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Friday, May 30, 2014

New porcupine baby video: the perfect TGIF treat

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

Porcupine baby, Marty, and her stick. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

When you’re a porcupine baby, if you've got a stick, you've got a party.

Look for our 8-week-old female porcupette, Marty, on exhibit in the Northern Trail. You'll see her there with mom, Molly. The two are doing well!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Restoring Sight for Sita

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications with Laura McComesky, Zookeeper

Lion-tailed macaque, Sita, gets up close to her keeper’s camera. Photo by Andy Antilla/Woodland Park Zoo.

Monkey see, monkey do—and it's all thanks to cataract surgery that has successfully restored vision and quality of life to 29-year-old lion-tailed macaque, Sita (SEE-tah).

Going blind wasn't easy for Sita. In February, keepers first noticed in one of Sita’s eyes the tell-tale cloudiness characteristic of a cataract. Soon it was both eyes. The cataracts came on fast and worsened quickly, giving Sita very little time to adjust to this drastic change.

Sita’s left pupil was the first to appear cloudy in February 2014. Photo by Andy Antilla/Woodland Park Zoo.

As her eyesight disappeared, Sita struggled to do everyday tasks. Woodland Park Zoo’s lion-tailed macaque exhibit reflects the endangered species’ Indian forest habitat, with complex, arboreal pathways that suddenly became too challenging for Sita to navigate. At that point, she was moved behind the scenes where she could receive more close attention from her keepers.

Sita on exhibit. Photo courtesy of Harold Fox.

But even there she struggled. Sita's keepers would settle in next to the mesh divider to offer her a meal, and then wait patiently for 20, sometimes 30 minutes while she slowly, cautiously made her way over.  Not only had she lost her sight, but the experience also rocked her confidence. It was clear that the cataracts were affecting her quality of life as much as her vision.

Thankfully, there was hope. Our animal health team consulted with veterinary ophthalmologist Dr. Tom Sullivan at the Animal Eye Clinic of Seattle, and together determined that Sita was a good candidate for cataract surgery.

What exactly is a cataract? It’s a clouding of the lens—the part of the eye that focuses light—not uncommon in old age as proteins in the eye clump together. Cataract surgery is the removal of the clouded lens, which is sometimes followed by the installation of an artificial lens.

Cross-sectional view of right human eye. Courtesy of National Institutes of Health.

You've undoubtedly heard of this condition before as it occurs in humans and across the animal kingdom. In fact, just a few weeks ago, the zoo partnered with Dr. Sullivan to remove a cataract from a peregrine falcon's eye.

These kinds of health issues that are ubiquitous across the animal kingdom—cataracts, cancer, heart disease—will be the topic of the Zoobiquity conference at the University of Washington and Woodland Park Zoo this fall. We’re seeking to bring together human and animal health professionals to share knowledge and experiences. Sita's story is exactly the kind of case study that can unite doctors across the fields.

Sita at the animal hospital for her procedure. Photo by Andy Antilla/Woodland Park Zoo.

It took only a few minutes per eye to complete Sita’s procedure inside the zoo’s animal hospital. After Sita was anesthetized under the care of our veterinary team, Dr. Sullivan carefully removed the opaque lens from each eye using gentle suction.

A close up of Sita’s eyes. Photo by Andy Antilla/Woodland Park Zoo.

Once Sita awoke from sedation, zookeepers transferred her back to a holding area in the exhibit for further recovery. 

It didn’t take long before our hopes were affirmed—the monkey started to show signs of seeing once again! Since she no longer has eye lenses, Sita’s vision is not focused. But it still has made a notable difference in her ability to detect her surroundings and interact with others. 

To help Sita through her recovery, the keepers kept her behind the scenes with them for a few days while she finished up her post-surgery medication. We knew Sita was back to her old self when she was savvy enough to realize we were trying to sneak meds in her food. Turns out if you slip the medication into cookie mix, even tough-willed Sita can't resist.

Sita on exhibit. Photo courtesy of Harold Fox.

Sita has since returned back on exhibit and for the first time in months is able to navigate around on her own. She shares the exhibit with two males and one other female, Brie. Brie is a livewire compared to Sita, the laid back one. The two are figuring out their relationship all over again as Sita bounces back from her ordeal. She was once much more confident, but losing her sight for a time and going through recovery has made her more timid and tentative. Keepers expect her confidence will return as she readjusts to her sighted life.

