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Seattle Park District funds at work

Posted by: Kerston Swartz, Public Affairs

We continue to be grateful to Seattle voters for approving the Seattle Park District in Nov. 2014. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

Of all the projects in construction, roof repairs, HVAC maintenance and utility upgrades are unquestionably not exciting, but as any builder knows, this essential infrastructure work creates a safe and sturdy foundation for the flashy projects we ogle over in glossy magazines.

At Woodland Park Zoo, these infrastructure projects are way more than just maintenance. This work is central to the health and comfort of our residents—the 1,200 animals who call this place home— and the humans who care for them.

That’s why we continue to be extremely grateful to Seattle voters for passing the Seattle Park District ballot measure nearly two years ago. With major maintenance funding provided by the Park District—about $1.8 million a year—the zoo can tackle a long list of infrastructure projects not uncommon to a park built over 100 years ago.

We'd like to take some time in this season of gratitude to highlight a couple of important—and pretty cool—projects completed in 2016 made possible with Park District funding. Both bodies of work directly serve our animal families, and in one case, help us fulfill our mission to save animals from extinction, proving that not all major maintenance projects include replacing carpet and digging trenches.

Tree replacement in Trail of Vines

Next time you’re visiting the zoo, take a closer look at the trees outside in the orangutan exhibit. They must be real… right?

Actually, several of these trees are fabricated by the zoo’s incredibly talented exhibits team. By fabricating trees and other exhibit elements, this crew can build structures that specifically meet needs of the animals using them. And from time to time, just like in your yard at home, a refresh is needed.

A fabricated tree is carefully lowered into the orangutan exhibit. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

The crew works to place the new tree just right. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

In spring of 2016, one horizontal and three vertical trees were added to the west side of the orangutan exhibit, designed through close consult between our exhibits and animal management teams. These recently added structures offer new climbing opportunities for the orangutans, and a quiet place for alone time when desired. This type of improvement allows the zoo to continue to provide excellent welfare for these highly intelligent apes. Thanks to Seattle Park District funding for making it possible to create and install these much-used trees. 

Asian turtle room renovation 

Turtle species in Asia are facing a crisis of epic proportions, including members of the smaller-bodied Asian box turtle family. All but one of the 12 species of Asian box turtles are listed as threatened or endangered due to international pet trade and use in traditional eastern medicine. The time is now to help these little turtles—and with Park District funding, Woodland Park Zoo is doing just that. Starting this winter, we’ll contribute to saving Asian box turtles by launching a breeding program for two species, the Indochinese box turtle and the yellow-margined box turtle. 

Yellow-margined box turtle. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

But first, we needed to renovate a room in our Day Exhibit to create the perfect conditions for these turtles. This 130 sq. ft. temperature-controlled space is all the room the small turtles need to thrive at the zoo, along with the state-of-the-art filtration system we’re installing to reduce water usage. The new equipment and reconfiguration of an existing behind-the-scenes area was made possible by Park District funding.

When the first turtle hatchlings appear, we’ll surely feel thankful to Seattle voters for helping us save these beautiful little turtles from extinction!