Skip to main content


Showing posts from July, 2013

Words aren't enough: a zookeeper’s perspective

Posted by: Pattie Beaven, Zookeeper and Member of Puget Sound Chapter – American Association of Zoo Keepers

This week is a special week for many of us at the zoo. This week is National Zoo Keeper Week celebrated by the American Association of Zoo Keepers. So what's it mean to be a zookeeper? Words aren't enough to describe this amazing job and the amazing animals. You know that feeling you get when your dog wags its tail in greeting when you come home? Imagine having a pack of wolves greet you in a similar manner!

Cats purr when they are content, and it can give us great pleasure to have our kitties sit in our laps, eyes closed, purring away. Now imagine having an 8,000-pound elephant purr with contentment upon seeing you. These are the joys of being a zookeeper.

When I was a small child I wanted to talk to the animals, and walk with the animals, and now, I'm actually my own version of Dr. Doolittle. I have swam with the animals, been graced by the presence of the most mag…

How to train a wallaroo

Posted by: Wendy Gardner, Zookeeper Photos by Wendy Gardner/Woodland Park Zoo

Who weighs nearly 100 pounds, belongs to a family of mammals (Macropodidae) whose name means “big feet,” has a long, muscular tail that helps with balance, turning and support while resting, and cannot walk backwards?

That would be Harry, our male wallaroo who lives in the zoo’s Australasia zone. Harry came to Woodland Park Zoo in October 2008 as 2.5-year-old sub-adult, a term we use to describe juveniles that have not yet reached sexual maturity. In December of 2008 he weighed about 62 lb (28 kg), but as of June 2013, the now adult wallaroo weighs just shy of 100 lb (44 kg).

That’s a good weight for him, but that size and strength means we do not want to have to hand catch him if he were to ever need medical attention, both for our own safety and to prevent stress for him. We decided using operant conditioning to get Harry not only used to medical exams but also cooperative in them would be the better alt…

Happy National Zoo Keeper Week

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

Happy National Zoo Keeper Week! If you've been enjoying the baby boom at the zoo this past year, then you have our dedicated keepers to thank. It’s their hard work in matching up animal mates, caring for growing families, and keeping babies healthy that makes it all possible. Next time you see a zookeeper, let them know what their work means to you and your family!

Video: Celebrating zookeepers at Woodland Park Zoo. Video by VIA Creatives.
The late Dana Payne, a Woodland Park Zoo curator, poignantly summed up the work of the zookeeper in an end note he wrote for local artist Catherine Eaton Skinner’s book, Unleashed:

“Those of us who have chosen a life with animals know we have chosen well. Having a conversation with a lion is a fine way to start one’s day. For that matter, so is tossing tidbits to a toucan, or medicating a cobra. There’s something there, in the lion’s luminous eyes, in the gaudy splendor of the toucan, in the cobra’s sibi…

Vote YES for your zoo and your big backyard

Posted by: Dr. Deborah B. Jensen, President and CEO

Did you know that, on average, residents of King County spend as much as 90 percent of our time within 25 miles of home? Given our Northwest love of all things outdoors, thank goodness we have King County’s 200 parks and 175 miles of regional trails to provide us access to nature’s wonders. Whether it’s an expansive network of open spaces and trails or Woodland Park Zoo’s beloved 92-acre urban oasis—we all win when we protect our big backyard.

That’s why I encourage you on August 6 to vote YES on King County Proposition One and renew essential support for King County Parks, suburban city parks and Woodland Park Zoo through 2019.

General fund support to King County parks was eliminated as of 2011, so keeping parks open and safe depends on you, me and other county residents renewing two 2007 voter-approved measures that expire at the end of this year. What it boils down to is 18.77 cents per $1,000 property valuation, or about $56 dol…

Zoo’s giraffe due to give birth any day

Posted by: Gigi Allianic, Communications

The question on everyone's mind is: who will give birth first—the Duchess of Cambridge or the Duchess of Phinney Ridge?

The zoo's own duchess, 6-year-old Rothschild’s giraffe Olivia, is expected to give birth any day now. With a gestation period of 14 to 15 months, Olivia’s window to give birth is pretty wide—it began June 24 and closes August 12, explained Martin Ramirez, a curator at the zoo. Olivia’s belly is pretty big and she’s carrying low so we expect a calf any day.

Zookeepers are keeping a close watch for signs of labor which may include restlessness, loss of appetite, or biting or licking her flanks. We will bring Olivia into the barn and mobilize a 24-hour birth watch at the first sign of labor, and we also have a den cam installed in the barn to monitor the new family.

