when they are large enough to be safe from predators.


Western pond turtles were on the verge of extinction in Washington in 1990, with only a mere 150 turtles left in the wild. Thanks to the Western Pond Turtle Recovery Project, we’ve helped boost the population of the species to about 1,500 in Washington state. Now we’re asking for your help to grow this successful conservation effort even more and keep hope alive for this endangered species.

Come visit us at our in-store zoo booth at Patagonia, October 3 from 2:00 – 6:00 p.m. and October 4 from 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Busy that weekend? No problem—you can come to the store to cast your vote any day between September 24 and October 24. You can even return the next day and vote again; only one vote per day please.

(Patagonia is located in downtown Seattle at 2100 First Ave. For store hours and directions, call (206) 622-9700 or visit them online.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Flamingo Chick Tests the Waters

Posted by: Ryan Hawk, Photographer

The first Chilean flamingo chick born at Woodland Park Zoo continues to grow and develop. Its big legs, loud squawks, and fuzzy/downy white feathers make this little guy unique. (Seen here in the tub of water at 1 week old.)

Now 2 weeks old, the chick has been introduced to water, as well as to solid foods in the form of a slurry which it has already learned to filter feed from.

The chick is currently off public view.

Photos by Ryan Hawk

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Celebrating conservation in Papua New Guinea

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications



Woodland Park Zoo's conservationists and staff photographer traveled to Papua New Guinea in April this year to help celebrate the passage of PNG’s first national Conservation Area—a conservation milestone 12 years in the making with Woodland Park Zoo’s Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program, partners, and PNG villagers and government.

This video transports you to the Sing Sing celebration in the highland village of Teptep, Papua New Guinea, complete with songs and dances honoring this national achievement and the international unity behind it. Hear from the many Papua New Guinea nationals who have contributed their own land, time and dedication to this project.

In the words of one PNG landowner you’ll see in the video, “I saw that people were destroying the land. But I said, save the land. Save it and look after it. Easy does it—step by step.”

This is one huge step we are proud to be part of.

Go here to learn more about the 187,000 acre YUS Conservation Area and how you can help support it into the future through Woodland Park Zoo’s Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program. You can also help by spreading the word of this conservation breakthrough--please share this blog post and video with your friends.

Video produced by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Pretty in downy white

Posted by: Gigi Allianic, Communications


We’ve got exciting news! A Chilean flamingo chick has hatched at Woodland Park Zoo, marking the first time the zoo has successfully hatched a Chilean flamingo in its 109-year history!

The chick hatched in an incubator on August 25, following a 29-day incubation period. To ensure a higher chance of survival, a team of dedicated and expert staff are hand-raising and hand-feeding the chick off public exhibit for now.

You might remember the arrival of a new flock of more than 25 flamingos last year. They debuted in a brand new 4,000-square-foot exhibit that opened in May 2008.

This spring represented the first full breeding season for the new flock in the new exhibit as the graceful birds put on a striking show of synchronized courtship and ritualized behaviors for zoo guests – head flagging, wing saluting and marching in sequence and unison. This active display culminated with nest building, egg laying and one chick to date!

Zoo guests can see the adult flamingos and nests in their exhibit near the Temperate Forest. An additional three eggs are currently being artificially incubated and are expected to hatch within the next few days.

Are you wondering why the chick isn’t pink? Flamingo chicks hatch with a whitish, gray down and don’t acquire pink feathering (at first mixed with gray-brown contour feathers) until about 1 year old. They are fully pink by 2 to 3 years of age.
Photos by Ryan Hawk.

Fall Fecal Fest is back

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

Fall is around the corner, which means it’s time for Woodland Park Zoo’s annual Fall Fecal Fest. Garden enthusiasts and Zoo Doo loyalists, get ready to enter a drawing to purchase the highly coveted Zoo Doo.

The pungent piles of poop make up the richest, most highly aromatic and exotic compost in the Pacific Northwest. This year there is less Zoo Doo to go around, making the lottery more competitive.

How do you get your hands on this precious poop?

Dr. Doo is accepting entry cards for Zoo Doo or Bedspread (a composted mulch made from the manures and bedding of the zoo’s non-primate herbivores) from September 11 through September 25 only. Entry cards will be randomly selected according to supply and demand. Dr. Doo will contact the lucky drawn entries only. The Fecal Fest traditionally sells out.

