Skip to main content


Showing posts from August, 2016

Vultures get their day

Posted by: Susan Burchardt, Zookeeper

Vultures are common—found all over the world except Antarctica and Australia—and yet are frequently overlooked or misunderstood.

Here in the United States we are lucky to have three species of these beautiful scavengers: the black vulture, the turkey vulture and the critically endangered California condor. Condor numbers are slowly creeping back up. Once down to 22 individuals there are now about 430 condors.

The picture is a little darker in other parts of the world. Asian vulture populations are beginning to stabilize after dramatic losses in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In Africa, carcasses are being poisoned to prevent soaring vultures from alerting rangers to the presence of poachers. This with other issues has caused several species to drop to near critically endangered levels.

A few years ago, educators got together and started celebrating International Vulture Awareness Day. Worldwide, it’s become a tradition on the first Saturday of Se…

Tiger rangers put eyes on the forest

Posted by: Fred Koontz, PhD, Vice President of Field Conservation

In my last blog post, you read a story about my recent trip to Malaysia, which included a visit to our Harimau Selamanya (“Tigers Forever”) conservation project area. As I wrote to you, I left feeling daunted at the sheer scale of resources needed to save the critically endangered Malayan tiger, yet hopeful about our collective power to save them, together.

The Good News: Our efforts are working! Woodland Park Zoo's partnership with Panthera, the international wild cat conservancy, and Malaysian non-profit Rimba combines resources to stop the illegal killing of tigers. In just two years, rangers from Malaysia's Department of Wildlife and National Parks, with support from our team of 14 dedicated researchers have removed more than 10 snares and helped apprehend 18 poachers. Their daily presence alone deters illegal hunting—poachers know the forest is being watched.

The Bad News: The number of known wild tigers outs…

Lion Guardians give us something to celebrate this World Lion Day

Posted by: Amy Dickman, PhD, Ruaha Carnivore Project, a Woodland Park Zoo Partner for Wildlife

Lions are one of Africa’s flagship species, but their numbers have halved in the last 20 years, with around 20,000 remaining. This means there are now fewer wild lions left in Africa than rhinos. Lions have disappeared from over 90% of their original range, and now only six large populations remain. One of those is in Tanzania’s Ruaha landscape, which is estimated to hold around a tenth of the world’s remaining lions.

Many lion killings in the Ruaha landscape occur for cultural reasons, where young men hunt lions in order to receive accolades, gifts and female attention from within their communities. To reduce these killings, we have been working with the Lion Guardians organization in Kenya, and adapting their model for the Ruaha landscape. The Lion Guardians approach is to select and train the most influential local warriors, and employ them to liaise with their communities and stop lion h…

Research cameras catch scavengers in the act

Posted by: Jim Watson, Wildlife Research Scientist, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife & Woodland Park Zoo Living Northwest conservation program

Pop Quiz: Scavenger SquadCan you identify each of these typical Northwest scavengers? 
Bonus points if you can name which one is the top dog (at least for a few minutes).

This past winter we completed the fifth year of our study to investigate the feeding behavior of golden and bald eagles at carrion using remote cameras known as camera traps. Our interest is to better understand feeding rates of eagles on carrion, which is alikely source of lead fragments that eagles ingest, eventually poisoning them. 

We are working cooperatively with Dr. Matt Orr, a researcher at Oregon State University conducting similar research that emphasizes the importance of ravens in finding carrion and attracting other scavengers. Even when ravens arrive at a carcass before other scavengers, they may have to wait to eat until someone with fangs or a shar…

Butterfly Wings coloring contest: winners announced!

Posted by Kirsten Pisto, Communications

Last month, in celebration of the new Molbak's Butterfly Garden, we asked artists of all ages to show us their most creative designs with the Butterfly Wings coloring contest. As 569 beautiful entries rolled in, we realized that picking the winners would be a daunting task!

The video above highlights just a few of the 569 entries we received.
To help us narrow down the contestants, we invited the entire zoo staff to vote for their favorites. After eight hours of voting, we finally have our winners. Drum roll, please...

Adults (13 years and older)
Grand prize winner: Melissa Jeffers, 21, “Butterflies in the Forest”
Runner up: Elissa Clough, 13, “The Butterfly Garden”
Children (ages 7-12)

Grand prize winner: Chloe Zhan, 10, “Exotic Wildlife”
Runner up: Vivian Rice, 12, “Free to fly”

Children (ages 2-6)

Grand prize winner: Breckon Vanbuecken, 4, “The Fortress of Solitude”
Runner up: Evie Manges, 5, “Buzz Buzz Garden”
Honorable Mentions
With so many wonderfu…