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Zoo News
Oct 20, 2021

“I love Tippy and Tippy loves me.” Meet Liam Parnell. He’s a sweet boy who really, really loves sharks, especially the blacktip reef shark at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium that he’s nicknamed Tippy. He even sends Valentine’s Day cards to Tippy every year. “I met Tippy when I was 2 and now I’m 12,” … Continued

Oct 20, 2021

More than 21,500 people have come eye-to-eye with the sharks at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in an underwater cage to see nurse, sandbar, blacktip reef, sand tiger and zebra sharks cruise by. Divers from 8 to 90-years-old have learned about what it takes to help sharks in the wild. We asked two of the … Continued

Oct 20, 2021

It’s National Veterinary Technician Week Oct. 17-23, and we’re celebrating our wonderful veterinary technicians with a virtual thank-you card. Keepers, curators and veterinarians all weighed in to thank our superhero vet techs Julie Lemon and Sara Dunleavy for all they do to care for animals and help staff: prepping for procedures, monitoring animal vitals and … Continued

Oct 13, 2021

After 32 hardworking years, the popular South Pacific Aquarium at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium needs some love. On November 15, the aquarium will close for restoration and repair of critical animal-care structures, habitats and life support systems, to reopen in 2023 with exciting new species, upgraded systems and immersive South Pacific-themed art. “This is … Continued

Oct 12, 2021

Get your timed online tickets now for the longest-running light show in the region! Zoolights is back at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium Nov. 26-Jan. 2 (closed Dec. 24 & Dec. 25). The holiday tradition boasts more than 700,000 colorful LED lights and dozens of dazzling 3-D animal light displays. Zoo guests will see favorite … Continued

Oct 12, 2021

Black cats, pumpkins, ghosts… skulls and skeletons. They’re all symbols of the Halloween season. We asked Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium’s head veterinarian, Dr. Karen Wolf, to give us an “inside” look at a few of the Zoo’s animals and their not-so-spooky skeletons. Dr. Wolf regularly takes radiographs or X-rays of the animals to check … Continued

Oct 04, 2021

Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium staff are mourning the loss of Kirana, a female  Sumatran tiger who died this morning after experiencing severe injuries during a breeding introduction as part of a plan to help save her endangered species. Six-year-old Kirana sustained life-threatening injuries from Raja, the zoo’s two-year-old male Sumatran tiger. A necropsy, or … Continued

Sep 29, 2021

Blizzard, a 25-year-old polar bear at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, has been diagnosed with liver cancer and will receive chemotherapy treatment and other supportive care to slow progression of the disease. The zoo’s head veterinarian, Dr. Karen Wolf, said Blizzard had elevated liver enzymes on his recent bloodwork and was showing signs of nausea. … Continued

Sep 27, 2021

On a rainy, late-summer morning in Tacoma, keeper Cindy is watching the puffins. She’s drenched, but that’s just part of the job she loves. The “unglamorous” part of keeper life some would say, but Cindy doesn’t mind. On this drizzly day, it’s her responsibility to keep a close eye on the horned puffling (puffin chick) … Continued

Sep 23, 2021

Russell Pharr, a staff biologist at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, was recently appointed to the Board of Directors of the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK). AAZK supports zookeepers through professional development opportunities and supports deserving conservation projects. AAZK has over 100 local chapters across the U.S. and Canada, including the Point Defiance AAZK … Continued

Sep 21, 2021

Heavy as velvet, a bumblebee bounces over yellow coneflower petals. Next door a golden honeybee dives headfirst into a red salvia blossom to sip. And across the pathway, a hummingbird zips and chitters. The Nature Play Garden at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium might not be ready for human guests yet, but it’s buzzing – … Continued

Sep 20, 2021

Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium is home to three sea otters in the Rocky Shores habitat. Every September, one week is dedicated to bringing awareness to sea otters. Sea otters are endangered, having been hunted nearly to extinction for their thick fur. Now protected, they are still at great risk from oil spill, parasites that … Continued

Sep 13, 2021

It’s one of the fastest-growing plants in the world. It’s used for buildings, dishes, musical instruments. It’s food for animals and people. And there are over 45 types at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. We’re talking bamboo, that leggy, elegant plant known for both lush garden vibes as well as gardener headaches if it gets … Continued

Sep 08, 2021

Happy Howl-o-ween! Dress up like a cat (meow-lo-ween!), monkey, elephant or whatever your favorite animal is and then see that same real-life animal at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium during Zoo Boo weekend, Oct. 16-17. The annual fun, fall-themed weekend is always a hoot among parents, kids and Zoo staff. Even the animals get a … Continued

