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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Keema and Denali celebrate 25 years of being the best

Posted by Elizabeth Bacher, Communications

Our grizzly bears, Keema and Denali, celebrate their 25th birthday on January 15. We've watched them grow from rough and tumble cubs to handsome beasts with fine-tuned palates for salmon, a penchant for romping through their stream and a remarkable nose for coffee grounds. They have inspired thousands of guests to take conservation actions and protect Pacific Northwest habitat. To mark the occasion, we’re giving you the gift of 25 fun facts about our favorite grizzlies—one for each glorious year!

Happiest Birthday, sweet bears!

1. Keema and Denali are twins—born January 15, 1994—and have been together their whole lives.

2. Their age is an indicator of the good care they receive here at Woodland Park Zoo. The average life expectancy for a wild male grizzly is 22 but bears in human care can live much longer.

The cubs kickin' it in the stream way back in 1994!

3. They are “Cougar bears”. OK, not really, but they were born at Washington State University which makes them Cougar-affiliated. (Sorry Huskies!)

4. Keema and Denali came to Woodland Park Zoo as 10-month-old cubs.

5. Their mom was a rescue from Yellowstone who couldn’t be released back into the wild. Washington State University gave her a home in their Bear Research, Education, and Conservation Center. It’s the only program of its kind in the U.S. that focuses on bear conservation around the world.

6. Grizzlies—also known as brown bears—are often brown, but their coloring can range from very light cream to black.

7. Identical twins? Not quite. Keema has a light-colored patch on his side, but is generally darker than his brother. Denali has a wider forehead than Keema.

8. Their weight can fluctuate by more than 200 pounds during the course of a year! In summer, when they’re more active, they can weigh as little as 670 pounds each. During winter when they’re sleepy and less active they can get up to 870 - 880 pounds!

9. Grizzlies don’t technically hibernate in the winter. They just get sleepy and spend lots of time napping—living off of the fat reserves they packed on in warmer times.

10. Our bears have very distinct personalities. Denali is more laid back while his brother Keema likes to be in control and tends to be the more dominant brother.

11. The bears each have their own spots near the stream where they like to eat. Just like you and your siblings who call dibs on a particular spot at the dinner table.

12. Keema has a sideways “look” he gives his keepers, especially when they miss his preferred spot while tossing his snacks near the stream.

13. Keema gives that same sideways look when he’s about to be naughty!

14. Grizzlies have a better sense of smell than a hound dog and can detect food from miles away.

15. Wild grizzlies are omnivores—meaning they eat a wide variety of foods. That includes meat, fish, insects, fruit, vegetables, tubers and berries.

16. If our boys had the chance, they’d eat almost anything. Exceptions are tomatoes, green beans, bananas and citrus, which they do NOT like.

I can haz fish.

17. Keema and Denali’s regular diet includes a wide variety of foods. Proteins could be trout, quail, chicken and turkey. Veggies include romaine, celery, kale, carrots and yams. And they love fruits like pears, apples, papaya, honeydew, cantaloupe and other seasonal goodies.

18. One of their favorite treats is peanuts! Denali eats them whole while Keema shells his.

19. All bears are attracted to smelly things—including things you throw in the garbage.

20. We love when you use bear-safe garbage cans to secure your smelly things. It keeps bears safe and away from potential conflicts with humans.

Denali offers a lesson in not-so-bear-proof camping gear.

21. That large hump on their backs is actually a muscle. Grizzlies dig more than any other bear species, ripping through the earth and tearing apart rotted logs in search of food.

22. Both our grizzlies—like all grizzly bears—love leaning against trees and using them as back-scratchers.

23. Denali seems to be a lefty, preferring to use his left paw as the dominant one. Keema is a righty.

24. When the bears sleep inside at night, they make beds out of fresh hay provided by their keepers.

25. Keema tends to make his bed first, often stealing a good portion of Denali’s bedding. Denali then scoops together what’s left of his hay, builds a nest and snuggles in.

Stream racing 101.

The brothers check out the camera from their favorite rock lookout.
p.s. Two very adorable cubs, Hawthorne and Huckleberry, remind us of a young Keema and Denali and we can't help reminiscing when we see them romping around at Northwest Trek! We're sending happy birthday vibes to our friends at Northwest Trek and wishes for salmon and adventure to the young cubs!

