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Friday, March 30, 2018

Zoo mourns sudden passing of gorilla Leo

Posted by: Gigi Allianic

Leo, a 40-year-old male gorilla, passed away suddenly on March 29, 2018 after a brief illness. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Leonel, a male gorilla fondly called Leo, passed away last night at age 40 after a brief illness. The upper middle-age gorilla had been under a 24-hour care this week. He died in his off-view sleeping den.

On Monday, the 360-pound gorilla had no interest in food or drink, and did not want to leave his den to go outdoors. The zoo’s animal health team did a visual assessment and a 24-hour treatment plan that included medications, hydration, hand feeding and observation. Plans to anesthetize him yesterday for a diagnostic exam were canceled because Leo had shown significant signs of improvement. “Leo drank and ate a lot and urinated, a positive sign of hydration. Also, his activity levels increased and we even observed play behavior, so we believed he was on the mend,” said Nancy Hawkes, PhD, Woodland Park Zoo’s director of animal care. “We continued monitoring him overnight. Unfortunately, he died suddenly in the presence of one of his gorilla keepers and close proximity to his family without any warning.”

Leo was the silverback (adult male leader) of his group: 22-year-old female Nadiri; 2-year-old female Yola, daughter of Nadiri; and 16-year-old female Akenji. Leo’s body was kept overnight at the gorilla building so his family and animal keepers could be with him. Gorillas are social animals, explained Hawkes. “This is a devastating loss for Leo’s family, our gorilla keepers and our zoo family. We’re shocked by his sudden death and will provide extra support and TLC for his family group. This is a very difficult time for our staff and volunteers.”

For the immediate future, Nadiri, Yola and Akenji will continue to be in the outdoor exhibit during zoo hours.

Leo, on the far right, with members of his family, young Yola and her mother, Nadiri. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

The median life expectancy for male western lowland gorillas is 32 years old, although gorillas in zoos can live in to their 40s and 50s because of the evolving field of zoo medicine including improved husbandry and management techniques, excellent animal care, better nutrition, increased medical knowledge, and diagnostic and therapeutic techniques.

As a standard procedure, the zoo’s animal health team will perform a necropsy (an animal autopsy) to determine the cause of death and to share the results nationally among scientific colleagues to help advance the understanding of medical issues in gorillas, explained Dr. Darin Collins, Woodland Park Zoo’s director of animal health. The cause of death is pending final pathology tests in several weeks.

Leo’s rise to becoming a leader in a cohesive group and a surrogate father to Yola is an incredible story. Leo moved to Woodland Park Zoo in 2008 and, because of the incredibly dedicated team of compassionate and determined gorilla keepers, he was successfully socialized into his existing family, and respected and loved. Read Leo’s extraordinary story here.

In remembrance of Leo, please consider these actions:

All gorillas are threatened by habitat loss, wildlife trade, hunting, disease and human conflict. Critically endangered and losing ground every day in the wild, gorillas need our help.

Recycle cell phones for gorillas
Come recycle your handheld electronics with us through ECO-CELL to preserve gorilla habitat. By reclaiming the minerals in your electronics and diverting them from landfills, we can reduce demand for mining in gorilla habitat. 

How: Bring any old cellphones, MP3 players, or tablets hanging around your house to the zoo and drop them off at our ECO-CELL stations.

Funds generated from recycled electronics will go toward our Mbeli Bai Gorilla Project that works to protect gorilla families like Yola’s in the Republic of Congo. 

Adopt a ZooParent gorilla
ZooParent adoptions are the perfect gift for budding conservationists. Your ZooParent adoption helps us provide exceptional care for all of Woodland Park Zoo's amazing animals. Plus, your support contributes to our conservation efforts at the zoo and around the world.

