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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Update: Elephants doing well at San Diego Zoo

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Editor

Chai and Bamboo continue to do well at San Diego Zoo, a temporary stop on their way to meet their new family at Oklahoma City Zoo. The girls are together in San Diego Zoo’s elephant quarantine area, which includes indoor rooms and an outdoor yard. Quarantine is standard for any animal newly arriving to an accredited zoo. Woodland Park Zoo keepers are with Chai and Bamboo providing them daily care.

In addition to the bulking quantities of hay, grain and produce the elephants consume each day, San Diego Zoo staff has been collecting browse plants for Chai and Bamboo, just as they were used to at Woodland Park Zoo. Yesterday’s flavor of the day—elm—was a big hit.

Bamboo especially has been enjoying the hunt for hidden peanut butter balls, and the two have been chowing down on frozen nectar and fruit-sicles as well. Chai has discovered the water sprinkler in the yard and likes to stand under it when it gets sunny out. They give themselves sand baths and take naps side by side in the middle of the day.

At San Diego Zoo.

We are so grateful to our friends at San Diego Zoo for providing accommodations for Chai and Bamboo during this temporary stop. We are now working with our colleagues at San Diego Zoo and Oklahoma City Zoo and with an expert animal transporter to make plans for getting back on the road when everyone is ready and the logistics are all lined up.

In the meantime, we want to take the opportunity to address some of the misinformation out there and help add clarity to the conflicting reports you may be hearing. We invite you to read through our newest edition of Setting the Record Straight.

Here in Washington state, conservation efforts for elephants continue with the launch this week of signature gathering for Initiative 1401. Woodland Park Zoo has joined a conservation coalition to develop I-1401 in order to prohibit and seek to increase penalties for wildlife trafficking in products made from endangered species including elephants. Look for signature gatherers in your community to help get the initiative on the November ballot.

We will continue to share updates here as news develops, and we deeply appreciate your continued support.

ZooCrew middle school students explore NW conservation

Posted by: Stacey Hammond, Education

This past winter, ZooCrew students learned about the conservation issues that face the Northwest and designed projects to address those issues. All of these projects highlighted how climate change is affecting animals. From bats to birds to wolverines and wolves, check out some of the projects from the Mercer, Denny, and Washington Middle School ZooCrew students below.

Bat Houses

Students from all three schools made bat houses, which will be hung up on zoo grounds. Bats are an important part of a healthy ecosystem. Unfortunately, due to habitat loss, bat populations have decreased. By building bat houses, the students are helping create safe homes for bats.

Denny Middle School students.

Mercer Middle School students.

Mercer Middle School students.

Mercer Middle School students.

Washington Middle School students.

Backyard Bird Counts

Another project highlighted bird conservation. Students observed birds in their neighborhood and recorded their data on the citizen science website, eBird, which “has revolutionized the way that the birding community reports and accesses information about birds. [...] eBird provides rich data sources for basic information on bird abundance and distribution at a variety of spatial and temporal scales. […] The observations of each participant join those of others in an international network of eBird users. eBird then shares these observations with a global community of educators, land managers, ornithologists, and conservation biologists. In time these data will become the foundation for a better understanding of bird distribution across the western hemisphere and beyond.

Denny Middle School students.

Washington Middle School students.

Mercer Middle School students.

Wildlife Mapping

In an effort to learn more about how climate change affects animals and illustrate its impact on their distribution in the Northwest, students from the three schools researched and designed maps depicting the change in their distribution over time. The students hope to raise awareness about how animals like wolves and wolverines are affected by declining snow pack, habitat loss, and food or resource depletion.

Thanakorn and Tommy from Washington Middle School mapped out gray wolf populations. Check out their maps here: Washington MS Mapping Project

Maraki and Ryan from Denny Middle School mapped out wolverine populations. Check out their blog post to find out what they learned: Denny MS Mapping Project

Bailey and Finnian from Mercer Middle School found that wolverine populations have increased over time due to increased protection and hunting bans. Although their populations are increasing, they learned that climate change could have an impact on wolverine populations in the future. See their maps here: Mercer MS Mapping Project

Zoo Visit

The students also visited the zoo on April 11 and shared their projects with the ZooCrew students from other schools, their families, ZooCorps teen volunteers and interns, and staff from their school and the zoo.

