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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Top 10 of 2010

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

This week marks Woodland Park Zoo’s 111th birthday, and what a 111th year it has been! In 2010 we celebrated conservation successes, won a national best exhibit award, hatched endangered species and so much more.

Here’s my personal pick of the top 10 zoo stories of 2010, in no particular order. What were your favorite zoo experiences this year?

1. Endangered penguin chicks hatch in new exhibit

2. Snow leopard cologne sniff test helps conservation research in the wild

3. Rescued golden eagle finds new home at zoo

4. Meerkats return to the zoo after 10-year absence—and they’re meerkute!

5. Elephant Chai predicts winner of the Apple Cup

6. Zoo wins national Best Exhibit Award for sustainably-built Humboldt penguin exhibit

7. Teens raise and release endangered turtles into wild

8. Community celebrates endangered species with zoo’s Limited Edition art and Trophy Cupcakes

9. Zoo blog readers help raise money to fight fires in endangered crane habitat

10. SnOMG hits Seattle, zoo animals explore the snow

Videos produced by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.
Photos (from top): Snow leopard cam photos, courtesy of Snow Leopard Trust; Golden eagle by Ric Brewer/Woodland Park Zoo; Penguin by Jennifer Svane; Turtles by Ryan Hawk and Rachel Gray/Woodland Park Zoo; Limited Edition artwork (clockwise from top left): Troy Gua, Natalie Oswald, Fumi Watanabe, Don Clark, Fiona McGuigan, Jesse LeDoux; Oriental white stork by Andre Ogleznev; Zoo in snow by Ryan Hawk and Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Zoo staffer wins Lifetime Achievement Award

Posted by: Kiley Jacques, Senior Rose Gardener

If ever an opportunity arises to visit the “bowels” of the zoo, take advantage of it. And when we say bowels, we mean it! It is there you will find Mr. Jimmy Bucsit flipping, and forking, and hauling, and hosing, and performing all kinds of other duties required to keep those famous piles of poop percolating in the Zoo Doo yard. It is for that work—25 dedicated years of it—that Jimmy was honored this month with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Washington Organic Recycling Council.

Jimmy Bucsit (middle) poses with Woodland Park Zoo's current Dr. Doo, Dan Corum (left) and the zoo's first Dr. Doo, Jeff Gage (right).

Many of our visitors have experienced the fun of Fecal Fest and purchased our well-known Zoo Doo, and increasingly popular Bedspread. Well, it is thanks to Jimmy and his 25 years of commendable service that we are able to provide such unique offerings. It is with his help that we are able to create and maintain a major reserve of specially-treated, microbe-rich, poop- riddled compost that reflects our commitment to sustainable practices. This wealth of onsite raw materials and the products they ultimately become are a vital part of the zoo’s Living Soils Program. It is Jimmy’s professional dedication that makes this possible. With an understanding of healthy soil as the genesis of an ecologically-balanced environment in which to care for our animals, he approaches his role with an eye on the greater good.

By distributing our composted materials to the public, we are contributing to the region’s greater environmental vigor; when people purchase Zoo Doo and add it to their home gardens they are spreading the word, so to speak. They are showing, by example, how to begin with the basics and build from there. And it all starts with the turning of our animals’ contributions into magical mountains of mulch. And that all starts with Jimmy.

The concept of the Zoo Doo yard, as we know it, was conceived over two decades ago. According to Jimmy, who has been there from its inception, waste management once meant the pitch-forking of poop into trucks to be hauled offsite. The zoo has since allocated resources to streamline the process and has found ways to turn the problem of waste disposal into an asset. As Jimmy puts it, “we have made the most of a messy situation.”

