Thursday, December 31, 2009

Top 9 in '09

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

For Woodland Park Zoo, 2009 was a year of notable births, conservation milestones, and a few firsts. Here’s my personal pick of the top 9 zoo stories from 2009, in no particular order--some fun, some inspirational, and some just cute.

What were your favorite zoo stories this year?

1. Creating Papua New Guinea’s first Conservation Area


2. Penguins take their first swim


3. Snow leopard twins born to first-time mom


4. How do you exercise flamingo chicks?


5. Zoo hatches a cottonball…err, tawny frogmouth chick


6. Endangered Oregon spotted frogs released into the wild


7. Zoo staff and community team up to restore local habitat


8. Introducing the world’s first GPS-enabled zoo iPhone app


9. Animals get their own downtown art show, critics go wild

Monday, December 28, 2009

Zoo celebrates 110 years

Posted by: Ric Brewer, Communications

Break out the cake--today is our 110th birthday!


(Photo taken by Asahel Curtis from the roof of the old Primate House looking northeast, on July 4, 1924.)


On December 28, 1899, the Seattle City Council officially signed the paperwork purchasing the 141 acres that would become Woodland Park Zoo and surrounding parkland. Once owned by real estate tycoon Guy Phinney, the land and its collection of animals had become a burden for his widow after Phinney died in 1893, so it was sold to the growing city for $100,000 to be developed into a park.

The purchase was controversial as many believed the land, located 5 miles north of downtown Seattle, was so far out into the countryside that no one would visit it! But generations of families have proven that wrong as what became Woodland Park Zoo is now a fixture in the lives of more than one million visitors each year. Over the course of the last century plus, the zoo has changed from an attraction that merely showcased animals for enjoyment into an educational institution that is devoted to wildlife and habitat conservation here in the Northwest and around the world.

(Aerial view of Woodland Park Zoo taken in 2008 by Ryan Hawk. Since 1950 there has been a four-fold increase in the zoo's tree canopy and other plantings.)

Approaching the second decade of the 21st century, the mission of Woodland Park Zoo has never been more evident. As threats to wildlife have grown more complex, the need for the community's support and willingness to assist us by learning, caring and acting to bring real change for wildlife has never been more important. Thank you Seattle and our neighbors for the last 110 years. We hope to continue to evolve with our community to meet the needs of wildlife around the world long into the future.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

ABC News features tree 'roo research

Posted by: Hilary Aten, Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program

Last night, TV viewers across the U.S. discovered an animal few had ever seen before, but are now not likely to forget. Woodland Park Zoo's work to study and protect the endangered Matschie's tree kangaroo was featured on both ABC World News and ABC Nightline--showing rare glimpses of the animal's elusive, tree-top lifestyle in the remote, dense forests of Papua New Guinea.

Click to watch the full story online (will open in a new window):
From November 5-7, 2009, ABC News anchor Dan Harris joined researchers from Woodland Park Zoo-based Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program (TKCP) and National Geographic at the program's Wasaunon field research site in the Papua New Guinea cloud forest of the Huon Peninsula.

Through a generous grant from National Geographic and the Waitt Foundation's exploratory research program, Kyler Abernathy and TKCP's Dr. Lisa Dabek successfully captured and outfitted two wild tree kangaroos with National Geographic Crittercams. The Crittercams captured hours of footage from these endangered kangaroos' perspectives in the tree canopy, providing previously unknown data on the natural animal behavior of wild tree kangaroos, including feeding behavior and times of activity--important information in order to help conserve these animals and their habitat.

Find out more about the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program and how you can help.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Endangered frogs released into the wild

Posted by: Ryan Hawk, Photographer

A few weeks ago, on a rainy, rainy day, zookeeper Kimberly Cooper and I hopped in the zoo’s Prius and traveled to the off-road back areas of Fort Lewis to release the last few of this year’s batch of about 450 Oregon spotted frogs. In the first year of the recovery program at Woodland Park Zoo, the endangered frogs were raised on zoo grounds to be given a head start in the wild. It’s one of several species recovery programs the zoo participates in locally.

Zookeepers like Kimberly raise the frogs from egg to adult in order to increase their odds of survival in the wild. The work takes place behind the scenes in a quiet corner of the zoo’s 92 acres.

Watch the release in this short video.


Woodland Park Zoo participates in the recovery program in collaboration with partners including Northwest Trek, Oregon Zoo, Cedar Creek Correctional Facility, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. And each of these groups were represented as we released groups of frogs into the waters of Dailman Lake.

The next group of frog eggs will be collected in late winter and brought to the zoo to be given a head start.

Video by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Penguin exhibit wins Seattle design award

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

Last Thursday, Woodland Park Zoo was recognized by the Seattle Design Commission with a design excellence award for our new Humboldt penguin exhibit!

The award is in recognition of Seattle’s best capital improvement projects. Other honorees were Fremont Peak Park, Thornton Creek, Seattle Center Century 21 Master Plan, and Sound Transit Central Link.

Visitors may be fixated on the nose-to-beak views of the penguins in the exhibit, but it’s the harder to see sustainable elements of the exhibit that captured the Design Commission’s attention.

With support from Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities, we installed an energy efficient ground-based geothermal heat pump that uses the Earth’s below-ground temperature to keep the exhibit’s water at a penguin-friendly 55 degrees year round, as well as an innovative water filtration system. These features will save nearly 22,000 kilowatt-hours of energy and 3 million gallons of water per year. That’s the equivalent of heating five, new two-bedroom townhouses and saving 24 million pints of drinking water each year.

The exhibit is also designed to contain and recycle all stormwater runoff thereby preventing the pollution of natural water sources like Puget Sound.

We are grateful to all the supporters who helped make this now award-winning exhibit and its sustainable features possible!

Photos: (Top) Woodland Park Zoo and City of Seattle representatives accept the Seattle Design Commission award at City Hall. Photo by R. Scott Vance. (Bottom) A young visitor enjoys a close-up view of a Humboldt penguin. Photo by Jennifer Svane.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A holiday greeting to share

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

We're getting into the holiday spirit here at the zoo. Join us in kicking off the holiday season by sharing our new season’s greetings video with your friends and family. You can also now send a zoo-themed holiday e-card to wish that special someone a happy holiday season.




Video produced by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.