Thursday, December 30, 2010
This week marks Woodland Park Zoo’s 111th birthday, and what a 111th year it has been! In 2010 we celebrated conservation successes, won a national best exhibit award, hatched endangered species and so much more.
Here’s my personal pick of the top 10 zoo stories of 2010, in no particular order. What were your favorite zoo experiences this year?
1. Endangered penguin chicks hatch in new exhibit
2. Snow leopard cologne sniff test helps conservation research in the wild
3. Rescued golden eagle finds new home at zoo
4. Meerkats return to the zoo after 10-year absence—and they’re meerkute!
5. Elephant Chai predicts winner of the Apple Cup
6. Zoo wins national Best Exhibit Award for sustainably-built Humboldt penguin exhibit
7. Teens raise and release endangered turtles into wild
8. Community celebrates endangered species with zoo’s Limited Edition art and Trophy Cupcakes
9. Zoo blog readers help raise money to fight fires in endangered crane habitat
10. SnOMG hits Seattle, zoo animals explore the snow
Videos produced by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.
Photos (from top): Snow leopard cam photos, courtesy of Snow Leopard Trust; Golden eagle by Ric Brewer/Woodland Park Zoo; Penguin by Jennifer Svane; Turtles by Ryan Hawk and Rachel Gray/Woodland Park Zoo; Limited Edition artwork (clockwise from top left): Troy Gua, Natalie Oswald, Fumi Watanabe, Don Clark, Fiona McGuigan, Jesse LeDoux; Oriental white stork by Andre Ogleznev; Zoo in snow by Ryan Hawk and Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
If ever an opportunity arises to visit the “bowels” of the zoo, take advantage of it. And when we say bowels, we mean it! It is there you will find Mr. Jimmy Bucsit flipping, and forking, and hauling, and hosing, and performing all kinds of other duties required to keep those famous piles of poop percolating in the Zoo Doo yard. It is for that work—25 dedicated years of it—that Jimmy was honored this month with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Washington Organic Recycling Council.
Many of our visitors have experienced the fun of Fecal Fest and purchased our well-known Zoo Doo, and increasingly popular Bedspread. Well, it is thanks to Jimmy and his 25 years of commendable service that we are able to provide such unique offerings. It is with his help that we are able to create and maintain a major reserve of specially-treated, microbe-rich, poop- riddled compost that reflects our commitment to sustainable practices. This wealth of onsite raw materials and the products they ultimately become are a vital part of the zoo’s Living Soils Program. It is Jimmy’s professional dedication that makes this possible. With an understanding of healthy soil as the genesis of an ecologically-balanced environment in which to care for our animals, he approaches his role with an eye on the greater good.
By distributing our composted materials to the public, we are contributing to the region’s greater environmental vigor; when people purchase Zoo Doo and add it to their home gardens they are spreading the word, so to speak. They are showing, by example, how to begin with the basics and build from there. And it all starts with the turning of our animals’ contributions into magical mountains of mulch. And that all starts with Jimmy.
The concept of the Zoo Doo yard, as we know it, was conceived over two decades ago. According to Jimmy, who has been there from its inception, waste management once meant the pitch-forking of poop into trucks to be hauled offsite. The zoo has since allocated resources to streamline the process and has found ways to turn the problem of waste disposal into an asset. As Jimmy puts it, “we have made the most of a messy situation.”
It is a great pleasure to see this quiet figure receive the accolades he is “doo” with the honor of this Lifetime Achievement Award. When asked what he thinks of the organization that has bestowed his award, Jimmy has a lot to say. He can’t seem to stress enough how honored he feels. Impressed by the council’s members (including business leaders, state representatives, Department of Ecology constituents, and college professors), he describes them as an “elite group of pioneering intellectuals” who are responsible for conservation research and policy-making. He appreciates the challenges they face and says, “I hold this award on par with a ribbon for a track and field championship competition, where some of the best runners and I hit the finish line at the same time.”
So, if ever you spot this behind-the-scenes member of our zoo family, with his signature silver hair and mile-wide smile, driving to-and-fro in his enormous truck, know that he is making a major difference. Know that he is a steward and keeper of the landscape. Know that he helps make our zoo the plant-rich, happy animals’ home we love.
Photos (from top): Maurer Group, Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Thank you to all who have helped make Woodland Park Zoo a truly magical place for families in our community and for our zoo family here and around the world.