The rules:
Only one postcard per person is eligible for the drawing. Phone orders will not be taken. Send a standard postcard to Zoo Doo, Woodland Park Zoo, 601 N. 59th St., Seattle, WA 98103. Include the following information:
- Name
- Day/evening phone numbers
- Preference: Zoo Doo or Bedspread
- Amount of Zoo Doo or Bedspread you’d like to purchase (anything from a garbage bag to a full-size pick-up truck load)
- Weekday or weekend preference for pick-up

For costs and pick-up details, you can check out the Zoo Doo webpage or call the poop line at 206.625.POOP.

Wondering which animals contribute to Zoo Doo? All the non-primate herbivore animals are happy to doo their part. These animals include, elephants, hippos, zebras, giraffes, gazelles, oryx, ponies and others. Woodland Park Zoo creates 1,000,000 pounds of compost each year saving $60,000 per year in disposal costs.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Snow leopard cubs make debut

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

Snow leopard cubs Batu and the newly named Gobi (thanks to your 35,000 votes!) made their public debut this past Saturday during Woodland Park Zoo’s 3rd annual Snow Leopard Day event.

Watch the cubs take some of their first steps into the exhibit and explore the new sights and smells.

If you want to see them in person, the cubs are typically given access to the exhibit from noon to 3:00 p.m. daily.

Video by Ryan Hawk.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Zoo in the World: Tracking the elusive snow leopard

Posted by: Kim M. Murray, Ph.D., Assistant Director of Science, Snow Leopard Trust

Read on for an update on tracking wild snow leopards from the Snow Leopard Trust’s field research base in Mongolia. The Snow Leopard Trust is one of Woodland Park Zoo’s Partners for Wildlife*.

Summer is the busiest season at the Snow Leopard Trust’s research camp in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia. This summer our crew spent long days in the field looking for sites with recent snow leopard activity to deploy our trap cameras. By early July we had 41 cameras distributed over a 500-square-mile area, making it the most ambitious camera trapping study ever undertaken for snow leopards. The cameras remained in the field for a month; now we’re reviewing the images to see how many cats we photographed. Because every snow leopard has a unique spot pattern, just like a human fingerprint, we can use these photos to identify individual cats to estimate the size of the snow leopard population.

We’re also using GPS satellite collars to monitor the survival and movements of individual snow leopards. This summer we were hoping to recapture Aztai (pictured above), the first snow leopard collared when we began our study last August, to change out his collar before the battery ran out. At 5:00 a.m. on June 28, a transmitter was tripped indicating a capture was possible. The crew hiked out to the site and when we arrived we were greeted by Aztai’s luminous gray eyes!

Seeing Aztai again was both rewarding and sobering. It’s exciting to know we’ll have the opportunity to follow him for another year, gathering information that will help us develop better strategies to conserve snow leopards. But we noticed that Aztai is missing a toe on his left front paw, possibly to a trap set for wolves by a herder. Even though snow leopards are protected and killing them is punishable by stiff fines, it’s difficult to enforce the laws in a country as large and with so little infrastructure as Mongolia. Although his paw is completely healed, it was still a stark reminder of the challenges we face in protecting this magnificent species. - KM

*Woodland Park Zoo and Seattle-based Snow Leopard Trust have worked together for more than 25 years to protect and study wild snow leopards and to improve the lives of people living in snow leopard countries. Learn more about this project and how you can help save snow leopards.

Photos by Snow Leopard Trust:
(Top) Aztai shortly after radio-collaring.
(Bottom) Interns Munkhoo and Sumbee examine Aztai as Ph.D. student Orjan Johannson looks on. Although the cats are an important part of their wildlife heritage, this is the first time either of the interns had seen a live snow leopard.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Endangered turtles return to wild

Posted by: Gigi Allianic, Communications


After nearly a year of nourishment and care by Woodland Park Zoo turtle experts, 53 endangered western pond turtles swam their way back into the wild when we joined Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to release the turtles last week at wildlife refuge sites in Pierce and Mason Counties.

