Friday, July 25, 2014

How do you heal a sore goat?

Posted by: Gigi Allianic, Communications


Hot packs, ice treatment, massage, exercise ball, laser therapy…is this a physical therapy session? Close, but not for a human patient. These applications are part of a physical rehabilitation session for a domestic goat living at Woodland Park Zoo.

The goat, a 7-year-old male named Waldo, is undergoing physical rehabilitation to help alleviate pain and improve his range of motion. Last year, Waldo was becoming more reluctant to move and showing signs of front and rear limb weakness. Following a thorough assessment by the zoo’s animal health team, which revealed compressed disks in his neck and lumbar spine, the goat was put on a physical rehabilitation program as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.


Video: Goat. Laser beams. Yoga ball. Produced by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

At the zoo, physical rehabilitation is used to help alleviate discomfort from an injury or surgical treatment, to improve circulation or range of motion and coordination, and to enhance life quality. It is particularly beneficial for treating age-related changes such as arthritis and can help reduce the need or amount of other medications.

Waldo is currently under a prescribed program of massage, stretching, weight shifting on an exercise ball, laser therapy, and ice (cryotherapy) and heat (thermotherapy) treatments. The zoo’s senior veterinary technician, Harmony Frazier, and the goat’s lead keeper, Diane Abbey, lead the rehab team for Waldo and apply physical rehab a few times a week in hourly sessions. Cavaletti rails, designed to help promote muscle strength and coordination in dogs, are also used for the goat. “It’s the equivalent of hurdles for the four-legged,” said Frazier.

A goat in a coat. Photo by Harmony Frazier/Woodland Park Zoo.

One of the zoo’s veterinary technicians even made a custom apron for the goat, designed specifically to hold ice or heat packs to lie over the goat’s targeted muscle groups, lumbar and shoulders.

As a result of the rehab sessions combined with comprehensive medical care, Waldo has made remarkable and positive progress, said Frazier. Initially, Waldo was reluctant to stand. Within the first week of rehab, his attitude changed remarkably. “He became very engaged and alert. The attention on him has had a very positive effect. The sessions clearly changed his perception and increased his motivation. While his condition is permanent and likely to become progressive, he will continue to be assessed on a regular basis and all components of his treatment, including physical rehab, will be adjusted as needed to maintain his health quality,” explained Frazier.

Physical rehabilitation has long been used on human patients but is relatively new for animals in zoos, noted Frazier, who last year became certified in veterinary physical rehabilitation at the University of Tennessee Veterinary School. Frazier also was the first veterinary technician in a zoo to become a certified canine rehabilitation practitioner and, most recently, became nationally certified in animal massage. “Most veterinary technicians have had cases where they have performed some form of rehab therapy but I had an interest in understanding what is actually happening within the tissues and body systems so I can better apply these modalities to enhance the welfare of exotic animals,” said Frazier. “Taking these courses allows me to translate this discipline to the animals living at our zoo and improving the quality of their lives.”

Waldo's physical rehab team. Photo courtesy of Harmony Frazier/Woodland Park Zoo.

Other animals that have received physical rehab techniques at the zoo include a penguin, gorilla, opossum, snowy owl, flamingo, patas monkey, an arctic fox, an elephant, western pond turtles and numerous waterfowl. “By combining training techniques with physical rehab, we have numerous possibilities ahead of us for helping our animals lead even better lives,” added Frazier.

Waldo lives in the zoo’s Family Farm where children can meet him up close in the Contact Area. “He’s so good with the kids,” said Abbey. “It’s rewarding to do something for him in return.”

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Young zookeeper in training

Posted by: Caileigh Robertson, Communications


Sure, the plaque is nice. But the real prize in receiving the Future Zookeeper Award for 9-year-old Karina is the official Woodland Park Zoo name badge that reads simply, "Karina, Future Zookeeper." Her eyes lit up when she received this badge of honor at yesterday's annual zookeeper picnic, part of the zoo's National Zookeeper Week celebrations.

