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Thursday, March 28, 2019

Empathy and the 21st Century Zoo: Building a Movement for Sustainability

Posted by: Alejandro Grajal, PhD, President and CEO, Woodland Park Zoo

Woodland Park Zoo’s mission to save species and inspire everyone to make conservation a priority in their lives depends on our ability to convince people that they can be the heroes of their own conservation stories. The first step on that journey is recognizing our connection to nature and wild creatures.

Watch: https://youtu.be/CIZnvA4y3RQ

Zoos and aquariums strive to make that connection tangible and vibrant, often to great effect. I’m sure that you can remember the last time you were at a zoo or aquarium, whether it was yesterday or 20 years ago. The Empathy Project at Woodland Park Zoo is working to apply scientific research to the concept of empathy and how its influenced by experiences at our zoo. Empathy is defined as a stimulated emotional state that relies on the ability to perceive, understand, and care about the experiences or perspectives of another person or animal.

That’s why our zoo co-created Advancing Conservation Through Empathy for Wildlife, a learning network with 19 zoos and aquariums from around the United States to study how empathy is sparked, nurtured, and ultimately how it can help people take conservation actions that benefit all of us. We are in the very first stages of this research to measure and identify the ways our zoo can inspire empathy. We want to invite you with us on this journey of discovery—you can find updates on our findings and our work at www.zoo.org/empathy

Together, we hope to discover how to make zoos and aquariums everywhere into empathy machines that are driving our society to adopt sustainable practices so that we can end extinctions and allow all life on our planet to thrive.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Otterly Wonderful News: Valkyrie gives birth to four river otter pups!

Posted by Kirsten Pisto, Communications
Photos by Animal Keeper Allison Barr

We have some extremely exciting news to share with you. On March 16, Valkyrie, our fierce, fast and precocious river otter gave birth to four little pups. These baby otters are the first offspring for mom Valkyrie and dad Ziggy, who are both 5 years old.

Teeny, tiny otter pups! These are the first river otter pups born at Woodland Park Zoo.
The pups are very tiny, fuzzy and snuggled up close to mom in a cozy off-view den. At just weeks old, the pups are busy nursing and curling up into adorable otter balls while they sleep. Animal care staff are closely monitoring the new family via a den cam. “The first year is crucial for otter pups. Because Valkyrie is a first-time mother, we want to be sure she’s providing appropriate care for each pup,” explains animal care manager Deanna DeBo. “We’re happy to report each pup has a fully belly, a good sign they’re nursing. She’s being a good mom and providing attentive maternal care.”

Our animal health team was able to do a quick wellness check on the pups and confirmed there are two females and two males. (Squeeee!) The pups weigh just between 10 and 12 ounces each. This means that collectively, the pups weigh almost as much as one coconut. (That's official otter math.)

Quick check up before being placed back with mom in the cozy den.
The otterlettes will open their eyes at about a month old, but for now the quadruplets are completely helpless, relying solely on Valkyrie for food, warmth and protection. Dad Ziggy is doing what an otter dad shouldhe's in a separate space giving mom and pups the quiet, bonding time they need. Male river otters do not play a part in rearing the pups, since river otters are solitary and territorial (except when mating and when the mother is living with her young pups). 

Valkyrie and Ziggy were introduced to each other in 2015 through the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Otter Species Survival Plan, a conservation breeding program across accredited zoos and aquariums to help ensure a healthy, self-sustaining population of otters. Valkyrie is a very feisty otter, and when she was first introduced to Ziggy she made it clear she was not interested in sharing her space! However, over time she started to show signs of interest in Ziggy and now they get along swimmingly. 

Keeping snug while the animal health team weighs the pups and makes sure their bellies are full of milk. They were!
The North American river otters range is over most of North America in coastal areas, estuaries, freshwater lakes, streams and rivers; they can be found in water systems all over Washington state. Most of the otters folks spot in the Puget Sound are actually river otters! They love hanging out on the beach and searching for seafood treats, but are often mistaken for sea otters. River otters consume a wide variety of prey such as fish, crayfish, amphibians and birds. At the top of the food chain, river otters are an excellent reflection of the health of local ecosystems.

