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Showing posts from August, 2013

Signs of a growing giraffe calf

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications


The giraffe calf has grown nearly a foot since his birth 3 weeks ago, towering in at just about 7 feet tall now. But there’s another tell-tale sign of growth to look for: the formation of the calf’s ossicones.


Ossicones are the horn-like protuberances giraffes sport on their heads. They are formed from ossified cartilage (cartilage that has transformed into bone) and covered in skin and fur. Remember what looked like a little tuft of hair on baby when he was first born?


Those were his little ossicones, all flat and barely developed. But over the weeks they have begun to harden. You can see in these pictures at one-week-old how the ossicones are beginning to take shape.



Ultimately, they’ll stand tall and strong on his head as he matures, a sparring weapon handy for competing with other males for food or perhaps a mate.


The calf's budding ossicones hint at all that is ahead for him in the future. Treasure these early days—he may be as tall …

Report from Elephant Expert Review Panel

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


As our dear friends and supporters of the zoo, I wanted to share with you the latest news from the Elephant Task Force. This group of community leaders was recently charged with providing an objective evaluation of the health and social well-being of Woodland Park Zoo’s elephants, and an assessment of the zoo’s elephant breeding program.

Last night, the task force released a report from its Expert Review Panel comprised of six internationally recognized scientific experts in elephant care and behavioral health. The panel included respected scientific leaders from academic veterinary research and medicine, as well as animal science sectors.

The Expert Review Panel reaffirmed that Woodland Park Zoo’s elephants Watoto, Chai and Bamboo are in good medical health and the behavioral and social well-being of all three elephants is good. The panel’s report also provided an independent evaluation of the zoo’s elephant breeding program and op…

Vision-impaired snow leopard cubs teach us how to see a better world

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


Mother Nature isn’t always kind. Just as some human babies are born with congenital conditions that throw their parents for a loop, leading them to make extraordinary commitments to their children’s special needs, the same can be true for animals.

As you recall from last year’s stories, our endangered snow leopard cubs, Asha and Shanti, now 15 months old, were born with multiple ocular coloboma. This relatively rare congenital eye anomaly affects both human and non-human animals including Bengal tigers, Florida panthers, snow leopards, horses, and certain breeds of domestic cats and dogs. In Greek, coloboma means “unfinished.” The eye stops growing before it is fully developed. Ultimately, Asha and Shanti would develop functional vision only in their left eyes.

Many of you wrote to us with outpourings of encouragement and hope for the cubs’ struggle, and for the expert staff caring for them. So I’d like to update you since they took …

Checking in on Gavin the porcupine

Posted by: Caileigh Robertson, Communications
Photos by: Kirsten Pisto/Woodland Park Zoo



Gavin, our youngest porcupine, is stretching his legs and catching some rays in a spacious zoo yard, giving guests an up-close visit with—quite possibly—our cutest quilled creature.


While Gavin’s parents, Molly and Oliver, occupy the Northern Trail porcupine exhibit, Gavin takes to the zoo’s Raptor Center yard on weekdays for regular exercise and explorations under the supervision of zookeepers and staff. His visits to the Raptor Center yard are not formally scheduled, but you might catch a closer look at the pint-sized porcupine during your afternoon visits to the zoo!


At 2 months of age, keepers began to notice a decrease in his weight, which for a young growing porcupine is a cause for concern. Upon examination it was discovered that Molly wasn’t producing as much milk as Gavin needed. The young North American porcupine went through a series of tests, including a CT scan, in search of any other…

From Seattle to Mongolia: bringing together conservationists and crafters

Posted by: Terry Blumer, ZooStore
Photos by: Terry Blumer/Woodland Park Zoo


This entry is part two in a three-part seriesfrom ZooStore and retail manager, Terry Blumer, following his travels to Mongolia to help lead a conservation commerce workshop for local artisans, creating an eco-friendly income alternative to poaching in snow leopard habitat. The workshop was made possible by Woodland Park Zoo’s Partner for Wildlife, Snow Leopard Trust. Conservation Commerce products are available in the zoo's two ZooStores.

