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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Tiger Forest in 360°

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Editor

Malayan tigers are on a thin line between here and gone, but there is hope. If we protect their habitat and keep them out of the hands of poachers, tiger populations can rebound.

On a recent trip, Woodland Park Zoo animal care, field conservation and communications staff joined a MYCAT volunteer patrol deep in the tiger’s forest realm. They placed a 360° camera in one of the planet’s most ancient rain forests to show you what’s at stake. Use the controls to peer around this slice of tiger habitat located in a critical wildlife corridor along the edge of Taman Negara, Malaysia’s premier national park.

Video: 360° View of Malaysian Tiger Forest. 
NOTE: 360°-view enabled browser required to explore full view of the video.

The fact that you can barely see much in the distance is a good thing—the density of this forest supports incredible diversity of life. When we fight to protect tiger forests, we’re saving the home of so many more, from lichens to trees, snails to elephants.

Beware wildlife crossing as you head into Malaysia’s forests. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

Looking for signs of tigers—and their poachers—a volunteer MYCAT patrol group enters the forest. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

The volunteer patrol group hiked deep into the forest for days—and nights—on a mission to protect tigers. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

Later, they approached this illegal logging site. In stark contrast, we see 360° of nothing—no natural diversity and no sustainable future for wildlife or people.

NOTE: 360°-view enabled browser required to explore full view of the video.

Deforestation is one of the major threats facing tigers today, but it’s not too late. You can make wise consumer choices around palm oil and Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood to support sustainable resource use.

The work continues in the field. With your support, Woodland Park Zoo and Panthera work together with on-the-ground partners in Malaysia to conserve tigers and their forests. Want to get involved? Join our Tiger Team, a coalition of local advocates like you fighting for global impact. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Butterflies take flight at Woodland Park Zoo

Posted by: Kirsten Pisto, Communications

The summer air is almost still, delicately scented with a sweet, seasonal bloom. Brilliantly winged creatures flit and float between lupine, spirea and honeysuckle. Here in the Molbak’s Butterfly Garden, speak softly and step carefully as you enter another world.

Opening Sat., July 2, the new exhibit takes flight with 500 free-flying butterflies from at least 15 native North American species. You’ll get a full sensory introduction to the fragility and resilience of nature as flowers bloom and butterflies emerge around you.

Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Photo: Brittney Bush Bollay/Woodland Park Zoo.

The presence of a single butterfly is enchanting—tiny, delicate and fairylike. Their littleness can be measured in grams, their adult lifespan sometimes just months, weeks or days. Yet butterflies are also grand in scale. In the Lepidoptera taxonomic order, there are at least 15,000 butterfly species and 250,000 moth species. In the U.S. alone there are 750 butterfly and 11,000 moth species. Butterflies inhabit every corner of the world, except Antarctica. Their range is global and in every sense of the word, so is their impact. These tiny, but mighty insects have an impressive ecological footprint.

Iconic monarchs visit Central and Eastern Washington in June and take off in October, but the majority of butterflies here appear only during the warmest part of the year, when sunlight and nectar are abundant. Frequenting suburban flowerbeds to rural roadsides, high elevation meadows near Mt. Rainier down to the Olympic coast, the butterflies of the Northwest have a dynamic existence in our own ecosystem.

A Northwest native, the Oregon silverspot butterfly, lands on a meadow flower along the Oregon coast. Photo: Rachel Gray/Woodland Park Zoo.

In addition to the powerhouse pollinators such as native bees and honeybees, butterflies are some of the best pollinators in our region. In lieu of buzzing from flower to flower, butterflies flutter and dance, often pollinating a wider variety of flowers during the day. Their continual flitting, meandrous though it may be, makes up for the small amount of pollen they collect at each stop.

Besides pollinating our local crops, butterflies and moths are themselves a valuable food source for a variety of creatures including birds, bats and even bears. An important element in the food chain, these invertebrates are rich in nutrition and support a range of predators. Biologists often look to butterflies and other invertebrates as indicator species for healthy landscapes.

Some biologists estimate that over 40% of insect pollinators are at risk of extinction due to loss of habitat, urbanization and the use of pesticides. Because butterflies are especially fragile to ecological change, they are one of the first species to abandon an ecosystem. Let’s persuade them to stay.

If you like these...