Video: Valkyrie and cubs via the den cam https://youtu.be/uG56A-qBmQY

In the next few weeks, the pups will be growing quickly and keeping their little bellies full of milk. We promise to update you as they hit benchmarks such as opening their eyes and becoming more mobile. That is, if Valkyrie let's us see them. Right now, the mama otter is being very protective of her new pups (as she should be), so we'll be patient and re-watch that den cam video about 50 times a day.

Valkyrie lives up to her namesake from Norse mythology. She's a fierce otter and an otterly awesome first-time mama. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo. 
All otter species are considered threatened while five of the 13 species are endangered due to water pollution, overfishing of commercial stock and habitat destruction. To help your zoo contribute information to sustainable breeding, husbandry and public awareness of the river otter, you can adopt your own otters in honor of the new pups! Visit ZooParent to adopt today. You can also do your part by keeping waterways clean: prevent polluted streams and rivers by cleaning up areas near your home and remember, never dump chemicals (paint, cleaning sprays, pesticides) down the drain.

Ziggy is sweet, shy and is the father of these new otter pups. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.
Duncan is our older otter who sometimes hangs out with Ziggy. He's still got some zip and he enjoys carrying rocks on his head. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.
In addition to river otters, the award-winning Northern Trail habitat is home to grizzlies, elk, gray wolves, mountain goats and Steller’s sea eagles. The Northern Trail will be reimagined through the lens of the Pacific Northwest’s exceptional ecosystem and will open in 2020 as Living Northwest. Funds raised through the Living Northwest Initiative will create a new exhibit experience that will be a revitalization of the Northern Trail and will become a hub for engaging zoo guests and community members around discovery, species recovery, human-wildlife coexistence, and saving the wildlife and ecosystems right here at home for the benefit of every species.

To donate to the Living Northwest Initiative, visit www.zoo.org/donate.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Community Howls for Wildlife Heroes

Posted by Alexa Woodard, Engagement

Thrive 2019 was an amazing show of support from our community. Woodland Park Zoo’s Thrive 2019 Wildlife Heroes, our signature conservation-focused fundraising event of the year, took place at Fremont Studios on February 27th with more than 400 zoo supporters attending. Funds raised will support the zoo’s Living Northwest program, which saves species, engages students in inquiry-based science learning and protects ecosystems right here at home.

Thrive co-chairs Sandra Andrews of Microsoft and Anders Brown of Valence with Woodland Park Zoo President and CEO Alejandro Grajal.

Fremont Studios made a festive location for our conservation-focused fundraiser, Thrive 2019!
Co-chaired by Sandra Andrews of Microsoft and Anders Brown of Valence, Thrive Wildlife Heroes brought together Puget Sound region businesses, community and conservation leaders, and philanthropists to advance the mission of the zoo.

The Thrive Wildlife Heroes event also kicked off Woodland Park Zoo’s significant new efforts to raise funds for our Living Northwest Initiative. The funds will expand and advance our Living Northwest conservation and education programs, as well as support a re-imagined Living Northwest exhibit experience projected to open in 2020. The new exhibit experience will be a revitalization of the zoo’s award-winning Northern Trail exhibit and will become a hub for engaging zoo guests and community members around discovery, species recovery, human-wildlife coexistence, and saving the wildlife and ecosystems right here at home for the benefit of every species.

Dr. Jenny Pramuk and Thrive host Matt Lorch with an endangered Western pond turtle.
We are so grateful for our sponsors at every level and our wonderful community of supporters who not only howled for conservation (literally), but are a group of conservation-minded individuals whose passion and spirit for saving species infuses our mission every day. Their support of our conservation work and enthusiasm for our 2019 awardees is so impactful—what a tremendous community we share.

