Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Goodbye Gobi

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham and Gigi Allianic, Communications




Over the past two years, we have all watched snow leopard cubs Gobi and Batu grow and explore—from their precious first weeks, to their big debut, their first birthday and their participation in a smelly study to help track wild snow leopards. But now we’re preparing to say goodbye to Gobi, our male juvenile who is 2 years old and ready to move on to a new home at Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure in Salina, Kansas.

Gobi—who got his name from more than 35,000 votes cast by zoo fans—has been recommended to move as part of a cooperative breeding management program known as the Snow Leopard Species Survival Plan (SSP). SSPs work to ensure genetic diversity and healthy populations.

The SSP does not have immediate plans to breed Gobi, but this is an appropriate age for him to make his departure following the natural course of how snow leopards live in the wild. Snow leopards are essentially solitary animals and it is typical for them to leave their mothers to live alone at about 18 months old. In a few months, female juvenile Batu will also move, heading to Assiniboine Zoo in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Gobi’s move is scheduled for April 7 so this is the last weekend to visit the twins together.

Snow leopard scientists estimate as few as 3,500 remain in the wild. Seattle-based Snow Leopard Trust (SLT) is among the 36 field conservation projects that Woodland Park Zoo partners with around the world. The Trust was created in 1981 by late Woodland Park Zoo staff member Helen Freeman, the namesake of the mother of Gobi and Batu. Through innovative programs, effective partnerships, and the latest science, the SLT is saving these endangered cats and improving the lives of people who live in the snow leopard countries of Central Asia.

Video produced by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo. Photos (from top): Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo, Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo, Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo, Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Ocelot kitten acing exams

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications


Ocelot kitten Evita is acing her exams.

At her 9-week exam last Monday, animal health staff gave Evita another clean bill of health.

These regular exams, part of the zoo's preventive health program, allow us to monitor Evita's progress and make sure she's achieving critical benchmarks.

Evita is indeed hitting all of her developmental stages on target, and she's growing and gaining weight as expected.

Animal health staff keeps the exams quick and efficient to minimize the amount of time Evita is away from her mother, Bella. After the exam, she's quickly returned to Bella in a behind the scenes area at the Tropical Rain Forest exhibit. Mom and kitty share a strong bond and Evita's progress is evidence of the great maternal care that Bella is providing.

We expect to introduce Evita on exhibit with her mother in another few weeks—aiming for mid- to late-April. We'll let you know when she is ready to make her debut!

Photos by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Dinos roar back to life

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications


This summer, dinosaurs are making a comeback! We’ll be opening a limited-engagement exhibit on April 30 that takes you on a journey back in time to discover life-size, animatronic dinosaurs that roar, snarl, hiss, spit and move.

There will be 10 dinosaurs representing seven species that once roamed our continent throughout the Cretaceous and Jurassic periods—from a 19-foot-tall herbivore Brachiosaurus to a full-size, fearsome Tyrannosaurus rex.

The latest scientific research reveals that these beasts may have been adorned with brilliant colors, scales and fins. We’re having a lot of fun working with the dino creators, Billings Productions, Inc., to reflect that in the look we’re giving our dinos. Here’s a sneak peek at the creative coloration we’re giving the juvenile Styracosaurus—does it remind you of the colors of a certain zoo animal when it is young?

Dinos ruled for millions of years and this exhibit will explore the fascinating adaptations and behaviors that helped them thrive. But the well-known, massive die-off of the dinosaurs helps to shine a light on the extinction crisis many other species are facing today.

Take turtles. Turtles have been around even longer than dinosaurs—220 million years—and survived the massive extinction that wiped out the dinos. Yet these ancient survivors are facing their own extinction crisis today with almost 50% of known turtle species listed as “Threatened.” In fact, this incredibly diverse group of animals is going extinct faster than any other group of terrestrial vertebrates. While it’s too late for dinosaurs, Woodland Park Zoo is playing an active role in saving turtles.

The exhibit and its related programming will draw this and other connections to animals at the zoo throughout the run of the exhibit, April 30 – September 5. There is a $3 fee for the exhibit and you’ll get free re-entry to the exhibit for the full day that you purchase your entry. We’re still prepping our dinosaurs, planting up the space to evoke a primeval forest, and working on some exciting programs, so we’ll keep you up to date as we progress towards the opening!

Photos: Dino images courtesy of Billings Productions, Inc. Tapir by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo. Western pond turtle by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Joey journeys out of pouch

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

The last time we showed you wallaroo Fergie’s joey, it was just barely peeking out of its mother’s pouch. But now we have video of the first sighting of Fergie’s joey fully outside of the pouch!



