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Showing posts from August, 2014

Northwest frog gets a hand from Endangered Species Act

Posted by: Fred Koontz, Vice President of Field Conservation, and Jennifer Pramuk, Animal Curator

Yesterday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told this little frog we've got its back.

Woodland Park Zoo applauds the USFWS on its official decision to extend federal protection to the Oregon spotted frog as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. This big move will go a long way in making recovery possible throughout the Oregon spotted frog’s northwest range.

Once common and widespread in Puget Sound area wetlands, the Oregon spotted frog now inhabits 10% or less of its former range in the Pacific Northwest. That loss means more than just devastation to our native frog population. As Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Acting Supervisor, Tom McDowell, noted in the announcement, the frog’s decline “signals degradation in the health of natural areas that provide for people as well as fish and wildlife.”

Celebrating a victory for Oregon spotted frogs means celeb…

Gorilla Vip recovering from successful surgery

Posted by: Caileigh Robertson, Communications

Last week, we asked for your best wishes for western lowland gorilla Vip, who has been battling a severe sinus infection. After last week’s CT scan and a critical surgery this week to treat his chronic sinus infection, the 35-year-old silverback is successfully breathing through his nose for the first time in weeks! Vip is steadily improving, and for now he is spending time behind the scenes at the gorilla exhibit, getting some extra TLC from his keepers.

After the CT scan confirmed a complicated sinus infection, we realized the 425-pound patient would require sinus surgery to drain the blockage and physically remove the majority of the infection. Although endoscopic sinus surgery is one of the most common procedures performed by physicians, it is rarely used in zoo medicine.

The procedure was successful and Dr. Darin Collins, the zoo’s Director of Animal Health, tells us he’s optimistic for a full recovery by Vip over the next few weeks. …

Mourning the loss of Watoto

UPDATE: As we all mourn the loss of Watoto, we ask that in lieu of flowers you help us honor Watoto’s memory by joining the 96 Elephants campaign to save African elephants in the wild from extinction. Take the 96 Elephants pledge at to tell state leaders we want an end to ivory sales in Washington. Share this with your friends. Thank you for helping us honor Watoto.

Most days at Woodland Park Zoo are inspired by wonder and happiness given to us by our beautiful animals. Rarely are there days we write with sad news. Today we are unable to find words to make this easier for any of us.

Earlier today, 45-year-old African elephant Watoto passed away in the care of our veterinary and animal care staff.

Around 7:00 a.m., keepers found Watoto lying in the elephant yard, unable to return to her feet. After multiple attempts to help her stand up, a piece of equipment was brought in to lift her. This attempt also failed.

Woodland Park Zoo’s Animal Health staff was present…

Health update on aging silverback gorilla

Posted by: Caileigh Robertson, Communications

UPDATE: Vip is recovering from his CT scan, which revealed findings consistent with a severe sinus infection. We are working with a consultation team led by doctors from the University of Washington Department of Otolaryngology (ears, nose and throat) to plan for a near-future surgery to resolve this infection. We’re hoping for a positive outcome for Vip and are cautiously optimistic he’ll make a full recovery. Thanks for all the positive thoughts and well wishes—it means so much to us!

Woodland Park Zoo’s 35-year-old silverback gorilla, Vip, will undergo a diagnostic procedure for treatment of a chronic sinus infection.

“In recent days, Vip has shown signs of a complicated sinus infection,” said Dr. Darin Collins, Director of Animal Health at Woodland Park Zoo. “Vip has unfortunately not responded as expected to recent treatments, which are often effective in treating a more routine nasal infection, so he will undergo a CT scan to determin…

Celebrate World Orangutan Day

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Editor

On this World Orangutan Day, we shout out to all the kids who left their handprints at the orangutan exhibit earlier this month as a pledge to save these endangered primates.

The activity, part of our Asian Wildlife Conservation Day celebrations, helped the next generation realize that the fate of orangutans is in their hands.

Orangutans are struggling to survive in the wild, their populations under threat by the loss of forests in Asia. We work with the Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Program (GPOCP), a Woodland Park Zoo Partner for Wildlife, to address the conservation crisis in the field.

The main goal of GPOCP is to work with the communities surrounding Borneo’s Gunung Palung National Park to foster sustainable stewardship of the area’s natural resources and build a future where orangutans and other wildlife can thrive alongside local villages. In this latest video, we are introduced to local artisans whose craft offers a sustainable income …

The Underturtle: An underdog story

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Editor

If Hollywood got its hands on the story of the endangered western pond turtle, we’d recognize all the tropes of a classic underdogturtle story, filled with struggle, redemption and hope.

Knocked out by predators, loss of habitat and invasive species, the western pond turtle population hit a devastating low of 150 turtles in Washington in 1990. But now, this native species is poised for a comeback. For more than two decades, Woodland Park Zoo has partnered with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Zoo and others to give these turtles a fighting chance. As part of our Living Northwest conservation program, we collect their eggs from the wild, hatch and raise them in the safety of the zoo until they are large enough to avoid invasive predators, and release the turtles into local waterways to rebuild their wild populations.

There is hope yet. Of the 2,000 turtles that have been head started and released, at least 800 have survived, now bree…

MyZoo kids rocked the Animal Observation contest!

Posted by: Kirsten Pisto, Communications

In June, we asked kids (ages 2-12) to take part in our Animal Observation contest. The participants were prompted to sit for 3 minutes to study an animal. During this time, the kids had to complete an ethogram (behavior chart) for the duration of the study. They carefully watched their subjects and then charted what they saw. They were also asked to take notes at the end of the observation as well as sketch their animal on the back of the paper.
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 this tool, 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 kids to conservation science. This activity promotes critical thinking, math, cu…

Today we deliver your 96 Elephants pledges

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Editor

When it comes to wildlife conservation, numbers tell a powerful story:

The international ivory trade fuels the killing of 35,000 African elephants a year.That’s 96 elephants killed each day, 1 every 15 minutes.The U.S. is among the largest ivory markets in the world, and we can’t put a complete end to it until we declare a moratorium on ivory sales in all 50 states.

But we have some numbers of our own to tally: 
Since July, we sought to secure 960 signatures from Washingtonians pledging never to buy, sell or trade ivory and to support a moratorium on ivory sales in the state.
On the very first day of our campaign, you beat our goal! Then the signatures kept rolling in and adding up. You signed, you shared, and now we deliver.
Today we send all 3,540+ signatures to more than 30 state, county and city officials to let them know our herd is big and growing. Our friends at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma are also gathering signatures and we’ll…

Thank you, Seattle

Posted by: Kerston Swartz, Public Affairs and Advocacy

This week, Seattle said YES to renew its commitment to 450 parks, 26 community centers, 185 athletic fields, 120+ playgrounds and one extremely thankful zoo.

With the passing of Proposition 1, Woodland Park Zoo will be able to complete major maintenance projects critical to our functionality and guest experience. A stable and dedicated funding source established by creating a voter-approved park district means we can make badly-needed upgrades to our electrical, water and other utility systems, replace aging and inefficient structures and (maybe most importantly) make strides toward our sustainability goals.

Here’s what your YES vote makes possible:

Preventing energy loss The roof of the Tropical Rain Forest (TRF) building used to look like this:

Today, it looks like this:

If you've ever walked into TRF from the outside on a cold day, the first thing you do is peel off clothing layers. That’s because the weather in TRF is kept…