We hope you’ll spread the holiday cheer and pass this video or a zoo holiday e-card along to your loved ones.
On behalf of all the animals and staff, we wish you a happy holiday season and a wonderful 2011.
Video produced by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
In June, we posted urgent news from the field about a devastating fire that severely damaged parkland in Russia vital to the survival of endangered cranes. Touched by the tragedy, our generous readers and zoo supporters contributed $800 to help Cranes of Asia, a WPZ Partner for Wildlife, purchase firefighting equipment to control dangerous fires in the future. Here is an update on the progress of that critical effort…
The afternoon was still and hot until the winds began to pick up at the Muraviovka Park in the Amur region of Russia. It was the sort of day where you can feel something is about to happen, you just aren’t sure what that something might be—until you look out to the horizon and see it, the smoke from a wildfire.
On May 2 this year, the crew at Muraviovka Park—a crucial nesting and breeding ground for the endangered red crowned crane, and the home of WPZ Partner for Wildlife Cranes of Asia—could do little but watch as over 90% of the park was burned. Due to the delicacy of the habitat, fires are fought on the ground because it’s too difficult to bring in a fully loaded water tanker. The crew at the park did everything they could to fight the fire, many of which are started in that region by farmers burning bales of straw in crop fields, smoldering camp fires left unattended, or the occasional “just for fun” fire. One of the best ways to prevent these sorts of devastating fires in the park is to conduct prescribed burns—a practice that allows you to burn a designated area as a fire break, eliminating all flora that might fuel a larger fire. This practice has raised interest among local firefighters, and a strong negative reaction from the governmental agency responsible for nature protected territories.
Game rangers and wardens are opposed to the idea of prescribed burns since they’re not trained for them and don’t trust the process to be safe. When the park staff burned approximately 430 hectares of wetlands this fall, leaving a mosaic of burned wide stripes and large islands of untouched grasslands suitable for crane nests, the government threatened to sue had the local firefighters not come out in favor of the burns.
We posted the story about the fire on our blog in June and through generous donations by friends of the zoo, we were able to send over $800 to our partner Cranes of Asia to use towards the purchase of firefighting equipment. In an effort to show their dedication to not just the park, but to the surrounding farms, Cranes of Asia Executive Director Sergei Smirenski purchased 24 brass water pumps in the U.S. this fall and donated them to the Amur Region Fire Department, which ended up being breaking news in the area.
It is these efforts, and your help, that will keep the crane habitat safe and healthy for years to come. On behalf of partner Cranes of Asia, we at Woodland Park Zoo would like to thank you for your generous donations and your help in spreading the word about this and other conservation needs around the globe.
Photos (from top to bottom): Red crowned crane by Igor Ishenko, Muraviovka fire by Sergei Smirenski, Fire aftermath by Sergei Smirenski, Sergei delivers brass pumps by Adam C. Stein, Oriental white stork by Andre Ogleznev.
Friday, December 10, 2010
Any time an endangered animal gives birth in the wild it is an event to be celebrated. When it is an African elephant calf born in the evening twilight rather than late at night, and observed by WPZ Partner for Wildlife the Tarangire Elephant Project, it is a moment to be shared with everyone that supports the zoo, its partners, and our conservation mission. The following is an update from the field by Tarangire field assistant Mustafa Hassanali on the newborn elephant he observed in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania…
In the early evening on September 9, we saw Olive and her 18-year-old daughter, Olie, huddled together in an area of open grassland. They adopted a threatening posture as we drove up close to them, as we didn’t yet realize what was happening. Olie ran away with her calves and then we saw Olive and a small female calf, which had probably been born only a few minutes earlier. She was extremely wobbly and could barely stand. Olive was kicking up dust to cover the scent where the calf was born and also picking up the fetal sac and tossing it to one side.
Shortly after the birth, the calf began exploring her mother with her tiny trunk, but could not find her mother’s teats and instead tried to suckle against Olive’s hind leg.
The calf remained very wobbly and tried to suckle for nearly an hour. While we were watching she fell about three times, and each time Olive would carefully lift her up and steady her newborn daughter with her trunk.
Olive started to walk away at about 6:00 p.m., but the calf was struggling to follow her mother. After another 15 minutes the calf finally managed to suckle successfully for about 30 seconds before she fell over again and her mother quickly lifted her up.
Olive then slowly walked towards the other members of her family group, who were feeding not far away. Although wobbly, the calf was now better able to follow her mother.
