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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Keema and Denali celebrate 25 years of being the best

Posted by Elizabeth Bacher, Communications

Our grizzly bears, Keema and Denali, celebrate their 25th birthday on January 15. We've watched them grow from rough and tumble cubs to handsome beasts with fine-tuned palates for salmon, a penchant for romping through their stream and a remarkable nose for coffee grounds. They have inspired thousands of guests to take conservation actions and protect Pacific Northwest habitat. To mark the occasion, we’re giving you the gift of 25 fun facts about our favorite grizzlies—one for each glorious year!

Happiest Birthday, sweet bears!

1. Keema and Denali are twins—born January 15, 1994—and have been together their whole lives.

2. Their age is an indicator of the good care they receive here at Woodland Park Zoo. The average life expectancy for a wild male grizzly is 22 but bears in human care can live much longer.

The cubs kickin' it in the stream way back in 1994!

3. They are “Cougar bears”. OK, not really, but they were born at Washington State University which makes them Cougar-affiliated. (Sorry Huskies!)

4. Keema and Denali came to Woodland Park Zoo as 10-month-old cubs.

5. Their mom was a rescue from Yellowstone who couldn’t be released back into the wild. Washington State University gave her a home in their Bear Research, Education, and Conservation Center. It’s the only program of its kind in the U.S. that focuses on bear conservation around the world.

6. Grizzlies—also known as brown bears—are often brown, but their coloring can range from very light cream to black.

7. Identical twins? Not quite. Keema has a light-colored patch on his side, but is generally darker than his brother. Denali has a wider forehead than Keema.

8. Their weight can fluctuate by more than 200 pounds during the course of a year! In summer, when they’re more active, they can weigh as little as 670 pounds each. During winter when they’re sleepy and less active they can get up to 870 - 880 pounds!

9. Grizzlies don’t technically hibernate in the winter. They just get sleepy and spend lots of time napping—living off of the fat reserves they packed on in warmer times.

10. Our bears have very distinct personalities. Denali is more laid back while his brother Keema likes to be in control and tends to be the more dominant brother.

11. The bears each have their own spots near the stream where they like to eat. Just like you and your siblings who call dibs on a particular spot at the dinner table.

12. Keema has a sideways “look” he gives his keepers, especially when they miss his preferred spot while tossing his snacks near the stream.

13. Keema gives that same sideways look when he’s about to be naughty!

14. Grizzlies have a better sense of smell than a hound dog and can detect food from miles away.

15. Wild grizzlies are omnivores—meaning they eat a wide variety of foods. That includes meat, fish, insects, fruit, vegetables, tubers and berries.

16. If our boys had the chance, they’d eat almost anything. Exceptions are tomatoes, green beans, bananas and citrus, which they do NOT like.

I can haz fish.

17. Keema and Denali’s regular diet includes a wide variety of foods. Proteins could be trout, quail, chicken and turkey. Veggies include romaine, celery, kale, carrots and yams. And they love fruits like pears, apples, papaya, honeydew, cantaloupe and other seasonal goodies.

18. One of their favorite treats is peanuts! Denali eats them whole while Keema shells his.

19. All bears are attracted to smelly things—including things you throw in the garbage.

20. We love when you use bear-safe garbage cans to secure your smelly things. It keeps bears safe and away from potential conflicts with humans.

Denali offers a lesson in not-so-bear-proof camping gear.

21. That large hump on their backs is actually a muscle. Grizzlies dig more than any other bear species, ripping through the earth and tearing apart rotted logs in search of food.

22. Both our grizzlies—like all grizzly bears—love leaning against trees and using them as back-scratchers.

23. Denali seems to be a lefty, preferring to use his left paw as the dominant one. Keema is a righty.

24. When the bears sleep inside at night, they make beds out of fresh hay provided by their keepers.

25. Keema tends to make his bed first, often stealing a good portion of Denali’s bedding. Denali then scoops together what’s left of his hay, builds a nest and snuggles in.

