A news blog for Seattle's Phinney Ridge and Greenwood neighborhoods

 

Woodland Park Zoo will move its remaining two elephants to another AZA-accredited institution

November 19th, 2014 by Doree

Woodland Park Zoo just announced this afternoon that it will phase out its elephant program and send its two remaining elephants to other institutions accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums.

Here’s the zoo’s full press release:

“We remain committed to putting the welfare of our elephants first. After several months of working to implement the recommendations of the Elephant Task Force, we have found that adding to the herd of our two aging elephants is not realistic in the foreseeable future. It is in the best interest of Bamboo and Chai to live in a social, multi-animal herd in a healthy environment,” said Woodland Park Zoo’s President and CEO Dr. Deborah Jensen. “This can best be accomplished by relocating them to another accredited Association of Zoos & Aquariums facility that is held to exemplary standards of care. Having only one or two elephants at the zoo for the long term would work against the broader social welfare of Chai and Bamboo and we are committed to following the recommendations of elephant health and welfare experts.”

The Elephant Task Force–panel of local community representatives and internationally-distinguished scientists and animal care professionals–conducted a critical and thorough external review of the zoo’s elephant program in 2013.

The zoo will begin finding a new home for its two elephants, 47-year-old Bamboo and 35-year-old Chai, both female Asian elephants.

“We will ensure Bamboo and Chai will be relocated together to an Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) facility that shares our commitment to animal health and welfare and conservation through education, and provides viewing access to the animals. We have not identified a new home at this time but we expect to move them in 2015. They will be a part of our family for the rest of their lives and we will continue to follow their welfare at their new home,” added Jensen.

“It is a difficult decision to move these animals who have long played an important role as ambassadors for their species in the wild, but we could not have made it without the thoughtful and exhaustive work of the Elephant Task Force, the zoo’s Board of Directors and our staff. We will continue working with our elephant conservation partners in Borneo and Tanzania and the 96 Elephants campaign to help end the ivory trade,” said Jensen.

Approximately 139 Asian elephants currently live in AZA institutions. According to Woodland Park Zoo’s Chief Operations Officer Bruce Bohmke, North American elephant population management experts predicted a population decline based on a decade’s worth of research. Bohmke, who serves on the Steering Committee of the North American AZA Elephant Taxon Advisory Group and Species Survival Plan (TAG/SSP), said the decline is attributed to a number of factors including an aging population and limited reproduction. “In addition, because other zoos are expanding or building new exhibits, there are very few individual elephants to acquire. We recognize that the process of expanding existing herds is going to happen slowly, and that it may be a few decades before a sustainable population can be achieved,” said Bohmke.

Each year, the zoo reviews its animal programs, which include physical and behavioral health and care, and makes decisions to continue, phase out or introduce new animals based on an extensive set of criteria, explained Bohmke. In 2012, the zoo phased out its African wild dog and Malayan sun bear exhibits.

In May 2015, Malayan tigers will be introduced to a new, dynamic exhibit for tigers and sloth bears. The state-of-the-art complex will empower and inspire visitors with up-close animal encounters, hands-on learning, and links to meaningful conservation actions visitors can take to build a better future for wildlife.

Visit http://zoo.org/elephantnews for information about Woodland Park Zoo’s elephants. Visit http://zoo.org/96elephants for more information about the 96 Elephants campaign.

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Lion triplets born at Woodland Park Zoo

October 25th, 2014 by Doree

Woodland Park Zoo yesterday welcomed Africn lion triplets, born to 5-year-old Adia (ah-DEE-uh) and 7-year-old father, Xerxes. This is Xerxes’ first offspring; Adia gave birth in 2012 to four cubs with a different male.

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Photo by Dr. Darin Collins, Woodland Park Zoo.

All three of the cubs are male. The cubs and mom are bonding in the off-view maternity den.

You can see more pictures and video on the zoo’s blog.

Lion cubs typically weigh about 3 pounds at birth. They are born blind and open their eyes within a week or two after birth.

Woodland Park Zoo’s lions belong to the South African subspecies, Panthera leo krugeri. Known as the Transvaal lion, it ranges in Southern Sahara to South Africa, excluding the Congo rain forest belt, in grassy plains, savanna and open woodlands. These lions range in weight from 260 to 400 pounds.

The African lion is the only big cat not protected under the Endangered Species Act. As few as 32,000 African lions are estimated to remain in the wild and their future remains uncertain, particularly as the growth in human population continues to impact lion populations. There is legal hunting of lions and retaliation killing because they pose a threat to humans and livestock.

