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Friday, July 27, 2012

Observing raptors in the shrub-steppe

Posted by: Susan Burchardt, Zookeeper

A raptor flies over a wind turbine. Photo by Gretchen Albrecht/Woodland Park Zoo.

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.

Lupine in a field of turbines. Photo by Gretchen Albrecht/Woodland Park Zoo.

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 range, and as a result, many animal habitats have been reduced or eliminated.

Red-tailed hawk in flight. Photo by Gretchen Albrecht/Woodland Park Zoo.

This year, we observed a pair of red-tailed hawks with a large chick about to fledge and two pairs of Swainson’s hawks, both with eggs in the nest. The females spend most of their time on the nest, tending the eggs, while the males perch nearby or venture further afield in search of prey. The red-tailed hawks in particular were in a hurry to find lots of food for their ravenous, almost full-grown chick. Sometimes they would soar up high, above the 400-ft tall turbines, and sometimes they would hug the ground, coursing low to the sage and blooming lupines.

Meadowlark. Photo by Gretchen Albrecht/Woodland Park Zoo.

Besides the hawks, which we watched in four-hour intervals, we also got to see some other birds, like the abundant horned larks and western meadowlarks, and a large colony of long-billed curlews nesting nearby. It was always fun to see a bird soaring by and realize it had such a long, curved beak in the lead. 

Long-billed curlew flies over turbines. Photo by Gretchen Albrecht/Woodland Park Zoo.

On the drive from the motel to the wind project, we were able to see a nesting pair of golden eagles. 

Eagle with chick in a nest. Photo by Gretchen Albrecht/Woodland Park Zoo.

We also saw some mammals, including pronghorn antelope and many cattle.

Pronghorn antelope. Photo by Gretchen Albrecht/Woodland Park Zoo.

You’ll have the opportunity to help out the raptors yourself on your next visit to the zoo. Just stop by our Quarters for Conservation kiosk and look for the photograph of Ranger, our golden eagle, on the kiosk to cast your vote to support the Raptor Ecology of the Shrub-Steppe Project!

Find our Quarters for Conservation voting kiosk in the West and South Entrances. Photo by Sarah Lovrien/Woodland Park Zoo.

With Quarters for Conservation, 25 cents from your zoo admission goes directly to wildlife conservation, so you can make your day and a difference!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

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!

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo

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 position would allow Kakuta to grow as a leader in community building and conservation, the same passions that he has shared with us all of these years.

Kakuta, with a firm foothold in two different worlds, has had an enormous impact on the lives of those of us who have come to know him, making the world smaller for us and giving us and our visitors an increased awareness that our actions here have global consequences.

Woodland Park Zoo’s connection with Kakuta straddled both worlds as well. When he was not here in Seattle acting as our lead cultural interpreter, he was back in his homeland, where the zoo helped support conservation and community building efforts. Woodland Park Zoo and our strong base of volunteers and community supporters have helped make many things possible through this partnership: building a new well in the Merrueshi region; new schoolrooms serving 250 additional Maasai children and the Waterholes Restorations project in the Merrueshi valley.

Courtesy of Waterholes Restoration Project.

The Waterholes Restoration Project began in 2007 with just 6 waterholes—today they have 28 completed waterholes and will be finishing off that program with a final four waterholes this year—bringing the grand total to 32. These restored waterholes are functioning and attracting even more wildlife, including oryx, which had not been seen in the area in recent years because of drought conditions.

Before he leaves us at the end of this month to return home, we asked Kakuta to share some of his highlights from his years working with you all and the zoo.

What do you think is the true value of the cultural interpreter program you helped found at the zoo?

Kakuta: The cultural interpreter program brings a unique perspective from the people who share the savanna with wildlife. This program compliments Woodland Park Zoo conservation efforts beyond Seattle. The cultural interpreter program also authenticates the experience such as the African safari program around the zoo’s African Savanna. For example, human and wildlife conflict is a daily problem in the savannas of Africa and a cultural interpreter from Kenya can help the zoo’s visitors understand the issues and solutions faced with people and wildlife in Africa.

How has your partnership with the zoo impacted your village in Kenya?

Kakuta: Impact from Woodland Park Zoo to my village has been tremendous. With the zoo’s support we have been able to build two classrooms at our local school and restored over 30 waterholes shared by Maasai pastoralists and wildlife. This program has helped to improve human and wildlife conflict in the area. More cattlemen are becoming tolerant to wildlife simply because of the waterhole conservation project. The number of wildlife has increased in the area because of this project. We have been able to establish a wildlife club in our schools because of the waterhole project.

What is your favorite memory of working at the zoo?

Kakuta: The heartwarming support I received from my coworkers. The support I have received from my coworkers, zoo volunteers and Woodland Park Zoo management made me feel at home away from my village in Kenya.

