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Parks for wildlife? Yes, please!

Posted by Elizabeth Bacher, Communications

There are hundreds of animal species that call Woodland Park Zoo home—animals that are native to many different remote habitats around the world. This includes species ranging from orangutans of the Asian tropical forest and penguins from the Pacific coast of South America to hippopotamuses and ostriches of the African savanna. But there is another community of animals that rely on the green spaces found right here at home—on our grounds and in other neighboring Seattle area parks. You may have seen them here or in nearby habitats. Or maybe you haven’t noticed them at all... but they are here if you look. We share much of our green space with local and native wildlife.

A wild blue heron takes advantage of the lemur's pool. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.
Set on 92 acres, Woodland Park Zoo offers a lush canopy that is made up of more than 90,000 plants, trees, flowers, shrubs and other greenery representing more than 1,300 species. Since the 1950s, we have increased the zoo’s tree cover by four-fold. It has become an essential part of Seattle’s urban forest. Not only do the zoo’s animals use the trees for shade, climbing and sometimes even food, but hundreds of native and migratory wild birds—from songbirds and hummingbirds to herons and eagles—live within our canopy or migrate through it each year to find shelter and to feed.

King County has seen explosive growth recently, in terms of land development and a surge of people moving into the area. This means we need to place even more value on protecting our remaining parks and green spaces—and on making sure there are corridors that link them. Why corridors? The answer is easier to understand when seen from above than it is on the ground.

Greenlake to Woodland Park Zoo is its own little oasis of green.

One result of expanding our human footprint is that we inadvertently make it more difficult for animals to move from place to place. Housing developments, streets and shopping centers become barriers for many animals that need to move from one patch of green space to another in order to find food and shelter, or to look for a mate. One common example you might be familiar with is something we see in cities and suburbs across the country every year—pictures or videos of a mama duck leading a row of just-hatched ducklings across a busy road in order to get to a lake or pond on the other side. 

Mama duck with her duckling at Cottage Lake Park. Photo by King County Parks.
When we protect our forests and parks, we are also protecting the remaining corridors that connect them and provide safe passage for a multitude of species. And the benefits are not just for animals, but for us too!  

Douglas squirrel at Big Finn Hill Park. Photo by King County Parks
Woodland Park Zoo is one of many parks and urban ecosystems that make our communities beautiful, healthy, livable and sustainable for all. Preserving forests and open spaces limits sprawl, protects our water quality, prevents air pollution, and give us all places to get outside and enjoy nature.

Deer at Grand Ridge Park near Issaquah. Photo by King County Parks.
VOTE YES ON PROP 1 on August 6!

On August 6, voters will decide whether to protect, preserve, and expand thousands of acres of forests and open spaces. The levy also supports your zoo's efforts to save the Northwestern pond turtle and Oregon silverspot butterfly from extinction.

Yes on Proposition 1 on King County ballots is an investment in the future of our community. Adding thousands of acres of wilderness, habitat, and open space to the King County Parks system is one more step along the path to a sustainable future. 

Preserving these spaces is critical to combatting climate change and will set an example of how urban areas can fight climate change while protecting our quality of life.

To learn more about the proposed King County Levy and Yes for Our Parks, visit