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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Big and Little get up close with the penguin whisperer

Posted by Kirsten Pisto, communications
Photos by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Woodland Park Zoo

“I’m really not a seafood person.” quips Giovanni, “Ooohwee, that’s a strong smell!

Humboldt penguins feast on anchovies, trout, smelt and herring at Woodland Park Zoo to mimic their natural diet in the Humboldt Current off the coast of Chile and Peru. Sometimes the aroma can be potent!
Giovanni, ‘G’ for short, is visiting the Humboldt Penguin exhibit with his Big Brother Luke. The pair is a match with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound and they are here to get a special close up look at penguins with keeper Celine. The pair has experienced many outings since being matched by Big Brothers Big Sisters about 8 months ago, from trips to the arcade to grabbing burgers to just hanging out after schoolbut this experience is by far the most pungent.

Community Access Program tickets provide a special opportunity for the children in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, and supports and fosters the match relationships. Celine and G are a red-headed match to boot!
Celine introduces G and Luke to the four types of fish diet that the colony of penguins receives. She points out the vitamins that help the penguins, who range in age from 28 years to 4 months old, stay healthy and active. G is especially interested in how the penguin keepers tell all the penguins apart and keep siblings from snatching each other’s fish. He explains, “I have four brothers and a little sister, so I know a lot about siblings.”

Celine shows Luke and G the colored bands that help penguin keepers track who is who in the black and white clad penguin colony. 
G explains that one of the reasons he wanted a Big Brother is that one of his older brothers is also in the program and he thought it sounded pretty cool. “I waited forever to get a Big Brother, and now I finally have one.” Nicole Nguyen of Big Brothers Big Sisters says the average time on the wait list is a little over one year, but when you are a kid it can seem like forever! Since being paired with Luke, 10-year-old G says he’s taught Luke a lot about life, like how to win at arcade games and how to choose the best toys. “I teach him some things.” says G. Luke laughs, but agrees that he’s learned a lot from this 10-year-old. Even while looking at penguins, G tells Luke about how their feathers look just like the feathers he finds around his neighborhood. G is curious, astute and eager to share all he is taking in with Luke.

As a mentor, Luke says it’s really important to share these new experiences with G. He explains that while they do a lot of normal things like just hang out and eat meals together, these rarer excursions act as springboards for both of them to get out of their routine and do things they wouldn’t normally do, like feel the downy under feathers of a 3-month-old penguin chick or watch a penguin gulp down an anchovy. 

An egg is an egg? Celine, dubbed the ‘Penguin Whisperer’ by G, tests him on his faux egg verse real egg identification skills. He’s a pro by the end of the lesson.
“We're really grateful that Big Brothers Big Sisters provides us the opportunity to do such cool things.” says Luke, “Without receiving the complimentary zoo tickets, and having the awesome chance to speak with a zookeeper and meet the animals, G probably wouldn't have the same level of interest or knowledge when it comes to zoos. It was easy to see G's enthusiasm grow during our outing, and was a great way to get him outside, active, and learning. Now he's so excited to go back to the zoo! He can't wait to see the penguins, which he says are his new favorite animal.”

Prince shows Luke and G his moves while keeper Celine makes sure everyone behaves, including Prince.

Luke grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona and moved to Washington to go to the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. After graduating, Luke moved to Seattle to start work at Premera Blue Cross and began looking for a good way to give back to the community. “Being a Big Brother seemed like a great opportunity because I wanted to have a lasting impact on somebody's life.” 

Being a Big means meeting with your Little once a week for an hour or so, chatting about their school day, getting the scoop on their friends and family life and just being there to listen, laugh and answer questions. G asks Luke, “Have you ever seen that much poop!?” Neither of them have seen penguin guano before, but as Celine shows them the nesting burrows, guano and all, it’s clear that as fascinating as the birds are, it’s having Luke here with him that really makes this a special experience for G.

It’s obvious that while the penguins are really cool, and Celine is very entertaining, it’s sharing this experience with Luke that makes G. the happiest.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound matches hundreds of kids with volunteers who want to make a difference. The children often come from low income homes and single-parent households, which make outings like a zoo visit especially tricky for parents. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound has had a positive impact in the Seattle community for over 60 years and has been an exemplary Community Access Program partner.  The program has been delivering complimentary zoo tickets to Bigs and Littles for many years, as well as WildLights tickets during the winter celebration.

We believe that many kids like G would benefit from access to their zoo whatever their means or motivations. The Community Access Program works with over 600 community partners and local organizations to make a free visit to the zoo possible for more than 50,000 people every year, but we can do better.

This summer, King County voters will have the opportunity to significantly boost access to science, arts and heritage educational programming. If passed by vote, Proposition 1 - Access for All will provide funding to Woodland Park Zoo and more than 350 community-based organizations to expand access to learning experiences and remove barriers for underserved communities throughout King County.

