Water: The Science Beneath the Surface

This post written by Mike Fannin, Manager, Life Support Systems

Life Support Systems?! What the heck does that department do?  From filtration to chemistry, this blog series is a behind the scenes look into the Zoo’s most mysterious department.


Part I: Koi Stream in the John P. McGovern Children’s Zoo

As anyone with a pond knows, the battle to keep things looking good is a never-ending one. Water can turn green overnight, making it difficult to see fish, and a thick carpet of slime can appear, seemingly out of nowhere. Both of these situations arise from some sort of imbalance in the pond, but the culprit is the same – algae.

There are tens of thousands of types of algae in natural aquatic systems. Mother Nature keeps them in check (just like all other species on the planet) as other organisms compete for resources, food and living space. Man-made water features are not as diverse as they are in nature, so there is little to no competitive pressure; in an outdoor pond, algae are often free to run wild.

This was the case with the newly renovated Koi Stream feature in the Children’s Zoo. The filtration system was upgraded, which made quick work of the single-celled algae that is able to turn clear water into pea soup, but hair algae is not so easily controlled – it is not suspended in the water like the single-celled varieties. If left unchecked, it grows on everything, trapping detritus (such as leaves and leftover food), slowing water flow and clogging filter intakes. In short, it can be an aquatic nightmare.

Algae in the koi stream.

So… what to do? There are a lot of chemicals that can be added to the water to kill algae, but none will permanently solve the problem. In fact, most will end up spawning even more problems! Here at the Houston Zoo, we prefer to work smarter and do things naturally; we needed to create more biological diversity in our aquatic habitat, and we decided that a great start was the addition of a teeny tiny invertebrate, the amphipod.

Amphipods are micro-crustaceans found in aquatic environments all over the world and vary widely in their habits. Some eat plants, others are scavengers, some are fierce predators, and some are even parasites. We needed a plant-eating species to tackle our algae issues, so with a few ampiphods donated by a Zoo volunteer, we began with a 600mL beaker of water with a sprig of aquatic plant and dead oak leaves to hide in. We offered these amphipods different types of algae found in various aquatic systems throughout the Zoo, but they didn’t seem to like any of it… we would have to try another species of ampiphod. Next, we collected a different species of amphipod from the Zoo’s Reflection Pool and offered them the same array of algae that we gave the first group – they didn’t seem to care for anything until we gave them hair algae from the Koi Stream, which they ate immediately.  We continued to offer Koi Stream algae over the next couple of weeks to make sure the novelty didn’t wear off.  Not only were the amphipods devouring the algae, they were growing and reproducing – SUCCESS!

Now that we had found the type of amphipod to address our algae situation, we needed a lot more of them. Three, twenty gallon amphipod breeding aquariums were set up in a secret location (not many amphipods get to have gorillas for neighbors!) We added sponge filters, submersible heaters, and plants, plus leaf litter to make their new home complete. Then, we divided our small colony between the three tanks and added a few dozen individuals from the Reflection Pool to supplement the population.  Once a week, we harvested hair algae from the Koi Stream to feed our new friends and within a few months, the population exploded into the thousands! Now we had the numbers to keep the Koi Stream algae under control, but we didn’t have the habitat to support this large population of hungry crustaceans… We couldn’t put them to work until they had a place to call home.

Amphipods can easily swim around to search for food, but the adults and young need small, confined spaces to hide in. Their preferences are dense aquatic plants (especially the roots) and leaf litter. Leaf litter wasn’t a good choice for us because it could interfere with our ability to keep the filtration system running smoothly. The Koi Stream has some natural hiding spots, but not enough for the number of amphipods we need to effectively control algae. And plants? Sometimes it’s difficult to establish plants in a koi system because koi love to eat plants!