You can find Fergie and her joey, which was born last September, on public view in the zoo’s Australasia exhibit.

Fergie can be identified by the green tag in her right ear, and though there's no guarantee, with some luck and patience, you might just get a glimpse of the joey too.

Photos and video by Wendy Gardner/Woodland Park Zoo.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

An ode to the grizzly

Posted by: Roxanne Murphy, Community Relations


Currently, I'm having a great time going through the Woodland Park Zoo's docent training program. Since I've only been with the zoo for nine months, words can't express how much there is to learn to even try to catch up with my co-workers. This training has afforded me the opportunity to develop a more intimate understanding of our animals, exhibits, horticulture, education and conservation efforts. Best of all, it's fun, and it has introduced me to such dedicated, smart and passionate volunteers and animal and conservation advocates.

One of our core assigments was to develop a brief presentation about one of the Woodland Park Zoo's Partners for Wildlife. Lucky for me, our team got the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project.

Personally and professionally, I love grizzlies so much that part of my contribution to the presentation included writing a poem about them. We delivered the poem last Saturday and it received laughter and applause. I was just hoping that it might brighten your day, too.

An Ode to the Grizzly

On days both sunny and drizzly,
You will find our friend, the grizzly.

They weigh up to a thousand pounds.
And in the fall, they get quite round.

They feed on animals and plants.
They have thick fur like warm sweat pants.

They're such a strong and mighty bear.
But, sadly, they are now so rare.

Their own habitat has been kicked.
And with the humans, they conflict.

So, some people made a plan.
To support the grizzly life span.

They teach humans about the bear.
And here they host a Bear Affair.

They want us to live side-by-side.
And to be smart when we're outside.

We'll think about the way we camp.
And treat the grizzly as a champ.

For every grizzly, everywhere,
We want them to know that we care.

Woodland Park Zoo partners with the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project to study and protect bears in North America and teach communities how to live sustainably with wildlife. Do you live or camp in an area with bears? Study these Bear Smart tips and don't miss the zoo's Bear Affair event on June 4 to experience up close the importance of bear safety.



Photos (from top): Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo, Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo. Video by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Ocelot kitten gets check-up…and a name

Posted by: Gigi Allianic, Communications


Time for an ocelot kitten update! The kitten recently got a clean bill of health during an examination by our animal health staff. She weighs in at just over 3.4 pounds, is healthy, active and now has a name! Meet the feisty Evita…



Regular examinations like the one seen in the above new video are part of our preventive health program for the thousand-plus animals under the zoo’s care. Evita will continue to undergo a series of exams for the next couple of months to ensure she’s achieving acceptable weight gains and other important benchmarks.

Evita is now 8 weeks old and is still living with mom Bella in a quiet and safe behind-the-scenes area. We know you are itching to see her in person and the latest update is that we can expect to see her out on exhibit in the Tropical Rain Forest building some time in mid- to late-April.

To minimize disturbance for Bella and Evita while they remain behind the scenes, zookeepers are using a closed-circuit cam to keep an eye on them. They’ve seen Bella doing a great job providing maternal care, and have noticed Evita spending more and more time out of the den playing and climbing. Keepers have been giving her a variety of enrichment toys to help stimulate natural behaviors, but so far her favorite enrichment toy seems to be her mom!

Photo and video by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

West Entrance goes green, gets Gold

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications


It’s fitting on this St. Patrick’s Day that our news is about green and gold. We’re proud to announce that our new West Entrance has just achieved Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Green building certification system!

Our West Entrance opened last summer to make the visitor experience more efficient and convenient, with lots of helpful amenities including bathrooms, rentals, member services and even a shade-grown coffee cart. But the green features of the entrance are perhaps a bit harder to see on the surface.

The entrance was actually designed with sustainability in mind—from energy-efficient buildings, to low-flow toilets, and Forest Steward Council-certified wood used on exterior siding.

The rainwater infiltration system in the entrance was built to prevent the runoff of approximately 975,000 gallons of stormwater a year, reducing the chance of overflow from the combined sewer system going into our local waterways like Puget Sound.

The West Entrance is actually the second project here at Woodland Park Zoo to receive LEED certification. Back in 2007, Zoomazium—with its green roof, recycled materials and energy conservation—became the first zoo project in North America to receive LEED Gold certification.

As a conservation organization, we know the importance of reducing our environmental impact in order to share habitat more sustainably with wildlife now and into the future. From solar panels on our carousel, to our water-saving penguin exhibit, and our ultimate recycling program—Zoo Doo—we’re committed to reducing our impact and modeling sustainable options for our visitors. What’s next for us? We’re constantly working to improve our environmental performance and have adopted a goal to reduce zoo greenhouse gas emissions to 7% below 1999 levels by 2012 and 20% by 2020. If you want to know more about our green programs, visit our Green Zoo site.

