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Be a Hero

You can help save animals here in Texas and all over the world! Here are just a few ways to take action and protect wildlife.  And remember, every time you visit the Houston Zoo a portion of your ticket proceeds go towards saving animals in the wild! So, a simple zoo visit is a great action to take to protect wildlife!

Wipe for Wildlife


Did you know that the average household uses 120 rolls of toilet paper each year? 27,000 trees are cut down every single day to provide toilet paper for the world. These trees are important habitat for animals like chimpanzees, wombats, and black bears.

The Houston Zoo only uses toilet paper made from recycled paper, and you can help animals by doing the same!


Be a Hero-Recycle Your Cell Phone & Save Apes!


Challenges of Cell Phones/Electronic Waste:

There are more than 250 million cell phone users in the United States alone, and average lifespan of a cell phone is 18 months. That means there are A LOT of cell phones being produced to meet our demand. Each cell phone requires specific metals to be manufactured. One metal used in cell phones (tantalum) is found in Central Africa-a rainforest home to animals like chimpanzees, gorillas, okapis and mandrills. If we recycle cell phones and other electronics like cameras and laptops, the materials taken from wildlife habitats can be reused, allowing those habitats to be protected.

The mineral coltan is taken from places where animals like chimpanzees and gorillas live to be used in our electronics, especially cell phones.
Materials used to manufacture cell phones are taken from places where animals like chimpanzees and gorillas live.

How the Houston Zoo Helps:

  • We send recycled cell phones to a company called Eco-Cell that sells the individual parts of the phone so that they can be reused. Any proceeds then go to conservation efforts to save animals in the wild.
  • The Houston Zoo has recycled approximately 7,862 cell phones to date!
  • We work with and help support projects in Central Africa which are dedicated to saving animals like gorillas, chimpanzees and okapis.

How You Can Help:

  • Be a Hero & recycle your old cell phone with us! If you do, the materials in the phone can be reused instead of getting new minerals from the ground in Central Africa. Just stop by the recycling bin by Guest Relations and drop your phone in!

Recycle Your Cell Phone

  • Wait as long as possible to get a new phone, or buy a refurbished phone!doyourpart
  • Are you a school, business or organization and want to recycle old phones on a big scale? Join us for our yearly Action for Apes Challenge beginning in January, 2015!
  • Mail your cell phone to us if you can’t make it to the Zoo! Houston Zoo, Inc. Attn: Cell Phone Recycle 1513 Cambridge Houston, TX 77030

Before donating your phone(s):

Make sure you terminate your service or switch your contract to a new phone.
Clear any personal data from the phone by removing the SIM card or manually the information. On most cell phones, you can find “Reset Phone” under “Phone Settings.”
Turn your phone off, if your phone’s battery is still charged.

Why Recycle Your Cell Phone?


When you pour maple syrup on your pancakes, chow down on some chocolate, devour ice cream, or use tasty spices for dinner, are you aware that all of these items exist because of pollen? Just as important as the pollen itself are the amazing members of the animal kingdom who move pollen from one plant to another, allowing the plants to make seeds that then help create some of your favorite products. In fact, we have pollinators to thank for up to 30% of what we eat!

Video: The Vanishing of the Bees

There’s been a sharp decline in honeybee populations in the US and around the world. Watch the critically acclaimed documentary, “The Vanishing of the Bees” for more information. It’s exciting to go outside in the summer and gaze at the butterflies hovering around colorful flowers, hear the buzz of the bees, and catch a glimpse of a hummingbird flitting around some honeysuckle; but lately pollinators have had a tough time keeping their populations up because of habitat loss, climate change, and pesticides that harm the beneficial bugs that provide pest control. Bee-pollinated plants provide us with every third bite of food we eat… it is certainly in our best interest to take care of ALL of our bees, honeybees and native bees alike.

How You Can Help


  • Donate to the Zoo’s Conservation Fund to help pollinators and other animals in the wild:

  • Learn more about pollinators so you can tell your friends and family why it’s important to keep these special creatures around for the long haul.  Learn all you can about our fascinating native bees and spread the word to friends and neighbors – every little bit of habitat helps!  Learn More About Pollinators
  • Write your government officials demanding sustainable farming practices – systemic pesticides are the probable cause of Colony Collapse Disorder (the mass disappearance of worker honeybees from a hive) and have caused a sharp decline in honeybee populations in the US and around the world. You can watch the critically acclaimed documentary, “The Vanishing of the Bees” for more information.
  • Buy organic!  95% of our food crops are treated with pesticides – these fruits, vegetables and grains may be a little cheaper than their organic counterparts at the grocery store, but there are hidden costs like health risks to you and your family, and environmental damage that negatively affects all of us.  Frequent your local Houston Farmer’s Market for great organic produce!
  • Create a bee-friendly garden and provide nesting habitat for native bees.  Visit the website where you can type in your zip code and get a free region-specific planting guide to encourage pollinators and have a healthy, pesticide-free garden. You can even download the BeeSmart App for information on-the-go!

What is a Pollinator?

Without pollinators, most plants would not be able to reproduce. A pollinator is an animal that transports pollen from one plant to another – as plants cannot walk, run or fly; this is an extremely valuable service! A wide variety of animals are pollinators, including insects (beetles, flies, butterflies and the most expert of them all – bees!).  Birds and bats are also pollinators along with a few lizards, slugs and even a lemur!  A hungry lemur can poke his head into a flower to gather nectar and emerge with pollen coating his head, rubbing it off into the next flower he visits. Most pollinators follow the lemur’s tactic and visit multiple flowers, ending up dusting each flower along the way.

