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Monday, December 31, 2012

Top 12 of 2012

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

We’re counting down the zoo stories that made us smile, made us care, and made us take action this year. From fuzzy new faces at the zoo, to scaly new additions to the wild, all of these stories have been made possible because of your support. Thanks for an amazing 2012, and here’s to going wild in 2013!

12. Snowpocalypse

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Remember Snowpocalypse 2012? The year got off to a snowy start, and—despite having to close the zoo for safety—we caught a number of zoo animals having fun romping around in the snow.

11. Turtles take a wild journey

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

When we released 90 native western pond turtles to a South Puget Sound protected habitat, it was the story of turtle "2" that brought home the big hope riding on these tiny turtles. Hope for an endangered species, hope for a recovering habitat, and hope for people finding a way to live sustainably with local wildlife.

10. The search for a mystery zoo hero

Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Abandoned by its parents, a penguin egg sat unprotected on a ledge in the zoo’s exhibit, easy pickings for a passing gull or crow. But thanks to the quick wits of a little boy visiting the zoo that April day, the abandoned egg was rescued by a zookeeper and turned over to penguin foster parents that successfully hatched the egg days later. We wanted to thank the boy by naming the chick after him, but he disappeared before we could get his name, and despite an all-points bulletin with our local community and news outlets, we never found him. Still, we did honor the mystery boy’s actions by naming the chick Ramón, a Spanish name that means “protector.”

9. Three little pigs

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

We went hog wild this year and brought three pig species to the zoo. Endangered Visayan warty pigs joined the Elephant Forest exhibit, warthogs moved next door to lions in the African Savanna, and domestic kunekune pigs stole the spotlight at the Family Farm.

8. Butterflies have their day

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

One of the smallest threatened species we work with had some of the biggest news this year. Oregon silverspot butterflies got their own conservation beer from Pelican Pub & Brewery, the head starting program to raise and release these butterflies into Northwest habitats won a national conservation award, and research is underway by a teen Zoo Corps intern to understand the egg laying behaviors of these butterflies so we can better protect them.

7. Enrichment gets playful

Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

We had a lot of fun with enrichment this year, coming up with special activities for the animals that kickstart their instinctsfrom a Pike Place Fish Market-assisted fish toss to the grizzlies, to a Sounders-inspired session with soccer balls for the fast-footed animals like the wolves and scarves for the innate object manipulators like the gorillas. 

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Zoo Crew middle schoolers get in on making enrichment for the animals, elephants used their trunks to toss and tug at boat fenders, and penguins got their paint on to help raise funds for the Puget Sound - American Association of Zoo Keepers auction.

6. 20 million views and counting

Video: 20 million moments of cuteness at Woodland Park Zoo.

You made us the most watched zoo in the world, helping us reach 20 million video views on YouTube in 2012!

5. Drink coffee, save a tree kangaroo

Video: Coffee from Papua New Guinea comes to Seattle.

Seattle got its first taste ever of coffee from a remote part of Papua New Guinea—the Yopno Uruwa Som region of the Huon Peninsula—home to the endangered Matschie’s tree kangaroo, the little known animal that inspired a delicious,new conservation coffee.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Woodland Park Zoo’s Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program and Seattle’s Caffe Vita teamed up to make limited edition, Papua New Guinea Yopno Uruwa Som Farm Direct coffee—grown in shade and without the use of pesticides—available this year.When you drink this coffee, you not only take an action that helps support wildlife conservation, but you also directly improve the lives of the Papua New Guinea coffee farmers and their families.

4. WildLights debuts

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Woodland Park Zoo shined in a whole new light with the debut of our first-ever evening lights festival this winter, WildLights presented by KeyBank. We took you behind the scenes to see how the lights came together, and celebrated your tradition-in-the-making experiences at the after-dark showcase of lights, live reindeer, ice-carving, snow fights and more. 

3. Snow leopard cubs overcome challenges

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

We celebrated the birth of triplet snow leopards this year, but the loss of one cub and the health challenges of the surviving sisters gripped our hearts as the well wishes poured in from the community. Our skilled zookeepers, veterinary staff and volunteer veterinary experts dedicated themselves to helping the surviving cubs overcome their vision-related challenges, and the two, now seven months old, are doing well out on exhibit, growing, playing and exploring as any cubs should.

2. Give Ten for Tigers a huge success

Rendering of tiger exhibit by Mir, courtesy of Woodland Park Zoo.

This May we asked for your help to raise $100,000 so we could start construction on the first phase of a new Asian tropical forest exhibit complex for tigers, sloth bears, otters and tropical birds. You heard the call and, boy, did you respond! You all came together to make your gifts, tell your friends, and share our story across the community, bringing in $140,000+ in just a few weeks, well before our Give Ten for Tigers deadline! 

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Thanks to your generosity, we were able to break ground on construction for Phase One, which will feature otters, tropical birds and a play area for kids, and with your continued support, we’ll be able to complete fundraising for the entire complex and open the tiger and sloth bear exhibits soon. Learn more about the projects and how you can continue your support at www.morewonder.org.