 Honoring our Wildlife Heroes

“Each of our 2019 honorees brings their passion, dedication, and resources to helping Woodland Park Zoo advance our social movement to better our relationship with nature, consistently inspiring and empowering our mission. Together, we stand for wildlife,” - Woodland Park Zoo President and CEO Alejandro Grajal, PhD.

Our awardees included a filmmaker and adventurist who has been face-to-face with grizzly bears (on more than one occasion), a young woman and aspiring doctor who found her voice while educating others about conservation action, an organization that has supported the zoo for decades in its mission to reach new audiences and create innovative moments for conservation, and a pioneering environmental philanthropist who embodies the spirit of generosity and the power of philanthropy.

Chris Morgan received the Conservation Leadership Award. Chis has worked as a wildlife researcher, wilderness guide, and environmental educator on every continent where bears and other large carnivores exist. Chris is the founder of the Western Wildlife Outreach whose mission is to promote an accurate understanding of Washington and Idaho’s large carnivore heritage through education and community outreach.

Woodland Park Zoo Conservation Leadership Award: Chris Morgan, a wildlife researcher, wilderness guide, and environmental educator who has worked on every continent where bears and other large carnivores exist. Western Wildlife Outreach Founder and Senior Advisor, Morgan has partnered with Woodland Park Zoo to raise awareness about imperiled species and the recovery process in a non-advocacy environment. Morgan most recently completed the documentary BEARTREK, an epic feature following him on a global crusade to four continents to discover the wondrous world of bears.

Rose Letwin received the Philanthropic Leadership Award and was honored for her passion for conservation including her support of our zoo and Robert Long’s research on regional carnivores.
Outstanding Philanthropic Leadership Award: Rose Letwin, who advances the zoo’s mission through annual leadership gifts and was instrumental in launching the zoo’s wildlife conservation program with generous seed funding. Through the Wilburforce Foundation, she also made possible the critical work of Woodland Park Zoo’s research on regional carnivores with the goal of informing best practices around how humans and carnivores can coexist peacefully in the state’s shared landscapes. A pioneering environmental philanthropist, Letwin embodies the spirit of generosity and the power of philanthropy to improve lives for all species.

Thrive 2019 Wildlife Heroes…Be One!
Guy C. Phinney Corporate Leadership Award: BECU, who for more than a decade has been a dedicated supporter of Woodland Park Zoo and a loyal sponsor of ZooTunes. The local cooperative has helped to bring music to the community and helped advance the zoo’s mission to save wildlife and inspire people to make conservation a priority in their lives. The zoo thanks BECU for their longstanding partnership and financial contributions in working together to save species and empower communities.

Nazma Noray received the Youth Conservation Award and is a member of ZooCorps and credits Woodland Park Zoo with helping her build her confidence and find her voice. She is on her way to great things!
Woodland Park Zoo Youth Conservation Award: Nazma Noray, a member of Woodland Park Zoo’s ZooCorps teen program. Noray is a senior at Shorecrest High School, where she started a composting program with the school’s Environmental Club—a program that has since expanded to two other schools. She credits the zoo with helping her find a confident and passionate voice about conservation and education. Noray hopes to use that voice one day as a physician caring for marginalized groups in the Puget Sound community.

Watch: Nazma Noray speak about her experience at Woodland Park Zoo: https://youtu.be/6EhP8YBW1oE 

It is an honor to acknowledge the impact these wildlife heroes have in our community—their dedication to conservation will influence and shape the way others see their role in saving species for generations.

In addition to our incredible hosts, presenters, wildlife heroes, supporters and sponsors, we’d like to tip our hats to our horticulture team (they transformed Fremont Studios into a Pacific Northwest wonderland!), event volunteers, board members and staff who greeted guests with smiles and exuded superior hospitality. Thank you all for making Thrive 2019 a success!

Were you unable to attend Thrive but still want to support your zoo? You can donate any time: www.zoo.org/donate

Thank you to our generous Thrive 2019 sponsors.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Baby Giraffe

Posted by Elizabeth Bacher, Communications
With Lead Animal Keeper Katie Ahl

Olivia and Dave on the savanna. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.
Have you “herd” the news? We recently announced that Olivia the giraffe is expecting her second baby this spring! Olivia had her first baby in 2013, but this will be the first offspring between Olivia and Dave.