We needed something that would support aquatic plant life while somehow keeping the plants away from the fish, that would also conform to the long narrow shape of our koi exhibit. “Floating islands,” which are planters that float on the water’s surface, allowing plant roots easy access to stream water were our best choice. Not only was this the answer to all the needs listed above, but the dense mesh that makes up the islands also provides ample habitat for our amphipods!

As mentioned before, nature is all about balance. Waste products generated by fish supply nutrients for plant life, and the more fish you have in a body of water, the more nutrients are available. By adding more plants to our koi system, we limit the nutrients available to algae since they are in direct competition with the plants for food. The plants (and floating islands themselves) will also create shade, which will help decrease algal growth, since the algae typically prefers direct sun. Adding voracious algae-eaters, our army of amphipods, will ensure that any hair algae that does manage to grow in the stream will be kept under control. The expected result will be a healthy, well-balanced exhibit with crystal clear water, using nothing but simple filtration and biodiversity.

Be sure and visit often to monitor our improvements to the Zoo’s outdoor aquatic systems – and stay tuned for floating planter updates and photos in our next blog entry, Children’s Zoo Koi Stream: Part II!


The beautification of the Koi Stream in the John P. McGovern Children’s Zoo is an ongoing team project between the Houston Zoo Water Quality department, Horticulture department and Children’s Zoo husbandry staff.

A Week I Will Never Forget

This blog post was written by Sue Cruver, a Houston Zoo Travel Program participant who recently experienced the wonders of Yellowstone with the Houston Zoo. If you would like to travel with the Houston Zoo, please visit our travel site

It began sitting at my computer one day last fall. I was reading the latest online Houston Zoo newsletter when I saw a section called “Travel with the Houston Zoo.” Curious, especially because I had been thinking about taking a trip somewhere, I clicked on the page and started learning about the different excursions available to people like me – people who love animals and are concerned about their survival in the wild.

Bald eagle in Yellowstone. Photo credit: Sue Cruver Photography

When I read about an adventure to “Greater Yellowstone in Winter” to view the wildlife and learn about this outstanding ecosystem, I got excited. It was a trip conducted by Teton Science School’s (TSS) Wildlife Expeditions, based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and a Houston Zoo education and conservation partner.  For so many reasons, I knew it was something I had to do.  As a serious photographer, I envisioned capturing the beauty of the region and the wildlife that wintered there. So, on February 2, 2017, I boarded a plane to Bozeman, Montana for a week I will never forget.

Yellowstone. Photo credit: Sue Cruver Photography

Winter weather can be very unpredictable. I grew up in New Jersey and have lived in Massachusetts, so I knew how the cold and snow can impact travel, and how you have to dress in layers for warmth. But having lived in the Houston, Texas area for the past 43 years, I realized it was going to be a physical challenge to put myself out in that environment again. Winters in Yellowstone have been known to be extremely cold, with temperatures sometimes dropping well below zero. In addition, I was going from a city that is 12 to 17 feet above sea level to altitudes between 6,500 and 8,300 feet. Could I handle it? It definitely was worth a try.

Observe incredible wildlife with the Houston Zoo’s travel program. Photo credit: Sue Cruver Photography

So try I did, and I haven’t been the same since. It was hard to come home.

Yellowstone in winter. Photo credit: Sue Cruver Photography

The week was truly magical. The landscapes were absolutely breathtaking, and I felt like a child again walking in the snow. As for wildlife, there was plenty — bison, elk, pronghorn antelope, coyotes, wolves, bighorn sheep, golden eagles, bald eagles, mule deer, white-tailed deer, moose, trumpeter swans, a bobcat, and so much more.

Bobcat in Yellowstone. Photo credit: Sue Cruver Photography.

Seeing Old Faithful, the other geysers, and hot springs in winter was awesome. Everywhere I looked, there was a picture to be taken. And I took many, despite the fact that most days were cloudy and snowy. As I mentioned, winter weather can be challenging; this week, it only added to the adventure.

