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Friday, April 20, 2018

Woodland Park Zoo Goes Plastic Bottle Free

Posted by Zosia Brown, Resource Conservation and Sustainability

As plastic waste in our environment becomes an increasingly important global topic, Woodland Park Zoo is celebrating a milestone in our own resource conservation journey with the announcement that we are no longer selling beverages in single-use plastic bottles.

Refill, please! Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/ Woodland Park Zoo.
Woodland Park Zoo is committed to protecting and preserving wildlife and habitat for generations to come. It is our role to inspire our zoo guests and communities across our region to meaningfully reduce their own impact on the planet. Our Sustainable Zoo Plan guides our own operations following a Natural Step model that aims to: take no more from the earth that it can sustainably provide; provide no more to the earth more than it can sustainably absorb; and eliminate "waste" of all kinds from our operations, instead viewing waste as a resource.

The zoo as a green oasis in Seattle's Woodland Park. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.
Single-use plastic bottles are highly resource intensive to produce, transport and refrigerate. Their disposal has a direct impact on wildlife and habitats, threatening the well-being of animals and disrupting ecosystems. Although plastic water bottles can be recycled, on average only 1 in 5 bottles make it to a recycling facility.  As many as 30 billion water bottles are disposed of in US landfills each year, where they take approximately 450 years to break down. Plastic bottles that do not make it to landfill often end up on our beaches and oceans, where the debris breaks down into smaller pieces (microplastic) and can be ingested by marine life, working its way up the food chain.

In Seattle, our tap water comes from one of only a few pristine, protected mountain watersheds in the country. Together, the Tolt River and Cedar River represent more than 100,000 acres owned and controlled by the City of Seattle and the U.S. Forest Service. Every day, Seattle Public Utilities provides about 120 million gallons of drinking water to 1.4 million people in the greater Seattle area. With outstanding drinking water readily available, we are encouraging our guests to join us in ditching the plastic bottle and tap our greatest resource!

Tolt watershed. Photo via City of Seattle.
To support drinking from the tap, Woodland Park Zoo has over 14 water fountains distributed throughout zoo grounds. We are in the process of converting several of these to reusable bottle filling stations for those who prefer to carry water with them. Look for a bottle filling station at our South Plaza, North Meadow, and Assam Rhino Exhibit.

Zoo staff test out the new water stations. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.
 When visiting the zoo, be sure to bring your own reusable bottle to fill at one of our water bottle filling stations or concessionaires. If you don’t own a reusable bottle, you can find a range of sizes and options available for purchase at our ZooStores. Our Rain Forest Food Pavilion and Pacific Blue Chowder House will sell fountain drinks served in compostable cups instead of plastic bottled beverages.

In partnership with food concessionaire Lancer Hospitality and gift shop operator Event Network, Woodland Park Zoo has eliminated the sale of single-use plastics for beverages including water, juice and soda. 
You may notice that our vending machines have been replaced with all-can machines, with no pre-packaged water sold.  Aluminum cans are viewed as a preferred alternative to single use plastic bottles or cartons. As a material, aluminum is infinitely recyclable, recycled most often, recycled locally (within Washington state – not shipped abroad) and takes as little as 60 days to turn into a new can or bottle.

As a stepping stone, while we continue to roll out bottle filling infrastructure, we and our food concessionaire, Lancer Hospitality, have partnered with Green Sheep, a small Midwest business, that produces screw-top aluminum bottled water, made from 70% recycled aluminum content and sourced within the USA. Green Sheep is a 1% for the planet company, which means 1% of each sale comes back to Woodland Park Zoo to support our field conservation efforts.

Green Sheep Water keeping it chill. www.greensheepwater.com
Thank you for joining us in celebrating our natural resources, reducing single-use plastic consumption, and sharing habitat more sustainably with wildlife now and into the future!

So refreshing! Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo
For more on sustainability at Woodland Park Zoo, visit www.zoo.org/greenzoo 

#byob #thisishowwezoo

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Camera trap footage from the wild reveals sloth bear mama and three playful cubs

Posted by: Elizabeth Bacher, communications

While you’re getting to know our curious sloth bear cubs, Deemak and Kartick, we thought you’d also like to know more about their wild cousins and how Woodland Park Zoo is working with conservation partners on the ground in their native habitat to help to protect them.

