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Animal Care

GIVE A GIFT TO THE HOUSTON ZOO ANIMALS!
Want to help our animals work and play with new enrichment items? Consider purchasing them a gift from our Amazon.com enrichment wish list! There are dozens of items to choose from, for many Zoo animals.

Animal Enrichment

ENRICH_logo

Animals in nature have to work for a living – to find food, to make nests, and to find shelter. Play is another natural activity. Life for the animals at the Houston Zoo is more predictable than in the wild. That’s why our keepers use enrichment to create variety through work and play.

At the Houston Zoo, we choose items and activities that are safe and encourage natural behaviors, such as:

  • Giving orangutans branches of plants like mulberry and bamboo to make nests
  • Hiding crickets in a cardboard box for our maned wolves to discover
  • Running treats like chickens down a zip line over the lion exhibit to help our lions run, jump, and reach
  • Giving tasty ostrich eggs to our very appreciative Komodo dragon, Smaug
  • Making ice pops for carnivores and primates out of their favorite foods to help them stay cool on a hot day

Enrichment News (via Facebook)

Who doesn't love a smelly bucket of sand?! Our banded mongoose sure do! This sand was taken from our fat-tailed gerbil's exhibit. This type of enrichment encourages their natural scent marking behavior which mongoose are known to do to mark their territories. ... See MoreSee Less

1 day ago

Evelyn Craft, Kimberly Sharkey and 23 others like this

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Cherise CornettWhat is the plural of mongoose?

1 day ago

1 Reply

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Anna Louise Schou JensenSigne Kusk måske en ide 👌🏻

1 day ago   ·  1
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"Liberty", our amazing Southern bald eagle, calls the Children's Zoo her home and loves investigating new things in her exhibit. This enrichment item consists of PVC with holes cut in it and 2 jolly balls slid onto the end. Liberty's keeper could barely get it set up before she came over to check it out and started the process of dismantling it! ... See MoreSee Less

5 days ago

Pat Warner, Debi Myers and 23 others like this

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Rebecca Hebbel CastonguaySuch a beautiful animal!

5 days ago   ·  1
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Stephanie TurnerGreat job CZ keepers!! Love this :)

5 days ago
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Debra Dial RheaWow.....

5 days ago
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Tiki KimAwesome! I never even seen any enrichment for the two bald eagles that we haven't my local zoo in San Francisco .

5 days ago   ·  1
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Tiki KimPaddy D Tiger Everseen sure shot or gordon get any kind of enrichment?

5 days ago

1 Reply

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Taylor Rayne DanielsMeg Meyer

5 days ago   ·  1
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Sera ArnoldLouise Bendall Donna Dorning Fleur Butcher would love it if we could do more complex enrichment for the birds - would be a huge crowd pleaser too!

5 days ago
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Donna JeanBeautiful

5 days ago
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Mike SterkenRob Baaijens

5 days ago   ·  1
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Marla Kay ArguelloI love all your videos and pictures about the Houston zoo. Thanks for sharing, Suzanne! 😃

4 days ago
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Marge ColbornSmart bird

4 days ago
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Michelle Nacca-HannI love it

4 days ago
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Barbara BrandtLove Liberty!

4 days ago
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Jennifer Ann HigginsGreat demo of enrichment use

3 days ago
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Denise Davis MorrisAwesome. Love it.

3 days ago
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Debi MyersBirds love their toys! 😀

7 hours ago
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Comment on Facebook

When "Charles", our San Esteban chuckwalla, is not out and about on Zoo grounds educating as an ambassador animal he is relaxing in his bedroom behind the scenes. He was given a PVC junction pipe to crawl into but decided he'd rather crawl on top of it and give it a hug instead! ... See MoreSee Less

1 week ago

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Siena Mitman, Heather RN and 23 others like this

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Felica LauderbaughI worked with Charles years ago! So good to see him!

1 week ago
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Alison PollardI miss him so much!

1 week ago
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Lorie FortnerOne of my favorite reptiles to handle at the Houston Zoo..... love you Charles!

1 week ago
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Karen HinsonLove our Charles!

7 days ago
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Kate ReynoldsMy very favorite lizard! So pleased to see he's still around!

6 days ago
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Houston Zoo Animal Enrichment updated their cover photo. ... See MoreSee Less

1 week ago

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Give a Gift to the Houston Zoo Animals!