Stream racing 101.

The brothers check out the camera from their favorite rock lookout.
p.s. Two very adorable cubs, Hawthorne and Huckleberry, remind us of a young Keema and Denali and we can't help reminiscing when we see them romping around at Northwest Trek! We're sending happy birthday vibes to our friends at Northwest Trek and wishes for salmon and adventure to the young cubs!

Hawthorne and Huckleberry at Northwest Trek: https://www.nwtrek.org/animals/bears/grizzly-cubs/ 

Monday, January 7, 2019

Tree kangaroo joey plays peek-a-boo from pouch

Posted by Meghan Sawyer, Communications

Woodland Park Zoo’s baby Matschie’s tree kangaroo is now venturing out of his mother’s pouch! In time, the joey named Ecki will leave the pouch permanently as he grows more confident and independent.

Tree kangaroo joey, Ecki, peeks out of his mother's pouch. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

“Ecki” is named after a beloved elder from one of the remote Papua New Guinea villages that works with Woodland Park Zoo to help protect tree kangaroos and their habitat. The joey and his mother, 11-year-old Elanna, live behind the scenes in an off-view habitat at the zoo.

A joey’s journey 

While Ecki is just now being introduced to the world, he was actually born eight months ago. When joeys are born, they’re only the size of a jelly bean! Within just one to two minutes of birth, that tiny baby has to crawl from the birth canal, through the mother’s fur, and into the pouch to immediately begin nursing. That’s exactly what Ecki did, and he’s been tucked away in his mom Elanna’s pouch ever since.

A before and after. Ecki was born blind and without fur. Photo: Woodland Park Zoo

But while Ecki may have been hidden from view, the zoo’s dedicated animal care staff constantly monitored him and his mother to make sure that both were healthy and meeting expected milestones. One way they were able to do that is through “pouch checks,” where keepers looked inside Elanna’s pouch to check on the joey.

“Training Elanna to cooperate with pouch checks required a solid foundation of trust between Elanna and her keepers. Using positive reinforcement, our keepers trained Elanna to come down to a platform when asked, place her front feet onto a white tube, and extend the time holding still in this position. At the same time, keepers slowly desensitized Elanna to gently touching and opening her pouch until they were able to see inside it,” said Animal Care Manager Rachel Salant. 

Using positive reinforcement, Elanna lets our animal care staff check on the joey in her pouch. Photo: Woodland Park Zoo

Finally, keepers spent some time slowly introducing cameras and cell phones near Elanna so that she would be comfortable with having the devices around to record video of her pouch. As part of all of the zoo’s animal training sessions, Elanna had the choice to leave any session at any time, so any video recorded was because Elanna allowed it. The result is a rare, up-close look at a tree kangaroo joey in his early stages of life, and it’s incredible to watch.

In the coming months, Ecki will become fully weaned from his mother, and eventually grow independent. In the meantime, animal care staff will continue to observe Ecki and Elanna to make sure both are happy, healthy and thriving.

Want to help save endangered tree kangaroos?
Woodland Park Zoo is home to the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program that is working to protect the endangered tree kangaroo and help maintain the unique biodiversity of its native Papua New Guinea in balance with the culture and needs of the people who live there. Consider supporting the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program here: https://www.zoo.org/tkcp/donate

Have a cup of joe for the joey!
Another way you can support conservation in Papua New Guinea is by purchasing and enjoying coffee that is grown by the people who live in Papua New Guinea's YUS Conservation Area, named for the Yopno, Uruwa, and Som rivers of that region. Seattle-based Caff√© Vita (www.caffevita.com) works with farmers and landowners in the YUS region to bring coffee beans they grow to market. By selling farm-direct to Caff√© Vita and other buyers, YUS farmers earn revenues more than 35% higher than local market rates—and helping the people who live off the land also helps all the animals living there too, including the Matschie’s tree kangaroo.

VIDEO of tree kangaroo joey and mom: https://youtu.be/prCShsVl9C0