Although shy at first, Karina beamed with excitement upon receiving her personalized zoo name badge from zookeeper Russ Roach. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo

Many of the most memorable visitor experiences at Woodland Park Zoo come from connecting with the animals we've grown to know and love. It’s where Karina’s adoration for elephants took hold nearly seven years ago and, to her surprise, where an unlikely friendship continues to grow with every return to the zoo's Elephant Forest.

Karina as a youngster watching after her favorite animals at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by Julie Foree.

Often overshadowed by the magnificence of our trunked trio is a dedicated team of keepers that care for our elephants day in and day out—but their commitment is never overlooked by Karina. It’s her connection to our keepers that makes her a part of the herd, most notably the friendship she’s found in elephant keeper Russ Roach. Karina and her family first met Russ in 2007 during one of our popular elephant keeper talks. Inspired by Russ and his wealth of knowledge about Watoto, Bamboo and Chai, Karina took it upon herself to learn as much as possible about her favorite three residents at Woodland Park Zoo and soon became a young ambassador for the animal she treasures most.

As an ambassador for elephants worldwide, Karina has received many school and community awards for her creativity and conservation efforts. Great work, Karina! Photos by Julie Foree.

Her frequent visits, endless curiosity, and great affection for our herd make Karina well-known among keepers at the elephant barn. But earlier this month, Karina was introduced to a new elephant keeper being trained at the zoo. Uncertain why she hadn’t been considered for the job, Karina reached out to Russ who playfully encouraged her to drop off her résumé for future openings. She returned with her résumé in hand, boasting a lengthy list of reasons why there’s no better person for the job.

A copy of Karina's résumé.

Karina has looked to Russ over her many years of zoo visits to understand the great responsibilities that come with caring for elephants, including morning baths, training sessions, exhibit up-keep, and of course, scooping poop. But not even the dirtiest work keeps Karina from envisioning the irreplaceable reward of a career in zookeeping. The constant interaction Russ and the keepers have with Watoto, Bamboo and Chai builds a strong bond among the herd, of both humans and elephants. To Karina, Russ’s 24-year career as a Woodland Park Zoo elephant keeper is a testament to that, and a future she very clearly imagines for herself.

Russ leading Karina and younger sister Makenzie behind the Elephant Forest exhibit area (left). No stranger to the Elephant Barn, Karina's name makes the list as "Future Keeper" (right). Photos by Julie Foree.

Walking side by side through the elephant barn, the admiration Karina holds for Russ is as evident as her affection for the animals in his care. She patiently watches with her sisters as Russ moves through his daily keeper routine, but it’s not long before the girls are pleading to help scrub the barn floors. Donning her Future Zookeeper name badge, Karina gets right to work with her gleeful sisters. There’s not a shadow of doubt she’ll rise to the ranks of a Woodland Park Zoo keeper one day and follow in the footsteps of a most cherished friend, her favorite zookeeper Russ.

Karina gifting her award-winning artwork to keeper Russ (left). Karina volunteering her assistance in her favorite place, the Elephant Barn (right). Photos by Julie Foree.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Together we can end the ivory trade in Washington state

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Editor


End the ivory trade before it ends elephants.

To stop the slaughter of elephants, we must stop the trade. To stop the trade, we must end the demand. Watch this video to see what's at stake:

Click to play video.

It's time to raise your voice and let Washington state leaders know you pledge never to buy, sell or trade ivory, and you want a moratorium on ivory sales here. Add your name to the list of thousands speaking up for wild elephants. Then on August 12—World Elephant Day—we'll deliver your pledges to our state leaders to make a big impression. Thank you!



Video produced by Rebecca Whitham, elephant photo courtesy of Mustafa Hassanali/Tarangire Elephant Project, music by Tchakare Kanyembe.

Monday, July 21, 2014

10 Gorillas, 3 Groups, 2 Exhibits

Posted by: Stephanie Payne, Zookeeper


With 10 gorillas making up three social groups living in two on-view exhibits, it can be challenging for visitors to keep up with the gorillas at Woodland Park Zoo—especially with all the moves and changes over the last few years.

Several of the changes were influenced by recommendations from the national gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP), a group of gorilla specialists that makes breeding recommendations and gorilla transfers based on the genetic diversity and wellbeing of the approximately 340 gorillas in accredited North American zoos.