There is a lot of excitement around a giraffe pregnancy, and a lot of hard work that goes into preparing and planning for a birth and a baby giraffe. We chatted with animal keeper (and giraffe doula) Katie Ahl to find out what to expect when you’re expecting a baby giraffe.

WPZ: First off, how’s Olivia doing?

Katie: Olivia is doing very well. She’s eating well and seems comfortable and relaxed. We have been planning for this pregnancy for almost 2 years. We took Olivia off birth control late in 2017 and started monitoring her cycle to see when she would be in estrus. This is a very small window of about 24 hours so we had to keep an eye on her so we wouldn’t miss it. She and Dave bred in January of 2018 a couple of times and after that, she stopped cycling. We did a fecal hormone test at the beginning of her 2nd trimester and got the news she was confirmed pregnant. Fast forward to today, and we’re nearing the end of her pregnancy and doing final prep of the giraffe barn and savanna, as well as watching her development. We closely monitor her diet and behavior and make adjustments to keep her comfortable and full of the food she and her little one need.

Olivia, with her first calf in 2013, has proven to be an excellent mother. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo

WPZ: This is Olivia’s second pregnancy, so how does it compare to her first in 2017? Are you noticing any trends or similarities?

Katie: Yes, we’re excited to see Olivia as a mom again. She took great care of Misawa, her first calf, and was a wonderful aunt to Lulu, Tufani’s calf. I am seeing a few similarities to her first pregnancy and even to Tufani’s pregnancy. Currently we’re monitoring her diet intake. She normally eats all her grain pretty quickly but right now she seems to want smaller portions. This means we’re extending her food access overnight which allows her to eat when she wants. She has also started taking more bathroom breaks often (whether she actually has to go or not). I attribute that to the fact that the calf is taking up a bit more space in her abdomen and pushing on her bladder from time to time. I think many pregnant fans out there can relate to that! All of this is on track from what we’ve seen from her in the past and it’s great to see her as comfortable as she can be in her 3rd trimester. We even saw her take a gallop around the savanna in January. (OK, it was more of a slow lumber but she was definitely kicking up her heels a bit!) 

A giraffe calf can be 6' tall at birth and will spend its first hours and days learning to stand, walk, nurse and bond with mom. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

WPZ: We’ve heard that Olivia’s baby is due sometime between mid-March and late April. Why is that birth window so long? Any guesses on when it might happen?

Katie: Ok here’s the inside scoop for anyone doing a giraffe birth pool out there. The facts: giraffe cycle every two weeks and are in estrus for about one day. We saw two estrous cycles from Olivia in Jan 2018 with successful copulation. Giraffe gestation is 14 ½ to 15 months long. And Olivia went late into her birth window for her first calf.

So if you factor in the two copulation dates, the two week variable in gestation length, and a week or two for just in case, you get a window of possible birth that’s around 6-8 weeks long. Believe me it’s harder to for us to wait than it is for her! I hope she gives birth in mid-April, but your guess is as good as mine. We all just want the birth to be as easy as possible and a healthy calf afterwards.

WPZ: You know all our giraffes very well. Does pregnancy change Olivia’s behavior at all? What about Dave—does he seem to notice?

Katie: Ha! Dave is not aware at all. Olivia on the other hand might be aware of some physical changes and some of her hunger and diet preferences will drive some of her behavior. For example, when she lays down she doesn’t curl up as much as she normally can and she is a bit more engaged in our training sessions because she really wants those extra treats. But currently it’s business as usual at the giraffe barn. When she goes into labor then we will see some additional behavior changes that could include restlessness, pacing and a bit of impatience.

Misawa, Olivia's first calf. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo
WPZ: Did you plan for Olivia and Dave to have a calf together, or are animal pregnancies a surprise? How does that work?