On hand to help release the shelled reptiles was 7-year-old Harrison Keyser of Sammamish, Wash. (pictured at left with his sisters) who arranged a “Turtle Trot” to raise more than $300 for the Western Pond Turtle Recovery Project. Harrison told us he thought “it was really cool letting the turtles go in the pond” and he’d like to do this again next year. We’d be happy to have you back, Harrison!

The 10-month-old turtles were collected last fall from the wild as hatchlings and head started at the zoo to give them an edge on surviving in the wild. Collection Manager Mike Teller and his keepers have a system for growing the turtles to just the right size:

“We mimic a summer season year round for the turtles by caring for them under lights and feeding them throughout the winter. By the time summer approaches, the juveniles are almost as big as 3-year-old turtles would be that grew up in the wild. This improves their chance of survival.”
Once common from Baja, Calif. to Puget Sound, including the Columbia River Gorge, the turtles were virtually extirpated due to loss of habitat, disease, and predation by non-native species such as bullfrogs and large-mouth bass. They were on the verge of extinction in Washington in 1990, with only a mere 150 turtles left in the wild. The state listed western pond turtles as endangered in 1993. But the good news is, the Western Pond Turtle Recovery Project has helped boost the population of the species to about 1,500 in Washington state!

(The reintroduction of the turtles is part of a long-term, collaborative effort among Woodland Park Zoo, Oregon Zoo, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to prevent the extinction of the species. It also is a project of the NW Zoo & Aquarium Alliance, which promotes collaboration on regional conservation among zoos and aquariums in the Pacific Northwest.)

Photos by Ryan Hawk.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Zoo Corps and Silverspot butterflies - a winning combo!

Posted by Ric Brewer, Communications

Below: WPZ staff member David Droppers with Zoo Corps interns Claire and Brenna, transport endangered Oregon silverspot butterflies for release (top) and releasing them at Cascade Head Reserve. (Photos by Katie Remine)

On Thursday, August 13, Brenna and Claire, two of our Zoo Corps teen interns got the great opportunity to have a direct impact on wildlife conservation by participating in the release of endangered Oregon silverspot butterflies at a protected site in Cascade Head Reserve, Oregon. The site, run by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Department and The Nature Conservancy is not only protecting some of the last vestiges of this rare native butterfly, it also is the site of what is becoming an ever dwindling habitat, coastal grasslands. The zoo has been participating in the Oregon Silverspot Butterfly Recovery Project by raising butterfly at the zoo and releasing pupae back to this location which also hosts the butterflies' favorite food, the early blue violet.

We asked Brenna and Claire to write about their field experience. This type of hands-on conservation has really inspired them!

Brenna, Zoo Corps Intern:

Since I have been hearing about the silverspot project since 5th grade (when my class attempted to grow violets), this trip really brought out what this is all about. It’s exciting and it’s a great feeling seeing the butterflies flying that were raised in our labs and we picked so many leaves for them. I’ve felt really proud to work with a conservation project throughout the summer and I was pleased to actually be able to see them in the wild as opposed to just caterpillars in a lab (not that I don’t enjoy the caterpillars, either). I’m pleased that the whole day was agreeable (the weather, the views, the people we traveled with, etc., etc.) The silverspots looked awesome. It was incredible to see the vast diversity between them all when they all looked quite similar as larvae. I would love to have this experience again.

Claire, Zoo Corps Intern:

I think that going on this silverspot trip has allowed me to appreciate the work I have done at WPZ more. All of the dishes and violet leaves and pupae papers have made this experience come true. I am very thankful to have this opportunity. Every little action helps this butterfly species live. I thoroughly enjoyed working on this conservation effort, and I am proud to be making a difference. I enjoyed the weather, and the type of work we did at the release site. I wish I could’ve seen more of the Portland zoo, but I liked seeing their butterfly/larvae lab.

Meet the cubs at Snow Leopard Day

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications


Don't miss the debut of the snow leopard cubs tomorrow, Saturday, August 15, at noon during our 3rd annual Snow Leopard Day. The male cub will get his name--chosen by your votes--and the public will see the cubs take their first official steps into the exhibit!

