Borneo Elephant Project blog #1

Bornean Elephant, Kinabtangan River

This week we will begin featuring updates from two very important projects on the island of Borneo focusing on Bornean elephants and a wild species of cattle called Banteng. These two species along with the Rhinoceros are the three largest animals on the island and act as “landscape architects” for the forest and surrounding wetlands.

The Houston Zoo has worked with the Danau Girang Field Centre in Sabah (Borneo), Malaysia since 2009 in support of a program to determine the social structure, migration corridors and habitat use of the Bornean Elephant. The field researcher, Nurzhafarina (“Farina”) follows radio collared elephants and their herds as part of the effort and this week, we follow Farina:

Farina radiotracking along the river corridor

Warm greetings from Sabah, Malaysia.

Usually my working hour will start at 7am, depending on the elephant location and sighting from the previous day. If the elephant are in Abai that is 33 km or 45 minutes from Sukau, we will go for an expedition where we will camp along the river to save some travelling time and fuel. We will use the latest position from the satellite to find out the elephant’s position and we will start tracking them from there. I would say the chances of finding the elephant in the forest is 70% except if they decided to go into swampy area or behind the oxbow lake. There are two females that are collared for now, Aqeela and Liun. We are still identifying Aqeela’s group and for Liun, we are sure that she has a juvenile female and a sub-adult male that always move along with her.

It is flooding in most parts of Lower Kinabatangan this time. Villages such as at Pengkalan Bukit Garam that is situated upriver Kinabatangan is the most heavily flooded part and many have been evacuated from their homes as the water has reached a dangereous level. Although Sukau is not as bad, it is still affected by the flooding and most part of the forest is covered with water. So, this means another wet week for my friends from Elephant Conservation Unit (ECU) and myself.

FOTO Friday Winner of the Week

Welcome to the Houston Zoo’s FOTO FRIDAY Caption Challenge results post from Friday, May 27!

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 Guppy Man!!! (insert golf clap!)  

 

 

 

 

 

 

FIRST RUNNER UP:

 

*Patrick Glaves:

Sorry about your arm. I told you not to carry me after breakfast.

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL!

 

There were many great captions. Thanks for joining in the fun!

And please come on back for next Friday!

TXU Energy Presents Chill Out at the Houston Zoo:

Houston summers are hot, but the Houston Zoo is cool. In fact, there are 13 indoor, air-conditioned locations to chill out and relax during your day with the animals.

Cool as Ice

Our animals enjoy Chill Out-themed enrichment activities that keep them happy and cooled off. From ice-pops for our loveable otters, to daily baths for our elephants, our animals will be enjoying Chill Out enrichment all summer long.

 

 

*******

 

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.

Seriously? You really believed the whole May 21st rapture thing...?

     

A Trip to the Largest Colony of Bats in the World at Bracken Cave

Did you know that Texas has the largest bat colony in the world?  Bracken cave, just outside of San Antonio, is home to 20 million Mexican free-tailed bats from March until October.  Yet another thing for Texans to be proud of! 

Mexican free-tailed bat

We had the opportunity to watch the bats emerge this week.  We attended an urban wildlife conference that offered a trip with the folks from Bat Conservation International (BCI) to Bracken cave to see the bats.  The cave is not open to the general public, so we felt very privileged. 

We pulled up to the site at around 6:00pm.  As we exited the bus, although we were a distance from the cave, the distinct smell of 20 million bats filled the air.  We walked up to the mouth of the cave that is surrounded in 697 acres of Texas hill country and sat for a while to listen to the BCI interpreter talk about the bats and the history of the cave. 

If it wasn’t for BCI Bracken would have been surrounded by subdivisions by now.  And, BCI is protecting more than just the bats, they are conserving all the wildlife in the area, restoring native vegetation and removing invasive species.

At around 7:30pm we sat quietly by the opening to the cave and eagerly awaited the bat emergence.  At 8:20pm the first bats began to spiral out of the cave.  It wasn’t long before they peppered the sky.  Two birds of prey swooped down and snatched a few of the bats out of mid air.  When you cupped you hands behind you ears the millions of wings sounded like rushing water.  Bats were everywhere!   I have never seen or felt anything like it!  Just to give you an idea of the mass quantity of bats, it takes four hours for all the bats to stream out of the cave in the evenings.  

Thank you BCI for all of your dedicated work and protection of this natural wonder of the world!