Hawthorne and Huckleberry at Northwest Trek: https://www.nwtrek.org/animals/bears/grizzly-cubs/ 

Monday, January 7, 2019

Tree kangaroo joey plays peek-a-boo from pouch

Posted by Meghan Sawyer, Communications

Woodland Park Zoo’s baby Matschie’s tree kangaroo is now venturing out of his mother’s pouch! In time, the joey named Ecki will leave the pouch permanently as he grows more confident and independent.

Tree kangaroo joey, Ecki, peeks out of his mother's pouch. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

“Ecki” is named after a beloved elder from one of the remote Papua New Guinea villages that works with Woodland Park Zoo to help protect tree kangaroos and their habitat. The joey and his mother, 11-year-old Elanna, live behind the scenes in an off-view habitat at the zoo.

A joey’s journey 

While Ecki is just now being introduced to the world, he was actually born eight months ago. When joeys are born, they’re only the size of a jelly bean! Within just one to two minutes of birth, that tiny baby has to crawl from the birth canal, through the mother’s fur, and into the pouch to immediately begin nursing. That’s exactly what Ecki did, and he’s been tucked away in his mom Elanna’s pouch ever since.

A before and after. Ecki was born blind and without fur. Photo: Woodland Park Zoo

But while Ecki may have been hidden from view, the zoo’s dedicated animal care staff constantly monitored him and his mother to make sure that both were healthy and meeting expected milestones. One way they were able to do that is through “pouch checks,” where keepers looked inside Elanna’s pouch to check on the joey.

“Training Elanna to cooperate with pouch checks required a solid foundation of trust between Elanna and her keepers. Using positive reinforcement, our keepers trained Elanna to come down to a platform when asked, place her front feet onto a white tube, and extend the time holding still in this position. At the same time, keepers slowly desensitized Elanna to gently touching and opening her pouch until they were able to see inside it,” said Animal Care Manager Rachel Salant. 

Using positive reinforcement, Elanna lets our animal care staff check on the joey in her pouch. Photo: Woodland Park Zoo

Finally, keepers spent some time slowly introducing cameras and cell phones near Elanna so that she would be comfortable with having the devices around to record video of her pouch. As part of all of the zoo’s animal training sessions, Elanna had the choice to leave any session at any time, so any video recorded was because Elanna allowed it. The result is a rare, up-close look at a tree kangaroo joey in his early stages of life, and it’s incredible to watch.

In the coming months, Ecki will become fully weaned from his mother, and eventually grow independent. In the meantime, animal care staff will continue to observe Ecki and Elanna to make sure both are happy, healthy and thriving.

Want to help save endangered tree kangaroos?
Woodland Park Zoo is home to the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program that is working to protect the endangered tree kangaroo and help maintain the unique biodiversity of its native Papua New Guinea in balance with the culture and needs of the people who live there. Consider supporting the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program here: https://www.zoo.org/tkcp/donate

Have a cup of joe for the joey!
Another way you can support conservation in Papua New Guinea is by purchasing and enjoying coffee that is grown by the people who live in Papua New Guinea's YUS Conservation Area, named for the Yopno, Uruwa, and Som rivers of that region. Seattle-based CaffĂ© Vita (www.caffevita.com) works with farmers and landowners in the YUS region to bring coffee beans they grow to market. By selling farm-direct to CaffĂ© Vita and other buyers, YUS farmers earn revenues more than 35% higher than local market rates—and helping the people who live off the land also helps all the animals living there too, including the Matschie’s tree kangaroo.

VIDEO of tree kangaroo joey and mom: https://youtu.be/prCShsVl9C0 

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Snakes, spiders and reptiles find safe haven at Woodland Park Zoo

Posted by Gigi Allianic, Communications

Sometimes animals need our support protecting their wild habitat and sometimes animals need our help finding a new home. Luckily, we were recently able to assist in two different cases where the expertise of zoo staff found a safe and appropriate new home for some very special creaturesand this story does have a happy ending.

A Gila monster is one of several venomous reptiles taken in by Woodland Park Zoo. Photo: John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo
A collection of reptiles owned by a woman who recently passed away in southern Wash. is now in the care of Woodland Park Zoo. The dozen exotic reptiles include several Gila (pronounced HEE-la) monsters, copperheads and vipers of various species.