Celine holds a young penguin so G and Luke can get a closer look at its downy feathers.
Celine has saved this moment in the tour for last, a 3-month-old penguin chick waddles into the back yard where G and Luke are just inches away from the adorably chatty penguin. “I’m so excited to see this baby,” says G, “They are really sweet.” Celine reminds the pair that penguins can be rough too, she shows them her protective clothing and places where the birds have pecked. She also introduces them to Prince, a 1-year-old penguin with a gregarious call. “He sounds pretty much like a donkey or a seagull.” G tells Luke that penguins are now going to be his favorite animal of all time.

Even cooler? The penguin team has decided to call the little chick “Gio” in honor of Giovanni’s visit.

Celine says of the name, “I think that would be a great way to honor the Big Brothers Big Sisters’ story of what being 'family' and caring for each other really means. Our penguin colony is all about family. And hopefully this already outgoing and inquisitive young chick will be as inspiring to the children and families who learn his story as they visit him at the zoo…just like his namesake.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters, the nation’s largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring network, holds itself accountable for children in its program to achieve measurable outcomes, such as educational success, avoidance of risky behaviors, higher aspirations, greater confidence and better relationships. These mentoring programs have proven, positive academic, socio-emotional and behavioral outcomes for youth, areas linked to high school graduation, avoidance of juvenile delinquency and college or job readiness. By supporting Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound and its participants, the zoo’s Community Access Program hopes to inspire Littles (and Bigs!) to investigate nature, fall in love with creatures of all kinds and learn about actions they can take which will help protect wild animals and their habitats.

After the penguin tour, G takes home a ZooParent penguin. This ZooParent adoption was made in Luke and Giovanni’s honor, to thank them for sharing their story with us.
We want to extend a huge thank you to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound for supporting kids in our community, and the hundreds of dedicated Bigs who make our community an especially amazing place to live. We’d also like to give big props to Luke and G for taking the time to visit us and tell us their zoo story. If you are interested in becoming a Big or know a child who might benefit from this program, you can find out more about this fulfilling and life-changing volunteer opportunity by visiting InspireBIG.org.

It's a privilege to be able to offer a zoo experience to matches throughout the year and we look forward to seeing many more smiling faces for years to come. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Giraffe baby takes her first steps outside

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Editor

Tufani has her eyes on our camera, and baby girl has her eyes on Tufani. They take their first steps outside of the barn and into the outdoors. It’s a little fenced area—a safe, controlled space to let them take in some fresh air but not overwhelm them. Baby girl’s ears twitch, she lifts her head to take in all the sights, and gets a little gallop in her step. “This is going to be fun!” her legs seem to be telling her, kicking up dirt as they get a feel for the ground.




It’s not long before baby is stretching her legs and walking around under the watchful eyes of momma Tufani. But Tufani isn’t the only one watching. Poppa Dave is technically on the other side of the fence, but at 15 feet tall, he can stretch his neck over and nuzzle the baby. Dave seems to think this newest arrival is the best part of each day. He’s interested in watching baby’s every move and appears to be as smitten as we are. Can’t blame ya, Dave!

While baby girl has inherited dad’s spotting, she has a personality so far that feels a lot like her mom’s. She’s curious about everything and unafraid. Tufani is a formidable guardian but is also giving her baby room to explore.

In the coming days, we’ll welcome mom and baby to spend time outside of their barn. Tufani and her calf have the choice to go inside when they want to, so it will be several weeks before we can establish a reliable viewing schedule. After a few months, baby will start following mom out to the savanna beyond their barn. Your patience is most appreciated and the reward will be most worth it! In the meantime, we’re also working on launching our webcam soon so you can keep up with mom and baby.

Mom Tufani and baby inside their cozy barn. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.


If you love giraffes, consider these 5 ways to do more:


1. Make a gift

From nutritionists planning Tufani's diet to zookeepers providing devoted care, and from veterinarians monitoring baby’s health to conservationists protecting giraffe habitat—it takes a village. Make a gift today to help assure this baby grows up healthy and strong in a world where giraffe have a future.

2. Shop Tufani’s baby registry

Giraffe and other savanna animals need lots of items to keep them thriving. Help out our zookeepers by making a special purchase in honor of the newest member of the African savanna.

3. Tell us why you love giraffe

It means a lot to us when we hear members and visitors talk about their love for animals and their passion for protecting habitat. Leave a comment here or send us a message and we’ll share with the giraffe keepers and our giraffe conservation partners.

4. Adopt a giraffe ZooParent

Celebrate first-time giraffe mom Tufani with a symbolic animal adoption in her name! Adopt now to help fund conservation programs and the daily care and feeding of Seattle’s tallest baby, mom Tufani and all zoo inhabitants.

5. Share your #tallestbaby stories

As guests start to get peeks of baby and mom, we encourage you all to share your sightings on social media using #tallestbaby so we can watch this little one grow together!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

It's a Girl!

Posted by Kirsten Pisto, Communications

As you all have been patiently waiting, we’d like to give you a little update on our newest arrival.

It’s a girl!

