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Showing posts from June, 2012

Boat bumpers for the elephants

Posted by: Pattie Beaven, Elephant Keeper



Our elephants have a number of toys, or, in zoo-speak, Environmental Enrichment Devices (EED) that are designed to bring out their instinctual behaviors, along with all the naturally enriching elements in their exhibit like trees, logs, leaf piles, water and different ground coverings. The elephants have quite an array of EEDs, and one of their favorites is a boomer ball, which we often fill with treats. But constantly purchasing more boomer balls (since the elephants can be a bit destructive with them) can be a little costly. So, what’s a zookeeper to do? We think outside the box, er, ball.
With a background working with marine mammals, I thought back to my days of playing with dolphins. We would throw boat bumpers and buoys in with the 800-pound critters, and play endless games with them. So, how would an 8,000-pound animal react to one?

To get my answer I ventured to West Marine to see if we could acquire a couple of boat bumpers to test out o…

Wonderfully Wild Wednesday: Meerkat kickstand

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications


How is a meerkat like a bike?

A meerkat uses its long, stiff tail like a kickstand in order to balance when it stands upright.

There and back again

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications



Our 8-month-old wallaby joey, Dargo, now fully leaves his mother’s pouch to explore around his Australasia exhibit, which he shares with other wallabies, wallaroos and emu. That’s right on cue, as this is around the age that wallaby joeys start to be weaned and gain complete independence.


Photo set by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo
As you can see from this great set of photos of Dargo ducking in and out of his mom’s pouch (taken last month), that independence means a significant break for mom Kiley, who has pulled triple duty as shelter, blanket and cafeteria for all these months!

Family Farm gets kunekune pigs

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications


Finally, the trifecta! Kunekune pigs have arrived at the Family Farm. And that means I can finally say that this is the summer of three little pigs!
Unlike the two wild pig species that debuted at the zoo this May—the Visayan warty pig and African warthog—the kunekune is a domestic species, albeit a rare one, native to New Zealand.

Let me guess: you’re wondering how to pronounce kunekune. Try this: “KOO-KNEE, KOO-KNEE.” The word kunekune means “fat and round” in the Māori language, which isn’t a stretch when you see these little guys.

You’ll have no trouble spotting the pigs, whose mottled spots and constant snorting draw plenty of attention in the farm. The two pigs are 5-month-old brothers, Baxter and Barkley—they’ll turn 6 months old on July 3.
Kunekunes are recognizable by their signature short snouts. Their snouts are so short, they practically dip their whole faces in water just to slurp up a drink. They also can have wattles hanging fr…

Wonderfully Wild Wednesday: Giraffe feeding

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications




A giraffe's tongue is over 18 inches long and dark in color, most likely to prevent it from being sunburned as it strips leaves out in the savanna sun.

You can see these adaptations up close when you participate in one of our unforgettable Giraffe Feeding Experiences!

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

News from the field: Jaguar mates spotted

Posted by: Bobbi Miller, Field Conservation; with Carmina Gutiérrez and Miguel Gómez Ramírez, Northern Jaguar Project


Exciting news about the northernmost wild jaguar population has come in from the field. Woodland Park Zoo-supported jaguar conservation biologists report in that they have seen signs that these threatened cats are pairing up, which means they could be mating and there could be cubs in the near future—a sign of hope for this threatened species.

Male and female jaguars, Ferb and Libélula, spotted together via a remote camera. Video courtesy Northern Jaguar Project

A little background on Woodland Park Zoo's jaguar conservation efforts: Thanks to a generous bequest, the Field Conservation department has been able to fund jaguar conservation projects for the past 10 years at the rate of $10,000 a year. This year, one of the recipients was the Northern Jaguar Project, based in Arizona but working with ranchers in the area near Sonora, Mexico—just 125 miles south of the U.…

Snow leopard cubs face turbulent early weeks

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham and Gigi Allianic, Communications



We’re deeply saddened to share this news with you:

One of our precious snow leopard triplets did not survive his turbulent first weeks.

The now six-week-old cubs have been well cared for by their mother Helen in their behind the scenes maternal den, but each of the cubs has displayed health concerns that have caused our keepers and vet staff to go into overdrive trying to help the cubs pull through these challenges.

Unfortunately, we had to make the difficult but humane decision to euthanize the male cub yesterday after we determined that the little guy had multiple, severe heart defects that were causing early heart failure.

Dr. Darin Collins, the zoo’s Director of Animal Health, tells us that it’s very rare to encounter disease concerns in the zoo’s newborn animals that are too severe for modern medicine to overcome, but in this case, there were no surgical or drug treatment options available.

As you can imagine, we are he…

Mystery penguin hero honored with chick naming

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications


Remember our little penguin hero, the boy who spotted an abandoned Humboldt penguin egg in our exhibit and alerted a keeper to its need for rescue? Despite our all-points bulletin to locate him and thank him for his effort, we never found him after two months of searching.


But we won’t let his act go unrecognized even if his identity remains a mystery! So we decided to honor our little hero by naming the penguin chick Ramón, a Spanish name that means “protector.”

Ramón is now two months old and is thriving behind the scenes. His rocky start as an abandoned egg put his survival at peril, but thanks to the little boy’s call for help, penguin keeper Celine Pardo was able to rescue the egg before a crow or gull could snatch it. The egg was given to a pair of foster parents who took it in and successfully hatched it days after the rescue.

The chick is old enough to start some training so he now works with his zookeepers behind the scenes where he…

Rain or shine

Posted by: Kirsten Pisto, Communications



These spring days can be such a tease, sunny and bright one minute and then a windy deluge the next, but ohhh the green! Bright shiny blades of emerald appear in magnificent patches across our lawns and meadows, flowers shoot up between cracks in the pavement and all the zoo appears to be bursting with life.

Star magnolia after a heavy rain at the zoo. Photo by Kirsten Pisto/Woodland Park Zoo.
The science behind springtime weather has an immense impact on our zoo.  After just a few weeks of spring rain showers and warmer days, the blooming canopy on our 93 acres has changed the landscape considerably. Hundreds of trees, shrubs, and flowers are in full vigor. The thriving green scenery that cloaks the zoo this time of year makes a distinct impression on visitors and residents alike. 
Photo by Kirsten Pisto/Woodland Park Zoo
During April and May, solar radiation begins to heat up the earth's surface more and more. The northern hemisphere tilts tow…

Pike Place Fish Market Comes to Northern Trail

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications


Pike Place Market. Fishmongers. Salmon. Grizzly bears. Woodland Park Zoo. Rain.

This isn’t a game of Pacific Northwest word association—it’s a recipe for a rockin’ good time down at the Northern Trail this morning!



Our friends from world famous Pike Place Fish Market brought their signature fish-tossing skills to our grizzly bear exhibit today at a media teaser for this Saturday’s Bear Affair presented by Brown Bear Car Wash event.


The fishmongers planted themselves safely at the edge of the exhibit—a massive moat stood between them and the bears, don’t worry!—and got to tossing while grizzly brothers Keema and Denali looked on.


The first few tosses of the 6-pound salmon were just for practice, though the bears seemed like they were hoping for a slip-up that would land a salmon in their direction.

But once the rhythm got going among the fishmongers—tossing the salmon over the heads of dozens of school children and visitors—it didn’t take long…

Wonderfully Wild Wednesday: You spin me right round

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications




River otters sometimes swim in circles, creating a whirlpool. 

The maneuver pays off--the whirlpool brings up fish that were hiding on the bottom of the river or lake, making for easier snacking.  

Photo by Mat Hayward/Woodland Park Zoo.