As the students gear up for the spring quarter, we look forward to seeing how they connect these local projects and issues to global conservation work and issues affecting the tropical rain forest. You can begin exploring the issues by learning more about Woodland Park Zoo's Living Northwest conservation projects and our internationally focused Partners for Wildlife conservation program.

Congratulations ZooCrew on another successful quarter!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Hey, Washington state! Vote YES to save endangered animals

Posted by: Kerston Swartz, Public Affairs and Advocacy Manager

Today Woodland Park Zoo and our campaign partners announced Initiative 1401, a citizens’ initiative to strengthen laws banning sales of endangered species products in Washington state. In November, the people of Washington will be able to vote YES on I-1401, and significantly decrease our state’s contribution to the current unprecedented rate of tiger, elephant, rhino and lion poaching.

Pangolin: Boniface Osujaki/Tarangire Elephant Project, a Woodland Park Zoo Partner for Wildlife. African elephant: Peter Steward via Flickr. Malayan tiger: Razak Abu Bakar via Flickr. Rhino: Jim Frost via Flickr.

These wild animals don’t roam our state, but parts of them certainly make their way into the U.S. and to our region. Washingtonians will not spot a lion stalking its prey on the San Juan Islands or see a rhino charging the wheat fields of the Palouse, but we might have the opportunity to buy an ivory trinket in Tacoma or a tiger claw in Seattle. I-1401 will make the sale of these precious products illegal, considerably decreasing the demand in Washington state and helping to stop the senseless killing of animals fighting for their survival.

African elephants are killed at a rate of 96 a day; the U.S. is among the largest ivory markets in the world. Photo by Julie Larsen Maher/Wildlife Conservation Society.  

Earlier this year, Woodland Park Zoo’s 96 Elephants campaign worked to pass legislation banning the sales of ivory and rhino horn in Washington, but opposition was strong and the bill failed. Now we’re taking the decision from Olympia and putting it into the hands of the people of Washington. This decision is your hands, and the hands of your family, neighbors and community. 

Which one is truly precious?

More about I-1401: if passed, I-1401 will outlaw all sales of endangered species parts within the state of Washington. The list of protected animals under this legislation is significant: elephants, rhinos, tigers, lions, leopards, cheetahs, pangolins, marine turtles, sharks and rays will be protected. These animals are the most trafficked species threatened with extinction according to illegal wildlife product seizure data.

There are exceptions for bona fide antiques, musical instruments and items gifted for educational purposes, among others. 

With the opening of Banyan Wilds, we've been talking a lot about tiger conservation and our work to save big cats from extinction. We are tremendously excited at the opportunity to get behind I-1401 and to fight for one of our institution’s core values.

A tiger caught on film by a remote camera trap set up in the Malaysian field site of our tiger conservation project. Poaching is a major threat to tigers, and the illegal trade in tiger parts fuels the poaching crisis. 

You can help! Look for signature gatherers at the grocery store, and sign the petition to get I-1401 on the ballot. Then on November 3, please vote YES on I-1401.

We can come together as one state and one voice and declare that Washington will not stand down as these magnificent animals are so swiftly erased from the planet. It’s in our hands, Washington. It’s time to do our part to save elephants, lions, sharks and more, for generations and generations to come.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Meet the Malayan tigers: Liem, Eko & Olan

Posted by Kirsten Pisto, Communications

Last week we shared a sneak peek of the new Malayan tiger and sloth bear exhibit Banyan Wilds (opening May 2). Now let’s take a closer look at the three tigers who have been keeping our horticulture crew busy (see evidence below) as they taste test out their new digs. 

Our young tigers use all of their senses to get the dirt on their new space. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Liem, Eko and Olan arrived at Woodland Park Zoo in March and will make their debut when the new exhibit opens. The three brothers and their sister were born November 12, 2013 to Malayan tigers Liku and Suhana at Little Rock Zoo. Since their arrival the boys have been getting to know their keepers, exploring the new exhibit and testing out all of its features—especially the tiger stream. At one and a half years old, the young male tigers are curious, playful and especially interested in their keepers and still fascinated with each other.

