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Friday, July 20, 2018

Happy National Zookeeper Week!

Posted by Elizabeth Bacher, Communications

This whole week—which has been National Zookeeper Week—we’ve been celebrating our amazing animal keepers and showing them some love! Looking out for our animals is more than just a job for WoodlandPark Zoo’s keepers.

Lead animal keeper Alyssa strikes a very komodo dragon pose.

Most of these dedicated professionals consider their critters to be parts of their extended family—a furry, feathered, scaly and hairy family.

We would be happy to accept a rose from either Lucy the raccoon or from Regina, one of our awesome animal keepers.

Among Woodland Park Zoo’s animal keeper staff, you will find scientists, researchers, educators, wildlife rehabbers, conservationists and environmental stewards.

Christine, Ros, Carolyn, Jenna and Drew make for the most marvelous meerkat mob.

They represent the heart and soul of what we do, caring for our animals, providing our guests with amazing experiences and just generally being awesome.

We can't tell who's more excited about getting a basket of fruits and vegetables--opossum Penelope or animal keeper Rachel.

This dedicated group of professionals is passionate about conservation and animal welfare, and they love talking to zoo guests about the animals they care for.

Our ambassador animals, like these rats, know that sharing a snack with friends is fun. Our keepers Rachel, Susie, Regina and Erin know that, too.

Many of them are also incredibly funny, as you can see here, where they’re having fun recreating some of their favorite animal photos.

Keeper Carolyn is echoing a pose of Malayan tiger Eko, in a training session with Christine.

This week is also when our keepers come together to honor one of their own with the annual Excellence in Zookeeping Award.

Congratulations, to penguin keeper Celine! Thanks for taking such good care of these beautiful and boisterous birds.

This year, that award goes to Celine Pardo, an animal keeper at our award-winning Humboldt penguin exhibit. Ironically, Celine—who has been at Woodland Park Zoo for 12 years—wasn’t even here to accept her award in person. She is in Peru at Punta San Juan, the rugged South American coastal reserve that is home to nearly half the wild Humboldt penguin population. She’s working there, with our conservation partners, to help with ongoing research into the health of the population of these endangered birds. Stay tuned. We’ll be sure to tell you more about her trip when she returns.

Is animal keeper Peter copying Taj's facial expression, or is it the other way around? Taj is a very smart greater one-horned rhino, so it really could go either way.

We’d like to honor ALL our animal keepers. Thank you for love, enthusiasm, passion, empathy and dedication that you bring to your jobs every day. Plus—let’s just come out and say it—you all have the coolest jobs and are the true rock stars of Woodland Park Zoo.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Rare Oregon silverspot butterfly caterpillars reintroduced to Saddle Mountain

Posted by Gigi Allianic, Communications

Silverspot butterfly. Photo by Mike Patterson

Woodland Park Zoo is part of a team that released 500 Oregon silverspot butterfly caterpillars last week on the slopes of Saddle Mountain located in Oregon.

A team from Woodland Park Zoo, Oregon Zoo, Oregon Parks and Recreation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service work together to save butterflies. Photo by Trevor Taylor
More than 200 of the released caterpillars were raised this summer at the zoo’s butterfly conservation lab. The reintroduction to the habitat is part of a collaborative, ongoing effort to stabilize the declining population of Oregon silverspot butterflies.

Caterpillars were raised in a conservation lab over the winter. Photo by Mike Patterson

Other team members joining the caterpillar release were Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Oregon Zoo.
It's a team effort! Photo by Michael Cash/Woodland Park Zoo

The caterpillars began their journey to the mountain as part of the imperiled species programs at Woodland Park Zoo and Oregon Zoo. Each year, a small number of female Oregon silverspot butterflies are collected from wild populations and brought to zoo conservation labs to lay eggs. The hatched larvae spend the winter asleep in the lab. In the early summer they are woken up and fed early blue violet leaves, which are grown by the zoo's horticulture department. Once the larvae have reached a certain size they are ready to be transported to Oregon where they are released into the wild.

Hatched larvae are released into the wild when they've matured into caterpillars. Photo by Mike Patterson.

The Oregon silverspot butterfly (Speyeria zerene hippolyta) was federally listed as threatened in 1980, and population numbers have declined continuously over the last three decades. It once lived in Washington but has since been wiped out in the state, and today, just four isolated populations remain: three in Oregon and one in California.