What do you hope to accomplish for your community in the Minister of Parliament position you are pursuing?

Kakuta: If I get elected I’ll be able to do more than build schools and water systems. I’ll be a member of a legislative body that creates and enacts laws, policies and socio-economic development projects for the Maasai. Most importantly, the new position will allow me to advance my efforts in wildlife and habitat conservation beyond the Merrueshi area.

From my experience in Africa people are willing to tolerate and protect wildlife and habitat when they receive benefits from it.  It is my hope that Woodland Park Zoo will continue its strong commitment for habitat and wildlife conservation effort beyond the northwest. Direct investment to local communities, living side by side with wildlife, will yield excellent results for habitat and wildlife conservation.

It’s hard to say goodbye, but we know all of our zoo fans will join us in wishing Kakuta and his community all the best! Kakuta will be around at the zoo this Friday and Saturday, July 27-28, giving his well-loved presentations out at the African Savanna exhibit, so stop by to say goodbye and good luck!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

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.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.
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.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Laugh, Kookaburra! Laugh!

Posted by: Kirsten Pisto, Communications

Kookaburra at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.
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 jungle scenes set in Africa or South America, thousands of miles away from their native land. Ever seen a Tarzan film? How about Jurassic Park!

Kookaburra, mid-laugh. Photo by Dennis Conner/Woodland Park Zoo.

3. They chew gumdrops.
No. They don’t actually chew gum or eat gum drops. They do, however, live in eucalyptus trees, which are also sometimes referred to as gum trees for the sticky sap they produce. Laughing kookaburras prefer eucalyptus woodlands and open forests. They do not need much water to exist and can live in almost any part of eastern Australia as long as there are trees big enough to contain their nest cavities and open patches sufficient for hunting grounds.

4. They’re design junkies.
Kookaburras are not capable of excavating new nest holes, making them reliant on the presence of natural cavities from broken tree branches, fire scars, or vacated nests. One of the more unique options is an old termite mound. Termite mounds are the apartment complexes of the Kookaburra hood, many mounds can be as tall as 12 feet high, and show off some really awesome architecture! Kookaburras prefer intricate knots in eucalyptus trees to any old standard bird’s nest.

Tom Sjolund took this photo of a kookaburra in his backyard, Australia. The kookaburra has found a home in a termite nest. Photo by Tom Sjolund via Backyard Wildlifers.

5. Wake up and say g'day!
Camping in the Australian outback? No need to set an alarm clock, the kookaburra’s call will wake you up precisely at dawn and let you know when it’s about to get dark. Known as the bushman’s alarm clock, many Aboriginal stories tell the tale of how the kookaburra lets everyone know it’s time to wake up and greet the sun!

Kookaburras have pairs of toes which are fixed together. This allows them to perch on branches for very long periods while they quietly wait for prey. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.
6. Bling. They have their own coin collection from the Perth Mint of Australia.
Since 1989 the Perth Mint has issued a silver bullion coin to commemorate the Kookaburra. Many variations exist with a new proof design each year and extra stamps for special occasions. It is one of the most popularly traded modern coins and comes in four weights: 1oz, 2 oz, 10 oz, and 1 kg – the world’s largest silver coin!

7. Best mates!
Pairs are monogamous and mate for life. Kookaburras are highly social and often live in extended family groups composed of the adult breeding pair and offspring remaining in their natal territory as helpers. Both the male and female, and little helpers to a lesser extent, incubate the eggs. After hatching, the chicks are fed, brooded and defended by all members of a family group. After about four years of age, the helpers leave to start their own territories.

Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

8. Put another shrimp on the barbie.
They appreciate a good Australian barbeque. Don’t leave the lid to that barbie open too long! When living in close proximity to humans, kookaburras are well known to accept food scraps and other offerings and will readily come down to an occupied picnic table or kitchen window for hand-outs. They have adjusted to urban development and often inhabit suburban areas, which provide both barbeques and shelter.

9. A conundrum: largest kingfishers…that don’t fancy fish.
Kookaburras are the largest species of kingfishers in the world, weighing up to 350 g, but they don’t usually catch fish because they tend to live farther away from water. Preferring reptiles and rodents, kookaburras are generalists and will eat anything they are able to swallow. Insects, arthropods and small reptiles, such as skinks, make up the majority of their diet. At the zoo, our kookaburras eat hopper mice, crickets and mealworms. Mouse pinkies and extra bugs are offered in addition to the adult diet during chick-rearing. Our kookaburras like to tenderize their meat. They can be seen dropping their snacks from the tallest branch in the exhibit to the floor. Splat! Then they do it again, until the meat is nice and soft.

A kookaburra’s beak is very strong, used to catch prey and dig at termite mounds. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

10. They have their own theme song.
Whether you grew up in Australia or Timbuktu, chances are you’ve heard of or even sung the kookaburra song. Written in 1932 by a music teacher from Melbourne, Marion Sinclair, the song became wildly popular with children worldwide and is still popular in nursery schools and around campfires.

