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Friday, August 31, 2012

What’s small and white and cute all over?

Posted by: Caileigh Robertson, Communications

The arctic fox, of course! Not only can this small, furry fox survive Old Man Winter’s North Pole stomping grounds, it travels across the treeless lands of the Arctic relying solely on its fur coat and snow-burrowed den to stay warm.

Female arctic fox Somer on a snowy day. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo..

Although our two newly arrived arctic foxes never traveled the North Pole, they did trek nearly 1,500 miles from the northwest corner of Minnesota to join Woodland Park Zoo this summer. August and Lily—1-year-old half-siblings—are now making themselves at home in their spacious Northern Trail exhibit, which they share with the zoo’s mountain goats. Though, they’ve learned to keep their distance from mountain goat Wilson after a playful run-in during their first week on exhibit. When the foxes were introduced to their new enclosure, they had to learn their boundaries with the goats and the respectful distance the goats would tolerate. Their young, playful nature leads them to explore and test anything new in their enclosure!

August and Lily on their first day on exhibit earlier this summer. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

During the summer, August and Lily appear distinctly different than they will in the winter months. Their coats remain minimal in summer and are often gray in color. But as the temperature drops, arctic foxes build their thick, white fur coats to lock in body heat and camouflage themselves with the white, snowy landscape of their frozen tundra homeland. Even in the mild winters of Seattle, August and Lily will sport their bright white coats.

Lily's dark summer coat beginning to change for the fall weather. Photo by Jennifer Pramuk/Woodland Park Zoo.

You may remember our elderly fox Somer whose foxy companion Felix passed in December 2011. At nearly 12 years old, she can't keep up with the energy level of her new fox friends, August and Lily. We retired Somer to a behind-the-scenes yard where she likes to rest comfortably and is doted upon by her dedicated keepers.

Become a ZooParent by adopting an arctic fox. Start your ZooParent adoption today

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wonderfully Wild Wednesday: Blue tongue

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

Why is a blue-tongued skink’s tongue blue? 

Blue-tongued skink. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Because we feed it blue ice pops.

Nah, just kidding. That blue tongue is a natural adaptation. A blue tongue darting out dramatically from a skink’s mouth can warn off or startle away predators.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Baby bird boom

Posted by: Mark Myers, Curator of Birds

It’s baby bird season at Woodland Park Zoo! Over the past few weeks, we’ve had several successful hatchings from birds across the zoo—from temperate waterfowl to tropical tanagers.

Here’s a round-up of some of the significant hatchings:

Cinnamon teal and falcated ducklings. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

The quiet, tucked away Temperate Wetlands exhibit is home to a number of newly hatched ducks and geese. Since July, we have successfully hatched falcated ducks, red-breasted geese, redhead, cinnamon teal, and lesser scaups (North American diving ducks).

Candling a red-breasted goose egg. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

To help prepare for all of these hatchings, our zookeepers use a process called candling in which they hold an egg up to a high powered, focused light source for a few seconds to see if an egg is fertile or to check the health of a developing embryo.  We were thrilled to candle and find fertile red-breasted geese eggs, as seen in the photo above. It’s been many years since we have had red-breasted geese hatchlings at the zoo, and we’re happy to say that this year, we hatched five goslings and have just introduced them out on exhibit in the Temperate Wetlands!

Five red-breasted goslings with parents. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

The hatchlings are distinguishable from the adults not only by their smaller size but also by the downy feathers that cover them in their early weeks. 

Lesser scaup ducklings. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Behind the scenes at the zoo, our keepers have one tawny frogmouth chick being cared for by its parents, and a younger frogmouth being hand-reared by staff.

Tawny frogmouth chick. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Down at the tropical end of the zoo, our blue-grey, silver-beaked and turquoise tanagers have all successfully hatched chicks this season, and with patience and careful observations, you may spot the parents tending to their fledged chicks in several exhibits throughout our Tropical Rain Forest building.

Keep your eye out for nests and chicks on your next visit to the zoo!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Snow leopard cubs first steps on exhibit

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

Before they make their official debut to the public this Sat., August 25, we gave our snow leopard cubs the chance to take their very first steps out onto exhibit this week to get comfortable with their new surroundings.

Shanti (left) with mother Helen and sister Asha (far right). Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

On the first day that we gave 16-week-old cubs Asha and Shanti access to the exhibit this week, they never stepped foot outside of their holding area! This was likely due to a combination of their own shyness and their mother Helen’s cautiousness. On day two, they didn’t do too much better. Keepers eventually got them to go out into the exhibit but it lasted for just a few short minutes and they ran back inside to their mother not to be seen again that day.

