November 20th, 2011
Sunday was looking like the last good weather day for a while so I decided to head over to the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle’s Phinney Ridge neighbourhood. I have not been to a zoo for a while and prefer to see animals in the wild, but zoo’s do provide a great place to see many animals from around the world and these days serve as a valuable resource for wildlife conservation, education and study. These days concrete and iron bar enclosures are a bygone relic of the 19th century for reputable zoo’s, who pride themselves in providing as natural a habitat as possible for the animals they care for which is great (and always tend to be upgrading to make further improvements).
The Woodland Park Zoo was established in 1899 and has a good reputation and contains such a wide variety of creatures from small reptiles and birds (including majestic Stellers Sea Eagles) to the largest mammals including Elephants (African and Asian) and apex predators (65 acres of exhibits with nearly 1,100 animals representing nearly 300 species and thousands of plants and trees), therefore it had been on my list of things to do in Seattle for a while. Although sunday was a very chilly day 4C/39F, there was a bit of sunlight about and no rain, so many of the animals were out and about, some like the Grey Wolves, Grizzly Bears and big cats (African Lion, Sumatran Tiger, Snow Leopard and Jaguar) were very active. It was too cold for the great apes though and they were all inside (you could still see most of them through windows except for the Lowland Gorillas) and the Giraffes were not too keen on it either (they were poking there heads out of their heated enclosure).
I was impressed by the major enclosures built for the animals. The Elephants had plenty of room and water to explore, the Northern Trail, Tropical Asia, African Savanna and Tropical Rainforest sections all were quite sizable and had realistic habitats (despite the chilly conditions). Others were in redevelopment and even though some areas were a bit cramped they had plenty of rocks, logs and plant life to make the animal’s life less stressful which was good to see. There was a nice piece of my homeland in the Australasia section with Wallaby and various birds including the Emu, Kookaburra, Cockatiel and budgerigar (or “Budgie” as we Aussies know them). I actually missed the Temperate Forest section altogether, I simply ran out of time, there was lots to see and plenty of photographs to be taken!
The Grey Wolves were revelling in the cool conditions, playing and chasing each other, I could have watched them for hours. The zoo has exhibited wolves for 50 years and since 1976, 24 pups have been born. They have a very happy 4 female wolf pack there today. Little kids were howling trying to get the wolves to howl, the wolves just looked back with a tilted head, probably wondering how they could eat the kids!
They have two male Grizzly Bears who I assume are brothers. They are huge creatures (bears from the interior like these can weigh up to 714 pounds/324 kg, but coastal bears who feed on a higher calorie diet including Salmon can weigh up to 1,716 pounds/780 kg! They can reach a height of 9 feet/284 cm!), and they were also pretty playful – pushing against each other and play biting in an annoying brother kind of way. It was fun to watch them rough housing yet being so gentle given their actual strength.
Nearby to the bears are Mountain Goats. These animals are absolutely huge (big males can weigh up to 309 pounds/140 kg) so it is quite impressive that they live at high altitudes (they have a double coat for warmth) and spend their days comfortably climbing steep rocky terrain. They have unique feet that provide non-slip traction and their legs are so strong they can lift themselves up using just one leg holding onto a ledge.
The Jaguar was something unique for me, such a beautiful looking animal. I got a very close experience with this jungle predator who posed for my camera at a very close range. I imagine it was purring away behind the glass.
Another highlight was watching a Sun Bear totally engrossed in eating a chunk of meat, he had all four paws latched onto it whilst laying on his back. He looked so happy! You couldn’t help but smile.
I was highly amused watching Humboldt Penguins being fed, they could have totally rushed the keepers bucket full of fish, but instead they were so orderly and patient. It was literally like a black tie dinner!
A massive beautifully coloured Python starting to eat a rabbit was also a strange highlight. It would stop and look at me through the glass every now and then. Quite fascinating really.
I spoke to many people while watching the animals, they nearly all said the same thing, that they had visited this zoo many times and there was always something new to see. I will have to return to the zoo on a summer day to see all the primates and great apes at play outside. That’s always fun and this really was a great zoo.