Painted dogs in Zoos Could Help Save the Wild Population

Last month I attended a Painted dog workshop at the Pittsburgh Zoo.  Zoo professionals, researchers and conservationists met to discuss the sustainability of the captive and wild Painted dog population.  With a total population of less than 3000 in the wild, the Painted dogs are in a very vulnerable state.   The population is in serious need of new genetics in most of the ranges.  Zimbabwe has the biggest genetic diversity, but at the rate the population is decreasing this can change quickly. 

Field biologist Dr. Greg Rasmussen of Painted Dog Conservation in Zimbabwe was in attendance at the workshop, and has been working with Painted dogs for almost 20 years in the wild.  The genetic diversity of the dwindling population has always been a concern of Greg’s, but recently he uncovered a wildlife trade in the dogs that significantly increased his concern.  He discovered that pups were being dug out of dens in the wild to feed an underground international demand for this species.  He took immediate action to lobby for the dogs to be protected from international wildlife trade, but he knew that he had to do more if he was going to save them. 

Greg was a zoo keeper when he was young, so zoos have always been near and dear to his heart.  He has worked with many zoos from all over the world and knows they have a tremendous ability to educate, empower and inspire armies of people about wildlife conservation.  However, this lack of genetic diversity concern opened Greg’s eyes to something else zoos possess that he hadn’t thought of before – a protected genetic pool of animals.   Fortunately, geneticists and other zoo professionals have worked hard to maintain a diverse genetic pool for species kept in captivity in order to ensure a healthy captive population.  But unfortunately, African exporters haven’t always given reliable reports on the origins of the animals that were imported.  So, Greg proposed that a DNA study of the entire captive population be conducted.

This workshop had zoo representation from Australia, Europe and North America. The European Zoo Association reported that they had already collected DNA from all of the dogs in Europe last year, and their DNA study revealed that they actually had a larger diversity than they realized.  It was agreed that the rest of the zoo world would participate in this study to get a clearer understanding of what we really have in the captive population.

This workshop gave a tangible example of how the roles of zoos are changing.  It was inspiring to be engaged in discussions about how the captive population of this species could contribute to restoring the wild one.   It is a truly an exciting time to be a part the zoo world!

It Takes All Kinds: Fatherhood is for the Birds

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of being a bird keeper is the sheer amount of diversity in natural behavior we see in the animals. It’s also daunting. Each species is a little different, they may prefer to nest on the ground, on a platform high in the exhibit, in a small nest cup, precariously perched on several delicately balanced twigs, in a cavity, or in an intricate nest they’ve woven themselves. They might prefer fruits, vegetables, grains and seeds, meat or nectar. Their social structures can vary so greatly I am not even going to attempt to list the prominent examples. The Houston Zoo Bird Department houses approximately 230 different species. That’s not the individual animal total (which is around 900, by the way), it’s how many different types of birds we care for every day, each one varying in large and small ways.

This means we see all kinds of avian fathers, from the good, the bad and the ugly. Captivity is a little different. If the normal breeding behavior of a male is to mate and leave, keepers have to follow the breeding cycle of the birds closely and then act appropriately to the situation. Do we keep the dad in the area with the female while she incubates the eggs? In this particular species, does the male help incubate? Does the male help raise the young? Will the male show aggression to juveniles once they’ve left the nest? There’s a myriad of questions for each situation. Fortunately, sheer diversity in behavior provides me with so many weird and wonderful stories of avian fatherhood.

Not all mommy birds are June Cleavers. In mammals, the female produces milk and feeds the young, but a male bird can do everything a female bird can, except lay eggs. This results in male birds typically being very involved in the raising of their young, because they can have a tangible and direct hand in the success of the offspring. Monogamy is quite rare in other groups of animals, but over 90% of birds form monogamous pairings, for at least one breeding season. This pairing doesn’t just involve the male gathering food for the chicks. Often, male birds help in the construction of nests, incubation of the eggs, and feeding the young while in the nest and even after fledging, as well as defending their nest and territory.

Hornbills take this monogamy to an extreme. Before laying eggs, a female hornbill of the subfamily Bucerotinae, such as our Rhinoceros Hornbills, will enter into a tree cavity and begin to “mud” herself in, sometimes assisted by the male.  Essentially, sticky material such as mud, food and fecal matter is gathered and plastered around the opening of the cavity, until the opening is just large enough for the female to fit into the cavity. At this point, the female enters the cavity and the opening is almost completely sealed shut, except for a small slit, conveniently beak-sized.

