2 of the 9 sea turtles were loggerheads. These juvenile loggerheads were looked over by vet staff and given medications. They will be treated back to health at NOAA’s facility in Galveston.
6 of the 9 turtles were kemp’s ridleys. All 6 of these turtles were reported to NOAA because they were accidentally caught on recreational fishing hooks. Sea turtles will often eat bait from fishermen because it is an easy meal, however they can get caught and injured on the hooks and line. If reported by the public, like these turtles, the hooks can be removed and the turtles can be rehabilitated and released to the wild. NOAA was able to remove 3 of the hooks before arriving at the Zoo, 2 hooks were removed by Houston Zoo vet staff, and one turtle showed no signs of having an internal hook. Additionally, one of the hook and line turtles had small lesions on its’ flipper that were treated by the vet staff.
The final turtle to be seen by medical staff today was a small green sea turtle that was found wedged between rocks on the beach. It appeared very tired and in need of medical care. Houston Zoo vet staff prescribed medication and the turtle will be rehabilitated by NOAA staff in Galveston until healthy enough to be released.
We are so fortunate to have sea turtles in our Texas waters, and it is easy for us to all be sea turtle conservation heroes! A few simple actions taken by our community can help protect sea turtles in the wild:
If you accidentally catch a sea turtle while fishing, please call 1-866-TURTLE-5 so a biologist can come out and respond to the turtle-giving it adequate care and attention.
Switch from plastic grocery bags to reusable grocery bags-our plastic bags are light and fly away easily. They can end up in our bayous and float to the ocean. Sea turtles mistake them for jellyfish, and when ingested can make them sick.
If you eat seafood, choose ocean-friendly seafood! Download the FREE Seafood Watch app to use on your phone. It will help tell you what seafood is best to eat because it is caught or farmed in an ocean-friendly way that protects wildlife like sea turtles, dolphins, and sharks.
Recently, a local Houston student asked us for an email interview to help her complete an English essay. We thought we’d share her questions and our thoughts on the answers.
Why is it important to conserve our wildlife? Conserving wildlife is important for many reasons, and may depend on one’s culture, background, region, experiences, etc. Overall, conserving wildlife helps ensure our planet has biodiversity (the variety of life in a particular ecosystem). When biodiversity loss occurs, we upset the delicate balance of food chains and natural relationships and processes, which ultimately will impact humans. Humans depend on wildlife and natural habitats for so many of our resources (water, food, medicine, etc.) and by losing wildlife and the habitats they live in, we can lose some of the most important resources we need to survive. Additionally, in some locations protecting wildlife helps to protect critical habitats, which is also important for the survival of all species on our planet. Further, many people would argue that living things like animals deserve to be protected because they are part of our planet, part of our ecosystems, and are living, breathing beings that deserve respect. Many cultures and traditions believe animals to be sacred, and that they serve a purpose beyond what we can see.
What are the long-term benefits of conserving wildlife? As described above, long-term benefits of conserving wildlife include preserving our rich biodiversity for generations to come, ensuring protection and future use of important natural resources, and preserving important traditions and cultures that are deeply tied to wildlife and natural places.
What are the costs of conserving wildlife? If you mean financial costs, certainly they are high. Supporting field conservation efforts around the world is not cheap, however at the Houston Zoo we like to promote simple actions that don’t cost a lot of money that everyone can do to protect wildlife.
Do the benefits of conservation outweigh the costs? I may be a bit biased, but I believe so, or I wouldn’t be dedicating my career to this effort.
Should conservation be funded by a charity, the government, or some other source? I think it’s important to ensure every entity-whether it is charitable organizations, the government, NGO’s, etc. understands how wildlife and wild places relates to them so that they can see themselves as an important part of the solution, and will want to participate in conservation.
Is it important to educate kids and young adults on conservation? Why or why not? Absolutely! It’s important to bring everyone, no matter their age or background, into the conversation about saving wildlife. Making sure our natural places are protected is not solely up to younger generations, it’s a role we should all see ourselves in.