Katie: This is definitely planned. The Giraffe Species Survival Plan—referred to as the SSP—made a recommendation a while ago for Dave and Olivia to breed, but it was up to Woodland Park Zoo to decide the best timing for us to facilitate that. Our veterinary staff thought it would be best to have a spring or summer birth so that the giraffe would have more space and warmth before going into the next fall and winter.

We want to have room for all our animals (young and old) to live comfortably and be able to exhibit appropriate species behavior (foraging, breeding, socializing, etc). The SSPs allow us to properly manage the populations that are in human care so that we have a diverse genetic pool that is properly cared for and healthy. 

Soon, the new calf will be able to explore the area in and around the giraffe barn while getting to know Aunt Tufani and dad Dave (seen here with Lulu in 2017). Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

Of course, it’s definitely still up to the animals to decide if they would like to breed. Sometimes they choose not to do it, but lucky for us we've had good luck with our herd.

WPZ: So what happens next? Obviously you and the other keepers are watching and waiting, but what else needs to happen before a baby arrives?

Katie: Our team just went over our birth prep list. It’s a list of work completed in the past that we check before every birth and decide if it needs to happen again. Examples are steam cleaning the barn, installing baby-proofing gates, and assessing the savanna for a calf and making sure it’s safe.

The giraffe continue to be on view in the barn and corrals and as the weather warms up you’ll see them on the savanna. We will be checking Olivia daily for signs of labor and it will be a regular routine for all of them until the day of the birth comes. So you can certainly come visit the giraffe and wish Olivia well.

Mothers have the chance to quietly bond with a new calf behind the scenes in the comfort of the giraffe barn. Tongue baths are often the first order of business. Tufani with Lulu in 2017. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/ Woodland Park Zoo
WPZ: You’ve been able to witness several giraffe births here at Woodland Park Zoo. What is that like?

Katie: Seeing a giraffe birth is pretty amazing. I have been privileged to see both of our births over the last few years. It’s messy, but quiet. A few days before it happens, we start to see teat development and her udders fill up and a shift in calf placement (the baby drops). The day or so before we see some other physical changes too, and the day when birth is imminent, we often see a lot of pacing and a little irritation from mom—which is totally understandable. During Olivia’s first delivery a few years ago, she did not stop pacing all day.

Once the calf is born we will observe around the clock to make sure it is standing and nursing, and we’ll look for good maternal behavior from Olivia. We’ll have a neonatal exam to determine passive transfer—the passage of antibodies from mother to baby through the placenta and through nursing. We will also do a physical exam where we collect some samples (blood, placenta and possible urine) and will get a weight and height. Newborn giraffe are usually around 6 feet tall. Then we’ll let mom and baby bond for a couple of days. Tufani and Dave will have visual access and some physical access to them from over the fence, but will be kept separated from them to start. When the calf is about a week old we will start outdoor time and that’s when the public will be able to see the little one. As the weeks follow we will fully introduce Tufani and Dave to Olivia and the calf, and then later in the spring they will all get to go to the savanna to meet the zebra, gazelle and ostrich. It’s going to be a busy and exhausting but fun summer.

Woodland Park Zoo's Katie Ahl did some field work with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation in Namibia. Photo by Katie Ahl/Woodland Park Zoo

WPZ: A visit to Woodland Park Zoo supports conservation of animals in the wild—so when people come to visit our giraffes they are also helping support the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF). Tell us more about that. 

Katie: The Giraffe Conservation Foundation is part of Woodland Park Zoo’s Wildlife Survival Program. That means when you come visit the zoo, a portion of your admission goes to our program that supports them. Giraffe Conservation Foundation works throughout the whole content of Africa with all the types of giraffe. They do DNA studies, census work, and even translocations. That is where they move giraffe back into habitat where they used to live but are not currently there, or they move populations and genetics to different parts of parks to keep the populations growing and healthy.

