Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Grizzlies have a birthday blast

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

What did you do for your 20th birthday?

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Today, grizzly brothers Keema and Denali celebrated two decades by diving face-first into piles of snow courtesy of Crystal Mountain Resort. Hidden inside the snow were special birthday treats, from meaty knuckle bones and fish, to peanut butter and marshmallow fluff.

Video: Grizzly bear snow battle. Produced by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Though the bears technically turned 20 back in January, they slept right through their big day as bears tend to do during their winter slumber. So we held off on their birthday surprise until today.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

This morning, our friends from Crystal Mountain trucked in piles of snow fresh from the Cascades and loaded it into the exhibit. Keepers and volunteers lovingly tucked Keema and Denali’s favorite treats into the snow. Between the smell of the food and the feel of the soft snow, the bears were in for a treat!

There are a few tried and true methods for enjoying a snowy birthday:

Photo by John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo.

Make a snow angel.

Photo by John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo.

Use your snout and claws to dig in. When delicacy doesn’t get the job done, SMASH!

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

This is your pile. You must protect it.

Photo by Kirsten Pisto/Woodland Park Zoo.

Sharing is caring, but everyone has limits.

Photo by Kirsten Pisto/Woodland Park Zoo.

Feel the tickle of the cold snow on your nose and tongue.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Invite a friend. The river otters got their own little pile of snow to play with.

Your next chance to see the bears tear into special treats is Bear Affair: Living Northwest Conservation presented by Brown Bear Car Wash, coming up on June 7. Throughout that day we’ll set up scenes for the bears to smash through—from a backyard wedding to a hiker’s camp—while showing you what steps you can take next time to bear-proof your yard or campsite and coexist safely!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Birthday bears to get a snowy present

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

Winter is coming.

The bears will enjoy a snowy birthday treat on April 15. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

In celebration of grizzly brothers Keema and Denali's 20th birthday, our friends at Crystal Mountain will deliver snow fresh from the Cascades to the birthday bears on April 15.

If you can’t join us in person, check out the Bear Cam at 10:00 a.m. that day to watch the scene streaming live.

The bears slept through their actual birthday back on January 15 of this year. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Keema and Denali turned 20 back in January of this year, but bears being bears, they slept right through the milestone, all cozy in their winter slumber. 

As the boys enjoy their belated birthday present, zoo staff will be on hand to share fascinating facts about the grizzlies, the natural history of bears, and how the zoo plays an important role in helping to conserve bears and other apex predators in the state.

Approximately 25,000-30,000 black bears exist in Washington and biologists believe there may be as few as 10 individual grizzly bears in the North Cascades and 50-70 in the Selkirk Ecosystem of northeast Washington. 

Thanks to Crystal Mountain Resort for making this awesome birthday party possible!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Thank you Woodland Park Zoo Volunteers!

Posted by: Kirsten Pisto, communications
Photos by: Dennis Dow

It is National Volunteer Week and we would like to thank our talented volunteers who are an essential part of making Woodland Park Zoo a joy to visit and a phenomenal place to work. Our 750 volunteers and their devotion to our animals and passion for our mission are an incredible presence at the zoo. With their in-depth knowledge of every corner of the zoo it’s hard to imagine operating without them. Whether it’s assisting keepers with cleaning (scooping poop), speaking with children in Zoomazium (giggle fest), pruning roses with the horticulture staff (wear your gloves!), educating and assisting our guests (kids and big kids at heart!), doing office work (keeping us in check), helping with diet prep (chopping carrots like a top chef) or providing event support (musical chairs), their enthusiasm and passion for this institution keeps us all inspired.

As ambassadors for Woodland Park Zoo, each and every volunteer is put through a rigorous training program to familiarize them with every aspect of the zoo and help promote our mission of saving wildlife and habitat. While training does not include a 3-shovel Zoo Doo race across the North Meadow, the lost engagement ring scavenger hunt, or a timed identification quiz on our 300+ species… we have no doubt they could pull it off.

Thank you Woodland Park Zoo volunteers! You are all amazing and we are grateful for your superb service and unending dedication to our animals and guests.  

For more information zoo volunteer opportunities, visit www.zoo.org/volunteer. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

You created more wonder and more wild. Thank you!