One by one, here are a few deets on the new tiger boys:


Most likely to hog the tiger stream, Liem loves to play in the water. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

NAME: Liem – a name of Vietnamese origin meaning “sincere, honest, or genuine.” 
WEIGHT: 200 lb.
FAVORITE SNACK: Hard boiled eggs are this tiger’s favorite!
FAVORITE ACTIVITY OR PART OF THE EXHIBIT: Liem loves the water and is most likely to take the plunge this summer.
DISTINGUISHING MARKS OR BEHAVIORS: Liem has more solid bars above his eyes, his markings almost look like a π symbol, so if you’re a math nerd he’ll be easy to spot!


Eko has his eyes on his brothers. You'll find him keeping them in check from the highest perch in the exhibit. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

NAME: Eko – a name of Indonesian origin meaning “first child.” This name was selected since Eko was part of the first litter of cubs born to parents Suhana and Liku at Little Rock Zoo.
WEIGHT: 220 lb.
FAVORITE SNACK: Eko is pretty into bones… gnawing, chewing and licking!
FAVORITE ACTIVITY OR PART OF THE EXHIBIT: You’ll find this king-of-the-hill up high on rocks or perches; he’s happiest with an extended view of the yard.
DISTINGUISHING MARKS OR BEHAVIORS: Eko has light vertical lines between his eyes.


Olan is pretty infatuated with his brothers, so you'll find him trying to start the tiger wrestling matches. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

NAME: Olan - a name of Thai origin meaning “great.”
WEIGHT: 200 lb.
FAVORITE SNACK: Evaporated milk
FAVORITE ACTIVITY OR PART OF THE EXHIBIT: You’ll see Olan playing with his brothers; this rough-houser loves a good wrestling match and is sure to stick close to his best buds.
DISTINGUISHING MARKS OR BEHAVIORS: Olan is very easy to identify! He has O shaped markings between his eyes, and an O above each eye.

All three tigers are incredibly important members of the Species Survival Plan, a cooperative conservation program for Malayan tigers and other endangered species among accredited zoos. There are fewer than 60 Malayan tigers living in Association of Zoos & Aquariums-accredited zoos and possibly fewer than 350 surviving in the wild. 

Woodland Park Zoo

How can you help tigers? To learn more about how you can help tigers and their forests, visit Banyan Wilds opening May 2, and learn about the Woodland Park Zoo-Panthera Malayan Tiger Conservation PartnershipSeeing tigers is saving tigers. The more people talk about tiger conservation, the more people are willing to support tigers in the wild through legislation, conservation funding and by supporting local on-the-ground partners in Malaysia. 

Spread the word by joining our #ihearttigers contest and tell us why you love tigers. The contest is part of our Show Your Stripes art tour. Ten artist-designed tiger statues will head into Puget Sound neighborhoods this summer to raise awareness for tiger conservation. Enter the contest for a chance to win a private, catered breakfast with the tigers for you and four friends at Banyan Wilds where you can enjoy a special morning with Liem, Eko and Olan! 

Love tigers and tigers will live on.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Elephants Chai and Bamboo resting at San Diego Zoo

Woodland Park Zoo’s female Asian elephants, Bamboo and Chai, spent the weekend at San Diego Zoo after their trip to Oklahoma City Zoo was rerouted due to a storm in Colorado and Wyoming that was expected to increase in severity. The pair continues to rest in comfort.

According to Dr. Nancy Hawkes, Woodland Park Zoo’s general curator, Bamboo, 48, and Chai, 36, are eating, sleeping and interacting with their keepers, all positive signs they are doing well. “Blood draws and other tests show no evidence of medical concerns. Both elephants are hydrated and they are moving about normally,” said Hawkes.

While at San Diego Zoo, the elephants are in an indoor facility in quarantine, which is standard procedure for any new animal at the zoo. The elephants have access to two large indoor rooms and an outdoor yard, all of which are off view to the public.

Woodland Park Zoo’s keepers are providing direct care to Bamboo and Chai; additional staff from the zoo flew to San Diego on Friday to assist and more are flying down this week. “While in transition at San Diego Zoo, it’s very comforting for our elephants that their keepers are present and taking care of them. Bamboo is showing signs of contentment by rumbling and purring to her keepers.” The keepers also are providing enrichment such as browse and hay feeders.

