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


Woodland Park Zoo elephants moving to Oklahoma City Zoo this spring

February 27th, 2015 by Doree

Woodland Park Zoo announced on its blog today that its remaining two elephants, Bamboo and Chai, will move to the Oklahoma City Zoo sometime in late-March to mid-April.

Activists have long called for the zoo to shut down its elephant exhibit and move them to a sanctuary. Instead, the zoo decided to move them to another zoo where they will be part of a larger herd. Oklahoma currently has a family of five elephants, including a 2-month-old baby.

We are happy to announce that we have selected Oklahoma City Zoo, which best meets our criteria based on recommendations from animal welfare experts: a social herd of Asian elephants into which Chai and Bamboo may successfully integrate, a state-of-the-art facility, a healthy environment free of active infectious disease, high caliber elephant keeper and veterinary staff, a restricted contact management system, and an established history of stable finances and leadership.

You can read the full blog post, which details the decision-making process and how Chai and Bamboo will be moved 2,000 miles.

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Group plans to file suit against Woodland Park Zoo over elephant care

February 3rd, 2015 by Doree

The Elephant Justice Project, affiliated with Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants, has notified the zoo of its intent to sue over allegedly violating the Endangered Species Act in its care of elephants and its plan to transfer them to another zoo.

The letter serves as notice that the EJP intends to file a complaint in federal court on the first day permitted in mid-March. The letter describes the conditions that cause Chai and Bamboo physical and psychological harm forbidden by the ESA, including the tiny exhibit and Seattle’s cold, wet climate. The letter also charges that WPZ cannot qualify for the federal permit that it would need to legally ship Chai and Bamboo to another zoo.

In addition to WPZ, the EJP put five zoos and an exotic species transportation company on notice of its impending claim of ESA violations. The five zoos include the Denver and L.A. zoos, to which WPZ has threatened to relocate Seattle’s elephants. The transport company WPZ could likely use for the move has provided such substandard and dangerous care to animals being relocated that a recent transfer ended in the death of an elephant during a move from one zoo to another.

“Since Woodland Park Zoo refuses to this date to even consider retiring Bamboo and Chai to a sanctuary, the EJP was forced to pursue this litigation strategy to ensure that the elephants are not sent to another, equally deplorable zoo,” said EJP co-founder Alyne Fortgang.

The zoo announced in November that it eventually would close its elephant exhibit and sent Chai and Bamboo to another zoo. Friends of Woodland Park Zoo has pressured the zoo for years to send them to a sanctuary instead.

You can download a PDF of the Intent to Sue letter here.

I contacted the zoo today about the lawsuit. Here is their official statement:

Woodland Park Zoo has received the letter from FOWPZE giving 60 days’ notice of its intent to sue over alleged violations of the Endangered Species Act. The Zoo does not comment on threatened or pending litigation.

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Community names Woodland Park Zoo’s new lion cubs

January 29th, 2015 by Doree

Woodland Park Zoo’s three male lion cubs now have names, thanks to community input.

The top vote getter was Tandie, which means “fire.” Lion parents, mom Adia and dad Xerxes, were then given the chance to select two more names by being given enrichment items with the names of the next three highest vote totals. Adia stuck with the cubs while Xerxes chose Gandia, meaning “clever,” and Mandla, meaning “power/strength.”


Photo by Dennis Dow, Woodland Park Zoo.

Tandie, Gandia and Mandla were born Oct. 24. Their outdoor schedule remains intermittent but they will come out more as warm, dry weather allows.

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Name Woodland Park Zoo’s three lion cubs

January 12th, 2015 by Doree

Woodland Park Zoo is asking the community to name its three lion cubs. The lion keeper team chose 10 names from languages that reflect parts of the South African lion’s native range.

The name with the most votes will automatically be selected as one of the cubs’ names, and the zoo will leave it to lion mother Adia and dad Xerxes to finish the job. The second, third and fourth most popular names selected by the public will be presented to the parents as enrichment choices on Thursday, January 29. Each enrichment item will be associated with a name, and the two the parents touch first will be the names of the final two cubs. Voters will also have the chance to enter a random prize drawing to win a ZooParent lion adoption.

The three lion cubs, all males, were born October 24 to mother Adia and first-time father, Xerxes. The new pride has been living in an off-view maternity den where the cubs can bond and grow in quiet surroundings. Woodland Park Zoo expects to announce the cubs’ public debut in the coming weeks. In preparation, the triplets took their first steps outdoors with Adia and Xerxes during brief practice sessions that introduced the young cubs to their spacious exhibit. Visit the zoo’s blog at bit.ly/1ACObmc for photos of the cubs’ first day outside.

You can vote for up to three names on the zoo’s website. The choices are:

  • Bokang (“Praise” or “Rejoice”)
  • Pule (“Rainy/In the rain”)
  • Tandie (“Fire”)
  • Karabo (“Answer”)
  • Letlotlo (“Treasure”)
  • Phahamo (“Eminence”)
  • Fanyana (“Little boy”)
  • Bheka (“Behold”)
  • Mandla (“Power/Strength”)
  • Gandia (“Clever”)

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Holiday lighting project begins as monkeys ‘escape’ from zoo today

November 25th, 2014 by Doree

Our neighborhood’s new holiday lighting project is 150 metal-framed monkeys with lighting strips that will hang from businesses and trees throughout Phinney Ridge and Greenwood through Jan. 4. Some of those monkeys “escaped” from Woodland Park Zoo today, as a publicity stunt for both the lighting project and the zoo’s annual WildLights event.


A gorilla, penguin, meerkat, and otter make a run for it with some escaped monkeys this afternoon.

Businesses and community members (including us) sponsored each monkey, which were manufactured with the help of numerous neighborhood volunteers. Sponsors of the project include the PNA Business Membership and the City of Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods.

WildLights officially kicks off on Friday night (although there is a preview tonight for all monkey sponsors and the media) and runs through Jan. 4 (closed Dec. 24-25). It runs from 5:30-8:30 p.m. nightly.

The winter lights festival features more than 600,000 LED lights along zoo paths, shaped to look like wild animals and global destinations. The carousel will be open during WildLights (for an additional fee), and food is available for purchase. Visitors can see real reindeer and listen to carolers. Most of the zoo animals will not be on display, but the Day Exhibit (reptiles and amphibians) and a part of the Adaptations Building (sloths, Indian flying foxes and meerkats) will be open during WildLights.

Tickets are $9.75 for adults (ages 13+), $6.50 for children ages 3-12, and free for toddlers ages 2 and under. Enter at the zoo’s West Entrance on Phinney Avenue. Tickets can be purchased online or at zoo gates during regular zoo hours. (Admission to the zoo prior to 5:30 p.m. is not included.) Parking is free.

Another part of the holiday lighting project is the new “Glow Cone,” hanging from the old air raid tower at the Phinney Center at Phinney Avenue and North 67th Street, which will be lit up at 5 p.m. on Saturday. Neighborhood sculptor Kim David Hall developed the designs for the 17-foot-cone and the monkeys.

GloCone installation1-resized

The cone is hung from the PNA’s air raid tower earlier this week. Photo by Mike Veitenhans.

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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.


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.


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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