As the sun began to set at about 6:30 p.m., we left Olive and her new infant.
Three days later we saw Olive and her daughter and she looked very strong and was doing a good job keeping up with the group.
Want to help support Woodland Park Zoo and our conservation efforts around the globe? Text WPZ to 20222 to donate $5 to the zoo today. Messaging and data rates may apply. For details visit www.zoo.org/text2give.
Photos courtesy of Mustafa Hassanali/Tarangire Elephant Project.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
One-year-old lion Adia recently arrived at the zoo to join our African Savanna exhibit, thanks to the leadership of Jungle Party 2010 Chairs Nancy and Rick Alvord. Last week, the young lion underwent a full physical examination by our animal health team. Such routine physicals give us essential baseline medical information for new animals including blood work, radiographs, and dental examination.
Adia, whose name means “gift” in Swahili, got a clean bill of health from her vets. The young lion weighed in at 150 pounds, around half the weight she is expected to grow into as an adult. She shows her young age in her fur as well—as a juvenile, Adia still has rosette-like spots on her fur, typical of lion cubs.
Thanks to the generous contributions of Karen L. Koon, our animal health team recently acquired a digital radiography machine that we were able to use during Adia’s exam. Taking baseline x-rays of a new animal is important in order to have a reference point when examining future x-rays. By going digital, we eliminated the time it takes to process, share and store x-ray images and were able to get immediate read outs that can be accessed again in the future with just a click. This also makes our radiographs easier to share with others, improving access to information for vets and animal health researchers across all Association of Zoos & Aquariums-accredited zoos.
After the exam, Adia was returned to her temporary housing at the zoo’s Animal Health Complex to complete the standard 30-day quarantine period. Having arrived here under a recommendation by the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for African lions, she will be paired for breeding with our 11-year-old male lion when she reaches sexual maturity next fall.
Species Survival Plans are cooperative breeding programs to help ensure genetic diversity and demographic stability in North American zoos. The zoo participates in 35 SSPs, which are administered by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. Additionally, SSPs involve a variety of other collaborative conservation activities such as research, public education, reintroduction and field projects.
Next up for Adia? After clearing quarantine, she will be introduced gradually, starting this week, to the zoo’s award-winning African Savanna where she will rotate on exhibit with our resident lions.
Want to help support Woodland Park Zoo and our excellent animal health program? Text WPZ to 20222 to donate $5 to the zoo today. Messaging and data rates may apply. For details visit www.zoo.org/text2give.
Photos by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
This conservation update comes from the Snow Leopard Trust, a Woodland Park Zoo Partner for Wildlife working to study and conserve wild populations of the endangered snow leopard. Their field research, based in Mongolia, includes camera monitoring and GPS collaring of wild snow leopards in order to better understand the range and behavior of this elusive species. The more we know about snow leopards, the better we can protect them…
As we come to the end of our 2010 field season, we are pleased to close the year with two wonderful stories.
The first is about Tsagaan, who has been out of contact since March 2010! This fall, our team caught up with Tsagaan, a large adult male cat we have been following for two years. Although re-collared in March 2010, his collar never switched on and we received no GPS locations over the last eight months. Within weeks of placing this new collar in September, we received some astounding information. Simultaneous uplinks separated by just about 16 meters indicate that Tsagaan shared a cluster of GIS locations with Khashaa (a female in the study), and it is likely that they may have shared a meal! Could it be snow leopard romance?
The other astounding news is that in October we placed a collar on a female snow leopard we named Tenger, meaning Sky Spirit. We believe that Tenger, who is a larger and older snow leopard, is the mother of Zaraa, who is notably both younger and smaller. We’ve seen them together in remote sensor camera images, and now we can watch as they move and hunt together!
We’re excited to see these snow leopard sagas in the South Gobi unfold and we believe it will yield unprecedented data on snow leopard social interactions; dispersal of young from their mothers; differences in male and female movement patterns, and much more.
Thank you to Woodland Park Zoo for their generous support, and to our partners Panthera Foundation and Snow Leopard Conservation Fund, Mongolia.
Want to help support Woodland Park Zoo and our global and local conservation efforts? Text WPZ to 20222 to donate $5 to the zoo today. Messaging and data rates may apply. For details visit www.zoo.org/text2give.