Friends of the deceased woman asked the zoo if it could take the snakes and lizards. “As a community service, Woodland Park Zoo accepts all venomous reptiles, whether privately owned or confiscated by local agencies,” said Jennifer Pramuk, PhD., a curator at Woodland Park Zoo and an amphibian and reptile expert. “These people cared deeply for their friend who passed away and wanted to ensure that her animals went to a good home. We don’t want these animals to end up in the wrong hands or euthanized.”

The zoo plans to keep the Gila monsters and will work on placing the snakes in other zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums and which have staff highly qualified to care for these species. Gila monsters are one of two known venomous lizards, the other being the Mexican beaded lizard; they are native to the Southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico. Unlike snakes, Gila monsters and Mexican beaded lizards evolved their venom for defense, rather than for killing and digesting food. Although the Gila monster’s bite is normally not fatal to humans, it is extremely painful, and it is very important to see a doctor as soon as possible if bitten. Although Woodland Park Zoo stocks antivenom to provide accidental snakebite from all of the species of venomous reptiles in its collection, no antivenom exists for Gila monsters or for two African bush vipers that were part of the rescue. 

A young African bush viper is one of the venomous snakes taken in by Woodland Park Zoo. Photo: John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo
In a separate recent case, the zoo rescued 250 tarantula spiderlings that were confiscated by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from an importer. Because Brazil does not export adult tarantulas, it’s assumed the baby salmon pink bird-eating tarantulas and white-banded tarantulas were bred from illegally wild-caught adults. These youngsters are small now, but the salmon pink bird-eating tarantulas can grow to have a leg-span of more than 10 inches at adulthood.

250 baby salmon pink bird-eating tarantulas from Brazil that were confiscated by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are now in the care of Woodland Park Zoo. Photo: John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo

A young Brazilian white-banded tarantula 
Many animals, including reptiles and spiders, are threatened by the pet trade. Woodland Park Zoo works closely with wildlife agencies as a partner for consultation and providing a safe home on a case-by-case basis such as these two examples.

Sadly, it is not uncommon for people seeking homes for unwanted pets to reach out to Woodland Park Zoo; however, zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, like Woodland Park Zoo, concentrate mainly on helping endangered species. Woodland Park Zoo can’t begin to absorb unwanted pets in need of homes and refers pet owners to several organizations in the region including Pacific Northwest Herpetological Society, Northwest Exotic Bird Society and Pasado’s Safe Haven.

“People don’t realize that caring for wild animals is very challenging. Wild animals haven’t been molded for life with humans, as domesticated animals have been. Exotic animals can be aggressive or unpredictable, pose health and disease problems, and have special dietary and environmental needs that many owners are not prepared to address. We encourage potential pet owners to seriously consider the many specialized needs of animals before owning an exotic pet,” explained Pramuk. “For example, many turtle and parrot species have long life expectancies, living well into their 80s. People need to ask themselves if they can provide for the animals for their lifetime.”

At home
Are you considering adding a pet to your family over the holidays? Before you welcome a new addition into your home, it's important to be ready for the responsibility that comes along with pet ownership. And that includes understanding the needs of the species you're adopting. There are lots of resources available for owners of dogs, cats and other domestic animalsto help them provide everything their pet needs to live a safe and happy life. That ranges from finding proper veterinary care, which can be expensive, to providing a healthy diet that meets the needs of their pet. There are some animals, however, that don't make such good pets. Most people are probably not prepared to meet their specialized needs. Some of them can live for 30, 40 years or more and some can be dangerous or even illegal to own. Please make sure you do your research before committing to any new petand let's all promise not to buy or sell illegally traded animals. Remember, if you don't know where an animal is coming from, or if you aren't comfortable with the seller, it's best to walk away. Feel free to ask lots of questions to help understand where the animals are coming from. The store or seller should know whether or not an animal was born in the wild or in captivity, and if it's not clear, then you shouldn't be part of it. 

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Have you met Zeus the mountain goat?

Posted by Kirsten Pisto, Communications

Zeus the mountain goat, much like the king of the Greek gods who hailed from Mount Olympus, is handsome, athletic and sports a stunning white beard. Unlike his namesake, he will not be married to the goddess Hera, instead he’ll kick it with his new BFF Daisy.