Sloth bears are endangered, mostly due to habitat loss or degradation from human expansion, retaliation from human-bear conflict and to a lesser degree, poaching.  It is believed that no more than 10,000-20,000 sloth bears remain in the wild. That’s one of the reasons why Woodland Park Zoo partners with a conservation organization like Wildlife SOS.

Currently, the research study that Wildlife SOS is conducting focuses on the two types of dens that wild sloth bears use – maternal dens which are used to give birth and raise cubs, and day dens which are used as a place to safely rest during daylight hours when sloth bears are not as active. Here is some new camera trap footage recently captured by Wildlife SOS. You can see a mom and her three cubs explore near their den.

Video from Wildlife SOS: https://youtu.be/cSOpqN-EIi0

Thomas Sharp, the Director of Conservation and Research for Wildlife SOS tells us that by learning more about the den locations, sizes and the differences between the two den types we’ll be able to better understand how these bears use the landscape around them. We’ll also be able to better assess the impacts that habitat disturbance may have on sloth bear ecology, prioritize conservation strategies to minimize conflicts with humans and protect them from threats like poaching.

The information we get from Wildlife SOS can also influence how we look after sloth bears that are in human care. Understanding how they use their landscapes and dens in the wild will help zoos to design exhibit spaces and dens that better meet their needs. Woodland Park Zoo’s state-of-the-art sloth bear exhibit, which opened in 2015, includes lots of digging pits, a ravine for climbing, a termite mound and logs where they can claw for enrichment treats like honey, bugs and fruit.

Deemak and Kartick hitch a ride on mama Tasha’s back at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo.

The sloth bear is an insect and fruit-eating bear species with a range that includes areas in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Compared to brown and black bears, sloth bears have lankier builds, long, shaggy coats that form a mane around the face (similar to that of a lion), long, sickle-shaped claws, and a specially adapted lower lip and mouth structure used for sucking up insects. It is thought that the species got its name because 18th century explorers mistook them for “bear-like-sloths” after seeing those long claws, the way they can hang from branches and carry their babies on their backs. Scientists later realized that the species was a bear and not at all related to sloths, but the name stuck–the sloth bear.

Deemak and Kartick at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo.

Sloth bears in the wild could use your help. You can show them some love with any or all of these three actions:

1. Every visit to Woodland Park Zoo supports conservation in the wild.
We hope you’ll come visit as Deemak and Kartick continue to grow and explore their space—under the watchful eye of their mom Tasha, of course.

2. Buy wisely.
Choose Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper and wood products to protect forest habitat and wildlife. By purchasing FSC-certified forest products, consumers help to protect sloth bear habitat by encouraging sustainable forestry and limiting overharvest of forest products (timber, fuelwood, fruits and honey). Without the FSC label, your timber may come from illegal logging and forests that are not responsibly managed.

3. Help us fill the Honey Jar!
Sloth bear mama Tasha takes great care of her cubs, and she's got a dedicated team behind her: keepers, veterinarians, and you! Help us fill the honey jar—a nod to these bears' favorite sweet treat—with a gift of any size. Your generosity helps us provide a nutritious diet (there's a lot more to it than honey!), medical check-ups, a cub-proofed home designed for safe exploration, and dedicated human friends (also known as keepers) to assure Tasha and the cubs receive the best care.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

First snow leopard cubs caught on camera in reserve: Hunting area-turned sanctuary is working

Posted by Gigi Allianic, Communications

This spring has brought signs of triumphant renewal well beyond the usual spring showers, budding leaves and blooming flowers. In Kyrgyzstan, the first-ever signs of a new generation—two snow leopard cubs and their mom—were spotted on a research camera inside a new sanctuary dedicated to snow leopard protection.