Photo: Tsagaan, a male snow leopard being studied by the Snow Leopard Trust and Panthera with support from Woodland Park Zoo. Photo courtesy Snow Leopard Trust/Panthera.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Chai (rhymes with eye), our female Asian elephant, doesn't yet have the fame of the late Paul the World Cup-predicting octopus. But today she prognosticated the winner of the Apple Cup. Presented with two boxes of apples, one decorated with Dawg and the other in Coug-themed wrapping paper. The 31-year-old elephant used her trunk to snatch an apple from the purple and gold box, picking the winner with a firm bite. Then, as you can see in the video, promptly smashed the box with the Coug paper.
But never fear die-hard Cougs fans, you still get your props. Today's pachyderm prediction is part of the zoo's special Apple Cup admission discount where anyone wearing Husky---or Coug---garb gets half-off zoo admission through December 5. It can be a jersey, hat, gloves, scarf or gloves. It's your choice. Or show a valid student ID from either school.
(This admission discount applies only to the child or adult wearing the university sportswear and cannot be combined with other discounts or promotions. Good through December 5, 2010.)
Video produced by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.
Monday, November 29, 2010
Here at Woodland Park Zoo, we develop many sizes of partnerships with all sorts of community organizations, but sometimes the sweetest of such partnerships are the simplest and directly in our neck of the woods.
This is exactly what we realized when we recently got a call from Herkimer Coffee, located just a few blocks away from the zoo on Phinney Avenue. Sure, several zoo staffers and volunteers get their morning or afternoon pick-me-ups here, but Herkimer manager Chad Smith was thinking about the zoo on a deeper level. He and his family not only love the zoo as members, they’ve also spent time here and on their own learning about orangutans. They share our same strong affinity for these inspiring and intelligent primates.
Chad specifically noticed that we use burlap bags in our orangutan and gorilla exhibits. In case you didn’t know, orangutans are arboreal, living in treetops, and they rarely come down from the trees. When they do, one of their tendencies is to create nests to sleep in or they blanket themselves with leaves for weather protection. The burlap bags that are available to our orangutans offer the same sense of security and care. Our gorillas also use the burlap bags for enrichment activities and they love to play with them.
Back at Herkimer, they receive green, un-roasted beans in burlap bags from all over the world, and roast them on site, leaving them with plenty of empty burlap bags. The leftover bags are then frequently used as packing materials. But this time, Chad kindly contacted us to see if he could donate these bags so we could reuse them for our orangutans and gorillas.
These bags are inspected for stickers, labels and the occasional bean left in a seam, but other than that, they usually arrive in clean and safe conditions for our animals. With our orangutans, we typically rotate 12 bags in their exhibit while another 12 bags are drying after being hosed clean. These bags are rotated until they can no longer be cleaned, or start to fall apart. Due to the short life-line of burlap bags and the good times that our animals have with them, the zoo has always been in need of such donations. That’s why this Herkimer donation has quickly become an ongoing partnership. Also, we’re happy to be working with one of our many great Phinney neighbors and such big fans of the zoo.
To sweeten this partnership even more, Woodland Park Zoo keeper Stephanie Jacobs recently offered a talk at the orangutan exhibit with Chad and his two young daughters (pictured above) to heighten their understanding of orangutans.
So, the next time you Seattle or Phinney locals visit our orangutans or gorillas, you can be proud of the fact that the burlap bags that our animals are seeking comforts from were donated and recycled through a local company just down the street. Thank you, Herkimer!
Photos (top to bottom): Joe Mabel, Dennis Conner/Woodland Park Zoo, Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo, Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo, Roxanne Murphy/Woodland Park Zoo courtesy of the Smith family.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Getting ready for Thanksgiving? Enjoy this clip of our Komodo dragons gulping down a turkey treat. The footage was featured nationwide on NBC's Today Show. Watch the video below or visit the Today website to view.
The turkey treat was given to the Komodo dragons and other zoo carnivores at our annual Turkey Toss enrichment event, held last Saturday. Turkey Toss is 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 and physically stimulated and engage zoo visitors.
Monday, November 22, 2010
Though the winter storm watch advisory caused the zoo to close early today for visitor and staff safety, the animals did quite well in the snow. They have indoor access and heated areas, but some chose to go out and explore in the snow anyway. It can be quite enriching for them!
