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Friday, October 30, 2015

Tracking wildlife in Malaysia: a forest revealed

Posted by: Bridget Dunn, Communications

In and around Taman Negara National Park in Peninsular Malaysia, we’re working with our field conservation partners Panthera and Rimba to find and protect critically endangered Malayan tigers. This effort was established in 2012 as the WPZ-Panthera Malayan Tiger Conservation Partnership with a $1 million, 10-year commitment to collaborate with Rimba and Malaysia’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks. One of Rimba’s most important tiger detection tools is a series of remote cameras, known as camera traps, set up around the forest. The traps are motion and heat sensitive, and the images they capture help us understand where tigers are so we can focus our protection efforts in those areas.

One great thing about these cameras is how they are documenting that there are more than tigers to discover in this spectacular jungle!

Photo: DWNP-Rimba

Camera traps aren’t picky—they’ll snap a photo of any warm-blooded animal that moves within the 20 to 40 foot range, including these playful sun bears.

Photo: DWNP-Rimba

Are you curious about our work? So are these bushy-crested hornbills.

Photo: DWNP-Rimba

Sometimes animals unwittingly take family portraits. This baby Asian elephant doesn’t seem at all camera shy.

Photo: DWNP-Rimba

Tigers have a lot of neighbors, including this leopard and her cub. Animals of many kinds benefit when our researchers’ presence discourages poaching and other illegal human activity.

Photo: DWNP-Rimba

Sambar deer, an important food source for tigers, wander by the camera trap. Overpoaching of sambar deer makes it harder for tigers to find food for themselves and their young.

Photo: DWNP-Rimba

Once in a while, we’re lucky enough to have a tiger come by—in this case, two! Notice the sunlight. Our researchers found that tigers at our field site are active at any time of day or night.

Photo: DWNP-Rimba

Unfortunately for the jungle dwellers, they’re not alone, and tigers aren’t the deadliest hunters. The biggest threat these animals face is humans. Seen here is a poacher, machete in hand, hiding his face from the camera.

Woodland Park Zoo and our partners Panthera and Rimba are working in Malaysia to protect tigers and their habitat. We identify tiger hot spots with the help of camera traps in order to focus protection on those areas. We’re also working with the state and federal governments to increase law enforcement, and reaching out to the local community to engage them with tiger conservation. Combined, these efforts can have a positive impact on the future of tigers and their delicate ecosystem.

What can you do? You can join our Tiger Team to learn more about the plight of tigers in the wild. You can also vote yes on Washington Initiative 1401 on the November 3rd ballot. This initiative will increase penalties for trafficking endangered animal species parts in the state of Washington. The initiative covers 10 endangered animal species groups, including tigers. By decreasing the demand for black market endangered animal species parts, we can discourage the brutal trade elsewhere that supplies it. Make a difference for these animals—vote yes on I-1401.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Halloween doesn't have to be scary for wildlife

Posted by: Bobbi Miller, Conservation

When we think of October, we think of bright, cool days and brisk nights; early, golden sunsets; things that are scary and go bump in the night; and Halloween with the kids all dressed up and ready to go door to door looking for candy and treats. It’s a time of creepy, spine-tingling excitement for young and old alike.

Your Halloween candy choices can be a treat for wildlife, no trick! Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

But while we’re enjoying those crisp, clear days and chilly evenings, the people and wildlife in Borneo, Indonesia and nearby countries are dealing with thick, choking smoke. People there are wearing masks for a very different reason this Halloween, and it's all related directly to our candy.

Borneo's Gunung Palung National Park shrouded in smoke. Photo courtesy Tim Laman.

Wait, what?

How does our Halloween candy relate to fires halfway around the world?

Simple: most candy includes palm oil, and the bulk of the world’s palm oil comes from Indonesia and Malaysia. In order to produce palm oil (the world’s fastest growing vegetable oil), tropical rain forest and peat lands are being converted to agricultural land. The fastest way to do that is through fire.

A young elephant in an oil palm plantation. Photo courtesy of Hutan Asian Elephant Conservation Project, a Woodland Park Zoo Partner for Wildlife.