Extensive planning went into ensuring a safe transport for the elephants, as it does for all the zoo’s animals, and the transport consultant has specialized in moving elephants for nearly three decades. On April 15, Bamboo and Chai left Woodland Park Zoo on a custom-built elephant transport vehicle for their new home at Oklahoma City Zoo. The 2,000-mile journey was to take 35 to 40 hours, with stops every few hours to check on the animals’ well-being and to provide food and change water. The weather forecast was a possible minor disturbance for the mid-west region later in the week, more to the south. It was during a late afternoon stop in Ogden, Utah on April 16 when the team learned the storm had been updated to increased severity and to cover a much larger area more to the north. The decision was made to reroute south to Las Vegas then Kingman, Ariz. and take I-40.

Continuing on the southerly route would have kept the elephants on the road an extra day. Stops became more frequent to check on the welfare of the elephants, which slowed down the travel time. “In Las Vegas, the team assessed the elephants were getting tired and as a precaution we changed course to head to San Diego Zoo,” said Deborah Jensen, Woodland Park Zoo President and CEO. “Their facility is set up with the appropriate equipment to unload our elephants, they had immediate room, and they have expert elephant and veterinary staff. Unfortunately, weather fronts and systems change unexpectedly. We would not have put our animals or our staff at risk had a severe storm been forecasted when they left Seattle.”

Woodland Park Zoo still plans on moving Bamboo and Chai to Oklahoma City Zoo where they can join a family with a larger, multi-generational herd, however, a timeline has not been determined when they will get on the road again. “For now we want to give our elephants some time to rest comfortably. We are very grateful to San Diego Zoo for mobilizing so quickly to accommodate our elephants and for their expert staff support,” said Jensen.

2015 ZooTunes summer concert lineup

See Concerts. Save Animals.

Tickets go on sale April 24

Blondie. Photo by Danielle St. Laurent.

Another season of BECU ZooTunes presented by Carter Subaru summer concerts is heating up with this year’s blazing lineup:

June 19 - The Doobie Brothers with special guest Pat Simmons Jr.
June 28 - The B-52s
July 12 - Indigo Girls
July 21 - Melissa Etheridge & Blondie
July 22 - Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers
July 26 - “Sweet Harmony Soul” featuring Mavis Staples, Patty Griffin & Amy Helm
July 29 - Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell
August 9 - Ziggy Marley
August 16 - Trampled By Turtles & The Devil Makes Three
August 19 - Kenny Loggins

The B-52s. Photo by Pieter M. van Hattem.

New for 2015
Please add the appropriate amount of free child vouchers to your ticketing order (online or at gates) for each concert you will be attending. One child (12 and under) is free with each PAID general admission ticket.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Start your Ticketfly account now
Online tickets will be available through a new system this year, and we recommend that you set up your Ticketfly profile in advance in order to speed up your checkout process or allow us to retrieve any lost tickets. To establish your profile go to: www.ticketfly.com

Tickets go on sale to general public on Fri., April 24.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Inclement weather reroutes Woodland Park Zoo elephants to San Diego Zoo

Two days ago, Woodland Park Zoo’s female Asian elephants, Bamboo and Chai, departed on a custom-built elephant transport vehicle for their new home at Oklahoma City Zoo. The caravan had to change their route in Salt Lake City due to a storm in Colorado and Wyoming that was expected to increase in severity. Because the reroute would have extended the trip a day longer, a decision was made for veterinary precautions to go to San Diego Zoo and allow the elephants to rest.

Bamboo and Chai at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by Mandi Fillmore/Woodland Park Zoo

A total of three elephant experts, two veterinarians and three staff with the transportation consultant are accompanying the truck transporting Bamboo and Chai. The team has been making stops every few hours for wellness checks on the elephants and to provide food and change water.

According to Martin Ramirez, mammal curator at Woodland Park Zoo, an extra day on the road would have been challenging for Bamboo and Chai. “For their well-being, we made the proactive decision to head to San Diego Zoo. They have expert elephant and veterinary staff, the room to accommodate our elephants and the appropriate equipment on site to unload our elephants,” said Ramirez.