In 2016, Woodland Park Zoo’s conservation partner, the Seattle-based Snow Leopard Trust, joined forces with the Kyrgyz government to convert the former hunting reserve of Shamshy, in Kyrgyzstan, into a sanctuary for snow leopards and ibex. These pictures confirm the first documented snow leopard cubs being raised inside the Shamshy Wildlife Sanctuary, or anywhere in the Kyrgyz Ala-Too mountain range. It is also the first sign of a breeding snow leopard population in this region of Kyrgyzstan.

A snow leopard mother and her two young cubs (ca. 6 months old) were caught on camera in Shamshy Wildlife Sanctuary in December 2017. Photo by SLF Kyrgyzstan / SAEPF / Snow Leopard Trust
A snow leopard mother and her two young cubs (ca. 6 months old) were caught on camera in Shamshy Wildlife Sanctuary in December 2017. Photo by SLF Kyrgyzstan / SAEPF / Snow Leopard Trust

The snow leopard is an elusive and mysterious big cat native to the high mountain ranges of Central Asia and Russia, as well as Afghanistan, China, India, Mongolia, Nepal and Pakistan. Major threats facing the cats are poaching, retaliation killings by local pastoral communities, and loss of habitat and prey.

For decades, ibex (a wild goat species with huge, backswept horns) were hunted legally in Shamshy, and their populations dwindled. The presence of snow leopards, although occasionally reported in the area, was never confirmed. Since the area was converted into a wildlife sanctuary, however, things are looking up, as the innovative approach has yielded very encouraging results. “One year after the Sanctuary was established, we captured the first ever snow leopard photos taken in the Kyrgyz Ala-Too mountain range where Shamshy lies. A first ibex count showed a healthy population of around 300 animals living here,” said Snow Leopard Trust Kyrgyzstan Program Director Kuban Jumabai uulu.

A wild snow leopard is on the prowl in Shamshy Wildlife Sanctuary, Kyrgyzstan. Photo by SLF Kyrgyzstan / Snow Leopard Trust / SAEPF
“The cubs and their mother were captured on camera around 11 miles up the valley from the reserve entrance,” explained Kuban. “We’ve also found snow leopard tracks at much lower altitudes, near the ranger’s cabin, and camera trap photos later showed that it was a different cat roaming this area. So, we have at least two adults and two cubs using Shamshy right now.”

Snow leopards are often referred to as “ghosts of the mountains” because they are so elusive and rarely seen by humans. “These recently captured images of a mother and her cubs is another example of how the Snow Leopard Trust’s dedication to protecting the future of these majestic cats is helping to ensure that they thrive across their natural range,” said Woodland Park Zoo Vice President of Conservation Initiatives Peter Zahler. “This project’s combination of protected area development and research illustrates how zoos, conservation organizations, wildlife agencies, and governments can partner to protect and recover wildlife. We are proud to share this great news—it is further proof that when we all work together, we can make a real difference.”

A wild snow leopard is on the prowl in Shamshy Wildlife Sanctuary, Kyrgyzstan. Photo by SLF Kyrgyzstan / Snow Leopard Trust / SAEPF

“Kyrgyzstan has been making a focused effort to protect snow leopards for several years, and these photos are another indication that our approach is working out,” said the Director of the Department for Rational Use of Natural Resources with the Kyrgyz government Almazbek Musaev. “As a result of this work, we now have a breeding snow leopard population just a few hours from our capital city, Bishkek.”

The Snow Leopard Trust was created in 1981 by the late Woodland Park Zoo staff member Helen Freeman. Woodland Park Zoo celebrated a milestone of its own last summer when a male snow leopard cub was born to mom Helen and dad Dhirin, both 12 years old. Aibek, which is Kyrgyzstani for “long living,” is the first offspring between mom Helen and dad Dhirin (did-in), both 12. Aibek can be seen at the zoo with mom Helen, who was named after Helen Freeman.

Aibek, a young male snow leopard. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.
The management of Shamshy Wildlife Sanctuary is generously supported by David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation; Partnership Funding by Fondation Segré, managed by Whitley Fund for Nature; Woodland Park Zoo; Chattanooga Zoo; and many individual donors and supporters.