Create a Wildlife Friendly Backyard

No matter where you live, or how big or small your backyard is, you can set up areas of it to help out local wildlife.

Step 1: Make a list of the species that currently live in your backyard, including animals and plants, noting the time of day, season, and temperature – what you see will vary depending on these factors!

Step 2: Take pictures of your existing backyard before you make any improvements.

Step 3: Think about the basic things that wildlife needs to survive (food, water, shelter, and poison-free areas). For areas that are lacking in your backyard, figure out what you can add to help wildlife (e.g. planting trees, adding water features, birdhouses, feeders).

Step 4: Pick a day to plant and install all the elements you chose. Take pictures of your newly spruced up area and compare with the “before” pictures.

Step 5: Become familiar with some of the new species that might be coming to your backyard by looking through field guides. Each week, record the animals you see through photos or descriptions as your habitat grows.

Learn and do even more

Learn the importance of pollinators like bees and start a project to help them



Be a Hero-Reduce Your Use of Plastic & Save Sea Turtles!


Challenges of Plastic Pollution:

  • There is roughly 315,000,000,000 pounds of plastic in our oceans right now.
  • The average American will throw away approximately 185 pounds of plastic per year.
  • Plastic bags are petroleum-based and do not biodegrade.
  • 100,000 marine animals die each year from eating plastic pollution in our oceans.
  • Sea turtles and other marine creatures mistake plastics and other garbage as food (such as jellyfish) and ingest it. This causes blockages within their digestive system.

How the Houston Zoo Helps:

  • We participate in beach clean ups to remove plastic trash and we recycle fishing line
  • We help with weekly beach surveys on Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula (~80 miles of beach)
  • We provide medical attention for stranded and injured sea turtle found on the Texas coast.
  • We hold some injured sea turtles at our Kipp Aquarium until they are healthy enough to be released.

How You Can Help:

  • Be a hero-use biodegradable garbage bags and pet waste bags! They break down naturally, and don’t leave harmful chemicals behind.
  • Visit the Houston Zoo-a portion of every ticket purchased goes towards saving animals in the wild!
  • Be a hero-avoid using plastic! Buy a reusable water bottle and reusable canvas grocery bags instead of the plastic alternatives. By Using a canvas bag you can eliminate the use of 1,000 plastic bags!
  • Visit the Houston Zoo’s Gift Shop and purchase the sea turtle canvas bag pictured below. Proceeds go towards sea turtle saving efforts in the wild!

seaturtlebagSea Turtle Release-0001-8798 (1)


Be a Hero-Choose Your Products Wisely & Save Orangutans!


Challenges of Palm Oil:

The Palm Oil 411: Palm oil is a product that is used in everyday items like soap, shampoo, snacks, etc. Many palm oil plantations take over homes for animals like orangutans. Some companies work to protect wildlife while farming palm oil, others do not. The ones who set aside space and resources for wildlife we refer to as “sustainable”.

How the Houston Zoo Helps:

  • We support projects in Borneo that are directly working with local communities (including palm oil plantation employees) to reduce the impacts of this product on animals like orangutans, elephants and clouded leopards.
  • To save orangutans and other wildlife we will tell you all about the awesome organizations that use no palm oil, or use the sustainable stuff. And, we’ll challenge you to eat healthier and live healthier by doing some of the how you can help actions below.

How You Can Help:

  • Be an Orangutan Hero and buy products with less than 10 ingredients!
  • Buy/use/eat products that contain ingredients you can actually pronounce!
  • If you buy products that contain palm oil, check to see if those companies are part of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). If they are not, write a letter to the company encouraging them to join.
  • Support companies that are doing things right! Need to buy some makeup or beauty products? Avon is part of the sustainable palm oil companies.  Maybe you’re in the mood for some junk food? McDonalds and PepsiCo are on the sustainable palm oil train.
  • Visit the Zoo in November for our Orangutan Caring Week events! Every time you visit the zoo, the purchase of your admission ticket saves animals in the wild.

Palm Oil Orangutan

Learn More

Ocean-Friendly Seafood

Be a Hero – Ask How the Fish on Your Plate Got There!


Why Are We Asking you to Ask About Fish?!:

You may have heard about sustainable seafood and know which choices to make, but if you haven’t, no worries – we will break it down for you!

Sustainable seafood is defined as seafood that is either wild-caught or farm-raised that not only sustains current populations, but thrives over the long term. The methods by which the seafood is harvested or raised must not cause undue harm to their natural ecosystems. The Houston Zoo strongly believes that embracing the use of sustainable seafood is one of the best ways we can all contribute to our oceans’ health.

How can you help, you ask? Here are a few ways:

Make smart choices about what you eat and where you buy it. This can make a huge impact on our oceans and the animals living there! Some of the top grocery stores in North America have public sustainable seafood sourcing policies – this list includes (but not limited to) Walmart, H-E-B, Fiesta, Kroger, Costco, Target, and Whole Foods. These stores provide sustainably-sourced seafood options for you to purchase and be confident you are making fish-friendly choices.
If you are out enjoying a meal at your favorite restaurant, you can ask them if the seafood they serve is sustainable.
You can also refer to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch consumer guide to learn which seafood options are best choices or good alternatives. Click here to download the app from the Apple Store or Google Play.