Woodland Park Zoo

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Woodland Park Zoo
Location Woodland Park, Seattle, Washington, USA
Coordinates 47°40′06″N 122°20′59″W / 47.66834°N 122.34984°W / 47.66834; -122.34984Coordinates: 47°40′06″N 122°20′59″W / 47.66834°N 122.34984°W / 47.66834; -122.34984
Land area 92 acres (37 ha)
Number of animals 1,098 [1]
Number of species 300 [1]
Memberships AZA[2]
Major exhibits Trail of Vines, Northern Trail, Tropical Rain Forest, Elephant Forest, African Savanna
Website www.zoo.org

Woodland Park Zoo is a zoological garden around the Phinney Ridge neighborhood of Seattle, Washington. Occupying the western half of Woodland Park, the zoo began as a small menagerie on the estate of Guy C. Phinney, a Canadian-born lumber mill owner and real estate developer. Opened in 1899, the 188-acre (76 ha) Woodland Park was sold to the city for $5,000 in cash and the assumption of a $95,000 mortgage on December 28, 1899, by Phinney's wife (Phinney had died six years earlier, in 1893). The sum was so large that the Seattle mayor (W. D. Wood) vetoed the acquisition, only to be overruled by the city council. In 1902, the Olmsted Brothers firm of Boston was hired to design the city's parks, including Woodland Park, and the next year the collection of the private Leschi Park menagerie was moved to Phinney Ridge.

As of the summer of 2010, the zoo includes 92 acres (37 ha) of exhibits and public spaces. It is open to the public daily,[3] and welcomed 1.05 million visitors in 2006. Its collection includes:

  • 1,090 animal specimens
  • 300 animal species
  • 35 endangered and 5 threatened animal species
  • 7,000 trees
  • 50,000+ shrubs and herbs
  • 1,000+ plant species

Exhibits at Woodland Park Zoo[edit]

Logo used until 2011
Keel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus), Tropical Rain Forest, Woodland Park Zoo

Woodland Park Zoo has won more Best National Exhibit awards from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums than any other zoological institution except the Bronx Zoo in New York[citation needed]. It has long been a pioneer in the field of immersion exhibits: Woodland Park Zoo created what is generally considered the world's first immersion exhibit, a gorilla habitat, which opened in the late 1970s under the direction of David Hancocks.[4]

  • Tropical Asia - this consists of two components. The first, Elephant Forest, won a national exhibit award when it opened in 1990. It features a 1.5-acre (0.61 ha) yard complete with a full-depth swimming pool for two female Asian elephants. The zoo has recently come under fire from animal-rights groups stemming from two incidents involving its elephants. Hansa, an Asian elephant born at the zoo in 2000, died in her sleep from a previously unidentified herpesvirus on June 8, 2007. To date, Hansa remains the only elephant born in Washington state history. A year earlier, the zoo chose to send another elephant, Bamboo, to Point Defiance Zoo in nearby Tacoma (the move did not ultimately work out and Bamboo is still at WPZ). The second part of the exhibit, Trail of Vines, takes the visitor on a journey through several different Southeast Asian rainforest habitats, featuring numerous endangered species. Beginning with Malayan tapirs, it moves on to lion-tailed macaques, Indian pythons, and finally large indoor/outdoor habitats for the siamangs and orangutans.
Brown Bear in Northern Trail area
  • African Savanna - This also earned national Best Exhibit honors. The first of its kind when it opened in 1980, WPZ's savanna inspired the building of similar exhibits across the country. The visitor enters through a model African village, which blends in elements of African culture as well as important messages about the human/animal balance in conservation. The main "savanna" houses giraffes, zebras, gazelles, oryxes, and ostriches, while two connected exhibits house hippopotamus and patas monkeys. As of May 2007, visitors may hand-feed the giraffes for a small fee. Hidden moats allow these yards to appear to be part of a continuous landscape. In addition to the herbivores, two separate yards are currently home to lions and cheetahs.
In summer 2007, Woodland Park Zoo revamped and highlighted its African Savanna exhibit as part of its Maasai Journey program, which featured a mix of cultural and animal-themed programs about the East African grasslands.
  • Temperate Forest- The Temperate Forest exhibit is home to a variety of animals from temperate regions of Asia, North America, and South America. It includes an aviary with a number of exotic birds, including hornbills and pheasants, as well as yards for cranes, Japanese Serows, Red Pandas, and a marsh exhibit featuring local waterfowl species. In 2008 a small exhibit was opened in the Temperate Forest area featuring Chilean flamingos and Southern Pudús, which have bred successfully at WPZ. A small alcove features interpretive exhibits on the zoo's efforts to restore the native western pond turtle.
Woodland Park Zoo Carousel
  • Other highlight animals at Woodland Park Zoo include Sumatran Tigers (which have bred several times in the past years), a Raptor Center and accompanying flight demonstration, and lowland anoa. Woodland Park Zoo is one of a handful of zoos outside Japan displaying Japanese Serows, a threatened relative of the mountain goat. Woodland Park Zoo also includes a "Family Farm" exhibit, Bug World, snow leopards, and several species of hornbills. In May 2010 the zoo added a new exhibit featuring meerkats to the "Adaptations" building; the exhibit features tunnels, a log den and accommodations for the animals that approximate their natural habitat.[7]
  • The zoo also houses a hand-carved carousel, originally built for the Cincinnati Zoo in 1918 by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, head carver John Zalar. In the 1970s, the carousel was moved to Santa Clara, California, where it operated into the 1990s. It was donated to Woodland Park Zoo by the Alleniana Foundation, and opened May 1, 2007 in a new pavilion on the zoo's North Meadow.
  • In May 2009, WPZ opened a new 17,000-square-foot (1,600 m2) Humboldt Penguin exhibit. The outdoor enclosure is designed to recreate the penguin's native habitat in Peru, and features cliffs and pools. The exhibit is also designed to use Green energy, such as geothermal power.[8]

