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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A Community Zoo

Posted by: Kirsten Pisto, communications
Photo by Dennis Dow, Woodland Park Zoo

We believe that every kid (and kid at heart) should have access to their local zoo.

We are proud to report that in 2016, Woodland Park Zoo’s Community Access Program (CAP) partnered with over 600 local human service organizations who offered their clients more than 80,000 complimentary passes to Woodland Park Zoo.  

The CAP mission is to reach out to those in our community who would not otherwise be able to experience a zoo visit. Our partnerships with 600+ human service organizations across Puget Sound make this mission possible. We want to thank our partners for their participation in this program and we'd like to thank you for making programs like CAP possible. With each zoo visit and membership, you support a zoo that supports its community.

Our love for the community will never tapir. 

Last year, we were pleased to have welcomed 54,286 CAP visitors to roar with Xerxes, walk with Pluma and dive with Valkyrie. With an estimated 50% redemption rate, we are thrilled that these community members value and appreciate their zoo just as we appreciate them. CAP serves a diverse population of King County and beyond, and for many of our participants, this was their first zoo experience.

Especially exciting was a leap into conservation education with programming built for CAP participants. Our education community engagement team piloted several new programs aimed at introducing community members to conservation education. These special activities took place both at the zoo and at events that brought the zoo to neighborhood centers and community-building celebrations. 

In 2016, the team delivered more than 100 unique animal themed outreach programs to low income community members at schools, community centers, and neighborhood events throughout Seattle and King County, reaching more than 6,500 children and adults. 

In addition, WPZ’s Up CLOSE program offered a range of dynamic programs featuring our Ambassador Animals to community members of all ages. From preschools to community centers to senior centers our education staff bring age and audience appropriate programs to sites around the greater Seattle area. These programs are designed to provide dynamic natural science experiences, develop empathy, and build new connections to the zoo. More than half of the programs we offer annually are provided at a highly subsidized rate to partner organizations and schools serving low income community members.

This year, we hope to do even more. 

We'll always find our way if we work together.

We believe time spent with wildlife is educational, motivational and restorative. It is our goal to make such experiences possible to as many people as possible regardless of their economic circumstances.
As a reflection of the wide support that makes our world-class zoo so strong, the Community Access Program (CAP) is dedicated to making the zoo more accessible to low-income, at-risk or underserved children and families in our shared community.
In partnership with nonprofits, foundations, state and local government entities, and indigenous community organizations, we thank you for your support in creating Access for All.
We can't wait to welcome even more CAP participants in 2017!

“We work with women who have abused drugs or alcohol during their pregnancy. Many of them are learning how to parent well and provide healthy options and environments for their families. The CAP program provides an opportunity for the families we serve to have a healthy, sober, and free option to bond and have fun as a family. Thank you so much for your generosity.” - Parent-Child Assistance Program 

“Thanks so much for including YES and the youth and families we serve in your community access program. Our clients are so appreciative of the opportunity to enjoy the zoo and learn exciting new things without having to worry about affording admission.” -Youth Eastside Services 

“This is a wonderful gift you offer to our patients. Thank you.” -Swedish Cancer Institute 

“I would just like to say thank you and the Woodland Park Zoo community Group Voucher program. The Families had a great time. We appreciate all you have done for families in Muslim Housing service and our community. Thank you for all you do.” -Muslim Family Housing

“Just want to say THANK YOU for offering this, it brings family together and provides our homeless and low income families a spectacular day at the Zoo!” -Views at Madison 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Cupid visits the savanna: Giraffes Dave and Tufani are expecting!

Posted by: Kirsten Pisto, Communications

Tufani: Enjoys sweet grain snacks, has mastered the art of drooling and sports beautiful dark brown spots. Looking for love and another biscuit.

Dave: Willing to stick his neck out for love.

Cupid: Spotted the pair on the savanna.

When it comes to cupid’s arrow hitting the mark, it appears that in at least one instance, the arrow stuck. Giraffes Dave and Tufani are expecting!

Looking good, Dave! Photo by Dennis Dow, WPZ.
Tufani (left) with her nephew Misawa in 2013. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, WPZ.

This Valentine's-worthy news comes as keepers prepare for a long, long wait. Giraffe have one of the longest gestation periods for mammals: 14.5 to 15 months. While it is impossible to be 100% sure that Tufani is pregnant (without putting in a tall order for an ultrasound), keepers tell us that all the right signs are pointing to a new addition to the savanna sometime this summer.

That is your cue to get excited.

Here is a photo of the last little giraffe born at Woodland Park Zoo in 2013. The lovable "grumpy-face" Misawa is the offspring of our late Chioke and Olivia (Tufani's sister). In September 2015, Misawa moved to Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas to begin his own family. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

When Tufani gives birth this summer, it will be the first for both parents.

Dave and Tufani have been herd mates for a little over three years. Handsome Dave arrived from Brookfield Zoo in 2014 and Tufani has been at WPZ since arriving from Dickerson Park Zoo in 2009.

When it comes to giraffe flirtation, it's all about the chemistry (hormones), so as soon as Tufani was off of her birth control, the flirting began. Through smell and a little giraffe necking, Dave could sense that Tufani was receptive... and the rest is history.