Let’s explore the dynamics of each of the gorilla groups to help you understand which gorilla is where and why. Then we’ll share tips on when and where to look for the gorillas to make the most of your visit.

We start with Group 1’s Nina and Pete—the bedrocks of Woodland Park Zoo’s gorilla program.

Nina. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Silverback Pete (right). Photos by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Who is in Group 1?

Pete and Nina, our oldest gorillas and lifetime residents, currently occupy the largest exhibit, one that has been nicknamed the “retirement village” by keepers. Pete and Nina have spent a lifetime raising their own offspring (Wanto, Kamilah, Zuri and Alafia, who are all living elsewhere now), as well as being surrogate parents to Nadiri and Akenji when their mother, Jumoke, was unable to raise them. Pete and Nina are also grandparents to thirteen grandchildren that live throughout the United States. These two enjoy spending time in the shelter and you often will see them with the soft, fleece blankets that the zoo and generous donors provide them.

This exhibit used to be the home of a much larger group: Pete, Nina, Naku, Akenji, Nadiri and Alafia. Based on the SSP recommendations, Alafia is now living in sunny Los Angeles, and has a very good relationship with her new silverback, Kelly.

Naku is now in Milwaukee and just delivered her first baby in early March. Unfortunately, the infant did not survive due to a respiratory infection, but we are relieved that Naku cared for the baby. She was doing everything that a mother gorilla should do. As a result, we expect that she will raise any future babies successfully.

Nadiri and Akenji are both still at WPZ, but have been living in our outdoor, off-view exhibit as we’ve focused on creating a new group with our newest silverback, Leo (Still with me? I’ll revisit this later!)

When and Where Can I See Group 1?

For now, Pete and Nina can be seen daily in the West exhibit (the one closer to Jaguar Cove on the Tropical Rain Forest loop). If you’re lucky, Pete will be wearing his fleece chapeau and Nina will have her tongue out, both signs that they are fully relaxed!

Who is in Group 2?

Group 2 is composed of Leo, Akenji and Nadiri. This group currently spends a portion of the day in an outdoor exhibit that is off public view, but they can usually be observed in the East exhibit in the afternoon.   

Silverback Leonel. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Leo, our newest silverback, came to WPZ from Granby Zoo in Quebec in 2008, with the hope that he would socialize well with our two adult females, Nadiri and Akenji. He had never lived successfully with other gorillas for an extended length of time, and we felt that Nadiri and Akenji’s personalities would suit this somewhat socially challenged individual. After a long and careful introduction, the trio did indeed become a cohesive group.

Our further hope, that Leo would successfully breed with Nadiri, proved to be in vain. Despite SSP recommendation, genetics are only the beginning; gorillas need to actually like and accept one another in order to successfully breed, and Leo made it clear from the beginning that he preferred the more forward Akenji over less confident Nadiri. Having been hand raised by humans, Leo seems to be a bit amiss when it comes to proper breeding behavior. We’re hoping that Leo’s attraction to Akenji will result in Akenji’s first pregnancy and that he figures it out soon, as he is the only viable breeding option for Akenji here at the zoo. She is related to our other two silverbacks (Group 1’s Pete is her grandfather and Group 3’s Vip is her father).

Akenji. Photo by Mat Hayward/Woodland Park Zoo.

While they are a successful social group, the challenge of getting Nadiri pregnant still remains. Nadiri is eighteen and the only living offspring of her father, Congo, who was a genetic founder, or, a wild born gorilla. She is nulliparous (has never become pregnant) and is genetically underrepresented in the captive population. The combination of her age and underrepresented genes makes her breeding status a priority for the keepers. 

We are all attuned to the ticking of her biological clock.

Which brings us to …

Who is in Group 3?

This family group is our most dynamic, as it includes our youngest gorilla, 7-year-old Uzumma, who is not shy about tormenting the more mellow gorillas in the group with her gregarious personality. She shares the East exhibit with her father, Vip; her mother, Amanda; her older sister, Calaya, and an unrelated female, Jumoke.