Snow Leopard Trust
The Snow Leopard Trust, based in Seattle, Wash., is a world leader in conservation of the vulnerable snow leopard, conducting pioneering research and partnering with communities as well as authorities in snow leopard habitat to protect the cat. www.snowleopard.org.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Rhino Lookout: Save Us, Save You

Posted by Rebecca Whitham, Director of Content and Creative Strategy
Photos by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

"Rhino! Rhino!" the forest guard shouted from the front seat of the vehicle. 

We were 5 hours into our first excursion in India's Manas National Park when we spotted him. He spotted us too. The rhino, snapping branches as he noisily dined, quickly retreated into the forest. But that first glimpse confirmed for our own eyes what we came to document: the greater one-horned rhino's unlikely comeback from local extinction.

As we prepare to open Assam Rhino Reserve at Woodland Park Zoo and welcome greater one-horned rhino for the first time, we are challenging us all to do more than see rhinos—look out for them. So zoo photographer Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren and I set out for a week in Manas on a project we're calling Rhino Lookout. We sought to discover who are the people looking out for rhino, what can we learn from their success in recovering this species, and how can we each do our part.

Soon our project title became apt: we spent a lot of time looking out for rhinos. Looking and looking. After that first lucky spotting, it was three days before we saw another one. There are 31 rhinos living across Manas' 235,000 acres. The park once sustained around 100 rhinos. Then the ethno-conflict in the area throughout the 80s and 90s opened vulnerabilities that poachers exploited until the rhino population was gone.

In the past decade, the Indian government joined NGOs including Woodland Park Zoo partner International Rhino Foundation for a bold vision: to restore rhinos to Manas. Individuals were translocated over 200 miles from a more populated park. Given protection and a managed habitat, the rhinos can thrive. New generations have emerged since—last year one of the translocated rhinos became a grandmother for the first time. More translocations are planned and the hope is to get the population back to where it once was.

In our week at Manas National Park, we saw just how much more is at stake. Set against a backdrop of Bhutan's mountains, the park is home to incredible wildlife across diverse habitats, from dense forest to open grasslands, wide rivers to seasonal watering holes. 

Across that terrain, we encountered many of the rhino's neighbors:

Bands of elephants crashed through the forest, ears flapping and tails swishing as the smallest of the babies hid under the safety of their aunties' legs. 

A troop of langurs leaped over our heads to dine on leaves, the newborns putting everything in their mouths indiscriminately, like all babies do.

A hornbill soared conspicuously through the mountain-studded skyline as a monitor lizard blended into a hollow tree. 

The watering hole was filled with local chatter from the buffalo and gaur.

All the while the peacocks called. And called. And called. Just in case you forgot they were there.

When you protect rhino, you protect so much more. Or, as the sign posted on the main road of Manas says: Save Us. Save You.

For some here, saving rhino is a calling as true as a sense of self. This is "rhinoland," as one person told us, and there's a duty to uphold the spirit of this place. For others, it's an economic opportunity—a demonstration that conservation can sustain people, not just wildlife. For all, it's a source of connection in an area once divided by conflict. These are the people who look out for rhino, whatever their means, whatever their motivation.

Over the next few weeks, we'll share more stories in our Rhino Lookout series to hear
from the people who won't let rhinos go extinct again, like the armed guard who accompanied us into the park every day. When I interviewed him with the help of a translator, I learned he is a forest guard who patrols with a team day and night to observe wildlife and look for signs of poachers. I asked him why they go in teams, expecting him to say that's how they cover more ground. He pierced me with his answer: "We go in teams to give us courage."

Let us take courage in each other that this work to save rhinos can be done, and we all have a role to play on the team.

Monday, April 9, 2018

First rhino arrives safely at the zoo—welcome Taj! Assam Rhino Reserve opens May 5

Posted by Gigi Allianic, Communications
Photos by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Woodland Park Zoo

Hello Taj!
The first of two rhinos has arrived safely at Woodland Park Zoo. After a road trip from San Diego, Taj, a 17-month-old male greater one-horned rhino, arrived last Friday in healthy condition. Trained in preparation for the move, Taj traveled in a custom-made trailer driven by an expert who specializes in moving rhinos.