Here are some photos we took of the animals in the snow today, some a natural fit for the white-capped scenery, others a departure from the usual snowy scene:
Monday, November 15, 2010
This week, we released the first of six prints for our Limited Edition campaign, this one highlighting the endangered African wild dog.
With only 3,000 African wild dogs left in the wild, this is a species on the edge, surviving in scattered packs across sub-Saharan Africa, a result of habitat loss and fragmentation.
What isn’t fragmented is this species way of life in the pack—their social structure is remarkable. Even the scene at a kill for these carnivores is polite and orderly, with pups eating first while the adults fend off scavengers. How do they keep the peace? They frequently use ritualized gestures of appeasement to prevent any serious infighting. Most appeasement behavior is ritualized food-begging, but other gestures are familiar to anyone who owns a pet dog, such as whining, tail-wagging, and rolling over to expose the belly.
You can see some of their hunting instincts at work if you ever catch our African wild dogs enjoying a special enrichment treat, like the box full o’ meat seen here that they recently enjoyed thanks to some zoo campers who put together this enrichment for them.
Want to help us celebrate this species? You’ll find the original artwork by Fumi Watanabe up for auction this week (along with the other five, gorgeous works in the series) and limited edition prints available at the ZooStore West and online.
You can also purchase an African wild dog cupcake at Trophy Cupcakes locations through Sat., Nov. 20 and proceeds will go to support Woodland Park Zoo. A new limited edition endangered species cupcake and print will be released each Sunday over the next five weeks. Yum!
Artwork by Fumi Watanabe; African wild dog photos by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo; cupcake photo courtesy Trophy Cupcakes.
Monday, November 8, 2010
Animals shouldn’t come in limited edition, yet dwindling wild populations have one fifth of the world’s vertebrates teetering on the edge of extinction. This fall, we launched our Limited Edition art campaign to draw attention to the plight of endangered species, what we’re doing to conserve them, and how you can help.
The campaign started with billboards around town showing artist renditions of six of the endangered species Woodland Park Zoo is working to save: Panamanian golden frog; western pond turtle; African wild dog; Sumatran tiger; golden lion tamarin; and red crowned crane. The six works of art, shown above, were designed by prominent Pacific Northwest artists Troy Gua, Natalie Oswald, Fumi Watanabe, Don Clark, Fiona McGuigan and Jesse LeDoux.
The numbers scribbled in the left-hand corner of the billboards—evocative of limited edition artwork—represent the number of individuals of that species remaining in the wild: 1,100 western pond turtles, 1,000 golden lion tamarins, 400 Sumatran tigers.
But there is hope and we can all be part of the solution. In a study released in October by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, biologists reported on the remarkable impact conservation efforts have had on reversing the extinction trend. According to the report, the status of biodiversity would have declined by nearly 20 percent if conservation actions had not been taken.
Woodland Park Zoo is proud to play a role in such conservation efforts worldwide that are making a difference. We support 37 conservation programs in 50 countries, restoring habitat, protecting wildlife, educating people and improving community livelihoods.
You can help support these conservation projects and the zoo’s work in animal care and education by getting involved in the Limited Edition campaign.
Art Open House – Sun., Nov. 14, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Meet some of the artists and see the original works up close at the ZooStore West. Mini Trophy Cupcakes will be served (while they last!).
Online original art auction
Bid on the original works of art from Sun., Nov. 14 – Sun., Nov. 21.
Prints for sale
Purchase prints of each work at the ZooStore or online. One work will be released as a limited edition print each week for six weeks, starting Nov. 14.
Eat a cupcake, save wildlife
From Nov. 14 through Dec. 18, Trophy Cupcakes will release a new Limited Edition cupcake each week (two the week of Dec. 12), featuring one of the six animals highlighted in the campaign. Purchase a Limited Edition cupcake at any Trophy Cupcakes location, and 100% of profits from each sale will go to help support Woodland Park Zoo.
Tell a friend
One of the best tools we have in conservation is conversation. Double your impact and tell a friend about the conservation concerns you have, and share with them some ways to help—from taking action with Woodland Park Zoo through our Limited Edition campaign to making eco-friendly choices at home. Click the Recommend button below to share this story on Facebook and get your network talking.
Any way you choose to get involved, you’ll be helping Woodland Park Zoo and our work around the globe. Thanks for all you do!
Art (clockwise from top left) Panamanian golden frog by Troy Gua; western pond turtle by Natalie Oswald; African wild dog by Fumi Watanabe; Sumatran tiger by Don Clark; golden lion tamarin by Fiona McGuigan; red crowned crane by Jesse LeDoux.