On arrival at San Diego Zoo, Bamboo and Chai have been unloaded from the travel crates into an indoor facility where the elephants will be in quarantine, which is standard procedure for any new animal at the zoo. The indoor facility and outdoor yard are off view to the public.

Woodland Park Zoo’s and San Diego Zoo’s veterinarians have done a preliminary health assessment on each elephant. “Understandably, just as after a long road trip ourselves, both elephants are tired and show signs of muscle stiffness. They both need the time to walk around, stretch their legs, and adjust to their new surroundings. We don’t know how long our elephants will stay at San Diego Zoo. We want to give them time to rest comfortably,” said Ramirez.

“We are extremely grateful that San Diego Zoo has opened its home to accept Bamboo and Chai at this time. We are fortunate that the expert team at San Diego Zoo is available to provide this assistance and accommodation,” said Dr. Deborah Jensen, Woodland Park Zoo President and CEO. “We are disappointed that we couldn’t continue on to Oklahoma City, but the health and welfare of our elephants come first. We did not want to keep them on the road an additional day.”

“The Oklahoma City Zoo team stands ready to assist in any capacity for Bamboo, Chai and our Woodland Park Zoo colleagues. Collaborative efforts among Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) accredited zoos including Woodland Park, San Diego and Oklahoma City continue to focus on the safety, well-being and preservation of the animals in our care,” said Dr. Dwight Lawson, Oklahoma City Zoo Director and CEO.

San Diego Zoo’s Elephant Care Center opened in 2009. San Diego Zoo currently has a mixed Asian and African elephant herd in which the six females are socially integrated and a bull lives separately.

For information, visit www.zoo.org/elephantnews.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Show Your Stripes Tour: Art of Conservation

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Editor

Conservation starts with conversation.

To save tigers, we need to get people talking about tigers.

Here at Woodland Park Zoo, we’re transforming the heart of the zoo into the new Banyan Wilds exhibit opening May 2. And now we’re bringing tiger conservation into the heart of the community too.

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

The Show Your Stripes Tour launched today at the base of the Space Needle with the unveiling of 10 tiger statues designed by local artists.

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

With fewer than 3,200 tigers left in the wild, now is the time for action. The zoo challenged each artist to select a conservation issue these endangered big cats face and bring the story to life using any media or style.

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

The results will challenge you. Inspire you. And motivate you.

Are you ready to show your stripes for tigers?

Photo by John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo.

Show Your Stripes

There's an art and a science to tiger conservation.

The Science
Woodland Park Zoo and Panthera, a global wild cat conservation organization, support and collaborate with local, on-the-ground tiger conservation partners in Malaysia. Together we conduct long-term tiger ecology and population research, strengthen anti-poaching activities by assisting law enforcement agencies, and build the capacity of local organizations—all aimed to conserve these critically endangered cats and the forests they need to survive. 

Every zoo visit makes this work possible, and the work must continue here in our communities to make the biggest impact.

The Art
The Show Your Stripes Tour is heading to your communities this summer. Seven of the statues will be featured in summer-long installations around Seattle, Bellevue and Kirkland, while three will hit the road to show up at markets, parades and community events in your neighborhood.

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

by Robert MacDonald
Presented by Jungle Party Co-Chairs
Location: Space Needle/Seattle Center
Debuts: April 16, 2015

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

by Nathan Dean, Kent Holloway and Greg Federighi
Presented by U.S. Bank
Location: Woodland Park Zoo
Debuts: May 2, 2015

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

by Valerie Collymore
Presented by The Bellevue Collection
Location: Bellevue Square
Debuts: May 18, 2015

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

by Sherry Raisbeck
Presented by Brown Bear Car Wash
Location: Washington Convention Center
Debuts: May 11, 2015

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

by Ryan Henry Ward
Presented by MarketPlace @ Factoria
Location: Traveling schedule

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

by Kelly Lyles
Presented by the Harrelson Family
Location: MOHAI
Debuts: May 13, 2015

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

by Rickie Wolfe
Presented by Morton Wealth Management of RAYMOND JAMES
Location: Traveling schedule

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

by Ian MacNeil
Presented by Kirkland Life Chiropractic
Location: Maison DeLille, Kirkland
Debuts: May 20, 2015

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

by Steve Jensen
Presented by Katharyn Gerlich
Location: Seattle Public Library Central Branch
Debuts: May 7, 2015

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

by Piper O’Neill
Presented by Seattle Seahawks
Location: Traveling schedule

#ihearttigers Contest

To spread the tiger love, we issue a challenge to you:

Each artist has hidden a heart on their tiger—find it, snap a photo, share using #ihearttigers and tell us why you love tigers.