Hello, beautiful! Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Woodland Park Zoo.
 A beautiful, 5’9”, 149 lbs. bundle of joy. She is already bonding with mom and curious about all of the keepers and animal health staff who have been visiting her barn.


The sweet new calf is dry, meaning her soft fur is now clean and dry from the birth. 
Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Woodland Park Zoo.
After a 4:03 a.m. birth on June 20, 2017, our sweet mama Tufani began nursing her baby in the late afternoon. Nursing is a huge milestone for any new mother, but especially for Tufani who is a first time mom. Nursing is incredibly important for the health of the baby, and another sign that mom and baby are bonding. 

In other good news, the calf received good scores on her first neonatal exam with our dedicated animal health team. Dr. Darin Collins describes the baby as being healthy and her overall body condition is good. The calf has to learn how to nurse, but so does Tufani. Mom had to first work through the new routine, but she seems to have it down. Each time the calf latches on to nurse, Tufani becomes more and more comfortable with the new sensation. As nursing begins, hormones are an important part of facilitating the bonding process between mom and calf.

The team of animal health staff carefully and gently performed a full physical exam which included the blood sample that showed nursing was successful. The blood sample assures vet staff that the mother is producing milk and the calf is suckling and receiving milk. The team also weighed and measured the baby and double checked all normal anatomy, listened to the heart and lungs, took her temperature and vitals and gave the calf her initial neonatal vaccines. For now, that is all the new calf needs as she will receive nutrition and important antibodies from nursing. 

For the calf, nursing is a natural instinct. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Woodland Park Zoo.

Katie Ahl, giraffe keeper, has been dubbed the “giraffe doula” up until Tufani gave birth and she gives us a little update on how mom is faring. Katie says Tufani has been calm and patient, and is busy keeping the calf clean and nursing her. While the new mom’s appetite changes hourly, Tufani is still most interested in browse, especially the willow and maple keepers have been giving her. “Leaf eater biscuits are still high on the list though,” says Katie. 

“All the giraffe in our herd are curious about the new arrival,” she explains. There has been a lot of activity in the barn the last few hours, so in addition to the addition, they are all interested in why there are so many keepers around.”  As for the giraffe keepers, Katie says, “It’s a healthy mix of excitement and exhaustion!”

Martin Ramirez, mammal curator at the zoo, is very proud of this dedicated team of keepers. “We’re very fortunate to have  a team of dedicated  animal care staff  who pulled  together to ensure that Tufani did well in the weeks leading up to the birth and that she had a safe and uneventful birthing process.”  


Video: Baby Giraffe Learns to Stand, https://youtu.be/iIJ69tzEfM8

Now that we’ve determined the sex of the baby, we can announce the winning guess from the zoo’s giraffe birth pool contest. Nearly 3,000 guesses were submitted which asked participants to accurately guess the birth date and sex of the baby giraffe. The zoo received 61 correct guesses “6.20, female” and after a randomized selection was made, the winner is Stephanie Rhea of Waterville, WA.! Stephanie says she picked the date because that happens to be her birthday too. She will enjoy a special meet and greet with the baby and her keepers later this summer. Congratulations!

Just a few hours after being born. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Woodland Park Zoo.
 “The new calf and mom are off view in the barn to allow a quiet environment for maternal bonding and nursing, but in a week or two the calf might follow mom to the outdoor area of the barn where visitors will be able to catch glimpses of them,” says Ramirez. “It will be a minimum of a few months before the calf is introduced to the African Savanna.”

Following the critical 72-hour window after birth, the zoo’s giraffe cam will go live, giving the public the opportunity to see Tufani and her baby as they bond in the barn. Viewers can access the giraffe cam once it goes live and see updates by visiting zoo.org/tallestbaby and following #tallestbaby on the zoo’s FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Keepers tell us that when the calf naps, Tufani gets really quiet, stands over her watchfully and is very still. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Woodland Park Zoo.
In honor of our #tallestbaby, let's all promise to stand up for giraffe on #worldgiraffeday June 21, 2017.

Widespread across southern and eastern Africa, with smaller isolated populations in west and central Africa, new population surveys estimate an overall 36 to 40 percent decline in the giraffe population, from approximately 151,702 to 163,452 in 1985, to 97,562 in 2015. Of the currently recognized subspecies of giraffe, five have decreasing populations, while three are increasing and one is stable.

Giraffe fans can help support conservation efforts by visiting Woodland Park Zoo and supporting Wildlife Survival Fund projects, including the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, which seeks to provide the first long-term ecological monitoring effort of the Angolan giraffe—an important desert-dwelling giraffe subspecies in north-western Namibia. Visit http://www.zoo.org/conservation to learn more about the zoo’s conservation partnerships taking place in the Pacific Northwest and around the world. 

