Whats New in the Swap Shop?

Meet Edward Scissorhands, our Tailless Whip Scorpion.  He now lives in the Swap Shop full time!  Edward is not a true scorpion, but is in the Arachnid family and is a variety found in Africa.  He is harmless to humans but, if you are a cricket or worm, it’s a whole different story.  Tailless Whip Scorpions are nocturnal so they are active at night.  During the day they can be found hiding in leaf litter, logs, bark or under stones.  At night they come out to hunt and then it’s crickets beware.  They don’t have venom like a true scorpion but instead use their pinchers, called pedipalps, to crush their prey.  As in some other arachnid orders, Edward’s first pair of legs are modified to act as sensory organs or whips.  While Edward walks on the other six legs, these two legs are held out in front of his body as he moves to probe terrain and find prey. Come in to swap with us and visit Edward while you are here.  Don’t know about the Swap Shop?  Click here for more information.

Edward the Tailless Whip Scorpion

Special Shelled Ones in the Orangutan Moat at the Houston Zoo- Come See!

Orangutans are big, orange, hairy, very endangered and unbelievably adorable. I know it’s really hard to look at anything else when you are looking at their big and fantastic ape faces. However, the next time you visit the Houston Zoo, I suggest that you take a second or two to peer down into the orangutan moat…look past the puckering Koi, and keep your eye out for little (and not so little) reptilian heads popping out of the water now and again.

If you are lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one of these little heads…you may have just seen some of the most endangered turtles in the world. One of which is on the TOP 25 most endangered turtles in the world! This turtles name is the Painted Terrapin, he is one of the most colorful turtles in South East Asia and in some areas is actually referred to as the Watermelon terrapin because in the breeding season they actually look like the colors of a watermelon! Males in breeding color also get pale white faces with a red stripe on the top of their head. This beautiful species is close to extinct in the wild because the eggs are relished as a delicacy and their meat is in demand as well.

Here is a picture of our Painted Terrapin accepting a monkey biscuit (their favorite treat) from Primate Keeper Tammy! She loves these turtles!

Painted Terrapin eating biscuit








Painter Terrapin Swimming











Another rare and beautiful turtle that is currently residing in the Orangutan moat is the Giant Malaysian River Turtle, Orlitia borneensis. This is personally one of my favorites. This gigantic and shy turtle is also becoming increasingly exploited for their meat in Southeast Asia and was recently up listed to critically endangered by the IUCN.

Giant River Turtle With Mouth Covered in Biscuits








Peeking out of the Water, So Shy!











Many turtle species in Asia are suffering shocking declines due to decades of illegal and unsustainable harvest. In addition to habitat loss, these animals are relentlessly collected and trafficked for the pet trade, consumption and medicinal purposes. The Houston Zoo is currently assessing how we may work with our partners in Malaysian Borneo to incorporate turtle research and conservation in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary. Our partners are already supporting research and conservation efforts for charismatic animals like the Asian elephant and the Orangutan, and now they would like to set their sights on endangered reptiles and amphibians as well. More to come on these efforts so stay tuned!

You can help Southeast Asian turtles by NEVER eating or buying turtle meat, eggs or products when you are traveling overseas.

Passport to Bright Futures

Join Collaborative for Children and the Houston Zoo at Passport to Bright Futures, an event that celebrates early learners, ages  0-6, with a kid-friendly musical performance by The Non-Toxic Band!  Performances will take place at the Butterfly Pavilion from 10-10:45 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

The fun, yet educational journey begins in the John P. McGovern Children’s Zoo with a passport that leads families through three interactive stations where they will learn about the importance of play, learning and nurturing their children. After receiving a stamp at each station, passports can be redeemed for a signature gift.

Head to Passport to Bright Futures on Saturday, August 27 from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. This event is FREE with your paid Zoo admission. This event is FREE for Zoo Members. Visit Collaborative for Children for details.



Full Circle: Pongos Helping Pongos Helping Tapirs Supporting Tapirs


Tapirs Helping Tapirs



Aurora won’t sleep in her bed tonight and I can’t sleep at all so here we are in the Wortham World of Primates, the baby orangutan dozing under a blanket on my chest.  My mind is south of here at an event called “Tapirs Supporting Tapirs” that should just be wrapping up in São Paulo, Brazil.  It’s fitting.  Tapirs Supporting Tapirs wouldn’t exist if it hadn’t been for “Pongos Helping Pongos”. This project was born eight years ago when primate keepers dreamed up the idea of putting paintings created by the orangutans in our care into a gallery and selling them to raise funds to help orangutans who live on the other side of the globe in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra. We probably would never have thought to do it if not for the big sister of the orangutan currently nestled right here, her little hands moving as if she’s dreaming, Luna bela. Aurora isn’t old enough yet to paint or to draw chalk murals on the walls of her room, or to entertain guests by wrapping herself in a sheet and then opening her arms, whipping the sheet away to reveal herself dramatically again and again (I’m a butterfly! I’m a chrysalis! I’m a butterfly! I’m a chrysalis!) as her sister Luna did. But Aurora reminds me very much of her, good natured yet spunky, ticklish on her ridiculous pink and mauve cow-print belly, and lady-like enough to burp like a sailor and look cute doing it.



But I digress. Over the years, the Primate staff held four gallery events, as well as numerous smaller endeavors that involved hundreds if not thousands of participants and supporters. Art created by Luna and her fellow Houston Zoo orangutans was displayed and sold, raising awareness and a considerable amount of money, primarily for the Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Project based in a village called Sukau in Malaysia. Thinking someone else might be able to use our simple idea, I presented “Pongos Helping Pongos” at the Zoos and Aquariums Committing to Conservation conference, offering from the podium help to anyone who wanted to use art created by zoo animals to support conservation.