Photo by Kirsten Pisto/Woodland Park Zoo.

You’ll be entered for a chance to win a private, catered breakfast with the tigers for you and four friends at Banyan Wilds. Get complete rules and prize details for the #ihearttigers contest.

Love tigers and tigers will live on.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Elephants are on the road to Oklahoma City Zoo

Chai and Bamboo at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

A new chapter began for female Asian elephants Bamboo and Chai when they stepped into elephant-sized travel crates, were loaded on the flatbed truck, and left Woodland Park Zoo for their new home at Oklahoma City Zoo. The truck pulled out at 6:15 p.m. PST today, April 15.

Bamboo and Chai at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by Mandi Fillmore/Woodland Park Zoo.

Bamboo, 48, and Chai, 36, were the last remaining elephants at Woodland Park Zoo. Their departure came after four months of planning to ensure they can join a family of Asian elephants and live in a socially enriching environment.

The 2,000-mile journey to Oklahoma City will take approximately 35 to 40 hours. A total of three elephant experts, two veterinarians and three staff with the transport consultant are accompanying the truck. The trip will be straight through except to stop every few hours to check on the animals’ well-being and to provide food and change water; the elephants will have continuous access to water during the trip, not just at stops. The truck has a 65-gallon water tank, which will be refilled as needed along the way.

“We understand that many zoo members and members of our community may be disappointed by the departure but legal disputes against Woodland Park Zoo complicated our ability to announce notice in advance,” said Dr. Deborah Jensen, Woodland Park Zoo President and CEO. Further, for the safety and security of Bamboo and Chai, the exact timing of departure could not be announced. “Our priority was to help our elephants make a smooth and safe transition into the crates and onto the truck without incident.”

Chai at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

The elephants also are being monitored via wireless cameras in the truck. “There is always an inherent risk in transporting animals and we are taking every precautionary measure to ensure that Bamboo and Chai arrive safely, as we do for all of our animal transfers,” said Martin Ramirez, Woodland Park Zoo’s mammal curator. As a contingency plan, zoo veterinarians and elephant experts are available along the travel route pre-arranged to respond if needed.

“Just like people pack coolers and food for road trips, we ‘packed a trunk’ for our elephants consisting of 200 pounds of pellets, 660 pounds of hay, four cases of watermelon, one case of cantaloupe, one case of honeydew melon, two ball toys, five bags of wood shavings for the crates and feed tubs,” added Ramirez.

Preparing elephants for a move required extensive planning. For the past two months, Woodland Park Zoo keepers worked diligently to acquaint the elephants with their travel crates. On a daily basis, the elephants were given access to the crates. “They became comfortable rather quickly and keepers offered positive reinforcement with food rewards and verbal praise,” said Ramirez.

Woodland Park Zoo's veterinary staff pose in scrubs painted by Chai and Bamboo as a special memento before their departure. Photo by Woodland Park Zoo.

Woodland Park Zoo announced in February that Bamboo and Chai would move to Oklahoma City Zoo to join a family with a larger, multi-generational herd, which was a primary recommendation of the Woodland Park Zoo’s Elephant Task Force. Jensen said Oklahoma City Zoo was selected because it meets Woodland Park Zoo’s set of criteria based on recommendations from animal welfare experts including: a social herd of Asian elephants into which Chai and Bamboo may successfully integrate, a state-of-the-art facility, a healthy environment free of active infectious disease, excellent keeper and veterinary care, a restricted contact management system (keepers and animals are always separated by protective barriers), and an established history of stable finances and leadership.

According to Dr. Nancy Hawkes, Woodland Park Zoo’s general curator, elephants in the wild live in multi-generational herds. “We’re very excited about the opportunity for Bamboo and Chai to join a growing family at their new home where they’ll have the chance to be companions and even aunts to younger elephants. This is a very natural social grouping for elephants,” said Hawkes.

