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Friday, November 16, 2018

Good News for Gorillas

Posted by: Peter Zahler, Vice President of Conservation Initiatives

Woodland Park Zoo is delighted to announce the good news that the highly threatened mountain gorilla has reached the point in its recovery that its status has been downgraded from Critically Endangered to Endangered.

Mountain gorillas in the wild. Photo credit: Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund

The decision was made by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the international organization that tracks the conservation status of animal and plant species. The decision shows the slow but steady increase in the population of this great ape due to concentrated protection efforts over the last few decades.

There are still only about a thousand mountain gorillas left in the wild, found in a few scattered populations in the mountains of Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in central Africa. The mountain gorillas have been facing threats from poaching, habitat destruction, and repeated civil conflicts that have forced local people into protected areas and led to breakdowns in protection efforts.

While the mountain gorilla’s new status is a real conservation success story, the population is still under threat from human pressure, climate change, and even Ebola. Other populations of gorillas are still declining precipitously.

Woodland Park Zoo supports the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and their long-standing work protected the mountain gorilla. Woodland Park Zoo also supports the Mbeli Bai Gorilla study in Nouabale-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo, which now holds more than 62% of the world’s critically endangered Western Lowland gorillas.


You can help support these projects and help save gorillas just by recycling this holiday season. Are you buying a new cell phone or handheld device for yourself or as a gift for someone else? Instead of tossing your old ones, consider dropping them off at Woodland Park Zoo. We partner with an organization called ECO-CELL to keep them out of landfills. ECO-CELL extracts mineral ore from these devices to reduce the demand for unsustainable coltan mining in the Congo that destroys habitat for critically endangered gorillas. The resale value for these minerals is reimbursed to the zoo and we use those funds to support our conservation work in the field. If you want to drop off any of your old devices, including cell phones, smart phones, iPods, iPads, tablets and MP3 players, you can find ECO-CELL receptacles located at both zoo entrances.

In addition, the Seattle law firm Lasher, Holzapfel, Sperry & Ebberson is helping save gorillas too! For every device we receive Lasher will donate $1 towards gorilla conservation. 

ECO-CELL drop-off bins are at both Woodland Park Zoo entrances. Photo: Elizabeth Bacher, Woodland Park Zoo.
If you're stopping by don't forget to visit our resident gorilla families here at the zoo, including our new silverback, Kwame. He is forming strong bonds with the females in his group, including Akenji, Uzumma, Nadiri and little Yola. The family is still getting acclimated to the public part of their exhibit together, so the times you can see them might vary depending on the day.

Kwame is forming strong bonds with his new Woodland Park Zoo family. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Woodland Park Zoo
To learn more about gorilla conservation and Woodland Park Zoo, please visit https://www.zoo.org/wsf/africa. Thank you for caring about gorillas and other endangered species as much as we do.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Rhino Lookout: How Local Kids Are Saving Rhinos

posted by Elizabeth Bacher, Communications

At Woodland Park Zoo, we want to inspire people of all ages to make conservation a priority in their lives. Taj and Glenn want that, too! In case you haven’t met them yet, Taj and Glenn are the greater one-horned rhinos who moved into the zoo’s new Assam Rhino Reserve earlier this year, and they are already inspiring the next generation of wildlife protectors. That generation includes lots of motivated kids of all ages who are active in their communities and schools. They want to save wildlife. They want to make a difference. And we want you to know about them!

In Assam, India, children walk past a school wall mural dedicated to the preservation of rhinos in Manas National Park. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

We recently shared a story with you about children who live in the Manas community of Assam, India. They take an oath every day at school with their fellow classmates to protect the wildlife and wild places near where they live. It just so happens that where they live is right next to Manas National Park—home to animals found nowhere else on earth including pygmy hogs, golden langurs and a translocated population of greater one-horned rhinos—just like Taj and Glenn. These kids feel it is their duty to look out for wildlife and to look out for rhinos.

Halfway around the world, there are groups of kids right here in the Seattle area who feel the same way. Each of these groups is taking action to make sure that THEIR future includes a world where rhinos can live safely without the threat of poaching. These junior philanthropists are showing us that you’re never too young to make a difference. We are inspired by them, and we think you will be too! They come from a variety of different neighborhoods and schools, but they all had the same great idea on how to raise funds for conservation and raise awareness about the plight of rhinos—set up lemonade stands in their neighborhoods!

The Ross and Torpey kids are all in for lemonade, cookies and conservation! Photo credit: Nicole Ross

Finley Ross, Evelyn Ross, Elise Torpey and Brooke Torpey ran a lemonade and donut stand in their north Seattle neighborhood. They raised money to help save rhinos and to raise awareness about some of the illegal poaching activities that threaten them. Finley, age 10, knows that rhinos need to be protected. “People are killing them and illegally selling their horns to other countries,” he said. “Some people think the stuff in the horns can be used for medicine and that's not true.”

Chandrasekaran kids and friends serve up lemonade and cookies for conservation. Photo credit: Julie Schlosser

Max and Leo Chandrasekaran, along with some friends, also ran a lemonade stand and sold cookies. They set up shop next to a baseball field in the Queen Anne neighborhood and decided they wanted all the money they made to go toward rhino conservation. Way to go kids!

Laurelhurst Elementary School students present a check to rhino keeper Chad. Photo: Elizabeth Bacher/Woodland Park Zoo

Take a look at this class of second and third graders from Laurelhurst Elementary School who hosted a lemonade and cookie stand in support of rhinos as part of their community impact project. Here they are, pictured at Woodland Park Zoo’s rhino exhibit in the Assam Rhino Reserve, presenting a check to Chad, one of our rhino keepers. Chad looks pretty impressed! We’re impressed too!