The last viable birth of a giraffe at the zoo was in 1997. There’s a lot of excitement at the zoo for this baby. It’s been a long time since we've had a b…

Jaguar cubs ace their final exams

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communication

This week marked the final post-birth exam for the triplet jaguar cubs. These early in life check-ups are meant to ensure the cubs are gaining weight and hitting all of their developmental benchmarks, while also providing the opportunity to give vaccinations, draw blood samples for routine tests, and establish their health baselines.
With the cubs now four months old and weighing 25-28 pounds, completing these exams can be a challenge. The cubs first need to be transferred one by one to the zoo’s Animal Health hospital. Getting the cubs into their transfer crate requires their cooperation—something they aren’t always willing to give. Cats will be cats.

Once a cub arrives at the hospital, it is anesthetized for the exam. This allows the zoo’s veterinary team to get in close to inspect the eyes, ears, paws, teeth and tongue of each animal.

First up was first-born cub, Arizona. Zoo associate veterinarian, Dr. Kelly Helmick, listened to Arizona’s …

Otter naming contest results are in

Posted by: Caileigh Robertson, Communications

More than 1,000 community members weighed in to name Woodland Park Zoo’s new Asian small-clawed otter pair in our naming contest presented by Umpqua Bank.

After a panel of zoo judges deliberated over your Malay language submissions, the winning names are:

Male otter - Guntur ("thunder")Female otter - Teratai (“water lily or lotus”)
The lucky winners who submitted the selected names are sisters Megan and Nicole Green (ages 9 and 10) of Renton and Hanah Deets (age 7) of Bainbridge Island.
Thanks to all who entered! Guntur and Teratai are currently off exhibit while they raise their newborn pups, but will re-debut this August when the young family is ready to explore the Bamboo Forest Reserve together

Show your otter love and become an Asian small-clawed otter ZooParent today! Your adoption helps fund the daily care and feeding of our zoo animals, and $5 of your contribution will go directly to the zoo's conservation efforts, s…

The Princesses and the penguins

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications
Photos by: Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo

Curator Mark Myers shows off a wand to this year's Seafair Princesses, but this wand isn't normally meant to go with tiaras. “This is a metal detector,” Mark explains. “Any idea why we might need a metal detector in the penguin exhibit?”
“To see if they ate any coins?” a Princess correctly guesses.
“That’s right, penguins like shiny objects,” Mark explains, as the ladies all self-consciously look at each other’s sparkling tiaras. Better not drop those in the penguin pool!

But our crowned cadre is too composed to have to worry about that. This year's Seafair Princesses, participants in the Seafair Scholarship Program for Women, got to go behind the scenes at the zoo's award-winning Humboldt penguin exhibit to see the hidden side of the zoo. The experience is part of the numerous community events and parades the Princesses attend to showcase their academic abilities, public speaking skills,…

Checking in with the sloth bear cubs

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications
Photos by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo

If you haven’t visited the sloth bear cubs yet, make plans soon! Now seven months old, the twins are still small, but act double their size in their bold adventures.

Every log must be scaled, every grub must be snuffled out of its hiding spot, every tub of water must be splashed into, and every sibling battle must be fought for these two.

Brother and sister go about their lives nose-first, their sense of smell leading them on journeys big and small.

Sloth bears are the vacuum cleaners of the Asian forest—take a closer look at that snout and you’ll notice it’s designed for slurping up termites. The large gap in their front teeth (due to the absence of front upper incisors) means nothing gets in the way of vacuuming up a meal.

They can even close their nostrils on their flexible noses to prevent any bugs from crawling up the wrong way whenever they are snout-deep in a termite mound! And long claws help the…

Web cam features wild swallow chicks

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications
Photos by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

More than 1,000 animals call Woodland Park Zoo’s exhibits home, but let’s not forget about all the native and migratory wildlife that use the zoo for nesting, feeding and breeding grounds. One of those wild animals—the barn swallow—is featured on our newest web cam.

A clutch of wild barn swallows hatched the week of June 17 in a nest tucked into the rafters of the zoo’s Raptor Barn—one of four active swallow nests in the building. The migratory birds return each spring to occupy the nests, as well as others around zoo grounds including the Family Farm, to hatch and raise their chicks before the fledglings are ready to head south in the fall.

The web cam streams 24/7 so you can get a glimpse of this young, wild family as the chicks hit their major milestones—growing flight feathers in June, taking their first tentative flights in July, and eventually fledging and moving on at summer’s end.

You may notice …