Introducing the females of Vip's group:

Calaya. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Jumoke. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Amanda. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Uzumma. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Vip has sired six females at WPZ since his arrival in 1996: Monifa and Akenji with Jumoke; Naku with Alafia; Ngozi, Calaya and Uzumma with Amanda. When it became apparent that Leo and Nadiri were not interested in one another, Vip became the last viable option. This involved a lot of discussion, planning and strategizing, as bringing these two together for daily visits would necessitate keeping Vip inside while the females in his group went into their day exhibit, as well as asking Nadiri, already a self-conscious and suspicious girl, to shift into a holding area with a silverback that she had only seen in the distance.

Silverback Vip. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

After months of careful and cautious introductions, directed by the interest and willingness of Nadiri and Vip, we have established a daily visitation routine, which typically lasts approximately 2 hours in the morning but extends all day during Nadiri’s estrous period, when she is more likely to be receptive to Vip and become pregnant.

When and Where Can I See Groups 2 and 3? 

Keeping in mind that the gorilla schedule is always being tweaked a bit depending on the complex social needs of these apes, we do have some tips for the best times to look for each group in the East exhibit.Visitors who arrive at the East exhibit before 11:00 a.m. may likely see only the females of Group 3 on exhibit. Vip rejoins the females usually between 10:30-11:30 a.m., depending on when his visit with Nadiri is finished that morning.

Often, Leo’s Group 2 then rotates onto view in the East exhibit in the afternoon. When one group goes on view in the East exhibit, the other group rotates to the outdoor, off-view exhibit (which the gorillas really enjoy).

Leonel on exhibit. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Are There More Changes Coming?

Our goal is always to create a dynamic environment that encourages natural behavior, which means there will no doubt be further changes on the horizon. But for now, you can look for Group 1 in the West exhibit and either Group 2 or 3 in the East exhibit.

Hopefully things won’t have changed again before your next visit, but if they have, you can be assured that any changes made are in the gorilla’s best interests. Always feel free to ask a keeper if you have any questions about the groups, or check our blog for further updates.

Enjoy your visit and please take some time to observe the beautiful gorilla ambassadors that we are fortunate enough to have living among us here in Seattle!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Celebrating 41 penguin chicks

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Editor


This is the 40th penguin chick hatched at Woodland Park Zoo since 2010, seen here at 45 days old. Photo by John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo.

Our Humboldt penguins are a prolific bunch. Since 2010—the first breeding season in their new exhibit—our colony has produced 41 chicks! Earlier in the season, we were counting up eggs (yes, before they hatched) and got excited when we realized we were going to reach an historic 40th hatching. And though we love our round numbers, we won’t complain that one more egg was laid and number 41 came along at the end of May.

Photo by John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo.

This season alone, we had nine chicks hatch, with six already fledged and out on exhibit, and the three youngest—numbers 39, 40 and 41—still on the nest with their parents. These hatchings are all part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP) conservation breeding program across Association of Zoos & Aquariums-accredited zoos. Zoos work together through the SSP to maintain the genetic diversity and demographic health for this vulnerable species. With 41 healthy hatchings in just 4 years, Woodland Park Zoo is one of the most successful participants in the SSP program!

Photo by John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo.

We joined zookeeper Celine Pardo for a weigh-in session with the 40th chick at 45 days old. This little one already has a great rapport with Celine. The keepers spend time with the hatchlings each day to get them used to handling and eating fish. The chicks are regularly weighed to make sure they are hitting their growth benchmarks. At 2.58 kg (5.7 lb.), number 40 is healthy and right on track.

On the scale. Photo by John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo.

Weigh-ins continue through adulthood for Woodland Park Zoo’s penguins—keepers weigh each penguin once a month to track their health. We’re also able to keep a close eye on how the birds are doing by hand feeding them every day. This way we can make sure that each individual is getting their nutritional fill (about two pounds of fish each day, plus vitamins), and we can spot early on if any individual is showing a loss of appetite.

Photo by John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo.

Wrangling a whole colony of penguins for feedings and weigh-ins is a lot of work for the zookeepers. Now imagine how challenging it might be for conservationists working out in the field who want to weigh wild penguins to track the health of threatened populations. Not surprisingly, it’s even more complex!