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree
Merry, merry king of the bush is he
Laugh, Kookaburra! Laugh, Kookaburra!
Gay your life must be

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree
Eating all the gum drops he can see
Stop, Kookaburra! Stop, Kookaburra!
Leave some there for me

Clearly, kookaburras are very awesome birds. We have two kookaburras on display in the zoo's Australasia exhibit.  The female is named Tanami, after a desert in Australia. She hatched on April 7, 1991 and arrived at Woodland Park Zoo in November 2000. The male is named Murray, after a river in Australia. He hatched on May 27, 1999 and arrived here in February 2002. Their diet at the zoo consists of mice, earthworms, and meal worms, but their super special treat is snake!

Lead zookeeper at the zoo’s Australasia unit, Beth Carlyle-Askew, tells us that when staff have to meet and hold a conversation in the service area near the kookaburras, the birds  will often start laughing and the keepers just have to wait since the kookaburras are so much louder!

If you show up early to the zoo one day, come sing the kookaburra song and you might even be lucky enough to hear their amazing cackle as these birds wake up the rest of the zoo!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

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 warty pig ZooParent adoption.

Good luck!

Photo (modified) by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

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!
Feed an elephant at Woodland Park Zoo! Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

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

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

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

A close-up of a wild snow leopard cub born in Mongolia. Photo courtesy of Snow Leopard Trust/Panthera.
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.

Snow leopard cub den, partially man-made. Photo courtesy of Snow Leopard Trust/Panthera.
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 wall blocking most of the entrance. “As we stood outside the den we could hear the cub and smell the cats but not see anything inside the den,” noted researcher Orjan Johansson of Sweden. He and his colleagues, Sumbee Tomorsukh of Mongolia, Mattia Colombo of Italy, and Carol Esson of Australia, had to think fast and decided to tape a camera to their VHF antenna. Extending the camera over the wall they were able to film the inside of the cave. Their remarkable footage shows a female snow leopard lying tucked against the wall staring at the entrance with a paw over her tiny cub.

These two cubs were just weeks old when spotted by a research team in Mongolia. Photo courtesy of Snow Leopard Trust/Panthera.
At the second den, the team found two male cubs in a narrow crack in a cliff wall. After confirming their mother was out on a kill, the scientists entered, photographed the cubs and obtained hair samples that will allow them to establish the cubs’ genetic identification and confirm the gender. They also took weights and measurements and implanted PIT tags (tiny tracking microchips similar to those used by pet owners). Both cubs had full stomachs and appeared to be in good condition.

The team handled the cubs with care and took their measurements as quickly as possible. “This was an unprecedented opportunity. We wanted to be as careful as possible and only take the most pressing data,” says Brad Rutherford, Executive Director of the Snow Leopard Trust. The days following the den visits the team listened with VHF from a distance to make sure the females returned. Their constant monitoring has confirmed that both females are still with their cubs. The research teams will not be visiting the cubs or the den sites again in order to limit disturbance to the den areas and the cubs themselves.

A cub is carefully and quickly handled by experts. Photo courtesy of Snow Leopard Trust/Panthera.
The Snow Leopard Trust is working hard to improve protection for the cats. However, due to their elusive nature, very little is known about snow leopards in the wild. Birth rates, sex ratios, cub sizes, litter sizes, and cub survival rates have never been documented but are critical to understanding—and planning for—the survival of the species. Follow-up assessment of cub survival will enable the Snow Leopard Trust to clarify the potential for snow leopard populations to grow and recover from declines.

This long-term snow leopard study in Mongolia’s South Gobi is a joint project with Snow Leopard Conservation Fund and Panthera, and is in cooperation with the Mongolia Ministry of Nature, Environment and Tourism and the Mongolia Academy of Sciences.

At Woodland Park Zoo, we’re excited for the good news these births bring—hope for the future of this endangered species. But it’s especially thrilling to catch it on video, considering how rare and elusive snow leopards are. They are known as the ghosts of the mountains in their native range of Central Asia and Russia.

Woodland Park Zoo cooperates with partners in 36 field conservation projects in the Pacific Northwest and around the world. One of the most significant of those partnerships is with the Snow Leopard Trust, which was created at Woodland Park Zoo in 1981 by staff member Helen Freeman.

Woodland Park Zoo snow leopards test research cameras in their exhibit as part of our conservation partnership with the Snow Leopard Trust. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

The zoo’s own snow leopards have engaged in several pilot tests to help their cousins in the wild, including testing motion sensor research cameras, testing cologne as an attractant to lure wild snow leopards to research cameras and GPS collar sites and testing GPS collars. Snow leopards in zoos are conservation ambassadors for their species in the wild and help to inspire visitors to learn more about how to save this endangered cat that is struggling to survive in its range countries. 