Taj will live at Assam Rhino Reserve which opens May 5!

Pronounced like Taj Mahal, Taj means “crown” or “jewel” in Hindi. He was born Nov. 10, 2016 at San Diego Zoo Safari Park and is the 70th greater one-horned rhino born at the Safari Park since 1972, making the Park the foremost breeding facility in the world for this rhino species. 

Taj is already settling in and getting to know his animal keepers. “Taj has spent his first few days inside the barn settling in and becoming familiar with his new surroundings and rhino care keepers. Starting this week, we will begin introducing him to the outdoor exhibit yards where he will also be in standard quarantine,” says Martin Ramirez, mammal curator at Woodland Park Zoo. He will be off view to guests until the exhibit opens on May 5.

Taj is a young greater one-horned rhino. At 17-months-old he is just a lightweight, only 1,500 lbs.
Assam Rhino Reserve will showcase greater one-horned rhinos, Asian brown tortoises and demoiselle cranes. Rhinos are iconic symbols of the wildlife trafficking crisis. The exhibit will highlight the amazing adaptations of these three species and bring to life the impact of poaching, the illegal wildlife trade and the turtle extinction crisis. 

Taj will soon be joined by another male rhino, Glenn. Glenn was born a day apart from Taj on Nov. 11, 2016 at The Wilds, a 10,000-acre conservation center and safari park located in Cumberland, Ohio and operated by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. He was named in honor of the late astronaut and Senator John Glenn, who was a dear friend of the Ohio conservation organization.

Hey buddy. We are thrilled to welcome rhinos to Woodland Park Zoo!
Currently weighing in at only 1,500 pounds apiece, the juvenile rhinos are still growing and will soon weigh between 4,000 and 5,000 pounds when fully grown. 

Taj and Glenn will be 18 months old when they make their debut. This age is typically when rhino calves separate from their mothers. “Through the Species Survival Plan for greater one-horned rhinos, we are playing a supporting role by providing a home for these young males who are not ready to start families yet.”says Ramirez. The Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Species Survival Plans are conservation breeding programs across accredited zoos to help ensure healthy, self-sustaining populations of threatened and endangered species.

Rhinos, especially this species, are largely solitary and males are fiercely territorial. “Because Taj and Glenn are young, our hope is they will be compatible sharing the same space. Taj recently buddied up with a calf at San Diego Zoo Safari Park, so we’re confident pairing the rhinos at this age will be good for them,” says Ramirez. “As we do with all of our animals, we’ll follow their social and behavioral cues and allow them to make the choice.” 

Take a stand to protect rhinos like Taj. Follow #RhinoLookout this summer to learn more about how you can take conservation action on behalf of these precious animals.
You 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. The young rhinos will have access to various yards and a wading pool. “Seeing, smelling, and hearing rhinos, turtles, and cranes will offer an extraordinary and rare experience for our community,” adds Ramirez. 

Assam Rhino Reserve was made possible by private donations of all sizes from generous individuals, families, corporations and foundations, as well as funding from the Seattle Park District. 
Also known as the Indian rhino, the greater one-horned is second in size only to African white rhinos. These incredible animals have single horn that is about 8 to 25 inches long; a gray-brown hide with skin folds giving them an armor-plated appearance. Once found across the entire northern part of the Indian subcontinent, the population rapidly declined to fewer than 200 in the 20th century due to sport hunting, human conflict, poaching for their horns for use in traditional medicine and habitat loss. According to the International Rhino Foundation, the population has recovered today to an estimated 3,600 thanks to conservation efforts and strict protection from Indian and Nepalese wildlife authorities and collaborative efforts of NGOs. The species lives in north-eastern India and southern Nepal and, while it is a successful conservation story, the pressures of poaching remain high.

Every visit is a vote for conservation:

“With Assam Rhino Reserve, we want our guests to do more than see rhinos at the zoo. We want them to look out for them,” says Ramirez. Follow #RhinoLookout for information on how to support rhino care at the zoo and fund efforts to protect and defend rhino habitat from poachers. 