Not only do these fires decimate tropical rain forests that house tigers, Asian elephants, hornbills and orangutans, but they also include peat lands that, when drained and lit on fire, can smolder for weeks, releasing hundreds of years of sequestered carbon back into the atmosphere.

NASA satellite image, September 24, 2015, shows smoke from fires burning on islands of Borneo and Sumatra. Photo copyright: Adam Voiland (NASA Earth Observatory) and Jeff Schmaltz (LANCE MODIS Rapid Response).

The thick smoke from these fires has caused people as far away as the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand to don surgical masks just to go outside. Flights in the impacted countries have been delayed or canceled due to smoke, and many schools have been closed due to spikes in respiratory illness. But it’s not just people suffering from the smoke that turns day into night; wildlife, including orangutans, are seriously impacted. 

Photo courtesy Tim Laman.

Many die from the fires, or are pushed into human-dominated landscapes where they are susceptible to poaching and hunting. Those that make it through the fires are confined to much smaller forest habitat patches with too many animals competing for too few resources. 

If you come to Woodland Park Zoo you’re accustomed to hearing our siamangs sing, but during times of fires in Indonesia, you don’t hear gibbon songs very often in the forest. Orangutans become more sluggish, waking up later and going to sleep earlier, likely not taking in the calories they need on a daily basis.  

While our Partner for Wildlife Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Project works with local officials to prevent fires and the destruction of peat forests in Borneo, you can take action right here at home.

Take Action

Use our wildlife-friendly Halloween candy list to purchase candy from companies that are committed to sourcing certified sustainable palm oil that is deforestation free. By making informed consumer choices, you can delight trick-or-treaters and save forests and wildlife a world away.

After all, while Halloween is here, the real scare is what’s at stake if we don’t take action.

Monday, October 19, 2015

First Bali mynah chicks to hatch at zoo in over two decades, a symbol of hope

Posted by: Kirsten Pisto, communications
Photo and Video by: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren

On September 17, three tiny white birds hatched in a quiet behind-the-scenes area of Woodland Park Zoo as part of the zoo’s conservation breeding program. The chicks, downy fluff balls with snow-colored plumage, are a big deal: they represent the first successful hatches of the critically endangered Bali mynah here at the zoo in 22 years! They also act as a powerful symbol of hope for their species.

This shy chick gave our photographer a run for his money. The nest box is the perfect hiding spot.
A curious look outside of the nest gives us a better view of a chick.

Endemic to Bali, Indonesia (an island smaller than Rhode Island), Bali mynahs are threatened primarily due to illegal pet collection and trade. Their stunning white feathers and gorgeous cobalt blue patch around the eyes make this beauty especially attractive to bird collectors, despite their endangered status. On top of poaching, their habitat —open lowland forests—is also increasingly compromised due to habitat alteration.

One of the parents keeps an eye on the photographer.

In the wild, their numbers have been reduced drastically since the species discovery in 1912, with reported numbers down to just 6 individuals in poor years. The Bali Starling Project has helped support populations in Bali Barat National Park and Nusa Penida, a small island where a second population has been created through releasing captive-reared birds. However, the wild population is still thought to number fewer than 50 mature individuals.

While the wild Bali mynah population has shown some encouraging signs, it is the job of zoos to keep the genetic population varied in the captive population. In the past decade +, the Bali Mynah Species Survival Plan (SSP) has been focused on maintaining a genetically and demographically healthy population in US Zoos.  

VIDEO: Watch the chick peek out from its nest box.

Woodland Park Zoo participates in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Bali Mynah SSP. This year is the first successful hatch at Woodland Park Zoo since 1993, and we are delighted. 

Behind the scenes at the zoo.
Waiting for a snack, this little chick is eager grab whatever is being delivered by a devoted parent.

At birth, the chicks weigh only a few grams, but they grow quickly and eventually reach an adult weight of 70-115 grams. The chicks are just now beginning to leave the nest, but they still receive a lot of attention and food from their parents.

In the wild, Bali mynahs make their nests in the cavities of trees, and feed on a variety of insects, worms, fruits and small reptiles which they lovingly feed to their young.  At the zoo, our birds are fed a variety of fruits and vegetables, mealworms and crickets. The devoted parents take turns delivering breakfast, lunch and dinner to the new chicks. Bali mynahs are typically monogamous; together the long-term pairs built nests, raise their young and defend territory. 