Sep 08, 2021

Just above floor level at the Red Wolf Woods habitat, a young girl crouches low. Open-mouthed in wonder, she slowly runs her fingers over the soft snout of a sleeping red wolf pup. But the pup doesn’t snap – or even stir. It’s “Just Settling In,” a near-life-size sculpture set deliberately within reach of curious … Continued

Aug 27, 2021

What’s the best way to take your first swim? Well, if you’re a hand-reared penguin chick, you find a penguin buddy. On a hot day in August, penguin chick Rio had his first swim session in a behind-the-scenes pool at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium – and his buddy was big sister penguin Maxine … Continued

Aug 26, 2021

What better way to go back-to-school than at an aquarium? Here at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, we have two huge aquariums to choose from, with schools of fish to make any Dr. Seuss fan happy! Here’s our version of the familiar classic. Read, then come and meet all the characters in real life, at … Continued

Aug 24, 2021

After a week of public voting, fans chose Gertie as the name for the new giant Pacific octopus in the Pacific Seas Aquarium at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. The name was one of six names chosen by aquarists. Over 7,100 votes came in online during the week, and the race was close. Gertie topped … Continued

Aug 16, 2021

On an overcast morning, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium’s jelly team readies their boat and heads out into Puget Sound to a cove between Vashon and Maury Islands. The goal: collecting moon jellies. Moon jellies are plentiful in the waters around the Pacific Northwest and the jelly team will try to collect up to 100 … Continued

Aug 16, 2021

Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium is inviting the community to help name the new female giant Pacific octopus inside the Pacific Seas Aquarium. The zoo’s aquarists have chosen six names and are asking the public to vote for their favorite. Those names are: Gertie: referring to the Tacoma legend that the largest octopus in the … Continued

Aug 13, 2021

As a powerful heat wave hits the greater Tacoma area with temperatures nearing 100-degrees, keepers at both Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma, Wash. and Northwest Trek Wildlife Park in Eatonville, Wash. are finding ways to keep the animals cool. At Point Defiance Zoo, 2-month-old penguin chick Rio is just learning how to swim … Continued

Aug 11, 2021

Whenever Friday the 13th rolls around, even the least superstitious of us might look askance at a black cat or shiver at an owl hoot. But animal superstitions, although fun, can cause pretty bad luck for the wildlife who cross their paths. After all, we live in a world where 350,000 tourists can visit Scotland … Continued

Aug 03, 2021

Clouded leopards are endangered. Their tropical forests are being cut down for logging, human habitat and to grow palm oil, a common food product. Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium plays a huge role in the conservation of clouded leopards in the wild. The Zoo is part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP) that keeps zoo … Continued

Jul 27, 2021

Human athletes might be battling it out for medals at the Olympic Games in Japan this month, but here at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, we have our own incredible athletes to celebrate: our animals! Who can leap the furthest? Climb the highest? Who’s the fastest swimmer, the cleanest diver, the most agile? Check out … Continued

Jul 26, 2021

Faced with the knowledge that only 400 animals of a vital species were left in the whole world, what would you do? Would you help them have more cubs? Try to build up their habitat and prey? Make sure nobody killed them unnecessarily? The answer is all three – and that’s exactly what organizations around … Continued

Jul 26, 2021

From around a corner, two little faces peer out. Eyes are bright, noses sniff inquisitively. Then out pour two lithe otters, like a rivulet of the water they love to play in. It’s Arista and Javin, two new Asian small-clawed otters who’ll debut this week in the Asian Forest Sanctuary of Point Defiance Zoo & … Continued

Jul 22, 2021

Zookeepers and the animals they love What’s the animal you feel most deeply inside? The one you connect with, love, relate to, share traits with? For National Zookeeper Week 2021, we asked our assistant curators that very same question. Then our incredible staff photographer Katie Cotterill took portraits of both keeper AND animal, superimposing them … Continued

Jul 19, 2021

What do you do if your 760-pound male muskox refuses to do what you ask him? Well, if you’re a zookeeper, you have other strategies in your pocket. For keeper Piper, who cares for muskoxen, clouded leopards and an elephant at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, it’s all in a day’s work. 7am Piper’s day … Continued

Jul 19, 2021

Two things make zookeeper life in the Asian Forest Sanctuary quite different from anywhere else at Point Defiance Zoo: lots of meat, and lots of doors. And in a typical day at work, keeper Sam handles both of them with ease – not to mention tigers, tapirs and porcupines. 7:30am In summer, Sam and her … Continued

Jul 16, 2021

It’s hard to describe the awe when you stand at the Baja Bay window in Point Defiance Zoo’s Pacific Seas Aquarium and watch spotted eagle rays swoop through blue water overhead. But Tyler, one of the zoo’s aquarists, gets an even more immersive experience: waist-deep in their 80-degree water, feeling velvety noses as they munch … Continued