Woodland Park Zoo supports the International Rhino Foundation’s Indian Rhino Vision 2020 project, which aims to see a wild population of at least 3,000 greater one-horned rhinos in seven protected areas in India’s state of Assam by the year 2020.

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.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

5 fun things to do at Spring Safari: African Wildlife Conservation Day

Come to the zoo this Saturday, April 14 for Spring Safari!

Posted by Bobbi Miller, Conservation

We're excited to see you at this year's Spring Safari. Here are 5 activities we think will get you pumped for an awesome day of conservation, animal encounters and springtime fun:

Giraffe and friends, photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Woodland Park Zoo
1. Learn about Woodland Park Zoo’s conservation programs in Africa! Check out how we’re working to save gorillas, giraffes, lions and more. The day will be filled with keeper talks and special treats for the animals in our African Savanna. Start the day by watching as our lions get a special meaty treat at 10 a.m. Come to our hippo talk with enrichment at 11:30 a.m., and don’t forget the giraffe experience—for $5 you can get up close from 2 p.m. – 3 p.m. with our tallest residents. You can find a full list of all our keeper talks and enrichments here: https://www.zoo.org/events

Benny, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife sniffer dog ready to stop wildlife crime. Photo courtesy of WDFW

2. Meet K9 Officer Benny! Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) first wildlife detection dog will be here with his handler Detective Lauren Wendt. They’ll show us how Benny uses his sensitive sniffer to protect wildlife and find illegally trafficked wildlife items. Visit the WDFW Tip Trailer on the zoo’s North Meadow to learn more about items that are illegally trafficked here in Washington state and about global trafficking concerns.  

ECO-CELL saves gorillas and their habitat by recycling your old tech. Photo Woodland Park Zoo

3. Take conservation action to save gorillas.  Bring your used handheld electronics to our ECO-CELL receptacles for responsible recycling and keep them out of landfills. Coltan, a mineral used to prolong battery life in handheld electronics, is mined in precisely the same place gorillas live in Africa. By responsibly removing the coltan from old devices, we can cut back on mining and save gorilla habitat. Learn more about this and about our gorillas, including Yola, at our 11:00 keeper talk. Electronic drop boxes for your used devices are located at the west and south entrances.

Ready to hunt for camera traps! Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Woodland Park Zoo.
4. Become a Wildlife Ranger. Before starting your scavenger hunt to look for camera traps, visit our table to learn how to “Pack Like a Ranger.” You’ll want to make sure your pack is full for the day before heading out to retrieve that camera trap data. Once you’re done, you can do citizen science research by helping to identify animals in photos taken with real camera traps in East Africa. If you’re more the photo safari type then the researcher type, visit our table on Safe Souvenir Shopping, to learn the right items to purchase when traveling abroad that will allow you to remember your trip for a lifetime while protecting Africa’s natural resources. 

Tee shirt pile ready for re-use in crafts! Photo by @reavel Reavel via Flickr
5. Spring cleaning inspired crafts! Finally, clean out those closets and bring your old t-shirts to the zoo. Our ZooCorps teens will work with you to convert those shirts into useful items you can take back home like tote bags, dog toys and stuffed animals! If you’ve already completed your spring cleaning (and congratulations if you have), don’t miss our origami cacti making and natural dyes demonstration to learn about the environmental and cultural importance of native plants.

A lion mows down on a meaty snack as curious visitors look on. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Woodland Park Zoo. 

Spring Safari will take place on Saturday April 14th from 9:30 a.m.–3:00 p.m. and most activities are free with zoo admission. Locations and times will be posted at the zoo entrances, or you can download the Woodland Park Zoo mobile app for specific activity times and locations.

See you there!

Hippo snacks! Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Woodland Park Zoo. 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Honoring Leo: Save gorilla habitat with ECO-CELL

Posted by Elizabeth Bacher, Communications

Leo, with Yola and Nadiri in the background, 2016 photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Woodland Park Zoo.