How should we educate the younger generation about conservation? We are finding out through current research that providing information doesn’t necessarily lead to people becoming better stewards for our environment. That is not to say providing information isn’t important, but it might be more effective if traditional education is paired with time spent outdoors in natural places, observing, playing and interacting. I think it’s also important that people learn about conservation through doing-being participants in conservation efforts rather than simply learning about them in a book.
Why are zoos so important to wildlife conservation? Zoos are critical in wildlife conservation for many reasons. First, we have the capacity and skills to breed animals and maintain healthy genetic pools, which (depending on the species) may be needed for the wild population. Also, we breed and release animals that are critically endangered to help ensure specific species do not go extinct (in Houston we do this with Houston toads and Attwater’s prairie chickens). Further, we use a portion of all the money made at the Zoo to support more than 30 conservation projects in 16 countries around the world. We also provide our staff skills to these projects to help them with everything from website design to animal husbandry. Finally, we support wildlife conservation by ensuring as many of our 2.5 million annual guests as possible understand how animals are impacted in the wild, while giving them specific actions they can take to help preserve wildlife in their daily lives.
How will conserving wildlife and habitats benefit the ecosystem? By ensuring we have as much species diversity as possible, we can ensure that habitats and the animals in them are thriving. A healthy ecosystem, full of diversity, creates a healthy planet for all of us.
Is this a good career field to enter into? Why or why not? Absolutely! However, we would like to emphasize that no matter what career you go into, you can be a conservationist. So, you could be a graphic designer, a public relations employee, or a teacher (anything!) and still incorporate conservation into your work and personal life. You certainly do not have to have a title like “conservation biologist” to help save wildlife. It’s up to all of us, no matter our career.
What is some advice you would give to someone interested in entering this field? My advice would be to get as much experience as possible-volunteer, intern, meet as many people in the field as possible and keep up with your network. Show your passion and hard work and you will be placed in positions that are right for you.
We’re excited to announce a new way to earn points in the Naturally Wild Swap Shop! Traders in the Swap Shop now have the option to spend 25 points in exchange for a small reusable bag to transport treasures they have found in nature. Here’s the best part: Each time the bag is used to bring items into the Swap Shop for a trade, traders earn 5 points! This new program shows the importance of reusable bags in protecting wildlife and rewards the kiddos that want to make a difference.
There is roughly 3.15 billion pounds of plastic in our oceans right now and the average American will add to this epidemic by throwing away approximately 185 pounds of plastic per year.
Wildlife like endangered sea turtles and other marine creatures often mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, one of their favorite foods. Recently, we made plastic bags extinct in our gift shops, encouraging adults to also opt for reusable bags to protect marine life.
The Houston Zoo also has an expanding collection of canvas bags artistically designed with images depicting the animals that benefit from a reduction of plastic bags in the ocean. The series includes sea lions, sea turtles, pelicans and more on the way!
The Houston Zoo cares about animals in the wild, and is taking steps to ensure that everything we do on Zoo grounds is done with the environment and wildlife in mind. If you have a surplus of used batteries, be them alkaline or rechargeable, you can take them to your local recycling center to ensure that the remaining chemicals and substances don’t harshly affect the wildlife that’s directly outside your doors!
Any battery that is disposed of in a landfill (like if you toss them in your normal trash), or that finds its way into the environment, has the potential to leak its old chemicals into the soils and waters that wildlife like amphibians call home.
Because amphibians like frogs, toads, even salamanders, have skin that can easily absorb liquids found in damp soils or the waters and streams they frequent, they can get sick from things like leaking batteries. Often, harsh or foreign chemical interactions can affect populations long-term by changing the behavior of animals, affecting female or male reproductive abilities or even influencing the development of eggs.
The Zoo works to help our local amphibians by recycling our alkaline and rechargeable batteries with a company that specializes in battery disposal. You can do the same by finding your local recycling center; if you’re in Houston you can go to the Westpark Consumer Recycling Center and they will take most options besides alkaline. You can also recycle more than the typical AA, AAA, C, and D batteries – items like power tools, cars, small electronics like tablets or smart phones, hearing aids, watches, and all manner of things take a variety of batteries.