...we need to protect these.

Photos: Flowers (cornflower, spirea, clematis), Kirsten Pisto. Pollinators from top, clockwise: Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo; Flickr user jeffreyww; Flickr user leshoward

At Molbak’s Butterfly Garden, learn about what these winged beauties need to thrive and how you can take local action for butterflies and other pollinators. The exhibit experience is made possible thanks to generous contributions of individuals, families, foundations and corporations throughout the Pacific Northwest, and funding from the Seattle Park District. Molbak’s Garden + Home generously agreed to donate the plants and landscaping supplies that will augment the butterfly habitat and visitor experience for up to 10 years.

Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

You can continue to support the care of the animals and exhibits—and conservation work like our Living Northwest Oregon silverspot recovery efforts—when you Name a Butterfly by making a donation of any size to the zoo’s Annual Fund now through September 2, 2016. Anyone who makes a donation and names a butterfly will receive a digital certificate—perfect for sharing or gifting—and their butterfly’s name will be displayed all summer long on signage just outside the exhibit.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Making a home for new François' langur family

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Editor with reporting by Carolyn Sellar, Zookeeper

Ding, the dad of the group. Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Vegetarians sporting mutton chops? Welcome to Seattle, boys—you’ll fit right in! A family of François' langurs has just moved into the zoo’s Trail of Vines and their distinguished looks and playful antics are turning heads.

The all-male troop is led by Ding (age 17), the father of 5 rambunctious boys. As the elder, Ding acts as leader, peacekeeper and resolution maker. His larger head, balding spots and ruffled tail reflect the experience and wisdom he has collected over the years.

Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

The boys, Ya Ya (age 5), Tang and Petey (age 4), Zhang (age 2.5) and Bouncy (age 2), are in perpetual motion. The smallest and most mischievous is Bouncy. According to zookeeper Carolyn Sellar, “Bouncy is still young enough that he gets away with a lot more than anyone else. Bouncy will soon learn his place and proper monkey ways, but he still has a lot of time to be the wild and spontaneous youngster of this high energy group of boys.”

Bouncy, seen here in a behind the scenes area during standard quarantine. Photo: Carolyn Sellar/Woodland Park Zoo.

The rest of the boys each has their own personality, some more adventurous and confident, others more naturally reserved and cautious. But together they are a rowdy bunch and the first day in their exhibit put that into clear view for the keepers.

Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

After arriving and spending their initial days in a behind-the-scenes area for standard quarantine, the boys took their first steps into their outdoor home last week. They explored everything without hesitation—climbing, jumping, and inspecting everything they could get their hands on. The boys are truly bursting with energy and curiosity.

Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

It’s been an interesting transformation for them. At their previous home, the troop lived in a naturalistic indoor exhibit. Upon arriving here, we helped them transition to their new environment by first creating a dynamic, interactive indoor space for them behind the scenes filled with objects to play with, ledges to perch on, vines to jump across, barrels to tumble in, food to forage for, and mirrors to gaze into (those are some very handsome faces, after all!). As they settled in, they spent some time outdoors in a behind-the-scenes area where they could adjust to the sights, sounds and smells of their new home.

Ding in a behind the scenes area during standard quarantine. Photo: Carolyn Sellar/Woodland Park Zoo.

An up close photo of Tang in a behind the scenes area. Photo: Andy Antilla/Woodland Park Zoo.

It was clear right away that the boys were ready for the next adventure, so we put the finishing touches on transforming their large, outdoor home. The space was formerly occupied by the lion-tailed macaque group. Our two elderly macaques moved to a home behind the scenes at the zoo that is easier for their aging bodies to navigate, and where they can get up-close care from their keepers. The macaque exhibit was then made langur-friendly with the addition of many large and tall perching structures.

Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

Forest natives from parts of China, Vietnam and Laos, François' langurs are arboreal and want to be high up in the trees. When you come to visit, be sure to look up.

In those treetops you might spot the langurs munching on greens. Leaves take long to digest but special adaptations, including large salivary glands and a complex, sacculated (compartmentalized) stomach, help break down the fibers to keep these folivores full of energy. Their backsides are specialized too. Look for their thickened rump pads known as ischial callosities to see how nature solved the problem of staying comfortable (and staying put!) while sitting on thin treetop branches for much of the day.