Helen grooms her cub Asha. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Finally, on day three of these soft introductions, we had success! Helen led the way outside to the exhibit, checking things out to make sure all was OK for her cubs. Asha was the first to follow mom out. Asha is the more adventurous of the two sisters, so it was no surprise to see her slink out onto exhibit behind mom, while Shanti stayed behind at the doorway, not quite ready to make her move. 

Asha explores her exhibit. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

It didn’t take long before Asha started exploring her new home. The spry little cub stalked around the rocks and hills of her exhibit as mom watched. Every now and then as she’d venture just a little too far away from mom, Asha would let out a little chirp to call out to her across the distance.

Cubs Asha and Shanti with their mother Helen. The face that Helen is making is known as the flehmen response, a common feline behavior where they make a grimace face to help them take in the scents around them. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Those little chirps seemed to also attract her sister’s attention, and eventually Shanti decided to brave the outdoors and join her mother and sister out on exhibit. Shanti stayed close to her mother while Asha tried to goad her into playing, jumping on her and padding all around.

Asha jumps over her sister Shanti. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Our keepers and exhibit crew have worked hard to make the exhibit sight-impaired cub friendly. Both Asha and Shanti are blind in their right eye, so provisions were made to create a safer environment for them including removing low branches and padding some of the hilly grounds with hay to make a softer landing for any tumbles.

Come at me, bro. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Watching the cubs navigate their way around the exhibit tells us a lot about how well they’re seeing their environment. It’s clear that they are aware of their surroundings and they did a great job of moving around the complexities of their space—going up and down hills, jumping over rocks and maneuvering around trees. Sometimes we see Asha move her head from side to side, which appears to be a way she compensates for her impaired vision, helping her to better take in her surroundings. Of course, their keen senses of smell and hearing and their whisker-assisted tactile abilities also help them navigate their surroundings. We think as they grow more comfortable in the space, we’ll see the cubs venturing around more and more.

The sisters make their official public debut on Sat., August 25. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Now that they’ve had some practice out there, we're preparing to officially debut the cubs this Sat., August 25. The girls will be given access to the exhibit with their mother from noon to 3:00 p.m. daily starting this Saturday. We hope you’ll head on out to the zoo to visit the family and share your pics with us on Facebook and Twitter. See you out there!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Wonderfully Wild Wednesday: Tuxedo feathers

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

A penguin’s tuxedo feathering is not for fancy occasions—it’s actually a type of camouflage known as countershading.  

Humboldt penguin at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by Ryan Hawk/WPZ.

When a penguin is in the water, its black back blends into the darker water below when viewing it from above, and its white belly blends into the lighter surface of the water when looking up from underneath it. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The results are in...

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

The results of our Visayan warty pig naming contest are in!

With more than 900 votes cast, the top names for the three female pigs, in order of greatest number of votes received are: GUAPA (beautiful), BULAK (flower) and MAGDULA (playful). The names reflect the pigs' Philippine origin.

One lucky winner—Toni Thomas of Seattle—was selected at random from all eligible contest entrants to win the grand prize $500 Visa gift card courtesy of U.S. Bank and a Woodland Park Zoo Visayan warty pig ZooParent adoption. Runners-up—Bethel B. VonRoeder and Brian Patneaude—will receive each a $100 Visa gift card courtesy of U.S. Bank and a Woodland Park Zoo Visayan warty pig ZooParent adoption.

Thanks for casting your vote this summer and thanks to our contest sponsors U.S. Bank and The Seattle Times for making this contest possible.

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

Thursday, August 16, 2012

News from the field: Pelansi’s rescue

Posted by: Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Program, a Woodland Park Zoo Partner for Wildlife

Woodland Park Zoo’s conservation partner, Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Program (GPOCP), sends us this powerful news from the field. This is the story of an injured orangutan named Pelansi, his rescue by the International Animal Rescue (IAR) Indonesia, and how we work to address the conditions that led to his harrowing experience...

Pelansi after surgery in Ketapang, Indonesia. Photo courtesy of International Animal Rescue Indonesia.

In the Bornean district of Ketapang, West Kalimantan, where GPOCP works, we received word of a male orangutan caught in a snare. Pelansi, named after the area he was found in, had been trapped in the snare for 10 days, caught by his hand, without access to food or water. Snares are typically set to catch pigs and deer, both to eat and for meat to sell. But as humans and wildlife are forced to live closer and closer in decreasing habitats, such snares can pose an unintended threat to orangutans and other wildlife.