A data sheet helps Giraffe Conservation Foundation scientists and researchers track information. Photo by Katie Ahl/Woodland Park Zoo
I recently had the privilege to join the Giraffe Conservation Foundation team for some field work in Namibia. I’ll tell you it was very hot there, but the time out in the field helping collect data and seeing all those giraffes made every hot, sweaty second worth it. It was great to connect my work here at Woodland Park Zoo with something happening in the wild and see how we can all work together to make the world a better place for animals and people.

The Giraffe Conservation Foundation is doing some amazing conservation work. You can check out their webpage for more information about all their projects and how they impact giraffe in Africa.

WPZ: Wow! That must have been an amazing trip!

Katie: Yeah, I learned a lot about field work but what I took away from that trip was a renewed spirit and drive to come back here and make a difference.

When the weather is warm enough and the time is right, the calf will be able to play on the savanna, as demonstrated by Lulu and Dave in 2017. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

WPZ: So is there anything more you want to share with us about what to expect when expecting a baby giraffe?

Katie: Get ready for another summer of cuteness! I’m really looking forward to this new big bundle of giraffe and hope Olivia has an easy delivery. I’ll keep you posted on changes with Olivia and the herd right here, but be sure to plan a couple of visits this summer to see them!


Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Anything for Animals: Selat the Komodo dragon gets VIP treatment for arthritis

Posted by Elizabeth Bacher, Communications

Komodo dragon at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo

What do you do when your 150-pound Komodo dragon needs to visit the doctor? You put him in the car and drive to the vet’s office, right? Well, it’s not quite that simple—but a recent appointment for Selat, one of our older Komodo dragons, provides a good opportunity to show how our awesome animal care team comes up with custom plans to meet the health needs of every critter in our care. Whether we’re working with the small and fluffy or the large and scaly, our team will do anything for animals!

Selat gets regular physical therapy treatments from the zoo's animal care team. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/WPZ

Selat is a 20-year-old male Komodo who is geriatric. Like many aging animals (and humans) he is experiencing mobility issues in his joints and limbs related to advanced osteo-arthritis. For the last couple years, Woodland Park Zoo staff have been working side by side with staff from SOUND Veterinary Rehabilitation Center in Shoreline to manage Selat’s day-to-day comfort. They do this through a combination of oral medications and rehabilitation therapy—including laser treatments, acupuncture and massage.

Carrying Selat to the zoo vehicle. Photo: Gemina Garland-Lewis

In addition to meeting every-day needs, we also come up with long-term care plans for all our animals. For Selat, that meant being carried into one of the zoo’s vehicles a few weeks ago, for some offsite diagnostic imaging to monitor the progression of his arthritis. (His dedicated keepers escorted him on his I-5 outing.)

Woodland Park Zoo staff make sure Selat is comfortable for the procedure. Photo: Gemina Garland-Lewis

Even though his size can be a challenge—not to mention the fact that he has a mouth full of sharp teeth and saliva that contains dangerous bacteria—Selat’s care team said he was a “good boy” throughout the procedure. Selat is usually quite calm and mellow for his regular rehab sessions at the zoo. Nonetheless, our veterinarians gave him some sedation to keep him comfortable during the car ride and the scans. The diagnosis: although his elbows and knees do show advanced levels of degeneration in the joints, no new issues of concern were found in the scan.

Specialists review images of Selat's joints. Photo: Gemina Garland-Lewis

It takes a village to manage a patient like Selat and we would like to recognize and thank them all! In addition to our amazing Woodland Park Zoo staff who care for him every day, there are a number of people who helped make this extraordinary procedure happen. That team included radiologist Dr. Rob Liddell; Dr. Rebecca Manley, a veterinary radiologist from Northwest Veterinary Imaging; Dr. Kristin Kirkby Shaw, Medical Director of SOUND Veterinary Rehabilitation Center and Woodland Park Zoo’s consultant for our rehabilitation medicine program; Dr. Cindy Knapp, consulting acupuncturist from SOUND Veterinary Rehabilitation Center; and photographer Gemina Garland-Lewis.