That treetop life means langurs are under threat of extinction as forests disappear. These endangered monkeys depend on thriving forests, and as habitat destruction leads to fragmented forest pockets, populations become isolated and vulnerable. Hunting for meat and some traditional medicines also threatens their long-term survival. It is estimated that the population has declined by 50% over the last 36 years according to the IUCN Red List. Protected areas in their native range have been created to address that trend.

Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Their dependence on the forest can be seen in the way the langurs here make use of every layer of their wooded home. Langurs love to forage and will spend much of their time exploring their home for treats—some naturally occurring and some scattered by keepers, including fruits, seeds and other plantings. You’ll see their natural social dynamics play out while foraging, as dad and then the older boys get first dibs. Well, except Bouncy. He still gets a free pass to the front of the line. For now.

We have no doubt many of you can see some of your family in this family. With Father’s Day right around the corner, there’s no better time to greet the boys in their new home.

INSIDER'S TIP: Coming up on Sun., June 19, 2016, enjoy 50% off for dad with the purchase of a child's admission when you mention this offer at any entry gate (not available online).

Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Fatherhood in the Animal Kingdom

Posted by: Kristin Quirk, Education

Father's Day is almost here, a good time to take a closer look at the many forms of fatherhood in the animal kingdom. While its natural for fathers of some species to be entirely absent, other animal fathers fill all sorts of roles: protector, companion, provider, disciplinarian, partner and even playmate.

Let's explore the world of animal dads.

Golden lion tamarins

Golden lion tamarins often have twins so dad’s help is very important in raising the baby monkeys. Photo: Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.
A male golden lion tamarin takes his role as father very seriously. The typical tamarin dad grooms, feeds, plays with and gives his infants piggyback rides. Hey dads, does this sound familiar?


With a big, long beak dad is able to slip food to mom living within the tree. Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Hornbills will find a cavity or hole in a tree to make their home. The mother hornbill stays inside the tree, often molting her feathers to provide a soft nest. The large hole is closed up with mud leaving only enough space to fit her beak. The father hornbill then brings food to her and the chicks once they have hatched.

Maned wolves

Maned wolf dads will be on high alert outside the den. Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Foxes and wolves work as a parenting team. Mom stays in the den with the pups while dad is hunting down all the meals for the growing family. Wolves will continue to grow their pack with their offspring while foxes tend to leave their parents after a couple of years together.

Woodland Park Zoo has many proud dads!

Gorilla dads have been seen playing with and teaching skills to their offspring. Photo: Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Gorilla dads are responsible for the protection and are the leaders of their troop. Silverbacks make sure everyone is doing what they are supposed to and ensure they all stay safe. Baby gorilla Yola, born November 20 2015, is the daughter of silverback Vip and his seventh offspring. Though Vip is her biological father, Yola lives in a group with an unrelated silverback male, Leo, who provides leadership and protection to keep the family cohesive and peaceful.

Junior the dad got to choose the name of his son although he never participated in their rearing. Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Junior, the jaguar, had three cubs born at WPZ, currently residing at other zoos; the male cub has since grown up and become a father himself. Jaguars are not involved with the raising of their offspring. In most cases, dad is gone before the cubs are even born.

Dad Xerxes gives a big grooming lick to one of his cubs. Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Most wild cat fathers are not involved in child rearing, but lions are the exception. WPZ’s African lion Xerxes got to meet all his cubs, Tandie, Mandla and Gandia. He was a great father when the cubs were young and naturally as the boys matured they needed to move out from under his shadow. They have since relocated to Oakland Zoo where they live as a bachelor group together.

Father’s Day at Woodland Park Zoo

Celebrate dad and make family memories with a Father's Day visit to the zoo! Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

Bring your family to Woodland Park Zoo for Father's Day and enjoy half off admission for dad with the purchase of a child's admission when you mention this offer at any entry gate (offer not available online).

Make sure to stop by Zoomazium for a special Father’s Day craft! Did you know that male seahorses are the ones who are pregnant with baby seahorses? It is true; a unique exception and great example how astonishing nature is! Come make your very own seahorse to take home with you.

Before you leave Zoomazium pick up a Father’s Day tour and activity sheet that will lead you to some of the dads we have here at WPZ. Learn the names of dad and their kids, read a fun fact about the responsibilities this animal dad has and complete a little activity.

