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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Top 15 photos of 2015

Posted by: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Photography and Videography

As 2015 draws to a close, our team of editors and photographers recently took a look back through our photo vault to find some of the best images created here at the zoo in the past year. With well over 1,600 photos to choose from it was no easy task, but we think we found 15 photos for 2015 that will encourage you to learn, care and act in the coming New Year!

Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

We loved this photo, also featured as our December 2015 shot in the 2016 calendar, for its awkward family photo vibe. Zoo blog editor Rebecca Whitham summed it up thusly: “It has all the hallmarks of a classic family photo: one guy in the middle giving blue steel while others are looking off to the side, blinking or getting caught making funny faces.” Which one are you?

John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo.

Awww! This year we celebrated our 49th and 50th penguin chicks here at the zoo. And they couldn’t be cuter! This adorable photo came from one of their first exams.

Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Pretty bird, solid composition, and good use of light made this a winner in our book.

Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Here's a reminder that there's beauty in all of nature's creatures. The composition and lighting along with detail definitely grabbed our attention (right alongside those hairy legs)!

Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Who could forget January of 2015, when the entire state rallied around our Seahawks as they prepped for their second consecutive SuperBowl? The zoo was no exception as our otters impressively raised their 12 flag all on their own!

Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Of course one of the best parts about visiting the zoo is having a chance to interact and engage with our animals. This shot from volunteer photographer Dennis Dow of one of our free-roaming peacocks shows just that, with a great sense of balance.

Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

…but he outdid himself only one shot later with this great photo of our two bears having a friendly chat on a hot summer’s day.

Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t pay tribute to our beloved western lowland gorilla, Nina—an anchor here at the zoo for 47 years. This is one of the last known photographs of our dear Nina, taken by Ryan Hawk in February.

John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo.

Remember that scorching hot summer? We sure do. Our MyZoo magazine editor, Kirsten Pisto, summed up this shot: “It captured the Seattle heat wave and our PNW inability to deal [with it].”

Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

With the heat wave all but over it was time to fall into fall with our ring tailed lemurs!

Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Dads, am I right?

Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

We loved the raw emotion in this photo, which started with a simple yawn and quickly became a moment when all that's beautiful and fierce about tigers came into full view.

Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

This shot, nicely composed, has “best buddies” written all over it.

Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

Of course our newborn gorilla couldn’t not be in this line up, and a late entry made the cut. Says web coordinator John Loughlin (whose own photos can be seen in the top 15): “I love the dramatic lighting, expression and detail in this shot.” And of course that adorable little face!

Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

We end our year in photos with this shot from August, as a group of Oregon spotted frogs—raised at the zoo for the first months of their lives before being released to the wild—jump into an uncertain future without hesitation, a farewell moment for us that’s clearly a new dawn for them.

Monday, December 28, 2015

A special winter gift: sloth bear is born

Posted by Kirsten Pisto, Communications

UPDATE | Dec. 30, 2015
Sad news: At just over one week old, our baby sloth bear passed away overnight. The baby had been under mom’s care in a private maternity den. This is the second cub to pass from Kushali’s December 19 litter—the first cub was not viable and did not survive past the first 48 hours. Though we hoped for a happier outcome for the second cub, and its first days were encouraging, the cub passed during the night as mom slept. It is not uncommon for first-time sloth bear mothers to lose their litter. Sloth bears are born tiny and blind, and the first few days are always critical. Kushali was an attentive mom and will have other opportunities to breed in the future. 

It’s hard to lose a gift as beautiful as new life especially for a species at risk, and we want to thank you all for your support. 

ORIGINAL POST | Dec. 28, 2015
We’re excited to share some wonderful news; our young female sloth bear, Kushali, gave birth to her first cub. On Saturday, December 19, Kushali gave birth in a cozy off-view maternity den. The tiny cub is the first offspring for 3-year old female Kushali with 15-year old male Bhutan.

Photo taken on December 27 shows Kushali holding her cub.

Below is video of the newborn, just moments after birth. The footage was taken from a keeper cam, a visual tool used by keepers to monitor the mother and cub while giving them privacy and space.


In the video above, you can see brand new mom, Kushali, comfort and clean her tiny newborn. The behind-the-scenes den is a quiet and cozy spot for nursing and bonding. (http://bit.ly/slothbearbirthvideo)

Right now the cub is very tiny and practically blind. It will begin to open its eyes at around 3-4 weeks old, and shortly after its eyes open the cub will begin to learn to walk. For now, the little one will stay quite close to mom, nursing and snuggling up in all that warm sloth bear fur. Dad, Bhutan, is staying in his own den right now, giving Kushali and her cub space to bond, which is a typical family structure for sloth bears.

