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Monday, August 28, 2017

The zoo is home for growing family of wild eagles

Posted by: Elizabeth Bacher, Marketing
Photos by Dennis Dow, Woodland Park Zoo

Here at Woodland Park Zoo, we share the habitat with all kinds of native wildlife such as bald eagles.  Two eagle fledglings, called eaglets, just left their nest above the zoo’s elk yard a few weeks ago. They’re only about 15 or 16 weeks old right now and already as big as their parents, but their overall dark coloring sets them apart from adults. 

Juveniles don’t develop the distinctive bald eagle features—white head, yellow beak and yellow feet—until they’re 4 or 5 years old. The eaglets’ long flight feathers, which help steady them as they learn to fly and hunt, often make them look even bigger than adults for the first year. But they’re still completely dependent on mom and dad right now.  

Soon, the parents will leave the nesting area to take advantage of fall salmon runs in places like the Skagit and Columbia River systems, and they won’t return for several months. The youngsters will be on their own then, and might hang around the zoo for an extra week or so before taking wing to join other juveniles and adults. The first winter is the most dangerous and difficult part of a young eagle’s life, so the lessons they learn now are important for survival. 

Until then, mom and dad will continue to hunt and provide food for the eaglets through the end of summer – giving them a few more weeks to watch and learn. That means there’s still time to catch the whole eagle family flying above the Wildlife Theater area next to the elk yard – or to see the eaglets gulp down a nutritious meal of rabbit, fish, crow or seagull. How do we know? Zoo staff – who say the pair look very well fed – have seen them eating on the ground in the elk yard, and sometimes find the remains of whatever was on the menu. #goodeagleparenting

Seattle Youth Climate Action Network Summer Superstars

Posted by: Kirsten Pisto, Communications

The youth will save the world. Sentiments like this can seem overzealous in their predictions, but after spending a few hours interviewing the participants of the Seattle Youth Climate Action Network (SYCAN) Summer Learning Experience, I am convinced.

An intensive pilot program, SYCAN Summer Learning Experience invited high school students from communities across King County to participate in a dynamic four-week local exploration of all things climate while keeping their brains abuzz during summer break. Along with three interns from the City of Seattle’s Seattle Youth Employment Program, three educators from Woodland Park Zoo and generous support from Stolte Family Foundation and others, the group came together to learn about the effects of climate change on people and the environment—and what some Seattle institutions and professionals are doing about it.

Each participant was given an Orca card, gifted by King County Metro, and used public transit each day of the program to get to and from a wide range of locations all around Seattle. From the Bullitt Center to Safeco Field, Recology to Pacific Science Center and Seattle Aquarium, the group visited many different locations across the city. While touring these destinations and learning about sustainability and green practices, the group also met with climate experts from varying backgrounds and professions each week. 

Removing invasive species to protect the forest at Cheasty Greenspace

Tasting the spoils at Beacon Food Forest

They discussed climate change and the environment with Climate Impacts Group’s Meade Krosby, PhD and Heidi Roop, PhD, and impacts on wildlife with Woodland Park Zoo’s Senior Conservation Fellow Robert Long, PhD and Senior Interpretive Designer Sarah Werner.  They learned about marine impacts such as ocean acidification from Seattle Aquarium’s Youth Engagement Coordinator Dave Glenn and teens from their Youth Ocean Advocates program, and learned from a panel of climate scientists at the University of Washington. One day they even hopped aboard the Sally Fox water taxi to meet Harold Tanaguchi, Director of the King County Department of Transportation,  KCDOT’s Climate Change and Energy Manager Alex Adams, Senior Climate Change Specialist Matt Kuharic, and Climate Engagement Specialist Jamie Stroble—all before lunch.

Up close at the Seattle Aquarium

The group gets the low down at Seattle's waterfront.

In between their rigorous schedule of meetings, field trips and workshops, the group spent time discussing what they had learned and prepared for their culminating assignment, a climate communication project that would be presented to zoo staff and visitors at the end of their four weeks. Bolstered by tremendous tips for successful research practice thanks to Seattle Public Library staff and first-hand experience with zoo staff and other experts on climate communication, the teams were introduced to myriad ways in which to communicate climate advocacy and connect with their audience.