For Sita, things are looking good.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

MyZoo Kids: Animal Observations Contest

Posted by: Kirsten Pisto, Communications

Calling all junior conservation researchers!

Junior Rangers check camera traps with Paso Pacifico in the Nicaraguan rain forest. Part of their data will help researchers to better understand carnivores such as jaguars and ocelots. Photo courtesy of Paso Pacifico.

What is it like to be a conservation researcher in the field? A big part of studying the behavior of animals is being very patient and waiting a long time (sometimes hours, sometimes days!) for animals to make a move. Researchers chart the behaviors they observe to gather enough data for their scientific investigations.

Field researchers use ethograms to document animal behavior. An ethogram is a chart which displays a list of possible behaviors as well as a timeline. Using an ethogram, researchers can quickly document the minute-by-minute actions and behaviors of an observation subject. Researchers also rely on sketching and drawing, or photography to supplement their notes.

Practicing backyard animal observations is a great way to introduce your kiddos to conservation science. This activity promotes critical thinking, math, curiosity, creativity and most of all, patience!

We want to see your kids’ animal behavior research! (And we have a pretty awesome incentive.)

Enter for a chance to win the grand prize: an overnight zoo campout experience for your kid and their favorite adult on August 1, 2014. Two lucky runners up will receive a zoo animal plush.

All kids ages 2-12 years old are encouraged to enter and parents are encouraged to assist in research and provide expedition snacks and supervision.

How to enter

  • Enter the contest by downloading the ethogram template and printing it out. 
  • Bring the template with you to the zoo, on your next hike or even in your own backyard.
  • Follow the directions on the template to complete the 3-minute ethogram and animal behavior notes. Then draw (or tape a photo) of your animal on the back of the same page. 
  • When you are finished, mail your template to the zoo:
MyZoo Kids c/o Pisto, Woodland Park Zoo, 601 N. 59th Street, Seattle, WA 98103 or drop off at any zoo membership office by June 30, 2014.
See complete rules and guidelines. Entries are due by Friday, June 30, 2014.

These kiddos are checking in on remote cameras which they have helped set up in hopes of catching a glimpse of either a jaguar or an ocelot. Photo courtesy of Paso Pacifico.

Field researchers check a camera trap on the savanna. Photo courtesy of Tarangire Elephant Project.

For young children: Assist younger children by asking questions like “What is the animal doing now?” Help them fill out the ethogram chart and then let them get creative with the drawing portion of the contest.

Hey parents! Help your kids by using a stopwatch or timer to track each stage of the chart. Give kids a “ready, set, go…” to prompt their observations.

Materials you will need 
  • Printed Animal Observations Contest template
  • A good spot to sit and observe your animal
  • Pencil
  • Small camera or drawing pad
  • Stopwatch/cell phone with timer function
  • Envelope and stamp to mail in your entry

Good luck to our junior researchers out there!

Setting up field observations with the help of a video camera. Photo courtesy of Mbeli Bai Gorilla Project.

Thomas Breuer prepares for a field expedition on the bank of the Sangha River.  Photo courtesy of Mbeli Bai Gorilla Project.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Watch zebra and giraffe on new Savanna Cam

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

What will you spot on the Savanna Cam today? Streaming live from Woodland Park Zoo’s award-winning African Savanna exhibit, our newest cam looks north over the exhibit plains from the African school house. Here you'll find the zoo’s giraffe, oryx, zebra, gazelle and ostrich, a mixed community of species that are naturally found together in the dry grasslands of Africa.

The camera runs 24/7 and the best viewing is from dawn 'til dusk. In this video clip, you'll get a little preview of what you'll see on the cam. Tune into the Savanna Cam live stream for a real-time look at the savanna.

VIDEO: Giraffe checks out the new Savanna Cam.

When watching, look for highlights on the savanna including:

Giraffe calf Misawa

Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Though he towers over the grazers around him, nearly one-year-old giraffe calf Misawa is notably smaller than his mother Olivia and aunt Tufani. Look for the giraffes to be stretching tall to browse from tree-top feeders throughout the exhibit. On days of inclement weather, the giraffes can more likely be found in their heated barn, better viewed through the Giraffe Barn Cam.