Billboard design: WongDoody
Video produced by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo
Delicious looking cupcakes: Trophy Cupcakes
Friday, October 29, 2010
In anticipation of Pumpkin Bash, we gave meerkats and grizzlies a preview of the tasty snacks awaiting them this weekend.
First up, the meerkats filled their bellies with pumpkin when we set out two jack o’ lanterns in their exhibit.
They are always quick to investigate anything new, so they scrambled immediately to check out the large pumpkins. Some climbed right through the holes to get to the tasty inside, while others clawed and gnawed at the outer portion.
After the meerkats stuffed themselves, the grizzlies got their turn. The pumpkins were tossed into the exhibit making an impressive splash.
Our two grizzly bears, 16-year-old brothers Keema and Denali each grabbed a pumpkin and took them to their own spot. It didn’t take long for them to smash open their pumpkins and enjoy the innards, the evidence all over their faces.
You can see elephants, gorillas, hippos and more enjoying pumpkin treats at this weekend’s Pumpkin Bash on Saturday and Sunday. There will also be trick-or-treating, live entertainment, and one child (12 and under) in costume gets in FREE per paying adult! If you make it down to Pumpkin Bash, we’d love to see your photos. Please share them on our Facebook wall. See you there!
Photos by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
When the Chilean flamingo exhibit was constructed in 2007, one of our older non-animal exhibits had to go: the Our Backyard exhibit that focused on planting and caring for native, wildlife-friendly shrubs, trees and flowers. But we knew this wouldn’t be forever.
We have just begun the new iteration of Our Backyard, re-purposing the small orchard in our Family Farm. Despite the new location, the focus remains to demonstrate ways to bring wildlife closer to home. We’ll share seasonal programs that show people how to offer food, water, shelter and a place to raise young for our native wildlife. We’ll also show visitors ways to help mitigate the detrimental effects of modern lifestyles ― from toxic chemicals and pesticides (Just say no!), to keeping our pets from preying on wildlife.
A new path will wander through a special corner of the zoo toxic free and will include drought-resistant native plants, drinking water sources, food and shelter to encourage wildlife such as bees, birds, bats and butterflies, as well as soil- building bugs. (We’ll also encourage some animals that don’t start with the letter “B”!). The trail will serve as a seasonal program area and a year-round interpretive path.
The signage will echo the tenets of our popular Backyard Habitat workshops:
1) Wildlife needs water and protection from pets.
2) Keeping pollution out of our water with rain gardens and porous paving
3) Pollinator Plants: Pretty and Productive!
4) We all need shelter: Wildlife shelters are easy!
5) Gaining Ground! The critters in the litter, building soil
6) A healthy backyard: Green gardeners - eliminating toxics
Many plants along the path will have tags or signs so visitors can find the same plants for their own yards.
The entry to Our Backyard will feature a garden shed, which will serve as a gathering space for programs. Run-off water from the shed will pour off into a demonstration rain garden built by local Boy Scouts, while the bulletin board on the shed informs visitors of upcoming workshops and programs. The shed will also be a convenient place to share bird lists, wildlife-watch info and other information such as how to obtain official Backyard Habitat certification for your own yard.
In a brand-new partnership, Woodland Park Zoo’s horticulture team has been working with volunteers from a local Boy Scout troop to construct Our Backyard’s secret rain garden and pathway. Hidden from view for years we’ve eked out a way through the quiet little forested area used by bushtits, sparrows and barred owls. A couple of benches and a small footbridge make it welcoming to everyone. We’re pleased to have partnered with these young people on their service learning project, and we are especially excited about this exhibit because it will help us inspire our visitors to take real, measurable action to help wildlife and habitats.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Do you take cream and sugar or pulverized fish and elephant poop with your tea? This isn’t Tetley’s folks! We are talking about compost tea—that mysterious concoction that has many environmentally-concerned folks thinking of alternatives to pesticides. From the inception of our Natural Care horticulture program at Woodland Park Zoo, we have approached the application of this mighty brew as one component of a system intended to support sustainable landscape management. It works in conjunction with other biology-based techniques; it is important to understand that we don’t look to its use as a cure-all for disease problems.