It is a great pleasure to see this quiet figure receive the accolades he is “doo” with the honor of this Lifetime Achievement Award. When asked what he thinks of the organization that has bestowed his award, Jimmy has a lot to say. He can’t seem to stress enough how honored he feels. Impressed by the council’s members (including business leaders, state representatives, Department of Ecology constituents, and college professors), he describes them as an “elite group of pioneering intellectuals” who are responsible for conservation research and policy-making. He appreciates the challenges they face and says, “I hold this award on par with a ribbon for a track and field championship competition, where some of the best runners and I hit the finish line at the same time.”

So, if ever you spot this behind-the-scenes member of our zoo family, with his signature silver hair and mile-wide smile, driving to-and-fro in his enormous truck, know that he is making a major difference. Know that he is a steward and keeper of the landscape. Know that he helps make our zoo the plant-rich, happy animals’ home we love.

Photos (from top): Maurer Group, Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Happy holidays

Posted by: Woodland Park Zoo staff

Thank you to all who have helped make Woodland Park Zoo a truly magical place for families in our community and for our zoo family here and around the world.

We hope you’ll spread the holiday cheer and pass this video or a zoo holiday e-card along to your loved ones.

On behalf of all the animals and staff, we wish you a happy holiday season and a wonderful 2011.

Video produced by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Update: Progress in wake of wildlife park fire

Posted by: Bobbi Miller, Field Conservation

In June, we posted urgent news from the field about a devastating fire that severely damaged parkland in Russia vital to the survival of endangered cranes. Touched by the tragedy, our generous readers and zoo supporters contributed $800 to help Cranes of Asia, a WPZ Partner for Wildlife, purchase firefighting equipment to control dangerous fires in the future. Here is an update on the progress of that critical effort…

The afternoon was still and hot until the winds began to pick up at the Muraviovka Park in the Amur region of Russia. It was the sort of day where you can feel something is about to happen, you just aren’t sure what that something might be—until you look out to the horizon and see it, the smoke from a wildfire.

On May 2 this year, the crew at Muraviovka Park—a crucial nesting and breeding ground for the endangered red crowned crane, and the home of WPZ Partner for Wildlife Cranes of Asia—could do little but watch as over 90% of the park was burned. Due to the delicacy of the habitat, fires are fought on the ground because it’s too difficult to bring in a fully loaded water tanker. The crew at the park did everything they could to fight the fire, many of which are started in that region by farmers burning bales of straw in crop fields, smoldering camp fires left unattended, or the occasional “just for fun” fire. One of the best ways to prevent these sorts of devastating fires in the park is to conduct prescribed burns—a practice that allows you to burn a designated area as a fire break, eliminating all flora that might fuel a larger fire. This practice has raised interest among local firefighters, and a strong negative reaction from the governmental agency responsible for nature protected territories.

Game rangers and wardens are opposed to the idea of prescribed burns since they’re not trained for them and don’t trust the process to be safe. When the park staff burned approximately 430 hectares of wetlands this fall, leaving a mosaic of burned wide stripes and large islands of untouched grasslands suitable for crane nests, the government threatened to sue had the local firefighters not come out in favor of the burns.

We posted the story about the fire on our blog in June and through generous donations by friends of the zoo, we were able to send over $800 to our partner Cranes of Asia to use towards the purchase of firefighting equipment. In an effort to show their dedication to not just the park, but to the surrounding farms, Cranes of Asia Executive Director Sergei Smirenski purchased 24 brass water pumps in the U.S. this fall and donated them to the Amur Region Fire Department, which ended up being breaking news in the area.

The public was extremely excited about the gift, and has since asked the park to organize and conduct special training sessions in prescribed burning for the local firefighters in 2011.

It is these efforts, and your help, that will keep the crane habitat safe and healthy for years to come. On behalf of partner Cranes of Asia, we at Woodland Park Zoo would like to thank you for your generous donations and your help in spreading the word about this and other conservation needs around the globe.