1. First birth of lion cubs in 20 years!

Video: Lion cubs take a lickin' at Woodland Park Zoo Seattle.

November brought four kitties to the zoo—two male and two female lion cubs born to mom Adia and father Hubert.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

The cubs live in an off view maternity den with their mother for now, while they bond and grow in safety and quiet. Until they are big enough to make their public debut, we have all been enjoying these behind-the-scenes glimpses.

What were your 2012 highlights?

Friday, December 28, 2012

A holiday gift: sloth bear birth

Posted by: Caileigh Robertson, Communications

We’re capping off the year with yet another significant birth: an endangered sloth bear. Born Dec. 18, the tiny cub is off view with its mom, 7-year-old Tasha, in a behind-the-scenes maternity den. Dad, 16-year-old Randy, is staying in his own den right now, giving mom and cub their space to bond, which is a typical family structure for sloth bears.

This screen capture from the internal web cam was taken just moments after the birth of the cub. The tiny size is normal, with an average birth weight for sloth bears at 10.5-17.5 ounces (300-500 g). Photo by Woodland Park Zoo.

To minimize any disturbance to the family, zookeepers are keeping their distance, monitoring the new family via an internal web cam to keep their eye on things and make sure the cub continues to nurse and bond with mom.

This is Tasha’s first cub, but her motherly instincts kicked in immediately. Right after the birth, she built two large mounds of hay in the maternity den to support the new cub. With the web cam set up, we are able to see the two bonding and can hear the cub vocalizing and nursing normally.

Sloth bears are bears, but not sloths. Why the funny name? They were initially classified as bear sloths due to their perceived slow gait and ability to climb trees. Not until 1810 did the classification change; for the sake of simplicity, the name was switched to sloth bear. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Sloth bears are born extremely small and blind at birth. They open their eyes at about 3 weeks old and can walk at 4 weeks. Unlike other bear species, sloth bear mothers carry cubs on their back when cubs reach about 2 months.

With fewer than 50 sloth bears in North American zoos today and fewer than 10,000 remaining in the wild, we are thrilled to welcome this rare, new addition. This breeding was recommended under the sloth bear Species Survival Plan (SSP), a cooperative breeding program to ensure genetic diversity and demographic stability among North American zoos.

A look at the new exhibit plans for the sloth bears at Woodland Park Zoo. Rendering by Mir, courtesy of Woodland Park Zoo.

Many of you have already joined us in helping to build the next amazing exhibit at Woodland Park Zoo—a new, Asian tropical forest-inspired home for sloth bears, tigers, tropical birds and small-clawed otters.

Sloth bear Randy shows off his powerful vacuum-style eating in this video. Produced by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

The current sloth bear exhibit is off view to the public right now as construction is underway for these new exhibits. Upon completion of the exhibit complex, the zoo’s sloth bears will move into a new, state-of-the-art home with logs for grub-slurping, pits for breaking bones to get to yummy marrow, and mounds for digging. The $19.6 million exhibit project, part of the zoo’s $80 million MoreWonder More Wild Campaign, will replace the 60-year-old infrastructure that critically endangered tigers and sloth bears currently inhabit at the zoo.

You can learn more about the exhibit project and how you can help make it happen at www.morewonder.org.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Happy holidays!

Wishing you a warm and wonderful holiday season, from your friends at Woodland Park Zoo!


Want to share the zoo love? Send a zoo-themed holiday eCard to your friends and family this winter and save on paper.

Video produced by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Wonderfully Wild Wednesday: Snow leopards leaping

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

Snow leopards can leap up to 30 feet. That’s great for pouncing on prey but it is also useful when making your way around the rocky terrain these Central Asian animals call home.

Photo by Dale Unruh/Woodland Park Zoo.

You need serious jumping skills to navigate your way across ravines and between cliffs.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wonderfully Wild Wednesday: Mountain goat

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

During digestion, microorganisms in the stomach of a ruminant (cud chewer) produce heat.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

This helps keep mountain goats warm during the winter, and is probably the reason they rest on snow in their alpine habitat during the summer.

Friday, December 7, 2012

ZooCrew Part Two | Wolves: Fact vs. Fiction

Created by: ZooCrew High Point students Mishki, Julia, Giovani, Amman, Abiso and Jazmeiha

Note from the blog editor:

Our ZooCrew middle school program aims to give students a first-hand look at how fun and rewarding a career in science can be. This semester’s students got hands-on experience exploring several different science careers, from zookeeping to conservation education to science writing. 

A small group of students from our ZooCrew High Point program chose to spend their semester working on a video that educates viewers on facts and fictions about misunderstood wolves. The students researched the animals, came up with the video concept and script, and put their own voices into the story. Great work, ZooCrew!

ZooCrew: A day in the life of a wolf pup

Written by: ZooCrew Denny students—Cassie, Caitlin, Matea and Trevor

Note from the blog editor:
Our ZooCrew middle school program aims to give students a first-hand look at how fun and rewarding a career in science can be. This semester’s students got hands-on experience exploring several different science careers, from zookeeping to conservation education to science writing. 