Photos by Ryan Hawk and Hannah Letinich/Woodland Park Zoo.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Faces of wonder

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications


Betty White helped us kick off our campaign for More Wonder More Wild with a video last week. But the campaign continues with some other special faces--the children of our community who delight in and are inspired by the nature experiences they get through Woodland Park Zoo. In their own words, kids reflect on what the zoo and wildlife mean to them in our latest video:



Sign up for our e-news to follow the progress of More Wonder More Wild and get zoo updates on animals, events and special discounts. Thanks for your support!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tigers and bears, oh my!

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications


I’m so excited about this one that I have typed and retyped a dozen starts to this blog post and think the best approach is just to shout it out:

NEW TIGER AND ASIAN BEAR EXHIBITS…COMING SOON!


This morning at our annual Thrive fundraiser a tremendous gift came to the zoo from an anonymous donor—a $4 million challenge gift toward building a new tiger and Asian bear exhibit complex and completing the zoo’s More Wonder More Wild comprehensive fundraising campaign! This is the largest challenge gift in zoo history and we’re so excited for the momentum it gives us as we launch the news to you all about this new exhibit complex we plan to build. And check out who else is on board...



We’re still in the earliest stage of conceptual design for the exhibits (the drawing up above is one artist’s concept rendering). We’re putting together plans to replace the 60-year-old infrastructure that tigers and Asian bears inhabit now. We’ll be transforming this outdated part of the zoo and giving these animals an enriching, naturalistic home that encourages natural behaviors such as foraging, stalking prey, even caring for young.

The new exhibits will help us tell the story of the critical conservation issues facing the endangered wildlife of tropical Asia—from habitat degradation to human-wildlife conflict. The exhibits will be a catalyst for visitors to get involved and join us and our partners around the world to build a better future for wildlife.

Right now, we’re targeting a 2013 opening for the first phase of the exhibit complex. We’re looking to raise $21 million for this tiger and Asian bear exhibit complex, which we're calling the Asian Tropical Forest. The Asian Tropical Forest is actually the centerpiece of our $80 million comprehensive campaign, More Wonder More Wild. We’ve already raised 74% of our fundraising goal for More Wonder More Wild over the past few years during the campaign’s quiet phase. Today marks the day we launched the community phase of the campaign to raise the last 26%. To be successful, we’ll need the support of our whole community, and right now we’re hard at work crafting fun ways we’ll reach out to engage you all in this tremendous effort over the next two years.

There’s going to be lots more news to come—ways to get involved with the campaign, details on exhibit design plans, and progress with the other initiatives funded by this campaign including animal care, visitor experiences, field conservation, education and more. A good place to start for more info on the campaign and ways to get involved is http://www.morewonder.org/. And stay tuned to this blog for more updates as exhibit plans unfold.

Images (from top): Tiger by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo, Artist’s concept rendering by Scott Taylor, Sloth bear by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo, Tiger by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Video produced by Ryan Hawk and Phil O'Sullivan/Woodland Park Zoo.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Animal spotlight: Pete, the gentleman of gorillas

Posted by: Carolyn Austin Sellar, Zookeeper


This is the third entry in our new Animal Spotlight series...

For as long as many of you may remember, Pete the male silverback gorilla, has headed up our Gorilla Group 1. This year Pete turned 43 and is the oldest male gorilla at Woodland Park Zoo. Despite having some of the typical complaints of old age, including arthritis and yes, even developing a bald spot (I know hair loss for a male can be embarrassing), Pete is in relatively good health considering his age. The average life span for gorillas in captivity is late 30s to early 40s with females living longer than males. In the wild, it is roughly 30-35 years. The longest living captive gorilla on record was 55 (a female). Although Pete is well into his golden years, he is still going strong. He has always been, and continues to be, the gentleman gorilla and always says “Thank you, tastes good!” by way of his grunts of contentment while he eats.

When Pete first came to Woodland Park Zoo more than 40 years ago, his name was Pierrot, but we simplified that to Pete, or sometimes “Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater” since he gets pumpkin every evening with his dinner for a little extra fiber.

Pete has been through many changes here at WPZ. He started off in 1969 in the old nursery alongside other gorillas (including Nina) and orangutans including Towan and Chinta (our resident twins) that currently live in the Trail of Vines exhibit. He then lived in the Great Ape House, and in 1979 he moved to the first-ever naturalistic gorilla exhibit, where he now resides.