Want to help our animals work and play with different enrichment items? Consider purchasing an item off our Amazon.com wish list!

You can also donate these new items in their original, unopened packaging:

  • Perfumes, spices (salt-free), and extracts for scent (olfactory)
    enrichment
  • Animal sound CDs, wind chimes, mirrors, wind socks, and bells for visual and auditory enrichment
  • Items for exhibit enhancements: PVC pipes, caps, and threaded caps of all diameters; carabineers to hang ropes and toys; unpainted wicker baskets; and nylon and natural fiber ropes up to 1’ in diameter
  • Live plants such as bromeliads, monkey grass, bamboo, ginger,
    hibiscus, banana, flowering kale, and mint.
  • We also welcome gift cards from home improvement and pet stores!

Not sure what to give?

Make a monetary gift to support Animal Enrichment! Just $25 could help our elephants chill out with tropical fruit ice pops…..and $100 could help our chimps get artsy with painting supplies! You’ll help keep our animals healthy and happy.

Donate Now

Feeding 6000 Hungry Mouths

© Houston Zoo/Stephanie Adams

The Houston Zoo has more than 6,000 animals to feed every day. The Zoo’s Animal Nutrition staff begin work at 5 a.m. so they can have meals prepared and delivered to the animal sections in time for breakfast. There is a whirlwind of activity in their building including thawing meats, chopping produce, sorting insects, and loading bales of hay and bags of grain.

Each of our animals receives uncompromising excellence in animal care including the best in nutrition. The dietary needs of our animals are almost as varied as the animals themselves. All animal diets are developed in consultation with a specialist in exotic animal nutrition and are regularly analyzed for nutrient composition in order to ensure the optimal health and welfare of our animals. Diet sheets are kept for every animal that outline the type and amount of food needed every day of the week.

The Animal Nutrition building boasts a state of the art kitchen that includes commercial-grade appliances and equipment, 540 square feet of freezer space, three walk-in coolers, 2,000 square feet of dry storage, and a 4,000-square-foot hay barn. Despite all the activity, at the end of every day the kitchen is left clean and sparkling.


Veterinary Care

What’s it like to be a veterinarian at a zoo? Every single day is a different but exciting challenge! The vets and support staff at the Houston Zoo work hard every day to ensure the health of our more than 6,000 animals. This includes:

Preventive care: Animals are examined routinely and given vaccinations for diseases such as West Nile, Rabies, Tetanus, and Distemper. Yes, this also includes fecal examinations to detect parasites before they become a problem!

Quarantine: Before a new animal is allowed into an exhibit, we must be sure it is healthy. All new animals are quarantined and receive a thorough examination.

Wellness physical examinations: Veterinary staff performs routine physicals on Zoo animals, including blood analysis, dental work, TB testing, and bank blood serum or plasma for future needs.

Treatment: When an animal has a medical problem, the vet staff is there to help by providing necessary medical treatment, including diagnostic testing, writing prescriptions, and doing surgery. We also consult with outside specialists when needed to be sure all our animals receive the best care possible.

Rudi the Orangutan Gets His Heart Checked

About the Animal Hospital

The Denton A. Cooley Animal Hospital, built in 1985, is open 365 days a year to serve the animals of the Houston Zoo. Here you’ll find radiology, ultrasound, surgery, laboratory, treatment, examination areas, a diet preparation kitchen, and housing for species ranging from tiny amphibians to antelope!

Meet the Vet: Dr Joe

Dr. Joe Flanagan

Dr. Joe is one of 4 vets at the Zoo and has tended to the health care needs of Houston Zoo animals since 1982. His reptile and amphibian expertise has taken him to the Galapagos Islands, home of the Charles Darwin Scientific Station and Galapagos National Park, where he provided assistance in the health assessment of birds and tortoises. He also donates his time along with the other vet staff (in partnership with the NMFS Galveston Lab Sea Turtle Facility) to help injured sea turtles, removing hooks, rehabilitating them, and releasing them into the Gulf!


American Association of Zoo Keepers

This nonprofit, volunteer organization is made up of professional zoo keepers and other people dedicated to professional animal care and conservation. They are a resource for professional development, enrichment, training, and conservation for zoo keepers and animal care professionals. Follow our Greater Houston Chapter on Facebook to keep updated on important happenings!

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Animal Care