Visit the zoo
Every visit to Woodland Park Zoo helps support conservation efforts like our Wildlife Survival Fund project, the Mbeli Bai Study. The study researches the social organization and behaviors of more than 450 lowland gorillas living in the Republic of Congo, providing the scientific basis for conservation strategies.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Fluffy news: 2-week-old crested screamer chicks growing strong

Posted by Gigi Allianic, Communications
Video by Kirsten Pisto, photos by John Loughlin, Woodland Park Zoo

A pair of crested screamer birds hatched in early March. 

VIDEO: https://youtu.be/QcgyjLpWCc8

A pair of crested screamer birds, both females, hatched in early March. The chicks represent the first offspring between the 15-year-old mother and 23-year-old father. The last successful hatching of this species at the zoo was in 2002.

The little chicks are busy stretching their long legs, soaking up the spring sunshine and eating lots of broccoli florets, among other snacks such as a blend of game bird, romaine lettuce and waterfowl pellets.

The chicks represent the first offspring between the 15-year-old mother and 23-year-old father.
The crested screamer family is currently off public view to allow animal keepers to monitor the chicks closely and weigh them regularly to ensure acceptable weight gains. At 2 weeks old, the chicks are fluffy and downy and currently weigh 6 ounces. “So far, we’re pleased to report the chicks are experiencing good weight gains,” said Mark Myers, bird curator at Woodland Park Zoo. “They’re eating well and the parents are very attentive. The chicks need lots of food and exercise to grow. Based on how they’re doing, we’re optimistic they’ll continue to thrive under the care of their parents and our animal care staff.”

Screamers are aptly named for their loud, distinguished call, making them among the loudest of any bird. Native to Bolivia and southern Brazil to northern Argentina, these large goose-like birds are common in tropical and subtropical wetlands, including marshes, estuaries and lowland lakes. Another distinctive feature is a large, sharp spur on each wing which the birds use to defend themselves against predators. Screamers form monogamous relationships and both adults take part in incubation and caring for the chicks. Although the crested screamer population is not threatened in their home range, screamers and many other species of waterfowl are threatened by habitat loss due to human-imposed activities.

Unlike many bird species, screamer parents do not regurgitate food for their chicks. Instead, they lead the chicks to food and drop tasty treats as a lesson on how to peck for food.
A view of the screamers' nest.
Here is mom! Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren
The adults were paired under the Crested Screamer Species Survival Plan, a conservation program coordinated through the Association of Zoos & Aquariums to help ensure a healthy, self-sustaining population in zoos.

The crested screamers live in the Temperate Forest, right next to the flamingos. The chicks will remain behind the scenes until they are a little bigger and ready to join their parents in the yard.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Three little beauties: Visayan warty pigs

Posted by Elizabeth Bacher, Communications

Visayan warty pigs in their mud wallow. Photo by Ryan Hawk, Woodland Park Zoo.
Warty pigs may not have the prettiest name, but we think they are beautiful! If you haven't stopped by the Trail of Vines lately, you should. Our three female pigs are especially active in early spring.

This critically endangered forest pig is found only in the Visayan islands of the Philippines. The relatively small, grayish-brown pigs get their name from three pairs of fleshy “warts” that develop on the cheeks of adult males, but they are best recognized by the white stripe that runs over the bridge of the nose behind the mouth. Mature males also grow a stiff, spiky mane of hair tufts that make them look like the punk-rockers of the pig world.

Hey cutie! Photo by Ryan Hawk, Woodland Park Zoo
In the wild, Visayan warty pigs used to roam over six different islands of the Philippines, but they’ve lost more than 95% of that habitat due to logging and agriculture. Populations have also dwindled because people hunt them and they come into conflict with farmers as crop-raiding pests. They are only found in remote parts of two islands now. As a result, some local communities and conservationists are coming together to try and protect them from extinction.