Visit Yellowstone with the Houston Zoo-more information can be found on our travel page. Photo credit: Sue Cruver Photography

Temperatures weren’t bad at all, ranging between the teens and low 30s. Snowdrifts and an avalanche did lead to some temporary road closures within the park, but these only resulted in some changes to our itinerary.  Much credit for the smoothness of these transitions goes to the incredibly professional TSS staff and guides. They were amazing!

Bison in Yellowstone. Photo credit: Sue Cruver Photography

And “amazing” is not the only takeaway I have from this adventure. I am very impressed with the Houston Zoo’s travel program and how it provides children, families, and retirees, like me, the opportunity to observe wild animals in their home environments. By partnering with the non-profit Teton Science Schools organization, the Zoo was able to add local Yellowstone guides and biologists to lead this trip. These experts knew where to find the wildlife and were able to answer everyone’s questions.

 In retrospect, this trip was not only fun, but also inspirational. I look at my photographs and am transported back to the peacefulness and beauty of the Yellowstone region. I take a deep breath, close my eyes, and remember the cold, clean, fresh air.  I focus on the quiet I found there and am less stressed. Instead of listening to the noisy media and tech world that constantly bombards us, I now think about the magnificence of this part of our country and its incredible wildlife. I can’t wait to return.

Sue Cruver

Saving Wildlife Expo Returns to the Houston Zoo

If you love lions, swoon for sharks, are zany for zebras or just adore all animals, the Saving Wildlife Expo is the place to be Saturday, March 25.

The Houston Zoo and the Wildlife Conservation Network are once again partnering to host the Saving Wildlife Expo at the Houston Zoo on March 25 inside the Brown Conservation Education Center.

As a zoo-based conservation organization, the Houston Zoo knows that animals will be saved from extinction through strong wildlife partnerships, which is why the zoo’s main conservation focus is in building strong partnerships around the world with groups that have likeminded purposes. One such organization is the Wildlife Conservation Network (WCN) with which the zoo has partnered for the past seven years.  WCN provides a supportive platform for conservation leaders all over the globe.  They save wildlife by helping independent conservationists build connections and create strong, sustainable plans for their organizations.

Together with WCN, the Houston Zoo will host the Saving Wildlife Expo at the zoo on March 25. At the ticketed event, five of the world’s strongest community-based conservation leaders will give presentations and interact with guests at this full-day expo.  Each leader will share stories and successes, as well as highlight threats that zoo guests can help mitigate through simple actions.  There will also be a host of conservation organizations exhibiting for the entire day.

The speakers for the Saving Wildlife Expo have dedicated their lives to saving animals from extinction.  They all lead conservation programs that protect the wild counterparts of the animals represented at the Houston Zoo. Tickets start at $34 for members and students and can be purchased on the Houston Zoo website.

Speakers and their organizations include:

Grevy’s Zebra Trust – Kenya

Belinda Mackey runs the Grevy’s Zebra Trust (GZT) in Kenya. GZT is a conservation organization in El Barta, the northern region of Kenya that seeks to protect grevy’s zebra by finding solutions for local people to live peacefully with wildlife. Zebras rely on the same resources as the local people and provide an essential balance in the African landscape. GZT empowers local communities to protect these animals from extinction through monitoring programs.

At the Houston Zoo, guests can see two Grant’s zebras at the rhino habitat in the African Forest.


Niassa Lion Project – Mozambique

Niassa Lion Project Founder, Dr. Colleen Begg along with her husband Keith Begg and a team of local Mozambicans are working to conserve lions and other large carnivores in an immense wilderness called Niassa Reserve in northern Mozambique. Niassa National Reserve is home to one of only five healthy lion populations left on the continent. Niassa Lion Project’s strategy for helping lions in the wild is twofold: first, researchers track and vaccinate lions to help support population growth. Second, they work with locals through community outreach and education on how to safely live with lions.