Enjoy a full day of activities (9:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.) celebrating one of the world’s most endangered and elusive wild animals. The third annual event is hosted by the zoo and its conservation partner, the Snow Leopard Trust, to highlight the fascinating adaptations of the snow leopard and critical conservation efforts to protect them in the wild. Activities include:

* Keeper talks and special enrichment for the snow leopards
* Conservation talks by Snow Leopard Trust
* Book launch and signing of "Saving the Ghost of the Mountain: An Expedition Among Snow Leopards in Mongolia" with author Sy Montgomery
* Snow leopard-inspired crafts for kids
* Special themed programs for kids in Zoomazium
* Conservation commerce made by artisans to help support snow leopard conservation

Photo by Dale Unruh.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Take a penguin home with you

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications


Here's your chance to own one of the Penguins on the March penguin statues seen migrating across Seattle this summer--a public silent auction will be held for the penguins on August 14 at the monthly Art Up Greenwood-Phinney art walk.

Meet some of the artists and place your bid on one of the 30 penguin statues that will be auctioned off to benefit Woodland Park Zoo’s field conservation programs. Woodland Park Zoo currently supports 38 wildlife conservation projects in 50 countries worldwide, including the Humboldt Penguin Conservation Center at Punta San Juan.

Save the date:
Friday, August 14, 2009, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. at The Greenwood Collective. See you there!

Photos by Ryan Hawk.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Cast your vote to name a snow leopard cub

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

The poll is open! Cast your vote to name Woodland Park Zoo's male snow leopard cub, plus enter to win a snow leopard prize package. Vote as often as you'd like for as many names as you'd like now through midnight, August 12.

We'll announce the winning name when the cubs debut on Saturday, August 15 at noon on Snow Leopard Day. The female cub has already been named Batu (pronounced BAH-too), a Mongolian name meaning firm, hard, honest.

Photo: This male snow leopard cub, pictured here at 9 weeks, needs a name selected by you! Photo by Ryan Hawk.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Male snow leopard cub needs a name

Posted by: Gigi Allianic, Communications

“Hey, sweetie” may sound pretty cute, but a male snow leopard cub needs a befitting name to match his majestic beauty. Starting next week on August 4, you can help name the 2½-month-old cub through Woodland Park Zoo’s online naming poll.

The female cub has been named Batu (pronounced BAH-too), meaning firm, hard, honest in Mongolian. You'll have your choice of four Mongolian names for the male cub:

- Gobi (go-bee) – named for Gobi Desert in Mongolia
- Boke (rhymes with poke) – “Strong”
- Irbis (ear-biss) – “Leopard”
- Vachir (voch-err) – “Thunderbolt”

Mongolia is one of the 12 countries that is home to the endangered snow leopard.

The winning name will be announced when the cubs make their public debut at Snow Leopard Day on Saturday, August 15. The third annual event is hosted by the zoo and its conservation partner, the Snow Leopard Trust, to highlight the fascinating adaptations of the snow leopard and critical conservation efforts to protect them in the wild.

Once you vote, snow leopard fans ages 18 and older will also have a chance to enter to win a fabulous snow leopard prize package: a 12-month ZooParent adoption of a snow leopard with a plush snow leopard and certificate; a signed copy of “Saving the Ghost of the Mountain: An Expedition Among Snow Leopards in Mongolia” by award-winning author Sy Montgomery and photographer Nic Bishop; and a commemorative framed photo of the snow leopard cubs.

Stay tuned next week for the naming poll link when the poll kicks off on Tuesday!
(Snow leopard cub photo by Ryan Hawk.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Zoomazium's a treat in the heat

Posted by: David Schaefer, Public Affairs

Savvy parents know all about coming to the zoo when it rains in Seattle.

They visit Zoomazium, Woodland Park Zoo’s award-winning, LEED-certified indoor play area for kids to learn about nature – and have a great time doing it.

But Zoomazium is another great choice now that the weather is in the 90’s. It’s air-conditioned!

In this all-season space, children 8 and under connect with the wonders of the natural world. Kids discover a new favorite animal, star in a nature play, or climb, slide and explore their way through a magical world. What’s more, after pretending to be a big cat or an ape, they can walk outside and in just a few short steps, meet a real live jaguar or a gorilla in a beautiful, naturalistic habitat.

