Skip to main content

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

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?