Caring for a patient like Selat is a hands-on job for Woodland Park Zoo's dedicated staff. Photo: Gemina Garland-Lewis

According to Dr. Darin Collins, Woodland Park Zoo’s Director of Animal Health, Selat was an excellent patient and his continued prognosis is good. “We continue to manage his care, day-to-day, and will further accommodate his treatment plan as long as he continues to respond favorably.”

Our animal care team says that Selat might have been a little sore after the limb exercises that were part of his latest appointment, but by the morning after he was more than ready for his normal ration of defrosted rats, rabbits, chickens or guinea pigs for breakfast. (We can relate to the first part—not so much to the second.)

Komodo habitat in the Adaptations building at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo: Mat Hayward/Woodland Park Zoo

Next time you visit the zoo, be sure to visit Selat and our other Komodo, a 6-year-old male named Berani. They are housed separately (Komodo dragons are solitary animals) in the Adaptations building on the east side of the zoo. The best way to tell them apart is by size, with Selat being nearly twice as big as the younger Berani. Oh, and while you're there make sure to tell Selat he's a good boy!

Friday, March 1, 2019

Local black bear gets second chance thanks to community of wildlife specialists

Posted by Elizabeth Bacher, Communications
Photos by PAWS Wildlife Center

Female black bear recovering at PAWS Wildlife Center. Photo credit: PAWS Wildlife Center
Sometimes wild animals need a little help. In this case, a particularly big wild animal needed more than a little help. Today, this female American black bear is resting comfortably, healing and recovering at PAWS Wildlife Center in Lynnwood—but a few months ago her very survival was dependent on the cooperation of several partners dedicated to wildlife conservation.

In early December, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) received a call about a female bear that had been hit by a car in Poulsbo, Washington, east of Seattle. Black bears aren’t often seen in our region at that time of year because they typically den up for the winter months, but they do occasionally wake to move around or change denning sites. It took several days of searching but wildlife officers were finally able to locate and immobilize the bear, which was initially reported to be dragging her hind legs but seemed able to move slowly on all four by the time officers found her. They brought her to PAWS, which is the only rehabilitation facility in the state approved to work with bears.

An exam at PAWS revealed the extent of this bear's injuries. Photo credit: PAWS Wildlife Center
An exam and x-rays at PAWS revealed that the 260-pound female suffered multiple rib and pelvic fractures. PAWS veterinarians, including Dr. Nicki Rosenhagen, also suspected the bear was pregnant based on the time of year and the images they saw on the x-rays. While PAWS is able to provide high-quality care for a multitude of species, the nature of this bear’s injuries in conjunction with her size and reproductive state would require the skill of specialty trained veterinary surgeons—and a much larger operating room than the one at PAWS.

In the following days, the staff at PAWS contacted a number of local specialists and put together a team of professionals from Woodland Park Zoo and the Veterinary Specialty Center (VSC) of Seattle. Both organizations were willing to donate their time, skills and facilities to help this bear. Our zoo staff offered the use of a large operating room, access to radiologic and ultrasound imaging, the assistance of two of our highly trained veterinary technicians, and the use of our zoo ambulance to safely transport the bear to and from the zoo. 

The PAWS team gave the female black bear an exam and took x-rays to assess her condition. Photo credit: PAWS
Director of Animal Health at Woodland Park Zoo, Dr. Darin Collins explained, a shared mission to save wild animals: “Saving wildlife takes more than a single organization. It takes a vital community—all of us—to save wild animals and their wild places. As a conservation institution, Woodland Park Zoo plays an important role in caring for wildlife at the zoo and helping to ensure the future of wildlife in urban and natural environments.” 

A board-certified surgeon and a team of veterinary technicians from VSC performed the surgery to repair the fractured pelvis and one of their board-certified radiologists evaluated the x-rays and performed an abdominal ultrasound at the time of surgery to determine the bear’s reproductive status. 

Up close with a big bear paw! Photo credit: PAWS Wildlife Center
The VSC team explained their eagerness to donate their services. “It is with great pleasure that the VSC surgery team was able to team up with PAWS to provide advanced surgical treatment for the black bear,” said VSC board certified Veterinary Surgeon Mark Garneau. “Our team always takes a special interest in the PAWS wildlife cases and the bear is a special favorite,” added Tori McKlveen, VSC board certified Veterinary Radiologist. 

