Sam is a 5 month old Pineywoods cattle steer. Named after Sam Houston, first president of the Republic of Texas, Sam went on exhibit in the farm area of the John P. McGovern Children’s Zoo on March 8th. So far, he is very calm about his new home and seems to enjoy all the attention. Sam is very smart and his trainers are teaching him to walk around the Children’s zoo every morning.
What are Pineywoods Cattle?
Most of us are familiar with the Texas Longhorn, but the longhorn wasn’t the only breed that developed from the release and escape of cattle into the ‘wild’ by the Spanish explorers when they came to the New World. In the thick brush of the southeastern US, the Southern Woods, or Pineywoods, cattle developed. Though they have a resemblance to longhorns, they are a unique breed adapted to a very different environment than the open plains where longhorns roamed.
Due to their nimbleness and strength, they played a significant role as oxen in the early timber industry but were eventually replaced by machinery in the late 1800’s. They were also an important source of meat but in the 1930’s, ranchers started crossing pineywoods cattle with the larger meat-type commercial breeds. Eventually, ‘purebred’ pineywoods cattle became rare. Today, pineywoods cattle are valued for their natural resistance to most of the diseases, insects, and parasites of the Southeast and for their ability to forage on brush in a manner similar to goats.
Welcome to the amazing Naturally Wild Swap Shop located just inside the McGovern Children’s Zoo! The shop is set up for kids 18 and under to bring in things they find in nature. We give them points for what they bring in and they can spend their points on some of the things in the shop. It is a wonderful thing to watch the kids. You can actually see the wheels start to turn as they realize what they could get for their points. AND, we give extra points for knowledge! So if they have learned about the item they bring in before hand and can tell us about it they get extra points for the knowledge.
Click here to see what items can and cannot be brought in.
The Swap Shop is open daily from 9:00 to 11:45 and 1:00-3:45 (closed on major holidays). Come by and see our wonderful collection and watch your own children not only discover nature but begin to love and care for it.
On our drive to the airport Xmas and Dought expressed their eternal gratitude to the people of the Houston Zoo. They did not have the words to express their appreciation for this experience.
Dought talked about how what he learned from the facilities staff would change his life. Many villages and all the staff at PDC depend on his abilities to maintain everything. After spending the week with our facilities department he felt he would be able to fix things far more efficiently and effectively. He said that the work he did with the water pumps here made him understand how he could improve PDC’s pump system, in case of bush fires. He also got some great ideas of how to bring water into more of the rural villages. He gained great confidence with freezer systems by working with facilities on the cold room, and he felt they also provided him with more effective building skills. Dought said he feels stronger knowing he has the facilities team as his friends.
The education department gave Dought great exposure to our education system here in North America. He adored going out in the Zoomobile to schools in the area. He really enjoyed the field trip to the Prairie preserve, and the kids really enjoyed him, they got him to teach them his language. He said he saw kids experiencing nature for the first time which paralleled his experience at the children’s bush camp he teaches at in Zimbabwe. Part of the program involves driving local kids into the National Park to show them elephants, giraffes and other species for the first time. He has been the head guide at the bush camp since the very beginning of the program. He felt that he learned techniques from the education department that he could use to enhance their program at PDC.
Dought is also a professional park guide, he worked as a guide for four years. He mentioned that he would be conducting a guiding course for other PDC staff when he returned to Zimbabwe and was grateful to get more teaching techniques to enhance this course.
Dought is a unique hero. Anyone who met him saw that he is very intelligent and insightful. He was telling me that he is the eldest in his family which means that he is expected to take care of over 11 family members. Life in general is tough in his rural village, he works hard for each simple meal, but he said the friendships he has made here will give him fuel for the rest of his life.
