Friday, February 28, 2014

Spring Fecal Fest starts today

Posted by: Caileigh Robertson, Communications

Zoo Doo compost is ready for Spring Fecal Fest. Photo by Ryan Hawk/WPZ.

Get your hands on the most desired poop in Seattle. Woodland Park Zoo’s Spring Fecal Fest is here. The annual poop event attracts local gardeners to enter the lottery to purchase the exotic, highly-coveted Zoo Doo and Bedspread that Dr. Doo, also known as the “Prince of Poo,” the “GM of BM” or the “Grand Poopah,” has been piling all winter. Entries are accepted through March 17.

What goes in must come out, and what comes out is great for your garden! Photo credits: Elephant by Dennis Dow/WPZ, Giraffe by Ryan Hawk/WPZ, Zebra by Ryan Hawk/WPZ, Oryx by Dennis Dow/WPZ, Hippo by Mat Hayward/WPZ.

Pick up where the animals left off. Zoo Doo is the richest, most prized compost in the Pacific Northwest. Composed of species feces contributed by the zoo’s non-primate herbivores such as elephants, hippos, giraffes and more, Zoo Doo is perfect to grow your veggies and annuals.

Bedspread, the zoo’s premium composted mulch, is a combination of Zoo Doo, sawdust, and large amounts of wood chips. Bedspread is used to cushion perennial beds and woody landscapes including rose beds, shrubs and pathways.

Do you use Zoo Doo to keep your garden growing green? Submit a photo of your Zoo Doo-grown garden and we may feature it on our Zoo Doo webpage.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Keep Puget Sound Clean: Make it hippo-poo free

Posted by: Laura Lockard, Director of Public Affairs and Communications


Friends, we need your help! We have an opportunity to clean up Puget Sound by making a major difference here at the zoo—using green technology to keep hippo waste from overflowing into local waterways. It’ll take the support of the state legislature to get us there, so we’re asking you to raise your voice and let Capital Budget Chairs, Rep. Hans Dunshee and Sen. Jim Honeyford and their committees know you support this effort!

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Here is what’s at stake:

Woodland Park Zoo is asking the state legislature to help with our commitment to sustainability and resource management in the Puget Sound area by requesting state capital funding for our priority sustainability project: reducing water waste from the zoo's hippo pool in the African Savanna exhibit. With an approximately $2 million state investment, completion of the hippo pool project would accomplish the following:

  • Use green technologies to clean and recycle water instead of emptying and refilling, saving 6 million gallons of water annually—about 15 percent of the zoo’s total water use.
  • Reduce operating costs by $150,000 annually with the reduction in waste
  • Protect the Puget Sound from waste water runoff
  • Learn more

Ready to take action?

Please sign the call to action letter below and we will deliver your signature to Capital Budget Chairs, Rep. Hans Dunshee and Sen. Jim Honeyford and their committees.

Sign the letter of support

Thank you for taking action to support Woodland Park Zoo and protect the Puget Sound! To stay up to date with zoo action alerts, join ZooAction to receive email alerts.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Citizen scientists on the search for amphibians

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications


In Seattle’s scenic Carkeek Park, you might spend a lot of time looking out at the boats, across at the mountains or up at the clouds. But have you ever looked down? There’s a world teeming below your feet in the Carkeek wetlands, a world we’re just beginning to document with the help of volunteers through the Amphibian Monitoring Program, a Living Northwest citizen science project.


The citizen scientists have all signed up for a 6-month stint, committing to do monthly monitoring sessions in local wetlands of their choice to help document the presence of native and non-native amphibians. Carkeek Park serves as a training ground for new volunteers.

At the Carkeek Park practice session, citizen scientists use an AquaScope to peer underwater without disturbing wildlife. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Amphibian Monitoring is offered through Woodland Park Zoo’s Living Northwest program, in partnership with Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW), Northwest Trek, and Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. Going on the third year of this citizen science effort, volunteers work in teams to survey ponds and wetlands in King and Snohomish Counties. In 2013, amphibian egg masses, tadpoles, or adult individuals were identified at 13 of the 17 monitored sites. In 2014, 16 teams will monitor 19 sites, including Seattle Parks, WDFW Lands, North Seattle Community College, and Snohomish County mitigation sites.

Volunteers found and identified egg masses of the long-toed salamander during their practice session. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Participants upload their data to WDFW’s Wildlife Observations website, which will help wildlife biologists understand the population patterns of our local amphibians and how human impacts affect them. The more we can learn about where amphibians live, when they breed, and how many can be sustained at a site, the better we can help WDFW inform important land use decisions that could impact the health and survival of Washington’s wetlands.

The citizen scientists include families from local communities and teen volunteers, seen here, from the zoo’s ZooCorps program. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Training is important for citizen scientists to make sure the data is reliable and the biosecurity of these wildlife areas is maintained. If you want to get involved with the Amphibian Monitoring Program, join the 2015 waiting list for the chance to become a citizen scientist.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Tree kangaroo conservation coffee is back

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications


Hello down there!

A tree kangaroo climbs up high in Woodland Park Zoo's Day Exhibit. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Woodland Park Zoo is home to endangered Matschie’s tree kangaroos, native to the cloud forests of Papua New Guinea. From the trees, tree kangaroos can leap 60 feet to the ground without getting hurt. Don’t try this at home!

Picking coffee in Papua New Guinea. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

You can help protect tree kangaroos and their tree-top homes by looking for PNG YUS coffee, now back in stock at Caffe Vita thanks to a partnership with Woodland Park Zoo’s Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program. The conservation coffee supports eco-friendly livelihoods for the landowners that share tree ‘roo forests.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Denver Zoo makes good on Super Bowl wager

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

A case of trout is on its way to our sea eagles now that Denver Zoo has made good on its Super Bowl wager with us. We agreed to modify the wager so that instead of their bird curator, John Azua, hand delivering the trout while wearing a Seattle Seahawks jersey, he is heading off on a planned trip to South America to support condor conservation.

Denver Zoo bird curator, John Azua, congratulates the Seahawks. Photo courtesy of Denver Zoo.

Though we won’t meet John in person, the good sport posed for this photo. In the end, birds win—Seahawks, sea eagles and condors alike!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Send a Valentine e-card to your friends

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications


This Valentine's Day, tell your special someone that you love them and the environment by going paper-free and sending a Woodland Park Zoo e-card instead. Below is a peek at the card designs. Start building your Valentine e-card now.

Original photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo; modified.

Original photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo; modified.

Original photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo; modified.

Original photo by Mat Hayward/Woodland Park Zoo; modified.

Original photo by Dale Unruh/Woodland Park Zoo; modified.

Original photo by Mat Hayward/Woodland Park Zoo; modified.

Original photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo; modified.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The orchid and the fungi: true love and mycorrhizal cheating

Posted by: Kirsten Pisto, Communications
Photos by Kirsten Pisto/Woodland Park Zoo


With Valentine’s Day on the way, you might find yourself selecting flowers—perhaps a beautiful orchid—for your partner. But did you know orchids have their own partners?

Orchids and certain fungi share a symbiotic relationship. The idea of symbiosis, whose Greek roots mean “living” and “together,” sounds almost romantic. Yet when it comes to symbiosis—the relationship between two species in which one species is dependent on the other—not all is created equally (i.e. “It’s complicated.”)

Dendrobium speciosum in our Tropical Rain Forest exhibit.

If symbiosis were a box of chocolates (we’re really going hard with this Valentine’s Day theme), it would come in different flavors—some sweet, and some you want to spit out.

Mutualism is any relationship between individuals of different species where both individuals benefit.

Commensalism describes a relationship between two living organisms where one benefits and the other is not significantly harmed or helped.

A parasitic relationship is one in which one member of the association benefits while the other is harmed.

Amensalism is the type of relationship that exists where one species is inhibited or completely obliterated and one is unaffected.

Autumn Flowering Laelia, Laelia autumnalis
Miltassia sp.

For orchids, their complex symbiotic relationship is with certain fungi called mycorrhizae. Luckily for the orchid and the fungi, the symbiosis they share is a sweet one, mostly mutual. Orchid mycorrhiza is the symbiotic process wherein juvenile orchids rely on special fungal symbionts to supply them with carbohydrates and in exchange the fungi receive moisture and access to organic matter.

The roots of an orchid are full of moisture, and often surrounded by organic plant material—the perfect environment for fungi.

The majority of orchids grow in habitats where sunlight is limited (think shadowy mountainsides). Without sunlight it is nearly impossible for the orchids to produce chlorophyll (their version of Vitamin D). Because the orchids cannot produce enough chlorophyll, they depend on specific fungi to assist them. The fungi can digest organic matter that occurs in the surrounding area, converting it into simpler molecules such as sugar that the orchid can absorb.

Pansy orchid, Miltonia phalaenopsis

The young orchid is so reliant on the fungi that it must wait for the fungi to invade its seeds before the orchid even begins to germinate. During this invasion the fungi obtains nutrients from the host plant, while the orchid seeds receive a fungal energy boost (carbon). All orchids depend on mycorrhizae at some stage in their life-cycle.

Orchids rely on the fungus as they begin to grow, but as they mature some species begin to produce their own food source. Some orchids become photosynthetic, meaning they can produce their own organic carbon. While botanists are still researching this complex relationship, it appears that even orchids which are photosynthetic may still use the fungi as a back-up food source.

This all goes down between the root tissue of the plant and the mycelium of the fungus: hard to actually see, but very important!

The dangly root tissue of an orchid stretches out to find moisture, here in the zoo’s greenhouse you can see just how massive the roots appear.

What does the fungi get in return? Moisture and food. The mycorrhizae fungi digests vascular plant material found amongst the roots of an orchid. The fungus also keeps moist due to the water-rich root environment of the orchid.

A humid and moist environment is ideal for both orchids and fungi. Imagine how many awesome fungi live in the zoo’s greenhouse! 
A fungus, such as the white material shown here on this compost heap, covers the roots of the orchid.

Wait, so what is the juicy gossip about mycorrhizal cheaters? It is simply an informal term that refers to a plant which skips the traditional photosynthetic processes and instead gets its food from fungi that grow nearby. The plant is “cheating” the traditionally known method of gathering nutrients.

Burrageara ‘Living Fire’. hybrid between Vuylstekeara Edna and Oncidium maculatum.

What can we learn from this highly exaggerated parallel between love and symbiosis? Give a little, get a little.

Happy Valentine’s Day from our fungi to yours.

Phalaenopsis pallens

Goat-horned Epidendrum, Epidendrum capricornu
Tracy's Cymbidium, Cymbidium tracyanum

Roses are red, 
Violets are blue.
Orchids and fungi,
A love so true!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Four more otter pups join the family

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications


We got squeals, they’re multiplying.

Please help us welcome to the world four new Asian small-clawed otter babies that have been squealing and chirping away since their birth on January 20!

The new litter—three females and one male—is spending time in a behind-the-scenes den with mom Teratai and dad Guntur. This is the second litter of pups born to this pair, who famously gave birth to four boys last June just a month after debuting on exhibit in the new Bamboo Forest Reserve.


The four older brothers, Sherman, Thomas, Chancellor and Maxwell, have taken a lot of interest in the little pups. While mom nurses the newborns, the father and older brothers pitch in to provide supportive care.

The parents and the older siblings have daily access to the outdoor exhibit, but they are primarily choosing to stay indoors to be with the pups. Viewing in the exhibit will remain irregular for visitors while we give the family the chance to explore at their own pace. It will be a few months before the new pups can swim and safely navigate outdoors. Though Asian small-clawed otters are more terrestrial than other otters, they still head into water to find food just as they would in their native southern and southeastern Asian habitat.

Asian small-clawed otters head to water to find food. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Photos and video of the news pups are in short supply at this early stage while we try to remain as hands off as possible with the family, giving them the time and space they need to bond with and care for their newborns. Teratai and Guntur proved to be excellent parents with their first litter and we’re confident they’ll provide the same level of care for their new pups.

At birth, these otters—the smallest of the 13 otter species—typically weigh just 50 grams, no more than the weight of a golf ball. Born without the ability to see or hear, the pups depend on the nurturing care of both parents until they begin developing their senses, which is just now starting for them at 3 weeks of age.

We celebrate all births at Woodland Park Zoo, but it’s especially exciting when births represent hope for endangered or vulnerable species like the small-clawed otter. These births are planned as part of the Species Survival Plan, a conservation breeding program that unites Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited zoos in the cooperative management of populations for the health of the species.

What threats are small-clawed otters facing in the wild? Loss of habitat, poaching, and reduced access to clean waterways threaten the species. When you adopt an otter through our ZooParent program, not only do you help take care of the otters living here, but $5 of your adoption fee goes directly to our field conservation efforts to protect habitat and save species around the world.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Snow day at Woodland Park Zoo

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications
Photos by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo


Most of the snow has already melted away, but thankfully we have these great photos to help us remember this weekend's winter wonderland!




The lion cubs discovered snow is the perfect landing pad for pounces.



The snow leopard is a natural in the snow with thick fur and a long tail that acts as a scarf when they need to tuck in and warm up.


The elephants chose to explore the snow throughout their exhibit.


Snow provides a new tactile sensation to an elephant's trunk.


Graceful cranes look especially beautiful in a snowy setting. 


In the center is a juvenile flamingo distinguished by its black and gray feathers that have not yet all turned to pink. Snow is a new experience for the young one.


Chilean flamingos are hardy birds that are built to withstand extremely cold winter nights in their native South American habitat.


Some animals look for shelter or heated spaces in the snow, while others head right into it. The Roosevelt elk enjoyed their snowy coated field.


The wolves of the Northern Trail disappeared into the snowy backdrop.


The Northern Trail is often the best place to see animals enjoying the snow.


We acquired a new temporary resident over the weekend, a snowman lovingly made by our visitors!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Bringing Tahitian snails back from extinction

Posted by: Gigi Allianic with Rebecca Whitham, Communications


We’re committed to putting an extinct snail species back on the map in its native Tahiti. But first, we’re putting it on the zoo map. What was once a behind-the-scenes conservation breeding program is now front and center for zoo visitors with the new snail lab on view near the zoo’s Bug World.



Around 100 different species of Partula once existed on islands stretching across the South Pacific from Palau to French Polynesia, but due to the introduction of an invasive and carnivorous snail, Partula were reduced to about five species in less than 10 years in the 1980s. Before they vanished completely, scientists stepped in and collected small remnant populations of snails on the islands and sent these precious few to zoos for captive breeding. However, a survey conducted in 1987 on the island of Moorea could not locate a single living snail.

Photo by Kirsten Pisto/Woodland Park Zoo.

In 2003, Woodland Park Zoo joined the Partula Species Survival Plan to begin breeding. “The new lab we have created provides a special and secure space for our work and optimal breeding conditions for the snails,” said Erin Sullivan, a collection manager at Woodland Park Zoo. “Thanks to the specialized care by zookeepers, our population hovers at a little more than 900 snails at any given time.”

Photo by Emily Schumacher/Woodland Park Zoo.

Unlike a typical brown garden snail, which lays hundreds of eggs each year, Partula give live birth to a single offspring every four to six weeks. Newborns are about the size of the tip of a ballpoint pen and are very slow growing. Partula can live up to around five to six years.

“Most people probably wonder why we want to help save snails. Aren’t they pests?” said Sullivan. “Snails, believe it or not, serve an important role in their ecosystems. They eat and digest organic detritus, turning it into vital nutrients that enrich soil. Essentially, they’re nature’s clean-up crew!”

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Thanks to the collaborative efforts of zoos, plans are underway to reintroduce Partula nodosa back to Tahiti in the next couple of years. The wildlife preserve, an approximately 20-meter square protected site, might just be the smallest wildlife preserve in the world, according to Sullivan.

The new Partula lab is visible to zoo guests during zoo hours. Guests can view the snails and the room where keepers could be preparing food, conducting a monthly census or cleaning out snail enclosures.

Beyond the lab, Woodland Park Zoo works to save these snails by supporting the Partula Recovery and Reintroduction Project through our Wildlife Survival Fund program. The recovery project's goal is to preserve and enhance the survival of all surviving endemic tree snail species of the family partulidae within their natural range in French Polynesia, and to re-establish, where feasible, the 11 species that currently exist only in the international conservation breeding programs like ours.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Take your sweetie to our Valentine's Day Celebration

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

It may be all about the chocolate for you, but it's heart-shaped steaks, herbal bouquets and strawberry ice pops for the animals at Woodland Park Zoo's Valentine's Day Celebration coming up this Sat., Feb. 8, 10:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.

Orangutan Chinta enjoys a fruity ice pop. Photo: Ryan Hawk/WPZ.

The sweet treats are designed to bring out the wild side of each animal, catered to their favorite flavors and the unique ways each likes to hunt, peck or dive into decadent treats. See the full schedule of enrichment activities to see which animals will be joining in.

If you are ready to plan a date with your special someone, send them a free Valentine e-card. We have lots of fun and flirty designs to choose from, inspired by the zoo's animals!

Choose from a selection of Valentine e-cards inspired by Woodland Park Zoo animals. Original photo by Dennis Dow/WPZ.