Rhinocerous Hornbill

At this point, the female is entirely dependent on her mate to provide her with food while she incubates the eggs, for approximately 40 days.  Once the chicks hatch, both mother and babies are fully dependent on the food brought to the nest by the father. When the chicks are large enough to leave the nest, the male and the female chip away at the sealed entrance and the  brood makes a break for it. Meanwhile, the father continues to support the family by collecting food for the female and chicks. Talk about a breadwinner!

Our male Sunbittern male has all the traits of a good father. He’s a great provider and very protective of his family.

What this video doesn’t show is how much this bird prepares for a chick.  Once the egg hatches, the baby gets the lion’s share of the food, and the parents won’t eat anything until the chick is full.  This equates to some lean times ahead for dad, so once an egg is laid, keeper staff are greeted in the morning with a male Sunbittern, standing at the door of the kitchen, waiting to be tossed food. We oblige, of course.  During this time, he’s bulking up! Once the chick arrives, the male does the same, except instead of scarfing down the food himself to prepare for the fast, he brings the food straight to the chick on the platform, and won’t stop ‘demanding’ food until that chick is content. Would you like to reconsider your idea of “bird brain“?

Dad and chick
The happy family at meal time. Dad is providing a mealworm.

If you’ve watched March of the Penguins, (and if you haven’t, you MUST!) you know that penguin dads (and moms) are fantastic parents, in some species bringing themselves to the brink of starvation to care for their eggs and young.

Raising two chicks is a big task!

In the avian world, there are few things more endearing than the single father. In some species of birds, the male is the sole caregiver for not only the chicks, but the eggs as well. Darwin, our Double-wattled Cassowary, is a wonderful and larger than life example.  Cassowaries are solitary animals, and they only come together for breeding. Once the female has laid her eggs in the nest the male constructed, she takes off to find herself another male with another nest. The previous male is left to incubate the eggs and care for the young.

When incubating, the cassowary is so dedicated that, despite all scientific reasoning, he spends approximately 53 days without leaving the nest, without even STANDING UP. He doesn’t eat, or take in much water, and somehow, he doesn’t even use the bathroom. It’s like he goes into a torpor of fatherly devotion.  Once those eggs hatch, it’s been said by many that the only thing meaner than a female cassowary is a male cassowary, once you come between him and his chicks.

Darwin, our own cassowary, recently decided it was time for him to become a father. Unfortunately, Darwin’s mate is still on the horizon, and there were no eggs to be had. Paternal instinct fueling invention, Darwin took his large green food bowl, flipped it over, and began to incubate the bowl in earnest. Keepers have begun feeding him in a bowl that cannot be moved, as it became impossible to feed the bird. In a frenzy of devotion to his “egg”, the most food-motivated bird I have ever known, refused to eat, as any good cassowary dad should.

Darwin, incubating his food bowl.

As the title says, it takes all kinds in the world of birds, and I would be remiss not to mention all the keepers in my department that step in to play the role of “Dad”. Not all bird fathers have feathers. We frequently, for one reason or another, have to hand raise baby birds, and all of our bird keepers have had a go at being a parent.

Danny, preparing to feed a turaco chick.
Joshua, with a tiny duckling.
Jeremy, teaching a kingfisher fledgling to eat on its own.
A better look at that turaco chick, because no one puts baby in a corner.

Finally, I couldn’t write this blog without mentioning a bird near and dear to many of our staff. While he never got to be a father, he was the most generous bird dad I’ve been privileged to witness.  As I mentioned above, we take care of 900 animals. It’s not common for bird keepers to get particularly attached to any one bird, as the less interaction we have with them and the more “wild” they are, the better. However, sometimes a bird comes along with some quirks that you just can’t ignore, and they take root in a special place in your heart. Our male Blue-crowned Laughing Thrush did just that.

Blue-crowned Laughing Thrush

This bird’s paternal instinct was so ingrained, that all baby birds were his babies. He lived a good long life in our Tropical Rainforest exhibit, and anytime a chick  hatched, he was there, attempting to feed it, much to the chagrin of many a protective feathered parent in the vicinity.  That’s not to mention that most dove chicks never understood why they were being given worms, instead of their normal diet of crop milk. However, some birds took advantage of his paternal ways, and our adult lorikeets were treated to a worm by the Laughing Thrush every time they squeaked like a nestling.