By using rechargeable batteries you can also ensure that the materials that were mined to make your batteries last for a much longer time period than with single-use alkaline batteries. Rechargeable batteries will go dull over time, but you can get multiple uses out of them and lessen the stress on the environment by finding products and items that you can use over and over before recycling!
How Our Staff Recycles Batteries at the Zoo
On Zoo grounds we will often offer recycling information that you can see when you visit. We recommend you take your batteries to a local recycling center to ensure they don’t end up in landfills that can encroach on the space of wildlife as well as affect the soils and waters amphibians and other animals call home.
Behind the scenes, our staff utilize a special battery drop-off for spent batteries. By encouraging staff to recycle these items the Zoo is able to see how many batteries we use as an organization, and how many we use that are rechargeable! Alkaline batteries are not rechargeable, so taking a look at our staff battery needs shows us where we could potentially get more rechargeable batteries rather than single-use alkaline batteries. We can also weigh our battery recycling over time and see how much space we have saved in landfills and how many batteries have been prevented from harshly affecting our wildlife habitats.
Be Safe When Collecting Batteries for Recycling
Alkaline: these are more often the common batteries like AA, AAA, C, or D as well as 9-Volt. Do not store any of these batteries together without packaging. Once they have been used there is still potential for them to ‘pop’ open as there are residual chemicals that can be discharged and react with other batteries they are near. This could cause injury if someone is nearby. The 9-Volt batteries are commonly used in your fire alarms and are properly prepared for the recycling center by putting duct-tape over the positive and negative transistors (basically, the top two prongs need to be covered so they don’t come into contact with other batteries). Note that some centers do not accept alkaline batteries for recycling.
Rechargeable: these batteries are widely used in items like power-tools, phone batteries, laptop batteries, or even your more common AA, AAA, C, D, and 9-Volt options. There are no alkaline battery options that cannot be replaced with rechargeable options. You will find rechargeable batteries in forms of Nickel Cadmium (NiCd), Lithium-ion (Li-ion), and Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH). All of these batteries have the potential to get hot and should be packaged separately from each other in preparation for recycling; Li-ion should be particularly tended to in ensuring there is no other metal or battery contact once discharged.
Each year, the Houston Zoo hosts our Action for Apes cell phone recycling contest. From January-April, local schools and other community organizations collect cell phones and other small electronics to be recycled and reused. Small electronics contain a material called tantalum, which is mined in Central Africa where animals like gorillas, okapis and mandrills live. By recycling electronics we can reduce the demand for tantalum, helping to protect wildlife habitat.
This year, the winner of Action for Apes was Incarnate Word Academy in Corpus Christi. In addition to recycling more than 530 electronic devices to save wildlife, one of the 6th grade classes did a special English unit on the book, “The One and Only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate. This book is inspired by a true story of a gorilla that lived most of its’ life alone in a circus-themed mall. Students at Incarnate Word Academy read the book and researched wildlife conservation. They focused on gorillas and elephants and created reports about what they learned. Here are a few of the reports from these young conservation heroes!
This project was created by James Edge, Charlie Flood, and Alex Alonso-Bauer:
“We have all learned a lot about the importance of gorillas, a now endangered species. During the course of this project, we had fun learning and even learned the importance of teamwork. This project taught us to be mindful and not to just look out for ourselves in this world. Gorillas need our help. We need to raise awareness about poaching, animal cruelty, and the decline of gorillas, elephants, rhinos, and other critically endangered species. In the future, we will help by raising awareness and donating to organizations that will help gorillas and other animals alike. We have to stop the abuse and the decline of these innocent animals.”
