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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Holy bat exams!

Posted by Gigi Allianic, Communications
Photos by John Loughlin, Woodland Park Zoo

Bats may be top of mind on Halloween, but these amazing mammals should be revered every day of the year. Woodland Park Zoo’s six bats—Indian flying foxes—recently received their annual exams and are healthy and thriving.

A radiograph shows off the massive wingspan of the Indian flying fox.
The zoo’s animal health team performed the wellness exams at the zoo’s veterinary hospital. Ranging in age from 8 to 11 years old and weighing between 1.3 and 1.8 pounds, each bat received an overall health assessment that included body weights, bloodwork, dental and radiographs. The checkups are a part of Woodland Park Zoo’s exemplary animal welfare program.

The Indian flying fox, also known as the greater Indian fruit bat, has a widespread range on the Indian subcontinent that extends from Pakistan to Southeast Asia and China, and south to the Maldive Islands. 

“There were some small wing web holes and a few dental issues, all of which are not uncommon in bats,” said Dr. Tim Storms, an interim veterinarian at Woodland Park Zoo. A radiograph revealed previous fractures in one of the bat’s wings and knee that has resulted in some restricted range of motion in the affected joints, but this bat’s injuries were stable and didn’t require treatment. “Overall, our bats are healthy and continue to fascinate our guests in the Adaptations Building.” 

Fans of the nocturnal winged mammals can check out the zoo’s live Bat Cam, equipped with night vision, at all hours. The lights go down in the exhibit at 8:00 p.m. PT, and the bats become even more active during the night. Watch the colony of six male fruit bats as they dine, groom each other and chill out upside down at www.zoo.org/batcam.

The animal health team carefully handles one of the bats during a health exam.
Halloween is an opportune time to debunk myths surrounding bats such as bats are pests, are blind, are bloodsucking vampires, carry disease and are dirty. “Unfortunately, this extraordinary group of mammals is misunderstood. Many critical, ecological benefits come from bats,” says Jenny Pramuk, PhD, a curator at Woodland Park Zoo. “Bats voluntarily eat up to 600 mosquitoes an hour, while you are sleeping, protecting us from malaria, West Nile Virus, dengue and yellow fever. Bats help keep insect numbers down. They are a natural pest control and play a big role in helping pollinate flowers and fruit trees. And they’re no more likely than other wild animals to carry disease. We need bats.”

Bats are in danger. More than 1,300 species of bats exist across six continents, with 15 species found in Washington state. Their populations are declining across the world due to multiple threats including habitat destruction and roost disturbance, wind turbine disruption, and being hunted as a food source. According to Bats Northwest, white-nose syndrome, a devastating fungal disease, has killed more than 6 million insect-eating bats in North America since it was first documented in 2006.

A tiny stethoscope does the job!
As pollinators and pest controllers, the conservation of bats has a positive impact on the ecological health of the planet. To help protect bats and their habitats, join Woodland Park Zoo in supporting Bats Northwest, which helps protect Pacific Northwest bat populations through education and research. For the past four years, Bats Northwest has conducted acoustic surveys for bat species at several King County locations east of Seattle to develop new information on bat species in this region and their seasonality and habitat use. The survey data also is helping Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s assessment of potential impacts to local bats from white-nose syndrome.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

UW Husky football physician helps zoo vets treat gorilla with leg injury

Posted by: Gigi Allianic, Communications
Photos: John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo

A zookeeper holds Jumoke's hand.

Concussions, ACL tears, and knee cartilage damage are among the common injuries the UW Medicine sports medicine and head physician of University of Washington’s football team diagnoses and treats. Over the weekend, Dr. Kimberly Harmon brought her sports medicine expertise to help diagnose an injured gorilla at Woodland Park Zoo.

The zoo called in Harmon and other human and animal medical specialists for a diagnostic examination on Jumoke, a 32-year-old, female gorilla who was born and raised at the zoo. The 275-pound western lowland gorilla sustained leg wounds during a scuffle off exhibit in the sleeping dens with a young female gorilla in her group named Uzumma.