Pete has been the bedrock of our gorilla program. With his fondness for the females and his fruitfulness, we have Pete to thank for starting our successful Gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP). His breeding success, combined with coordination with the Gorilla SSP through the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, has led to the creation of the dynamic, stable social groups that we have today at WPZ.

Pete has been a great father and a wonderful grandfather to his offspring. He has had five offspring (Wanto, Kamilah, Zuri, Jumoke, and Alafia), 17 grandkids and four great grand kids. Pete has always been a ladies’ man and always expressed an appreciation for the fairer sex…but not all the ladies have always liked him back (isn’t that always the case!)

Pete has always been tolerant of all the antics of the younger gorillas and has had close relationships with many of his females and their offspring. As he has gotten older, the females sometimes take advantage of him and even steal his food! But he always takes everything in stride…as any good grandfather would.

Photos (from top): Dennis Conner/Woodland Park Zoo, Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo, Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo, Dennis Conner/Woodland Park Zoo.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Reasons for hope

Posted by: Gigi Allianic, Communications

Mayor McGinn proclaimed March 7-11 “Woodland Park Zoo Field Conservation Week.” The proclamation ushers in a huge week for Woodland Park Zoo’s growing role in conservation as we host an international conservation conference and summit this week.

Nearly 250 zoo and aquarium conservationists, field biologists, wildlife agencies, and conservation organizations from 23 different countries and disciplines will come together for the biennial Zoos and Aquariums Committing to Conservation (ZACC) conference. The conference brings together some of the most successful field conservationists to share knowledge and findings, build stronger conservation bridges between wildlife and local communities, and establish direct links to zoos, aquariums and their stakeholders.

The need for conservation solutions is more urgent than ever. On a global scale, the planet’s precious wildlife is facing the worst extinction crisis since the dinosaurs vanished 65 million years ago. A landmark study launched last fall by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) indicated that one-fifth of the vertebrates studied (25,000) are threatened with extinction and cited 50 species of mammal, bird, and amphibian, on average, are being pushed closer to the edge of extinction.

Woodland Park Zoo has long recognized the need for zoos to be a part of the solution in preserving wildlife species and their habitats. Through our Partners for Wildlife program, we partner with 36 field projects in more than 50 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, Africa and the Pacific Northwest. We work globally and locally with our partners and inspire our visitors here to take action, giving us all solid reasons for hope that we can turn the tide of extinction.

Here are just a few examples of recent accomplishments by our partners that give us reason for hope:

Reason for hope: Ninety clans of indigenous Papua New Guinea villagers have joined with WPZ’s Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program (TKCP) to set aside more than 180,000 acres of their own land to create their nation’s first-ever Conservation Area. This protected rain forest habitat will be monitored by a community-based organization. TKCP is currently working to improve community health and build economic capacity in the villages.

Reason for hope: The Snow Leopard Trust worked with community partners to protect an area the size of Delaware from mining in the Tost Region of Mongolia. This local protected area registration gives the region protected status for the next seven years and protects the movement corridors of the beautiful, elusive snow leopard.

Reason for hope: The near-extinct population of western pond turtles in Washington state continues to crawl toward recovery. About 1,500 survive today and 2011 marks the milestone 20-year anniversary of the recovery project.

Reason for hope: The Amur Region government in Russia leased another 1,000 acres of land in the middle of crane habitats to Muraviovka Park, rather than a governmental agency that had applied for the land. In addition, the park has been exempted from 98% of land lease taxes.

Reason for hope: To date, more than a thousand university students and professionals representing 95 institutions in 14 countries have participated in the Global Field Training in Conservation Biology and Global Health program.

Reason for hope: The Tarangire Elephant Project in Tanzania has worked with tour operators and local communities to set up Conservation Easements on community lands, totaling nearly 60,000 acres protecting critical calving grounds for migratory wildlife.

Reason for hope: The Oregon spotted frog took a big leap last year with 1,300 endangered Oregon spotted frogs released in the wild.

These reasons for hope across the globe tell us one thing--there is still time for us all to make a difference. When you support Woodland Park Zoo, you support our conservation and education mission to save wildlife and wild places, inspiring people to learn, care and act. Together, we'll build a better future for wildlife.

Photos (from top): Banner: Oregon silverspot butterfly by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo, Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo, Tarangire Elephant Project by Mustafa Hassanali/Tarangire Elephant Project, Western pond turtle by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo; Proclamation via City of Seattle; Forests of Papua New Guinea by Toby Ross/Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program; Collared wild snow leopard by Snow Leopard Trust; Western pond turtle hatchling by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo; Red crowned crane by Igor Ishenko; Tangkoko field training group by Global Field Training in Conservation Biology; Tarangire Elephant Project by Mustafa Hassanali/Tarangire Elephant Project; Oregon spotted frog by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.