The Houston Zoo is home to a trio of lion sisters, Nimue, Mattie and Uzima. The pride is a part of a yearly Lion Fun Day celebration that takes place both at the Houston Zoo and in Mbamba village in Mozambique, hosted by the Niassa Lion Project as a way to connect communities and wildlife.


MarAlliance – Central America

The Houston Zoo is proud of all the work done to protect the animals in the waters along the Texas coast as well as around the world. Fascinated with the sea from the early days of growing up in Tunisia, MarAlliance founder and Executive Director, Dr. Rachel Graham has worked for nearly two decades with fishers and partners in several countries to identify threats and research needs and conservation opportunities for threatened marine wildlife and their habitats. MarAlliance is a community-based conservation organization that works with communities to protect ocean wildlife such as sharks, rays and sea turtles. Based in Central America, they employ local fishers to engage in wildlife monitoring and protection efforts and work closely with the government and other conservation organizations.

Houstonians can help protect ocean animals by using reusable water bottles instead of single-use plastic bottles.


Tapir Specialist Group – Brazil

The Houston Zoo is home to three beloved Baird’s tapirs and staff members assist organizations that aim to protect tapirs in the wild. As Chair of the Tapir Specialist Group, Dr. Patricia Medici launched the Lowland Tapir Conservation Initiative in Brazil aimed at establishing tapir conservation programs in all areas where tapirs live, specifically the Pantanal. The goal is to help researchers determine the effects that large animals, such as tapirs, have on their habitats and the other animals living around them.  This will help to design plans to prevent the disappearance of these animals.


Bat Conservation International – Texas

The Houston Zoo has three species of bats, two in Natural Encounters and one in the John P. McGovern Children’s Zoo. Bats are incredibly important animals, as they are pollinators. Pollinators are responsible for up to 30% of what we eat! Dr. Cullen Geiselman is a bat researcher and conservationist. Her research focuses on seed dispersal and pollination by bats. She has coauthored a book with botanists from the New York Botanical Garden entitled Seed Dispersal by Bats in the Neotropics. A former Bat Conservation International staff member, she currently serves as the Chair of the Bat Conservation International Board of Directors, she serves on the Board of Directors for the Houston Zoo and many other organizations around Houston.

Every visit to the Houston Zoo helps save animals in the wild.  This expo will connect guests with some of the top conservation leaders in the world and help Houstonians learn what simple actions they can do to help save animals from extinction.

Registration for Camp Zoofari is Open!

Summer vacation just got wild! Public registration begins Monday, Feb. 27 for Camp Zoofari at the Houston Zoo. Camp Zoofari is a summer camp experience for children ages 4 through 16 that features fun and educational activities among an array of exotic wildlife. Running May 30 through Aug. 11, 2017, Camp Zoofari offers an exciting lineup of programs that have been specially created to teach children about animals and the natural world.

Camp Zoofari has listened to feedback from past camp participants and added several new and exciting programs in 2017.  Teens, ages 13 through 16, will have a new way to interact with our animal collection in two camps specifically created for them.

Each day of Camp Zoofari is action-packed to keep kids moving and stimulate an interest in the amazing species that call the zoo home. The expert zoo team takes summer camp to the next level and helps each camper create happy memories that make them eager to learn more about nature.

The zoo has added 11 brand-new camp programs for summer 2017. Themes like Wild Arts, Wild Survival, and LEGO join returning favorites that help kids make friends and have fun at camp while learning about wildlife. These new themes expand the zoo’s already-diverse collection of educational programs, giving parents and children more ways to connect with nature while at camp.  Before and after care has also been added to help families.  Finally, many of our camps are so popular, they sell out fast!  This year, the zoo has added a waitlist to immediately notify families of a vacancy.

“We are really looking forward to welcoming campers back to the Houston Zoo this summer,” said Melanie Sorensen, senior director of conservation education. “Our team of professional educators work throughout the year to improve and build exciting experiences into each camp session. With such a fascinating collection of animals only steps away, Camp Zoofari creates a unique connection with wildlife to inspire action to save animals in the wild.”