A small group of students from our ZooCrew Denny program chose to spend their semester working on their science writing skills, and this blog post comes from an exercise they did in imagining themselves as wolf pups growing up in a pack. Congratulations to the ZooCrew students on a job well done! Here is their story:

Dear blog readers,

We are going to talk about a wolf pup’s life and what they have to go through in their life. So here we go.

Wolf pack at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.
Part one
We are the life structure of the pack. Our parents bring new life into the pack. The pack has to respect the rules of helping the rest of us grow up and become leaders one day. We will fight for our pack and so that other packs can’t invade us. We sat during the long boring lecture about how we need to start being responsible. My parents told us that one of us would have to train to become alpha....

We started training today, it started ok...
To be continued...

Wolves at play at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Part two
As we move into position I'm thinking this is my first hunt, my first deer. There are a lot of firsts being a cub, a lot of learning, but you get used to it. As we run across the woods it feels like I'm flying. Then we find the deer, dad runs after it, and we all follow. Part of the pack goes around the brush to the left to Cordero the deer, I go with my dad to the other side. We spot the deer grazing in a nearby field and as we sneak up on the unsuspecting deer, dad goes in for the kill. Oh, the spoils of the hunt. As we carry back the deer I think the first hunt was a success, now I wonder how deer tastes. I do hope it tastes good.

And that concludes our first blog post. Feel free to comment.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Sunbittern chick: elegance in the making

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

With its long neck, trilling whistle, and stunning feather display that looks like eyes peering through the night, the sunbittern is one of the most elegant birds to call Woodland Park Zoo home. So picture that elegance-to-be when you see how it all starts:

Top: Sunbittern chick at one day old. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo. | Bottom: An adult sunbittern displays its eye-like feathers at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

This little sunbittern hatched on November 20, the first sunbittern hatchling at Woodland Park Zoo in close to 15 years.

At one day old, the chick is covered in fluffy down feathers not unlike the texture of the towel it sits on here. Adult feathers begin to grow in after 3 weeks. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Sunbittern babies at zoos are fairly rare, with probably only around 10 new hatchings a year at best. The hatchings are carefully planned as part of the Species Survival Plan, a cooperative breeding program across accredited zoos nationwide to ensure genetic diversity and population health.

Seen here at 9-days-old, the characteristic long legs of the sunbittern—a forest floor walker with a slow and deliberate gait—are already growing in. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

This chick is being hand reared by our dedicated keepers in a behind the scenes area at our Tropical Rain Forest exhibit to ensure its best chance for survival. The egg was artificially incubated to prevent any chance of it rolling out of the elevated nest the sunbitterns maintain. When it hatched, keepers stepped in to hand rear, starting out with 7 feedings a day every 2 hours. 

Weigh-in at one day old. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

We regularly weigh the chick to keep track of its growth and make sure it is hitting all of its developmental benchmarks. At its latest weigh-in, it added up to about 3 ounces (90 grams). In the above photo, the chick is resting on a nesting structure with a craggy texture designed to make it easy for the bird to grip with its feet. And yes, it totally looks like a plate of worms. 

The sunbittern has large feet that spread the bird’s weight making it easier to walk on muddy rain forest terrain. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Seen here at 9 days old, the sunbittern’s characteristic long neck begins to distinguish itself. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

This chick will likely become part of the Species Survival Plan breeding program and will one day move out to be with a fitting mate that we’ll work on finding at another accredited zoo. The chick’s parents remain in the free-flight dome of our Tropical Rain Forest building where they are currently working on producing another egg or two.

Chick at 9 days old. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

The call of the sunbittern is one of the recognizable sounds in the rain forest exhibit. This little chick isn’t very vocal so far, though it does hiss a bit when it’s surprised. Instinctually it fans its wings forward to make it appear larger than it actually is, just like a displaying adult would. 

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

What a treasure to watch elegance in the making.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Lion cubs get first health check-up

Posted by: Gigi Allianic, Communications

It’s a boy! And a girl! And a boy! And a girl!

Last week, our four lion cubs received their first health check-up and the exam revealed the quadruplets are healthy and that we have two males and two females on our hands.

Our team of veterinarians performed the exam, which included a weigh-in, fecal sampling and an overall assessment of their health. They’ll get the first of a series of vaccinations at the next exam coming up in a few weeks. The cubs turn four weeks old this Saturday.

Each cub weighs between 8 and 9 pounds, which is in the normal weight range for their age. Vets noted that the cubs had full, round bellies, meaning they’re nursing regularly. Adia continues to show excellent maternal skills, and she has herself some robust, healthy cubs.

Mom and cubs remain in an off-view maternity den that allows the family to bond in a quieter environment. The cubs will go out in the public exhibit when they are older and outdoor temperatures reach a minimum of 50 degrees. Until then, zoo-goers can watch recorded video of the cubs at a kiosk stationed at the lion exhibit or at Zoomazium. We’re also posting updated footage and images here and at www.zoo.org/lioncubs.

Photos by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.