Adult Oregon silverspot butterflies. Photo by Mike Patterson

To survive, the Oregon silverspot butterfly needs early blue violets, a low-growing native wildflower. Silverspots lay their eggs near violet plants, and growing caterpillars rely on the violets as their sole source of food as they mature into adult butterflies. But now early blue violets are disappearing from their native coastal landscapes where they are being choked out by invasive weeds—such as scotch broom—and forest succession.

Early blue violets. Silverspot caterpillars rely on this wildflower, which is disappearing due to human development, as a primary food source. Photo by Trevor Taylor. 

Saddle Mountain was chosen as the reintroduction site for these caterpillars because the delicate violets bloom in abundance there.

Releasing caterpillars into the perfect habitat on Saddle Mountain in Oregon. Photo by Michael Cash/Woodland Park Zoo.

“Saddle Mountain is like the hot real estate market in Seattle—it’s prime land for Oregon silverspots. We have carefully nurtured these fragile caterpillars in our lab and our hope is that they will thrive, successfully reproduce and become the start of a robust butterfly population at this new release site,” said Erin Sullivan, an animal care manager at Woodland Park Zoo who oversees the silverspot recovery project at the zoo.

This pristine Oregon habitat has what these caterpillars need to survive. Photo by Michael Cash/Woodland Park Zoo.

Funding for the reintroduction project was provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund and Woodland Park Zoo. The butterfly recovery project is a part of Woodland Park Zoo’s Living Northwest conservation programs that focus on native species restoration, habitat protection, wildlife education and human-wildlife conflict mitigation across the Pacific Northwest. 

Good job, team! Photo by Trevor Taylor.

In 2012, Woodland Park Zoo and Oregon Zoo earned the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Significant Achievement Award for the Oregon Silverspot Captive Rearing Program. These gorgeous creatures motivate us all to keep our landscapes healthy, green and pollinator-perfect.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Jungle Party 2018 hits benchmark thanks to community support

Posted by Meghan Sawyer, Public Relations
Photos by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Woodland Park Zoo

More than 1,000 Seattle leaders and philanthropists came together at Woodland Park Zoo’s 42nd Annual Jungle Party fundraising event, giving collectively more than $2 million for the zoo’s pioneering work and conservation mission. 

This year’s Jungle Party, themed “Wander Into the Wild,” was held on July 13 and presented by title sponsors The Boeing Company and Callisons, Inc. Woodland Park Zoo Board members Jim Burgett, Ben Magnano, Matt Rosauer, Ethan Stowell and Evan Wyman co-chaired the event.

“The extraordinary generosity of our Jungle Party patrons this year is humbling, energizing and inspiring,” said Alejandro Grajal, President and CEO of Woodland Park Zoo. “The contributions from our long-term supporters and new friends will directly support local and global wildlife conservation, world-class animal care at our zoo and a considerable increase in access for children and families facing any barrier to visiting the zoo.”

Jungle Party patrons enjoyed bidding on more than 500 exceptional auction items, exclusive zoo tours and animal encounters, a gourmet outdoor dinner designed by Ethan Stowell Restaurants and Lisa Dupar Catering, live entertainment and a Cool Down Session with an acoustic serenade and cocktails at the Humboldt penguin exhibit.

Thanks to a partnership with Oculus, Jungle Party guests also immersed themselves in Woodland Park Zoo’s pilot virtual reality (VR) experience. This first of its kind project utilizes 360-degree video to highlight a day in the life of the zoo’s greater one­-horned rhinos, Taj and Glenn. Through VR technology, the zoo is opening up behind-the-scenes areas of the new Assam Rhino Reserve, deepening understanding about Taj and Glenn, and demonstrating how Woodland Park Zoo’s animal care team adheres to the highest standards of animal welfare.

Jungle Party 2018 corporate sponsors include: The Boeing Company, Callisons, Inc., Alaska Airlines, Q13 Fox, Snake River Farms, Brown Bear Car Wash, Chevron, Cigna, Costco, Oculus, Sound Community Bank, Starbucks, Valence, William Grant & Sons, Amazon, ASI, Avenue Properties, Celebrity Cruises, Columbia Bank, Columbia Pacific Wealth Management, Deloitte, EC Wilson Meat, Ethan Stowell Restaurants, Facebook, Iron Springs Resort, Lane Powell, Moss Adams, The Napoleon Co., North Seattle College, Union Bank, USI, Cisco, Thompson Seattle, Vinum, AT&T, AssuredPartners MCM, Peterson Sullivan, Seattle Children’s and Trident Seafood. Nearly 200 volunteers also helped make the event possible.