This screenshot was taken just moments after birth. The cub looks very tiny because an average birth weight for sloth bears is 10.5-17.5 ounces (300-500 g). For comparison, a pomegranate weighs about 12.5 ounces.
 
Born in December 2012, Kushali herself was a winter surprise. Keepers didn’t know that mom, Tasha, had given birth to not one, but two sloth bears until they spotted two little twin cubs on the den cam and heard two distinct vocalizations. Thanks to Tasha, we know that Kushali had the very best teacher to show her all the right ways to be a patient and wonderful sloth bear momma.

You might remember when Kushali herself hitched a ride on Tasha’s back! Unlike other bear species, sloth bear mothers carry cubs on their back until cubs reach about 2 months. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Kushali and her newborn cub will remain off view to allow for maternal bonding and continued nursing in a quiet den. Our animal care staff is monitoring the new family remotely with the help of a keeper cam to ensure the cub continues to thrive.

“Mom and cub are doing very well,” says Pat Owen, collection manager at Woodland Park Zoo. “The first 72 hours are the most critical for a cub. Kushali’s cub has surpassed that mark which is a good sign, but we will continue to monitor the cub for the first few months to ensure it remains healthy and continues to grow.”

A curious visitor gets an up close view of a sloth bear's specially shaped mouth in the new Banyan Wilds exhibit. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Animal care staff will continue to monitor the cub’s progress on the keeper cam and will perform a routine wellness and development check on the cub when Kushali begins to temporarily shift in and out of the maternity den. If all goes well, weather included, Kushali and her cub could be on view sometime in March.

This is a significant birth for a species under threat of extinction. With fewer than 50 sloth bears in North American zoos today and fewer than 10,000 remaining in the wild, we are thrilled to welcome this rare, new addition. This breeding was recommended under the sloth bear Species Survival Plan (SSP), a cooperative breeding program to ensure genetic diversity and demographic stability among North American zoos.

Tasha with her twin cubs Kushali and Randhir in 2013. Photo by Ryan Hawk/ Woodland Park Zoo. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Baby gorilla introduction sessions showing progress in tiny steps

Posted by: Gigi Allianic, Communications
Photos by: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Woodland Park Zoo

At almost a month old!
Introductions between first-time mother Nadiri and her new baby are moving along at a slow pace, but a step in the right direction is good news, no matter how tiny those steps may be.

The baby western lowland gorilla, a female, was born November 20 to 19-year-old Nadiri. After giving birth naturally, Nadiri did not pick up her baby. Staff immediately stepped in for the safety and welfare of the baby and to allow the new mom to rest. Because Nadiri does not have experience with motherhood, the zoo prepared for different outcomes while Nadiri was pregnant, including human intervention.



Zoo gorilla and veterinary staff are providing 24/7 care for the baby gorilla behind the scenes in the gorillas’ sleeping quarters in a den next to Nadiri. The mom and the other two members in her group can see the baby, and the baby is immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of gorillas.

According to Nancy Hawkes, the general curator at Woodland Park Zoo, an introduction session over the weekend was the most positive one since the baby was born. “Nadiri gently lifted her baby’s chin with one hand to look at her and leaned forward on her elbows to be at face level. She cupped her head in both of her hands and softly touched her eyes and put her face and mouth against her baby’s face. She also playfully, but very gently, patted her cupped hands against the baby’s head,” explained Hawkes.

Adorable barometer is officially off the charts.
Nadiri is given the choice to be with her baby several times a day. “She still enters the den during each session and stays near her baby. While each session is positive, the progress is in tiny steps and we still have a way to go in terms of seeing consistent maternal behavior,” added Hawkes. “Nadiri is interacting with her baby at her own pace and we’re encouraged by the positive behavior toward her baby.”

At almost a month old, the baby gorilla is bottle fed human infant formula on demand and currently weighs just over 6 pounds. “She’s showing normal weight gain and her two lower front teeth have come in, so she is in the teething phase,” said Hawkes.

Two little teeth are showing!
The zoo will continue to provide hands-on care for the baby gorilla for the next three months while introducing Nadiri to her baby as long as the introduction sessions remain positive. Thank you for sending positive vibes to this little one, she has certainly captured the hearts of her keepers and animal health staff.