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Necropsy report shows elephant Watoto had chronic, age-related arthritis

October 7th, 2014 by Doree

Woodland Park Zoo today released the necropsy report for its female African elephant Watoto, who was euthanized in August at the age of 45 after she was found lying down in the elephant exhibit and unable to stand on her own.

Excerpts from the press release:

According to the zoo’s Director of Animal Health, Dr. Darin Collins, the most relevant finding from the pathology report was the chronic, age-related arthritis in the elephant’s leg joints, which had been described during the post-mortem examination. Additional findings in other tissues examined, such as age-related changes in heart and muscles, were mild and within expected limits and were not life-threatening. There was no evidence of an infectious disease process, in the joints or in other tissues examined. In addition, the pathologist did not find any evidence for a herpesvirus infection.

“We don’t know if Watoto fell or laid down. My clinical assessment is that she was unable to stand back up, due to the joint disease,” said Collins. Falls in elderly animals, and people, can be caused by physical conditions, such as arthritis, that impair mobility or balance. “Unfortunately, the sequence of events that occurs when an elephant is down and unable to stand becomes life-threatening in less than a few hours’ time. When lying down, large-bodied animals cannot breathe normally due to massive weight impacting their lung cavity, decreasing blood flow to vital organs and nerves, and resulting in limb paralysis.”

During multiple attempts to get Watoto to her feet, several hourly blood draws that were taken to monitor her health status showed her overall condition was in swift decline, added Collins.

“We are not surprised by the pathologist’s findings, which are consistent with those of a geriatric animal. Watoto did not show any new health concerns and her behavior and appetite were normal in the days leading up to her death,” explained Collins.

On the morning of August 22, zookeepers reported that Watoto was lying on her side in the yard of the elephant exhibit, unable to move to an upright position, an unusual behavior for her. Through many attempts, the keepers and animal health staff were able to successfully right Watoto to her feet with the careful use of crane-like machinery. “Unfortunately, despite these attempts, Watoto was unable to stand on her own,” said Martin Ramirez, the zoo’s curator of mammals. “Watoto simply didn’t have any more to give. We were faced with making the difficult decision to humanely euthanize her, and we made it with compassion and deep sadness.”

Watoto was born in Kenya between 1969 and 1970, and joined Woodland Park Zoo’s elephant herd in 1971 as an orphan from the wild.

Woodland Park Zoo has two remaining female elephants: 47-year-old Bamboo and 35-year-old Chai.

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Community solar project being installed at Phinney Center

August 18th, 2014 by Doree

Crews have been working to install the first North Seattle community solar project at the Phinney Neighborhood Association, 6532 Phinney Ave. The solar panels themselves will be installed today.

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On the roof of the PNA’s Blue Building, with Green Lake in the background. Photo courtesy Puget Sound Solar.

Woodland Park Zoo also is getting two large photovoltaic solar arrays as part of the same project, which is sponsored by Seattle City Light. Together, the zoo and the PNA’s arrays will comprise about 74 kilowatts of solar.

Customers can buy one or more units for $150 each. Investors will receive annual City Light energy credits and Washington State incentive payments until 2020, when the solar systems will belong completely to the PNA and the zoo.

Update: Here are two pictures of the first panels being installed today. (Thanks to the PNA for the photos.)

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Zoo’s Fall Fecal Fest begins in 4 days

August 14th, 2014 by Doree

Beginning Monday, local gardeners can enter for the chance to win some of Woodland Park Zoo’s prized Zoo Doo during its Fall Fecal Fest. Entries for the lottery drawing will be accepted from Aug. 18-Sept. 7.

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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.

Entries are only accepted online. Dr. Doo will notify winners only after Sept. 7. Pick-up dates are Sept. 20 through Oct. 2. Winners must load their own compost.

Prices for either Zoo Doo or Bedspread: Pick-up truck 8×4 bed – $60; 6×4 bed – $45; 6×3 bed – $35. Limit one full truck per person. Garbage cans: $8 – $10 depending on size; bags: $4 – $6 depending on size. Two-gallon and pint-sized buckets are available anytime at the ZooStore for $12.95 and $4.95, respectively.

For more information, call 206-625-POOP or visit the zoo’s website.