Woodland Park Zoo's animal care staff prepare Jumoke for her exam. 

Martin Ramirez, Woodland Park Zoo’s mammal curator, said gorillas are generally calm animals, but scuffles are not uncommon, especially younger gorillas challenging older gorillas. “Uzumma, who turns 10 years old this week, initiated the interaction with Jumoke. It was a display of natural adolescent behavior like a human teenager acting out,” said Ramirez.

While Jumoke has been going outdoors daily in the public exhibit, the gorilla keepers had observed progressive mobility issues. “Jumoke was having difficulty bearing weight on her right leg. Since animal patients can’t talk and tell their veterinarians where it hurts or describe the severity of the pain, we needed to intervene on her behalf by calling in a team of specialists to examine her for a bone or soft-tissue injury,” said Dr. Darin Collins, Woodland Park Zoo’s director of animal health. “Who better to call than the head physician of one of the nation’s top ranked football programs? We were very fortunate she used her expertise for Jumoke’s welfare.”

Jumoke was examined at the zoo’s veterinary hospital. Radiographs diagnosed a fracture of the tibia, one of two bones in the lower leg. Harmon was joined by Dr. Albert Gee, a sports orthopedic surgeon at UW Medicine, and Dr. Alex Aguila from the Animal Surgical Clinic of Seattle. The bone fracture is already showing signs of healing; no surgical fracture repair will be attempted at this time. The patient will receive antibiotic and pain medications, and have limited activity. “This type of fracture in a human is typical of a blunt force impact and should heal if a bone infection does not complicate the healing,” said Dr. Kimberly Harmon.

Jumoke also will undergo physical rehabilitation therapy to help her fully recover from her injury. Non-weight bearing exercises that maintain the normal range of motion of the leg joints will return her to normal function. 

Drs. Aguila, Gee, and Harmon.

As a part of the zoo’s animal health program, physical rehab is used to alleviate pain from an injury or surgery; to improve circulation or range of motion and coordination; and to enhance an animal’s quality of life, explained Collins. “The techniques of physical rehabilitation are non-invasive. Used in conjunction with traditional veterinary medicine, physical rehab provides additional medical care options to improve the recovery of patients with both chronic and acute conditions,” said Collins.

Dr. Leslie Eide using the shockwave therapy unit.

Harmon is a UW Medicine physician specializing in sports medicine, family medicine and orthopedic health. Also joining Harmon and the zoo’s veterinary team for the exam was Dr. Leslie Eide with Animal Surgical Clinic of Seattle, who is certified in canine rehabilitation with a focus in sports medicine.

“We take care of more than 1,000 animals at the zoo. To ensure we provide top-notch care to each animal, we consult with experts throughout the country when it’s necessary. Locally, we rely on a network of volunteer medical specialists to consult and perform exams, procedures and surgeries. We are so grateful to this network and especially to Harmon, Eide and the other specialists who donated their time and expertise to help our injured gorilla,” said Collins.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Earn Your Master’s degree the wild way!

Posted by Alicia M. Highland, Education 

Woodland Park Zoo’s Advanced Inquiry Program (AIP) Master’s students and alumni are enacting environmental stewardship and social change locally and globally. Here is just one of their amazing stories:

This week’s blog features AIP alumni Nate Brown. He shares how his AIP experience took him on a journey to Patagonia, Chile and helped him discover the importance of engaging local communities in environmental conservation. 

Why did you apply to the Advanced Inquiry Program?
As much as I love science, I knew right away that I didn’t want to become a scientist as a profession.  I came to this program because I was finally able to see the need for education, communications, and community engagement within the conservation world. Those were values and skills I could bring and develop further. I just needed to learn how to apply them.