As a leading conservation organization, Woodland Park Zoo strongly believes that saving wildlife and its habitats is vital to the future of our planet. Each year, Jungle Party’s sponsors and guests make vital philanthropic contributions that advance the zoo’s mission of wildlife conservation and help support animal care for the zoo’s 1,200 animals. Their support also provides access for all ages and abilities to extraordinary experiences and science education programming that inspire and empower guests to stand up for wildlife.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Zoo and biologists get turtles ready for release to the wild

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

On July 12, more than 45 endangered Western pond turtles were weighed, measured and marked for identification in preparation for being released to the wild at protected sites in Washington.

Under the Western Pond Turtle Recovery Project, the turtles were collected from the wild as eggs and given a head start on life under the care of Woodland Park Zoo to improve their chance of survival in the wild.

Unlike wild turtles, they are fed at the zoo throughout the winter so that by summer they are nearly as big as 3-year-old turtles that grew up in the wild.

Once the turtles reach about 2 ounces—a suitable size to escape the mouths of invasive predatory bullfrogs—they are returned to the wild and monitored by biologists.
In 1991, only about 150 Western pond turtles remained in two populations in the state of Washington and the species nearly became extinct. In 1993, the state listed the Western pond turtle as endangered. Today, thanks to collaborative recovery efforts over the last 27 years, more than 1,000 thrive at protected sites.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists and zoo staff weighed, measured and marked 47 turtles.
Over the last several years, an emerging shell disease affecting 29 to 49 percent of the wild population threatens decades of recovery progress. Known to cause lesions in a turtle’s shell, severe cases can lead to lowered fitness and even death. Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have joined the recovery efforts by collaborating to better understand the disease. The aquarium and university are looking at the disease from a microbial and pathological perspective to better understand its origin and the role environmental factors could play. The goal is to give young turtles a better chance at survival in the wild.

Woodland Park Zoo and Oregon Zoo are working with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and other partners to address this urgent situation: studying the disease, treating severely diseased turtles, and providing overwinter care for turtles to allow their shells to heal before they are released back into the wild. After the treated turtles are released, WDFW monitors the turtles to determine if they remain healthy and are able to reproduce normally in the wild.

The Western pond turtle once ranged from Washington’s Puget Sound lowlands, southward through Western Oregon and California to Baja California. By 1990, their numbers plummeted to only about 150 Western pond turtles in two populations in the state of Washington. These last remaining individuals struggled for survival as they battled predation by the non-native bullfrog, disease and habitat loss. A respiratory disease threatened the remaining turtles and biologists could not find evidence confirming hatchling survival. 

In 1991, Woodland Park Zoo and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) joined forces to recover Western pond turtles by initiating a head start program. In 1999, Oregon Zoo joined the recovery team and, over the years, other nonprofits, government agencies and private partners have contributed to the multi-institutional conservation project. In 27 years, self-sustaining populations have been re-established in two regions of the state: Puget Sound and the Columbia River Gorge. More than 2,100 turtles have been head started and released, and surveys indicate that more than 1,000 of the released turtles have survived and continue to thrive at six sites. 

Each spring, WDFW biologists go in the field to attach transmitters to adult female Western pond turtles. They monitor the turtles every few hours during the nesting season to locate nesting sites and they protect the nests from predators with wire exclosure cages. A portion of the eggs and hatchlings are collected and transported to Woodland Park and Oregon Zoos where they can grow in safety.

While slowly making its way toward recovery, the Western pond turtle population still faces threats such as the loss of suitable habitat, invasive bullfrog predation and disease. The Western pond turtle is one of 19 species that are part of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ (AZA) SAFE (Saving Animals From Extinction) initiative, which focuses on the collective expertise within AZA’s accredited institutions and leverages their massive audiences to save species. AZA and its members are convening scientists and stakeholders to identify the threats, develop action plans, raise new resources and engage the public. 

