Now that my nieces are all grown up, I don’t get to the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium as much as I used to. In fact, the last time I went was in 2004, when the zoo opened its Sumatran tiger exhibit.
So I was pleasantly surprised Wednesday at the opening of Red Wolf Woods, the lovely new exhibit for the zoo’s mated pair of red wolves, Ocean Blue and Graham, and three other animals. The landscaping at the zoo seems lusher than I remember – with welcome signage on the plants. I was able to swing over to the Asian Forest Sanctuary and see the incredibly cute new tiger cubs, Bima and Mali, as they romped around and nursed on mother Jaya. If you haven’t seen them yet, go soon. They’re getting big fast.
Back at Red Wolf Woods, the mated pair in the new 7-acre exhibit seemed to be enjoying themselves, loping gracefully all around the natural setting, which includes a flowing stream, trees and grassy knolls. The crowd that came to see them at the opening didn’t seem to intimidate the pair, which exhibited playful behavior that looked a lot like courtship. That’s good news for zookeepers, who hope the pair will have a litter this spring.
The zoo also has three other wolves – sisters Nami, Tala and Mika – that live in an adjacent area. All five lived at Northwest Trek since July 2009 while the $1.1 million Red Wolf Woods exhibit was being built.
The exhibit reflects a real conservation success story. In the 1970s, the red wolf population was down to about 14 animals. Breeding programs at 40 zoos have increased the numbers to about 300 – to the point that some are being released into their natural habitat in South Carolina. Point Defiance’s program – which began in 1973 – has resulted in the release of four adult pairs.
The zoo is sure to have even more success now that it has such a large and beautiful space for its red wolves. Thanks go to all the donors, big and small, including the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, with the largest donation of $550,000; the Gary E. Milgard Family Foundation; Boeing; and 100 percent of zoo and Zoo Society staff.
Construction of the exhibit was paid for as part of the Zoo Society’s $7.15 million Vision for the Future capital fund-raising campaign – which is more than 80 percent of the way to its goal. The campaign also funded the second phase of Kids’ Zone and will enable the zoo to build a clouded leopard exhibit and fund an endowment.
Read Mike Archbold’s article about the exhibit here.