The baby is tall at 5'9", but Tufani gives us some perspective on giraffe height!
Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Woodland Park Zoo.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Giraffe gives birth to Seattle’s tallest baby

Posted by: Alissa Wolken, Communications


Seattle’s tallest baby has arrived! After months of eager anticipation, Woodland Park Zoo is excited to announce 8-year-old giraffe Tufani gave birth this morning. The calf, whose sex has not yet been determined, was born to the first-time mom in the giraffe barn at approximately 4:03 a.m. under the watchful eyes of zookeepers.

Hello, baby! Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

Following the critical 72-hour window after birth, the zoo’s giraffe cam will go live, giving the public the opportunity to see Tufani and her baby as they bond in the barn. Viewers can access the giraffe cam once it goes live and see updates by visiting zoo.org/tallestbaby and following #tallestbaby on the zoo’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.




The unnamed calf and mother are off view in the barn to allow a quiet environment for maternal bonding and nursing. “Within a week or two, we expect the newborn to follow mom to the outdoor area of the barn where visitors will be able to see them,” explained Martin Ramirez, a mammal curator at the zoo. “Viewing is expected to be sporadic since the family also will have access to the off-view barn. It will be a minimum of a few months before the calf is introduced to the African Savanna.”

Mom and babe are bonding. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

Giraffes give birth while standing, and the calf drops 5 feet from the ground as it is born. According to Ramirez, the calf stood one hour after birth. The calf’s first exam will be conducted tomorrow, June 21. At that time, the sex, height and weight will be determined. “The first 24 to 72 hours are critical for giraffe calves,” said Ramirez. “So far, mother and calf are bonding. We will continue to keep a close eye on the new family over the next several weeks.” When fully grown, giraffes reach a height of 16 feet tall for females and 18 feet tall for males.

The father is 4-year-old Dave, who arrived at the zoo in June 2014. This will be the first baby for both parents who were paired under a breeding recommendation made by the Giraffe Species Survival Plan, a cooperative, conservation breeding program to ensure genetic diversity and demographic stability in North American zoos. In addition to Tufani, Dave and the calf, the other giraffe at the zoo is Olivia, Tufani’s 10-year-old sister.

Now that Tufani’s baby has arrived the zoo is also preparing to announce the winning guess from the zoo’s giraffe birth pool contest. Nearly 3,000 guesses were submitted which asked participants to accurately guess the birth date and sex of the baby giraffe. The zoo is determining the winner now and will announce it in the coming days.

The baby was ready to stand up an hour after birth. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

The new giraffe will be named later this summer. The opportunity to name the baby will be offered as a live auction item at the zoo’s signature fundraiser, Jungle Party, held in July at the zoo. Funds raised for the naming will support the zoo’s exemplary animal care program, field conservation projects in the Pacific Northwest and around the world and hands-on environmental learning for all ages.

Widespread across southern and eastern Africa, with smaller isolated populations in west and central Africa, new population surveys estimate an overall 36 to 40 percent decline in the giraffe population, from approximately 151,702 to 163,452 in 1985, to 97,562 in 2015. Of the currently recognized subspecies of giraffe, five have decreasing populations, while three are increasing and one is stable.

Giraffe fans can help support conservation efforts by visiting Woodland Park Zoo and supporting Wildlife Survival Fund projects, including the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, which seeks to provide the first long-term ecological monitoring effort of the Angolan giraffe—an important desert-dwelling giraffe subspecies in north-western Namibia. Visit www.zoo.org/conservation to learn more about the zoo’s conservation partnerships taking place in the Pacific Northwest and around the world.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Alzheimer’s Zoo Walkers Experience Nature and Community

Posted by Kirsten Pisto, Communications
Video by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren

After chatting a bit at the entrance, the Early Stage Memory Loss walking group decides on a destination. “We’re headed to Northern Trail today,” they declare, but it’s much more about the journey.

The zoo has been partnering with the Washington chapter of Alzheimer’s Association (AA WA) for more than twenty years. As part of the zoo’s Community Access Program, AA WA receives complimentary zoo tickets to provide an opportunity for families and caregivers to enjoy healthy and healing activities with their loved ones who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  We also welcome two Early Stage Memory Loss walking groups to the zoo twice a week.

Year-round on Mondays and Wednesdays the walkers gather for an hour or two as the zoo opens to check out the grounds, soak up some nature and catch up with each other.

A delightfully funny, sharp and welcoming crew, they allowed us to tag along on a few of their walks so we could better share part of their story. We think they are some of the most inspiring guests we have met yet.



Video: Michele Dodge and Kim Easton give us the scoop on what a stroll through the zoo means to the participants of the early morning walks.


Michele and her daughter Kim visit with the zoo walkers each week. Their heartwarming relationship is one of a devoted daughter and her charming, optimistic and absolutely wonderful mom. Kim tells us that her mother, Michele, has always been a huge fan of animals. They always had pets and Michele even used to volunteer at her local animal shelter. Kim says it’s heartwarming to see her mom at Woodland Park Zoo.