Rescuers carry Pelansi out of the forest. Photo courtesy of International Animal Rescue Indonesia.
When GPOCP partner, International Animal Rescue (IAR) Indonesia, an NGO working in the area to rescue and rehabilitate orangutans, was alerted to the situation, they arrived to find him in critical condition. Pelansi’s arm was infected and decaying with septicemia, which had already spread throughout his body causing a dangerously high fever of 104°F. Nothing could be done to save Pelansi’s decayed hand, so he underwent surgery to amputate his lower arm, just below the elbow joint. Thankfully, he is now making a good recovery and, if he continues to do so, should be able to be released back into the wild once a location is identified that is safe from snares and other man-made threats.

Pelansi rests after surgery. Photo courtesy of International Animal Rescue Indonesia.
Although Pelansi’s recovery is miraculous, his story illustrates the plight of orangutans throughout Borneo and Sumatra. As a result of forest clearing for logging and oil palm, Pelansi was driven into an area where humans and wildlife are competing for space and food. One important aim of GPOCP’s Environmental Education and Alternative Livelihoods Program is to mitigate the conflicts that arise when orangutans and humans are forced to live close together in ever decreasing patches of forest. GPOCP works to raise awareness about issues such as the dangers of snares and the importance of forest and orangutan conservation.

Pelansi is doing well in his recovery and could be released soon. Photo courtesy of International Animal Rescue Indonesia.
In addition, GPOCP sets up alternative livelihood programs that provide villagers with sustainable livelihood options, such as fisheries and small-scale agriculture, as an alternative to activities that are detrimental to the forest and wildlife.

Organic  farming at the Environmental Education Centre. Photo courtesy of Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Program.

A recent GPOCP endeavor is a biogas project that started with nine families and aims to reduce deforestation for household fuel purposes. Other communities are involved in producing non-timber forest products and we are currently expanding the bamboo furniture-making cooperative. Another new initiative is an organic farming project that uses charcoal technology in village farming. Charcoal provides an easily accessible, cheap and organic alternative to chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Bamboo furniture made at Environmental Education Centre. Photo courtesy of Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Program.

Finally, GPOCP lobbies the local government to make more conservation-friendly decisions in land management and planning and empower local communities to be involved with the process to enable them to have their rightful say in the future of the land that surrounds them.

Environmental education—like this orangutan movie night at Tanjung Baik Budi village—is an important part of orangutan conservation. Photo courtesy of Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Program.

International Animal Rescue Indonesia’s mission is to assist in raising awareness about the protection and conservation of animals and their habitats. Currently IAR Indonesia runs a rehabilitation center for orangutans in West Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo. The team has been caring for a growing number of orangutans in a temporary rescue center in Ketapang while they continue construction on a new center. That center will be able to care for up to 100 orangutans at a time, and includes large quarantine pens, a fully-equipped veterinary clinic, an education center, nursery with indoor and outdoor play area for babies and infants, and forested enclosures where orangutans can develop the skills and natural behaviors they will need in order to be re-released into the wild.

Together, GPOCP and IAR will continue to work together to find alternative livelihoods for the people of Indonesian Borneo that keep the forest intact and safe for orangutans and other species.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Snow leopard cubs play behind the scenes

Posted by: Gigi Allianic, Communications

Snow leopard sisters Shanti and Asha, now 3½ months old, are proving to be playful and inquisitive cubs.

For now, the two live behind the scenes with their mother, Helen, where they receive special veterinary care for their impaired vision. Our keepers and vet staff assess the cubs’ visual function on a day-to-day basis as the pair grows and explores their environment.

Snow leopard cubs behind the scenes at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by Ryan Hawk/WPZ.

The cubs were born with eye and eyelid defects, and each remains blind in the right eye. They recently went through another round of surgery, performed by Dr. Tom Sullivan, the zoo’s volunteer veterinary ophthalmologist with the Animal Eye Clinic, to correct their impaired vision. The procedure is a critical step toward a progressive, more permanent solution to create functional eyelids for the cubs.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/WPZ.

We know you all can’t wait to see Shanti and Asha make their debut, and we hope to begin introducing them to the public exhibit over the next few weeks. We have been hard at work preparing the space for the cubs, cutting off tree branches at the eye level to ensure they can navigate their surroundings safely without getting injured.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/WPZ.

We’ll be sure to announce here when the cubs are ready for an official debut to the public!

