Woodland Park Zoo euthanized a 47-year-old, female hippo March 24 due to physical decline from age-related osteoarthritis.

Despite medication, the hippo, named Gertrude, experienced intense generalized lameness, which seriously affected her mobility and compromised the quality of her life, according to a Woodland Park Zoo press release.

Gertie, who weighed approximately 5,000 pounds, lived at the zoo since 1966. She was the oldest animal currently living at the zoo and is believed to have lived at the zoo longer than any animal in its 110-year history.

Two female hippos remain at the zoo’s African Savanna: 31-year-old Water Lily and 10-year-old Guadalupe.

According to Dr. Darin Collins, the zoo’s director of Animal Health, the hippo’s health had been under a normal age-related decline for the last year from the degenerative joint disease, not uncommon in geriatric animals, including humans.

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Photo credit: 
Mat Hayward/Woodland Park Zoo

Gertie, a 47-year-old hippo at the Woodland Park Zoo, was euthanized March 24.

After a 10-year absence, a mob of eight meerkats will return to the Woodland Park Zoo this spring as part of the revamped Adaptations Building, which opens May 1.

Meerkats belong to the mongoose family and dwell in the savannas and grasslands of South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Angola.

The most social of the mongooses, meerkats live in packs of up to 30 individuals in the wild.

Meerkats will use their claws to dig underground burrows but spend much of the day outside foraging, babysitting, grooming and playing while a sentry keeps an eye out for danger.

Visitors will get an inside look at the animals’ semi-arid savanna habitat and observe as meerkats scamper into their tunnels, nurse their young or stand at attention atop the naturalistic outcroppings, behaving as sentinels.

A glimpse into a log den will create visual depth and give visitors a peek at life inside meerkat burrows, which serve as nesting and nursery rooms.

The public will be able to see the swiftness of these carnivores with daily bug feedings and learn about their social habits with keeper talks on Saturdays and Sundays during the zoo’s summer season.

Photo credit: 
Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo

Woodland Park Zoo's new exhibit featuring a mob of eight meerkats will open to the public May 1.

Elephant management staff at Woodland Park Zoo and a visiting veterinarian performed an artificial insemination procedure on Chai, the zoo’s 31-year-old Asian elephant, this week.

The procedure was carried out at the recommendation of the Elephant Taxon Advisory Group of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums with the assistance of Dr. Dennis Schmitt, an expert in elephant medical and reproductive management and the reproductive advisor for that group.

“This insemination comes at the recommendation of the world’s leading experts on elephant health and breeding and is a continuation of Woodland Park Zoo’s longstanding commitment to preserving this endangered species,” Dr. Nancy Hawkes, the zoo’s general curator, said in a Woodland Park Zoo press release.

The semen donor was a 12-year-old bull at Albuquerque Biological Park.

“We’re very excited about the prospect of Chai becoming a mom again and hopeful that she has conceived," Hawkes said in the press release. "The sperm in the semen sample were healthy and robust, and we know the timing couldn’t have been better."

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Photo credit: 
Ric Brewer/Woodland Park Zoo

Dr. Dennis Schmitt (in maroon scrubs) joined Woodland Park Zoo to artificially inseminate Chai, the zoo's 31-year-old Asian elephant, this week.

Groundswell NW recently completed the Salmon Bay Natural Area East Expansion in Ballard along the estuary of the Greater Lake Washington/Cedar River Watershed.

The project, located immediately west of the 34th Avenue Northwest adjacent to The Canal restaurant, offers a rare estuary habitat that is essential for juvenile salmon as they make their way through the Ballard Locks and acclimate to salt water.

The Salmon Bay Natural Area is a small part of a collective effort to preserve critical environments in the life cycle of Puget Sound salmon.

As the juvenile salmon make their way through the Locks, disoriented by the abrupt transition to salt water and vulnerable to predators, an area of refuge and adjustment to the new environment is essential for their survival, Groundswell NW's Elizabeth Dunigan said in a press release.

Restoration of The Canal slope enhances this refuge by giving salmon a better chance of surviving and gaining the body weight needed to thrive in the open ocean, Dunigan said.

Photo credit: 
Michael Harthorne

The Salmon Bay Natural Area provides a critical habitat for young salmon, according to Groundswell NW.

Though the Woodland Park Zoo's energy-inefficient Night Exhibit closed March 1 as a cost-savings measure, the has committed to continue caring for seven of the exhibit’s 15 species. Now, BNSF Foundation has stepped forward with a $20,000 challenge grant to help toward the long-term care of these animals.

“BNSF is issuing a challenge to the community to match our gift and help the zoo raise $50,000 for the nocturnal animal fund by May 1,” Gus Melonas, regional director of public affairs with BNSF Railway, said in a press release.

The fund will help make modifications to existing areas at the zoo for the Night Exhibit animals that will remain, support their long-term care, and help toward an assessment process to determine the future of the Night Exhibit building.

Since the Night Exhibit closure date was announced in January, the community has already contributed $5,500 to the nocturnal animal fund, according to the press release.

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Photo credit: 
Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo

The BNSF Foundation issued a $20,000 grant to the Woodland Park Zoo to continue caring for its nocturnal species, such as this Rodrigues fruit bat, after the March 1 closure of the night exhibit.