Squad goals: Olivia, Tufani, Dave and Misawa on the savanna in 2014. Photo by Dennis Dow, WPZ.

With a birth window of anywhere between mid-May and June, keepers look for physical and behavioral signs to clue them into what is happening. Lead Keeper Katie Ahl is what you might call a giraffe doula. She is an expert in keeping pregnant giraffes comfortable and predicting what the new mom will need once baby arrives. Usually, it's more leaf-eater biscuits.

Katie tells us that besides fecal hormone testing, which is collected each day over an entire month, there are some other indicators of pregnancy. A rounding belly, increased appetite and lack of estrus behavior are all signs of a pregnant giraffe. Still, just like people, each giraffe is different, so relying on these indicators alone might not be accurate.

While the lab test confirmed Tufani’s pregnancy, the zoo’s animal care staff advises that animal pregnancies cannot be 100% confirmed until the baby is born. “Due to the long gestation period, signs of pregnancy can be difficult to detect early on,” said Katie. “For those of us who work with Tufani on a daily basis, we can see how her physical appearance has changed. That combined with the lab results make us confident she is pregnant.”

If you see Tufani on the savanna, you might not be able to spot a visible bump until closer to her birth window, when her belly has started to round out. “If you know what you’re looking for, you can see it,” says Katie. “She’s now in her third trimester so she’s really starting to show; and she’ll only get bigger from here.”

Katie is sure about one thing, she thinks Tufani will be a great mom. “Tufani was a wonderful aunt to Misawa,” says Katie. “She was interested in him the minute he was born and was very protective of him. This makes me think she will be a good mom. I also think Dave will be a good herd mate and, based on her experience as a mom, Olivia will be a good aunt.”

Tufani's experience as Misawa’s doting aunt could prove useful for her as a first time mother.  Photo by Ryan Hawk, WPZ.

Tufani’s animal care team, consisting of zookeepers, managers and veterinary staff, will continue to increase her diet and provide regular vet checks. “Closer to her birth window we will need to do daily assessments to see if she is in labor,” explains Katie. “We will likely keep Tufani, Dave and Olivia together at the barn if there is a possibility of her giving birth that day. Otherwise it will be business as usual.”

Along with a detailed birth management plan that helps keepers and veterinary staff prepare for all scenarios of a giraffe birth, there is a sense of excitement in anticipation of the baby's arrival. Dave and Tufani are different subspecies, so their baby will be a hybrid, called a common giraffe. Katie hopes that the baby will have Dave's calm, cool temperament and Tufani's cool eye markings. But as long as the baby is healthy and the birth goes smoothly, Katie will be thrilled.

When asked how excited she is for this birth, on a scale of 1 to 10, Katie says, 10.

Misawa, Tufani and Olivia. Giraffes give birth while standing, and the calf drops 5 feet from the ground as it is born. About 6 feet tall at birth, infants usually stand within half an hour after birth and can run around with their moms several hours later. Photo by Dennis Dow, WPZ.

Katie and all the savanna staff will keep an extra eye on Tufani and keep her diet on track, which is important even when a pregnant giraffe insists she is craving more biscuits. "I may have given her at least one extra biscuit" admits Katie.

Want to show your love for giraffes this Valentine's Day? We recommend a few Tufani-and-Dave-worthy gifts for your own sweetheart.

An up-close look at giraffe lips! Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, WPZ.

Bring your crush to the zoo: Giraffe fans can help support conservation efforts by visiting Woodland Park Zoo. Each visit supports our Wildlife Survival Fund projects, including the Giraffe Conservation Foundation. The foundation seeks to provide the first long-term ecological monitoring effort of the Angolan giraffe—an important desert-dwelling giraffe subspecies in northwestern Namibia.

ZooParent adoptions make pretty sweet Valentine's gifts! www.zoo.org/zooparent

Adopt a giraffe together:
Nothing says "I love you" like a soft, cuddly giraffe plush with a mission for conservation. This little cutie will remind your sweetheart that you are committed...to a future where giraffes are thriving. ZooParent adoptions start at $50.

A beautiful portrait of Olivia, Tufani's sister and herd mate. Photo by Ryan Hawk, WPZ.

An entire year of love: Need a tried and true last-minute Valentine's present that is sure to impress? Consider a zoo membership for the animal lover in your life. With packages starting at $49, a zoo membership is the ultimate token of affection.

If you're as excited about this news as we are, then you'll be pleased to hear that we will be sharing updates on Tufani and crew right here as soon as we have more news to share. Thank you for showing your love for giraffes and have a beautiful Valentine's Day!

Smoooooches! Wet giraffe kisses courtesy of Olivia. Photo by Dennis Dow, WPZ.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Action Alert: You can help bring grizzlies back to Washington state

Posted by: Kerston Swartz, Advocacy Manager

You can help bring this iconic species back to Washington’s North Cascades.

Woodland Park Zoo supports grizzly bear restoration in Washington state. You should too. And you don’t even need to put down whatever device you are on right now to make your stance known.

Submit a public comment now and tell the government why you want grizzly bears recovered into the North Cascades. 