Hey, Zeus! Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.
Back in September, we told you about a group of non-native mountain goats being translocated from Olympic National Park during a multi-agency operation to re-establish and assist in connecting depleted populations of mountain goats in the Washington Cascades. The effort to translocate mountain goats from the Olympic Peninsula is a partnership of the National Park Service (NPS), the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW), and the USDA Forest Service (USFS), with support from area tribes. Mountain goats were introduced to the Olympics in the 1920s.

Video: A zen moment with the herd on the Northern Trail. Video: https://youtu.be/F-W8CXmanEU

All in all, there were 98 mountain goats translocated from Olympic National Park to the northern Cascade Mountains. Woodland Park Zoo partnered with Northwest Trek and Oregon Zoo to provide permanent homes to goat kids without known mothers. Six mountain goat kids that could not be paired up with their mothers were originally transferred to Northwest Trek. Zeus was one of those six and a few weeks later he settled into the herd here at Woodland Park Zoo. 

Zeus and Daisy on the slopes. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.
Now, Zeus is acquainted with his herd on the Northern Trail and has been seen frolicking with Daisy, a young goat born at Woodland Park Zoo in June 2018. His keepers tell us he is quite smitten with Daisy and seems to get along well with aunties Bluebell and Atlin too. Zeus is a young goat, so he'll be perfecting his climb and balance as he grows. 

Zeus scouting out some green on the Northern Trail. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.
Mountain goats are adapted for life on steep, cold mountain ledgesway high up at elevations of 10,000 feet and more. They rock thick, woolly white coats that protect them from the elements and have specially shaped hooves to grip the rocks.

Right now you can tell Zeus and Daisy apart from Atlin and Bluebelle because of their size and the smaller horns, but not for long! You can tell Zeus apart from Daisy, since she does not have an ear tag, and Zeus has a green ear tag on his left ear.

Keep a lookout on the Northern Trail for this handsome little rock climber! Welcome, Zeus!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Good News for Gorillas

Posted by: Peter Zahler, Vice President of Conservation Initiatives

Woodland Park Zoo is delighted to announce the good news that the highly threatened mountain gorilla has reached the point in its recovery that its status has been downgraded from Critically Endangered to Endangered.

Mountain gorillas in the wild. Photo credit: Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund

The decision was made by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the international organization that tracks the conservation status of animal and plant species. The decision shows the slow but steady increase in the population of this great ape due to concentrated protection efforts over the last few decades.

There are still only about a thousand mountain gorillas left in the wild, found in a few scattered populations in the mountains of Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in central Africa. The mountain gorillas have been facing threats from poaching, habitat destruction, and repeated civil conflicts that have forced local people into protected areas and led to breakdowns in protection efforts.

While the mountain gorilla’s new status is a real conservation success story, the population is still under threat from human pressure, climate change, and even Ebola. Other populations of gorillas are still declining precipitously.

Woodland Park Zoo supports the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and their long-standing work protected the mountain gorilla. Woodland Park Zoo also supports the Mbeli Bai Gorilla study in Nouabale-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo, which now holds more than 62% of the world’s critically endangered Western Lowland gorillas.


You can help support these projects and help save gorillas just by recycling this holiday season. Are you buying a new cell phone or handheld device for yourself or as a gift for someone else? Instead of tossing your old ones, consider dropping them off at Woodland Park Zoo. We partner with an organization called ECO-CELL to keep them out of landfills. ECO-CELL extracts mineral ore from these devices to reduce the demand for unsustainable coltan mining in the Congo that destroys habitat for critically endangered gorillas. The resale value for these minerals is reimbursed to the zoo and we use those funds to support our conservation work in the field. If you want to drop off any of your old devices, including cell phones, smart phones, iPods, iPads, tablets and MP3 players, you can find ECO-CELL receptacles located at both zoo entrances.

In addition, the Seattle law firm Lasher, Holzapfel, Sperry & Ebberson is helping save gorillas too! For every device we receive Lasher will donate $1 towards gorilla conservation. 

ECO-CELL drop-off bins are at both Woodland Park Zoo entrances. Photo: Elizabeth Bacher, Woodland Park Zoo.
If you're stopping by don't forget to visit our resident gorilla families here at the zoo, including our new silverback, Kwame. He is forming strong bonds with the females in his group, including Akenji, Uzumma, Nadiri and little Yola. The family is still getting acclimated to the public part of their exhibit together, so the times you can see them might vary depending on the day.