Camp Zoofari is operated by the Houston Zoo conservation education department. To complement the zoo’s 11 full-time educators, each week-long session is supported by 26 contracted teachers, and nearly 50 members of Zoo Crew, the organization’s teen volunteer initiative. Camp Zoofari staff maintain an 8-to-1 student-teacher ratio, surpassing the 10-to-1 ratio mandated by the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Registration and additional information can be found at www.houstonzoo.org/education/camp-zoofari.

What a Cute… Watermelon?

Written by Memory Mays


We’ve got a new cute addition to our Hoofed Stock Department at the Houston Zoo. This is Antonio, a baby Baird’s tapir.

After a 13 month gestation period, our female Baird’s tapir “Moli” experienced a short labor before birthing our newest baby male tapir. The calf was quickly on his feet and walking only about 20 minutes after being born! At birth he weighed 20 pounds and has been gaining weight over this past week at a normal growth rate.

You may notice the calf has a different coat color than his mother. Tapir calves are known for this coat pattern where the white stripes and spots covering their bodies resemble the stripes of a watermelon. This coloration helps the calves camouflage into the bushes and shrubs of the forests in Central America. These markings will slowly fade into the adult coloration after about a year.

With only about 5,500 Baird’s tapirs left in the wild, this birth is very important to help save this endangered species. On your next visit to the Houston Zoo, make sure to stop by our Tapir yard to see this amazing Baird’s tapir!

Little Love Born Just in Time for Valentine’s Day

Houston Zoo Welcomes Baby Baird’s Tapir
On Saturday, Feb. 5, the Houston Zoo welcomed the birth of a male Baird’s tapir. This is the first Baird’s tapir born at the Houston Zoo, and first baby for mother Moli and father Noah.

Baird’s tapirs are born with a colorful pattern of stripes and spots that will disappear as they grow older. The newborn tips the scales at 24.5 pounds, and when he’s full-grown zoo experts anticipate this bouncing baby boy could weigh more than 550 pounds! While he doesn’t have a name yet, the keepers who care for the tapir family will have the honor of naming the tiny tapir.

There are four species of tapir, three in South America and one in Malaysia. In South America where Baird’s tapirs are found, tapirs are the largest land mammal and live throughout the marsh and swamps from Mexico to Western Brazil and Ecuador.

 

 

1 of the 9 tapir babies being tracked in Brazil. He only has spots left on his feet.

The Baird’s tapirs at the Houston Zoo are ambassadors for their wild counterparts in South America. The Houston Zoo supports the protection of this endangered species in Central America as well as the Lowland tapir in Brazil through a partnership with the IUCN/SSC Tapir Specialist Group to support field research in Brazil’s Pantanal region.

Since the inception of this partnership, 57 tapirs have received tracking collars to help the group understand this elusive animals’ range. The tracking collars provide the best protection for adult and baby tapirs in the wild, including the 9 mothers and babies currently being tracked. Some of these babies that are being protected through the partnership in Brazil have already started losing their spots!

Metamorphosis – What Is It?

Metamorphosis is a fun word, but what does it mean? The word comes from meta ,meaning change, and morphe, meaning form, so it literally means to change shape or transform. Though our topic is amphibians, I must point out that most insects do this as well and go through even crazier changes.

While some have what is called direct development where a miniature adult hatches from an egg, the majority (except for most caecilians) have a larval stage between egg and adult. The time from the egg hatching to the adult animal can take anywhere from 2 weeks (toads that breed in very temporary puddles basically) to up to 4 years for some spring salamanders. The time is dependent on species and/or environmental conditions. There are even some salamanders, like the axolotl, which never do it all the way, they stay forever in the water with gills, even becoming sexually mature and reproducing.