Financial difficulties[edit]

On January 5, 2010 WPZ announced that due to the "difficult economy," they are closing their Night Exhibit.[9][10]

Notable animals[edit]

Bobo's successors live in a modern landscaped enclosure with glass panels that allow visitors to get up close without disturbing the gorillas.

From 1953 to 1968 WPZ was home to Bobo, a western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla, the same species as the gorillas currently living at the zoo). WPZ acquired Bobo from the Lowman family of Anacortes, Washington, who had purchased the gorilla as an infant from a hunter in Columbus, Ohio in 1951 and had raised him in their family home in Anacortes. Bobo drew many visitors to the zoo and was one of Seattle's main attractions in the years preceding the construction of Seattle Center and the expansion of major-league professional sports into the city; his popularity is credited with helping the zoo obtain funding to build a new primate house.

Anthropologist Dawn Prince-Hughes spent many years working at Woodland Park Zoo and observing the Western Lowland Gorillas there, which she wrote about in her book Songs of the Gorilla Nation: My Journey Through Autism.[11]


  1. ^ a b http://www.zoo.org/zoo_info/about.html retrieved October 22, 2006[dead link]
  2. ^ "List of Accredited Zoos and Aquariums". aza.org. AZA. Retrieved 25 February 2011. 
  3. ^ http://www.zoo.org/visit
  4. ^ Schaul, Jordan Carlton (2012-03-13), "A Critical Look at the Future of Zoos–An Interview with David Hancocks", National Geographic 
  5. ^ Seattle Department of Planning and Design
  6. ^ "13th Annual Thea Awards - Award for Outstanding Achievement - Zoomazium" (pdf). Themed Entertainment Association. Retrieved 2009-09-26. 
  7. ^ "Meerkats returning to Woodland Park Zoo". The Seattle Times. March 23, 2010. 
  8. ^ McKenzie, Madeline (April 30, 2009). "Penguin exhibit opens Saturday at Woodland Park Zoo". The Seattle Times. 
  9. ^ Woodland Park Zoo STATEMENT: Night Exhibit ("Nocturnal House") Closure, Woodland Park Zoo, 2010-01-05. Accessed online 2010-01-07.
  10. ^ "Woodland Park Zoo to close Night Exhibit". mynorthwest.co. Bonneville International. 21 January 2010. Retrieved 25 February 2011. 
  11. ^ Prince-Hughes, Dawn (1987). Songs of the Gorilla Nation. Harmony. p. 77. ISBN 1-4000-5058-8. 

External links[edit]