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6th annual Auction for Animals is this afternoon at Woodland Park Zoo

June 1st, 2014 by Doree

Lucas Engles-Klann, now just 8 years old, is hosting his 6th annual Auction for Animals from 1-3 p.m. today (Sunday) at Woodland Park Zoo. The event is free and open to the public (zoo admission not required). The auction is in the Education Center by the South Gate 750 N. 50th St.

Auction for Animals was started by in 2008 amidst plans for his 3rd birthday party. When asked how he wanted to celebrate, his reply was “I want to save all the animals”, and his annual fundraiser was born. The event has taken many different forms over the years, including benefit dinners, raffles, and auctions, and has raised over $15,000 to support the Woodland Park Zoo, the National Audubon Society and Point Defiance Zoo. Money raised this year will go towards preservation of Woodland Park Zoo’s gorillas, snow leopards, and jaguars.

Special features at this year’s event will include a bake sale, games, a live auction (hosted by Lucas) for kids, and a silent auction for the grown-ups. Items up for grabs this year include unique pieces from local artists and amazing wines.

Now eight years old, Lucas’ passion for animal preservation has grown with him, and he now assumes much of the responsibility for planning and overseeing every aspect of the event. His excitement has not gone unnoticed…over 150 people attended last year’s event and raised over $3200.

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Zoo’s grizzly bears to play in the snow on Tuesday

April 14th, 2014 by Doree

Woodland Park Zoo’s grizzly bear brothers Keema and Denali are getting a 20th birthday treat on Tuesday when Crystal Mountain will truck in fresh snow from the Cascades for the bears’ exhibit. The bears actually turned 20 in January but were hibernating and slept right through it.

The snow will be delivered at 9:30 am. Tuesday. The 835-pound bears will start playing in the snow around 10 a.m.

The zoo will live stream the snowy experience on its “bear cam,” as well as inside Zoomazium and the grizzly bear viewing shelter.

The ski resort also trucked in snow in 2004 when the grizzlies turned 10.

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Photo by Ryan Hawk, Woodland Park Zoo.

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Woodland Park Zoo plans to improve elephant exhibit, replace Watoto with a new Asian elephant

March 31st, 2014 by Doree

On Friday, Woodland Park Zoo quietly released its final plan to improve its elephant exhibit. (The zoo did not send out a press release, but posted it on its blog.)

The plan calls for the zoo to spend up to $3 million to send its African elephant, Watoto, to another zoo, and replace her with a new Asian elephant, and improve the indoor and outdoor elephant habitats.

The Elephant Task Force released its final report last October. The zoo’s Board of Directors and staff reviewed it and came up with the final plan.

The group Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants slammed that plan on its website.

The Seattle Times had an in-depth story on the plan on Saturday.

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Zoo’s Spring Fecal Fest begins Friday

February 25th, 2014 by Doree

Woodland Park Zoo’s highly anticipated Spring Fecal Fest begins this Friday, giving gardeners the opportunity to purchase prized compost made from zoo animal droppings. Fecal Fest runs Friday, Feb. 28 through Monday, March 17.

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.

Since this special fertilizer is limited, you have to enter a lottery for the chance to purchase. Online entry forms will be available beginning on Friday. Only one entry per person is eligible for each drawing (there are separate drawings for Zoo Doo and Bedspread). Entries will be selected randomly and only selected entries will be contacted. Phone and mail orders are not accepted.

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Photo by Ryan Hawk, Woodland Park Zoo.

Pick-up dates are April 5-19. You provide the truck and labor, the zoo provides the shovels.

Prices for both Zoo Doo and Bedspread are:

  • Pick-up truck 8×4 bed: $60
  • Pick-up truck 6×4 bed: $45
  • Pick-up truck 6×3 bed: $35
  • Garbage cans: $8 to $10 depending on size
  • Bags: $4 to $6 depending on size
  • Two-gallon and pint-sized buckets are available anytime at the ZooStore for $12.95 and $4.95, respectively.

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Memory loss brings them together, but the memories keep them coming back

November 26th, 2013 by Doree

By Shelby Ehlert, University of Washington News Lab

Most of us can remember a time in our childhood when we visited the local zoo, giddy with excitement to explore the exotic sights, sounds and smells. For one group of people, it’s memory itself that brings them to the Woodland Park Zoo in Phinney Ridge every Monday.

Since its inception in early 2011, the Memory Loss Walk has drawn individuals diagnosed with early-stage memory loss and their caregivers to partake in a morning zoo walk followed by coffee and conversation.