Oklahoma City Zoo currently has an Asian elephant family of four females and a male, ranging in ages from 2 months old to 47 years old: female Asha, 20; female Chandra, 18, sister of Asha; female Malee, 4, the daughter of Asha; female Achara, born December 2014, the daughter of Asha and Rex; and sole male Rex, 47, the father of Achara.

Female elephants at Oklahoma City Zoo. Photo courtesy of Oklahoma City Zoo.

Upon arriving at Oklahoma City Zoo, Bamboo and Chai will be unloaded from the travel crates into the barn where they will be in quarantine for 30 days, which is standard procedure for any new animal at the zoo. During the quarantine period, the elephants will have access to two stalls inside the barn and one exhibit outdoor yard, and will have visual, auditory and olfactory contact with the other elephants. Their new keepers will provide them with a variety of enrichment items and favorite toys to help keep them stimulated and comfortable as they adjust to their new surroundings. In addition, Woodland Park Zoo’s elephant staff will spend as much time as necessary with Bamboo and Chai to help ease their transition to a new facility and help settle them into their new surroundings.

Oklahoma City Zoo has expertise in integrating herds and will follow a methodical plan that socializes Bamboo and Chai with the herd in incremental steps. According to Laura Bottaro, an animal curator at Oklahoma City Zoo, introductions will begin in the barn where the elephants can see, smell and touch one another through protective barriers. “During the introduction process, elephants work out a social hierarchy. This process can be immediate or it can take months. We will follow the cues of the animals,” said Bottaro.

Factors in the Decision

Woodland Park Zoo Society Board announced in November 2014 it would phase out its on-site elephant program after several months of working to implement the recommendations of the Elephant Task Force to grow its Asian elephant herd and program. Adding to the herd of our two elephants to create a multi-generational herd was not realistic in the foreseeable future and would work against the broader social welfare of Bamboo and Chai.

WPZ’s analysis included consideration of many of the other 32 facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums that currently hold Asian elephants in the U.S. and the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) facility located in California. PAWS currently has only one female Asian elephant remaining, which is not a natural social grouping for elephants, and is struggling with an active tuberculosis infection.  As a consequence of the TB infection at this facility, Woodland Park Zoo’s elephants would be required to be socially isolated from, not integrated with, other Asian elephants. These circumstances alone—active TB infection in the herd and social isolation instead of herd integration—are insurmountable disqualifiers regardless of the potential space that may be available at the Performing Animal Welfare Society facility.

Elephants in Borneo, courtesy of Woodland Park Zoo Partner for Wildlife Hutan Elephant Conservation Program.

Woodland Park Zoo will remain committed to supporting its elephant conservation projects in Borneo and Tanzania and will continue to play a key role in seeking legislation to ban trafficking in elephant ivory in the state of Washington.

For more information, including a Q&A for your reference, please visit www.zoo.org/elephantnews.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Building Banyan Wilds

By Kirsten Pisto, Communications
Photos by Kirsten Pisto, Woodland Park Zoo (unless noted)

At the heart of the zoo, we’re putting the finishing touches on our most ambitious exhibit project in nearly two decades. Banyan Wilds is our new home for three Malayan tigers, three sloth bears, an entire family of frolicking Asian small-clawed otters and a colorful aviary. We are eager to open this immersive exhibit to the public on May 2. As we watch the final details come together, we can’t help but share with you a sneak peek at some of the elements you’ll find in the tigers' and sloth bears' new home and a look back on what it took to get here!

As luscious bamboo starters are positioned to plant, here is one view into the new tiger yard. The blue tape on the windows reminds workers that glass is in place.
This view of the tiger stream is for tiger eyes only, but visitors will be watching from another viewpoint as tigers splash and play in the cool water.

Building this exhibit has been a labor of love and loads of hard work. This project began in early 2010, when the very first sketches of the plan were imagined. Like many projects of this scope, plans were envisioned, drafted, reworked, and sometimes reworked again and again and again. When it came to ensuring the safety and welfare of our residents, we admit, we were sticklers for precision. It took many meetings between guest experience experts, our animal management team, sustainability gurus and our fabulous in-house interpretive crew to nail down (no pun intended) the blueprints for what would become Banyan Wilds.

