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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Pond turtles a go-go

Today's the day for about 50 western pond turtles to returned to the wild. For more than a decade, the zoo has raised state endangered western pond turtles and then released them into protected pond sites in southwestern Washington state. At that time, only about 100-150 of the turtles, which measure about 8-inches long as adults and can live nearly four decades or so, were left in just a few spots in Washington (other subspecies live in Oregon and California, but are having similar problems). Why endangered? Introduced critters such as bullfrogs would gulp up the tiny hatchlings, about the size of a 50 cent piece. Also the drastic decline in wetlands and ponds to residential and agricultural development put a serious crimp in living places.

Thanks to the efforts of the zoo, Frank Slavens, former reptile curator here and his wife Kate, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Zoo and many others individuals, there are now an estimated 1,400 turtles living in sites in Washington and after today, 50 more! A team has already labeled and tagged the hatchlings, which have been headstarted to a size that's slightly larger than a bullfrog's mouth, and now they are ready to make their way in the world. We'll post photos from the release on the blog tomorrow. Stay tuned! (Photo by Ryan Hawk)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

WaMu ZooTunes hosts Andrew Bird and Josh Ritter

Last night's concert was great! Both opening act Josh Ritter and featured performer Andrew Bird were at the top of their game and the weather, despite the rather foreboding clouds that had been around all day, actually warmed up a bit. The sold out crowd seemed to appreciate their talents as well. I was working the zoo's Conservation booth, talking with people about the more than three dozen field projects the zoo supports. It was remarkable how many people already knew a lot about several of the projects, including our work with the Snow Leopard Trust and the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project, but we were able to provide some details about other projects, too, including the Western Pond Turtle Recovery Project and the Oregon Silverspot Butterfly Project.

The next three concerts are sold out, but The Avett Brothers on August 27 still has tickets available at our sponsor, Metropolitan Markets. (Photo of Josh Ritter and Andrew Bird by Ryan Hawk)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

It's National Zoo Keeper Week!

It’s National Zoo Keeper Week—the perfect time to recognize the incredible work that our dedicated animal management staff does to not only keep the zoo’s animals healthy and happy, but to also teach our visitors about conservation and zoology.

The job of the zookeeper is much more than feeding and cleaning up after animals. Today’s keepers engage the animals in their own care, using training and enrichment to give animals the opportunity to act like their wild selves. Keepers must keep close watch over the animals in their care in order to detect any signs of illness, which animals instinctually hide to avoid predation. Keepers also contribute to the overall body of knowledge about animals by participating in behavioral research, and many are active in international conservation efforts.

If you think a career as a zookeeper may be right for you, take a look at our zoo careers webpage and our keeper FAQ to learn more about the day-to-day realities of the job and what it takes to advance in this career path.

If you’re at the zoo this week, be sure to say hi to the keepers and wish them a happy National Zoo Keeper Week! There are scheduled keeper talks throughout the day every day. And don’t be afraid to ask questions when you see a keeper out and about around the zoo—that’s often the best way to hear insider stories about the animals or to get great tips on how and when to best view them.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Patas monkey gets high-tech help

When an elderly patas monkey was diagnosed with painful kidney stones, our zoo vets went to work to relieve her discomfort in the least invasive way possible.

After consulting with urologist Dr. Joseph Marquez from Seattle's The Polyclinic, the zoo's animal health experts decided to use a procedure that, though used often on humans, is uncommon on zoo animals.

The 15-year-old monkey, named Fiona, was treated with a high-tech procedure that blasts kidney stones to passable pieces by repeated exposure to sound waves. Using a lithotripsy machine, generously supplied by NextMed, to send the sound waves, the team was able to break down Fiona's kidney stones into hundreds of small pieces that could then pass through her urinary tract.

Fiona is recovering well now at the zoo's award-winning African Savanna exhibit. After just one day, she was feeling much better than she had in the weeks leading up to the procedure, according to her vets.

Photo of procedure by Ric Brewer.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Penguin groundbreaking: it's official!

We've officially broken ground for our new penguin exhibit!

Children from around the city sporting penguin hats and bearing plastic shovels joined Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, King County Executive Ron Sims, and other elected officials today in scooping the first piles of dirt for a new home for penguins.

A new colony of Humboldt penguins will return to the zoo when the state-of-the-art exhibit opens in summer 2009. The new exhibit will tell a powerful story about conservation globally while making an impact on resource conservation locally. We'll save 3 million gallons of water a year and with a new filtration system and permeable concrete, there will be no polluted pool water or storm water run-off rushing down to Puget Sound to make a mess of things. That's good for the water and good for the fish!

Take a peek at the construction site next time you are at the zoo to see how things are coming along.

And if you want to be a part of the penguins' new home, go to www.zoo.org/penguins to find out how to get your name engraved in the exhibit!

Photos by: Ryan Hawk and Tianna Klineburger

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The flamingos are building nests

Posted by: Zoo Corps

The flamingos are doing great in their new exhibit! They are slowly becoming accustomed to a constant stream of curious visitors. Flamingos are a gregarious species, meaning they like to live in large groups. Our flock currently has 27 members, but will soon grow when we add six new hand-raised female flamingos to the exhibit. We hope that the flamingos will be more comfortable in a larger group and begin breeding. Look out for breeding behaviors like nest building or synchronized group “dances,” which eventually lead to eggs and then a crèche (a congregation of baby flamingos separated from the adults, except for feeding). Babies don’t resemble the adults as closely as you might think; instead of being pink with a long curved beak, they spend their first two years fluffy white and straight-beaked.