Xmas remarked with a huge smile on his face that the clinic and carnivore team felt like his best friends. The Zoo staff gave him a lot of self confidence. He said the opportunity to share with the carnivore team really made him aware of how much knowledge he has gained over the past ten years working with Painted Dog Conservation (PDC). He felt very honored when the team constructed the overhead feeder that he suggested would increase the activity of our captive dogs. Inspired by the keeper chats he got to observe and participate in here on Zoo grounds, he felt he had new ways to enhance the chats he does to the tourists that come to PDC. He saw many parallels when it came to the record keeping and enrichment the Carnivore team do, but he saw some things he could improve in. He enjoyed learning about other species from them. His favorite memory was walking with the cheetahs, even though he has grown up around this species, he had never had the opportunity to feel that sort of closeness to them before.
The clinic staff provided new valuable skills and experiences to Xmas. With the building of the clinic in full swing back in Zimbabwe, he was so grateful for the thorough teaching and training in this department. He proudly talked about his microscope and x-ray training. They gave him a new found, much needed confidence in a clinic setting. He said the friendships he gained in this department gives him all the strength he needs to move forward with this new component of the rehabilitation center.
Xmas is also an exceptional hero. Everyone who had the pleasure of meeting him could immediately see his gentle nature and kind heart. He had a tough upbringing and thankfully had an older brother that supported him to complete school. PDC has allowed him to show his true potential as a strong, steady leader. He feels such gratitude and pride for PDC.
Many board members gave Xmas and Dought memories they would never forget. Cullen Geiselman took them to the rodeo. Don and Diane Kendall took them to Cirque Du Soleil. Susan and Austin Young invited them to the country to see their longhorns. Anne and Bob Graham had a good-bye party for them. Coming home from one of these events they mentioned that they felt like they wanted to repay everyone for their kindness. They commented that everyone here felt like family. They hoped everyone would come and visit them in Zimbabwe so they could have them all over for dinner. I reassured them that everyone felt that the opportunity to get to know them and listen to their stories was a gift in itself. They still insisted that everyone must visit them now.
So, thank you to the whole Houston Zoo family for making this dream come true for two Zimbabwean conservation heroes!
Welcome to the Houston Zoo’s FOTO FRIDAY Caption Challenge results post from Friday, March 25!
Last Friday, we posted a photo on Facebook and asked you to leave your best caption in the comment section. Then readers could “like” each caption comment to vote for their favorites. Their votes, combined with those of our own panel, determined the caption to appear under the picture right here on the Official Houston Zoo Blog this week. We hope you’ll come back for the fun EVERY FRIDAY.
YOUR VOTES HELP DETERMINE THE WINNERS!
Here is the picture that was posted on Facebook last Friday, with the winning caption by Melissa Fellers!!! WOOT SAUCE!
* Milissa Erdelt Allen: “And that, sweety, is the story of why seals let the humans have the dry parts of the Earth. Now it’s time for bed. Good night! *smooch!*”
There was a tie for First Runner Up between:
* Michael Byron “I know you ate the last fish popsicle! Let me smell your breath.”
* Milissa Erdelt Allen “And that, sweety, is the story of why seals let the humans have the dry parts of the Earth. Now it’s time for bed. Good night! *smooch!*”
* Erik Burington (Maybe if I act cute, and kiss her enough, she won’t send me to school!) I (kiss) love (kiss) you (kiss) mom (kiss,kiss, kiss)
Second Runner up:
* Connie Quinn-Reese “See, I told you…my nose is WAY pointier than yours!! Whats up with that??”
And just ‘cuz it was so creative, an Honorable Mention goes to:
* Sheila Livingston: “Let’s play telephone. “The clownfish said the anemone was shocking”-pass it on!” (We didn’t just “Like” it Shelia, we LURVED it.
The Houston Zoo has TWO sea lion shows scheduled every day of the week? You can come see them at 11:00 AM and at 2:30 PM.
You can also take a behind the scenes tour at Sea Lions, see where they go when off exhibit, meet them in person, enjoy their antics and even get your own kiss (makes a great picture)! Visit https://www.houstonzoo.org/events/tours/cat/
Makes a great date, gift or family outing that you will remember forever!