The program is sponsored by several organizations that partnered “because they wanted to offer individuals with mild memory loss the opportunity to join a supportive program that emphasizes socialization as well as the importance of living a healthy lifestyle,” according to Liz Rhine of the Alzheimer’s Association.

The groups involved are the Alzheimer’s Association’s Western and Central Washington State Chapter, Seattle Parks and Recreation’s Lifelong Recreation Program, the Phinney Neighborhood Association and Greenwood Senior Center, Rhine said in an email.

It was a chilly but sunny autumn morning when we met in the Woodland Park Zoo parking lot before heading out for the Northern Trail tour of the zoo.

As soon as the walk began I quickly forgot the environment we were in and became so enthralled in the conversation that it was easy to miss the many animals we passed, as these were clearly not the focus of the walkers.

This was much more than a community activity for individuals with early-stage memory loss and their caregivers – this was a family. They are united by a common experience unique to their group.

“ I think what I benefit most from is the time we spend together,” said Roger Stocker, a participant of the walk since early 2011. “It’s nice to see the stuff we see going around the zoo and I wouldn’t discredit that at all, but I think the big part of it is…the existence and presence of these people. What makes it different from other people is that we have something that we share.”

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Memory Loss Walk participants take in the zoo’s bear exhibit.

As Rhine noted, the walk “offers participants an opportunity to hold conversations in a safe and stimulating environment around others who can relate and offer support.”

“You can talk about Alzheimer’s in this group,” said Ruth Mulligan, who has been participating in the walk for a year. “That’s one big difference (compared with other social settings.”

Charlie Reidy, a participant who is affected by Alzheimer’s, said there is a stigma around the disease: People are afraid of it. Because of this, the Alzheimer’s Association provides programs to bridge the gap between individuals with Alzheimer’s and the public. Reidy attends another program that helps people with early-stage memory loss learn to improvise when communicating because the struggle to recall specific words is one of the first symptoms of memory loss.

Reidy said that people react very uncomfortably if they’re talking to someone with memory loss who stops cold in the middle of a sentence. They don’t know how to respond. However, the discomfort can be avoided or at least mitigated if the individual with memory loss can learn to keep talking — even out of context — rather than dwell on the word they’re attempting to recall, Reidy said.

It’s small programs like this that the Alzheimer’s Association, along with its partners, work to provide for individuals with early-stage memory loss that are truly making a difference.

“What we’ve kind of taken as a reminder is that it is what it is,” Stocker said. “What we’ve decided is the only way we can really deal with this is take it one day at a time and live life at the moment.”

“And to the fullest,” added Myriam Marquez, another participant in the walk and an active Alzheimer’s advocate.

For more information on the Alzheimer’s Association’s programs and services and ways to get involved, please contact the 24/7 Helpline at 1-800-272-3900 or visit them online at www.alzwa.org.

Shelby Ehlert is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.

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Task force to release final report on Woodland Park Zoo’s elephants tonight

October 22nd, 2013 by Doree

The task force that’s been evaluating Woodland Park Zoo‘s elephant program will present its final report at 6 p.m. tonight (Tuesday) at the Central Library downtown, 1000 4th Ave, 4th Floor, Meeting Room 1, Seattle.

The WPZ board appointed the Task Force to evaluate the zoo’s elephant program and exhibit, the health and care of its three elephants, and the value of the exhibit and program to the zoo’s education and conservation objectives.

At the meeting, Task Force co-chairs Jan Hendrickson, co-founder of Denny Hill Capital, and Jay Manning, an environmental attorney and former chief of staff to Gov. Christine Gregoire, will publicly present the Task Force’s key findings, recommendations and management options for the WPZ Board to consider for the elephant program and exhibit.

More information can be found at www.elephanttaskforce.org. Written questions from the public in attendance will be addressed by the Task Force.

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Protesters plan to demonstrate before 5th Elephant Task Force meeting today

August 28th, 2013 by Doree

Woodland Park Zoo’s Elephant Task Force meets again today to discuss the health and well-being of the zoo’s three elephants: Bamboo, Chai and Watoto. The task force meeting is from 4-8 p.m. downtown at the US Bank Center, 1420 5th Ave., 4th Floor Conference Room.

Task force meetings are open to the public. You can see past meeting summaries and video on the task force website.

Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants plans to demonstrate before that meeting, beginning at 3 p.m., claiming task force members are too close to the zoo and not objective.

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