“It’s a great way for people to connect, and just have time together” says Kim. “When you have any sort of dementia, sometimes communication becomes very difficult. But when you know you’re talking to someone who’s in the same situation, you don’t worry so much, you don’t have that self-conscious feeling. And I see her opening up more all the time.  And I see other people week after week who tend to come out of their shell a little bit more, it’s such an amazing experience. She just lights up, she is so comfortable here, this is really her turf.”

Michele agrees, “I love coming here with my daughter, isn’t she just beautiful?” We think they are both a beautiful example of the true sense of family and we are so grateful that they choose to spend some of their time together at the zoo.

Zoo walkers head into the South entrance on a sunny autumn day. Photo by Kirsten Pisto, Woodland Park Zoo.


Barry Franklin, one of the AA walk volunteers, confesses that he clocks in almost 100 zoo visits a year! He describes the morning walkers as a close-knit, compassionate network of amazing people who come together to talk about Early Stage Memory Loss and support each other in what can be a scary time. Some have been walking together for years and newcomers are always welcome. Barry explains that while the activities and physical exercise greatly benefit those diagnosed with dementia, the support and sense of community is equally important for their family members and caregivers who might find advice, friendship and comfort in this group.

The walkers meet up before entering the zoo. It’s a quiet time of day since most guests won’t arrive until later, and the walkers sometimes have the entire zoo to themselves. As the group wanders the paths and checks out the animals, they strengthen the friendships that enrich and celebrate their lives, past and present.

Tapir! Photo by Kirsten Pisto, Woodland Park Zoo.


The walks usually last an hour or so and then the walkers head to the zoo’s Rain Forest Food Pavilion, where they’ll share coffee and chat about upcoming events and other opportunities for remaining connected with this community. It’s that simple: a walk and a cup of joe with good friends, but we think its some of the strongest medicine we have to offer.

When asked why they make the zoo walk a part of their weekly routine, the responses are peppered with words like “relaxing,” “comforting,” “peaceful” and “wonderful.” We at the zoo pride ourselves in delivering moments of up-close animal experiences, conservation action and learning about animals all over the world. Yet we also acknowledge that sometimes a trip to the zoo is simply about being in nature, strolling our 92 acres and enjoying time with friends and family. The zoo walkers remind us that the power of human connection is healing, powerful and builds a sense of community.

Michele, Kim and the rest of the group have a very serious conversation about blue-tailed skinks with educator Greg. Photo by Kirsten Pisto, Woodland Park Zoo.

Meeting a new friend before heading out for a walk. Photo by Kirsten Pisto, Woodland Park Zoo.


We believe that many people in our community would benefit from access to their zoo whatever their means or motivations. The Community Access Program works with over 600 community partners and local organizations to make a free visit to the zoo possible for more than 50,000 people every year, but we can do better.

This summer, King County voters will have the opportunity to significantly boost access to science, arts and heritage educational programming. If passed by vote, Proposition 1 - Access for All will provide funding to Woodland Park Zoo and more than 350 community-based organizations to expand access to learning experiences and remove barriers for underserved communities throughout King County.

We want to extend a huge thank you to the AA walking group for taking the time to speak with us and share their experience. June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness month. Alzheimer’s affects nearly 5 million Americans and is the third leading cause of death in Washington state. Special thanks to our Community Access Partner, Washington State Chapter Alzheimer's Association, for their continued service supporting folks in Washington and Northern Idaho. We'd also like to give a shout out to Seattle Parks and Recreation and Greenwood Senior Center, also Community Access Program partners, for sponsoring the early morning walkers as well as offering dementia-friendly opportunities in our community.

Blue skies ahead. Photo by Kirsten Pisto, Woodland Park Zoo.


It's a privilege to be able to offer a safe space for this group to meet and we look forward to seeing their smiling faces for many years to come. If you happen to see them, wave hello and don’t be afraid to join them for a stroll.

If you are interested in joining the early morning walks, you can pre-register with Alzheimer's Association's Early Stage Memory Loss Programs. Please also check out www.momentiaseattle.org to learn more about events and groups here in Seattle, including the zoo walks, that offer support and creative, social and fitness opportunities for people with memory loss, their families and friends.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Coexisting with carnivores in King County

Posted by: Alicia Highland, Education

A black bear's image caught by a remote camera in a Woodland Park Zoo study of local carnivores. Photo: Woodland Park Zoo.

How many times has a carnivore interacted with your waste containers (garbage, compost, recycling) in the previous 12 months?” asks the neighbor survey crafted by Issaquah middle schoolers. The students are trying to understand how their community’s garbage habits—what kinds of cans and lids they use or whether they store compost indoors—relate to encounters with bears, raccoons and cougars.

Issaquah and the neighboring communities of east King County lie at the intersection of expanding urban settlement and iconic wilderness. Surrounded by forested mountains on three sides and Lake Sammamish to the north, the area is also home to abundant wildlife including some of Washington’s most charismatic carnivores: black bears, coyotes, bobcats, and cougars. At the interface of urbanization and wilderness, there is sometimes human-animal conflict. However, through their work with Woodland Park Zoo, Issaquah School District’s 6th grade Life Science students are applying Next Generation Science learning and 21st Century Skills to educate their community about peaceful coexistence with carnivores.

