Party Animals

How the Oregon Zoo Won Twitter

#rateaspecies is a reason to love the internet.

By Amy Martin May 22, 2018 Published in the June 2018 issue of Portland Monthly

0618 dispatch rate a species qlizca

Shervin Hess was doing some shopping online for hiking boots. He had a minor epiphany while scanning some of the reviews: boots that were described as built for winter, waterproof, available only in brown....

That’s basically an otter, he thought.

He would know. After 10 years directing PBS docs in New York and a stint working for Oregon Public Broadcasting, the Lake Oswego High grad took a job overseeing social media and video content for the Oregon Zoo—home to several otters, including Ziggy (no. 6, above). 

TLDR: he spends his days filming, photographing, and writing about the zoo’s residents. He also runs the zoo’s (fantastic) Twitter account, which he set aflame in March with a series of tweets hashtagged #rateaspecies, an inspired coupling of banal Amazon review language and pics of some of his favorite fauna. “I thought it would be a funny way to tweet about biodiversity,” Hess says. The tweets took off, and soon other wildlife orgs across the nation joined in. (Monterey Bay Aquarium’s one about a mola mola is a gem—look it up.) 

His favorite colleague? “It’s a toss-up between river and sea otters. It’s the deadly combination of cuteness, playfulness, and Northwestness,” Hess says of #rateaspecies’s original muse. “They basically evolved to boost engagement.”

Match the @OregonZoo tweet to the picture above.

A. LOVE these. Must-have on all outdoor adventures. Keeps bugs off even when wet. Cordless.

B. This stylish little unit is amazing. Sound quality A+. No distortion at full volume but bass is a little weak. Top rotates which is a plus.  

C. Overall very good first impressions. Sturdy built, totally winter-ready and waterproof. Only comes in brown but that’s actually a plus for me.

D. Came with super cute case. Not the fastest but outlasts every comparable unit. Retractable accessories. Dropped into a pond and still works perfectly.

E. Cleanup is a breeze. Gets rid of really strong odors. WAY bigger than I expected. So glad they didn’t stop making these. On backorder now. 

F. Looked like this right out of the package. Started beeping but they said that was normal. Craftsmanship seems good. Fun.

Scroll down for answers...




Answers: A = 3 (big brown bat), B = 5 (pygmy owl), C = 6 (river otter), D = 1 (western pond turtle, E = 4 (California condor), F = 2 (Humboldt penguin)

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