Their beautiful cobalt blue eye patch and striking white plumage really stand out.

In Bali, the mynah is a beloved symbol. The birds appear on the 200 rupiah coin and is designated the faunal emblem of Bali. The birds are popular subjects in the art and culture of the region. As the Bali mynah’s plight is becoming more understood, local Balinese have helped to slow the possibility of extinction. Villages and community leaders have pledged to stop the illegal capture of the wild birds, but unfortunately poaching is still lucrative in the bird markets.

You can visit these beautiful symbols of hope at the Conservation Aviary. For now, the young chicks will remain off view while they continue to grow. Soon, they will learn to make a famously loud variety of noises –chatters, whistles and squawks—just like their parents.

When you visit, you might hear them make a lot of strange sounds. Bali mynah are known to produce a plethora of noises, from cackles to chirps, whistles to squawks.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A sweet duet: siamang pair sings its first song

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Editor
Video and photos by: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren

It is music to our ears to hear newly paired siamangs Sam and Briony developing their sweet duet together. We caught a few notes of their very first outdoor song.

Video: Siamang pair sings first duet notes at Woodland Park Zoo.

High in the canopy, this treetop symphony at once strengthens the bond between the pair of siamangs and declares their territory to others in the area. The song can be heard from over a mile away even in our urban environment and, as they develop their tune, the bouts may last up to 20 minutes.

How do they project their voices so far? Those ballooning throat sacs act like a resonating chamber and amplify the sound.

Briony’s tune with her former long-time mate Simon was known by not just zoo visitors, but also neighbors in Phinney Ridge, Fremont and Wallingford, all within earshot of their morning song.

Hearing the treetops come to life in siamang song once again is an encouraging sign of Sam’s and Briony’s growing bond, and a piercing reminder of what’s at stake in a world where siamangs face the threat of extinction in the wild.

The largest of the gibbon species, siamangs are native to forests of Asia that are disappearing at alarming rates as human development and agriculture expand. In this Year of the Gibbon, as declared by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, our work continues in the field where conservation scientists supported by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Ape Taxon Advisory Group—a Woodland Park Zoo Wildlife Survival Fund project—are empowering local communities to become stewards of gibbon conservation.

Now that’s some beautiful harmony.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Baby on the way for first time gorilla mom

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Editor with Gigi Allianic, Communications

Nadiri at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by Mat Hayward/Woodland Park Zoo.

At 19 years old, western lowland gorilla Nadiri is pregnant for the first time. We're counting down to the expected birth in early November after an eight- to nine-month gestation period.

This is big news, and since Nadiri is not an experienced mother, we're taking extra precautions to prepare her.

It starts with pre-natal care for the expectant mom. She is currently on a diet created by a nutritionist and receiving supplemental vitamins to help her maintain a healthy weight for a normal delivery.

Keepers will need to be able to perform visual checks on the baby to confirm it is thriving, so the work begins now with training Nadiri to present her "baby"—in this case a stuffed burlap object about the size of a newborn.

Once the baby comes, all eyes are on those first 72 hours after birth, the most critical time for a newborn gorilla. Our keepers will be watching closely to ensure that Nadiri and baby are bonding, proper nursing is taking place and the baby is receiving adequate milk. We want to see Nadiri holding the baby close and keeping it sufficiently warm.

The most recent gorilla birth at Woodland Park Zoo was Uzumma, born to Amanda in 2007. Seen as a baby here, Uzumma will turn 8 years old on October 20.

What we’re hoping to see is that Nadiri delivers a healthy baby and provides strong maternal care. But we are preparing for other scenarios to assure the best for mom and baby.

Gorilla care experts across accredited zoos work together through the Species Survival Plan to manage the cooperative conservation breeding program. Through their work they have learned that it is in the best interest of baby gorillas to be raised by a socially dynamic group of gorillas rather than being hand raised exclusively by humans. In this way, they learn how to be a gorilla from other gorillas, develop the ability to understand social cues and practice the nuances of gorilla etiquette. This sets them up for the best long-term welfare.