This project was created by Adriana Wilde, Amanda Montgomery, and Andrea Reyes:
“This project has been an amazing experience to learn from. We learned that gorillas are magnificent, interesting, and fascinating creatures. However, there are people that kill animals for profit and do not think twice about it. We also learned that working as a group is very important because you tend to look at things differently. It taught us that by taking even the smallest of steps, you can still change the world. This project impacted us in a unique way, especially Ivan’s inspiring story. He inspired many people across the country with this story. It never stops amazing us how all that’s needed to save gorillas is to start a simple conversation about them. We hope other students all over the world could learn the same lessons we have learned in the course of this project. There is no doubt they will become inspired and want to make a change as well. In the future, we will really do our best to raise awareness about poaching elephants for their ivory. We will also tell everyone, from our friends to our next door neighbors, about gorillas and their crisis. Gorillas are very important to our ecosystem, so please, let’s work together to help get these animals off the endangered species list.”
This project was created by Patrick Ficenec and Demitri Lopez:
“From this project, we’ve learned many things about gorillas, such as their habitat, diet, socialization, behavior, and many other interesting facts. It was really cool to research and see how gorillas behave, and how similar they are to humans. We didn’t’ realize how close gorillas are to extinction until we started this project. There are only about 100,000 gorillas left in the world. The mountain gorillas are critically endangered, with less than 900 left in the world. From this point, and in the future, we will continue to educate people about the plight of gorillas and other apes. We want to work to save these animals before they are extinct.”
The Houston Zoo would like to thank the students and teachers at Incarnate Word Academy in Corpus Christi for their tremendous work to save gorillas and other animals in the wild. You too can take action to save wildlife by recycling your small electronics at the front entrance of the Zoo and holding off on buying new electronics until it is absolutely necessary!
The Houston Zoo cares about animals in the wild and is working within our global community to help wildlife. There are many ways to affect wildlife, and we work with all types of groups that are using innovative and effective ways to keep our world healthy for all of its inhabitants.
Something that all of our friends, groups, partners, and even visitors have in common is trash, plastics in particular…but what does that have to do with saving wildlife? Our wild animals come into contact with a lot of our trash; our friends in Africa have seen giant elephants grab plastic bags that are tangled in grasses thinking that it’s food, and our local friends in Galveston have seen our Texas sea turtles eat plastic bags floating in the ocean because they look like a tasty jellyfish.
This league is connecting two areas that don’t seem like they’d work together, robotics and waste, to make a beautiful solution to help save wildlife! There are some innovative ways that robots can help us to protect wildlife, from using drones to gauge poaching areas to creating robotic fish that measure ocean health, and this league is a group of students that is putting their brains together to come up with more ways that robotics can help our animals and our Earth. This is the first installation of a blog series that will track what the league is doing, why they are doing it, and how you can help out too!
Please welcome our guest bloggers for this series, the Jersey Voltage Purple FIRST Lego League Robotics Team:
Hi there! We are the Jersey Voltage Purple FIRST Lego League (FLL) robotics team. We are a team of 10 students who live in Jersey Village, Texas and we are here to not only talk about trash (plastics in particular); but we are here to clean it up or at the least create excitement and awareness of the world’s plastics. We’re working on a project now, so photos are to come, but below you can check out why we chose to focus on plastics and see some great pictures of us while in the brainstorming stage!
Did you know that the very first plastic was developed in Britain way back in 1862, and plastics were exhibited at the Great Exhibition in London?! Plastics are used in many important ways that help humans and animals stay healthy, like in the medical field, and use of plastics exploded in the first decade after World War II. Just in the past 30 years, the plastic industry has gotten huge and includes many plastic products that could potentially be replaced by reusable items, like reusable water bottles or plastic bags.
This explosion of the use of plastics greatly impacts our eco-system and affects our wildlife. All of us have used many water bottles in our lifetime, but how many of those bottles have been made of plastic? Last year, the average American used 167 disposable plastic water bottles, but only recycled 38. Do you know how many get into our eco-system? Of the millions of water bottles used every day, most of them will eventually end up in an animal’s environment. So we’re here to help. Many people are trying to limit the amount of plastic they use, and some have come up with some pretty creative solutions to this somewhat overwhelming problem!
Take Action Now: You can save wildlife today by using a reusable tote for your groceries instead of single-use plastic bags. You can also exchange your single-use plastic bottles for a long-term refillable bottle. Visit the Houston Zoo’s Take Action page and find out what else you can do!