Photos (from top to bottom): Red crowned crane by Igor Ishenko, Muraviovka fire by Sergei Smirenski, Fire aftermath by Sergei Smirenski, Sergei delivers brass pumps by Adam C. Stein, Oriental white stork by Andre Ogleznev.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Newborn elephant observed in the wild

Posted by: Mustafa Hassanali, Tarangire Elephant Project, Woodland Park Zoo Partner for Wildlife

Any time an endangered animal gives birth in the wild it is an event to be celebrated. When it is an African elephant calf born in the evening twilight rather than late at night, and observed by WPZ Partner for Wildlife the Tarangire Elephant Project, it is a moment to be shared with everyone that supports the zoo, its partners, and our conservation mission. The following is an update from the field by Tarangire field assistant Mustafa Hassanali on the newborn elephant he observed in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania…
In the early evening on September 9, we saw Olive and her 18-year-old daughter, Olie, huddled together in an area of open grassland. They adopted a threatening posture as we drove up close to them, as we didn’t yet realize what was happening. Olie ran away with her calves and then we saw Olive and a small female calf, which had probably been born only a few minutes earlier. She was extremely wobbly and could barely stand. Olive was kicking up dust to cover the scent where the calf was born and also picking up the fetal sac and tossing it to one side.

Shortly after the birth, the calf began exploring her mother with her tiny trunk, but could not find her mother’s teats and instead tried to suckle against Olive’s hind leg.

The calf remained very wobbly and tried to suckle for nearly an hour. While we were watching she fell about three times, and each time Olive would carefully lift her up and steady her newborn daughter with her trunk.

Olive started to walk away at about 6:00 p.m., but the calf was struggling to follow her mother. After another 15 minutes the calf finally managed to suckle successfully for about 30 seconds before she fell over again and her mother quickly lifted her up.

Olive then slowly walked towards the other members of her family group, who were feeding not far away. Although wobbly, the calf was now better able to follow her mother.

As the sun began to set at about 6:30 p.m., we left Olive and her new infant.

Three days later we saw Olive and her daughter and she looked very strong and was doing a good job keeping up with the group.

Want to help support Woodland Park Zoo and our conservation efforts around the globe? Text WPZ to 20222 to donate $5 to the zoo today. Messaging and data rates may apply. For details visit www.zoo.org/text2give.
Photos courtesy of Mustafa Hassanali/Tarangire Elephant Project.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

New female lion gets a check up

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

One-year-old lion Adia recently arrived at the zoo to join our African Savanna exhibit, thanks to the leadership of Jungle Party 2010 Chairs Nancy and Rick Alvord. Last week, the young lion underwent a full physical examination by our animal health team. Such routine physicals give us essential baseline medical information for new animals including blood work, radiographs, and dental examination.

Adia, whose name means “gift” in Swahili, got a clean bill of health from her vets. The young lion weighed in at 150 pounds, around half the weight she is expected to grow into as an adult. She shows her young age in her fur as well—as a juvenile, Adia still has rosette-like spots on her fur, typical of lion cubs.

Thanks to the generous contributions of Karen L. Koon, our animal health team recently acquired a digital radiography machine that we were able to use during Adia’s exam. Taking baseline x-rays of a new animal is important in order to have a reference point when examining future x-rays. By going digital, we eliminated the time it takes to process, share and store x-ray images and were able to get immediate read outs that can be accessed again in the future with just a click. This also makes our radiographs easier to share with others, improving access to information for vets and animal health researchers across all Association of Zoos & Aquariums-accredited zoos.

After the exam, Adia was returned to her temporary housing at the zoo’s Animal Health Complex to complete the standard 30-day quarantine period. Having arrived here under a recommendation by the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for African lions, she will be paired for breeding with our 11-year-old male lion when she reaches sexual maturity next fall.

Species Survival Plans are cooperative breeding programs to help ensure genetic diversity and demographic stability in North American zoos. The zoo participates in 35 SSPs, which are administered by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. Additionally, SSPs involve a variety of other collaborative conservation activities such as research, public education, reintroduction and field projects.

