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ANIMAL KEEPER PROFILES

 

With the zoo closed, we continue to think of ways to bring the zoo to you. Below, you will find glimpses into the lives of five of our dedicated animal keepers.

We are all in this together and will come through it together! Thank you for supporting the work of the zoo.

 

 

Celine Pardo

 

Caring for the Playful Penguins

What is your name and what animals do you work with at the zoo?

My name is Celine and I am the primary keeper for our Humboldt penguins. As a kid I visited a zoo and was inspired to help save wildlife, and I am now living my dream job. I encountered many barriers along the way, being a young person of Hispanic descent, but my passion for biology and conservation helped me overcome these challenges.

When I interact with children of all backgrounds and abilities at the zoo and see how their faces light up when learning about our amazing animals, it makes it all worth it.

How do you provide excellent, individualized care to so many playful penguins?

There is never a dull moment in the life of a penguin keeper. Penguins are very busy, intelligent, social and inquisitive animals. Their personalities are all so different and some demand more attention than others! Meticulous record keeping is essential so that we can provide the best possible care to each individual in every stage of their life. It is also important for us keepers to communicate with each other and with the animal health department as it truly takes a team to provide the standard of care that we do.

How do you keep them entertained?

It's not always easy! Penguins are very curious by nature, have excellent eye sight and hearing, and are just very active. We offer various types of natural and non-natural enrichment and training activities and give them access to behind-the-scenes areas throughout the day to keep them busy and stimulated. One aspect of their habitat at Woodland Park Zoo is their interactions with guests at the viewing glass. Without our visitors, we keepers have become their main focus and source of stimulation.

Is there anything else you would like our community to know?

I would love to say a huge thank you to our supporters, guests, volunteers, staff, neighbors, partners, and anyone who has visited or supported our community zoo. I chose to work at a place where people of all ages and walks of life can come together and share stories, explore, learn, and celebrate the wonders of the world we live in and the animals we share it with. Thank you for being there for us during this difficult time.

And a heartfelt embrace goes out to all first responders, healthcare professionals, fellow essential workers, and everyone who helps serve, protect and provide for our community. You are not alone and your service will not be forgotten.

 

Evan Lawrence

 

Caring for the Amazing Ambassador Animals

What is your name and what animals do you work with at the zoo?

My name is Evan and I am privileged to work with our ambassador animals! The ambassador animal team is made up of everything from snakes to owls to our porcupine, Skyáana.

What is your favorite part about working with ambassador animals?

The ambassador animal team specializes in going out into the community, and so a part of my job is spending a lot of time interacting and practicing with each individual animal. My absolute favorite part is taking our animals to classrooms and getting to share my passion with all of you. We try to make every day interesting and fun!

Have our animals noticed a difference during the zoo closure?

We have been as careful as possible and are conserving our resources as supplies become more scarce, but I am pleased to say that your zoo is meeting their goals and the animals don't seem to notice anything different! They do seem to miss the entertainment of our visitors, but they are adapting well and enjoying some extra time with us exploring an empty zoo. I work closely with our pot-bellied pigs, Annabelle and Bailey, and it was so fun to do a little detour on our daily stroll to visit the Asian small-clawed otters in Banyan Wilds.

Speaking of Annabelle and Bailey, what is one of the most memorable moments you have had with our curious pot-bellied pigs?

Annabelle and Bailey are quite fun to train and interact with, and very early on they learned a "shake and toss" behavior in which they take flowers with their mouths and shake to toss them into the air. Over a year later, I was trying to train them to hold, carry, and retrieve an item and they would randomly decide that it was more fun to give it the ol' shake and toss! They have a great memory and know how to have fun.

 

Joanna Klass

 

Caring for the Wonderful Myriad of Waterfowl

What is your name and what animals do you work with at the zoo?

My name is Joanna and I am the zoo's waterfowl keeper, which means I care for all of the birds in the wetland habitats, including our screamers, geese, swans and flamboyant flock of 38 flamingos. I am also part of our Avian Incubation and Rearing Team, which cares for many of the baby birds at the zoo.

What are some daily keeper tasks that the public may not be aware of?