In our next blog we will tell you about a few ideas that we uncovered in our research and what we’ve been working on with our robotics to help save wildlife! So stay tuned, more to come and plenty to do!
Founded in 1989 and based in Manchester, NH, FIRST is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit public charity designed to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology, and to motivate them to pursue education and career opportunities in STEM fields.
At the Houston Zoo we are passionate about the animals in our care, the animals they represent in the wild, and the challenges they face in their native homes. One of the biggest responsibilities we have at the Zoo is to tell the stories of wildlife around the globe, connect them to our animals at the Zoo, and encourage our community to take action to help!
Locally, the Houston Zoo is very proud of our partnership with numerous organizations to save sea turtles. To celebrate the achievements of our local community in saving sea turtles, the Houston Zoo designed a comic book to tell this important conservation story in a fun and interesting way! The comic book, “Saving Wildlife: Sea Turtle Edition” focuses on a family visiting Galveston who happens to find an injured sea turtle that needs help. You’ll have to pick up your very own copy of the comic book in the Zoo’s Naturally Wild Swap Shop to find out the rest of the story, but you will not be disappointed! Simply visit the Zoo’s Swap Shop (in the Children’s Zoo) and say this secret code (tortuga power!) to receive your copy of this limited edition comic book!
Make sure to check out the back inside cover page where you can learn how to take action to help save sea turtles locally. By filling out this page and bringing it back to the Zoo’s Naturally Wild Swap Shop (open daily 9:00 – 11:45 a.m. and 1:00 – 3:45 p.m.) you can earn points to be used to swap for cool items like rocks, fossils and bones!
What’s happening again?
What: Limited edition “Saving Wildlife: Sea Turtle Edition” comic book
Where: Houston Zoo’s Naturally Wild Swap Shop
Why: Learn about our local sea turtles, the challenges they face in the wild, what the Zoo and other partners are doing to help, and how you can help! Plus, you can earn points to use in the Swap Shop just by reading and learning from a comic book!
How: Visit the Swap Shop and say the secret code (tortuga power!) to Houston Zoo staff to receive your comic book.
When: Comic books available starting today! The Swap Shop is open daily 9:00am-11:45 am and 1:00pm-3:45pm.
Palm oil is a common ingredient in everyday items like candy, chocolate, shampoo, snacks, and lots more. It is found in so many products, there is a good chance that you have already eaten or used something with palm oil in it today! Because palm oil can be so widely used, the demand is rapidly increasing and huge areas of pristine tropical forests are being cut down to make more palm oil plantations.
The good news is that a growing group of people are working to protect these areas and the animals who live there. Some large American companies are now switching to more responsible practices, and there is growing support for the movement to produce palm oil in a way that does not harm wildlife or their habitat. Pursuing deforestation-free palm oil is a lengthy process that spans the globe and addresses every link of the supply chain beginning on plantations in the tropics, through factories in North America, to its final destination on shelves in your local store.
Here’s a look at how one company, General Mills, is doing it:
Since the summer of 2014, more than 5,000 visitors to zoos in Portland, Tacoma, Houston and Philadelphia have thanked General Mills for pursuing deforestation-free palm oil. You can join in the movement and send a message to General Mills on our website!
Here’s what General Mills had to say: “We share your concern about deforestation and its negative impact on biodiversity. For this reason, it matters to us that our palm oil purchases do not harm the world’s rainforests.
While General Mills is a relatively small user of palm oil, we are committed to sourcing 100% of our palm oil from responsible and sustainable sources. We are making good progress towards our goal: in 2014, we sourced 83% of our palm oil sustainably.
Thanks again for taking time to voice your support. We appreciate it and believe that together, we can protect and conserve the natural resource upon which we all depend.”
I am not completely technologically challenged but my iPhone feels that I am. Auto Correct can be helpful, except apparently to me. So when I type in “What would you like for dinner” and the message that goes out is “I have a lamb named Lew Alcinder” you can understand why my wife does not respond.