Citing her tireless efforts on the behalf of animals, the U.S. Humane Society named State Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles from the 36th District its Legislator of the Year.

“I could not be more honored to receive this award, especially as it came from the national organization representing millions of members throughout the country,” Kohl-Welles said in a press release. “The Humane Society is an organization whose work I greatly admire.”

Kohl-Welles was recognized specifically for her 2009 legislation to curb puppy mills in our state.

Senate Bill 5561, as signed into law last year, prohibits an individual from possessing more than 50 non-neutered dogs older than 6 months at one time.

The bill also set standards for kennel size, exercise, sanitary conditions and basic care.

The basic standards included providing clean food and water, allowing dogs to leave their cages for at least an hour a day and having clean housing. Violators are guilty of a gross misdemeanor.

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Courtesy of Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles

Woodland Park Zoo’s animals will celebrate Valentine’s Day the wild way when otters, red pandas, gorillas, snow leopards and more will enjoy heart-shaped ice pops made of fruit juice, honey, strawberries and cranberries, herbal bouquets, heart-shaped steaks and more.

The special treats are part of the zookeepers’ ongoing program to help enrich the lives of the zoo’s animals, promote natural animal behavior, keep animals mentally stimulated and engage zoo visitors.

The Valentine's Day treats will be distributed from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Feb. 13.

Following is the scheduled Feb. 13 feedings times for the animals:

Golden lion tamarins 10 a.m.
Snow leopards 10:30 a.m.
Otters 10:30 a.m.
Orangutans 11 a.m.
Goats 11 a.m.
Pigs 11 a.m.
Willawong Station 11:30 a.m.
Sloth bear 11:30 a.m.
Jaguar 1 p.m.
Gorillas 1:20 p.m.
Penguins 1:30 p.m.
Lemurs 1:30 p.m.
Keas 1:30 p.m.
Tiger 2 p.m.
Elephants 2 p.m.
Red pandas 3 p.m.

Photo credit: 
Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo

An orangutan at Woodland Park Zoo nibbles on a heart-shaped ice pop.

In the face of a large public outcry – a Facebook group called "Save the Woodland Park Nocturnal House boasts 24,595 members – the Woodland Park Zoo will be shutting down the Night Exhibit, formerly known as the Nocturnal House, March 1.

Despite 2009 cost-saving measures, such as a hiring freeze and elimination of programs, the Woodland Park Zoo needed to reduce it annual expenses by $800,000 to $1 million, according to a zoo press release.

"Like everyone else in the region and the nation, the zoo also has been hit by the economy," zoo President and CEO Deborah Jensen said in the press release. "We, too, need to trim expenses to allow us to operate sustainably over the long term."

According to the press release, zoo staff looked at staffing needs, energy use, conservation impact and other factors when deciding which exhibit to cut and the Night Exhibit was the clear choice.

The Nigh Exhibit, which opened in 1975, is expensive with high operating costs and high energy use, Jensen said. Closing it will save about $300,000 annually.

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Photo credit: 
Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo

The Woodland Park Zoo's Night Exhibit will close March 1, but some animals, such as this Rodrigues fruit, will remain at the zoo.

Most but the locals head indoors

On a subfreezing morning at the Woodland Park Zoo this week, the orangutans were huddled in their heated indoor area while a zoo employee broke up the ice that at one point had been a series of rivers and waterfalls.

The elephants, tapirs and sloth bears were nowhere to be seen as visitors in thick coats and gloves walked by empty outdoor enclosures.

About the only animals that seemed to be enjoying this week's cold snap were the relative locals – the animals exhibited in the zoo's Northern Trail.

Wolves darted between trees on frozen patches of grass and two grizzly bears inspected the edge of a pond covered in small floating islands of ice.

"The one zone we have here where every single animal is at home this time of year is the Northern Trail," said Martin Ramirez, Woodland Park Zoo animal curator.

In addition to the Northern Trail animals, the zoo's snow leopards are also loving the winter weather, Ramirez said.

He said many of the zoo's outdoor animals have access to or are confined to heated indoor areas this time of year.

Photo credit: 
Michael Harthorne

Two grizzly bears appear right at home at the Woodland Park Zoo during this week's subfreezing temperatures. CLICK IMAGE FOR MORE PHOTOS.

By Alyne Fortgang, co-founder of Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants

Woodland Park Zoo announced it will be closing the Night House exhibit in order to save money. It is reported that the zoo is cutting $700,000 dollars, including 12 full-time jobs, from its $29 million budget.

The most expensive animals to keep on display at a zoo are elephants – close to $400,000.00 a year for the three elephants housed at Woodland Park Zoo.

In addition to being expensive, the postage stamp-sized exhibit is woefully inadequate for the planet’s largest land mammal.

For about seven months of the year, the elephants are locked in a barren barn stall for 16 to 17 hours a day due to climate.

Outdoors, they share less than one acre of yard. Science has conclusively shown that deprivation of space and social contact causes mental and physical suffering in elephants, resulting in their lifespan being shortened by decades.

Woodland Park Zoo and the citizens of Seattle have the opportunity to send our three elephants to the 2,700-acre Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee’s sub-tropical climate.

Photo credit: 
Courtesy of Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants
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