Students at Issaquah Middle School work through their survey data sets. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

This summer, King County voters have the opportunity to vote YES for Proposition 1 – Access for All and bring science education opportunities like this to every child in the county. Proposition 1 will provide funding to Woodland Park Zoo and more than 350 non-profit organizations to significantly expand learning experiences for all of King County’s communities, from Skykomish to Vashon and Enumclaw to Shoreline.

Successful programs like Coexisting with Carnivores are models for how we can bring science learning into communities to address their specific needs. Wild Wise: Coexisting with Carnivores offers students a chance to develop their science inquiry, civic literacy, and leadership skills as they investigate solutions for living with the carnivores in their east King County communities. Students and teachers from Beaver Lake Middle School, Issaquah Middle School, and Pine Lake Middle School engage with zoo educators over a period of four months, developing and carrying out scientific investigations. Zoo educators also teach the students about carnivore biology and wildlife research field methods. The culmination of Coexisting with Carnivores is a town hall style event, where students present their scientific findings and evidence-based recommendations to the community.

Pacific Northwest Carnivore Program at Woodland Park Zoo

Students begin their research at Woodland Park Zoo’s Northern Trail exhibit, where they participate in the zoo-facilitated Pacific Northwest Carnivore Program. Like the zoo’s other Living Northwest conservation programs, the Pacific Northwest Carnivore Program helps students to better understand conservation efforts that focus on native species restoration, habitat protection, wildlife education and human-wildlife conflict mitigation across the Pacific Northwest.

Through the utilization of interpretation, play, and experiential learning, zoo educators introduce students to the natural history of carnivores in Washington State. Students learn about the socially and ecologically complex wolf recovery effort, the conservation of brown bears (grizzlies), and scientific methods for researching carnivores, including GPS wildlife tracking and DNA collection methods. At the end of their trip, students leave the zoo with a stronger understanding of the important roles carnivores play in maintaining the natural balance of Washington’s ecosystems. They also have a greater sense of the roles that students can play in shaping community thought and action. Following their trip to the zoo, students engage the greater Issaquah area in their research by interviewing community members about their observations of local carnivores. These interviews provide the framework for the students’ scientific investigations.

Issaquah Middle School students observe gray wolves at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo: Katie Remine/Woodland Park Zoo.


Wild Wise Classroom Program and Western Wildlife Outreach Program

Once students have completed their interviews, zoo educators visit classes and lead the students in a Wild Wise interactive multimedia presentation. Students learn about the wildlife-human interface of the Cascade foothills and about research methods they can use to carry out their investigations. Most importantly, students are introduced to the two essential questions that drive their scientific investigations: 1.) How are carnivores using resources in their community to meet their needs? and 2.) How can humans meet their needs while allowing carnivores to meet their needs?

Students also engage with Western Wildlife Outreach (WWO) staff and their Large Carnivore Education Outreach Trailer. By providing students with hands-on opportunities with animal pelts, bones, and skulls, WWO helps students to better understand the elements of coexistence with carnivores.

Students watching the presentation by Western Wildlife Outreach. Photo: Alicia Highland/Woodland Park Zoo.


Developing an Investigation

Once students have become familiar with the carnivores in their community, they dive into their investigations. Teachers take the lead and work with their students to develop research questions and methods. After classes have an investigative question, zoo educators help them to refine their methods and send the students off to collect data. Students analyze their data, interpret the results and draw conclusions. Based on their findings, students identify the most important messages and actions that they want to communicate to their communities about safe coexistence with carnivores.

A student works on interpreting the data. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.


Educating the Community

The culmination of the Coexisting with Carnivores program is the community event. Students step into the spotlight and become scientific experts, a sweet reward for several months of intensive work. They share findings from their scientific investigations on how carnivores use resources in the Issaquah area to meet their needs. The students also provide evidence-based recommendations that assist the community in making carnivore positive choices. 

If you are curious about or have experience living near wild carnivores, please join us for these events! They will be held at Beaver Lake Middle School on June 14 from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. and Issaquah Middle School on June 15 from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. 

We would like to thank the teachers and students who participated with such dedication this school year! We also appreciate the support of Issaquah Schools Foundation, Horizons Foundation, The Hugh and Jane Ferguson Foundation and Tulalip Tribes to provide these learning opportunities for Issaquah students. Through partnerships and programs such as this, Woodland Park Zoo brings engaging science learning opportunities to both rural and urban communities. These experiences provide inspiration for future generations to pursue careers in STEM, and to address environmental issues in their communities.