#turtlepower #savingspecies

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Zoo for All: Celebrating Inclusion and Access

Posted by Rubai Aurora, Community Engagement Specialist

Editor’s note: At the heart of our mission, we want everyone to love animals. Sharing the zoo experience means making our programming, physical spaces and storytelling accessible to all. Your zoo has been on a diversity and inclusion journey—mapping out ways we can more genuinely welcome and represent our community. In 2018 and beyond, you’ll see your zoo continue to work toward being a place where every individual can safely and profoundly take part in being a voice for conservation action.

Woodland Park Zoo believes the zoo should be inclusive for all. On July 5, 2018, Woodland Park Zoo hosted our first Zoo for All, a day to celebrate our commitment to inclusion, and to acknowledge and honor families and individuals from the special needs community.

More than just a day:

Zoo for All was made possible through guidance from nonprofit partners in the community, including The Arc of King County, Special Olympics USA GamesNorthwest CenterNorthwest ADA CenterKindering, Arc of King County and others. These organizations hosted booths at the zoo throughout the day to provide information about their services as well as distributed complimentary tickets for members of their communities for the day.

“Zoo for All is a day to celebrate families coming together here at the zoo,” says Alejandro Grajal, Woodland Park Zoo’s president and CEO. “But our pledge to inclusivity is year round. We are constantly looking at ways to strengthen our commitment, improve our processes and make them more equitable. Creating this event has been a wonderful chance to truly learn from the community, and we hope to approach more Zoo for All events with the same spirit in the future.”
Thank you Seattle Parks and Rec! https://www.seattle.gov/parks
Hosting Zoo for All is part of Woodland Park Zoo’s greater commitment to making the zoo a place of inclusion in which people of all backgrounds and abilities feel welcome and inspired to make conservation a priority in their lives. While Zoo for All was just one day, we hope that members from the zoo community, staff and volunteers continue to learn and grow together to make the zoo accessible and welcoming for all.
Thank you The Arc King County! http://arcofkingcounty.org/
Here are just a few highlights from Zoo for All:

A new sensory zoo map was created to help identify spaces for all different sensory needs. Sensory Grounds Map: https://www.zoo.org/document.doc?id=2385

Staff Reconfigured Zoomazium’s nature play space to make it suitable for children with autism and other sensory disorders. They also created a storybook in partnership with the Boyer Children’s Clinic to introduce and prepare new visitors to the space. Read the story here: https://www.zoo.org/document.doc?id=2384

Picnic on the North Meadow! Families were encouraged to join in a community bring-your-own lunch celebration on the zoo’s North Meadow where the zoo offered free lemonade.

Photo via Instagram by @kikiatlarge 
Sensory Garden opened! The opening of the long-awaited Seattle Sensory Garden, an addition to the zoo’s Rose Garden designed for those with and without disabilities to enjoy debuted on July 5. The new garden includes a variety of elements for guests to touch and explore at their leisure, including deep-toned wind chimes, temple bells, and guiros—rectangular wooden posts with slots that create noise when touched. There is also an accessible paved pathway, special sensory-friendly carpeting, and raised beds to make for easier interaction with the variety of trees, shrubs and bulbs planted throughout the garden.

Guests were also treated to coloring books with conservation themes, courtesy of our sponsor partner Savers.

Big thank you to Access Medical Equipment—they provided additional necessary powered scooters/wheelchairs for our July 5 event.

Nemesia shows off an ambassador animal during Zoo for All’s Creature Feature in Zoomazium, while Karen interprets in American Sign Language. 
Thank you, ADWAS! http://www.adwas.org/
Thank you Northwest Center! https://www.nwcenter.org/
We would like to thank all of our partners and guests for making our first Zoo for All a success! As we continue to dive into access and inclusion programming, we look forward to hearing directly from our members and community on ways we can do better and make the zoo a welcome, safe and fantastic experience for all families and individuals.
Our south entrance got a color infusion with this incredible temporary mural created by Special Olympics Washington athletes and Seattle-based artist Catherine Mayer.