Posted by: Dr. Deborah B. Jensen, President and CEO

WPZ President Jensen.
Photo by Matt Hagen.
Because of your support and the generosity of nearly 16,000 individuals, I’m thrilled to share the news that we exceeded our $80 million More Wonder More Wild campaign goal by raising more than $83.5 million! If this isn't enough to celebrate, in 2013 we also set an all-time record for zoo visitor attendance!

During the eight-year campaign, our community experienced the deepest recession since the Great Depression. But world events continued to illustrate the urgent need to save our planet’s wildlife and habitats, to create a future in which animals and people can co-exist and thrive together. So, with passion and commitment, we continued to tell our story. Our animals continued to provide the wonder and joy that we all experience when we visit the zoo. And you continued to show your generous support!

This member-submitted photo iconically conveys the wonder and wild donors sought to create through Woodland Park Zoo’s campaign. New, sustainably designed Humboldt penguin exhibit, 2009. (Photo: Jennifer Svane)

Many of you made gifts beyond your annual membership fees to support a program or initiative that especially touched your heart. Some of you helped improve the quality of animal care and nutrition at the zoo, and expanded the ways visitors can get up-close experiences with animals and keepers.

With upgraded medical equipment and training, and new enrichment and behavioral husbandry programs, the zoo is advancing the science of animal care and health, thanks to generous supporters. (Photo: Ryan Hawk/WPZ)
A new centralized commissary enables animal diets to be more scientifically managed and efficiently delivered. (Photo: Ryan Hawk/WPZ)
Many new animal feeding experiences allow visitors to get closer than ever to the wonders of wildlife. (Photo: Ryan Hawk/WPZ)

Some of you helped us build a strong early learning program and engage more underserved youth in science and environmental learning opportunities.

Photo: Ryan Hawk/WPZ
Generous supporters have helped grow the zoo’s early learning, elementary, middle school and high school programs, along with a new master’s program offered with Miami University, reaching more underserved communities and sparking learning adventures across the lifespan. (Photo: Ryan Hawk/WPZ)

Others of you helped build wonderful new exhibit experiences: Zoomazium; the Historic Carousel; flamingos and meerkats; the award-winning Humboldt penguin exhibit and West Entrance; and the Asian Tropical Forest Initiative featuring the Bamboo Forest Reserve exhibit.

The first zoo project in the nation to earn Gold LEED certification, Zoomazium is a nature-inspired indoor play space designed for kids 8 years and younger, featuring whole-bodied learning, imaginative play, and integration with existing zoo programs. (Photo: Ryan Hawk/WPZ)
The sustainably designed Humboldt penguin exhibit earned the zoo its fifth exhibit achievement award. Not only does the closed-loop system save millions of gallons of water a year, the experience transports zoo visitors to the rocky coastal peninsula of Punta San Juan, home to the largest breeding population of Humboldt penguins in Peru. (Photo: Ryan Hawk/WPZ)
The zoo’s Historic Carousel was already 100 years old when installed in 2007. Since 2011, a solar array allows for renewable energy to power the carousel’s 100,000 rides a year and show our community how viable solar is in the Pacific Northwest. (Photo: Ryan Hawk/WPZ)
Coming in May 2015: New endangered Malayan tiger and sloth bear exhibit complex will immerse you in the sights, sounds and smells of a tropical Asian forest teeming with life. Phase One opened in May 2013 thanks to your generosity. (Artist rendering:  Mir)

And many of you helped us foster innovative wildlife conservation projects in the Pacific Northwest and in faraway places such as Tanzania, Borneo, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea.

In 2009, WPZ announced creation of Papua New Guinea’s first officially decreed Conservation Area—188,000 acres of pristine forest, assisted by the zoo’s Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program and supporters like you. (Photo: Ryan Hawk/WPZ)
The newly relaunched Living Northwest program includes (clockwise from top left): Raptor Ecology of the Shrub Steppe, Western Pond Turtle Recovery Project, Western Wildlife Outreach, Northwest Amphibian Recovery Project, and Butterflies of the Northwest.
Woodland Park Zoo and Panthera’s new tiger conservation project supports research, technology and anti-poaching rangers to protect key habitats endangered tigers use to hunt and breed in the Taman Negara region of Peninsular Malaysia. (Credit: Ruben Clements/Rimba)

The breadth of your giving has truly humbled us. Gifts large and small represent the community’s love for Woodland Park Zoo, and our shared goal to transform it into a modern wonder of excellent animal care, science learning, wildlife conservation and sustainability. From the nearly 800 people who participated in our Give Ten for Tigers social media campaign, to dozens of families embracing their ability to make leadership and legacy gifts, many of them remembering us in their wills. Local and national corporations also made major contributions, along with hundreds of thousands of dollars in matching gifts.