Feeding behaviors

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

It’s three square meals a day for us, but for the grazers of the African Savanna, they are surrounded by an all-day buffet. Look for the zebra, oryx and gazelle to be grazing from the grasses throughout the day. As each prefers something a little different—taller grass for some, shoots and short grass for others—they can share their meals without competition.

The mix of species out on the savanna hints at the incredible biodiversity of African wildlife. With support from visitors and members like you, Woodland Park Zoo collaborates with a variety of conservation organizations that share one mission: to protect the endangered native species of Africa and preserve their habitats.
Woodland Park Zoo works with the Tarangire Elephant Project and other collaborators for African wildlife conservation. Photo by Mustafa Hassanali/Tarangire Elephant Project.
From saving the tiny Egyptian tortoise to the enormous African elephant, catch up with the conservation collaborators we work with through the zoo's Partners for Wildlife and Wildlife Survival Fund programs.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Take the quiz: Are you bear-smart?

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

With Memorial Day weekend upon us, many will kick off the summer season with a camping trip. Before you head out on your adventure, challenge yourself with this bear-smart quiz to see if you are a bear-smart camper.

Whatever your score, you'll see and learn so much more about coexisting with Northwest wildlife when you join us for Bear Affair: Living Northwest Conservation presented by Brown Bear Car Wash on Sat., June 7.

Grizzly bears Keema and Denali will show us what happens when you do not take safety precautions in your backyard or when hiking or camping in bear country. Zookeepers and conservation experts will be on hand to give you safety tips. Plus we'll spotlight the incredible native wildlife all around us, from bears to butterflies, and share ways you can join our Living Northwest program to conserve Washington's wildlife.

So tell us: how did you score?

Monday, May 19, 2014

What do bowling, curling and rhinos have in common? You!

Posted by: Puget Sound Chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers

Photo by Jodi Shaw.

It’s almost time for the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK) annual rhino conservation fundraiser, Bowling for Rhinos. But this year, the Puget Sound chapter of AAZK is going to try something a little different.

We’ll be curling for rhinos!

WHEN: Sat., June 7, 4:30 – 9:30 p.m. We will have two shifts for curling; 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. and 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. (choose one or the other)
WHERE: Granite Curling Club of Seattle, 1440 N 128th Street, Seattle, WA.
COST: $20 just to eat/hang out (party only) and watch the fun or $30 to curl and eat (plus a small online registration fee)

This is your opportunity to demonstrate your support for endangered rhinos and the worldwide effort to conserve endangered species. Please remember that when these animals are gone, it's forever; there is no bringing them back.

You can help the Puget Sound AAZK achieve its goal of raising $13,000 by any one of three ways:
1) Register for curling. As with all of our Bowling for Rhinos fundraisers, participants are asked to raise a minimum of $30 in sponsorship. Prizes will be awarded to the two participants at our event who raise the most in sponsor dollars.

2) Register to come to the party, hang out with us and show your support. This includes access to a taco bar, supplied by Pecado Bueno in Fremont, a raffle and bingo, and a marketplace where we’ll be selling t-shirts, Northwest Cellars Wine, Endangered Species Chocolate, and custom Curling for Rhinos scarves!

3) Can't make it to the event? Find a participant on our PSAAZK webpage and make a donation in their name. Registration and Donations can be made at psaazk.org and at brownpapertickets.com.

Help strike out extinction at the Puget Sound chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers 2014 Curling for Rhinos fundraiser.

This event is a great opportunity to try curling because Granite Curling Club is a members-only club not normally open to the general public. Don’t worry about whether or not you or others know how to curl, because an hour of instruction on the ice is included as part of the event. Sign up early to secure one of only 80 spots (40 curlers per shift).

Photo by Kerr Bachus.

About the Event

Each year the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK) sponsors Bowling for Rhinos, a fundraising bowl-a-thon. Over 60 AAZK chapters participate throughout the U.S. and Canada. Bowling for Rhinos provides zoo keepers of the world an avenue to raise funds and awareness for rhino and habitat conservation.

The beauty of the idea is that these fundraisers are organized by volunteers, who donate their time and organizational skills to help raise money to send directly to the places in need. Since all the people involved are volunteers, 100% of all donations are sent directly to these in situ rhino conservation areas!