If you live in King County, please vote YES for Proposition 1 – Access for All this summer so that we may be able to greatly expand educational programming to meet the needs of all communities.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Bear Affair teaches bear smarts in the Northwest

Posted by Kirsten Pisto, Communications

Bear Affair: Living Northwest Conservation Day is one of our favorite events. Each year in early June, we get to do what we love best: watch our animals enjoy a special day tailored just to them and watch our visitors fall in love with those same animals, learn more about conservation actions they can take right here in the Pacific Northwest, and become stewards for protecting wildlife in Washington. It's also a day we get to celebrate the incredible work our conservation colleagues are doing too, as many of our peers join us by setting up learning opportunities that start on the North Meadow and wind all the way through Northern Trail. Our volunteers come out on this day, as do ZooCorps teens, and everyone from our horticulture staff (providing beautiful flowers for the mock wedding cake and arch) to our dedicated keepers who make sure the animals have a great day (without eating too many coffee grounds or cake). It doesn't get any better than that.

If you missed the event this year, here's a recap of grizzly bears Keema and Denali in action as well as a few tips for bear-safe camping and hiking this summer. Remember that the biggest attractant for any wildlife is food, so whether you are camping or just chilling in the backyard, make a pledge to clean up any food scraps and keep items like barbecues and garbage cans in a place where wildlife won't bother them.

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, WPZ

This year, we kicked of the event with a backyard wedding theme. We imagined that the celebration had just wrapped up, and the imaginary couple had headed off to their honeymoon, but some of the bridesmaids and groomsmen forgot that they had some cleaning up to do...so we let Keema and Denali show us what they might get into if they stumbled upon this scene.

Curator Jenny Pramuk carries a bear-friendly cake out to set the scene. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, WPZ.

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, WPZ

Our bears are interested in food of course, but they also delight in anything that is new to them, such as the wedding arch or the wedding chairs decorated with bows. Bears are very smart, and can be curious about new things. This is one reason it's a good idea not to wear a ton of perfume or heavily fragrant deodorant on your camping trip in bear country.

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, WPZ

While many people assume Keema and Denali would tear through the scene as quickly as they could, ransacking the table and slurping up the treats, they are actually pretty methodical, some might even say dainty. The bears strolled up the wedding aisle and made their way to the table, casually sniffing the leftover plates of cake and politely sipping from the cups that guests had left all over the yard. When it comes to bears (and most wildlife), they will choose the path of least resistance to food or enticing items. "They are going to go for the easy pickings first," explained our awesome narrator for the day, educator Janel Kempf. "They'll get to trying the bear-proof recycling bin eventually, but for now they will take their time with checking out the table."

Frosted bear lips. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, WPZ.
All in. Photo by John Loughlin, WPZ.

It didn't take too long, however, for things to get a little more bear-tastic. Keema stood on top of the table to get a better angle on the frosting while Denali discovered the barbecue (and the salmon drippings inside)!

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, WPZ.

As the barbecue toppled over, it's easy to see how leaving just a little bit of food out can attract these boys to the smell. A grizzly bear can smell traces of food up to twenty miles away, and black bears (like you may encounter in the Pacific Northwest) are just as talented.

Once the barbecue was licked clean they headed for the harder to reach items. Photo by John Loughlin, WPZ.

After the barbecue was licked clean (thanks for taking care of that for us!), the brothers tried getting into the items that were a little trickier, such as the bear-proof recycling bin from Issaquah which has stood the test of time. The bears have never successfully gotten into the bin, despite giving it bear CPR and sometimes sinking it in their pool. A bear-proof garbage can is the best way to stop midnight snacking at the curb.

No matter how they tried, our bears did not get into the City of Issaquah bear-proof bin! Photo by John Loughlin, WPZ.

While they didn't get into the treats in either the bear-proof bins or the bear-safe camping boxes, they did find the Caffe Vita coffee grounds and the Pike Place Market salmon during the second demonstration, which was a mock campsite complete with tent, kayak and plenty of coolers to explore. All were equally appreciated by the 850-lb grizzlies!

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, WPZ.

Does it get any better than coffee AND salmon? #PNWISBEST!

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, WPZ.

Thanks to all who joined us for a fantastic Bear Affair and a great, SAFE start to camping and hiking season for humans, bears and all wildlife. Remember not to feed wildlife and keep delicious or strongly scented items away from your campsite. Pick up more bear safety tips from our conservation partners at Western Wildlife Outreach.

Just one more nibble from a backpack full of coffee grounds... Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, WPZ.

Visit Keema and Denali at the Northern Trail this summer, and learn more on how you can support grizzly recovery in the North Cascades.

Monday, June 5, 2017

From Temperate to Tropical: ZooCrew Middle School Students Explore Issues Facing the Forests of the World

Posted by: Ryan Driscoll, Education
Photos courtesy of ZooCrew, Woodland Park Zoo

Note from the Editor: Each term, ZooCrew empowers middle school youth to become conservation leaders by providing science learning experiences that inspire them to learn, care, and act through after school and summer expanded learning opportunities.

Through the ZooCrew programs, we excite youth from traditionally underserved communities about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) subjects by engaging with real-world conservation issues, preparing them for continued involvement in Woodland Park Zoo’s youth programs, and inspiring them to consider a broad range of STEM and conservation careers. We believe engaging these students, as well as youth across Washington state, is key to solving current conservation issues in our own backyard and around the world.