Black bear leaves PAWS Wildlife Center in Lynnwood, to go to Woodland Park Zoo for surgery. Photo credit: PAWS
On December 13, the PAWS veterinary team immobilized the bear and prepared her for transport to the zoo for surgery. The zoo's animal health ambulance is outfitted with a fully functioning anesthesia machine, which allowed the veterinary team to keep the bear safely anesthetized during transport. Once they arrived at the zoo, another set of x-rays were taken for pre-operative assessment and the bear was prepared for surgery. It took the efforts of three veterinarians and six veterinary technicians from the three institutions to keep the bear anesthetized, monitor her vital signs and secure the pelvic fragments into proper alignment with two metal plates. 

Specialists from several groups came together to perform surgery on the injured bear. Photo credit: PAWS

Following surgery another set of x-rays was taken to verify the alignment of the pelvis and the veterinary radiologist performed an abdominal ultrasound. The purpose of the ultrasound was to determine if the bear was pregnant and to evaluate abdominal organs for any signs of internal trauma related to the incident. The ultrasound did not show any evidence of trauma to organs such as the spleen or urinary bladder. The bear did appear to have been pregnant but no fetal heart beat was found at that time and a viable fetus was not identified. Fortunately, there was no evidence of infection in the uterus and the team agreed that further intervention was not necessary.

After surgery at Woodland Park Zoo, the sedated bear is wheeled back to the zoo ambulance for the trip back to PAWS where she would begin her recovery process. Photo credit: PAWS

The bear was returned to PAWS in the ambulance that evening and recovered in a straw bed in a secure enclosure. PAWS veterinary staff stayed the evening and monitored her closely to ensure she recovered from anesthesia safely. That same evening, the camera in the enclosure recorded her standing and gingerly using all four legs, which was great news.

One of the biggest challenges the PAWS team faced after the procedure was the bear’s reluctance to eat and her slowed metabolism, which is typical of American black bears in winter months. This made it harder to give her medications by mouth, although her natural inactivity did keep her quiet enough to allow adequate bone healing. 
The female black bear is resting and recovering at PAWS. Photo credit: PAWS

By New Year’s Day, the bear was eating and walking between periods of sleep. On January 16, the PAWS care team, along with Garneau and McKvleen, re-examined the bear to ensure proper healing. “We were all happy with her progress,” said Rosenhagen, who is still overseeing her care at PAWS. “It was important to get an up-close look to ensure the incision was healing and there was no sign of infection. We also checked range of motion and that also looked good,” Rosenhagen continued. In the last couple months, Rosenhagen and the PAWS team have been very optimistic about this bear's future.

“She owes her new lease on life to a team of animal experts who said, “Yes!” when asked for help,” says Jennifer Convy, Director of PAWS Wildlife Center. “The bear’s resilience and the heroic effort of the PAWS Wildlife Center, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Woodland Park Zoo, and the Veterinary Specialty Center have provided her the best hope for a second chance at a life in the wild,” said Convy. 

The staff at PAWS is optimistic about this bear's future. Photo credit: PAWS
While at PAWS, the bear has access to two enclosures stocked with fresh straw and greenery. Every effort is being made to minimize noise and other human disturbances, but the dedicated team keeps a close watch over their patient via large video monitors.

With every week that passes, the PAWS team believes it's more likely that this bear could make a full recovery and will be released back to the wild this spring. In the meantime, they're providing steady care and feeding her a diet that mimics the kind of nutrients she'd be getting in the wild. Right now, her meals consist of a mix of dog food, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and a variety of proteinsand PAWS staff often place her treats inside greenery or cardboard for a nice scratch and forage session. 

The PAWS staff say their guest seems to be very curious and they enjoy watching this incredible bear continue to recover. The staff also let us know that she really, really seems to enjoy peanut butter and suet!