What impact has the program had on you personally and professionally?
This program has had a great impact on me both personally and professionally. Personally, it has renewed my passion for conservation issues. It gave me an outlet to focus my feelings in a productive way rather than wallowing in despair. It’s also fun! I really enjoyed going to the zoo to learn, and geeking out on interesting journal articles with other like-minded folks.
Professionally, it gave me a great networking opportunity, and it gave me a constructive place to apply my knowledge, experience and skills to conservation issues. It didn’t take long to realize that the program was flexible enough to accommodate my interests, needs and changing lifestyle.  

How did your involvement in AIP encourage you to go to Patagonia?
During the middle of my program, my family and I decided we needed a change and so we rented out our home for a year, moved into a van and drove from Seattle to Patagonia. I had an open conversation with my school advisor and we found a way for me to use that trip as an opportunity to explore some academic interests. This flexibility is one reason I appreciate this program, and when I stop and think about it, the strong online infrastructure of Project Dragonfly is the only reason I was able continue studying on the trip.

During that year I continued pursuing my interest in audio as a conservation storytelling medium. I researched and produced a story about the complications of conservation work in the Lacandon Jungle, Chiapas, Mexico. That story was later used as a resource for another AIP class focusing on parks and people.

What impact has AIP had on your community?
Another way this program has affected me both personally and professionally is through the emphasis it places on community impact. This emphasis was not only of great importance to me (what good is knowledge without action?), I also found it to be the most challenging aspect of the program.  I really struggled to know who my community was.  That may sound silly, but it’s a struggle I’ve faced most of my life. I moved a lot as a child and adult, I rarely feel that I fit in with others, and like many white Americans, I tend to view myself as an individual rather than part of a group.  These three things have kept the concept of community at a vague distance from me.
However, through this program I spent many days and nights reflecting on who my community was as it relates to my interest in conservation issues. Those reflections led me to ask, “How do I interact with the natural world?” My answer was through outdoor recreation. It may not sound like much, but it was a breakthrough and allowed me to focus many projects that really interested me at this intersection of conservation and recreation. I helped hikers create a sound map of a local trail which opened a door to discuss the importance of soundscapes, I managed a citizen science program with a local mountaineering club, I investigated the possible link between paddle sports and the spread of invasive species, and the relationship with that recreational community continues. I don’t know that I would have found my community had it not been for the AIP, and perhaps that’s the biggest reason I can say I am thankful for this program.

AIP Program Details
Woodland Park Zoo is thrilled to offer the Advanced Inquiry Program (AIP), an exciting Master’s degree from Miami University with experiential learning and field study with the zoo.  The AIP offers a groundbreaking graduate degree focused on inquiry-driven learning as a powerful agent for social and ecological change.The AIP is designed for a broad range of professionals from education, conservation, business, and government settings.Since the program began in 2011, Woodland Park Zoo’s students and graduates have been enacting amazing environmental stewardship and social change in their communities.

The Advanced Inquiry Program combines web-based instruction with experiential learning on-site at Woodland Park Zoo and provides students with hands-on, real-world experience with conservation education, community engagement, inquiry-based learning, and environmental stewardship. Students may decide to incorporate regional or international field courses as part of their AIP coursework.

Want to know more?
Please join us for one of our informational forums about the Advanced Inquiry Program:
Wednesday, November 15 from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. at Woodland Park Zoo's Education Center
Tuesday, November 28 from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. via Webinar
Thursday, January 18 from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. at Woodland Park Zoo's Education Center

To RSVP, please call 206.548.2581 or email AIP@zoo.org

Thursday, October 12, 2017

New rhino experience coming in 2018

Posted by Gigi Allianic, Communications

Wildlife trafficking continues to put species on the brink of extinction—globally and locally. This is why we stand with the community in their commitment to end illegal wildlife trade. In spring 2018, one of the world’s most iconic symbols of poaching is coming to the zoo: rhinos.

This will mark the first time rhinoceros will be at our institution in its 118-year history.

Greater one-horned rhinoceros. Credit: Grahm S. Jones, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Greater one-horned rhinoceros, Asian brown tortoises, and demoiselle cranes will be showcased in the Assam Rhino Reserve, a new, temporary exhibit that will amplify attention on the cruelty of poaching, the illegal trade and the turtle extinction crisis.