Learning about ocean acidification from Discovery Corps interns at the Pacific Science Center

In addition to getting to know one another through team-building activities and journaling, the teens also learned about actions they could take to address climate change in their own daily lives.

The group split into teams dedicated to three Pacific Northwest animals: gray wolves, snowy owls and river otters. Their culminating project would attempt to communicate the effects of climate change on each animal and its habitat. The teens brainstormed ways to capture their audience (zoo visitors) and keep them interested in learning about climate change with so many distractions around (more animals to see) while delivering a somber message (climate change) with an optimistic outcome (actions to save wildlife)—no easy task! Each team came up with visuals, presentation props and clear, concise messaging to impart on each passersby. 

Working on last minute details for their presentations to zoo visitors.

Team gray wolf focused on the wolf’s role as a top predator and keystone species, keeping the biome and all its inhabitants in balance. A robust diorama and a slew of fun facts about wolf habitat kept visitors engaged. The takeaway? A brochure with more information about how actions at home, such as eating less meat and carpooling, can help mitigate climate change.

Team river otter focused on educating the public on the biology of river otters and their connection to clean waterways. Armed with an otter comic and surprising facts about climate change’s effect on water systems, the team left visitors with an understanding of small actions they could take at home that could help fight climate change.

Team snowy owl created a demonstrative climate change game, where visitors were asked to remove snowballs (cotton balls) at each prompt read aloud by the guest. An example: Lemming populations are dwindling because of changes in the sea level, remove 15 snowballs. As the snowballs were removed, visitors uncovered a drawing underneath which depicted snowy owls in peril.

The energy and passion each participant had for educating others on the effects of climate change was demonstrated in their commitment to the program and their outstanding presentations. Here, in their own words, is a little more about why they chose to spend four weeks of their summer working to make the world a better place for animals and people alike.

Karen Juliet, 15 years old, SYCAN student
“The Seattle Youth Climate Action Network was an amazing experience that I've never gotten before and I doubt I'll ever get in school. The most fun and engaging part of the program was getting to go around various areas in Seattle and interact with professionals that work with climate change, asking them questions, and learning new material. Another fun side was getting to meet, bond with, work, and spend time with new people that were passionate about the same cause as I was for 4 weeks. The impact this program had on me was gaining inspiration and knowledge. I didn't think that as an individual we can do small actions that will reduce our carbon footprints and it definitely got me motivated to start working within my school and community to communicate about climate change and the various areas it affects. I got a whole new whole perspective about climate change and how it affects the environment, economy, and people.” 

Jenny Mears, Program Educator
“Working on the SYCAN Summer Learning Experience with this group of teens was absolutely amazing. Each day, we would hop on light rail or a bus to visit a sustainability hotspot or to hear about the incredible work that climate professionals are doing around the city. We delved into climate impacts on the environment, wildlife, the economy, and people, hearing from experts on topics such as sea-level rise, ocean acidification, green technology, and climate justice. It was so inspiring to see the teens’ growth in knowledge and understanding of the impacts of climate change, as well as their passion and enthusiasm to make a difference in their community!” 

Benet Sparks, 17 years old, Seattle Youth Employment Program Intern
“I am an intern hired on by Seattle Youth Employment Program and I chose to work here at the zoo. I am here to assist the students here from different schools and help them work on their communications skills and learn about climate change and be able to speak comfortably to different people. Because climate change is real, the students and this generation and our kids are most affected by it, so educating them as early as possible is really important. We can’t stay on the route that we are on. Young minds are going to invent the new things—the new chances to make the ecofriendly choice. Just because we are 14 or 17 years old, it doesn’t matter how old we are, as long as we are passionate about it.
I knew I was passionate about the environment when I fell in love with animals when I was around ten years old. I grew up in rural Georgia, looking at insects, trees and birds. Moving to Seattle was a big change; I had to drive a long ways to get out of the city and into the evergreen part of the state. Missing that connection to nature in my backyard inspired me to get involved. I’m passionate about the animals living in the environment and how urban sprawl effects them. I fell in love with animal documentaries and I wanted to be the person who tells their stories. Now I want to be a zookeeper and attend UW or be a field conservationist.”

Aji Piper, 17 years old, Seattle Youth Employment Intern and member of the SYCAN Youth Leadership Committee
“I am here as an intern for SYCAN. The reason I’m here is supporting the youth that are going through this experience with my existing knowledge of climate change and advocacy. 
The importance of SYCAN existing is that it has the potential to reach people, to connect and teach about climate change because it’s not an environmental organization that does just one thing. It is a network that connects action, political advocacy, communication—and it’s an integral part of growing the youth movement. There is something for everyone at SYCAN, kids can find their own niche in the climate change movement. 
It’s not a question of whether or not kids will understand; they have a huge capacity and great imagination to solve these problems."
Eli Wiess and Aji Piper
Eli Weiss, Community Engagement Supervisor

“The SYCAN Summer Learning Experience is an exciting new opportunity for us to expand programming for the Seattle Youth Climate Action Network to include an intensive summer program designed to be accessible and relevant for teens from diverse communities in King County.  Our goal was to create a program that empowers participants to fight both climate change and summer learning loss while exploring the many dimensions of climate action around the city. Based on initial participant feedback, I think it is safe to say that our pilot year was a huge success and we look forward to refining the program model and sharing this opportunity with more teens next summer.”
Socially conscious, environmentally mindful and digitally sophisticated beyond even the generation before them—this curious, resourceful and altruistic cohort of young people are convinced they can curb climate change and find solutions for clean technology while protecting earth’s most precious resources. I can’t wait to see them prove it.

Huge thanks to the range of community groups who made this program possible and special thanks to our partners who supported the SYCAN Summer Learning Experience: Stolte Family Foundation, Seattle Public Libraries, King Country Department of Transportation, Seattle Youth Employment Program, Seattle Aquarium, Pacific Science Center, Climate Solutions, UW College of the Environment, and UW Climate Impacts Group. 

Seattle Youth Climate Action Network was launched by Woodland Park Zoo in January 2015 with initial funding from The Ocean Project, and represents a new local partnership between a range of climate and environment focused community groups and including teen programs at Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle Aquarium and Pacific Science Center. Since 2015, more than 500 teens have participated in monthly events, trainings, action campaigns, and our annual Youth Climate Action Summit!

Seattle Youth Climate Action Network (CAN) empowers teens to address climate change in their communities through education, leadership, and action. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Meet new orangutan of the forest, Godek

Godek orangutan
Godek’s steely eyes might even give “blue steel” a run for its money. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

He’s a little shy by nature. But when Godek took his first steps into the indoor orangutan exhibit, there was nothing tentative about the way he moved. The 8-year-old male Sumatran orangutan is settling right into his new home.

After arriving from Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado earlier this summer, Godek completed a standard quarantine at our veterinary hospital where care staff first observed his shy demeanor. His keepers from Colorado told us to expect the young fellow to be gentle and quiet, but also very playful. We had this in mind when we began introductions between Godek and his new social group.

The plan is for Godek to live with our older females, 49-year-old Chinta and 46-year-old Melati. Siblings Belawan, female, 36 and Heran, male, 28, have formed a second group. Godek is the first new addition to our orangutan family in 28 years. While our keepers have expertise in successfully introducing apes, we know this is new and different for the orangutans. So we’re following their cues and moving at a pace that works for these animals.

The first introduction

Before their first day together in the indoor exhibit, introductions between Godek and Chinta began slowly and methodically in a behind the scenes area. Initial introductions, which we call “howdy” sessions, start with a safety barrier between the animals, such as mesh screening. This way they can see and smell each other, reach through for physical contact, but still have the security of being in their own physical space as they adjust to the presence of new faces.

Sweet and mellow Chinta was the first to break the ice with Godek. During the first howdy introduction, Godek did the usual spitting and pushing against the mesh, which is normal and not unexpected from the young male. Chinta didn’t balk at his displays. By day two, Godek took a hint from Chinta and settled into positive and calm interactions with her. When he met Melati through a howdy session several days later, the good vibes continued.

Godek and Chinta orangutans
Godek, left, hangs out (get it?) with Chinta as they get to know one another better. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

Sharing a home

Yesterday, Chinta and Godek shared space together for the first time. When keepers opened the doors between their behind the scenes bedrooms and their indoor exhibit, Godek was the first to enter. He had the place to himself for about 10 minutes and used it to explore all around. We now see why his Colorado keepers nicknamed him “Spider-man.” Agile and quick, he scaled the vines and platforms and has already found himself a favorite hammock.

Chinta eventually decided to join him in the indoor exhibit and the two were easily companionable. Though Chinta will turn 50 next year—an amazing old age for an orangutan—Godek seems to be bringing some youthfulness out of her. The two wrestled, ate together, playfully grunted, and explored each other’s faces and bodies. Chinta always enjoyed wrestling with her nephew Heran when he was young, and is bringing that same patience and sweetness to her new buddy. Godek can be a little demanding of attention, but when she wants a break, Chinta has no problem being gentle yet clear.

After a few hours of intense play and exploration on their first day together, Godek seemed to tire out finally and began constructing a nest on one of the platforms. Chinta stretched and rolled over onto her back to relax. The keepers had been watching every minute of the interactions, prepared for all possibilities. Even though Godek got a second wind later, keepers ultimately saw two tuckered out orangutans. That was exactly the successful first step they wanted to see. We will need to see how the next few days play out but it was a great first day.

Godek and Chinta, orangutans
Godek looks around his indoor exhibit as Chinta chills behind him. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

What’s next for Godek?

Keepers will record daily observations so we can see how Godek adjusts to the space and his mates over time. We expect to continue to see positive signs. Next up, Chinta and Godek will be introduced to the outdoor area together. Our award-winning Trail of Vines exhibit was the first in the world to provide an open canopy forested home for orangutans. For Godek, this will be his first time outdoors without a net overhead. Because it’s been nearly three decades since the zoo has had a younger, more agile orangutan, we did a thorough inspection of the exhibit and made various modifications to ensure Godek’s safety.

After he settles into both the indoor and outdoor spaces comfortably, keepers will add Melati into the mix and give this new group time to adjust. During these introductions, we are temporarily closing visitor access to the orangutan exhibit to give the animals the space and time they need.

Godek is naturally at the age when he is ready to explore on his own, away from the family he was born into. His arrival to Seattle is part of the Orangutan Species Survival Plan, a conservation breeding program across accredited zoos to ensure genetically healthy populations, especially of endangered species. It will be several years before Godek reaches sexual maturity, and he will eventually be joined by a young female mate here. We hope to see them start the next generation of orangutans.

Orangutan Godek
Godek is young and has not yet developed the full cheek pads of a mature male orangutan. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

You can help save orangutans

We’re fighting for a future with orangutans in it. In their native Borneo and Sumatra, orangutans have been declared critically endangered. Overpopulation, logging, agriculture, conversion of forests to oil palm plantations, and other human activities are rapidly destroying their forest home. Working with our partner, the Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Program, we support eco-friendly livelihoods and education in communities that share orangutan habitat, empowering local conservation advocates.

Palm oil Malaysia
Unsustainable monoculture crops such as palm oil are a threat to forests and the diverse wildlife they support. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo, taken in Peninsular Malaysia.

Palm Oil Sustainable Shopping Guide
We’re in it to save species, but we can’t do it alone. It takes help from conservation partners and communities around the world, and that includes you. Do this one thing: download our sustainable palm oil guide to make forest-friendly consumer choices that protect orangutan habitat. Palm oil shows up in our grocery stores in everything from candy to shampoo. The guide will help you shop from companies committed to sustainable palm oil that is deforestation free. Take one look at Godek scaling heights and the need to protect forests for wild orangutans becomes so clear. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Conservation collaborations emerge (again) from fire

Posted by: Katie Remine, Education

In December of 2016, a fire damaged Woodland Park Zoo’s Day and Night exhibits. Staff from across the zoo came together with local firefighters to respond to the emergency and protect the animals in our care. With this tragedy in recent memory, we were very saddened to learn about a fire that impacted the conservation community in Eastern Washington. In late June, a brush fire caused great damage to the Pygmy Rabbit Recovery Project. But, like our experience at the zoo, a wide variety of partners and stakeholders came together in response to the emergency. This August, our Advanced Inquiry Program graduate students were able to go out, get dirty and help our friends at the Pygmy Rabbit Recovery Project.

Pygmy rabbit in a breeding enclosure in central Washington’s shrub steppe. Photo by Katie Remine/Woodland Park Zoo.

Weighing less than a pound for an average adult, pygmy rabbits are the smallest known rabbit species in the world and are the only rabbits in the United States that dig their own burrows.  Pygmy rabbits are found throughout the Great Basin, which includes parts of Washington, Idaho, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. Pygmy rabbits rely on habitat with deep soils and plentiful sagebrush, which makes up 99% of their winter diet. During spring and summer, sagebrush remains a staple, but is supplemented with grasses and other non-woody plants. The distinct Washington population, the Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit, reached drastically low levels by the late 1990s, but thanks to efforts by local zoos, universities, The Nature Conservancy and agencies including the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), populations in Washington are being re-established. Under the care of WDFW staff, pygmy rabbits are currently breeding in several large, open-air enclosures (which provide protection from predators) in shrub steppe habitat in central Washington and individuals are released into the wild each year.

In late June 2017, one of these enclosures and the surrounding habitat was impacted by a fire started by a lightning strike. Bureau of Land Management firefighters, WDFW staff and their partners all jumped in and took quick action and saved approximately one-third of the rabbits in the enclosure and transferred the survivors to the other enclosures. As staff and project partners evaluate next steps for rebuilding the population of pygmy rabbits so they can release more into the wild in future years, they are also working to take stock of the remaining population.

A view to the north across the location of the pygmy rabbit enclosure that was burned by the Sutherland Fire in June 2017. Photo by Katie Remine/Woodland Park Zoo.

As part of Woodland Park Zoo’s Advanced Inquiry Program, our graduate students can take a Northwest Wildlife Conservation (NWC) course. Each year this course focuses on an ecoregion in Washington state and explores case studies of species and habitat conservation in that ecoregion. This summer our topic was the Columbia Plateau ecoregion and pygmy rabbit recovery was one of our case studies. During our course field week, our NWC class joined the Pygmy Rabbit Recovery team to help them monitor the existing population in one of the enclosures. We were all touched by the team’s firsthand accounts of the fire and their response actions. One of the first rabbits we helped to check on was a survivor from the burned enclosure—project staff could tell from the rabbit’s singed whiskers that he had been awfully close to the flames. But he was an energetic rabbit, a trait that probably helped him survive!

Stacey Nerkowski (PhD candidate at University of Idaho) and Brian Zinke (WDFW) take data on a pygmy rabbit that survived the June fire, while WPZ Advanced Inquiry Program students look on. Photo by Katie Remine/Woodland Park Zoo.

During our course week, participants were inspired by all of our guest speakers, including representatives from Chelan-Douglas Land Trust, Initiative for Rural Innovation & Stewardship, The Nature Conservancy, a cattle rancher engaged in sustainable grazing practices, WDFW pygmy rabbit and WDFW raptor conservation staff, University of Idaho students and a local teacher. We quickly realized that conservation in a working landscape takes a lot of collaboration, communication and mutual respect. The example of the response to the fire only strengthened that understanding. Like the “one zoo” values that our zoo staff demonstrated during our fire emergency, we know it was this “one community” feeling that helped save those pygmy rabbits. Our hope for the future of the Columbia Plateau ecoregion, its biodiversity and local livelihoods was definitely rekindled by our experiences!

WPZ course participants assist Jon Gallie (WDFW Wildlife Biologist, right) with netting pygmy rabbits within the breeding enclosure in order to monitor the population. Photo by Alicia Highland.

Want to learn more about the Advanced Inquiry Program (AIP) and our course offerings? Join us for an AIP Information Session this fall/winter: Wednesday, November 15, 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. at WPZ; Tuesday, November 28 via webinar or Thursday, January 18, 2018, 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. at WPZ. RSVP by emailing aip@zoo.org.  

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

MyZoo Kids Rock Backyard Creature Art Contest

Posted by Kirsten Pisto, Communications

This summer we asked kids to show us what kinds of creatures might be hiding in their backyardthe results were some very creative and rare species indeed.

The MyZoo Kids' Backyard Creatures contest invited kids ages 3-5 and 6-10 to design their own inspired creatures, whether real or imagined and after sorting through a stack of over 100 entries we have the winners!

Grand Prize: Age 6-10

Artist: Lauren Orrison, age 7
Name of creature: Lady Lizard
Nocturnal, eats pollen, lives underground and likes to dance.

We loved Lauren's wild use of mark making and a creature that reminds us of something we have seen before, but can't quite place. Lauren will receive an overnight experience at the zoo in August. Great work Lauren!

Grand Prize: Age 3-5

Artist: Carly Rodgers, age 5
Name of creature: Sazzy
Nocturnal, eats reptiles, lives in a swamp and likes to hide.

There was something a little bit creepy and a little bit beautiful about Carly's creature, we love it! Carly will receive a ZooParent adoption plush and kit. So cool, Carly!

Runners up: Age 6-10

Artist: Asher Haukaas, age 9
Name of creature: Puffball salamander
Diurnal, eats insects, lives in damp areas and likes to release poisonous spores like a puffball mushroom.

Artist: Audrey Yu, age 6
Name of creature: Mini dragon fox
Crespucular, eats mice, lives in caves and likes to sun bathe.

Runners up: Age 3-5

Artist: Ellie White, age 5
Name of creature: Paint-the-town swallow
Crepuscular, eats bugs and roly polies, lives in trees and likes to fly to hunt for food.

Artist: Elianna Hogg, age 5
Name of creature: Cutie spider
Diurnal, eats all sorts of bugs, lives in its web and likes to make more webs.

There were so many wonderful entries, but puffball salamanders, mini dragon foxes, painting swallows and cute spiders all sounded like creatures we'd like to see in our backyards. Asher, Audrey, Elianna and Ellie will receive Woodland Park Zoo t-shirts and animal experience tickets. 

Thanks to all of the amazingly talented young artists and budding entomologists who participated in this summer's MyZoo kids contest. And, special thanks to local artist Melinda Hurst Frye for sharing her wonderful images with us in the summer issue of MyZoo magazine. To read more about Melinda's work and the beautiful backyard bugs that inspire her, check out the latest issue at zoo.org/magazine.

If you can't get enough of these creatures, stop by Bug World, our exhibit is teeming with some pretty incredible species you can find right in your own backyard.

Keep drawing, keep exploring and never stop using your imagination and creativity to celebrate nature!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Oops, snow leopard cub is a boy, not a girl

Posted by: Gigi Allianic, Communications

Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/WPZ.

After a closer look, it turns out our 1-month-old snow leopard is a boy, not a girl as reported two weeks ago during a quick neonatal exam. At a follow-up exam with veterinarians today we, uh, uncovered the truth. Sometimes determining the sex of young animals, particularly cats, can be more of an art than a science.

Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/WPZ

“Male or female, we’re pleased our cub remains in a healthy condition. Both eyes have opened and he weighed in today at 4.2 pounds, a healthy weight for his age,” said Dr. Darin Collins, Woodland Park Zoo’s director of animal health. Veterinarians will continue to administer health exams every few weeks until he’s about 16 weeks old for weight monitoring, vaccinations, and critical blood and fecal sampling, explained Collins. The check-ups are a part of the zoo’s exemplary animal welfare program to ensure each animal receives optimal health care.

Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/WPZ

The new cub was born July 6 and is the first offspring between mom Helen and dad Dhirin (pronounced as did-in), both 12. Helen has had two previous litters with a different mate. Mom and cub remain in an off-view maternity den to ensure continual bonding and proper nursing in a quieter setting while staff watch the new family on a closed-circuit monitoring system. Cubs are born helpless, with their eyes closed; for several weeks they rely on their mothers for nutrition. To minimize disturbance, staff have minimal physical contact with the new family. Since snow leopards are solitary animals in their natural range, the father lives separately from the cub and can be seen by guests in the zoo’s snow leopard exhibit.

We anticipate putting the cub with mom in the outdoor, on-view exhibit in late September. 

Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/WPZ

Look for a naming poll coming later this month, to be launched at our Wild Asia: Asian Wildlife Conservation Day on August 12. Join us for the day and learn more about these elusive, beautiful cats and how to protect them.