There are only a handful of conservation zoos lucky enough to care for these perfectly precious porcines and Woodland Park Zoo is one of them. Our three “little piggies” are all female: a mother and her two daughters. Guapa, which means “beautiful,” is 14 years old. She shares a broadleaf forest exhibit in the zoo’s Tropical Asia area with her 8-year-old daughters, Magdula and Bulak, which mean “playful” and “flower.” All three of them came to Woodland Park Zoo from Los Angeles in 2012 and each of their names reflects the Philippines origin of their species.

Their animal keepers tell us that the girls are all quite social and enjoy grooming each other, scratching against tree trunks and lying in the sun. They’re also quick learners and expert foragers, loving to root around the ground. Their muscular forelimbs and sensitive snouts give them great strength and digging power. They’re even great climbers! In the wild, all these behaviors help Visayan warty pigs forage for a wide variety of foods, such as fruits, roots, tubers and worms. Their diet at Woodland Park Zoo is made up of similar foods including yams, carrots, romaine, alfalfa pellets and spinach—but their keepers say their favorite treats are peanuts and meal worms.

A tisket, a tasket a spring-treat filled basket! Photo by Ryan Hawk, Woodland Park Zoo.
When not roaming around their exhibit, the pigs can be found sleeping together in a pile of hay and shavings. We’re told they love to nest and even supplement their bedding by adding extra leaves and sticks to the pile before burying themselves inside. Being the good mom that she is, Guapa often blankets her daughters in the bedding at night, tucking them into the pile before climbing in herself.

We hope you’ll visit Guapa, Magdula and Bulak the next time you visit Trail of Vines. We know you’ll love these clever girls just as much as we do... warts and all!

In the wild, Visayan warty pigs used to roam over six different islands of the Philippines, but they’ve lost more than 95% of that habitat due to logging and agriculture. Photo by Ryan Hawk, Woodland Park Zoo.
Get to know our warty pigs
Born: April 22, 2003, San Diego Zoo

The dominant pig of the group. Like any good mom, she keeps her daughters in line, chasing, snipping and vocalizing to them when they need to be set straight.

Born: July 16, 2009, Los Angeles Zoo

Smartest of the girls. She has figured out a way to roll her puzzle feeder against the fence so that it stays in place while dispensing food—while her sister and mother roll theirs along the ground.

Born: July 16, 2009, Los Angeles Zoo

Most unique looking of our pigs. She has lighter eyes than the other two and has a narrower face with a black spot in the middle of the white stripe on her nose.

Squeee! Photo by Dennis Dow, Woodland Park Zoo


• Pigs live in social groups called sounders, but no, they don’t have scarves.

• Pigs do not sweat and, therefore, need to cool off in mud wallows and water.

• Males grow sharp tusks as they mature, which are actually modified canine teeth.

• Wild pigs all have straight tails; only domestic pigs have curly ones.

Monday, March 12, 2018

We're on a new mission

Posted by: Alejandro Grajal, PhD, President and CEO

Your enduring loyalty and support mean you care deeply about Woodland Park Zoo’s future and the value it creates for your family and for the community you love. Since coming aboard at the zoo, I’ve been on a learning tour—listening to the community’s hopes and dreams for this 92-acre oasis, and ways the zoo can shape the future of wildlife conservation.

We are all wrestling with a difficult truth: Our impact on this planet is profound and pervasive. In reality, all wildlife and wild places are now in human care. We have been asking ourselves: what more can we, as a modern conservation zoo, do with this responsibility?

In a region renowned for its innovative, out-of-the-box thinking and strong environmental ethic, a lot, it turns out.

You spoke. We listened.

Last summer, I asked the zoo’s Board of Directors and staff to hold conversations with the community. We invited more than 80,000 people from all over the region, U.S. and globe to share their ideas about the zoo’s future. Surveys, focus groups and interviews engaged more than 6,000 diverse people, including zoo members, supporters, volunteers and staff, as well as conservation partners, community and business leaders, teachers, and students. 

What we learned was energizing. Today, the world is calling on zoos to transform the relationship between people, our planet and all its creatures—to be catalysts for positive social change. That’s a tall order! But we are undaunted.