In November of 2015, Washington state passed an historic citizen’s initiative for endangered species. Initiative 1401 made Washington the first state in the country to help save 10 endangered animal species groups from extinction by a vote of the people. We knew that Washingtonians were passionate about their own pets and protecting wild animals in PNW forests, plains and the Puget Sound, but 1401 made it clear—Washington loves wildlife around the world, and we’re willing to do something about it.

“One million people in our community came together to make it clear—we stand for saving species,” says Woodland Park Zoo President and CEO Alejandro Grajal, PhD. “Rhinos are not only impressive animals by virtue of their massive size and charisma, but are iconic symbols of illegal wildlife trafficking. While there is recent good news about the greater one-horned rhino making a recovery, the five surviving species of rhinos still face a precarious future. Bringing rhinos to the zoo allows us to tell a powerful conservation story about hope—the vast network of partners, including zoos, that is focused on saving the greater one-horned rhino and the need to continue working to protect all rhino species.”

Greater one-horned rhinos are mostly solitary animals except for moms with young or sub-adults or adult males gathering at wallows or to graze. Credit: Grahm S. Jones, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Although Washington state passed I-1401 with overwhelming voter support, the fight to stop wildlife trafficking in the U.S. is far from over. Right now the federal government is considering amendments to the Endangered Species Act, which may impact the U.S.’s ability to enforce wildlife trafficking laws. When critical needs for action arise, the exhibit will prominently feature ways for zoo guests to make their voices known to lawmakers. “Never has there been a more critical time to energize people—of all ages—into action. This is the time to spark a social movement that harnesses a community of people who will channel their awe and love of these animals into taking meaningful action to stop wildlife trafficking and bring back rhinos and other imperiled species from the brink of extinction without losing hope,” says Grajal.

Five species of rhinos survive today: black, white, greater one-horned, Sumatran and Javan. In the last 200 years, the rhino population has plummeted from one million to fewer than 30,000 worldwide.

Guests will see many natural behaviors of this water-loving species including wallowing in mud, grazing on land, immersing in a shallow pool and nibbling on aquatic plants along the edge of the pool. Credit: Grahm S. Jones, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Also known as the Indian rhino, the greater one-horned is second in size only to the white rhino, weighing 4,000 to 6,000 pounds. It has a single horn that is about 8 to 25 inches long; a gray-brown hide with skin folds gives it an armor-plated appearance. Once found across the entire northern part of the Indian subcontinent, the population plummeted due to sport hunting, human conflict, poaching for their horns for use in traditional medicine and habitat loss. Because of conservation efforts by government and NGOs working together, World Wildlife Fund said the population has increased from as few as 350 animals just a few decades ago to more than 3,500 by 2015 in the Terai Arc Landscape of India and Nepal, and the grasslands of Assam and north Bengal in northeast India.

In addition to the two rhinos, Asian brown tortoise and demoiselle cranes will make their home in the Assam Rhino Reserve. 

Demoiselle crane, photo by Dennis Dow, WPZ.

Asian brown tortoise, photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, WPZ.
A male and female Asian brown tortoise pair has been living at the zoo in temporary housing on grounds since they were displaced by the fire in the Day and Night Exhibit. “More than one half of the world’s turtle species are threatened with extinction,” says Jennifer Pramuk, PhD. “Everyone likes turtles and this new experience will not disappoint. Zoo guests will learn how they can take meaningful action at home to help turtles, particularly species in Asia where they continue to be overharvested for food and captured for the illegal pet trade.” 

The zoo has a long history of caring for cranes, such as the endangered red-crowned and white-naped, and has a successful breeding program. The demoiselle crane returns to the zoo since the species was last cared for here in 2009. The beautiful bird will offer guests more opportunities for an inside look at the zoo’s long and active partnership supporting field conservation for other crane species in eastern Russia.

To support rhino conservation and donate to Assam Rhino Reserve, visit www.zoo.org/donate