Every Thursday morning at 8:00 a.m., I can be found unrolling a bright yellow 200 foot hose while our 250 gallon tank makes its scheduled appearance via forklift. While we prepare for our four hour spray session, the questions start coming. So many visitors find this all very intriguing. Most start with: What is compost tea? The answer: it is a blend of organic matter from a variety of sources that is either added directly to de-chlorinated tank water (as in the case of liquid ingredients), or put into an actual “tea” bag for steeping (designed for dry ingredients). The magic potion is then aerated and left to brew for 24-48 hours until the likes of tea-takers like me are ready to spray.
This query is often followed by: what does the tea do? The idea behind compost tea is for desirable biological microbes (those that contribute to the advancement of an environment’s ecological balance) to take up niches in the soil and on foliage that would otherwise be occupied by disease agents. In addition, “beneficials,” as they are called, can aid plants in nutrient and water absorption and retention.
When people inquire about our recipe, I first inform them that different plants/landscapes call for different biological considerations. In the case of roses, we are aiming for a tea that is dominated by beneficial fungi (which is not so easy to do as most teas are more bacteria-based). Our own unique recipe has been developed over the years to include: pulverized fish matter, Alaskan humus, fungi laden bark mulch, granular sea kelp, liquid humic acid, protozoa that has been extracted from a hay and water mixture, our famous Zoo Doo, and good old garden compost. We are regularly examining the material yielded as well as its affect on our garden to determine if changes need to be made. This brings up another point: it is vital to TEST, TEST, TEST when adding anything to a landscape; we want to know exactly how we are impacting our soils and plants. If it’s not for the better, we better rethink what we are doing!
Most people get pretty jazzed about all of this and ask me how they can make their own tea. I answer: though possible, it is difficult. I recommend if one is really serious about getting the right tea for their garden, have a professional brewer/applicator come to your home.
Some other frequently asked questions include:
Q: Can I buy it in stores?
A: Yes, it now comes in powder form, though be sure to have its viability tested.
Q: Where do you get your ingredients?
A: We make our own compost and order all other ingredients from an Oregon company specializing in tea related materials. Feel free to contact the zoo for more information.
Q: Do you spray all year?
A: We can, but generally begin the spray season in late February, following our hard prune, and end in late October as the garden is being put to bed.
Compost tea is a relatively new idea in the history of landscape management. It is controversial and will be continually examined for its efficacy. Here at Woodland Park Zoo, we are believers. We have seen desirable results. We are committed to conservation, preservation, and sustainability. So, put the kettle on and brew up a pot!
Photo by Kiley Jacques/Woodland Park Zoo.
Monday, October 18, 2010
What sound does a flamingo chick make? How well can it stand on one leg? See for yourself in our latest video:
The chick’s vocalizations are actually quite important for survival. Just 5-12 days after hatching, flamingo chicks within a colony leave their nests and form a crèche of similar-aged chicks watched over by a few adults. For subsequent feedings, parents locate their offspring in the crèche through voice recognition.
How do the parents recognize their chick’s voice? Hours before hatching, flamingo chicks begin vocalizing within the egg. This establishes a bond with their parents so they can locate each other even within a flock of thousands!
Video produced by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Stop by the flamingo exhibit and you’ll notice two small, white puffs emerging among all those pink feathers. That’s because two Chilean flamingo chicks hatched at the start of October, and are being cared for now by their parents out in the flamingo exhibit.
This is the first time that our colony of flamingos is raising chicks on exhibit. Last year, the flock produced three chicks which were hand-raised by the zoo’s team of expert staff before being introduced to the colony. The flock decided to breed a bit late in the year, but the chicks are well insulated and should have no problems with acclimating to colder temperatures. Chilean flamingos typically breed at very high altitudes in the Andes.
So far, the parents are doing a great job of caring for their young. With flamingos, both parents care for their chick, feeding them “crop milk,” a dark red secretion produced in the upper digestive tract. The substance is nutritionally similar to milk that is produced by mammals.
The chicks leave their nest about three to five days after hatching but remain in close proximity to their parents for feedings and brooding.
Flamingo chicks hatch with a whitish, gray down and can acquire extensive pink feathering that can be mixed with gray-brown contour feathers at about 1 year of age. Juveniles usually have full pink feathering by 2 to 3 years of age.
We’ll be watching the parents and these chicks closely to make sure the chicks remain in good health as they grow. Three more eggs are expected to hatch later in the month, so more chicks could be on the way.
Photos by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo. Video by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo