Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Endangered turtle found in Edmonds will get second chance in wild

Posted by: Mark Myers, Curator


When a recovered turtle found in Edmonds, Washington turned out to be a representative of an endangered native turtle species, Woodland Park Zoo got the call to assist.

Partnering with the Washington Deparment of Fish and Wildlife, Woodland Park Zoo has been involved with the Western Pond Turtle Recovery Project for 20 years, but in that time only rarely have we seen cases of western pond turtles being found in this state outside of protected habitats.

The turtle was found on a road in Edmonds and picked up by a family that brought it to the Just Frogs and Friends Amphibian Center. From there the amphibian center contacted Woodland Park Zoo. We don’t know how the turtle got to Edmonds or out on that road, though judging from its comfort around people, it may have been a pet at one point.



Woodland Park Zoo was brought into the mix to perform a health assessment of the turtle to determine its potential to be released into protected wild habitat and join the breeding population of western pond turtles in Washington.

The zoo’s animal health staff gave the turtle a standard check-up last week, taking radiographs, doing blood draws, getting the animal’s weight, inserting a transponder, and examining the overall health and appearance of the turtle.

The turtle is in good condition and has been approved for release into the wild population of western pond turtles that survive in protected habitat here in Washington state.

The addition of this turtle is potentially very meaningful to the survival of the western pond turtle in Washington, as this turtle could represent new genes that are not yet represented in the gene pool of the breeding population.

Every year, Woodland Park Zoo headstarts newly hatched western pond turtles at the zoo until the hatchlings grow large enough to avoid predation. This year’s batch of headstarted turtles will be released to a protected habitat in South Puget Sound on Friday, and the Edmonds turtle will join them out there possibly as soon as this Friday or in the very near future, bringing with it a new hope for this endangered species.

Photos: Bottom photo by Rachel Gray/Woodland Park Zoo, all other photos by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Five ways to save native turtles

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications



This week marks the 20th anniversary of the Western Pond Turtle Recovery Project, which is working to bring native turtles back from the brink of extinction in Washington state.

Woodland Park Zoo plays a major role in the recovery effort, a collaborative project that also includes partners at Oregon Zoo, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

At WPZ, we headstart endangered western pond turtle hatchlings at the zoo, giving them a chance to grow in safety until they are large enough to avoid being eaten by predators. Then each year we release these headstarted turtles back into protected habitat in Washington state to help re-establish a self-sustaining wild population. When this program started 20 years ago, there were only 150 wild western pond turtles left in Washington state. Now, thanks to these conservation efforts, those numbers are up to 1,500.

We’re honored to play this unique role in a local conservation effort, but we also want our zoo fans out there to realize that you don’t have to be a zookeeper or wildlife biologist to help native turtles. There are steps we can all take at home and information we can share with friends that make a difference when it comes to saving turtles and protecting their habitats right in our own backyards.

Here are five steps you can take to make a difference for native turtles

1. Reduce pollutants to native turtle habitat by eliminating chemical pesticides from your gardening practices

2. Improve the quality of wildlife habitat necessary for native turtle survival by joining a habitat restoration program in your community. Looking for a program? Try our Backyard Habitat classes or read our Education department’s Backyard Habitat blog which posts upcoming opportunities around the region

3. Use a reputable source when purchasing or adopting pet turtles and make sure the species is legal to own and the animals have been sourced legally

4. Take care not to release unwanted pets or animals into wild habitat—invasive species can outcompete or prey on native turtles. Call your local animal shelter to find a new home for an unwanted pet

5. Support Woodland Park Zoo and other organizations working to conserve endangered turtles. Tell your friends about turtle conservation and ways they can help, share this story on Facebook or your favorite social network, take a trip to the zoo with friends and family to learn more, make a donation to the zoo’s conservation program…there are many ways to show your support and help us make a difference for turtles!

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of this conservation effort, we’re extending $5 off zoo admission to all visitors through July 29. And as we celebrate 20 years this week, we’re also getting set to release this year’s batch of headstarted turtles on Friday. We hope to post updates from the field at the end of the week.

Photos by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Porcupine pair gets vet check-up

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications



Molly and Oliver, our newly arrived 3-month-old porcupines, had a check-up with our vet team this week.

The exam, part of their standard 30-day-quarantine, included taking radiographs, blood samples, and weights. The animal health team deemed the two healthy and fit.

Vets also inspected the bodies of the porcupines, which are covered with long hairs and quills. An adult porcupine is covered with 30,000 or more quills, with only its snout, throat, belly and feet pads exposed.

The young pair is getting ready to move to their Northern Trail exhibit where they will be making a public debut in just a few weeks. This health exam helps to give us some baseline data so we can track how well they are doing once they get out there and as they grow and mature. Regular examinations are a part of the excellent animal care and preventive health program for the more than one thousand animals under the zoo’s care.

We’ll update again when Molly and Oliver are ready for their exhibit debut!

Top photo by Lauren LaPlante/Woodland Park Zoo, all others by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Join a wildlife tour of the Duwamish River

Posted by: Jenny Mears, Education



One overcast day in November 2007, I embarked on a boat tour of the Duwamish River to learn more about the natural, cultural and political history of this local Superfund site. While cruising from Harbor Island to Turning Basin—the northern to the southern limits of the Superfund designation—I learned how this river transformed from an estuary with thousands of acres of tidal flats and riparian habitat to an industrial site in which less than two percent of natural habitat remains.

From my guide, a representative of Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, I also learned about the amazing alliance of communities, tribes, environmental organizations and businesses involved in cleanup and outreach efforts, including habitat restoration events, festivals, and youth programs. I also got to hear the incredibly inspiring story of John Beal, a Vietnam veteran who, after being told he had four months to live due to heart problems, decided to use that time to cleanup nearby Hamm Creek, a polluted, garbage-infested creek that drained into the Duwamish River. Through his efforts, Hamm Creek became healthy enough habitat to support salmon spawning, beaver dams and dozens of bird species. Beal himself went on to live another 27 years.

These and other stories I heard on that boat tour inspired me to get more involved in the restoration of the Duwamish River. I attended several Duwamish Alive events, with habitat restoration occurring at several sites along the river, as well as Duwamish River Festivals, which educate and inform communities about the cleanup progress as well as celebrate success with activities such as kayak tours, food, music and dance. I also was able to coordinate annual Duwamish River Cruises for zoo members, staff, volunteers, community partners and participants in Woodland Park Zoo's Backyard Habitat workshops and classes. At these boat tours, participants are able to learn about the cultural and natural history of the river, pollution hotspots and habitat restoration opportunities with the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition while searching for wildlife that live on or in the river, including eagles, ospreys, seals, otters and beavers.

The next opportunity to join Woodland Park Zoo on one of these Duwamish River Cruises is Wednesday, July 27th from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. The cost is $25 per person for ages 13 and up and $10 for kids 3-12 years with kids 2 and under being free. To register, see the Backyard Habitat page on the zoo's website. For more information about the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, please see their website: http://www.duwamishcleanup.org/

Photos by Jenny Mears/Woodland Park Zoo.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Growing up snowy

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications



The snowy owlet that hatched in June is doing well and growing fast. It has begun to venture away from the nest and is quite active, moving around its exhibit and taking food from keepers now.

The chick had its first vet exam this week and weighed in at 3.3 pounds. Because of the decline in snowy owl populations due to West Nile virus, it was very important for this young bird to receive the first in a series of West Nile vaccinations during the exam. The vets also drew blood for DNA testing which will determine its sex—we’ll let you know when we get the results!

The chick is still largely covered with downy feathers but is beginning to grow in its adult plumage that gives the snowy owl its well-known white coloration. Look for the fast-growing chick on exhibit now in the Northern Trail biome of Woodland Park Zoo.

Photos by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Friday, July 8, 2011

A prickly, porky new pair

Posted by Ric Brewer, Communications
The world's third largest species of rodent will soon be making its appearance at Woodland Park Zoo. Can you guess what it is?
Well, if you've looked below at the photos, you already know: the porcupine!

Two young porcupines will soon join the other animals in our award-winning Northern Trail exhibit. The pair, Molly and Oliver, is approximately 3 months old and came from Weickert's Wildlife in Bent, Minnesota. Molly is the larger and darker of the two, and even though Oliver likes to try and push her around, Molly steadfastly stands her ground. They also have decidedly gourmet tastes, preferring willow branches over apple and delectable treats such as peanut butter.
Porcupines (the term is derived from the Middle French porc espin meaning "quilled pig") are in the order Rodentia which also contains mice, rats, the South American capybara -- the largest rodent species -- mole-rats, and chinchillas, among others. Beaver, by the way, are the second largest rodent species. There are about 29 species of rodent considered to be porcupines and inhabit the Americas, southern Asia and Africa. Molly and Oliver are the North American species, Erethizon dorsatum, and are found throughout Canada, Alaska and northern and western U.S. with small populations in West Virginia, western Virginia and northern Mexico. Mostly nocturnal, they are herbivores and subsist on roots, grasses and to the chagrin of some, will strip trees of bark and even eat plywood, in search of the salts used in its manufacture.

They are most noted for their unique spines or quills which are actually thickened, modified hairs made of keratin, the same substance as finger and toe nails. Despite the popular legend, porcupines cannot shoot quills, but will warn potential attackers by swinging their quill-filled tail, the barbed quill ends easily embedding themselves in tender flesh.
As with every animal that comes to the zoo, they are currently in a 30-day quarantine period and being cared for daily with toys and treats. After a thorough medical exam at the end of the quarantine, Molly and Oliver will be slowly introduced to their new exhibit where they will, hopefully, mate and produce a new generation prickly offspring once they've become mature.

Learn more about these fascinating animals on our Porcupine Fact Sheet at www.zoo.org/animal-facts/porcupine. The plan is to introduce them to their new home in late July, so drop by and see them!
Photos by Jo Roach/Woodland Park Zoo.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Art, nature and the zoo

Posted by Ric Brewer, Communications

Art and installations at Woodland Park Zoo help us celebrate animals in nature. Animals, of course, are the subject of an overwhelming majority of the sculptures and interpretive elements around the zoo's grounds. We use art to augment our messages of respect, and to convey the awe and wonder we feel in the presence of other species.
Tony Angell's "Ravens" in the Northern Trail

The art and installations chosen for inclusion here, many of which were part of the city's 1 Percent for Art program, others as pieces donated specifically for exhibits, or part of the interpretive portions of the exhibit, must meet standards of excellence and experiential learning in order to justify their inclusion, further our mission, and call our visitors to action to help preserve the Earth's wildlife and wild places.
Rob Evans's tundra mural in the Tundra Center, Northern Trail

Interpretive art also serves an important role in supporting our mission by elaborating on information in a three-dimensional environment. This provides information about animals including strength, size, social roles, and other features. The baboon family at our South Entrance, created by artist Georgia Gerber, are a vivid example of this.
Georgia Gerber's "Baboon Family"

As the saying goes, "Life is short, art is long." Art and installations placed on zoo grounds often become an integral part of the zoo experience for many years. Many pieces we have were commissioned long ago and have become old friends for long-time members and return visitors.

You can get a good overview of the pieces on grounds by viewing our Guide to Art and Installations at the Zoo, a self-guided tour of art around the zoo. View it on the Maps and Tours page of our website at www.zoo.org/maps

Do you have a favorite art piece or installation at the zoo?