The baby gorilla will be named at the beginning of the new year and we will share details about the naming right here.



Monday, December 14, 2015

Whooo is new in Northern Trail?

Posted by: Judy Mukai, Docent
Photos by: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo


Rarely seen in the wild, great gray owls are the newest residents in Northern Trail. Often called “great gray ghosts,” “phantoms of the North” or “spectral owls,” great gray owls live up to their name. They are the largest North American owl, standing up to 2.75 feet tall. Their huge, round heads and distinctive facial disks create a most impressive appearance. However, they are not the heaviest owls; they look big but only weigh between 1.5 to 3.7 pounds. Great gray owls have extremely fluffy plumage on their head and body and densely feathered toes. The size and plumage befit a bird of the far North. The birds range throughout northern North America and Eurasia especially in dense boreal forests. Their mottled and streaked gray/brown coloration provides excellent camouflage in the trees.

Our great gray owls, Hedwig and Neville, moved from the Temperate Forest in late July and have settled into the Northern Trail.


Wild-hatched in Alaska, Hedwig suffered a broken wing and was rescued by U.S. Fish and Wildlife. She never recovered sufficiently for release and came to us from Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo in 2001. Hedwig can glide or hop downwards and hop up to perches. Neville is a rare, captive-bred great gray owl. The young 3-year-old male came from Calgary Zoo in 2012 as a mate for Hedwig. Now 6 years old, he brings her courtship gifts of food each spring. While she has laid eggs, none have been fertile. At an age of nearly 32, she may be post-reproductive. At the zoo, great gray owls may live up to 40 years and between 13 and 16 years in the wild.

Great gray owls, as well as other raptors, require special care. Our staff meets the specific, personal needs of each individual bird. For example, Hedwig rejects mice if they are wet, and she prefers white mice over dark ones. Especially during hot weather, keepers mist the raptors for cooling and to encourage preening. Hedwig readily participates. She hops down, opens her wings, turns around, presents and opens her tail feathers. Afterwards, she preens her feet for 15 to 30 minutes.


Great gray owls require intact forests for nest sites and bonded pairs often use the same hollowed tree stumps or abandoned raptor or raven nests for many years. Once they leave the nest, the owlets (usually three) require tall trees for climbing and learning to fly, as well as for safety. Threats come from raptors and ravens, but also lynx, fishers, martens, wolverines and humans. The extremely protective parents will even take on black bears near their nests!

Hunting strategies for great gray owls use typical owl acute hearing and low-light vision, but with special twists. Their huge facial disk combined with very asymmetrical ears enable them to hear prey, such as rodents, under very thick snow in the winter or deep inside burrows during the summer. These crepuscular (dawn and dusk) hunters plunge head first from a perch after prey, then invert in a split second to capture the prey in their talons. They can even break through snow crust thick enough to support a person weighing more than 170 pounds!


On an animal viewing trip to Yellowstone National Park, I was lucky to see a great gray owl. Sighting one is rare enough to cause an “owl jam” (bison, wolves and bears create most traffic jams). While some visitors merely drove past, the park ranger shared his excitement on seeing this phantom species. We stopped and watched the owl perched in a tree near the road. Eventually, it silently swooped down for prey. The “owl jam” lasted long enough for a browsing black bear to wander nearby and cause another jam.


Listen for the distinctive springtime courtship or territorial hoots from Neville. The low-pitched, rhythmic whoo, hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo will let you know who’s new in Northern Trail.

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Woodland Park Zoo

Friday, December 11, 2015

Winter Celebration!

Posted by: Kirsten Pisto, Communications

A certain red-capped, white-bearded, perpetually jolly fella made a special stop to ask the animals what is on their wish lists this year. Though the answers were only audible to those with a little magic in their ears, Santa seemed to understand.

We're not sure what Pie told Santa, but we're guessing it has something to do with mealworms. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Woodland Park Zoo.

Stop by this weekend and next to see if the jolly old elf got it right, at the zoo’s annual Winter Celebration! Animals will receive holiday-themed treats such as wreaths and evergreen trees adorned with assorted fruit, fancy fish hidden in the boughs of a pine tree or gift wrapped boxes filled with favorite treats!

A jaguar investigates a particularly suspicious Frosty. Photo by Dennis Dow, Woodland Park Zoo. 

Keepers will offer enriching treats as part of the celebration, which highlights animal behavior such as foraging and seeking out hidden smells and tasty treats. The celebration kicks off this Saturday with lions, wolves, golden lion tamarins and a fan-favorite, Asian small-clawed otters.