The building is designed to LEED-gold standards, the first in a North American zoo. And for those trying to beat the heat in the Seattle area this summer, it is still a great idea to come to the zoo.

Zoomazium is open daily and is free with zoo admission or membership, and there is programming every afternoon. But remember – no adults without kid supervision.
Photo by Ryan Hawk.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Storm the zoo

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

A Storm is coming to Woodland Park Zoo...

Meet WNBA Seattle Storm stars Ashley Robinson and Janell Burse on Sun., August 2 from 4:30 – 5:30 p.m. at Woodland Park Zoo! You can catch Robinson and Burse as they tour the Humboldt penguin and Willawong Station exhibits, then meet them for an autograph under the Storm tent at the southwest corner of the North Meadow, across from penguins.

But wait…there’s more!

For being a zoo AND Storm fan, you get half off tickets for Zoo Night at the Seattle Storm vs. Phoenix Mercury game on Tuesday, August 4 at 7:00 p.m. Follow this link to purchase regularly-priced $34 seats for just $17! Be sure to visit the Penguin Wagon and zoo table on the West Plaza before the game and say hi to us.

We'll see you there!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tree roos are back

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

For the first time in three years, Woodland Park Zoo is once again home to the Matschie’s tree kangaroo! This endangered species is endemic to Papua New Guinea and is known for its bear-like head, bushy tail and marsupial’s pouch.

Huen, an eight-year-old male, is a little shy when it comes to the camera, but we snapped this photo of him while he was perched up in a tree. Huen arrived from Singapore Zoo in March and can now be found living in the Day Exhibit.

As one of the newest conservation ambassadors at the zoo, Huen represents the inspiring work of the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program, founded and based here at Woodland Park Zoo.

You might remember the big news we shared earlier this year when Woodland Park Zoo’s Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program celebrated a milestone with the passage of Papua New Guinea’s first ever national Conservation Area, preserving 187,800 acres of forest habitat for the endangered Matschie’s tree kangaroo and thousands of other endemic and endangered species.

We look forward to introducing a mate to Huen next year, and hopefully breeding the endangered pair as an important part of our conservation work with the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan.

Photos:
(Top) Huen at Woodland Park Zoo, photo by Ryan Hawk.
(Bottom) Papua New Guinea villagers celebrate the passage of the first national Conservation Area, photo by Ryan Hawk.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Zoo vets give snow leopard cubs 6-week exam

Posted by: Gigi Allianic, Communications

The pair of snow leopard cubs are growing, playing and now testing the likes of solid food! See the male and female siblings get their six-week examination and receive their first set of vaccinations as part of the zoo’s excellent animal and medical care program. Then at the end, watch them be rewarded with their first taste of solid food—chicken!




The cubs were born on Memorial Day to first-time parents, 4-year-old Helen and 3-year-old Tom. Mom and cubs remain off public exhibit to ensure continual bonding and proper nursing while staff monitors the new family via an internal web cam.

The male weighed in yesterday at 7 pounds and the female, 6 pounds. According to their keepers the cubs are venturing outside the birthing den more frequently and playing, particularly favoring a game of playing with mom’s tail!

Dr. Kelly Helmick, associate veterinarian at the zoo, gave the cubs a clean bill of health and will continue to administer exams and the necessary vaccinations until they reach about 16 weeks.

Stay tuned for more updates on the pair.

Photos: Top--female cub; bottom--male cub.

Photos and video by Ryan Hawk.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Northern helmeted curassow chick hatches

Posted by: Mark Myers, Animal Curator

A Northern helmeted curassow chick hatched 6/26 with a little assistance from keepers since the chick wasn’t making much progress after 48 hours of effort.

It is now located behind the scenes in a brooder box next to its mother in the zoo’s Conservation Aviary in the Temperate Forest zone. By keeping it next to her, the chick should become more properly socialized and have less of a chance of imprinting on humans. To reduce imprinting, staff minimizes talking in the presence of the chick.

Like chickens or turkeys, curassow chicks are precocial at hatching—meaning they are born relatively independent—and with guidance, they learn to eat on their own very quickly. To stimulate it to eat, we use objects like tweezers or a long stick with a red tip to point food out to the chick.

