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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Patas monkey doing well after surgery

Posted by: Martin Ramirez, Animal Curator

Kyle in his exhibit after surgery. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

If you have been out to the African Savanna exhibit recently, you may have noticed a change—one of our patas monkeys now has only one arm. We thought you might have some questions about what happened to him, so we’d like to share with you his story.

Kyle, a 6-year-old, male patas monkey, was recently being treated for a severe infection in the bones around his right shoulder. After the usual antibiotic treatments failed to stop the spread of the infection—jeopardizing his overall health—our keeper staff, animal health team and consulting veterinarians from the Animal Surgical Clinic determined the best course of action would be to amputate Kyle’s right limb.

Kyle (left) with partner Alexa. Photo by Anne Nichols/Woodland Park Zoo.

Why amputation? Not only would it rid Kyle’s body of the infection quickly, but it would also prevent the return of the life-threatening blood infection, and remove the pain that goes along with infection.

Zoo vets teamed up with the Animal Surgical Clinic of Seattle for Kyle’s surgery, and the surgery and recovery from anesthesia went well. Positive change was noted in his attitude and behavior shortly following the surgery. While Kyle was recovering at the zoo’s Animal Health Complex, keepers were busy modifying his holding and exhibit in the African Savanna in order to allow him easier access to his usual resting places.

Kyle can be seen in the African Savanna. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

After rest and healing, Kyle is now back with his mate, Alexa, and they are staying very close to each other. Kyle was reintroduced to his exhibit and has been seen walking, climbing and running. Since patas monkeys are less arboreal than some of their cousins, Kyle has had to make very few adjustments and is growing more confident every day. And the best news of all, recent blood test results confirm that the procedure did indeed stop the spread of the infection.

We consider this case a real success and a prime example of the excellent animal care we provide for the 1,000+ animals that call Woodland Park Zoo home. Even though it’s still early, we’re confident that Kyle will have a full life.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Metal detector saves a penguin's life

Posted by: Mark Myers, Animal Curator

Metal detectors and body scans—not just for airports any more! This is the story of how a penguin’s life was saved by these technologies right here at Woodland Park Zoo.
TSA gone too far? Nope, just a zookeeper demonstrating how we use a metal detector on penguins. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Last week, zookeepers observed that one of our penguin juveniles was not feeling well. Diablo, hatched last year, had not been eating regularly and was losing weight.

Diablo’s keepers suspected he may have ingested a foreign body that was causing blockage for him. So they brought him behind the scenes and used a metal detector wand to determine if he had ingested any coins or other metal objects. Trust me, it’s not easy metal detecting on a penguin! You have to be careful to hold the penguin away from anything that might give a false positive, and penguins, well, they can fidget. But sure enough, once the keepers got Diablo into place and waved the wand over him, they heard a beep.
A metal detector proves a handy tool for penguin keepers. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo

To get a better look at what might be inside him, keepers took Diablo over to our Animal Health Complex for an examination. Our vet team x-rayed the bird and the radiographs revealed the distinct shape of a bobby pin inside Diablo’s gastrointestinal tract.
The pin shape is clear to see in Diablo’s radiograph

Animal health staff decided to immediately move forward with a procedure to remove the bobby pin as Diablo was already immobilized under anesthesia for the radiographs. We inserted an endoscope into Diablo, identified the exact location of the pin and removed it. The entire procedure took about an hour to complete.
 Diablo’s radiograph

After the procedure, Diablo began to show signs of improvement. We put him on antibiotics to ward off infection, particularly because the bobby pin showed some signs of eroding and had gotten quite sharp, which had the potential to cause internal lacerations.
The pin after it was removed from Diablo. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Just under a year old, this is Diablo’s first serious experience with ingesting a foreign body. But it is an ongoing concern for the keepers, since penguins are curious animals and have a tendency to examine, manipulate and consume novel items. Zoo staff vigilantly checks and clears the pool of any foreign objects. You can help too by being sure to never discard anything into a zoo exhibit or litter on zoo grounds (your litter can easily blow into an animal’s space). And please, please do not toss coins into any zoo pool. We imagine this bobby pin got into the pool by accident, but we ask that you respect the barriers of the exhibit so that you lessen the chance of dropping anything in by accident.
Zookeeper displays items that have been recovered from the penguin pool. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Diablo is back on exhibit now recovering quickly, and the metal detector is back on its shelf, ready to save another life if needed. So next time you are stuck on an interminably long security line at an airport, think of Diablo’s fortunate outcome thanks to these technologies and maybe you won’t feel quite so frustrated.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Zoo helps “Make A Wish” come true

Posted by: Lorna Chin, External Relations

Over a year ago, 6-year-old Olivia was diagnosed with Astrocytoma, a type of brain tumor. It's been a year of tests, surgeries and procedures and Olivia has survived the odds—the fact that she can walk and talk after her surgery last year shocked even the doctors. When the Make-A-Wish Foundation® of Central and Northern Florida, the nonprofit that grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions, told Olivia she could wish for anything, she wished to come to Seattle so she could spend time with her family, some of whom she hadn’t seen since she was born. One of the places she wanted to visit with them while in Seattle was Woodland Park Zoo, so Olivia's aunt, uncle, two cousins and grandmother came down from Vancouver, Canada to meet her here.

