Posted by: Roxanne Murphy, Community Relations
Here at Woodland Park Zoo, we develop many sizes of partnerships with all sorts of community organizations, but sometimes the sweetest of such partnerships are the simplest and directly in our neck of the woods.
This is exactly what we realized when we recently got a call from Herkimer Coffee, located just a few blocks away from the zoo on Phinney Avenue. Sure, several zoo staffers and volunteers get their morning or afternoon pick-me-ups here, but Herkimer manager Chad Smith was thinking about the zoo on a deeper level. He and his family not only love the zoo as members, they’ve also spent time here and on their own learning about orangutans. They share our same strong affinity for these inspiring and intelligent primates.
Chad specifically noticed that we use burlap bags in our orangutan and gorilla exhibits. In case you didn’t know, orangutans are arboreal, living in treetops, and they rarely come down from the trees. When they do, one of their tendencies is to create nests to sleep in or they blanket themselves with leaves for weather protection. The burlap bags that are available to our orangutans offer the same sense of security and care. Our gorillas also use the burlap bags for enrichment activities and they love to play with them.
Back at Herkimer, they receive green, un-roasted beans in burlap bags from all over the world, and roast them on site, leaving them with plenty of empty burlap bags. The leftover bags are then frequently used as packing materials. But this time, Chad kindly contacted us to see if he could donate these bags so we could reuse them for our orangutans and gorillas.
These bags are inspected for stickers, labels and the occasional bean left in a seam, but other than that, they usually arrive in clean and safe conditions for our animals. With our orangutans, we typically rotate 12 bags in their exhibit while another 12 bags are drying after being hosed clean. These bags are rotated until they can no longer be cleaned, or start to fall apart. Due to the short life-line of burlap bags and the good times that our animals have with them, the zoo has always been in need of such donations. That’s why this Herkimer donation has quickly become an ongoing partnership. Also, we’re happy to be working with one of our many great Phinney neighbors and such big fans of the zoo.
To sweeten this partnership even more, Woodland Park Zoo keeper Stephanie Jacobs recently offered a talk at the orangutan exhibit with Chad and his two young daughters (pictured above) to heighten their understanding of orangutans.
So, the next time you Seattle or Phinney locals visit our orangutans or gorillas, you can be proud of the fact that the burlap bags that our animals are seeking comforts from were donated and recycled through a local company just down the street. Thank you, Herkimer!
Photos (top to bottom): Joe Mabel, Dennis Conner/Woodland Park Zoo, Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo, Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo, Roxanne Murphy/Woodland Park Zoo courtesy of the Smith family.