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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Seattle’s aquarium and zoo pioneer fur seal surgery

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

When 20-year-old fur seal Woody (short for Woodstock) developed a cataract lens in each eye, Seattle Aquarium staff grew concerned that the geriatric animal’s vision difficulties would interfere with her ability to explore her exhibit and engage with the other fur seals.

So Seattle Aquarium staff, Woodland Park Zoo vets, and our consulting ophthalmologist Dr. Tom Sullivan (of the Animal Eye Clinic), got together to plan an operation to remove the cataract. But this wouldn’t be an ordinary procedure—in fact, it appears to be the first time that such a procedure has been performed on a Northern fur seal.

Pioneering this procedure, the animal health experts faced a particular challenge: because of the unique physiology and anatomy of these marine mammals—mostly related to adaptations to allow for deep diving—anesthesia would need to be kept to as short a time as possible to prevent complications. So this meant both eyes would have to be addressed over two surgeries, starting with the right eye.

Dr. Tom Sullivan performed the first surgery early January while WPZ vet staff provided anesthesia support. While cataract surgeries are common in humans and animals, lens replacement is only possible for humans, dogs and horses. For exotic animals, like fur seals, the surgery entails removal of the lens from the eye to improve vision, but at this time, lens replacement is not possible.

Woody was returned to the Seattle Aquarium after anesthesia recovery and is doing well. She will be monitored carefully by aquarium staff, with recheck exams by Dr. Sullivan and WPZ veterinary staff. She’ll have to be held out of water for two weeks and separate from the other fur seals for several weeks while her eye heals. Once Woody has completely healed from the first surgery, animal care staff and veterinarians will evaluate whether or not Woody is a good candidate for the second surgery.

To see fur seals and other marine mammals, check out the Seattle Aquarium in downtown Seattle or visit them online. Interested in a zoo career in animal health? Learn more about this career path on our website.

Photos by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Arctic foxes join mountain goat exhibit

Posted by: Pat Owen, Collections Manager

Over the last few weeks, the keepers working in Northern Trail have begun introducing our two arctic foxes, Feliks and Somer, to a larger exhibit space—the mountain goat exhibit, where one goat, CK, currently resides.

Both foxes are doing very well in their new exhibit space. With the expanded room and new surroundings, they have become much more active, and guests are enjoying the new dynamic in the Northern Trail.

When we first introduced the foxes into the space with the mountain goat, the goat was not sure about having these new neighbors in her area. CK showed signs of submissiveness like she would to a male mountain goat, which is interesting since she is not a submissive animal! She would go up on the rocks and stay where she could keep an eye on them as the female fox, Somer, has more interest in CK than the male, more of a curiosity than anything else. But within a week, the three of them started moving around the exhibit and laying next to each other! To our knowledge, this combination of animals has not been done before in a zoo, so we are very pleased with the results.

If you haven’t been to the Northern Trail biome of the zoo in a while, now is a good time to visit and look for this new dynamic that is progressing every day. We’d love to hear what behaviors you see and any photos you can share.

Photos by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Celebrity naturalist to visit Zoomazium

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

If you have seen celebrity naturalist David Mizejewski from National Wildlife Federation on any of his regular radio or television appearances—including the Today Show, Martha Stewart, HGTV and Animal Planet—you know he is committed to making the world a better place for wildlife. And now he is coming to the zoo to show you how you can do the same while having fun with your family.

David will be joined by several animals that live at the zoo for a special free event at Zoomazium on February 5 from 2:30 – 3:30 p.m. He’ll share great ideas on creating wildlife-friendly gardens in your own backyard and community, and fun ways of getting kids outdoors and connecting with nature.

Hope to see you there!