What we didn't know was that while in the hospital, Olivia told her mom that she just wanted to visit penguins. As good fortune would have it, that's exactly the experience we had planned for Olivia at the zoo! Olivia got to feed the penguins and went behind the scenes to feel their slick feathers and see how zookeepers provide care for the colony of birds. Olivia's mom, Lori, told me several times that this was just what Olivia wanted, and the penguin keeper helped to make a truly unforgettable experience for Olivia. Lori and her sister, Leah, shared several tears throughout the day because they were so happy to see Olivia living her wish.

Olivia’s journey continued as she met with a jaguar keeper next. The keeper set up special treats for the jaguars so we could see him at his most active!

Our last stop was at Zoomazium where a zoo educator asked Olivia to be her special helper for the day. Olivia helped with a ferret animal presentation and got up in front of all the kids and made sure they all cleaned their hands after touching the ferret.

Olivia and her family had an amazing experience at the zoo and experienced all the wonder the zoo has to offer from engaging experiences with the animals to learning more about the wildlife around us.

The zoo also participates in Make-A-Wish® wish experiences for children by providing zoo passes for wish families and also by hosting send-off parties prior to their actual wish. In the past few years we have hosted nearly a dozen wish parties. Just the other week, seven-year-old Aidan came to the zoo for a special wish party. He brought his three-year-old brother, four-month-old sister and his parents to help celebrate. What Aidan didn't know is that his grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins were also joining him—so it was a great surprise to see them at the zoo waiting for him in the party room!

Aidan's favorite animal is the jaguar and he loves learning about South America. Our first stop was to meet with a jaguar keeper to learn all about our jaguars and their favorite foods. Aidan impressed us all with his knowledge of the genus and species of the jaguar (Panthera onca)!

The keeper then showed us the new baby ocelot Evita. The journey then continued with docent volunteers who showed us a tiger skull and pelts from other big cats and shared their vast knowledge and even stumped Aidan at times. The party was complete with pizza donated from Zeeks and some delicious cake. Aidan was so excited and was all thanks and hugs to everyone!

Woodland Park Zoo is happy and proud to partner with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to share in the power of a wish®. We are grateful to bring smiles and happiness to kids and families all around the country and share the wonder of wildlife and the zoo.

Photos by Lorna Chin/Woodland Park Zoo and Jessica Haider.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Learn how to live with wildlife

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

With recent bear sightings in Bothell and Renton, and the start of camping and cook-out season, we want to make sure you are prepared with essential tips for living with wildlife here in the Pacific Northwest. We’re dedicating June 4 to a day of programming that will show you how to avoid attracting bears to your home and campsite, while also showing you how to attract wildlife you do want to your backyard, including birds and butterflies.

Join us June 4 for our annual Bear Affair and Big Howl for Wolves presented by Brown Bear Car Wash. You’ll meet bear ecologist and adventurer Chris Morgan who’ll make a guest appearance for bear demonstrations and a book signing. Watch grizzlies rip through a mock campsite and a yard setting in the naturalistic grizzly bear exhibit. Learn safety camping tips by Boy Scouts. Talk to representatives from Wolf Haven International and Conservation Northwest. Get up close to a Karelian bear dog and find out how these Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife partner dogs play an essential role in training nuisance bears to avoid human contact. Get the full schedule online.

Then head down to the zoo’s Family Farm between 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. on the same day to celebrate the opening of the new Backyard Habitat garden. You and your family will have the chance to dig in the dirt and plant seeds, observe and identify birds, participate in citizen science and learn how to create habitat for wildlife in your own backyard, schoolyard or community garden.

The Backyard Habitat garden, generously funded by the Boeing Company and the Pendleton and Elisabeth Carey Miller Charitable Foundation, shows visitors how to bring wildlife closer to home, from providing food, water, shelter and places to raise young to reducing the use of chemicals in your yard. The garden also serves as a programming space to learn how to attract birds, butterflies and other wildlife to your backyard, select and care for native plants, place feeders and bird houses, and get your garden certified as a Backyard Habitat.