Come to Australasia at 1:30 for an emu talk; these large flightless birds will receive enrichment while we learn about the very unusual and important role emu dads play in raising their chicks. In many bird species fathers have a lot to do, building a nest then courting a female and that is before the eggs are even laid! Many wild birds live within the zoo—listen for the cheeping of chicks and watch as the parents provide for them!

Otter pop Guntur looks out for his little ones. Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Grow with Yola

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Editor

Yola, Nadiri, Akenji and Leo are ready. Now, you can visit the family starting at 1:00 p.m. daily.

Our thanks to you all for the incredible patience, kindness and support you have shown the gorillas and zoo staff as we gave Yola and Nadiri the time needed to bond and form a family.

Mother and daughter, Nadiri and Yola. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

Seeing these two together is everything we worked for, everything Nadiri worked for, and everything your support makes possible. You've followed along from Yola's first days of round-the-clock keeper care through the inspiring updates from keepers witnessing first-hand how Yola is truly growing up gorilla.

Yola is never far from mom's side. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

Now you can #GrowWithYola yourself and share your photos and stories to help us build the ultimate digital scrapbook as we track her growth together.

Be sure to share your photos and videos using #GrowWithYola. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

Yola is a Hausa name that means "firefly" and it couldn't be more fitting for the light she brings to her family and the spark she starts in each of us to fight for a world with gorillas in it. Critically endangered and losing ground every day in the wild, western lowland gorillas need our help. Every visit to Woodland Park Zoo helps support conservation efforts like our Wildlife Survival Fund project, the Mbeli Bai Study. The study researches the social organization and behaviors of more than 450 lowland gorillas living in the Republic of Congo, providing the scientific basis for conservation strategies.

Yola learns from he rmother every day, and we learn from them. Photo: John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo.

You can champion these causes in your own home too. Take your cell phone, for instance. Did you know mining for coltan, a mineral used in cell phones to hold an electrical charge, puts gorilla habitat at risk? Recycle your cell phone responsibly through companies like Eco-Cell to make a difference for gorillas and their habitat.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Flying fish usher in Bear Affair and Bear Awareness Week

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Editor

Things got very Seattle at Woodland Park Zoo when the world-famous fishmongers from Pike Place Fish Market helped us kick off Bear Awareness week and the big event, Bear Affair: Living Northwest Conservation Day presented Brown Bear Car Wash coming up Sat., Jun. 4.

Photo: John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo.

Grizzly brothers Keema and Denali could smell the salmon long before the fishmongers sent the fish flying over to them, shouting "TT for the bears" as in "test toss" in fishmonger-speak.

Photo: John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo.

In true Keema and Denali style, the bears let gravity do the work for them and then dined contentedly.

Photo: John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo.

Don't let the beautiful exhibit design fool you—the fishmongers were a safe distance from the bears with layers of containment between them, all under the watchful eyes of our animal care crew. That's why it takes a professional to throw the fish that far!

Photo: John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo.

Some brave zoo guests stepped up to the challenge to catch their own TT and what can we say, Seattleites are naturals.

Photo: John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo.

Seattleites are also outdoor lovers, like all Washingtonians, and that means encounters with wildlife are not unusual to us. Bear Affair is all about picking up tips for safely coexisting with wildlife when hiking, camping or even backyard partying.

Photo: Mat Hayward/Woodland Park Zoo.

At the upcoming event, Keema and Denali will ransack mock campsite and party set ups in their home to show you just what happens when you don't properly clean up or store your goods. They'll also put bear-proof containers to the test, all while you learn more about native wildlife, from carnivores to pollinators, and how to protect and enjoy our beautiful Northwest.

We all come to Bear Affair with different levels of knowledge and experience when it comes to bears in the Northwest. Test your bear IQ with our Griz Quiz to see where you stand:

Bear Affair kicks off Bear Awareness week, dedicated to all things bears in the Northwest. Ready to do more?


Several federal agencies are evaluating the environmental impacts of restoring a healthy grizzly bear population to Washington state's North Cascades. The best science shows that wherever grizzlies thrive, so does the surrounding ecosystem and native wildlife living in it.

Woodland Park Zoo supports grizzly bear recovery to the North Cascades, and invites you to add your name to the growing list of supporters to start the groundswell for grizzlies.