These chicks are also very arboreal and they like to perch up off the ground. At hatching, their wing feathers are very well developed which allows them to take short flights at a very young age.

These chicks also grow relatively slowly (compared to other species like frogmouths or songbirds), and the chick now has a weight gain of ~5-8% per day. Its hatch weight was 133g (4.7 oz)…..10 times heavier than the frogmouth chick was at hatching!!

Curassows belong to one of the most endangered groups of birds in Central and South America. Many species are endangered due to habitat destruction and illegal hunting.

Photos by Ryan Hawk.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Help us restore habitat at Licton Springs Park

Posted by: Katherine Steen, Education

Want to join a Woodland Park Zoo team restoring habitat for wildlife at Licton Springs Park? Sign up for a habitat restoration event with us and EarthCorps!

Back on May 16, our zoo team had a great time with EarthCorps and community volunteers restoring habitat at Golden Gardens Park. And now, we’re doing it again!

This summer WPZ invites you to share the habitat by taking action to protect and restore wildlife habitat around the world and in our own backyards. On Saturday, July 11th, a team of zoo staff, volunteers, and friends will be joining Earth Corps and the Green Seattle Partnership for a restoration event at Licton Springs Park in north Seattle.

Add it to your calendar!
Saturday, July 11th, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

What to expect:
You'll be side by side with zoo staff and volunteers planting native trees, shrubs, and ground cover.

EarthCorps will provide gloves, tools, water, light refreshments (coffee, tea, water and donuts!) and a talk that covers safety, environmental restoration and the overview of the project.

What to bring:
We suggest that restoration volunteers dress in layers of older clothes that include long pants, long sleeve shirt and a jacket. Durable footwear such as work boots, hiking boots or running shoes are recommended for these events. These events take place rain or shine so please come prepared for the weather. Bring a lunch as well as water and a coffee cup/travel mug for refreshments. Please do not wear open toe shoes or sandals.

How to sign up:
· Click on this link to the event
· Click on "Sign up for this event"
· If you're a new Earth Corps volunteer, click the "Sign up" button next to "I'm a new volunteer." If you're a returning EarthCorps volunteer, enter your email and password.
· Click on "I'm volunteering as part of a group" and enter Woodland Park Zoo as the Group Name

We hope to see you there!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Frog recovery program making headlines

Posted by: Bobbi Miller, Field Conservation


Did you see today’s Seattle Times cover story about the Cedar Creek Corrections Center inmates helping to raise and reintroduce endangered Oregon spotted frogs to Washington habitats? It’s all part of a great recovery program Woodland Park Zoo has joined with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Northwest Zoo and Aquarium Alliance.

Here in our own Northwest backyard, we’ve seen populations of the Oregon spotted frog diminish significantly, all but lost to wetland degradation and chytridiomycosis—a deadly, fast spreading fungus. Add to that the introduction of predators such as the bullfrog, and this native frog has disappeared from much of its original habitat. These factors prompted Washington state to list the species as endangered in 1997. It may also ultimately lead to a federal endangered listing soon.

But hope is on the horizon. Woodland Park Zoo has joined a multi-institution recovery project that is pairing captive rearing of frogs with a wild release program to bring this species back from the brink.

Scientists have selected Dailman Lake at Fort Lewis as a reintroduction area because it contains one of the largest relatively intact wetlands remaining in the Puget Lowlands. Reintroducing the Oregon spotted frogs to this habitat first requires Woodland Park Zoo and other institutions to headstart these frogs from embryo to full fledged frog, a process that takes 13 to 16 weeks. Headstarting starts with eggs taken from marshlands, brought to the zoo, hatched and raised until the frogs reach an age and size where they can be safely released and be able to protect themselves from predators.

We are headstarting the frogs behind the scenes at the zoo now, and we expect to release them some time this fall, after which we will track the frogs for movement and population patterns. The ultimate goal is to establish a self-sustaining population at the Dailman Lake site.


Photos:
(Top center) Life cycle of Oregon spotted frog. Courtesy of Northwest Zoo and Aquarium Alliance.
(Top left) Photo of Oregon spotted frog tadpoles by Mike Teller.
(Bottom right and left) Photos of Oregon spotted frogs being reared at Woodland Park Zoo by Ryan Hawk.