A fancy fish found hidden in a pine bough is about the best present EVER. Photo by Dennis Dow, Woodland Park Zoo.

Everyone knows the top of the tree is the best part. Sloth bears have an advantage on reaching the best fruit bits. Photo by Dennis Dow, Woodland Park Zoo.

A gray wolf knows just how to delicately unwrap her gift. Photo by Dennis Dow, Woodland Park Zoo.


Jingle, jingle!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Mapping an Urban Forest

Posted by: Bridget Dunn, Communications

“Is that a metal detector?”
“Does that thing track sound waves?
“Are you with Google Earth?”

Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

These are all questions that have been aimed at Michael Bradshaw in the last few months.  So what is he doing wandering Woodland Park Zoo grounds with a GPS and 7’ pole? You’ll probably never guess: He’s mapping trees!

Bradshaw, a forest science grad student at the University of Washington, is part of a project the zoo is very excited to finally tackle: creating a full inventory of the trees around our campus. This project will assess the health of our large urban forest through the evaluation of every tree on our grounds. Bradshaw is mapping trees and taking notes on their health, which is the first of three stages of this project. He does this work with special GPS mapping equipment which is accurate within 4-12”. This information is overlaid with other information about the zoo to create a detailed database for grounds management.  He anticipates finishing the map by spring. Using the info Bradshaw gathers, we will move onto the second stage of full, in-depth assessments of trees that might be in bad health. Finally, we will remove or prune any trees in failing health, with special attention to those that pose safety concerns for people and animals.

Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

This project is made possible by funds Woodland Park Zoo receives through the Seattle Park District, a 2014 voter-approved funding agreement created to address infrastructure needs at city parks. This important project, in addition to many others, has been backlogged for some time. With Park District funding, these critical projects will be completed over the next several years.

“Trees are an important element of the zoo, and an important element of the neighborhood,” noted Horticulture Supervisor David Selk. The zoo is unique in its dense tree coverage, not only in the local neighborhood, but among city parks. The zoo is 49-50% covered by its tree canopy, which consists of about 5,000 individual trees. The trees have gone under-recorded for a long time: the last census of the trees was completed over 20 years ago and had many inaccuracies. While there are records of all plantings for the last 20 years, there’s no record of what trees have died or been removed, so we’re not sure what’s actually growing on grounds. Creating an inventory of trees will enable us to improve the health of the entire forest.

Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

Some parts of the zoo have proved more difficult to map than others, or at least more time-consuming. The west plaza, home of the Humboldt penguin desert coast exhibit, went very quickly for an obvious reason—there aren’t a lot of trees there. Bradshaw mapped about 400 trees along the zoo’s west perimeter, including the plaza, in the course of a few days. By contrast, he’s mapped about 1,000 trees in the Northern Trail exhibit alone! The densely planted, relatively young pine forest of the Northern Trail took about two weeks. 

Mapping is further complicated by working around the animals’ schedules—we can hardly map the trees within the grizzly enclosure when Keema and Denali are out and about! Work is also slowed by heavy cloud coverage or dense foliage that interferes with communication between the equipment and the satellite. Some days, Bradshaw calls in Selk or other veterans of the horticulture team to help identify tropical trees not usually seen in the Pacific Northwest. 

Next time you’re at the zoo, keep an eye out for Bradshaw. Even if you don’t see him, take a moment to look beyond our animals to the rich forest they inhabit. And a big thank you to the voters of Seattle for approving the Park District, making it possible to maintain the health and safety of our grounds!

Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

Monday, December 7, 2015

How to: Protect rain forests while holiday shopping

Posted by: Bridget Dunn, Public Affairs

As a little holiday gift from us to you, here’s our official Woodland Park Zoo Shopping Guide to Certified Sustainable Palm Oil products to help you have a sustainable holiday season and a renewable new year!

The guide provides an easy way to identify products that contain palm oil which has been grown and manufactured in a way that is safer for rain forests and their inhabitants. Choosing products that are better for the environment helps keep the holiday season bright for animals around the world.