Girls on the Run team from McDonald International Elementary. #gotrpugetsound Photo credit: Ivy Karlinsky

Finally, a local Girls on the Run Team from McDonald International Elementary school decided that a lemonade and cookie stand was the perfect way to raise money in support of endangered animals, like rhinos. Here they are, coming out for a cause and having fun at their elementary school.

In total, these kids—these budding philanthropists and conservationists—raised more than $800 for rhino conservation. That’s enough to outfit an anti-poaching ranger station with equipment and gear. Clearly, a little lemonade and a lot of passion for conservation (plus some cookies, too) go a long way! Now THAT is impressive and we are grateful for the example they’re setting for our whole community.


In the Rhino Lookout series, we’re highlighting the stories of those who are looking out for rhinos and what we can do to help. Visit Assam Rhino Reserve, now open at Woodland Park Zoo, and follow #rhinolookout for more stories. Every visit to Woodland Park Zoo supports our work with International Rhino Foundation and more than 30 other projects dedicated to saving species here and around the world.

Rhino Lookout: Do more than see rhinos. Look out for them.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Earn a Master's Degree that Enables You to be a Conservation Leader

Posted by Ryan Driscoll, Lead Learning Facilitator, Science & Conservation Education

Have you dreamed of going back to school? Are you looking for ways to make a difference in your community and for the environment? Since 2001, Woodland Park Zoo has been partnering with Miami University of Ohio to offer a groundbreaking graduate degree that allows students to become conservation leaders within their communities and globally. Advanced Inquiry Program (AIP) Master’s students and alumni are agents for positive environmental change are they have amazing stories to share. Maybe they'll inspire you to take conservation action!

This blog features current AIP student Margaret Hanzlick-Burton. She shares how her AIP experience has given her the courage to engage with new communities in Seattle, across the United States, and in Borneo. Check it out!

WPZ: Why did you apply to the Advanced Inquiry Program?

My road to the AIP is long and winding. I have a bachelor’s degree in theatre performance and taught children’s theatre for a while, which I loved doing. While teaching theatre, I applied for a presentation and interpretation position at the Kansas City Zoo. After I got the job, I realized that my passion lies in environmental conservation and its communication. Soon after, we moved to Seattle where I saw a flyer for AIP. The program was exactly what I was looking for in terms of furthering my knowledge and career! I’m so glad I chose to be part of AIP because it has given me experiences and connections that I wouldn’t otherwise have ever had.

WPZ: What is the most interesting part of the program?

I really enjoy getting to learn with and from a group of people who share my same passion for environmental conservation. My classmates (both in Seattle and online) come from such a wide variety of backgrounds and I feel that I benefit from their varied experiences. Some are teachers, some are animal keepers at zoos or aquariums, and others work in areas from event planning to computer programming. Everyone brings a different perspective to our discussions which we all can learn from.

Margaret Hanzlick-Burton worked with researchers, community members, palm oil growers and other fellow students to learn about the environmental issues that affect people and wildlife in Borneo.

WPZ: Tell us about your Earth Expedition course to Borneo!

To say the trip was life changing would be an understatement! In Borneo, I got to live with and work beside people who are working hard on behalf of the environment every single day. We talked with researchers, community members, students, and oil palm growers and learned about the environmental issues that concern them. Getting to see orang-utans, elephants, pangolins, proboscis monkeys, and sun bears in the wild wasn’t too bad, either! The Earth Expedition course provided me with a global perspective on the subjects I’ve been studying for a year and a half.

WPZ: What impact has this program had on your community?

One of my favorite elements of this program is that it forces me to go outside my comfort zone and engage with my community. I’ve involved high school students, teachers, Bornean community members, and Seattle bar patrons in my projects. I would never have had the courage or the opportunity to engage with all those people on my own. Many AIP courses focus on community-based conservation and AIP students get to (and are required to) put this concept into practice. One of the important lessons I’ve learned from this program is that if the affected community is not an integral part of conservation programs, the chance is high that those initiatives will fail. I’m grateful for the opportunity to talk to the people around me and involve them in my work.

Margaret Hanzlick-Burton's studies with the AIP program took her to the forests of Borneo.

 WPZ: How does this program impact you personally and professionally?

I often discuss conservation and environmental issues with friends, family, and the general public at work. My AIP coursework has given me the tools to be more articulate about the subjects I’ve always wanted to talk about but haven’t been exactly sure how to (value of zoos, evolution, climate change, etc.). Now I feel much more comfortable discussing these topics with others in an informed, empathetic way.

I will admit that it can be challenging to balance life, work, and AIP. But I can assure you that it’s completely worth it. It’s very rewarding to feel that I’m working toward a degree that will hopefully help to make the world a better place. I get to take classes in subjects that I am not only very interested in but that are also relevant to the work I do and to my career.

WPZ: Who would you recommend this program for?

Are you passionate about conservation? Do you not only want to learn more about environmental issues but also do something about them? Are you looking for ways to engage with your community about subjects that matter? Then AIP is for you!

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:
  • Thursday, Nov. 15, 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. (at Woodland Park Zoo) 
  • Tuesday, Nov. 27, 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. (via webinar) 
  • Tuesday, Jan. 15, 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. (at Woodland Park Zoo) 
  • Wednesday, Jan. 23, 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. (via webinar) 

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