Check out our Facebook page to see the rest of the entries. We hope this brought a smile to your face. And stay tuned for next Friday’s photo! Tell your friends, share this on Facebook, Twitter or your own blogs, and start your office pools to see who can come up with the best lines. (To show the picture and link on your social media, just click the little icons under the title SHARE THIS on the lower left of this post).To find us on Facebook, type in Houston Zoo Inc. in the search field or go to http://www.facebook.com/houstonzoo and become a fan.
As the time approachesfor Dought and Xmas to say good-bye to the Houston Zoo, Dought has some words he wanted to share about his experiences.
“I am enjoying my stay here at the Houston Zoo. I have been through several activities that are exciting. At the facilities I learnt a lot from the staff there and will be using their ideas to maintain and service what we have at Painted Dog Conservation.
I am with the education team this week and I have been out on the Zoomobile, where I had the opportunity to talk to college students on the adaptations animals have. The zoo staff are doing a great job and I enjoyed observing them using bio effects.
I thank the Zoo board members for all the invitions they sent us and what they are doing for us.”
By Dought Nkomo, Painted Dog Conservation
Dought and Xmas will be leaving on Sunday. They said that this experience at the Houston Zoo has changed thier lives forever!
Thank you to all of the staff here at the Housotn Zoo for giving them this opportunity!
In honor of the Final Four NCAA basketball tournament that will take place in Houston this year, we’re celebrating March Madness Houston Zoo style with the help of Cali and Kamia, two of our sea lions living here at the Zoo. They have considered all the stats and made their picks for the 2011 Tournament.
Track their success right here as March Madness continues. You can see their Sweet Sixteen picks below.
Check out this video of them making selections for the winners of the Sweet Sixteen!
Animal Keepers at the Houston Zoo hold various Spotlight on Species events, designed to bring attention and awareness to a variety of animals we have at the Zoo, the needs of their counterparts in the wild and raise a little money for conservation. This month, the Spotlight has been on the oft overlooked babirusa.
First of all, there’s special Meet the Keeper chats every day at 3:30 in the Wortham World of Primates, where our Babirusa live.
There is also an AAZK funnel at the exhibit which will be there through the end of the month. This allows you to contribute your spare change to the cause and have some fun with it (you’ll see if you’ve never used one). All funds go to Babirusa Conservation!
Have you ever seen them or stopped by to catch a keeper chat?
If you haven’t, no worries. Because this coming weekend, March 26 and 27, will be filled with all sorts of extras. Keepers will be highlighting the birthday of our female, Remley’s, who was born in late March, 2005 and be doing tons of fun things through out the weekend like giving the babirusas baths, feeding them special treats, building haystacks for them, to name a few.
There will also be two tables: one to do an crafts and games with our Education Department and another table from the Primate Department will have fun things to buy along with informative handouts, trading cards and more!
If you’re coming to the Zoo this weekend, or need a good excuse to go, please join us at the babirusa’s habitat in the Wortham World of Primates.
Xmas Mpofu asked me if I could post a few words about how his time is going at the Houston Zoo.
“During my stay at the Houston Zoo I have been working with the carnivore team for the first week and the second week with the clinic team. It has been a good time working together and sharing some positive ideas about conservation. All the Zoo staff I have worked with and those I have met during this stay have been very good to me. I wish other Zoos would do the same to promote partnerships to conservation programs in developing countries. I think this will ensure an everlasting and promising future for the next generation on this planet. Thank you to everyone at the Houston Zoo!”
Xmas and his coworker Dought Nkomo will be heading back to Zimababwe on the weekend, but you do have one more chance to meet and talk with them tonight (Wed. 23, 2011) at the Houston Zoo. Their director Dr. Greg Rasmussen will be speaking this evening at 7:00pm, and all three will share their stories of saving the African wild dog. Purchase tickets here for this exciting event!
We’re all about the African wild dogs this week – last week we shared how wild dogs hunt cooperatively and everyone has a job. Our pack may be small, but they still each have a unique personality and role to play.