“Mom is providing excellent maternal care for her cub, just like she did with her other cubs,” said Deanna DeBo, an animal collection manager at Woodland Park Zoo. “The cub is gaining more mobility each day in the den box and is using his legs instead of crawling or scooting.”

Parents Helen and Dhirin were paired under the Snow Leopard Species Survival Plan, a conservation breeding program across accredited zoos to help ensure a healthy, self-sustaining population of snow leopards. Helen has lived at Woodland Park Zoo since 2008 and Dhirin arrived from Oklahoma City Zoo in 2014.

Snow leopards are an endangered species. The snow leopard is a moderately large cat native to the high mountain ranges of Central Asia and Russia, including in Afghanistan, China, India, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal and Pakistan. According to the Seattle-based Snow Leopard Trust, the population of these endangered big cats in the wild is estimated to be between 3,920 and 6,390.

Woodland Park Zoo has long been a conservation partner with the Snow Leopard Trust (SLT); the two organizations are partnering with Kyrgyzstan's State Agency for Environment Protection and Forestry to protect the snow leopards of the Tian Shan mountains. Research cameras set up in the Sarychat Ertash reserve allow researchers to monitor the area's snow leopard population, which they estimate to be around 18 cats. Through innovative programs, effective partnerships, and the latest science, the SLT is saving these endangered cats and improving the lives of people who live in the snow leopard countries of Central Asia.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Baby giraffe Lulu takes first steps on the savanna

Posted by: Gigi Allianic, Communications

Lulu's first day on the savanna. Photo: Dennis Dow/WPZ.

This happened today.

It's a new milestone for baby giraffe, Lulu. For the first time, the 1½-month-old giraffe ventured onto the vast African Savanna exhibit with mom Tufani and the herd.

Hey there, guinea fowl. Have you met Lulu? You're about to! Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/WPZ.

“Lulu’s adventurous spirit and self-confidence were on full display during her first introduction on the savanna. She crossed out to the savanna cautiously, but once she was out there, she explored, galloped, and met our gazelle, guinea fowl and a few ducks,” said Katie Ahl, a lead keeper at Woodland Park Zoo.

“Lulu is very independent but you could tell Tufani and Lulu were keeping an eye on each other and it was good to see them check in with each other throughout the introduction,” Katie added.

Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/WPZ.

Lulu’s time on the Savanna will be limited for the first week as introductions continue.  Currently, she has outdoor access in the corrals for guests to enjoy her from 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. daily. “Lulu and her mom also have access to the barn, which is not viewable to our guests, so she may choose to go in the barn to nurse or nap,” said Katie.

Branches in the foreground acted as baby bumpers to keep Lulu away from steeper slopes. Photo: John Loughlin/WPZ.

Like human parents do at home for their own babies, the zoo closely inspected the African Savanna and took steps to baby proof the exhibit before introducing Lulu. Baby proofing the exhibit is a standard protocol when baby animals at the zoo go into an exhibit, and it is part of ensuring good animal welfare,” said Martin Ramirez, mammal curator at Woodland Park Zoo. “Giraffe-style baby bumpers were added to the exhibit in the form of branches and logs laid along steeper slopes. We also closed up any gaps where she could potentially wedge herself. The baby bumpers and the watchful eyes of her mom and aunt are a great safety net as she explores her new surroundings.”

Seattle’s tallest baby, Lulu, was born June 20 to first-time parents, 9-year-old giraffe Tufani (too-faw-nee) and 4-year-old Dave. Born at a height of 5’9”, Lulu currently stands at 7’6” tall and weighs 267 pounds.

The family. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/WPZ.

Widespread across southern and eastern Africa, with smaller isolated populations in west and central Africa, new population surveys estimate an overall 36 to 40 percent decline in the giraffe population. Of the currently recognized subspecies of giraffe, five have decreasing populations, while three are increasing and one is stable.

Giraffe fans can help support conservation efforts by visiting Woodland Park Zoo and supporting Wildlife Survival Fund projects, including the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, which seeks to provide the first long-term ecological monitoring effort of the Angolan giraffe—an important desert-dwelling giraffe subspecies in northwestern Namibia.

Love this girl. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/WPZ.