Update on Leo’s passing

We’d like to share preliminary necropsy (animal autopsy) findings with you regarding our 40-year-old male gorilla, Leo, who passed away on the evening of March 29 after a brief illness. The most significant post-mortem findings indicate the upper middle-age gorilla died from an aortic aneurysm—the internal rupture of the wall of the ascending aorta, the major artery exiting the heart.

“The aortic dissection was extensive, extending into the descending aorta, down as far as the lower back region of Leo,” says Dr. Darin Collins, Woodland Park Zoo’s director of animal health. Heart disease emerged as a disease of concern and a major cause of death among all four great apes (gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees and bonobos) in the early 1990s. In 1991, Woodland Park Zoo lost a male gorilla in his ‘20s due to acute cardiovascular failure. “This is why the Great Ape Heart Project was established among the zoo community to investigate and understand cardiovascular disease.”

Woodland Park Zoo has participated in the Great Ape Heart Project and Collins says a more detailed examination of Leo’s heart will follow the protocols of the Project.

The sudden death of Leo has been very hard for Woodland Park Zoo’s family. We are very touched by the outpouring of support we have received from our community. One way of honoring Leonel and thanking his animal keepers and caregivers is supporting the zoo’s gorilla conservation efforts.

Yola, Nadiri and Leo in 2017. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Woodland Park Zoo.

 Recycle your old cell phones and handheld devices to help save gorillas

Every year, Americans toss aside nearly 9.4 million tons of electronic devices in favor of the hottest, newest technology. All that e-waste, including tens of millions of cell phones, end up in landfills here and overseas—and the discarded devices are taking a toll on the environment. The problem is that when they’re taken apart and destroyed, the pieces can emit toxins that are dangerous for people, wildlife and the health of ecosystems. That means it is increasingly important for cell phone users to dispose of and recycle their devices responsibly and ethically.

Woodland Park Zoo is proud to offer a disposal and recycling alternative that not only cuts down on waste but also helps save endangered species. We’re partnering with ECO-CELL, a company that reimburses organizations for collecting used handheld electronics, batteries and accessories, which keeps them out of landfills. All items received by the zoo and ECO-CELL, including batteries, accessories and cell phones that can’t be reused, will be recycled using the newest and safest technologies for recycling e-waste. This helps reduce the demand for minerals such as Coltan, an ore used in phones and other electronic devices. Coltan is mined primarily in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where habitat critical for the survival of endangered species, including the western lowland gorilla, is being destroyed. When the forest is lost to mining, that leaves gorillas and other animals homeless and vulnerable to poachers. But this is a cycle we can help break simply by recycling old devices.

An ECO-CELL drop off bin at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by Elizabeth Bacher, Woodland Park Zoo.

You can now bring all your used handheld electronics (cell phones, MP3 players, handheld games, e-readers, digital still and video cameras, laptops, GPS, portable hard drives, etc.) to the zoo for collection. Receptacle bins, pictured here, are set up at both the South and West Entrances. We’re also happy to announce that the litigation department of the Seattle law firm Lasher, Holzapfel, Sperry & Ebberson is helping save gorillas too! For every device you turn in at one of the receptacles, Lasher will donate $1 towards gorilla conservation (matching donations up to a designated amount each Quarter throughout 2018). Woodland Park Zoo will use funds from ECO-CELL and from the Lasher law firm to support the Mbeli Bai Gorilla Project and other great ape conservation programs.

Photo by Elizabeth Bacher, Woodland Park Zoo.
Mbeli Bai is just one of the many conservation and research partners that Woodland Park Zoo supports to help save species and habitats. The Mbeli Bai study researches the social organization and behaviors of gorillas living in one of Republic of Congo’s national park areas. The information they collect helps scientists monitor the health of remaining gorilla populations, assess threats to their habitat, and plan conservation strategies that benefit both gorillas and people in local communities.

So don’t forget to bring your handheld devices to Woodland Park Zoo for recycling. That includes cell phones, MP3 players, handheld games, e-readers and portable hard drives. You’ll help shrink your impact on the planet, help save gorillas and help protect all wildlife that share gorilla habitat.

Leo enjoying a summer treat in 2017. Photo by Dennis Dow, Woodland Park Zoo.