Protecting tiger forests is a gift that keeps on giving. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

It is vitally important to support certified sustainable palm oil agriculture that is deforestation free. In Malaysia, Indonesia and Borneo, conventional palm oil agriculture is decimating tropical rain forests and their inhabitants, including orangutans, tigers, hornbills and Asian elephants. Old growth forest and peatlands (also known as tropical swamp forests) are being burned and illegally logged to make way for both small-holder and industrial palm oil plantations. These practices not only eliminate tropical rain forests and displace animals, but they also impact human health. Fires and logging displace indigenous populations and the smog created by illegal burning causes respiratory distress for people and animals across Asia. Destroying tropical old growth rain forests and peatlands also releases massive stores of carbon, contributing to global climate change.

Palm oil is an ingredient in many common holiday purchases, including packaged foods and gift items such as soap, bath products and lotions. There are safe ways, though, to pick out holiday gifts without contributing to tropical deforestation. Some companies have made a pledge with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)  to source only certified sustainable and deforestation free palm oil. Many of the most popular RSPO brands and parent companies are included in our shopping guide. If a product’s brand or parent company is listed, you know that the company has committed to changing palm oil production for the better.

Be aware though—palm oil isn’t the only rain forest product driving deforestation that you might come across this holiday season. Habitat loss also occurs for the sake of harvesting non-essential products such as agarwood, used in higher end perfumes, and to clear land for other crops including sugar, rubber and cocoa.

Hornbills—keeping all our days merry and bright. Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

This may seem overwhelming, especially at this joyous time of year, but there are many sides of these issues to consider. In many cases, livelihoods and complex international relations have to be taken into account. But you can make a difference this holiday season for orangutans, tigers and people alike—be alert, be informed, and look for “certified sustainable” and “fair trade” products.

Learn more about the zoo’s journey toward certified sustainable palm oil that is deforestation free.

Between gifts and holiday feasts, the holiday season sees the highest rates of consumption all year. But by being mindful of where your food and gifts come from, you can help ensure that this “most wonderful time of the year” is also a gift for animals and their habitats.

The orangutans were nestled, all snug in their burlap. Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Daily introductions between mom and baby continue; zoo plans to provide hands-on care for baby gorilla for next few months

Posted by: Gigi Allianic, Communications
Photos by: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Woodland Park Zoo

We have a little update on our gorilla Nadiri and her newborn baby. Attempts to introduce the first-time mother gorilla to her new baby continue every day. For now, the plan for the next three months will be to keep on providing hands-on care for the female gorilla infant before evaluating next steps.


The baby western lowland gorilla was born November 20 to 19-year-old Nadiri. After giving birth naturally, Nadiri did not pick up her baby and, instead, walked away. Staff immediately stepped in for the safety and welfare of the baby and to allow the new mom to rest. Because Nadiri does not have experience with motherhood, the zoo prepared for different eventualities while Nadiri was pregnant, including human intervention.

Zoo gorilla and veterinary staff are providing 24/7 care for the baby gorilla behind the scenes in the gorillas’ sleeping quarters in a den next to Nadiri. Here, the mom and the other two members in her group can see the baby, and the baby is immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of gorillas. 

Taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the other gorillas.
A tiny gorilla foot.
“The baby is strong and healthy, and has a hearty appetite,” said Harmony Frazier, Woodland Park Zoo’s senior veterinary technician and an animal infant specialist. “We bottle feed her human infant formula on demand so she’s eating every couple of hours. She’s steadily gaining weight and currently weighs 5.8 pounds, a healthy weight for a 2-week-old gorilla,” said Frazier.

The best outcome for the baby gorilla is to have her mom raise her, so, several times a day Nadiri is given access to her baby, said Martin Ramirez, Woodland Park Zoo’s mammal curator. “Nadiri consistently enters the den for each introduction session. While she still hasn’t picked up her baby, she remains next to her. When the baby cries, she sometimes touches her in a calming manner. When Nadiri is in her own den, she watches her baby and grunts contentedly,” explained Ramirez. “It isn’t strong maternal behavior yet, but we’re encouraged by these positive sessions and gestures of interest.” 

The gorilla keepers closely monitor and evaluate each introduction session. “As long as the sessions remain positive, we’ll keep moving forward with providing opportunities for Nadiri and her baby to bond. If Nadiri shows any inappropriate behaviors, we will discontinue the sessions and assess other options,” added Ramirez.

As this little baby does not yet have a name, there are plans to name her after the holidays.

We will keep you updated on these bonding developments and any news about Nadiri and her baby here on the blog. Your outstanding support and patience with news about this little one has been very meaningful to keepers and zoo staff as they provide the best possible care for this baby and her mom.

Baby gives a big yawn, it's hard work being this new!