Photos (from top): Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo, Jenny Mears/Woodland Park Zoo. Video produced by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Zoo takes in smuggled tarantulas

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

You may have seen in the news this week that a convicted German man was sentenced to prison in a case of illegal live tarantula smuggling. What you may not realize is that the tarantulas that survived the smuggling are now being cared for at Woodland Park Zoo.

Here’s what happened: In March 2010, federal agents intercepted an international attempt to smuggle nearly 300 live tarantulas in a sting operation called (no joke) “Operation Spiderman.” Agents found several different kinds of tarantulas, including species protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), in the intercepted package.

The confiscated tarantulas were sent to Woodland Park Zoo last year where we have given them a temporary home in a behind-the-scenes area of our Bug World exhibit. Since the tarantulas had been considered evidence in the case, we have not been able to tell you about them until now. In effect, these tarantulas were in witness protection here at the zoo.

Sadly, some of them died within the first week of getting here after suffering from poor conditions through the smuggling effort. But our keepers have been providing top-notch care and around 200 of the tarantulas have pulled through and remain under our care. We’re currently talking with other Association of Zoos & Aquariums-accredited zoos around the country looking for long-term homes for these survivors.

As part of our commitment to animal welfare, Woodland Park Zoo often assists with illegal animal confiscations. When we can, we try to provide a home for these rescued animals in need of the expert care that our keepers and vets can provide, or we work to find a suitable home for them. But we cannot take in all confiscations or abandoned exotic pets, so please think carefully and follow all applicable laws if you plan to acquire any animals.

Photos by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Then and Now: Monkey Island

Posted by: Ric Brewer, Communications

For long-time Seattle residents, you have probably experienced first hand the difference between Woodland Park Zoo seen on the left approximately 50 years ago and today’s zoo seen on the right.

The side-by-side comparison above shows how profoundly different a type of exhibit the old Monkey Island (seen here circa the mid 1960s) on the left is from the same space after major modifications that now makes up the lemur exhibit—part of our Tropical Rain Forest—seen on the right.

Monkey Island was a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project completed in the early 1940s. It housed several different species of monkeys over the years and old-timers might recall the bright yellow schoolhouse that perched at the summit of the faux rock, complete with a bell that the monkeys would ring. As zoos evolved into organizations that actively championed environmental causes, exhibits such as this began to be replaced with exhibits much more evocative of the habitats to which the animals were native. This approach not only provided a much more enriched environment for the animals to frolic in and enhance their natural behaviors, it also helped to educate and connect visitors to real-life, far-flung locales that the animals depended upon for survival. Dubbed "naturalistic immersion" the goal was to create exhibits that were location-based and provide a sense of belonging instead of the sterile cages that formerly meant "zoo" to the public.

In contrast, Lemur Island today is as lush and verdant, even at this early spring time of year, as Monkey Island was stark and sterile. It's much easier to imagine lemurs above you in the trees of Madagascar now when you walk through this area than one could conjure up any sort of habitat for the monkeys that inhabited Monkey Island.

For a look back at more of Woodland Park Zoo’s 112-year history, don’t miss the history section of our website.

Photos: Then and Now photos by Woodland Park Zoo, Monkey Island courtesy of Knudson Family, Lemur by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Name our new squeeze

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

UPDATE (5/23) - Nearly 400 people submitted name ideas and after narrowing it down to our top 5 choices, "Kaa" came out the winner with 44% of the vote! You can come meet "Kaa" (named for the Jungle Book character) in the Day Exhibit.

We’ve got a big, new squeeze at the zoo—a 100-pound, 8-year-old male reticulated python now on view in the Day Exhibit. We need your help to name him!

We’re collecting your name suggestions via our Facebook page through May 13, noon PST (complete instructions on our Facebook page). Zookeepers will select their five favorite names from the submissions and fans will then vote on May 17 on the zoo’s Facebook page for their top pick.

The reticulated python is the longest snake in the world, with some rare specimens exceeding 30 feet in length and weighing 300 pounds, though its average size is 10 to 20 feet in length. As a constrictor, the python is not venomous but kills its prey by wrapping around it and suffocating it.

Like many reptiles, the reticulated python species is diminishing in numbers due to habitat destruction and hunting for their meat and skins to make leather products or souvenirs. The species’ range extends from Myanmar and India, across Southeast Asia and on many of the islands of the Philippines and Indonesia.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Ocelot kitten learns to fish

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

Last week, 16-week-old ocelot kitten Evita learned about water. First we added still water to her exhibit and she did not hesitate to splash around in it. Then we turned on the exhibit's stream to get her used to running water. And last Friday we put live trout in the stream to give Evita her very first fishing experience.