Because the transformation is more extreme for frogs and toads, the following is geared toward them. Depending on the species, eggs are laid in a variety of places, including in the water, attached or not to vegetation, on leaves overhanging water, and even in water filled tree holes. What hatches out of the eggs usually looks something like this:

In this stage, they are fully aquatic and get oxygen via gills. They have sucker type mouths and most feed on vegetation by filter feeding or scraping algae off of rocks and things; however, some  are carnivorous!

Tadpoles go through tremendous change. Not only is the outside of their bodies drastically changing but the inside as well. They switch from gills in the water to lungs on land, skeletal changes occur (some things that were cartilage change to bone), eyes, skin, mouth parts, digestive system, all of this has to change.

Usually the back legs emerge first, starting as little nubs.

By contrast, the front legs appear first for salamanders and newts. The back legs grow and eventually the front legs pop out too. Often at this time, tadpoles will start coming partway out of the water. The time switching to lungs differs a lot between species and the type of habitat the tadpoles are from. At this point, they look something like this:

The tail is then absorbed (it would be a waste for it to just fall off) and the frog or toad is a bona fide, air breathing, land dwelling critter. There are frogs and toads that are semi or even wholly aquatic (they still breathe air) and there are some frogs that spend all of their time in trees, even breeding and hatching young without coming to the ground.

Here is a salamander larva.  Some of them have stunningly beautiful feathery gills.

Amphibians are an incredibly diverse and fascinating group of animals. If you’d like to learn more, there are a lot of great resources out there. Check out: www.amphibanark.org , www.amphibiaweb.org , www.iucn.org, www.parcplace.org

New Male Bornean Orangutan at the Houston Zoo

Meet Pumpkin! This 31-year-old, Bornean orangutan recently made his public debut in the orangutan habitat at the Houston Zoo after moving to the Bayou City from Jackson, Mississippi late last year. Pumpkin is noticeably larger than the four female orangutans, and fluffier than Rudi, the other male orangutan. Where Rudi is distinctive for his wide cheekpads and massive dreadlocks, Pumpkin’s cheekpads angle forward and he has a smoother looking coat. Since orangutans are mostly solitary animals, guests will find Pumpkin alternating time in the yard with his fellow orangutans.

Bornean orangutans are one of the most endangered apes in the world due to deforestation devastating their wild habitats. The Houston Zoo is helping orangutans in the wild along with conservation partner, Hutan’s Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Project (KOCP). Texans can help save orangutans in the wild by shopping smart, and only buying from companies that support sustainable palm oil practices, and by simply visiting the Houston Zoo. A portion of every ticket to the Houston Zoo goes to help save animals in the wild.

You are Supporting a Wildlife Hero in the Galapagos!

As a supporter of the Houston Zoo, your entry ticket and/or membership allows us to partner with and support organizations around the world that are committed to saving wildlife. One such partner, Ecology Project International (EPI), works on the Galapagos Islands, educating local kids about the wildlife that lives in their area, while engaging them in hands-on activities to protect species (beach cleanups, monitoring sea turtle nests, etc.).

EPI participants collecting information on sea turtle hatchlings in the Galapagos

Through your visits to the Zoo, we have been able to support one of EPI’s staff, Juan Sebastian Torres, in his pursuit of a Master’s degree! JuanSe is the Galapagos Program Coordinator for EPI, and he is currently enrolled in Miami University of Ohio’s Master’s program, the Global Field Program.

We asked JuanSe a little bit about his work with youth and wildlife in the Galapagos, and how Zoo support of his degree is helping him improve the work he does.

Can you write your full name, your job title, and what you do for your job day-to-day?

My name is Juan Sebastián Torres Cevallos but my friends call me JuanSe. I work for EPI, a non-profit organization dedicated to develop environmental education programs/courses through science and conservation efforts with scientists and local leaders. I started leading Ecology courses for high school students and now I coordinate the field program in the Galápagos Islands. Every day I work on many aspects of the program in order to provide the best educative experience to our students. I work on itineraries, activities, doing coordination work with our science partners, supervising/supporting our instructor team, improving curricular components of the program among many other tasks.