During the campaign, many children began their philanthropic journeys by donating proceeds from bake sales or lemonade stands, and requesting donations to the zoo in lieu of birthday gifts. Since 2007, 13-year-old Maille Martin has frequently donated her charity allowance to the zoo, eventually convincing younger brother Griffin to join in. Since three years of age, another budding philanthropist, Lucas Engles-Klann, has held animal-themed auctions for the last five years, cumulatively donating nearly $12,000. When he was 10 years old in 2008, avid penguin enthusiast Harrison Grad made the first youth gift to support penguin care for the new exhibit. After learning about endangered species in school, for his seventh birthday Teddy Hanlon requested gifts in the form of donations to support our red pandas. Many youth filled up Tiger Banks and came to the zoo to present their checks in person.

Downloadable Tiger Banks are still available! Children can earn a Young Philanthropist Recognition Certificate with our roaring thanks. (Photo: Ryan Hawk/WPZ)

The groundswell of private support has engendered in our board and staff a sense of humility and increased responsibility to our donors and our community: to fulfill our mission through naturalistic exhibits, engaging guest experiences, science education, and community-based conservation programs in our region and abroad; sustainability throughout the zoo; and  for transparency in all we do.

Every day our planet illustrates the challenges of creating a sustainable future for people and wildlife. That’s why we are committed to showcasing positive solutions, such as the award-winning Humboldt penguin exhibit, built as part of this campaign, which already has saved more than 15 million gallons of water compared to the old, 1950s-era exhibit. Another is our new collaboration with Panthera  to protect endangered tigers in Peninsular Malaysia whose successes will be featured in our new Asian Tropical Forest exhibit, which also incorporates principles of sustainable design. You see, each time you visit the zoo, we’re creating more wonder and saving more wild – together.

We look forward to celebrating the campaign’s success when we open the Asian Tropical Forest exhibit and welcome tigers back to Seattle in May 2015. Meanwhile, please accept my profound gratitude for your support during the campaign. As I’ve shown, it has already made a tremendous difference to our mission on and beyond our 92 acres.

Thank you.

Supporters enabled the birth and care of more than 1400 animals at Woodland Park Zoo during the More Wonder More Wild campaign. (Photo: Ryan Hawk/WPZ)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Seniors go in like a lion!

Posted by: Jessie Maxwell, Education

For the young and young at heart—a zoo is truly a place for everyone to discover wildlife and to be inspired to learn, care and act. It comes as no surprise to people that we offer programs for children here in the zoo’s Education Department, but less known are the programs we offer for senior citizens. Through our Senior Classes, senior citizens have the opportunity to learn more about the zoo and the animals that call it home, as well as get some unique opportunities.

“I really enjoyed the class [and] loved being with people of my same age group.” – Sandy Bell

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

The most recent Senior Class, “In Like a Lion,” gave the seniors a chance to see our resident lions up close and learn how zookeepers provide enrichment for the animals’ development and well-being. Many animals at the zoo receive enrichment, and the class attendees began the class by watching the lions devour a treat.

Photo by class attendee, Karen Haimes.

Back in the classroom, the seniors tried their hands at making piƱata boxes for the zookeepers to use for the next scheduled enrichment.  It was a chance to really dig in and make something special for the animals, and the seniors made the most out of the opportunity!

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

There is a lot that goes into the making of enrichment items: materials have to be safe and approved by the zookeepers and animal curators, and have to be the proper size not only to fit the treat inside, but also to be safe for the animals. After learning about what we use and why, the attendees worked in groups to create what they thought a lion might enjoy ripping apart! Keep your eyes peeled for some of these masterpieces next time you’re visiting the lion exhibit!

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Senior classes are offered monthly with a different theme each class. Check out our website for upcoming senior program opportunities!