Zookeeper Celine hand-feeds each penguin on exhibit. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Through our Wildlife Survival Fund, Woodland Park Zoo supports the work of the Center for Penguins as Ocean Sentinels at the University of Washington. When the Center’s Dr. Dee Boersma and her team were investigating non-invasive ways to weigh wild penguins as the birds go to and from their nests, Woodland Park Zoo keepers were able to help test scale designs with the penguins here in Seattle, who proved to be very helpful “research assistants.”

The Center shares with us this great video shot in Punta Tombo, Argentina to see how the scales are working out in the field:

VIDEO: The Weight of a Penguin. Credit: Center for Penguins as Ocean Sentinels.

As the work continues in the field to study and protect threatened penguin species, the birds here at Woodland Park Zoo help visitors connect with the story of their imperiled populations. Each hatching we have celebrated at Woodland Park Zoo represents the next generation of conservation ambassadors and “research assistants.”

To help us continue the great care of penguins at Woodland Park Zoo and support conservation research and action in the field, you can adopt a penguin and become a ZooParent today!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Rose Garden teeming with color

Posted by: Kirsten Pisto, Communications
Photos by Kirsten Pisto/Woodland Park Zoo


One of Woodland Park Zoo’s not-so-secret spaces is actually adjacent to the zoo itself, the WoodlandPark Rose Garden. Established as a civic garden in 1922, the 2.5 acre space is cared for and kept by the zoo’s horticulture staff and our Lead Rose Gardener and rose-master, Matt Manion. The garden hosts nearly 200 varieties of roses, showcasing those that thrive in the Pacific Northwest climate.

Showing our appreciation for our dedicated horticulture crew!

Since 2006, the Rose Garden has been pesticide free. Pesticides pollute through rain runoff in Seattle, making it all the way to Puget Sound. Plus, we like to treat our animals to roses, and we wouldn't want them ingesting those toxins. Using the natural approach means building healthy soils, practicing smart watering and planting disease-resistant varieties. 

Matt says that these sustainable methods will work well in your own garden too. This time of year, he suggests that rose aficionados spend time dead-heading their plants. Summer pruning (referred to as dead-heading) keeps rose plants blooming throughout the season. Dead-heading removes withering flowers from a rose bush so that the hips do not form. By diverting energy that would be used for hip development, the plant can focus on producing new flowers. You can learn more about rose care and sustainable gardening by visiting the garden.

We took a summer stroll through the aisles of 3,000 roses and found just a few to share with you here.

A David Austen rose type, Grace has a particularly fruity scent.
An All American Rose Selection, this Hybrid Tea rose is called Whisper.
Diana Princess of Wales, shows off its beautiful blushing petals. This Hybrid Tea rose is a tribute to"England's Rose"the beloved Royal Princess.
Double Delight, another All American Rose Selection, is a Grandiflora rose with brilliant colors.

A rose by any other name? With countless varieties of roses, the names of each cultivar are extensive, creative and sometimes humorous. Rose cultivars can be descriptive, referencing color, scent or taste, but some names allude to fictional characters, pop culture or even a favorite pet.

Senior gardener Matt Manion works on some summer pruning. With 2.5 acres of rose beds, the rose garden keeps our hort crew busy! Some of the not-so-pretty roses are given to our residents, such as gorillas or bears, who are more than pleased to gobble them up.
Taboo, a luscious red Hybrid Tea rose.

The Woodland Park Zoo rose garden is open from 7:00 a.m. until dusk every day of the year. The garden sits outside zoo gates and entry is free to visitors.

Ballerina, a Hybrid Musk rose is teeming with delicate, pearly pink petals.
Honey Bouquet, a Floribunda beauty.
Lagerfeld, a  pale violet Grandiflora introduced in 1986 is named after a famous designer, can you guess who?
Betty Boop, a gorgeous All American Rose Selection Grandiflora rose... as fragrant as it is beautiful. We really need to work on the digital scent technology aspect of this blog!

Don't forget to stop and smell the roses on your way to the zoo!