Monday, August 13, 2012

10 steps to an enriching summer

Posted by: Rob Goehrke, Education

A wolf receives an enrichment treat put together by Zoo Crew kids. Photo by Ryan Hawk/WPZ

These are the words I heard after my class of 7th graders enjoyed a culminating experience at Woodland Park Zoo through our Zoo Crew program. Zoo Crew is designed to engage middle school youth from traditionally underserved communities in science and conservation enrichment activities. I had the chance to work with this particular group of kids during their 4-week summer camp through the YMCA, serving as one of their science teachers and guiding them through a program that was both enriching to them and the zoo’s animals.
Here’s the recipe:
Brown bear at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by Ryan Hawk/WPZ

Step 1: Each student choose one of four animals: gray wolf, brown bear, lowland anoa or kea
Step 2: As a group, research their animal’s habitat, diet, adaptations, conservation status and more

Step 3: Using the research, design an appropriate enrichment item that will stimulate the animal
Step 4: Present the design to an Animal Collection Manager from the zoo
Zoo Crew kids experiment with enrichment ideas. Photo by Rob Goehrke/WPZ

Step 5: Incorporating the feedback received, construct an enrichment item

Step 6: Write out directions for the zookeepers (e.g. what food goes in the item, where to put the item, etc.)

Step 7: Create a Prezi that shows their research and enrichment item
Zoo visitors stop for a presentation by Zoo Crew. Photo by Ryan Hawk/WPZ

Step 8: Present their Prezi to passers-by at the zoo
The zoo's wolf pack enjoys enrichment made by Zoo Crew. Photo by Ryan Hawk/WPZ

Step 9: Watch as the animal enjoys its enrichment
Step 10: Share the pictures with their classmates and celebrate a great summer!

This post is modified from an article that originally appeared on the Washington STEM Blog, August 2012. Washington STEM is a generous supporter of Woodland Park Zoo’s Zoo Crew program.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Animal Olympics

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications
With Olympics in full swing, we’re awarding some medals to our own animal all-stars, some of the best athletes at Woodland Park Zoo.

Competition: Swimming

Penguin porpoising with purpose. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.
Gold medal: Humboldt penguin
Humboldt penguins may seem awkward on land, but in the water they truly fly, getting up to speeds of 17 mph and bursting into glorious dives known as porpoising, where they leap out of the water to catch a breath and dive back in again without losing speed.

Doing the backstroke. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.
Silver medal: River otter
Otters have a killer backstroke, though their form might differ from our own. Plus, their propensity to create whirlwinds that kick up bottom-feeding fish may throw off the competition.

Hippo submerging. Photo by Mat Hayward/Woodland Park Zoo.
Bronze medal: Hippo
Hippos get up to about 5 mph underwater, but it’s their breath control—hippos close their nostrils when they submerge into water, holding their breath for up to 5 minutes—that gives them a competitive advantage.

Competition: Gymnastics

Siamang hangs around. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo
Gold medal: Siamang
Siamangs have an anatomical advantage for swinging through tree tops, nature’s uneven bars. Their  arms are longer than their legs and their long fingers act as perfect hooks for swinging hand over hand from branch to branch, tree to tree.

A treeshrew sticks the landing. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.
Silver medal: Treeshrew
Small but mighty, treeshrews would excel at floor exercises given the incredible leaps and flips we’ve seen them do across their exhibit.

An orangutan grips branches with her hands and feet. Photo by Dennis Conner/Woodland Park Zoo.
Bronze medal: Orangutan
Orangutans win bronze for being incredibly agile, despite their large size (their arms measure 7 feet across when stretched out to the sides!). They get extra points for being able to grab onto bars and rings with either their hands or their feet.

Competition: Sprints

Adia runs after her toy. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.
Gold medal: Lion
Fierce predators, lions can get up to speeds of 50 mph but cannot sustain that speed for long, so they are better in sprints than long distance.

Galloping gazelle’s on the zoo’s African Savanna. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.
Silver medal: Grant’s gazelle
These gazelles clock in around 45-50 mph, which is useful when fleeing from predators.

A displaying ostrich shows its powerful legs. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.
Bronze medal: Ostrich
Ostrich can clock in at more than 40 mph, giving them the fastest land speed of any bird.

Competition: Football

Rico is clearly a Sounders fan. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo
Gold medal: Rico the Sicilian miniature donkey
Rico’s recipe for soccer domination? Skill + style. Check out the scarf.

Kickin’ it with the wolves. Photo by Sarah Lovrien/Woodland Park Zoo
Silver medal: Wolf
This gray wolf understands the importance of clean footwork, and that there’s no “I” in “team” or “wolf pack” for that matter.

The soccer ball is no match for a grizzly. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo
Bronze medal: Grizzly
When the bears heard they could use any body part but hands or arms to play, they got creative.

Congratulations to all the winners!