Thursday, August 20, 2009
Snow leopard cubs Batu and the newly named Gobi (thanks to your 35,000 votes!) made their public debut this past Saturday during Woodland Park Zoo’s 3rd annual Snow Leopard Day event.
Watch the cubs take some of their first steps into the exhibit and explore the new sights and smells.
If you want to see them in person, the cubs are typically given access to the exhibit from noon to 3:00 p.m. daily.
Video by Ryan Hawk.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Read on for an update on tracking wild snow leopards from the Snow Leopard Trust’s field research base in Mongolia. The Snow Leopard Trust is one of Woodland Park Zoo’s Partners for Wildlife*.
Summer is the busiest season at the Snow Leopard Trust’s research camp in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia. This summer our crew spent long days in the field looking for sites with recent snow leopard activity to deploy our trap cameras. By early July we had 41 cameras distributed over a 500-square-mile area, making it the most ambitious camera trapping study ever undertaken for snow leopards. The cameras remained in the field for a month; now we’re reviewing the images to see how many cats we photographed. Because every snow leopard has a unique spot pattern, just like a human fingerprint, we can use these photos to identify individual cats to estimate the size of the snow leopard population.
We’re also using GPS satellite collars to monitor the survival and movements of individual snow leopards. This summer we were hoping to recapture Aztai (pictured above), the first snow leopard collared when we began our study last August, to change out his collar before the battery ran out. At 5:00 a.m. on June 28, a transmitter was tripped indicating a capture was possible. The crew hiked out to the site and when we arrived we were greeted by Aztai’s luminous gray eyes!
Seeing Aztai again was both rewarding and sobering. It’s exciting to know we’ll have the opportunity to follow him for another year, gathering information that will help us develop better strategies to conserve snow leopards. But we noticed that Aztai is missing a toe on his left front paw, possibly to a trap set for wolves by a herder. Even though snow leopards are protected and killing them is punishable by stiff fines, it’s difficult to enforce the laws in a country as large and with so little infrastructure as Mongolia. Although his paw is completely healed, it was still a stark reminder of the challenges we face in protecting this magnificent species. - KM
*Woodland Park Zoo and Seattle-based Snow Leopard Trust have worked together for more than 25 years to protect and study wild snow leopards and to improve the lives of people living in snow leopard countries. Learn more about this project and how you can help save snow leopards.
Photos by Snow Leopard Trust:
(Top) Aztai shortly after radio-collaring.
(Bottom) Interns Munkhoo and Sumbee examine Aztai as Ph.D. student Orjan Johannson looks on. Although the cats are an important part of their wildlife heritage, this is the first time either of the interns had seen a live snow leopard.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
On hand to help release the shelled reptiles was 7-year-old Harrison Keyser of Sammamish, Wash. (pictured at left with his sisters) who arranged a “Turtle Trot” to raise more than $300 for the Western Pond Turtle Recovery Project. Harrison told us he thought “it was really cool letting the turtles go in the pond” and he’d like to do this again next year. We’d be happy to have you back, Harrison!
The 10-month-old turtles were collected last fall from the wild as hatchlings and head started at the zoo to give them an edge on surviving in the wild. Collection Manager Mike Teller and his keepers have a system for growing the turtles to just the right size:
“We mimic a summer season year round for the turtles by caring for them under lights and feeding them throughout the winter. By the time summer approaches, the juveniles are almost as big as 3-year-old turtles would be that grew up in the wild. This improves their chance of survival.”
(The reintroduction of the turtles is part of a long-term, collaborative effort among Woodland Park Zoo, Oregon Zoo, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to prevent the extinction of the species. It also is a project of the NW Zoo & Aquarium Alliance, which promotes collaboration on regional conservation among zoos and aquariums in the Pacific Northwest.)
Photos by Ryan Hawk.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Below: WPZ staff member David Droppers with Zoo Corps interns Claire and Brenna, transport endangered Oregon silverspot butterflies for release (top) and releasing them at Cascade Head Reserve. (Photos by Katie Remine)
Since I have been hearing about the silverspot project since 5th grade (when my class attempted to grow violets), this trip really brought out what this is all about. It’s exciting and it’s a great feeling seeing the butterflies flying that were raised in our labs and we picked so many leaves for them. I’ve felt really proud to work with a conservation project throughout the summer and I was pleased to actually be able to see them in the wild as opposed to just caterpillars in a lab (not that I don’t enjoy the caterpillars, either). I’m pleased that the whole day was agreeable (the weather, the views, the people we traveled with, etc., etc.) The silverspots looked awesome. It was incredible to see the vast diversity between them all when they all looked quite similar as larvae. I would love to have this experience again.
Claire, Zoo Corps Intern:
I think that going on this silverspot trip has allowed me to appreciate the work I have done at WPZ more. All of the dishes and violet leaves and pupae papers have made this experience come true. I am very thankful to have this opportunity. Every little action helps this butterfly species live. I thoroughly enjoyed working on this conservation effort, and I am proud to be making a difference. I enjoyed the weather, and the type of work we did at the release site. I wish I could’ve seen more of the Portland zoo, but I liked seeing their butterfly/larvae lab.
Don't miss the debut of the snow leopard cubs tomorrow, Saturday, August 15, at noon during our 3rd annual Snow Leopard Day. The male cub will get his name--chosen by your votes--and the public will see the cubs take their first official steps into the exhibit!
Enjoy a full day of activities (9:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.) celebrating one of the world’s most endangered and elusive wild animals. The third annual event is hosted by the zoo and its conservation partner, the Snow Leopard Trust, to highlight the fascinating adaptations of the snow leopard and critical conservation efforts to protect them in the wild. Activities include:
* Keeper talks and special enrichment for the snow leopards
* Conservation talks by Snow Leopard Trust
* Book launch and signing of "Saving the Ghost of the Mountain: An Expedition Among Snow Leopards in Mongolia" with author Sy Montgomery
* Snow leopard-inspired crafts for kids
* Special themed programs for kids in Zoomazium
* Conservation commerce made by artisans to help support snow leopard conservation
Friday, August 7, 2009
Save the date:
Photos by Ryan Hawk.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
We'll announce the winning name when the cubs debut on Saturday, August 15 at noon on Snow Leopard Day. The female cub has already been named Batu (pronounced BAH-too), a Mongolian name meaning firm, hard, honest.
Photo: This male snow leopard cub, pictured here at 9 weeks, needs a name selected by you! Photo by Ryan Hawk.