Closer than ever. Our newly expanded Ambassador Animal program sparks an emotional connection between animals and people, motivating action to help wildlife and our planet.

Our journey

With you as our guiding light, we’re embarking on an exciting new chapter in Woodland Park Zoo’s storied history, with a more expansive mission and a bold, new strategy

Mission: Woodland Park Zoo saves wildlife and inspires everyone to make conservation a priority in their lives.

This succinct declaration of our purpose says Why we are here, What we stand for and Who we are serving. Making conservation everybody’s responsibility requires all hands on deck. Clearly, we are aiming for the largest scale of impact. 

We humans face our biggest ethical challenge yet: Whether we will choose to live on this planet sustainably, with all its creatures. Our urgent call as a leading zoo is to be a megaphone that amplifies a resounding "Yes!" from everyone.

We’re confident that with you by our side—our 1.34 million annual guests, the 35 million people touched by our social media channels, and our vast local and global reach—we can mobilize our diverse voices and all our choices to ignite a powerful movement for conservation. Our relevance is no less than the Earth’s future!

Three strategic priorities drive and challenge us on this journey.

All conservation starts with caring...

We care. Animal welfare is at the heart of all conservation. It drives everything we do for our 1,200 animals and those we protect in the wild. Our devotion is providing the best care by the best professionals in the world, bar none. Our promise, to you and to our animals, is to push the standards of excellence and exemplify the highest quality of transparent and ethical care. We will show our guests the reasons to care and intimately connect them to our compassion and expertise.

Laser therapy fit for a penguin. Excellent care means our animals live long, vibrant lives. Your zoo is one of the first in the U.S. to integrate physical rehabilitation into our comprehensive animal wellness program, reducing the need for invasive procedures and ensuring our animals thrive at every age.

and transforming lives through extraordinary experiences...

We inspire. Extraordinary experiences spark empathy for animals. They strengthen our bonds with other species and with each other. Authentic, deeply emotional connections with animals move people to take action! We commit to creating the most powerful zoo experiences possible, full of empathy, discovery and hope. And, most importantly, to be welcoming to people of all backgrounds and abilities. Only with a full diversity of voices and interests at the table can we accelerate lasting solutions for wildlife and human co-existence. This is our promise to the next generation.

If anyone can, Seattle Youth CAN! (Seattle Youth Climate Action Network) Through powerful, life-changing experiences with animals, your zoo is empowering the next generation of conservation and science leaders to rise up and build a sustainable future for wildlife and people.

to empower a movement for conservation.

We empower. Wildlife conservation needs us to join hands and multiply our effect exponentially so that we can save more species and more habitats here and around the world. With 35 conservation partners locally and globally, and thousands of collaborators in schools, businesses, neighborhoods and agencies, our impact is palpable.

Still, we must do more. Building a new relationship with nature means changing minds and hearts in novel, cutting-edge ways. While nothing replaces the wonder and inspiration sparked by up-close animal experiences, our region’s top high-tech partners are improving our wildlife conservation research, helping to amplify our conservation story, and to engage and activate millions more people in protection and policy solutions. Our huge, passionate audience is diving in to reach the goal with us.

Otter Spotter. In the reflection, a ZooCorps teen volunteer uses a digital tablet to enter behavioral observations into the zoo's Otter Spotter citizen science database. The research project, powered by community participation, tracks otter activity across Washington to monitor populations across a gradient, from polluted urban waterways to pristine protected lands. 

You are at the heart of it

We see a brighter future for animals and people. We see them thriving together. We see hope for a cause worth committing our lives to. And we continue to listen. 

The world is calling on zoos to ignite a powerful movement for conservation by uniting all our voices and all our choices for the cause. YOU are at the heart of it. With you on our team, our collective impact will be exponential.

Let’s get to work!