Several weeks ago, the Bird Department was saddened by the death of his mate.  Throughout his last weeks, the Laughing Thrush seemed to decline without his female by his side, and surrounded by a red-eyed and sniffling bird staff, he left us. We remember him fondly and it’s only fitting that he is mentioned whenever the subject of avian fatherhood is discussed.

 

Celebrate Dad by giving him a memorable Father’s Day gift this year – name a Houston Toad after him! With your gift, you help us support Houston Toads, a critically endangered species native to Texas. Click here to learn more about Houston Toads and how you can further the Houston Zoo’s conservation efforts that help ensure their survival. [www.houstonzoo.org/name-a-toad]

 

Come visit the newly-named toads on June 19 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. as we celebrate a TOAD-ally Awesome Father’s Day at the Houston Zoo. This fun, family event will be filled with crafts, activities, Houston Toad info and much more! This event is FREE with your paid Zoo admission

Bird Conservation in Saipan: It is gonna be a long, long day…

The 24 remaining birds are being shipped stateside to AZA zoos.  If I thought my flight was going to be long – it does not compare to the journey that the birds will be going through.

We put the birds into their transport crates the night before they depart. We do this for a couple of reasons : the birds will need to be at the airport at 4:45 AM on Monday May 2 and also we want them to have some quiet time to get used to the crates for transport.

 

 

Crating the birds for the trip to their new home.

When shipping birds we typically send them to their new home as fast as possible.  However, because the golden White-eyes and the Roufus Fantails are so small we need to make sure they have adequate rest prior to each leg of their journey.  So this is what the next 72 + hours will be like for our birds.

Airports are for the birds.

The birds go to Guam on Monday morning, in Guam they will stay for about 20 hours and be taken care of by some bird care experts that are currently on the island from Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  Then they fly on May 3 to Honolulu and 8 of the birds will stay at the Honolulu Zoo.  The other 16 will stay in Honolulu over night where staff from the Honolulu Zoo will feed and care for them.  Finally, mid-day on May 4th, I catch up with the birds when I land in Honolulu (half-way home) and they will fly with me onto Houston.  In Houston, I will go over to the Continental Airlines Pet Safe area where they will let me feed and care for all the birds again.  Later on the 4th, the birds will be shipped to their new US zoos: the Memphis Zoo, the Riverbanks Zoo, the North Carolina Zoo and the St. Louis Zoo.

And they make this journey without the benefit of an in-flight movie or drink service.  Compared to their journey, we have it easy.

Once the birds are gone, we only have to clean-up and pack everything to finish.  We scrub all 60 of the holding cages, inventory and pack our supplies, and refresh any supplies that we need for next year.

The final holding cage cleaning for the year.
Drying the holding cages.
The inventory list
All the supplies packed up.
Ready to do it all again next year!

After we complete those tasks – we are hoping to have a few hours of snorkeling. 

Conservation never looked so good.

 

To read the rest of this blog series about the long journey to and in Saipan, click HERE

Big Daddy

Elephants live in a matriarchal society meaning that herds of elephants generally consist of adult females with their calves.  Baylor and Tupelo spend every day with Shanti and Tess (their mothers) and the rest of the Houston Zoo herd.  Thailand, the zoo’s 45 year old bull elephant, is the father of both calves.   Thai often spends his day in one yard with the herd in the other yard.  Adult bull elephants are generally solitary creatures.  But, sometimes zoo guests can see Thai in the same yard as the herd. 

Thai and Baylor

That is one of the many things that makes Thai a very special bull elephant.  Thai is very good with baby elephants and seems enjoy socializing with the herd.  Baylor and Tupelo also seem to love spending time with Thai.  The calves follow him around and mimic many of his behaviors.  Thai will even sometimes play with the calves and share is hay!  Thai is an excellent father!

Thai and Tupelo

Celebrate Dad by giving him a memorable Father’s Day gift this year – name a Houston Toad after him! With your gift, you help us support Houston Toads, a critically endangered species native to Texas. Click here to learn more about Houston Toads and how you can further the Houston Zoo’s conservation efforts that help ensure their survival. (www.houstonzoo.org/name-a-toad )

Thai, Baylor, Tupelo, & Methai

Come visit the newly-named toads on June 19 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. as we celebrate a TOAD-ally Awesome Father’s Day at the Houston Zoo. This fun, family event will be filled with crafts, activities, Houston Toad info and much more! This event is FREE with your paid Zoo admission.