Learning with the zoo doesn’t just take place on zoo grounds! As the school year winds down, we wrapped up another awesome spring semester of ZooCrew, WPZ’s after-school program.

For the past few months, students at three Seattle middle schools—Asa Mercer International, Washington and Denny International—have been delving into the tropical rain forests of the world and grappling with the issue of deforestation. They began by building the three largest rain forests of the world to learn about their similarities and differences before exploring how habitat loss impacts animals in both temperate and tropical forests. Students then took on the roles of various stake-holders involved in tropical deforestation to learn about community-based solutions like sustainable palm oil and bamboo products. Of course, no ZooCrew semester would be complete without some visits from our ambassador animals and many rounds of our favorite game, Zookeeper!

These amazing students applied all that they had learned throughout the term to their final group projects, and we are pleased to now share some of the highlights below!

Getting up close with one of the zoo's resident wrigglers, this ZooCrew teen is a keeper in the making!

Citizen Science with Camera Traps

ZooCrew students are always looking for ways to help with conservation projects in the field, and this semester they focused on two citizen science apps: 'Chimp and See' and 'Camera CATalogue'.  Through Chimp and See, students learned how to notate the behaviors of wild chimpanzees to help scientists work through their backlog of video from the field. This information will help conservation programs better understand the behaviors and needs of these primates. On Camera CATalogue, students examined camera trap pictures from all over the world including a large portion from Tajikistan. Given the sheer amount of pictures scientists get from these traps, participants serve as assistants to the project by identifying the species present (or sometimes not present) in each picture. Students then used posters, iPads, and demonstrations to teach zoo visitors about what they had learned and shared ways that visitors can participate as citizen scientists. The ZooCrew students encourage you to head to www.zooniverse.org and find a project to help with! 




Bowling For Rhinos Projects

This year, ZooCrew partnered with the Puget Sound Area Association of Zoo Keepers (PSAAZK) to participate in Bowling for Rhinos, an annual fundraiser for the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya. Two groups chose to make trading cards to highlight the threats to the five remaining rhino species and actions people can take to help. Another group decided a poster was the best way to share this information.  Both projects were displayed at the Bowling for Rhinos event in May which was also attended by ZooCrew students and their families who enjoyed a night of bowling, taco bars, and raising money and awareness for rhino conservation. 

Hand-drawn trading cards to highlight the threat to rhinos and an informational poster, way to go ZooCrew!

Consumer Advocacy

Sometimes the products we buy become the strongest voice for conservation. This lesson was at the core of three projects that focused on educating the public about their consumer choices. One group chose to create a video and poster discussing the benefits of bamboo as an alternative to wood products. Two other groups chose to inform the public about sustainable palm oil including a list of products they should or shouldn’t purchase and an app that can help you figure out if a product uses sustainable palm oil or not (Sustainable Palm Oil Shopping).  




Bat Houses

What better way to help with habitat loss than to build a new home for the animals? Our bat house group took this to heart and aimed to create a new home for some of our local bats. Not only did they spend many weeks building and painting, but they also put together a poster to share the importance of these local animals as well as information for people to put up their own bat houses.

Restoration Field Trips
Every semester, ZooCrew aims to get out into the community and help with restoration work. This was even more pertinent this semester with our theme of habitat loss. Teaming up with the Duwamish Valley Youth Corps, we spent a Saturday morning helping to expand a community green space around South Seattle Community College. From mowing the grass to helping weed and plant traffic circles, both students and their families had a great time giving back!



Zoo Field Trip

The program culminated with students and their families coming together for our trip to the zoo! On a beautiful May Saturday, students and their families started off by exploring zoo grounds with the help of our ZooCorps teen volunteers. During our customary pizza lunch, we were treated to an overview of the Malaysian rain forest and the work of our conservation partner Panthera by keeper Christine Anne. After some special keeper talks at the jaguar, gorilla, and warty pig exhibits, the day wrapped up with our project showcase where students from all three sites showed off their projects and answered questions from parents, ZooCorps teen volunteers, and zoo staff. 


As the spring program ends, we wanted to extend a giant THANK YOU to our community partners, ZooCorps volunteers, and the zoo staff who help make this program possible. 

This summer, King County voters will have the opportunity to significantly boost access to science, arts and heritage educational programming. If passed by vote, Proposition 1 - Access for All will provide funding to Woodland Park Zoo and more than 350 community-based organizations to expand access to learning experiences, such as after school learning for underserved communities throughout King County.  

While school may be ending soon, ZooCrew is just gearing up for our summer learning experience.  This summer, look out around Seattle for a group of orange-clad middle schoolers as we get ready to delve into the personal actions we can all take to live more sustainably!  

Fantastic work, ZooCrew Spring 2017, we look forward to seeing how you will change the world to protect animals and their habitats!
#accessforall