Already, our flamingos have begun building nests from mud, sticks, and sometimes even feathers. Flamingos are extremely protective of their nest sites and will become defensive (raising their feathers and squawking loudly) if they think their nests are threatened. Besides the nests the flamingos are constructing, there are full-size models of nests outside the exhibit where you can get a closer look and see what the nests are like up close. Keep your feathers crossed for upcoming chicks!

(Zoo Corps is the Woodland Park Zoo teen volunteer program. Zoo Corps recruits interested teens from diverse backgrounds to help the zoo provide conservation education for all ages.)

Photo: A flamingo sits on a mud nest. Photo by Arianne.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

For the Birds

It was “For the Birds” at this year’s annual fundraiser, the always fun outdoor extravaganza known as Jungle Party, held last Friday. Many playful guests got into the spirit by donning feathers, while a flamingo-styled stilt walker danced through the crowds and a steel drum band called The Toucans set the mood.

Fabulous weather, delicious food, and up close encounters with the zoo’s raptors made the night memorable. But it’s the tremendous success of the evening’s auctions that made the night important—important to the animals at Woodland Park Zoo and to the wildlife of the world that will be helped by the conservation projects funded through this event.

This year, we raised $1.75 million! Of those contributions raised, $662,000 is specifically earmarked toward this year’s Fund-Our-Future: “Project Aves.” The project will bring additional birds to the zoo such as Chilean flamingos and Humboldt penguins, support the successful recovery of threatened bird species in the wild, and support our bird education programs at the zoo and across Washington state.

It’s always a blast to watch the spirited bidding wars during the live auction. The victors of these battles got to take home amazing items like tickets to Super Bowl XLIII and even a trip to El Salvador!

It takes a whole year to put on an event of this magnitude. So while we’re all happily celebrating our roaring success, we’ll go right back to work gearing up for next year!

Photos by Ryan Hawk.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Daily keeper talks teach about the animal kingdom

Many people don't realize that everyday at the zoo we have many talks by zookeepers, detailing the natural histories and conservation status of the different animal species at the zoo. On any given day you might be treated to everything from learning about Malayan tapirs to seeing a flight demonstration by the zoo's raptors. The keepers detail a wide array of info during their presentations, from the diets of the animals in their care to what their populations are in the wild.

Make sure to check out the schedule of daily activities online, or check the information kiosk at each zoo entrance on your next visit. (Photo by Ryan Hawk)

Thursday, July 3, 2008

People's Picks: Best Family-Fun Spot

Did you hear? We're the 2008 NWSource.com People's Picks winner for Best Family-Fun Spot. Woo hoo! (We're also a finalist for best museum/attraction.)

Thanks to all those fans out there who voted for us!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

AZA Teams with Animal Planet

Animal Planet has teamed with the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, the accrediting organization for more than 200 zoos and aquariums throughout the U.S., including Woodland Park Zoo, to create a public service announcement. The announcement is currently running on Animal Planet and promotes personal action on the part of its viewers. One of those actions is visiting AZA-accredited zoos, learning about their conservation efforts, and becoming an active participant in conservation through every day actions, from recycling to saving water. Even though it may seem like taking a shorter shower, composting or reusing items instead of buying new may be a long stretch from helping save a tiger or preserving a panda, reducing our consumption does have positive ripples throughout the world. Do your part. We can't protect the wonders of nature without your help!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Wild eagles fledge at the zoo

Wild bald eagles have been nesting on grounds for several years and this year has been no exception. In 1999, a pair nested in a large Douglas fir in our elk yard and fledged one youngster. In 2001, they again nested, this time fledging two young. In 2002 and 2003, the eagles nested again, successfully raising two young each year.

Although they nested again in 2004, but the nest failed. It's not known why the egg failed to hatch. Up to seven eagles were seen flying around the area and this activity may have caused the pair to abandon the nest, however no one can know for sure (except the eagles!).

This year, a pair again nested and laid eggs around March 27 and the eggs hatched around May 1. The two eaglets have grown and are now in the process of fledging (leaving) the nest.

There is no way of knowing if the birds that nested were the same pair each year, although bald eagles typically have long-term bonds. One of more of the birds may have changed mates and used alternate nesting sites. Raptor keepers could tell from the beginning that the zoo was an alternate nesting site. The quality of construction of the nest is variable from year to year, increasing in size as the birds add more material such as sticks and branches. The eagles here build a fairly flimsy nest that falls apart each year, barely lasting long enough for the young to reach fledging age.

The photo shows one of the parents bringing a fish back to feed the young, one of which is visible just the the right of the bird under its wing. We hope the birds are successful with this year's brood and return for many years to come! They've been a delight to watch and we even set up spotting scopes for zoo visitors to view them.

As of last year, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife was aware of 21 known nests in 11 territories within the city limits. This is based on all reports they had received over the last 10 or so years, so there may be some duplication, or inactive territories. So keep your eyes on the skies! (Photo by Kaye Cartwright-Lissa)