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

People aged 55 and up can also participate in our long-running Senior Zoo Walkers program. Since 1990, Senior Zoo Walkers has offered an opportunity to be active and walk in a safe area as well as enjoy animals. Seniors taking part in this program arrive before the zoo opens, participate in a quick warm up outside zoo gates and stroll around zoo grounds once the zoo opens.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

“I have been coming here for forty years and all I can say is that you have just gotten better and better...for the animals and for the people that visit them.” – Sandy Bell

Join us and be a life-long learner at Woodland Park Zoo!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Spring moves planned for snow leopards

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

I watch her watch her “prey.”

A young family walks the length of the snow leopard exhibit, failing to notice the sly cat prowling in the shadows, just a step behind their line of sight. They are about to walk away from the exhibit when the daughter, maybe 6 years old, turns around and finally spots the snow leopard, coiled up tight like a spring. There is just enough time for her to utter “She looks sleepy,” before the feline pounces toward the fence. Safe on the other side of the barrier, the little girl lets out a wild giggle, a sound mixed with surprise, thrill and then a little embarrassment once she realizes she’s clutching her mom.

A young Asha and Shanti on the chase. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

That girl just learned what zoo staff learned long ago—never underestimate Asha and Shanti. Though both snow leopard sisters are blind in one eye, they have developed into playful huntresses. We have watched them overcome their obstacles, and soon, we will watch them become fully independent and move out on their own.

February’s snow was an enriching treat this winter. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

The snow leopard sisters have just wrapped up their pre-shipment veterinary exams, and the countdown to their spring departure begins. Though we do not yet have an official last day, we’re heading into the final weeks for the girls at Woodland Park Zoo before they move on to their new home at Big Bear Alpine Zoo in California. You’ll want to plan a visit soon to say farewell to the tenacious twosome who survived a rocky start and have gone on to amaze and inspire us all.

Asha and Shanti at 3 months old. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Born May 2, 2012, Asha and Shanti were celebrated with an outpouring of joy from the community—the announcement of their birth remains our most read blog post of all time. It only took a few weeks, however, for the challenges to emerge, first with the loss of their brother and littermate, and then with a diagnosis of a relatively rare congenital eye anomaly. The girls both exhibited multiple ocular coloboma in which the eye stops growing before it is fully developed. This left the girls each with functional vision only in their left eye, and ultimately each had their right eye removed to prevent infection and future complications.

But has that stopped them from growing up into active, spirited leopards? Not a chance!

Thanks to the extraordinary care provided by the zoo’s keeper and veterinary staff, volunteer veterinary ophthalmologist Dr. Tom Sullivan with the Animal Eye Clinic Seattle, and, of course, experienced snow leopard momma, Helen, Asha and Shanti have thrived here at Woodland Park Zoo. As the girls are maturing and have grown independent of their mother, it is now time to find them a new home.

Working with the Species Survival Plan (SSP), a collaborative effort to manage species populations across conservation zoos, we found a new home that will fit Asha and Shanti’s unique needs. At Big Bear Alpine Zoo, which is known for its wildlife rehabilitation program, Asha and Shanti will be able to remain together and continue to receive specialized medical care.

The cubs’ father, Tom, will also move this spring. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

More changes are in store, as the girls’ father, Tom, will be heading to Oklahoma City Zoo in the coming weeks, another move recommended by the SSP to keep the genetic diversity of the snow leopard population always moving and mixing. Remaining here will be Helen, the cubs’ mother, who will receive a new mate through the SSP with the hope that they will breed in the near future. Helen has raised two sets of babies already and has proven capable of nurturing cubs through even the toughest obstacles. 

Helen will remain at Woodland Park Zoo and will be matched with a new mate through the Species Survival Plan. Photo by Tiana Klineburger/Woodland Park Zoo.

Endangered and elusive in the wild, snow leopards are hard to track and harder to study. Working with the Snow Leopard Trust, a Woodland Park Zoo Partner for Wildlife, we have seen breakthroughs in research methodologies in the snow leopards’ native Central Asia, where techniques like motion-sensor cameras and radio collars are shedding new light on the range, behavior and health of snow leopard populations. As we learn more about the health of these animals thanks to research and care in zoo settings, we can apply these two tracks of knowledge to better understand, and ultimately, better protect these disappearing predators.