Bowling for Rhinos began on a small scale and is now the signature conservation effort of AAZK. Events across North America raise over $300,000 annually. In 1990, AAZK began by supporting the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy (formerly Ngare Sergoi Rhino Sanctuary) in Kenya and has since expanded the program.

Photo by Elizabeth Gray.

What does Bowling for Rhinos support?

In Kenya, Bowling for Rhinos supports the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy where our donations help protect both black and white rhinos and most of the other species native to East Africa.

In Indonesia, Bowling for Rhinos supports the remaining Javan rhinos at Ujung Kulon National Park, and the Sumatran rhinos in Bukit Barisan Selatan and Way Kambas National Parks through the International Rhino Foundation.

Bowling for Rhinos also supports Action for Cheetahs in Kenya. Cheetahs share much of the same habitat as rhinos and by working to conserve cheetahs we are also saving rhinos and the countless other species that call that habitat home.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Box turtle hatching caught on camera

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

On this Endangered Species Day, we celebrate nature's latest gift to us—a critically endangered Indochinese box turtle baby, newly hatched before our eyes and thriving.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Our zookeepers put long hours into incubating eggs, maintaining a warm, safe environment for those about to hatch. When they are lucky, they get to see the big payoff happen before their eyes!

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

This month, we were there to greet an Indochinese box turtle as it hatched into the world. Using its egg tooth (the pointy tip you can see best in the photo below), it broke through the shell when it was ready to hatch after 78 days of incubation. At only about an inch and a half in length, the little fella is too small for any of the exhibit spaces we have in the Day Exhibit, so for now, it’s being reared behind the scenes.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Zookeepers are especially excited about this tiny addition, as it marks the first hatching of this critically endangered species at our zoo. And that’s even more important when you realize there are only 19 Indochinese box turtles in North American zoos in total! The hatching marks a triumph for a species struggling to survive in a world where almost 50% of known turtle species are listed as “Threatened.”

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

The Indochinese (or flowerback) box turtle is native to China and Vietnam where its populations are plummeting due to over collection as food and as an ingredient for traditional medicine. Turtles have been around for 220 million years and survived the massive extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs. Yet these ancient survivors are now going extinct faster than any other group of terrestrial vertebrates.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

It’s not too late. Every time you visit the zoo, you make it possible for us to support conservation projects in the field, like the Turtle Survival Alliance and the Egyptian Tortoise Conservation Program, or our homegrown Western Pond Turtle Recovery Project, part of the Living Northwest conservation program.

Take Action for Turtles

You can continue the work at home in your own community. Native turtles need clean water, safe places to nest, and a healthy food supply to survive. You can help make these things possible by taking a few simple actions at home:

Clean Gardening
Keep turtles' water clean by reducing or eliminating chemical pesticides from your gardening practices. Pesticides get into water, and once water flows away from your garden, it eventually empties into surrounding water systems, from freshwater ponds to the Puget Sound, bringing contaminants into wildlife habitat.

Habitat Restoration
Make a better home for native wildlife: Join a habitat restoration program in your community, or start in your own backyard by using native plants that nourish and support local wildlife rather than compete with it. Don't miss our Backyard Habitat classes for hands-on lessons you can apply at home or in your community.

What will you pledge to do for turtles?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The amazing spider, man

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications, with Sue Andersen, Zookeeper

It seems like every time we do a spider story, someone gets mad at us for having to see these creatures on their screen. But we’re going to help you learn to love spiders, starting with these baby golden orb weavers seen here at just one hour old!

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Spiders are good people. We talked with zookeeper, Sue Andersen, to get the scoop on these amazing critters on the occasion of the third egg case hatching in Bug World in the past two weeks.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Seen here are golden orb weaver spiderlings, fresh out of their egg case. According to Sue, “spiders actually develop from eggs into what is termed post-embryos (affectionately called ‘eggs with legs’ by arachnologists!) within the safety of their egg case. By the time they emerge from their egg case, they are first instar (or stage) as these guys and gals are. At this stage they are looking more like baby spiders. Some species of both true spiders (such as these Nephila inaurata madagascariensis) and primitive spiders (such as tarantulas) molt into second instar before emerging, depending on their species.”