Training is incorporated into feeding routines, which involves asking birds to swim to or stand in certain areas, step onto a scale and enter a kennel voluntarily. These trainings ensure that our animals are active and willing participants in their own care. I also carry out seasonal tasks such as nest checks, caring for ducklings and goslings, and adding new habitat elements, such as logs, perches and plants.

What is the most memorable moment you've had with the animals you work with?

I would have to say when we successfully hatched and raised three southern screamer chicks at the end of 2018. It was the first time since 2005 that Woodland Park Zoo had screamer chicks, so we were all quite excited. They can be a bit tricky to raise, but their parents Mork and Mindy did great! They were fantastic parents to Ryan Gosling, Bacher and Furiosa.

I've always been fascinated by eggs and the entire hatching process. Providing the perfect nest boxes or the ideal mud mixture is like a puzzle and the reward is more happy, healthy birds! I have always believed that birds will successfully reproduce when all of their needs are being met.

What brings you hope during this time of crisis?

It warms my heart whenever community members pass by the zoo and stop to ask how the animals and keepers are doing. I want to send out a big thank you for supporting your zoo family. We can’t wait to begin sharing the animals’ stories with you in person again soon!

 

Judy Sievert

 

Caring for the Growing Gorilla Troop

What is your name and what animals do you work with at the zoo?

My name is Judy and I have worked at Woodland Park Zoo since 1978 and with the gorillas since 1984, and I am still learning more about them all the time.

How does the care you provide differ from the older gorillas and the younger gorillas?

In general, all care is provided with an individualized approach and not solely based on age. We prepare their diets, clean their habitats and make their living areas comfortable and interesting: all based on what we know is healthy and aligns with their observed preferences. An example of how we tailor care for our older gorillas is what we do with our dear 50-year-old Amanda. When the others are outside, we give her some special attention that we know she loves! She has become blind in the past year and can no longer be with the other gorillas in the outdoor areas to browse for food. To help fill that social deficit, I sit and talk with her while she eats, and in response, she will content grunt. Content grunting is a gurgling, purring sound gorillas make when they relax and eat together. It lets the family know that all is well.

How has the care you provide changed since the COVID-19 crisis began?

Since humans and primates are so similar in biology, we have always worn protective equipment when working closely with them as to not risk sharing any of our germs. The thought of one of the gorillas getting sick is our biggest worry. Gorillas are very social, like humans, and would have a hard time social distancing and may not understand why they can't be with the rest of their family.

What is it like having a new baby gorilla in the troop?

I feel so privileged to know our Seattle gorillas and have seen many babies grow up and become mothers, including Uzumma who just gave birth to the healthy baby boy on March 4. Uzumma is the daughter of Amanda, and watching her become a secure, loving gorilla mom just like her mother has been a joy. I am excited about the next few months when our baby boy is more independent and starts moving around.

I really miss talking with our visitors and I can't wait to share more about the new baby boy gorilla in person. We think the gorillas miss our visitors too as they get a lot of enjoyment from seeing people. Yola especially loves interacting with children through the viewing glass and it will be so fun to see how this new baby interacts with Yola and the children as well!

 

Rosalyn Bass-Fournier

 

Caring for the 3-year-old Rhinos, Taj and Glenn

What is your name and what animals do you work with at the zoo?

My name is Rosalyn and I have worked at Woodland Park Zoo since 1992. During that time, I have worked across the majority of animal areas but I currently have the pleasure of working with our 3-year-old rhino friends, Taj and Glenn.

What are some of your daily keeper tasks?

My daily tasks surround the care of our lovable rhino boys, which include observing their behaviors, providing nutritious foods, cleaning their habitat and providing enrichment that promotes good mental health and physical stimulation.

What is your favorite part about working with Taj and Glenn?

I enjoy providing snacks by hand and they definitely enjoy it too! I also love to massage the very soft skin under their "armor-like" folds of thick skin. Although I am maintaining a safer distance from them now, they are still receiving excellent care during this time of crisis for so many.

Speaking of this time of crisis, what has been most challenging for you?

The most challenging part for me is the worry I have for my family members who are all on the front lines in the medical profession and working long hours.

ALERT: We will be closing at 2:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day - Thursday, November 26, 2020.