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Celebrate World Rainforest Day by protecting wild lands

Posted by Stephen Reed, Communications

On World Rainforest Day, Woodland Park Zoo celebrates the beautiful biodiversity of all forest creatures here in Washington state and around the globe. By protecting critical habitats, we can protect treasured species that call these places home.

Hello toco toucan! Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo

At Woodland Park Zoo, guests can experience the wonder of rain forest creatures including toucans, poison dart frogs and golden lion tamarins. These animals live in the Tropical Rain Forest exhibit, which has been closed through the pandemic and is expected to reopen soon.

Our golden lion tamarins will be happy to see you when the Tropical Rainforest building reopens to the public. Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo

In the field, Woodland Park Zoo is committed to saving species, like the Pacific marten, a threatened species with a shrinking population in the Olympic Peninsula temperate rain forest. Pacific martens are about the size of a small house cat and belong to the mustelid family, along with other weasels. Though small, Pacific martens are prolific hunters and play an important role as carnivores in their habitats.

Pacific marten in Lassen National Forest. Photo: Oregon State University

“In addition to prey such as rodents and birds, martens also eat berries, and can disperse seeds throughout the forest. If, as we think, martens are almost totally absent from the Olympic range, their absence is likely affecting that natural system,” said Robert Long, Senior Conservation Scientist and Director of the Living Northwest program at Woodland Park Zoo. “Somehow, Pacific martens are still there. So, it’s our job to figure out where they are and why they haven’t recolonized more of these amazing forests in this region.”

A Pacific marten spotted on a remote camera image in the Olympic National Forest. Photo: Olympic Marten Project

The zoo’s Olympic Marten Recovery Project—which Long is a part of—is being conducted in partnership with Olympic National Park, Olympic National Forest, the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station and the University of Washington. The goal is to find existing populations of Pacific martens, assess their distribution, and move forward with conservation actions to restore a healthy marten population to their historic range in the Olympic temperate rain forest.

Wildfires pose a significant threat to rain forests around the world, and in Washington state, dry conditions and the forecast of an extra-hot summer mean our state’s forests have already seen destructive fires wipe out habitats. According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, almost nine out of 10 wildfires are caused by humans.

The Evans Canyon Fire burned more than 75,000 acres in central Washington last year—endangering people and wildlife. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

You can do your part to prevent wildfires and protect the habitat of threatened and endangered species. If you're camping this summer, build your campfire in open locations far from flammables or dry tinder and when you're done, douse it completely until it's cold. Also, it's best to keep your vehicle off dry grass, and to check bearings and axles on trailers to ensure nothing is dragging on the road which can cause sparks. Taking these steps prevents wildfires and protects the habitat of threatened and endangered species.

Our temperate rain forests in Washington store carbon and provide homes for all kinds of wildlife. Photo: Jason Martin/Woodland Park Zoo

This World Rainforest Day, join us in celebrating the local and international species of the magnificent rainforests. By being extra cautious when traveling or camping in forests, you can help preserve the majesty of our temperate rainforests and the habitat the Pacific martens, fishers and innumerable other species call home.