Kwame is forming strong bonds with his new Woodland Park Zoo family. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Woodland Park Zoo
To learn more about gorilla conservation and Woodland Park Zoo, please visit https://www.zoo.org/wsf/africa. Thank you for caring about gorillas and other endangered species as much as we do.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Rhino Lookout: How Local Kids Are Saving Rhinos

posted by Elizabeth Bacher, Communications

At Woodland Park Zoo, we want to inspire people of all ages to make conservation a priority in their lives. Taj and Glenn want that, too! In case you haven’t met them yet, Taj and Glenn are the greater one-horned rhinos who moved into the zoo’s new Assam Rhino Reserve earlier this year, and they are already inspiring the next generation of wildlife protectors. That generation includes lots of motivated kids of all ages who are active in their communities and schools. They want to save wildlife. They want to make a difference. And we want you to know about them!

In Assam, India, children walk past a school wall mural dedicated to the preservation of rhinos in Manas National Park. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

We recently shared a story with you about children who live in the Manas community of Assam, India. They take an oath every day at school with their fellow classmates to protect the wildlife and wild places near where they live. It just so happens that where they live is right next to Manas National Park—home to animals found nowhere else on earth including pygmy hogs, golden langurs and a translocated population of greater one-horned rhinos—just like Taj and Glenn. These kids feel it is their duty to look out for wildlife and to look out for rhinos.

Halfway around the world, there are groups of kids right here in the Seattle area who feel the same way. Each of these groups is taking action to make sure that THEIR future includes a world where rhinos can live safely without the threat of poaching. These junior philanthropists are showing us that you’re never too young to make a difference. We are inspired by them, and we think you will be too! They come from a variety of different neighborhoods and schools, but they all had the same great idea on how to raise funds for conservation and raise awareness about the plight of rhinos—set up lemonade stands in their neighborhoods!

The Ross and Torpey kids are all in for lemonade, cookies and conservation! Photo credit: Nicole Ross

Finley Ross, Evelyn Ross, Elise Torpey and Brooke Torpey ran a lemonade and donut stand in their north Seattle neighborhood. They raised money to help save rhinos and to raise awareness about some of the illegal poaching activities that threaten them. Finley, age 10, knows that rhinos need to be protected. “People are killing them and illegally selling their horns to other countries,” he said. “Some people think the stuff in the horns can be used for medicine and that's not true.”

Chandrasekaran kids and friends serve up lemonade and cookies for conservation. Photo credit: Julie Schlosser

Max and Leo Chandrasekaran, along with some friends, also ran a lemonade stand and sold cookies. They set up shop next to a baseball field in the Queen Anne neighborhood and decided they wanted all the money they made to go toward rhino conservation. Way to go kids!

Laurelhurst Elementary School students present a check to rhino keeper Chad. Photo: Elizabeth Bacher/Woodland Park Zoo

Take a look at this class of second and third graders from Laurelhurst Elementary School who hosted a lemonade and cookie stand in support of rhinos as part of their community impact project. Here they are, pictured at Woodland Park Zoo’s rhino exhibit in the Assam Rhino Reserve, presenting a check to Chad, one of our rhino keepers. Chad looks pretty impressed! We’re impressed too!

Girls on the Run team from McDonald International Elementary. #gotrpugetsound Photo credit: Ivy Karlinsky

Finally, a local Girls on the Run Team from McDonald International Elementary school decided that a lemonade and cookie stand was the perfect way to raise money in support of endangered animals, like rhinos. Here they are, coming out for a cause and having fun at their elementary school.

In total, these kids—these budding philanthropists and conservationists—raised more than $800 for rhino conservation. That’s enough to outfit an anti-poaching ranger station with equipment and gear. Clearly, a little lemonade and a lot of passion for conservation (plus some cookies, too) go a long way! Now THAT is impressive and we are grateful for the example they’re setting for our whole community.


In the Rhino Lookout series, we’re highlighting the stories of those who are looking out for rhinos and what we can do to help. Visit Assam Rhino Reserve, now open at Woodland Park Zoo, and follow #rhinolookout for more stories. Every visit to Woodland Park Zoo supports our work with International Rhino Foundation and more than 30 other projects dedicated to saving species here and around the world.

Rhino Lookout: Do more than see rhinos. Look out for them.