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Saturday, December 15, 2018

Snakes, spiders and reptiles find safe haven at Woodland Park Zoo

Posted by Gigi Allianic, Communications

Sometimes animals need our support protecting their wild habitat and sometimes animals need our help finding a new home. Luckily, we were recently able to assist in two different cases where the expertise of zoo staff found a safe and appropriate new home for some very special creaturesand this story does have a happy ending.

A Gila monster is one of several venomous reptiles taken in by Woodland Park Zoo. Photo: John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo
A collection of reptiles owned by a woman who recently passed away in southern Wash. is now in the care of Woodland Park Zoo. The dozen exotic reptiles include several Gila (pronounced HEE-la) monsters, copperheads and vipers of various species.

Friends of the deceased woman asked the zoo if it could take the snakes and lizards. “As a community service, Woodland Park Zoo accepts all venomous reptiles, whether privately owned or confiscated by local agencies,” said Jennifer Pramuk, PhD., a curator at Woodland Park Zoo and an amphibian and reptile expert. “These people cared deeply for their friend who passed away and wanted to ensure that her animals went to a good home. We don’t want these animals to end up in the wrong hands or euthanized.”

The zoo plans to keep the Gila monsters and will work on placing the snakes in other zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums and which have staff highly qualified to care for these species. Gila monsters are one of two known venomous lizards, the other being the Mexican beaded lizard; they are native to the Southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico. Unlike snakes, Gila monsters and Mexican beaded lizards evolved their venom for defense, rather than for killing and digesting food. Although the Gila monster’s bite is normally not fatal to humans, it is extremely painful, and it is very important to see a doctor as soon as possible if bitten. Although Woodland Park Zoo stocks antivenom to provide accidental snakebite from all of the species of venomous reptiles in its collection, no antivenom exists for Gila monsters or for two African bush vipers that were part of the rescue. 

A young African bush viper is one of the venomous snakes taken in by Woodland Park Zoo. Photo: John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo
In a separate recent case, the zoo rescued 250 tarantula spiderlings that were confiscated by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from an importer. Because Brazil does not export adult tarantulas, it’s assumed the baby salmon pink bird-eating tarantulas and white-banded tarantulas were bred from illegally wild-caught adults. These youngsters are small now, but the salmon pink bird-eating tarantulas can grow to have a leg-span of more than 10 inches at adulthood.

250 baby salmon pink bird-eating tarantulas from Brazil that were confiscated by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are now in the care of Woodland Park Zoo. Photo: John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo

A young Brazilian white-banded tarantula 
Many animals, including reptiles and spiders, are threatened by the pet trade. Woodland Park Zoo works closely with wildlife agencies as a partner for consultation and providing a safe home on a case-by-case basis such as these two examples.

Sadly, it is not uncommon for people seeking homes for unwanted pets to reach out to Woodland Park Zoo; however, zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, like Woodland Park Zoo, concentrate mainly on helping endangered species. Woodland Park Zoo can’t begin to absorb unwanted pets in need of homes and refers pet owners to several organizations in the region including Pacific Northwest Herpetological Society, Northwest Exotic Bird Society and Pasado’s Safe Haven.

“People don’t realize that caring for wild animals is very challenging. Wild animals haven’t been molded for life with humans, as domesticated animals have been. Exotic animals can be aggressive or unpredictable, pose health and disease problems, and have special dietary and environmental needs that many owners are not prepared to address. We encourage potential pet owners to seriously consider the many specialized needs of animals before owning an exotic pet,” explained Pramuk. “For example, many turtle and parrot species have long life expectancies, living well into their 80s. People need to ask themselves if they can provide for the animals for their lifetime.”

At home
Are you considering adding a pet to your family over the holidays? Before you welcome a new addition into your home, it's important to be ready for the responsibility that comes along with pet ownership. And that includes understanding the needs of the species you're adopting. There are lots of resources available for owners of dogs, cats and other domestic animalsto help them provide everything their pet needs to live a safe and happy life. That ranges from finding proper veterinary care, which can be expensive, to providing a healthy diet that meets the needs of their pet. There are some animals, however, that don't make such good pets. Most people are probably not prepared to meet their specialized needs. Some of them can live for 30, 40 years or more and some can be dangerous or even illegal to own. Please make sure you do your research before committing to any new petand let's all promise not to buy or sell illegally traded animals. Remember, if you don't know where an animal is coming from, or if you aren't comfortable with the seller, it's best to walk away. Feel free to ask lots of questions to help understand where the animals are coming from. The store or seller should know whether or not an animal was born in the wild or in captivity, and if it's not clear, then you shouldn't be part of it. 

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Have you met Zeus the mountain goat?


Posted by Kirsten Pisto, Communications

Zeus the mountain goat, much like the king of the Greek gods who hailed from Mount Olympus, is handsome, athletic and sports a stunning white beard. Unlike his namesake, he will not be married to the goddess Hera, instead he’ll kick it with his new BFF Daisy.

Hey, Zeus! Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.
Back in September, we told you about a group of non-native mountain goats being translocated from Olympic National Park during a multi-agency operation to re-establish and assist in connecting depleted populations of mountain goats in the Washington Cascades. The effort to translocate mountain goats from the Olympic Peninsula is a partnership of the National Park Service (NPS), the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW), and the USDA Forest Service (USFS), with support from area tribes. Mountain goats were introduced to the Olympics in the 1920s.


Video: A zen moment with the herd on the Northern Trail. Video: https://youtu.be/F-W8CXmanEU

All in all, there were 98 mountain goats translocated from Olympic National Park to the northern Cascade Mountains. Woodland Park Zoo partnered with Northwest Trek and Oregon Zoo to provide permanent homes to goat kids without known mothers. Six mountain goat kids that could not be paired up with their mothers were originally transferred to Northwest Trek. Zeus was one of those six and a few weeks later he settled into the herd here at Woodland Park Zoo. 

Zeus and Daisy on the slopes. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.
Now, Zeus is acquainted with his herd on the Northern Trail and has been seen frolicking with Daisy, a young goat born at Woodland Park Zoo in June 2018. His keepers tell us he is quite smitten with Daisy and seems to get along well with aunties Bluebell and Atlin too. Zeus is a young goat, so he'll be perfecting his climb and balance as he grows. 

Zeus scouting out some green on the Northern Trail. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.
Mountain goats are adapted for life on steep, cold mountain ledgesway high up at elevations of 10,000 feet and more. They rock thick, woolly white coats that protect them from the elements and have specially shaped hooves to grip the rocks.

Right now you can tell Zeus and Daisy apart from Atlin and Bluebelle because of their size and the smaller horns, but not for long! You can tell Zeus apart from Daisy, since she does not have an ear tag, and Zeus has a green ear tag on his left ear.

Keep a lookout on the Northern Trail for this handsome little rock climber! Welcome, Zeus!