Grizzly bear brothers Keema and Denali. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

Let us make the case. It starts right here with two of Washington’s most well-known grizzlies. It’s no surprise Woodland Park Zoo’s grizzly bear brothers, Keema and Denali, are among the most popular animals at the zoo. With their fuzzy ears, lumbering stroll and impressive swimming (OK, more like floating and bobbing) skills, they’re hard not to love. 

Despite their lovability, history has not been kind to grizzly bears in Washington state. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, new settlers to Washington killed thousands of grizzly bears, significantly reducing or eliminating populations. Today, fewer than 10 grizzlies exist in Washington’s North Cascades Ecosystem…and really, it’s probably more like one or two. In fact, a grizzly hasn’t been spotted in the North Cascades for 21 years.

We can reverse the grizzly bear’s history in Washington. The National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and several other federal and state agencies are evaluating ways to restore the grizzly population in the North Cascades. They’ve released a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) analyzing several options that include translocating bears from other regions into Washington.

Woodland Park Zoo supports North Cascades grizzly bear recovery and this process. Here are three reasons you can add to your public comment in support of grizzly recovery:

1. Grizzly bears are vital to ecosystem health
The North Cascades are a beautiful and pristine wildland, but are missing one key element: grizzly bears. Misunderstood as voracious predators, grizzly bears are actually semi-reclusive, very smart omnivores. In fact, 80% of a grizzly’s diet is berries, green plants, roots and insects. This is why grizzlies have such long claws: so they can dig up roots, bulbs, small mammals and bugs. That big hump on their back? That’s a well-developed digging muscle. All this excavating aerates the soil and increases plant diversity to create a lush and healthy environment for many other critters. 

2. We already know the (bear) drill
Prepared outdoorspeople already know how to behave in bear country, as we have thousands of black bears living among us in the state. True, grizzlies and black bears have distinct personalities, but bear safety standard operating procedure is the same. Take bear spray when you go into the woods, properly pack and cook your food while camping, and be sure to make lots of noise on a hike.

3. Recovering the grizzly bear is the right thing to do
There are many more reasons why recovering grizzlies to the North Cascades makes sense, but in the end, it’s simply the right thing for us to do. Grizzly bears lived in our state for thousands of years. They are part of our region’s rich heritage. American Indians throughout the Pacific Northwest see grizzly bears as teachers and guides, iconic symbols of strength and survival. Imagine our regional pride when we could boast about the return of the grizzly bear to Washington after near eradication 100 years ago.

Grizzly bears are smart and curious animals with a keen sense of smell. Be sure to practice bear safe techniques when you’re recreating. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

If you’re even more curious about recovery, go to a public meeting to learn more. At these meetings, informational displays will be available as well as an opportunity to submit written comments.

Whether you submit your comment online or at a meeting, we thank you for using your voice as an instrument of conservation. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Grizzly bear makes snow angels on Seattle snow day

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Editor
Photos and video by: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

Whether you spent some time today stuck at home, stuck in traffic, or stuck at work or school, you could probably use a little grizzly bear snow angel magic to make you smile.

The smiles don't stop there. Now prepare yourself for young arctic fox Hudson who knew just what to do on his first major Seattle snow day...make snowballs!

This whole place transformed into a winter wonderland today. For some animals, the snow brings out their instincts, and for others, it's a curious novelty. While the animals have plenty of heated and covered spaces to cozy up in, many chose to go out and play today. Hope you did too!

Our thanks to the zookeepers and all the zoo staff who came in today to make sure the animals—and our guests—were well taken care of. Hope you all have a happy snow day, wherever you are!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Adorable otter pups visit vet for first check-up

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Editor

It’s a boy, and a boy, and a boy, and a girl! Four Asian small-clawed otters born in December had their first health check-up with zoo veterinarians today. All signs point to these little ones being healthy and well cared for by their doting mom, dad and older sisters.

Photos: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

The wellness exam was our first opportunity to get weights, administer vaccinations and assess their overall health up close. At 2 months old, these pups are starting to be more mobile and have fully opened their eyes, so the time was right to take a closer look.

We’re pleased to report all four pups are robust and healthy. They currently weigh between 1.3 to 1.5 pounds, have fully round bellies and strong appetites.

Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

The pups were born December 9 to 7-year-old mother Teratai and 11-year-old father Guntur, their third litter. While the older sisters are actively participating in raising the new pups, the oldest brothers from the earlier litters are getting ready to head out to new homes soon; they’ve reached the age when they are ready to leave their parents.

We know everyone is excited to come see these sweet, new faces! As they are just getting more mobile and coordinated, it’ll still be a little time before they are ready to head outdoors. For now, they are cozy in a family den behind the scenes. Once they get some practice with swimming, they’ll start to venture outdoors in early spring.

Occasionally, you might see one of the adult otters out on the exhibit. They might be taking a little break, or sometimes they are grabbing more material to bring back to their indoor den.

You can support this precious family by becoming a ZooParent. Your adoption helps support the
care of the otters and other animal residents, while also directly supporting our conservation field projects including efforts to protect Washington’s own river otters.