The endangered snow leopard will be in the spotlight at the zoo’s sixth annual Snow Leopard Day: Asian Wildlife Conservation on Saturday, August 4. Hosted by the zoo and the Snow Leopard Trust, the event will illustrate how the zoo’s partnership is helping to save the endangered cats and bringing life sustaining commerce to indigenous families. Activities also will focus on logging and palm oil, and how people’s choices and actions can help to save orangutans, Asian elephants, hornbills, tree kangaroos and other endangered animals. The day’s activities will include keeper talks, face painting, crafts and more. Free with zoo admission or membership. We hope to see you there!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Snow leopard cubs under veterinary care

Posted by: Gigi Allianic, Communications

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

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.

Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

All three cubs were born with eye and eyelid defects, known as multiple ocular coloboma. According to Dr. Collins, both of the surviving cubs have impaired vision and are under close observation. Additionally, they continue to receive eye examinations by Dr. Tom Sullivan, the zoo’s volunteer veterinary ophthalmologist with the Animal Eye Clinic in Seattle, who performed the first of multiple minor procedures to the eyelids last month.

The overall health of the cubs appears stable but their long-term prognosis remains guarded, particularly their visual capabilities.

The cubs are still nursing and have recently begun eating solid foods—a diet of diced chicken and beef. They currently weigh between 8 and 9 pounds.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.
Curator Dr. Jennifer Pramuk tells us that the cubs are eating well but their motor skills are not at a level where they should be at this age, and growth development is a bit lagging. Because of their special needs, we cannot determine when the cubs will go on public exhibit.

Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.
They are venturing out of the maternal den into the outdoor holding enclosure but they will require a longer period of time to develop motor skills and adjust to the spacious surroundings in the public exhibit before zoo-goers can see them.

The father was born with the same congenital eye defect. His first litter of two cubs with the same mother was born healthy and normal. The coloboma condition has been seen in snow leopards at other zoos. The cause of coloboma remains unknown. Zoo staff will be attending a national meeting of zoo professionals next week in Utah to discuss the disease impacts on the overall population of this endangered species. 

Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Since snow leopards are solitary animals in the wild, the father has been separated and is on public view in the snow leopard exhibit adjacent to Australasia.

The snow leopard, an endangered species, is a moderately large cat native to the high mountain ranges of Central Asia and Russia, including in Afghanistan, China, India, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal and Pakistan. Snow leopard scientists estimate as few as 3,500 remain in the wild.

As part of Woodland Park Zoo’s partnership with 36 field conservation projects in the Pacific Northwest and around the world, the zoo partners with the Seattle-based Snow Leopard Trust. The Trust was created in 1981 by the late Woodland Park Zoo staff member Helen Freeman, the namesake of the mother of the newborn cubs. Through innovative programs, effective partnerships, and the latest science, the SLT is saving these endangered cats and improving the lives of people who live in the snow leopard countries of Central Asia. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

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

Close up of a lion's tongue. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo

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.

Photo by Dennis Conner/Woodland Park Zoo.

Monday, July 9, 2012

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 email account name Dahalcon, now had legs. And the people clearly wanted more baby tigers! So we gave it to them with CUTEST baby tigerFunny Baby Tiger!!! and Cute Baby Tiger explores the world outside among others. A google search for 'cute baby' from any computer at the time brought up the striped cub as the third search result. It was encouraging.

A Tapir baby playing behind the scenes and a just born Brand new Cute Baby Gorilla! followed.

But there are more stories to be told at Woodland Park Zoo than those of the newborns alone. One of the things I really wanted to do was talk about the conservation work the zoo does both in the Northwest, and around the world. From our Tree Kangaroo program in Papua New Guinea to Cute Baby Turtles Released in Wild just outside of Seattle.

But getting those sometimes difficult to access stories told in a way that pulls people in can be a challenge. So things got a little more fun, when Frogs Gone WILD! was posted.

And I'm not sure what this video was about. But it was fun, and it showed the zoo's animals doing amazing things.

Finding soundtracks for videos can be the most challenging part of putting a video together for the web. So occasionally when your boss is leaving to catch his bus for the day, and he's singing along to the song you're composing on your computer, you just record it. And five minutes later, you end up with the amazingly-keyworded Funny Penguin Baby Happy Feet Get Wet video and its melodic soundtrack.

Sometimes the videos take on the serious issues facing wildlife around the world.

And sometimes, it's just nice to see a familiar face saying nice things about our great zoo.

And so it is that we've reached the fantastic milestone of 20 million views. Each time you view a video and pass it on to a friend, we're able to further share these amazing animals, their stories, and the inspiring things being done to protect and save them. THANK YOU!

All videos by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

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.

Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

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

Happy Fourth of July, everyone!