If Nadiri rejects her baby or is unable to provide proper maternal care, the zoo will explore options such as partial hand-rearing or identifying a surrogate mother gorilla at another zoo accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Both have proven successful practices.

Vip is the father of the expected baby. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

The father of Nadiri’s expected baby is 36-year-old Vip, who has sired six other offspring. Nadiri represents a very valuable and underrepresented genetic line to the gorilla Species Survival Plan population, particularly as her father, Congo, has no other known offspring in the population.

Nadiri herself marked a momentous birth 19 years ago at Woodland Park Zoo. The first several weeks of her life got off to a rocky start when her mother, Jumoke, experienced complications during labor. The zoo had to quickly assemble a team of human physicians to assist with the delivery. While the volunteer medical team successfully delivered the baby, Jumoke unfortunately never showed any interest in accepting her infant despite a series of introductions on a daily basis. To compound matters, Nadiri’s father, Congo, passed away two weeks after the birth of his first viable offspring. His death defeated any hope of further introductions between Jumoke and her baby. Without a dominant male, Congo’s group was no longer a stable environment for the baby.

The sad turn of events for Nadiri, essentially orphaned, captured the hearts of the community and garnered mass media attention. Zoo staff and volunteers provided round-the-clock care and loads of love. Through the dedication and countless hours invested by gorilla and animal health staff, Nadiri was eventually introduced successfully to a surrogate family of gorillas at Woodland Park Zoo.

Wild western lowland gorilla in the Mbeli Bai study area. Photo by Kelly Greenway courtesy of Mbeli Bai Study.

We're so excited for Nadiri to have the opportunity to start the next generation of our gorilla family. The animals here are such compelling ambassadors for the critically endangered gorillas in Africa threatened with extinction. Woodland Park Zoo supports conservation efforts for the western lowland gorilla through the Mbeli Bai Study, one of the zoo’s Partners for Wildlife. The study researches the social organization and behaviors of more than 450 lowland gorillas living in the southwest of Nouabale-Ndoki National Park, Republic of Congo. The data collected enables scientists to assess the vulnerability of populations to habitat threats, providing the groundwork for successful conservation strategies.

We're fighting for a world with gorillas in it, and we can't wait to meet Nadiri's baby, a moving reminder of what's at stake.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Endangered Oregon spotted frogs released into wild

Posted by: Alissa Wolken, Communications
Photos by: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

An Oregon spotted frog is released into wetlands.

Nearly 750 Oregon spotted frogs reared at Woodland Park Zoo were released yesterday into marshy wetlands at a protected site in Pierce County.

Gathering the frogs from their behind-the-scenes area at Woodland Park Zoo.

Nearly 750 frogs were packed up for transport. 

The frogs were collected from wetlands as eggs and placed at the zoo for hatching and rearing for approximately seven months in a predator-free home as they transformed from tadpoles to juveniles, increasing their survival by giving them a head start until they were large enough to avoid most predators.

Unloading the containers of frogs at the protected wetlands site.

The protected site provides marshy wetlands habitat for the frogs and future frog generations.

Head starting and releasing the frogs is part of a cooperative program with Woodland Park Zoo, Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Sustainability in Prisons Project, and other zoos and state and federal agencies.

The frogs were released into water.

Instinct kicked in.

Washington declared the Oregon spotted frog an endangered species in 1997, and on August 28, 2014, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service listed the frog as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. It historically ranged from southwestern British Columbia to northeastern California. However, scientists have seen populations plummet, driving the frog toward extinction. The native amphibian has lost ground to habitat loss from draining and development, disease and the introduction of invasive species such as the American bullfrog and reed canary grass.

The landscape.

Head starting the Oregon spotted frogs began in 2008. “Woodland Park Zoo has released more than 4,200 frogs since we joined the effort in 2009,” said Jennifer Pramuk, PhD, an animal curator and reptile and amphibian expert at Woodland Park Zoo. “We also have increased survivorship of the tadpoles and frogs at the zoo nearly every year beginning with a 35% survivorship rate in 2009 to over 90% survivorship this year. In total more than 7,000 frogs have been released by all stakeholders combined. The institutions involved should be very proud of the progress we’ve made toward helping to save this species.”

