Lemonade Day is Sunday, May 3rd!

lemonadeday-2-featured1The Houston Zoo is keeping it “naturally wild” by partnering with Prepared 4 Life (P4L) for the 2009 Lemonade Day! Lemonade Day teaches K-12 children how to start, own, and operate their very own lemonade stands. Youth learn how to create budgets, secure investors, purchase supplies, and give back to the community.

On Sunday, May 3, kids turn book learning into practice and gain hands-on experiences that lasts a lifetime. Participate in Lemonade Day by registering online: http://www.lemonadeday.org.

How did we get here?

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Road trip!

In the fall of 2007, Carnivore Supervisor Kevin Hodge and I drove to Missouri to pick up two Anatolian shepherd puppies Tusker and Taji. At 12 weeks old they were already almost too big to carry. As soon as we got on the road, Kevin and I were surprised at their calm demeanor. The only challenge we had on the 12 hour road trip was getting them to wear their collars and leashes.

Anatolian shepherd dogs have been bred for many years to guard livestock. This means they are intelligent and independent dogs, used to making their own decisions. From the perspective of an animal trainer, this means they are stubborn!

 

2-cheetah-cubs
wake me up when dinner shows up

Several weeks after the dogs’ arrival, Carnivore Supervisor Sara Riger and Veterinary Technician Kara LaVictoire returned from Florida with 3 day-old cheetah cubs Kito and Kiburi who had been abandoned by their mother. A few weeks later, we began to introduce them to the dogs. If you haven’t already heard the story, I’m sure you are asking “why on earth did they do that?”

When wild cats have to be raised by people in captivity, it is important that they be socialized with another animal growing up and so they are often raised with dogs. Kito and Kiburi were lucky enough to have each other but we had another reason for introducing them to the dogs.

Several years ago, farmers in Namibia were killing cheetahs that preyed on their livestock. The Cheetah Conservation (CCF) facilitated the donation of some Anatolian shepherd dogs to be used to protect the herds from predators in Namibia in the 90’s. Cheetahs are shy by nature and the large size and fierce bark of the dogs would scare them away so the farmers did not shoot them. This project has spread throughout Africa and is also being used by Cheetah Conservation Botswana, a project the Houston Zoo supports. Here at the zoo we wanted to tell this story about how a domestic dog is helping save an endangered cat.

Today the dogs and cheetahs are nearly adults and after over a year of training, they regularly go out together in the zoo for presentations. Since the program is going so well and is so popular we decided to develop another presentation that the dogs, cheetahs and keeper staff could do at the exhibit in the zoo.

I’ll be blogging regularly about our progress so stay tuned!

Bundle of Bongos Born at the Zoo!

Pili with her baby, Penelope.Over a span of six weeks, from mid-February to mid-March, we welcomed three baby bongos into the Houston Zoo wildlife family.

Penelope was the first to arrive on February 12.  She weighed 38 pounds at birth.  Two days after she was born she had gained 8 pounds!  Penelope’s mom is Pili and Penelope is her first calf.  Pili is proving to be a great mom.

On March 10, 14 year old Laura delivered Linus who weighed more than 47 pounds at birth.  Laura, by the way is Pili’s mom.

Then on March 18, 12 year old DJ gave birth to Dylan, another 47 pound calf.  Dylan is the first male bongo to be born at the Houston Zoo in 10 years.

eastern-bongo-babies-0010To the casual observer, all the calves look alike.  But our keepers found a perfect way to tell them apart – they count the white stripes on their side.  Bongos can have 10 to 14 white stripes on each side and each side can present a different configuration.  For instance, Penelope has 11 stripes on each side.  But Linus has 11 on one side and 13 on the other. Dylan, on the other hand has 13 striped on each side.

So, you might ask – what’s a bongo?  Well, a bongo is a type of antelope native to the lowlands and mountain forests of Kenya and western Africa.  In the wild, bongos are shy and elusive but very social.  In fact, bongos are the only forest antelope to form herds.

The Western or lowland bongo is classified as near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the IUCN.  The Eastern or mountain bongo is classified as endangered.

Penelope, Linus, and Dylan and their parents are Eastern bongo and you can see them daily at the bongo exhibit next to our okapi exhibit.

I am green!

handwithplant-featuredBut who is not “green” these days and what does it mean? Thirty years ago the only people who were “green” were called “tree huggers” and many were regarded as people who only cared about trees.

Fast forward to the 21st century and everyone wants to be so green! It is the new catchphrase. Car companies are green, manufacturers, corporations, foundations, airlines, water and people are all green.

When did everyone become so green?

I was in a sandwich shop the other day and there was a sticker on their door noting they have replaced one incandescent bulb in each of their 20,000+ stores with a compact fluorescent bulb (CFL). Good for them, they are now green! Next step? Replace two, and then offer your customers a coupon for doing the same.

You see, being green is not about making one change; it should be about invoking change for the better.ks1785

Solar, Wind, Carbon Offsets – all large scale changes and all a bit confusing on how to use them and how they work. Change a light bulb, conserve water, recycle paper, recycle aluminum, recycle plastic, and turn your AC up one degree or your heat down one degree – all very easy to do. Small scale? Not when you consider there are 4 million people living in the Greater Houston area.

Some very simple steps we made in the home which are also saving us money every month:

  1. Changed our incandescent bulbs to CFLs. CFLs are much improved over the past years and the price has come down dramatically. One bulb can last 3-5 years and we would pay twice that replacing each incandescent 1-2 times a year regardless of the electric bill.
  2. Thermostat up, thermostat down. 70-72 in winter, 78 in summer.
  3. Turn off the TV and Cable box at night or when we are not going to be home.
  4. Switched to an energy provider with wind and hydroelectric energy choices. This took 10 minutes of our time to do, and our electric bill costs came down right away.
  5. No more plastic water bottles. The plastic is not good for you and the water is potentially not as healthy as filtered water can be. Did we mention 1.5 million barrels of oil are used in the US alone to make those plastic water bottles? More than 20 billion plastic bottles end up in landfills or incinerators every year as well.

Two more quick thoughts:

No more plastic bags at the grocery store. Fabric, cloth, reusable bags all work fine. America uses 90 billion plastic bags a year. Most end up in those same landfills and incinerators. Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda have banned them, China has restrictions on their use and a number of cities in the US are following suit. Clearly, some communities were tired of all the plastic bags ending up in their waste streams.

Styrofoam containers. Really? You still use these? They are made with petroleum, toxic chemicals can leach out of them when heated, and they do not break down in the environment. Styrofoam cups and take out containers are convenient but unnecessary with so many other products on the market.

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