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Showing posts from July, 2012

Observing raptors in the shrub-steppe

Posted by: Susan Burchardt, Zookeeper


As part of our wildlife conservation efforts in the Pacific Northwest, Woodland Park Zoo collaborates with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife on the Raptor Ecology of the Shrub-Steppe conservation program. This spring, zookeepers Gretchen Albrecht, Ros Bass-Fournier, Jean Ragland and I returned to eastern Oregon for three weeks to continue research begun last year. We recorded data on how nesting hawks interact with wind turbines. Hours of observation gives us important insight into how raptors are adapting to this new change to the shrub-steppe habitat.


Shrub-steppe is a grassland habitat that occurs in western North America. Grasses and shrubs make up the shrub-steppe landscape. The most common shrub, or woody plant, is sage brush. There are many birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians that are unique to the shrub-steppe eco-region. Expanded human development has greatly altered this fragile ecosystem through much of its historic ra…

Goodbye and good luck to Kakuta Hamisi

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications


Many of you have met Kakuta Hamisi, and if you have, you won’t forget him or his incredible, inspirational stories. In his 12 years as cultural interpreter at the zoo, Kakuta has shared his stories of his life experiences growing up and engaging in conservation work in rural Kenya with nearly 100,000 zoo visitors!

You’ve probably taken a tour with him through our African Savanna exhibit, or heard him talking out by the hippo exhibit about his work restoring waterholes in his native Kenya.
And if you have met Kakuta and been inspired by his experiences, you’ll understand why it’s now so hard for us to say goodbye as he prepares to head back to Kenya for a major new step in his life—running for the Minister of Parliament position for the newly created Kajiado East Constituency that stretches from Chyulu Hills National Park to the outskirts of Nairobi City. The constituency has an estimated population of 124,000 Maasai pastoralists, and the po…

Wonderfully Wild Wednesday: Is that a leaf?

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications


Phyllium giganteum finds protection from predators in its remarkable camouflage, colored and shaped to look exactly like a leaf.

This insect's camouflage is so convincing, it even has notches that make it look like a leaf out of which other insects have taken small bites.

Laugh, Kookaburra! Laugh!

Posted by: Kirsten Pisto, Communications

I have quite a few favorite animals. When you work at the zoo, it’s hard to pick just one, but I never walk past the kookaburras without smiling. These birds are totally one of my favorites. Why? Here are the top ten reasons kookaburras are one of the coolest aves at the zoo:

1. Kookaburra itself is a very fine word, try saying it without smiling… impossible.
The name "kookaburra", COOK-ah-burr-ah, came from the aboriginal tribal group, the Wiradjuri people, of New South Wales in Australia. They named this bird for the laughing sound it makes, onomatopoeic of its call.



2. Kookaburras sit in trees and laugh all day long.

Although they vocalize more at dusk and dawn, kookaburras have one of the most unique vocalizations of any animal. Their laugh is so distinctive that it has been widely used in soundtracks on television, in movies, and more recently in videogame soundscapes. Their distinct laugh is often featured as a sound effect in …

Enter the warty pig naming contest!

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications


Help us name our three new, female Visayan warty pigs and you can win up to $500! With your votes, each pig will receive a name reflecting its native habitat in the Visayan Islands of central Philippines.



The contest is easy to enter:
Clip out an official ballot from any copy of The Seattle Times from July 22 - August 3, 2012 and vote for your favorite three names. The names are: ADLAW (sun)BULAK (flower)LASANG (forest)MAGDULA (playful)BANHAAN (nosey)GUAPA (beautiful)All ballots must be dropped off at a participating U.S. Bank location by August 4, 2012.The three names with the most votes will be chosen for our Visayan warty pigs! When you cast your vote, you’ll automatically be entered to win* in our random prize drawing. The grand prize is a $500 Visa gift card courtesy of U.S. Bank and a Visayan warty pig ZooParent adoption. Two runners up will each receive a $100 Visa gift card courtesy of U.S. Bank and a Visayan war…

Wonderfully Wild Wednesday: Elephant trunk

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications


An elephant moves its massive trunk with such precision that it can easily pick up a single piece of straw. But for those of you who have enjoyed one of our Elephant Feeding experiences, you know our elephants are far more likely to go for a whole lot of food all at once!

Don’t miss this unforgettable experience, offered daily for $5 per person through Sept. 30.

First ever video of wild snow leopard cub den

Posted by: The Snow Leopard Trust (a Woodland Park Zoo Partner for Wildlife) with Gigi Allianic, Communications


You’ve been following the story of Woodland Park Zoo’s snow leopard cubs, but now we have some exciting cub news from the field: our conservation partner, the Snow Leopard Trust, is reporting in from Mongolia with the first ever den site of snow leopard cubs captured on video in the wild.




Using GPS radio collars, an international team of scientists has been tracking snow leopards in Mongolia’s South Gobi desert since 2008. In May, two of the study’s females began to restrict their daily movements to smaller and smaller areas, which the team interpreted as a signal that both were preparing to give birth. Traveling through steep and rocky mountain outcroppings, the team followed VHF signals transmitted by the collars and finally located the dens on June 21.

Only a few miles apart, both dens were high up in steep canyons. The first den was in a big cave with a man-made rock wal…

Snow leopard cubs under veterinary care

Posted by: Gigi Allianic, Communications




Now 10-weeks-old, the zoo’s female snow leopard cubs, Shanti and Asha, continue to receive special medical care behind the scenes.




Last week the two received cardiac ultrasounds as a precautionary measure. The ultrasounds were performed by the zoo’s volunteer veterinary cardiologist Dr. Jerry Woodfield of Northwest Cardiology Consultants in Seattle. Findings revealed mild functional deficiencies in several valves in the female cubs.

The zoo’s Director of Animal Health, Dr. Darin Collins, tells us that the function of their hearts does not appear to be compromised and there are no health concerns at this time related to their hearts. This is good news, as you’ll remember back in June we shared the heartbreaking news that their male littermate had to be euthanized because he had been born with multiple severe heart defects that were causing early heart failure.

All three cubs were born with eye and eyelid defects, known as multiple ocular coloboma. …

Wonderfully Wild Wednesday: A lion's tongue

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications


On this wonderfully wild Wednesday, a bit of advice: avoid getting licked by a lion


Look at the rows and rows of sharp hooks on this lion’s tongue, designed to get meat off of bones lickety-split, and you’ll understand why this is good advice.


20 million and counting

Posted by: Ryan Hawk, Communications

When Google purchased YouTube in the Fall of 2006, it seemed like maybe the little video sharing website might be worth taking a look at, so two days after the announcement, I uploaded Grizzly Bears destroy camp to test the waters. And then a day later, Jaguar Swimming.  Resolution was limited to 240 or 320 pixels wide, so what you see today is like a look into the low-quality past that was YouTube in 2006. But people started to watch the videos, and it was exciting to think that 50 -- then 100 people had seen the little films.



Today, the videos are seen around the world thousands of times a day. 65% of the audience for the videos are from outside of the USA.

Then in January, something amazing happened. Cute Baby Tiger, which featured a few seconds of a sleepy tiger cub falling asleep was posted, and instead of tens of views, we saw hundreds -- then sometimes thousands of views a day.

What started as an experiment for the zoo, using my junkmail em…

Wonderfully Wild Wednesday: Happy Fourth!

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications



A hippo’s eyes, ears and nostrils are located at the top of its head to allow it to see, hear and smell even when its body is submerged in water.






A lesser known hippo adaptation? The ability to balance watermelon. 


Happy Fourth of July, everyone!