Drawings such as these sketches by interpretive designer R. Scott Vance help shape the look and feel of the exhibit.

In 2012 we broke ground on the first part of the exhibit. Completed in time for summer 2013, this portion of the exhibit introduced guests to a brand new species for Woodland Park Zoo, the Asian small-clawed otter. The playful family has become a highlight of the zoo and a must-see for many visitors. In addition to the otters, we unveiled a very choral aviary currently home to azure-winged magpie, Chinese hwamei, Nicobar pigeon and great argus. And if you’ve visited the zoo with anyone under 10 years old, you’ve undoubtedly been introduced to the play space at the entrance of the exhibit—complete with wobble logs, balance beams and the ever popular zip line.

The first half of the exhibit was complete in 2013, and we can’t wait to watch you experience Banyan Wilds in its entirety. Photos by Ryan Hawk and Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Since last summer, we’ve been busy bulldozing, digging, laying rock, sculpting banyan trees, painting ant hills, planting bamboo and completing a myriad of construction to-dos in the remaining tiger and sloth bear exhibits.

Pouring cement for the new crossroads between the two exhibits, you can see the sloth bear viewing window in the background.
Hand painted detailing comes after the sculptural elements are in place.
Dirt, dirt, dirt… many kinds, many uses and in great supply.

The blueprint for this exhibit reads like a walk through the forest, at each vista guests are shown a glimpse of a larger story. Each element—tiger pool, sloth bear cave, Field House (where you'll get to know our field partners in Malaysia and the conservation projects they are undertaking), Asian-small clawed otter spring, caretaker's place (where you'll have the opportunity to learn more about sustainable palm oil) and the great banyan tree—is a sliver of life in the Asian tropical forest. Deliberately composed, these tangible features form what we hope is a lesson in living landscapes. 

Our goal is that while you'll visit the tigers and sloth bears to get up close to these awe inspiring animals, you'll also take away lessons about the people who share the forest and the communities that rely on its resources; sometimes in harmony and sometimes in competition with wildlife.

Get up close and you’ll notice our design crew’s intricate attention to detail, such as these lichens, which were hand painted on this cement banyan buttress.   
Sloth bear footprints lend a spark of intrigue to the pathways.

From the texture on a single vine to the shadows made by a forest gate, our interpretive team has poured over each and every detail in this immersive new space. Designers have drawn from the rich landscapes of India (where sloth bears reign), the Malay Peninsula (where tigers reign) and 12 South Asian countries in between (Asian small-clawed otters are found throughout South Asia). These regions are also home to Asian elephants, tapirs, civets and numerous wild cat, primate and bird species. Banyan Wilds invites you to witness the diversity of Asia’s tropical forests and contemplate the crossroads we face in learning to coexist with wildlife in an ever-changing landscape.

Inspired by the natural rock formations in India, the sloth bear yard has plenty of space for napping, exploring and climbing.

With features that allow keepers to perform state-of-the-art animal care and enhanced enrichment opportunities, the exhibit is also an occasion to showcase and celebrate our commitment to animal health and excellence in zookeeping. A jostle tree built especially for a curious tiger, hot rocks that makes a tiger’s poolside nap just a bit more relaxing, a termite mound (full of grubs) for a snacking sloth bear—the new exhibit serves to please our animal residents most of all.

Capital Projects Manager and stunt woman Monica Lake demonstrates the jostle tree, a tiger enrichment element that blends into the exhibit. Tigers can shake the tree and if treats are placed inside, they will land on the ground nearby.
This termite mound in the sloth bear yard will dispense real insects as special enrichment for the vacuum-like snackers.
Keeper Bret Sellers gets up close with one of the boys. The tiger training wall area lets guests watch keepers perform health checks and daily training with the big cats. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

When you visit in May we hope you’ll be inspired to connect with our animals and their story; leaving with a better knowledge of how truly linked we are to their world. Discover how communities are learning to coexist with wildlife—and how our actions can make a difference all the way across theglobe.

It's your generous support—and the support of more than 1,250 individual, foundation and corporate donors—that has made this exhibit possible, and we can't wait to celebrate with you.