Oregon spotted frogs are highly aquatic. They are found in or near permanent still water, such as lakes, ponds, springs, marshes, and the grassy margins of slow-moving streams.

Both juvenile and adult frogs are carnivores, feeding primarily on insects, spiders, and earthworms.

Yesterday marks the last release of the Oregon spotted frog head start program for the time being. "The Oregon spotted frog in 2014 was federally listed as ‘threatened’ under the Endangered Species Act,” explained Fred Koontz, PhD, vice president of Field Conservation at Woodland Park Zoo. “The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is working with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and other stakeholders to implement recovery efforts. Frogs will not be released next year, in order to focus on habitat enhancements and monitoring the success of the last seven years of reintroductions and conservation actions.”

Woodland Park Zoo staff celebrate the success of seven great years for the program.

“This project has gained a lot of ground over the past seven years,” said Pramuk. “That success has allowed us to transition our focus from rearing healthy frogs in institutions and releasing them, to helping them reestablish their population in the wild. The project’s level of success was possible because of the vision and persistence of our entire team. It is very rewarding to know our hard work has paid off, but also bittersweet for many of us who will miss working with this beautiful and unique frog.”

The frogs settled right in.

Conservation is the heart of Woodland Park Zoo’s mission. Zoos are well positioned to reach millions each year with the unique opportunity to connect with nature, learn about conservation issues around the globe, and take action to make a difference for wildlife. Woodland Park Zoo supports projects in the Pacific Northwest through its Living Northwest conservation program, including projects focused on native raptors, turtles, butterflies, frogs and carnivores, and the shrub-steppe, wetlands and forest habitats they depend on to survive.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

How do you get a tortoise to take its medicine?

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Editor

A spoonful of sugar was Mary Poppins’ trick, but it’s a plateful of bananas that makes the medicine go down for our Asian brown tortoise.

Watch: How does a tortoise take its medicine? Produced by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren with additional footage by Alyssa Borek.

Just like you might put your pet’s pill inside a pocket of food, zookeepers find creative ways to get our 1,000+ animals to willingly take their medicine when needed. It’s not always an easy task!

Faced with the challenge of administering a liquid dose of parasite treatment to a tortoise, Day Exhibit keeper Alyssa Borek had an idea to get the animal’s cooperation. She cut up chunks of banana, hollowed out the insides, lined the chunks up on a little plate and poured the liquid medicine into the cores.

The results are messy. Yet effective.

Now that the medicine has been gobbled up, we’ve sent fecal samples off to the lab and we’ll get results soon to determine if the treatment is working.

It’s not uncommon for a tortoise to show parasites in its system, and this tortoise presented no symptoms. It was our preventative approach to health care at the zoo that first detected them. We all make our way to the doctor when we’re feeling ill, but a preventative approach means providing proactive health care before symptoms emerge.

Keepers are the first line of preventative care; their daily observations form the baseline of each individual animal’s health profile. Our expert veterinary crew then performs annual exams and regular testing to get ahead of any health concerns.

It was the yearly testing of each tortoise’s fecal samples that detected the parasites in the first place, and now that we are treating before any complications emerge, we are setting the tortoise up for a healthy life.

That way, its next banana treat will be just for fun.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Chris Pratt, Anna Faris and son name Woodland Park Zoo baby penguin

Posted by: Gigi Allianic, Communications

Actors Anna Faris and Chris Pratt and their son Jack were invited to name Woodland Park Zoo’s 50th Humboldt penguin chick. Pratt and Faris grew up in the Seattle area and love Woodland Park Zoo. The name they selected—Eagle—honors their local roots.

Eagle the penguin chick. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

After acing his first veterinary exam last week, Eagle continues to do well and is now spending time out in the exhibit with the colony. You can identify him by his blue band—try to spot him soaring through the water on your next visit!

Watch Eagle soar...underwater. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

Become a ZooParent today and adopt Eagle the penguin chick. Your adoption helps us provide daily care for Eagle and all the animals at the zoo, while also supporting conservation for penguins and other species threatened with extinction.

Eagle (left) is the 50th penguin chick hatched at Woodland Park Zoo since 2010. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.