PS: Already, momentum and early successes are mounting. I’m delighted to share our 2017 Impact Report, highlighting how you and thousands of people like you are making conservation a priority in your lives and helping to ignite this powerful movement.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Zoo hosts National Geographic Photo Ark exhibition by Joel Sartore

Posted by Gigi Allianic, Communications

If you've seen Joel Sartore's images before, you know just how captivating a single photograph can be. Whoa.

An endangered Malayan tiger, Panthera tigris jacksoni, at Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo. © Photo by Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark

Woodland Park Zoo will host the traveling exhibition, “National Geographic Photo Ark,” from April 20 through October 7. The National Geographic Photo Ark is an ambitious project committed to documenting every species in zoos, aquariums and animal rescue centers—inspiring people not just to care, but also to help protect these animals for future generations.

Featuring the work of National Geographic photographer and Fellow Joel Sartore, National Geographic is showcasing this important project through multiple platforms. This exhibition is organized by the National Geographic Society and Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.

A compelling and visually powerful project, the National Geographic Photo Ark aims to photograph species before it is too late. In addition to creating an archival record for generations to come, this project is a hopeful platform for conservation and shines a light on individuals and organizations working to preserve species around the world.

Two Golden snub-nosed monkeys, Rhinopithecus roxellana, at Ocean Park Hong Kong. © Photo by Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark

A Fiji Island banded iguana, Brachylophus fasciatus, at the Los Angeles Zoo. © Photo by Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark

The National Geographic Photo Ark exhibition at Woodland Park Zoo will highlight 56 of Sartore’s more than 50 most compelling images and provide guests with the extraordinary opportunity to come face to face with animals from the National Geographic Photo Ark. The 8’ tall x 6’ wide portraits will be displayed across the zoo’s 92 acres. A diversity of mammal, reptile, and bird species will be represented including animals currently living at the zoo such as Matschie’s tree kangaroo, Western pond turtle, Sumatran orangutan, snow leopard, Humboldt penguin and greater one-horned rhino (coming in May!). Guests will learn about the project, its mission, and Woodland Park Zoo’s conservation initiatives in the Pacific Northwest and around the world.

An endangered baby Bornean orangutan, Pongo pygmaeus, named Aurora, with her adoptive mother, Cheyenne, a Bornean/Sumatran cross, Pongo pygmaeus x abelii, at the Houston Zoo. © Photo by Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark

Sartore has worked in more than 250 zoos, aquariums and animal rescue centers around the world. He estimates the completed National Geographic Photo Ark will include portraits of more than 12,000 species representing several animal classes, including birds, fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates. In what will be the largest single archive of studio-quality photographs of biodiversity ever, the National Geographic Photo Ark continues to move toward its goal of documenting these 12,000 species, thanks in part to Sartore’s enduring relationships with many of the world’s zoos and aquariums. These iconic portraits have captured the imagination of people around the world and have even been projected on the Empire State Building and St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

“The National Geographic Photo Ark has already inspired millions around the world with the message that it is not too late to save some of the world’s most endangered species,” said Kathryn Keane, vice president of Exhibitions, National Geographic Society. “Joel Sartore has demonstrated what one man can do using the power of photography—and now National Geographic wants to inspire people all over the country to contribute to this global challenge.” 

A pair of red wolves, Canis rufus gregoryi, at the Great Plains Zoo. © Photo by Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark.

“We are very excited to present the National Geographic Photo Ark to our community. This exhibition, along with the marvelous animals in our care at the zoo, is another powerful reminder there is a real urgency to unite all our choices and all our voices to help save every animal remaining on our planet. Through this extraordinary experience, our 1.3 million guests can come to understand there is hope for collective impact by empowering ourselves to ignite a broad movement for conservation,” says Woodland Park Zoo President and CEO Alejandro Grajal.

The National Geographic Photo Ark exhibition at Woodland Park Zoo is free with zoo admission. Visit www.zoo.org to plan your next visit and be sure to check out the exhibit April 20 through October 7!