Written by: Kim Klein, Houston Zoo Elephant Keeper

Feeling the Heat? Keep Cool at the Houston Zoo in Hot Weather

It is inevitable that on one of the hottest, muggiest, steamiest days this summer your son/daughter/spouse/insert-significant-person-in-your-life-here will practically beg you to go to the Houston Zoo. You’ll be tempted for just a moment to hole up in your air-conditioned cave and wait until October, but you soon find yourself grabbing the car keys. Don’t worry – the zoo has plenty of ways to keep you from overheating even on the hottest day in Houston. Here’s a few:

Air-Conditioned Animal Ambiance is Here

Chimp Viewing, The African Forest, Houston Zoo

The zoo has many air-conditioned indoor animal viewing areas. When you visit our new African Forest exhibit, cool off in the air-conditioned chimp viewing building. At Kipp Aquarium, cool off while you view an octopus from the chilly waters of the pacific ocean, giant stingrays or our new white-spotted jellyfish. Kids can bring their found items to trade in the Naturally Wild Swap Shop in the Children’s Zoo. In the Natural Encounters building, visit clear pools with four-eyed fish, snake-necked turtles and a cascading waterfall. Don’t miss the dark cave that’s home to a colony of asian fruit bats. The Reptile and Amphibian Building is home to Blanco, one of only fourteen white alligators in existence. You can also cool off in the Tropical Bird House, where you can walk inside an aviary to see and hear many exotic birds from around the world.

Outdoor Climate Control AKA Shade And Mist

Shade at the Children's Zoo Playground, Houston Zoo

The Houston Zoo is home to a forest of ancient oak trees that provide lots of shade. We’ve also placed misting fans  in many spots around the zoo to provide a refreshing cool breeze. In the Carnivores area of the zoo, go underground to cool off in the Lion Exhibit tunnel. There are also shaded viewing areas for lions, tigers and grizzly bears. Wortham World of Primates is set in a forest of old oaks that shade the walkways. Primate viewing also includes several covered pavilions with benches. The Red Panda Tunnel outside of Natural Encounters is a shady place to watch this very cool endangered animal.

 

Refreshing Respites – Shows, Snacks and Activities

Sweet Treats at the Concession Stands, Houston Zoo

When you need to take a break and rest, there are many cool options around the zoo. The Butterfly Stage in the Children’s Zoo allows guests to enjoy a show in the shade. Take a ride in the shade on the Wildlife Carousel, and guests waving from the sidelines are shaded as well. The Sea Lion Habitat has shaded viewing areas – get there early if you’d like a seat for the show. The Reflection Pool is a shady spot to watch koi fish splash and enjoy a picnic lunch. You may bring a cooler with you or choose from a variety of treats at our concessions. You can bring bottles of ice water with you to sip on while you tour the zoo – outside food and drinks are permitted. Please, no glass bottles or drinking staws. Or enjoy a fresh salad, cool drink, and choose from a variety of lunch items and rest in air-conditioned comfort at Macaw Cafe or the new Twiga Terrace in the African Forest. Before you depart, shop for unique gifts and souvenirs at the gift shops in African Forest and near the front entrance.

 

 

We hope you enjoy your cool trip to the zoo! For more ways to chill out this summer, visit TXU Energy presents Chill Out at the Houston Zoo.

FOTO FRIDAY Winner of the Week!

Welcome to the Houston Zoo’s FOTO FRIDAY Caption Challenge results post from Friday, May 20!

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 Mark Biggs!!! (trumpet or bark it up people… your choice)

 

CAN WE WATCH DUMBO NEXT?

 

FIRST RUNNER UP:

*Tricia Nicole Mulkey McClelland:

Dog: “WOWEZZZ Where can I find me a Babe like that? Dumbo..”

Dumbo: “I don’t know Lucky but if you find a bowl like that let me know””

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

There were so many to choose from!

*Christine Forisha: “This is a trunk…not spaghetti…don’t get any ideas!”

*Sheila Livingston: “Max and Methai didn’t know what they did to warrant the All Disney All Day punishment but vowed never to do it again.”

*Dub Rika: “So which one of us is the tramp?”

* Leonor Soto Leal: ” Some guys get all the luck. He gets the girl and spaghetti. I get dog chow and an elephant.” 