Next up for Adia? After clearing quarantine, she will be introduced gradually, starting this week, to the zoo’s award-winning African Savanna where she will rotate on exhibit with our resident lions.

Want to help support Woodland Park Zoo and our excellent animal health program? Text WPZ to 20222 to donate $5 to the zoo today. Messaging and data rates may apply. For details visit www.zoo.org/text2give.

Photos by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tracking snow leopards in Mongolia

Posted by: Jennifer Snell Rullman, Snow Leopard Trust, Woodland Park Zoo Partner for Wildlife

This conservation update comes from the Snow Leopard Trust, a Woodland Park Zoo Partner for Wildlife working to study and conserve wild populations of the endangered snow leopard. Their field research, based in Mongolia, includes camera monitoring and GPS collaring of wild snow leopards in order to better understand the range and behavior of this elusive species. The more we know about snow leopards, the better we can protect them…

As we come to the end of our 2010 field season, we are pleased to close the year with two wonderful stories.

The first is about Tsagaan, who has been out of contact since March 2010! This fall, our team caught up with Tsagaan, a large adult male cat we have been following for two years. Although re-collared in March 2010, his collar never switched on and we received no GPS locations over the last eight months. Within weeks of placing this new collar in September, we received some astounding information. Simultaneous uplinks separated by just about 16 meters indicate that Tsagaan shared a cluster of GIS locations with Khashaa (a female in the study), and it is likely that they may have shared a meal! Could it be snow leopard romance?

The other astounding news is that in October we placed a collar on a female snow leopard we named Tenger, meaning Sky Spirit. We believe that Tenger, who is a larger and older snow leopard, is the mother of Zaraa, who is notably both younger and smaller. We’ve seen them together in remote sensor camera images, and now we can watch as they move and hunt together!

We’re excited to see these snow leopard sagas in the South Gobi unfold and we believe it will yield unprecedented data on snow leopard social interactions; dispersal of young from their mothers; differences in male and female movement patterns, and much more.

Thank you to Woodland Park Zoo for their generous support, and to our partners Panthera Foundation and Snow Leopard Conservation Fund, Mongolia.

Want to help support Woodland Park Zoo and our global and local conservation efforts? Text WPZ to 20222 to donate $5 to the zoo today. Messaging and data rates may apply. For details visit www.zoo.org/text2give.

Photo: Tsagaan, a male snow leopard being studied by the Snow Leopard Trust and Panthera with support from Woodland Park Zoo. Photo courtesy Snow Leopard Trust/Panthera.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Prescient pachyderm prognosticator predicts pigskin prizewinner

Posted by: Ric Brewer, Communications

Chai (rhymes with eye), our female Asian elephant, doesn't yet have the fame of the late Paul the World Cup-predicting octopus. But today she prognosticated the winner of the Apple Cup. Presented with two boxes of apples, one decorated with Dawg and the other in Coug-themed wrapping paper. The 31-year-old elephant used her trunk to snatch an apple from the purple and gold box, picking the winner with a firm bite. Then, as you can see in the video, promptly smashed the box with the Coug paper.

Woodland Park Zoo has had its own legion of fans in the region by a mere year longer than the first Apple Cup game played in 1900. But today marks the first time an animal here has "predicted" a winner in this heated rivalry. Pat Maluy, the lead elephant keeper joked that "Since Chai has never done this before, her record of forecasting the winner is perfect. But I guess we'll know after Saturday's game if she has an pre-cognitive ability when it comes to football."

But never fear die-hard Cougs fans, you still get your props. Today's pachyderm prediction is part of the zoo's special Apple Cup admission discount where anyone wearing Husky---or Coug---garb gets half-off zoo admission through December 5. It can be a jersey, hat, gloves, scarf or gloves. It's your choice. Or show a valid student ID from either school.

(This admission discount applies only to the child or adult wearing the university sportswear and cannot be combined with other discounts or promotions. Good through December 5, 2010.)

Video produced by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.