And this is exactly what has happened to wildlife much in part due to our news leading off with every bad story they can find. We no longer pay attention and respond. Organizations and media follow this path and every bad bit of news is right there at your fingertips. How does that make you feel? Helpless? Hopeless? Not your problem?
96 elephants die every day for the ivory trade to be made into carvings in people’s homes.
5 rhinos die every day so their horns can be used in “traditional” medicine.
4,000 endangered Philippine Pond Turtles were confiscated in May on their way to being someone’s dinner in another country.
The Pangolin: the world’s most heavily traded mammal. 1 million animals lost in the last 10 years so their scales can be used for medicine and their bodies for soup.
How in the world is any of this going to make you believe you can make a difference? It makes you sad, upset, and confused (What is a Pangolin!!) but it also makes you move on to the next media story because you see no simple action that will make a difference. And if you cannot make a difference in the lives of elephants, rhinos, turtles and pangolins, how can you be inspired to care? Basically, we have a smaller attention span than a gnat these days and creating a simple action to help save animals in the wild is the difference between tuning out and caring.
So the world needs an Auto Correct.
You know right from wrong so I am not going to tell you what you should not do (do not buy ivory, stop eating shark fin soup…sorry, I will stop right there).
What if you recycled your cell phone and electronics? They are oddly connected to gorillas, okapi and elephants in Central Africa through the product in their circuit boards. Closer to home, you do not want all of that electronic waste in the landfill finding its way into our waterways and eventually the Gulf of Mexico so recycling once again is a simple solution. http://www.houstonzoo.org/saving-wildlife/take-action/
On July 1, we will begin asking shoppers to find alternate ways to take their merchandise home from the Zoo’s Gift Shop. Why you ask? Plastic pollution is harmful to wildlife such as sea turtles and pelicans. Known to many as “the world’s most preventable problem,” plastic pollution has grown exponentially over the last 50 years suffocating our oceans. While that sentence is full of disheartening truth the reality is that all hope is not lost!
Plastic most definitely enters oceans via activity on land. The miracle polymer that has provided humans with engineering and medical advances certainly has a place in the world. Can you imagine a hospital without a sterile IV? However, the single-use, throw away items could be used less. Drink lids, straws, and single-use plastic bags are some of the most prevalent items found floating in the open ocean. The good news is they all have reusable options! So what happens to the plastic when its time on land is done and it makes its way out to sea? It will eventually, though it may take years, make its way to one of the five gyres. These gyres are located in the North and South Pacific Oceans, the North and South Atlantic Oceans, and the Indian Ocean. Think of a gyre as a huge tornado of currents that pulls in the plastic aimlessly floating around. Plastics in our oceans harm wildlife and are susceptible to removal by animal consumption. Laysan albatross are attracted to colorful plastic pieces that look like small fish and sea turtles may confuse a plastic bag with a tasty jellyfish. Not only do marine animals have to watch out for plastics they can see, but an even more substantial issue is the plastic they can’t see. Plastic never REALLY goes away. It’s so efficient in its construction that it only breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, but never actually biodegrades. Instead, it becomes microplastic. Small enough to integrate into schools of phytoplankton and krill, microplastics then become a part of one of the largest part of the ocean’s food chain and are ingested by whales and other marine wildlife.
Such a huge problem seems like it can never be solved, but that is not the case. By taking action and making small choices in your everyday life YOU can be a part of the solution! Use a reusable shopping bag and water bottle, politely decline straws and drink lids, and buying products that don’t contain microbeads are easy, everyday choices all of us can make that add up to big solution.
The Houston Zoo wants to be a part of the solution. Next time you visit the Zoo gift shop bring your own resuable bag, buy one of the reusable options if you don’t already have one, or decline the use of a bag completely. Thank you for taking action and helping save wildlife.
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Don't miss this great event!Spring is coming, and so is Houston’s rainy season! This year you could save $$$ and protect the health our Bay by using a rain barrel! Go to galvbay.org/hzrbw and sign up to attend our Houston Zoo Rain Barrel Workshop (sponsored by LyondellBasell) on Saturday, April 8th! ... See MoreSee Less