*Sofia González: “Dog: Tramp gets a Lady and I’m stuck here with Dumbo! Not gonna happen!”

 

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL!

There were many great captions. Thanks for joining in the fun!

And please come on back for next Friday!

DID YOU KNOW:  Our elephants have their very own blog called Trunk Tales!  It’s chock-full of adorable pictures and videos of the babies and great stories of our growing elephant herd.

And they aren’t the only thing growing. Their habitat is being expanded into where the giraffes and cheetahs used to call home.  We’ve added 1.5 acres which will include an 80,000 gallon pool, a demonstration and interpretation area with bleachers on two sides, and a separate area with an unobstructed view of the yard. The habitat is slated to open in Late June and, added to their existing home will make for a total of 3 acres for our elephant family to roam. Be sure to swing by and pay them a visit!

*******

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.

Bird Conservation in Saipan: Moving on (to a little island in the sea)

One of the primary goals of this field work is to translocate some of the critically endangered Golden White-eyes to an uninhabited, predator-free island in the CNMI chain.  In the past phases of the MAC project translocations have been done with Bridled White-eyes as a trial to see how they would fair on a new island home.  The Bridled White-eye translocation was successful – the birds not only survived but nested and raised chicks on their new home.

This year we are translocating 24 Golden White-eyes from Saipan to Sarigan.  Sarigan is about 2 hours from Saipan via Helicopter.

The tiny uninhabited island of Sarigan.

The translocation is scheduled for Thursday – so for the 2 days before I poured over all the weight and size data for the White-eyes and have to choose 24 birds out of the 40 that we have to send for release.  While looking at the data, I try to choose birds that may not adapt well to captivity (because we are bringing 12 birds back to the US for captive breeding).  After several hours of looking at weights, wing, and tarsus measurements, I have picked out the 24 birds that will call Sarigan home – and as luck would have it, they turn out to be 12 males and 12 females.

Here's a little known fact about bird nerds--we LOVE spreadsheets!

The night before the release we put color bands on the birds – each bird will have a unique color band combination so that field researchers can identify them.  Once the birds are banded, they go into their special transport crates.

Removing a bird from its holding cage.
Banding the bird for release and future identification.
Good luck kisses are a vital part of the relocation program.

Early the next morning, project leader Herb Roberts, Curator of Birds at the Memphis Zoo, loads them up into the helicopter to take to their new island home.

At least the people in the helicopter had a very impressive view on the way to the white-eye’s new home.

After they landed on Sarigan, the crates are taken into the forest to let the white-eyes enjoy their new island paradise (although some of the white-eyes are a little more cautious than the otehrs).

Next spring, field researchers from DFW will come to Sarigan and look for unbanded Golden White-eyes.  Any birds without a leg band will be off-spring from the 24 that we moved.  We are very hopeful that they will breed and thus grow an ‘insurance’ population of this beautiful species that is protected from the dangers on their home island of Saipan. 

The DFW field researchers will keep look-out for a Golden White-eye nest like this one

After the release on Sarigan, we still had extra birds remaining in our care.  We originally caught 18 Rufous Fan-tails and 42 Golden White-eyes.  Since we are only taking 12 Fantails and 12 White-eyes back to the United States; we needed to choose the birds to return to their original trapping location.  After looking carefully at the food consumption of the birds we trapped; we chose 6 Fantails and 6 White-eyes to re-release.  Mid-day on the day after the translocation, we took these birds back out to their original trap location.  Most of the fantails flew out of the crate with hast… however, the White-eyes, always curious, usually eyed their surroundings prior to flying out of their crate.

A Golden White-eye, cautiously examining its surroundings before flying free.
A Rufous Fantail takes flight back at its original home.

 

While we were back at our netting sites, we were able to see check-up on the Bridled White-eye nest that was near trap 1… and we were very pleased to see that one chick had hatched and the 2nd egg was in the hatching process.  It looks like it will be another successful spring for the birds on Saipan.

A Bridled White-eye chick, and a second on the way!

Make sure you haven’t missed out! Read the rest of the series HERE!

Search Blog & Website
[jetpack_subscription_form title="Subscribe to the Blog" subscribe_text="Enter your email address to subscribe and receive new blog posts by email."]
Houston Zoo Facebook Page
Animals In Action

Recent Videos

[youtube_channel]