Getting there...let the adventure begin!

How does one begin to pack for an adventure in Mongolia? For starters, I need to make sure I know luggage restrictions. Sleeping bag? Check. Raingear and hiking boots? Check. Nifty, new solar charger for gadgets? Check. ATV tires? Che...wait, what?! Yes, I read that email correctly. "Would you mind checking an extra bag and box of donated ATV tires for our Mongolian office?" asked Gina Robertson, Snow Leopard Trust's (…

Otter pups taking baby steps into outdoors

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications
Photos by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.



Everyone is busy getting the Asian small-clawed otter pups ready for their outdoor debut. Mom and dad have been teaching the pups how to swim in a shallow, indoor pool in their behind-the-scenes den. Zookeepers have been baby-proofing the outdoor exhibit—adding ramps made from branches to the water and slowing the stream and waterfall down to a trickle so the pups don’t wipe out.


All is set. Now we just need to get the pups to come outside for a little practice time. That’s proving to be the hardest part.


Last Tuesday morning, mom Teratai guided her pups out onto exhibit to give them a chance to explore the outdoors for the first time.


She ushered the pups out and as she was busy trying to get them to head towards the water with her, overprotective dad Guntur would come around and usher them right back inside! He’s very cautious with the pups and it may take him a little while before he feels comfortabl…

Video games for the earth?

Posted by: Jessie Maxwell, Education


There are more than 5 million people worldwide who go geocaching as a hobby, and this summer Woodland Park Zoo’s Zoo University “Animal Quest” camp added a few more!

“I’ve never actually done geocaching, but once I’ve gotten to go geocaching I ended up absolutely loving it and want to do it more.” - Alexis L., age 13.
It all started with an effort to get Animal Quest campers (ages 12-14) to step into the shoes of a wildlife field researcher: a scientist who does a lot of animal and habitat experiments in the field. The campers explored different tools each day that different wildlife field researchers use—everything from water testing tablets to binoculars to different types of nets to GPS units. As hydrologists the kids tested Green Lake’s chemical and biological health. As ornithologists (bird scientists) they helped the staff monitor and count the barn swallows living here at the zoo.
One day the campers put their research skills to action and r…

Giraffe baby cam goes live

Posted by: Gigi Allianic, Communications



At just 1 week old, Woodland Park Zoo’s male baby giraffe has become an overnight sensation, and now, it just gets better. Giraffe fans can get their daily fix of the tallest baby in Seattle through a live 24/7 animal cam, courtesy of Dropcam.


The live cam is installed behind the scenes in the giraffe barn and allows the public to watch the calf nursing, bonding with mom and doing what babies do…sleep. The best viewing times for the live cam are between 4:00 p.m. and 10:00 a.m. PST.

The baby giraffe was born August 6 to 6-year-old Olivia, a first-time mom. Born at 6 feet tall, he now stands at 6 feet, 4 inches and continues to thrive under the care of his mom. Olivia has been an excellent mom and the baby’s progressing on the mark. He’s playful and is beginning to sample hay, grain and leaves, which you can sometimes view from the cam.

Mom and the baby now have access to the outdoor corral beginning around 11:00 a.m. daily and are given the cho…

Roses a sweet treat for gorillas

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications


Roses may symbolize love and beauty to us, but to our gorillas, they symbolize snack time! Thanks to the organic methods our gardeners use in the Woodland Park Rose Garden, any trimmings of our blooms are perfectly edible and safe to eat for our gorillas.

In the summer, as the more than 3,000 rose plants in the nearly 90-year-old Rose Garden bloom, the zoo’s gardeners deadhead the plants, which means they remove old, spent blooms to keep the overall plant blooming longer. That waste could be composted, but zookeepers love to get their hands on the blooms to use as enrichment with our plant-eaters, most especially the gorillas!

The petals make their way into the gorilla exhibit two or three times a week in the summer at various hours to keep it interesting and unexpected for the apes. This week, we visited the gorillas on a Monday morning and watched the blooms and petals rain down on the gorillas as keepers sprinkled the flowers into the exhi…