An egg case contains 50-100 spiderlings. Sue tells us, “these spiderlings will continue to clump together until they molt again, then they will disperse, having the ability to each make a perfect orb web of its own.”

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

The silk of this species is so strong that it is sometimes used as fishing line by people living in the spider’s native Africa.  Members of the genus Nephila are found on several continents, including the beautiful Nephila clavipes found in our southern states.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Like all spiders, the golden orb weaver is a great natural pest control of flies, mosquitos, and agricultural pests. In Bug World, Sue provides care for the spiderlings, feeding them first fruit flies, then houseflies, and eventually crickets. She gives them a fine misting of clean water each day to drink from, which they let drip down their little legs before bringing it up to their mouths.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

The golden orb weaver is probably the most memorable display in the Bug World exhibit—it’s the spider that hangs out on its web with no glass between the animal and the visitor. Some of the female spiderlings may go on display as adults, while others will remain behind the scenes in the Bug World lab as part of the breeding colony. Sue’s true love of spiders breaks through as she tells us that still others will move to other accredited conservation zoos to “establish and safeguard their own precious colonies of this amazing, beautiful, and charismatic arachnid.”

Monday, May 12, 2014

A bow of gratitude to zoo and parks supporters

Posted by: Laura Lockard, Public Affairs

After many weeks of deliberation and receiving public comments and testimony, Seattle City Council voted unanimously to place a Seattle Park District on the August 5th ballot. Your calls, emails and testimonies made this happen—and for this we offer a deep bow of thanks.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

What a park district means for Seattle

In August, Seattleites will have the opportunity to vote YES to fund critical maintenance projects for Seattle’s parks and the zoo, including structural seismic and building upgrades to our exhibits, and infrastructure improvements that will move us closer to our sustainability goals. If voters approve this measure, the major backlog of maintenance, upkeep and operations of the 6,000 acres of city parklands, including the zoo, would no longer be neglected due to budget cuts and competition with the city’s other important services. A Seattle Park District would create a dedicated funding source for the zoo and parks for generations to come.

What’s next

As a zoo and parks visitor, you might be interested in learning how a park district works. Want to do more? Consider throwing a block party, talking to your friends and neighbors about the vote or volunteering. Stay on top of the latest news by signing up for ZooAction alerts.

How to launch a summer of hard work? With a party, of course! We hope you will join us at the campaign kick-off celebration on May 15 at 5:30 p.m. at the Yesler Community Center. Click here to RSVP.

Once again, thank you for all of your support. Together, we will keep the zoo and our parks the true gems of Seattle!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Pouch checks reveal incredible first stages of a joey’s life

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

This is a tale of two joeys:

A 7-month-old wallaby who is just emerging from its mother’s pouch…

Wallaby joey peeks out of the pouch. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

…and a nearly 4-month-old wallaroo who is giving us a whole new perspective on what goes on inside the pouch.

What we've seen will amaze you. 

Let’s take a closer look at the developmental stages of the two joeys. 

Wallaby Joey Emerges

A hand, an ear, a nose—for the last few months, we have kept a close eye out for any sign of the latest wallaby joey emerging from its mother’s pouch. Born the size of a lima bean back in October, our newest wallaby joey has finally begun to peek out!

Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

You can see it still has quite a bit of developing left to do. Soon the joey will grow in a furry coat and spend more time peeking out. As we head into summer, we’ll see the baby eventually begin to take little trips outside of mom’s pouch, returning for feedings. 

Inside the Pouch of a Wallaroo

Here’s where things get awesome. Another joey—a wallaroo born in January—isn’t quite at the same developmental level as the emerging wallaby joey. The wallaroo joey is still tucked away securely in mom’s pouch. But our dedicated zookeepers have been doing pouch checks during the joey’s first few weeks to keep an eye on its development and to document the little-seen earliest stages of a joey’s life. 

It all starts with trust. Keepers have been working with wallaroo mom, Tullah, to get her comfortable with up-close, hands-on care. This means that when it’s time for medical exams or special care, Tullah is already at ease in the presence of her keepers. Without this early training, the pouch checks would never have been possible.  

Zookeeper Wendy Gardner began the pouch checks when the joey was just under 2 weeks old, and has continued to do them about once a week throughout its development. The system is simple, but has yielded amazing results.