Evita stayed close to her mother, Bella, watching Bella's moves before trying some out on her own. In the above video you'll also see her exploring all around her exhibit as she becomes more adventurous and curious each day.

Have you seen Evita out on exhibit yet? Her most active times seem to be between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Look for her in the award-winning Tropical Rain Forest exhibit.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Penguin chicks make debut

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

Five Humboldt penguin chicks hatched this past February and took their first steps out into their exhibit on Monday morning.

The chicks, who practiced swimming behind the scenes in a secure pool room before their debut, took to the water quickly and have been exploring all around their exhibit.

The colony is adjusting well to the new additions, which are significant hatchings for the penguin Species Survival Plan. Humboldt penguins are an endangered species and here at the zoo these birds are important conservation ambassadors to teach visitors about the impacts humans have on penguins in their range countries.

You can tell the chicks apart from the adults by looking for their lighter, more grayish plumage. Look for them during your next visit!

Photos by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo. Video by Erika Schultz, courtesy Seattle Times.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Bears of the last frontier

Posted by: Gigi Allianic, Communications

Join one of Woodland Park Zoo’s Partners for Wildlife, Chris Morgan of the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project-GBOP, as he takes us on a motorcycle odyssey and gets up close and personal with the bears of Alaska in the PBS Nature special Bears of the Last Frontier. The special three-part series premieres on three consecutive Sundays, beginning May 8, 2011 at 8 p.m. on KCTS 9 (check PBS Nature for other local listings).

Watch the full episode. See more Nature.

The program spotlights adventurer and bear ecologist Chris Morgan on a year-long, 3,000-mile exploration into bear country across the length of five dramatically diverse Alaskan ecosystems: coastal, urban, mountain, tundra and pack ice.

You’ll have a chance to meet Chris when he joins us for the zoo’s annual Bear Affair & Big Howl for Wolves on Saturday, June 4. The awareness event will highlight a couple of presentations by Chris as our grizzly bears tear through a mock-up campsite and backyard in their exhibit.

Chris also will be on hand to sign his companion book to the series, Bears of the Last Frontier, which will be available for purchase at our ZooStores.

Chris Morgan is the co-founder of GBOP, a Partner for Wildlife of Woodland Park Zoo. Our Partners for Wildlife programs represent our growing impact in field conservation beyond zoo grounds and around the world. We’re excited to continue supporting the critical work of Chris and GBOP’s successful approach to community-based outreach and education to help mitigate conflict between humans and grizzlies and black bears in our backyard.

Photos from top: Bears of the Last Frontier banner courtesy PBS.org, Bear tracks photo from the Bear Blog with Chris Morgan originally appearing on PBS.org, Bear Affair photos by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo. Video preview courtesy PBS.org.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Animal spotlight: Kelang

Posted by: Helen Shewman, Collection Manager

Kelang the Malayan tapir has plenty of likes:
- She likes to wander around in her exhibit eating leaves from the plants and trees
- She likes to eat watermelon, apples, yams, carrots, and especially bananas and blueberries
- She likes to nap in the afternoon after she has had her snack
- She likes to swim in her pool

But now one of her likes is helping to protect her wild counterparts. That’s because Kelang also likes to paint, and her painting is being used to raise funds for the Tapirs Supporting Tapirs project, part of the Tapir Specialist Group’s efforts to study, protect and raise awareness for tapir conservation. Tapir Specialist Group is one of more than 35 conservation programs in 50 countries worldwide that Woodland Park Zoo supports.

Painting is a favorite enrichment activity for Kelang. She naturally tends to manipulate objects with her nose, so when she was given paint, she right away started playing with it, dipping in with her snout, creating designs and mixing colors. Here is the work she created with her most recent offspring, Rindang, for Tapirs Supporting Tapirs.

Kelang is an ambassador for her endangered species. She was born at Cincinnati Zoo in 1994 and came to Woodland Park Zoo to be paired with our male Rayai in 1995. The pair has had two offspring over the years, and Kelang has been a wonderful mother both times. From the beginning, she did everything right and was nurturing and protective of her calves.

Kelang is a very intelligent animal and she has allowed keepers to work with her over the years with some amazing results. When she was pregnant, Kelang allowed keepers and vets to ultrasound her so that we got incredible images of her babies during her entire 13 month gestation!

This smart, sweet, easy-going tapir is now 16 years old. She is very large for her species. Malayan tapirs are much larger than their cousins from Central and South America. Kelang weighs 960 pounds and many visitors from Malaysia have told us they think she is the biggest tapir they have ever seen! Come and see for yourself—stop by the Trail of Vines exhibit in our Tropical Asia biome to see Kelang on your next visit.

Photos (from top): Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo, Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo, Tapir Specialist Group, Painting by Kelang and Rindang, Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo, Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.