Recycling and Art to Save African Wildlife

Painted Dog

Fewer then 3000 Painted dogs (aka African Wild dogs) remain in Africa due to various human pressures.  Painted Dog Conservation (PDC) was established by Dr. Greg Rasmussen to save the endangered Painted dogs by engaging the local people.  Poaching with snares continues to be one of the leading threats to the survival of this species.  PDC  developed anti-poaching units, staffed by local community members, in an effort to control this threat.  Since the first of these units was deployed in 2001, they have collected well over 15,000 snares.   Had the snares gone untouched, it would mean approximately one thousand animals killed.

An important aspect of the units’ work is the training and development of additional anti-poaching teams in the region. Poaching is such a wide spread problem that it is impossible for one organization such as PDC to employ enough anti-poaching scouts to combat the full situation. PDC responds to these critical needs by training and developing additional anti-poaching units for the local landowners, supplying field equipment and clothing in the process.  Gaining the trust and respect of local people is an ongoing process and has helped to transform many poachers into advocates for the Painted dog and participants in the project. 

Snare Wire Art

 In addition to providing employment opportunities for members of the anti-poaching units, PDC’s program benefits community artists as well.  At the Iganyana Arts Center, founded by PDC in 2003, talented local residents craft the snare wire removed from the bush into impressive animal sculptures.  They also make paintings, jewelry and carved wooden Painted dogs from a variety of locally-gathered materials.   

Production of this artwork provides skills and financial security for the artists.  In addition, the program provides an opportunity for conservation education on sustainable use of resources and reuse of materials.  Through sales of the crafts locally and worldwide, individuals and communities learn about the critical need to protect Africa’s remaining Painted dogs and other wildlife.  

These sculptures are now available in the conservation corner of the Houston Zoo gift shop.  Save endangered species by bringing these beautiful animal sculptures made of snare wire home with you and keeping it out of the African National Parks for good!

Let's make "Litterbugs" an endangered species!

You will generally never hear me say we should drive any invertebrate to the edge of extinction, but this bug is an exception. Actually, a “Litterbug” really isn’t a real bug…it’s a human. A human who apparently has no access to a trash bin within 6 inches of where he or she is standing. I know, I know, it’s so off-putting to have to walk 10 – 20 feet sometimes to the nearest garbage can. Wow, how do the rest of us muster up the energy?!

Please excuse my bluntness and irritation, but all Litterbugs need to go!

Whilst on my sea turtle patrol in Galveston yesterday I counted literally hundreds of unsightly piles of trash mere inches from the tide. (Like the one below)


First of all, these piles of trash are  an eye sore to those attempting to enjoy  picturesque scenery at the beach with their loved ones. I don’t know too many moms who like pictures of their toddlers on the beach with a beer can and a leaky fast food bag in the foreground.


Secondly, and most importantly, these piles of trash are deadly for marine wildlife. Not only do birds get entangled in balloon string and 6 pack holders, but sea turtles mistakenly eat trash bags thinking they are jellyfish. We see several wild sea turtles come to the Houston Zoo clinic annually who have ingested plastic and have blocked intestines or ones that have fishing nets or onion sacks tied around their flippers. Unfortunately, these limbs usually must be amputated.


 ALWAYS clean up all of your trash while you are at the beach, no matter how small. Not only is it the right thing to do, but, you could also get slapped with a $200 fine if a police officer sees you.

ALWAYS bring trash bags with you to the beach or when you are enjoying the great outdoors.

BEST BET: If your trash is not too stinky, take it home with you and discard it in your bin at home. As you can see in the picture below, trashcans at the beach can overflow quickly and then the wind will carry your garbage right back on the beach again.


Thanks for being a proud Texan and helping to keep our beaches and outdoor areas sparkly and clean! Our wildlife thanks you!

Recycling to Save the Critically Endangered Cotton-top Tamarin

Cotton-top Tamerin

The cotton-top tamarin (Saguinus oedipus) is one of the most endangered primates in the world. The species was declared endangered in 1973 following the exportation of 20,000-40,000 tamarins to the United States for use in biomedical research (Hernandez-Camacho and Cooper 1976; Clapp et al. 1982). In the late 1970s and throughout much of the 1980s, cotton-top tamarins were found to spontaneously develop colonic adenocarcinoma. They served as the primary model for indepth studies of this disease throughout much of this decade. Today the greatest threat to the survival of the cotton-top tamarin is deforestation for agriculture, fuel, and housing, in addition to collection for the local pet trade in Colombia (Mast & Patino 1988). Occurrences of the illegal trade of cotton-tops still continues throughout much of the world despite international laws condemning such activity

A census was conducted in 2005-2006 examining the status of the wild population of cotton-top tamarins. Results of the census indicated that the cotton-top tamarin has been severely impacted by the significant habitat destruction that has occurred throughout its range in Colombia.  The results of the census in addition to the challenges with habitat destruction, resulted in the IUCN Primate Specialist Group recommending the classification of cotton-top tamarins be changed to Critically Endangered in 2008.

Proyecto Tití is a multi-disciplinary in situ conservation program that combines field research, education initiatives and community programs to make the conservation of natural resources economically feasible for local communities in Colombia. The program is designed to provide useful information to assist in the long-term preservation of the cotton-top tamarin and to develop local community advocates to promote conservation efforts in Colombia.

"Mochila", eco-friendly bags

Proyecto Tití is committed to working with local communities to develop economic alternatives that assist in the protection of Colombia’s natural environment.  Local women learn how to transform discarded plastic bags into colorfully designed, hand-knit mochilas (tote bags).  Children from the communities collect the bags, which are carefully cleaned before they are crocheted into attractive accessories.  The production of these bags helps to reduce the amount of plastic in the local landfills and creates a sustainable local economy.

These eco-friendly bags are now for sale in the conservation corner of the Houston Zoo gift shop.  They are available in a variety of colors, and make great beach bags, shopping bags, or purses.  

Don’t forget to spend a bit of time with the Cotton-top tamarins at the zoo during your next visit!

First 2010 Kemp's ridley sea turtle nest in Texas!

Woohoo! We have the first Kemp’s ridley sea turtle nest confirmed on the Texas coast during
2010.  It was located at Padre Island National Seashore on the morning of April 24th, 2010.



So far this year, 1 Kemp’s ridley nest has been confirmed on the Texas
coast including (north to south in state):
Bolivar Peninsula 0
Galveston Island 0
Brazoria County, just north of Surfside 0
Surfside Beach 0
Quintana Beach 0
Bryan Beach 0
Matagorda Peninsula 0
Matagorda Island 0
San Jose Island 0
Mustang Island 0
North Padre Island 1, including 1 at Padre Island National Seashore
South Padre Island 0
Boca Chica Beach 0

The Kemp’s ridley sea turtle is one of the most endangered sea turtles in the world and nests on Texas beaches from April – July. They are the only sea turtle species to nest during the day!

REMEMBER: If you are at the beach and see a sea turtle call 1-866-TURTLE-5!

To learn more about sea turtle conservation efforts at the Houston Zoo click here.

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