Step One: Yam Time
Wendy and her fellow keeper, Allison Barr, head into the wallaroo’s indoor den and offer Tullah a favorite treat—yam. Even this step took some experimenting to get right. Yams cut too small made Tullah more likely to hunch over while eating. A lengthy slice encourages her to sit up while munching, putting her in the perfect position for a pouch check.

Step Two: Opening the pouch
Wearing a headlamp for illumination, Wendy gently touches around the pouch and then eases it open slowly to get a look inside. The headgear sheds light on what’s happening inside the dark, warm and humid pouch environment.

Step Three: Observe and Document
While Wendy holds the pouch slightly open, Allison snaps photographs and the two observe the joey’s latest developments. They are looking to see that it is growing steadily, and also tracking what has changed. For example, fingers that were a fleshy blob at first started to become distinct digits in later weeks, and by day 55, keepers could see little nails forming on the fingers. 

Shedding new light on these earliest stages of development will ultimately help scientists better understand a species that is so unlike our own when it comes to infant development. Wendy and Allison hope to eventually document and share their findings with others to increase the body of knowledge out there and help shape best practices when it comes to the care of these fascinating animals.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

24th Annual Mom & Me

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

Celebrate moms of all species with us at the 24th annual Mom & Me presented by Verity Credit Union, Sat., May 10, 2014, 9:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Moms get half off admission during the event and families can look for fun activities throughout the day, including live performances on the North Meadow, keeper talks focused on wildlife moms, and a scavenger hunt that could win you a flight tour for two from Kenmore Air!

Ready to round up the family and plan an outing? Send a free Mother's Day e-card to make your plans. Here's just a little taste of the e-card designs you can choose from:

Friday, May 2, 2014

Sky-High Enrichment for Giraffe Family

Posted by: Kirsten Pisto, Communications

Giraffe calf Misawa browsing. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Giraffes are the tallest browsers in the world, reaching up to the tip-top of acacia trees on the African savanna. The acacia leaves themselves are packed with water, so the giraffes can go a long time without drinking. In the wild, giraffes spend most of their day nibbling on these leaves, a slow process because they can only grab a few leaves in each bite. They can eat up to 75 pounds of leaves in a single day. That is a lot of browsing! At the zoo, keepers provide our giraffes with special, sky-high enrichment in their indoor barn to encourage their browsing instinct. We stopped by the giraffe barn on a soggy spring day to check out some of their indoor activities.

Our video host, Jordan Veasley, spoke with keeper Katie Ahl about the importance of recreating the wild browsing experience. In the video below you can see Katie and Jordan prepare bucket enrichment for the giraffes. Then Katie asks Jordan to participate in a high-level zookeeper activity, which Katie calls “being the tree.”

If you look closely you can see the sticky saliva that assists the giraffes in coating any thorns they might swallow, allowing them to digest the prickles without injuring their gut. Their tongues are extremely dexterous, able to reach the most elusive leaf. You can see they are a dark color too, helping protect the tongue from harsh sunlight; after all it is exposed for a majority of the day.

Our three giraffes, including baby Misawa, spend some of their time indoors when it is very rainy. The majority of their time is spent outdoors on the savanna with zebra, ostrich, gazelle and oryx. 

Giraffes at Woodland Park Zoo dine on acacia leaves, hay, carrots, lettuce and special biscuits. Want to make a people version of giraffe enrichment? Try this giraffe-inspired summer salad recipe!

Giraffe Summer Salad


  • 3 cups of kale and butter lettuce (chopped or shredded)
  • ½ cup shredded carrots
  • ¼ cup raisins 
  • ¼ cup pistachio nuts (crushed or whole)
  • Handful of your favorite veggies such as cucumber or red bell peppers, sliced thinly 
  • 2 cups black-eyed peas (cooked)

For the dressing:

  • ¼ teaspoon minced ginger
  • ¼ cup minced onions
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1 serrano pepper (chopped in tiny bits)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lime or lemon juice
  • Pinch of sea salt

Stir together dressing ingredients, be sure to crush the cilantro and pepper (using a mortar and pestle if you have one). Toss the mix over the salad. For a real giraffe enrichment experience, you can place the salad in a tree, but we recommend finding a sunny picnic spot instead. Enjoy!