Aries is Blaze’s brother and Mikita’s uncle. His golden coat is similar to Blaze’s, but he has a much shorter tail. Aries can most often be seen patrolling the borders of his territory and standing back while Blaze and Mikita test new things. Aries’ protective side and attentiveness indicates he would be a great babysitter, guarding the pups at the burrow while the pack goes on a hunt. This is a great responsibility as African Wild Dogs can have up to 20 pups, but 8-10 are more common.
Mikita is the 6 year old nephew of both Blaze and Aries. The large amount of black and white mixed with gold in his coat distinguishes him from the rest of his pack. Mikita is the dog that always appears to sit back and assess the situation before diving in. He usually finds the best spots to lie and the other boys follow suit. These qualities can often be found in a wild pack’s alpha dog. Unlike wolves, the alpha position is not held by dominance. Alphas can be characterized by their “charisma”, social skills, and problem solving ability. Alpha males and females are usually the only two pack members who breed, and the rest of the pack cooperates to raise the young.
Profiles by Carnivore Keeper Samantha Junker
Want to learn more about wild dogs? Get your tickets to see Dr. Greg Rasmussen, founder of the Painted Dog Conservancy , speak at the Houston Zoo TONIGHT March 23! Get your tickets here!
Welcome to the Houston Zoo’s FOTO FRIDAY Caption Challenge results post from Friday, March 18!
Last Friday, we posted a photo on Facebook and asked you to leave your best shot at a caption in the comment section. Then readers could “like” each caption comment to vote for their favorite captions. Their votes, combined with those of our own panel, determined the caption to appear under the picture right here on the Official Houston Zoo Blog this week. We hope you’ll come back for the fun EVERY FRIDAY.
YOUR VOTES HELP DETERMINE THE WINNERS!
Here is the picture that was posted on Facebook last Friday, with the winning caption by Heather Acres Ingram!!! (insert crowd roar)
Did you see what she was wearing?!?! I know!!! And to a Zoo no less!!!
First Runner Up goes to:
Jennifer Ausmus: “Quick before the fans get here….check me….do I have anything stuck in my teeth?”
Just ‘cuz they were funny, Honorable Mentions go to:
Lorye Brown Vandiver: A zebra, a lion and a water buffalo walk into a bar…. Brad Orr: I can’t stop laughing!!!…..What did they spike that Zebra with????? Alan G Pallister: OK were wild dogs but i’ll do my hyena one more time.
… that tomorrow, Wed March 23, we’re doing TWO different African wild dog events? The first one is exclusive – only 40 tickets were made available, and there are ONLY FOUR LEFT so if you act fast, you could be one of the attendees. It’s an African wild dog enrichment demonstration. We will be doing something very interesting — don’t want to give it away! And besides meeting and chatting with our Carnivore team, you’ll also get to meet our two visitors from Zimbabwe, Xmas and Dought, who work with African Wild Dogs at Painted Dog Conservation — just one of the projects the Houston Zoo Conservation team partners with to do their important work!!! They are such amazing people, this is really going to be SPECIAL!
Right after, we have our Call of the Wild Speaker Series, Stories from the Field…
Join us at 6:30 p.m. in our Brown Education Center Auditorium for light bites and refreshments. Then at 7, breathtaking photos and first-hand stories are shared by Dr. Greg Rasmussen, Xmas and Dought, who are on the frontlines in the battle to help save the African wild dog, one of Africa’s most endangered carnivores.
This makes a great date, and is also a wonderful way for your kids to learn. All dog lovers will love this!
Tickets are $7 for students/children, $12 for members and $18 for non-members and can be reserved. Get your tickets now!
Check out our Facebook page to see the rest of the entries. We hope this brought a smile to your face. And stay tuned for next Friday’s photo!Tell your friends, share this on Facebook, Twitter or your own blogs, and start your office pools to see who can come up with the best lines. (To show the picture and link on your social media, just click the little icons under the title SHARE THIS on the lower left of this post).To find us on Facebook, type in Houston Zoo Inc. in the search field or go to http://www.facebook.com/houstonzoo and become a fan.
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