What made you interested in the environment/nature/wildlife/education?

When I was a naturalist guide in the Amazon rainforest I saw for the first time the potential of environmental education when I took tourists and students into the forest and explained/taught about its unique complexity. Being there in the forest was the best “classroom” to explain how it functioned because the students were able to directly see with their eyes and other senses. I was very happy to reach out people sharing the beauty of an ecosystem I had always been in love and the conservation concerns/challenges it faced. When I had the opportunity to work in Galápagos with EPI I receive unique tools/strategies/structure to develop environmental educational programs and to create unique experiences that will change the perspective of our students working on their knowledge of nature, dispositions to take action and skills to solve problems.

JuanSe (far right) with students and staff from the Galapagos National Park, monitoring sea turtle nests.

What is your favorite part of your job?

When I have the opportunity to be in the field with students.

JuanSe (far left) with students participating in field work to save wildlife.

What is the most difficult part of your job?

Spending lots of time at the office when I have always been an outdoors person… but this challenge is worth it when I know the impact that our programs and my work has on the students.

Why is it so important for an organization like EPI to exist in the Galapagos?

We are the only organization that does environmental education on the islands. We are teaching the new generations why Galapagos is so important and the importance of conserving it. We want to get rid of the existing gap between people and nature.

What made you interested in pursuing your Master’s degree through the Global Field Program?

This is a unique opportunity to improve my work and knowledge in many aspects. My professional skills and duties overlap with many of the skills that can be learned with the Global Field Program. The inquiry component and community work are key to promote conservation worldwide and is totally linked with the work I do in Galápagos and with my personal goals.

You have been in the Master’s program for almost 1 year, what have you learned so far?

I had learn many new things, but specially how research takes place, to find background data through peer reviewed papers, dive into passionate conservation topics and the power of involving community are part of the projects I had done so far.  I have also learned the importance of sharing any idea/project/information with anyone, to receive and provide feedback is a unique skills that had increased my knowledge on several topics.

A Galapagos Tortoise takes in his beautiful surroundings.

How is this program helping you with the work you do to educate kids in the Galapagos?

I have already developed a project to research on the bird mortality on the highway of Santa Cruz Island with support of 12 high school students. I´m also adding more scientific background to the ecology program I coordinate and I’m improving aspects of our curriculum.

Every time you visit the Houston Zoo, you help projects like Ecology Project International, and ensure people like JuanSe can continue to do the important work they do to save wildlife.

Houston Zoo Hosts Urban Pollinator Planting Project

In partnership with the NFL, Houston Super Bowl Host Committee, Verizon and Trees for Houston, the Houston Zoo celebrated the opening of a new pollinator garden at the zoo on Monday, Jan. 16. As Houston prepares to host Super Bowl LI, this group of organizations is working to promote green initiatives and encourage environmentally friendly behaviors like planting backyard gardens that help pollinators and native wildlife. A brief opening ceremony included speakers Jack Groh – Director, NFL Environmental Program; John Dorn – Verizon; LaMecia Butler – Houston Super Bowl Host Committee; Barry Ward – Trees for Houston; and Lee Ehmke – President & CEO, Houston Zoo.

Texans Cheerleaders, team mascot TORO, and representatives from the partnering organizations created a buzz around the newly established garden as visitors enjoyed educational activities and met pollinating animals like a macaw and Hercules beetle. Bees, birds, bats, and many other animals are all pollinators that play a critical role in the production of the fruits and vegetables eaten across the world.

Houston provides a key resting stop for pollinators as they journey from Canada to Mexico, making this project an important step in protecting numerous species. Houstonians can make a difference for these imperative animals by planting native plants in their backyards and reducing the use of pesticides.

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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

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