A shining example of inclusion:

ZooCorps is Woodland Park Zoo’s teen volunteer program and extends to all teens, no matter their abilities. The teens are truly committed to making their team an inclusive and accessible experience for all. We were thrilled when the Special Olympics USA Games highlighted our teens as one of their 2018 Game Changers, read more about our awesome teens here: http://blog.zoo.org/2018/07/game-changers-shining-example-of.html 

The WIN pledge:

Woodland Park Zoo also took the WIN pledge in early 2018. What does that mean? The Welcome Inclusion (WIN) Initiative is a grassroots alliance. WIN is a public awareness and capacity building campaign that will facilitate rapid, transformative community change to promote a world of inclusion for children and adults with intellectual, behavioral, and social differences through 3 key activities: Awareness, Community and Training. https://www.welcomein.org

Game Changers: A shining example of inclusion

Posted by Carolyn Stevens-Wood, Development

ZooCorps, Woodland Park Zoo’s teen volunteer program, is truly committed to making their team an inclusive and accessible experience for all. We were thrilled when the Special Olympics USA Games highlighted our teens as one of their 2018 Game Changers.

Woodland Park Zoo is committed to making the zoo a place of inclusion in which people of all backgrounds and abilities feel welcome and inspired to make conservation a priority in their lives. ZooCorps is truly exemplifying this promise through their dedication to Jonah and others with special needs. 

ZooCorps is Woodland Park Zoo’s teen volunteer program and extends to all teens, no matter their abilities. The program allows teens to explore different departments within the zoo from animal care to horticulture and provides education at exhibits and camps. Jonah, a member of the ZooCorps team with special needs has been welcomed, included and able to work towards being an animal trainer, something he’s wanted to do all of his life.

Jonah plans to run the zoo one day, and he is well on his way.

Makaela Lambert is a trainer and mentor in the ZooCorps program and says that she doesn’t know where her life would be without it. “The community there is like nothing I have ever found. It’s somewhere I can be myself and bond easily.” This sense of community extends to all teens, no matter what their abilities are. Makaela speaks about when she first met Jonah, a ZooCorps member with special needs. “He was nervous, but we clicked right away. I have a lot of precious memories with Jonah now. He has become my buddy.”

Through the ZooCorps program, teens are able to explore different departments within the zoo from animal care to horticulture to public programming. Year-round, they provide education at exhibits and camps, and participate in environmental service projects out in the community.

Aleah Reed is also a ZooCorps member and trainer. She remembers Jonah being very quiet in his first training session, but eventually coming out of his shell and being able to speak confidently in front of groups of people. “You know how you can tell on someone’s face how they are feeling? Well, it really looks like Jonah’s at home here now.” She gives full recognition to Makaela and another trainer, Isaac Schuman, for helping Jonah to open up. Wisely, she said that you just have to give people a chance and get past your own uncertainties. “After working a shift with Jonah, I realized how funny and sweet he was—and what a good time I had with him!” 

ZooCorps teaches teens about leadership skills, teamwork and how to interact with the public. But it appears to be more than that. The teens talk about ZooCorps as being a part of a close community. “We really are one big family. We are all here for the same reason and we are all on the same level.” Because of these teens’ openness and respect for others that may be different from them, Jonah is now a part of this ZooCorps family too.

Jonah’s mother, Kate O’Leary, said they first learned about ZooCorps when they were looking for an internship for Jonah. “I was a little hesitant at first, but I had the opposite experience that I’ve had with other organizations. We were encouraged right from the beginning.” Kate said that Issana To and Lyra Dalton, ZooCorps Youth Engagement staff, kept reassuring her that Jonah would do just fine in the program. “ZooCorps is a very diverse group. There was no question about accommodations, they just included Jonah in everything that he was able to participate in.” She explained that Issana and Lyra came up with ideas for helping Jonah have the best experience in the program. One of Jonah’s extra projects is to conduct a series of interviews with animal keepers throughout the zoo. “It’s a real opportunity for him.” Kate commends ZooCorps for meeting Jonah where he is at and for being so flexible. “Because of the ZooCorps program, Jonah is able to work towards something he’s wanted to do all of his life; to be an animal keeper.” 

Issana herself credits the entire ZooCorps community as being the Game Changers. “The teens are the ones who are so welcoming of Jonah and others who are not exactly like them. They are the ones who have taken Jonah under their wing and helped him to feel at home here, and I know it’s made a huge difference.” 

Thank you to ZooCorps, Jonah and his mom, Kate, for sharing their experience and being an inspiration for us all. Their work to be inclusive and welcoming is an exemplary model for us all.