And Patrícia Medici took me up on it! Pati, a charismatic Brazilian conservationist, had the idea to organize an event where paintings created by tapirs living in zoos in the U.S. would be displayed and sold in São Paulo to benefit the Lowland Tapir Initiative. The event, later christened “Tapirs Supporting Tapirs” would increase appreciation of the lowland tapir (Tapirus terrestris), an IUCN Red List Vulnerable species, which many Brazilians regard as common, unintelligent, and uninteresting animals.  The event would also raise awareness of the human activities, such as hunting for meat and habitat encroachment for farming and grazing that negatively affect wild lowland tapir populations.

Tapir painting by Brookfield Zoo tapirs

So we contacted the Large Mammal staff at the Houston Zoo as well as our colleagues at several other institutions that provide support for Pati’s research.  So many were willing to help out that we actually had to narrow it down so that Pati wouldn’t be overwhelmed trying to get all the paintings back to Brazil.  We sent art supplies all over the country to Brevard Zoo, Brookfield Zoo, John Ball Zoo, San Diego Zoo, and Woodland Park Zoo and walked them over to our own Houston Zoo tapir keepers.  Some of these zoos had previously painted with their tapirs but some might never have done so if not for this project; that would have been a shame because, from what I can see, they get a kick out of it.   And look what we got back: Pictures of paintings here. Twenty-nine beautiful paintings for the event!

When Pati started planning and set a date, it was amazing to watch it all happen! She picked the São Paulo Zoo as a venue. She got great artists like Ronald Rosa Obra and Desenho Luccas Longo involved.

She got a lot of attention from the media. You can friend it, follow it, and otherwise check it out. It’s all in Portuguese but still fun to watch:

I can’t wait to hear how it turned out! I’d go to the computer right now but, though my mind is in São Paulo, my lap is here at Wortham World Of Primates and, at the moment, it’s occupied by a baby orangutan who’s just trying to get some shut-eye.

Written by Amanda Daly, Houston Zoo Natural Encounters Supervisor

FOTO Friday Winner of the Week!

Welcome to the Houston Zoo’s FOTO FRIDAY Caption Challenge results post from Friday, July 22!

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.


Here is the picture that was posted on Facebook last Friday, with the top voted caption by Barbara Blanchard Reed !!! (insert Grizzly roar!)

Aahhhh- wuh - NO, I did not pee in the pool!


Cathleen Grauel Schlechte: Oh…I shoulda been a seal!


Amy McKinney Weisman: Don’t judge… What would you do if you were wearing a fur coat in this heat


Sharon Rose: Ican’t “bear” the thought of one more day of this heat!!!!

Jamie Pempek Van Wunnik:  I do my best thinking right here…. 

Reba Athey: So…go fer a swim… catch some rays… get somethin -SQUIRREL!… uh..what was I sayin

Donna Lybarger:  Just too tired to get out.


Thanks for joining in the fun!

And please come on back for next Friday!


Grizzly bears, native of Alaska, western Canada and the northwestern United States, are second in size only to polar bears.  Grizzlies are omnivores, eating both plants and animals.   Both the Zoo’s naturalistic spectacled bear and grizzly bear habitats feature a flowing watercourse and pool, natural grass substrate, climbing features and additional shade.  Come on in and visit them soon!

TXU Energy Presents Chill Out at the Houston Zoo:

Houston summers are hot, but the Houston Zoo is cool.

Guess what’s new? Starting today, you can enjoy four brand new misting stations in addition to the mister fans that are spread out all over our grounds! You can find them here:

*at the lawn by the okapis

*off Duck Lake on the side near our Wortham World of Primates

*next to the wishing well at the start of the McGovern’s Childrens Zoo

* at the entrance to The African Forest.

Click here for all our chill activities and tips.


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 Brained Challenge: The Results!

First and foremost, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to everyone who took the time to participate in our Bird Brained Challenge. With over 70 participants (not to mention views on the zoo’s blog page numbering into the thousands for the duration of the challenge), there can be no questioning that bird lovers can most certainly be found in Houston – a fact that makes perfect sense, considering that the Houston Zoo has one of the largest and most diverse avian collections in the country. Our wonderful readers have proven that they are not “bird brained” at all!


I am very proud to point out that we have a wide array of supporters here at the Houston Zoo, many of whom participated in our challenge. Without the support of our valuable guests we would not be able to engage in such a variety of conservation and education endeavors. Therefore, we would like to offer an Honorable Mention to the following participants who provided answers for every single clue.

  • Benjamin Auces
  • Melissa Fellers
  • Jade Hems
  • Frances Karels
  • Nancy Padua
  • Brenda Stanley

Next, we have several contestants who demonstrated their impressive avian intelligence by answering every single clue correctly! We have decided to offer these contestants a consolation prize – a selection of magnets, painted by a variety of ducklings raised this year!

  • Margaret Atmar
  • Liz Turner
  • Jennifer Sullivan

Of course, we understand that everyone is concerned with the announcement of our winner. I’m sorry to say that we did not have a winner for our contest – we had TWO! Our two grand prize winners tied in points after answering every single post correctly. For this reason, we have decided to award both of our winners a painting done by ducklings raised at the Houston Zoo this year! Let’s have a hearty round of applause for:

  • Alaina Sheehy
  • Mary Reeves

This announcement of winners marks the end of our Bird Brained Challenge. We hope that all of our contestants had fun and learned something! Here at the Houston Zoo, our continuing goal is to “provide a fun, unique, and inspirational experience fostering appreciation, knowledge, and care for the natural world.”

We invite you to come and visit us SOON, and see all the birds from this contest, and more!

Mystery Image Mondays at the Houston Zoo: Week Eight

It’s Monday morning and you know what that means! It’s Week 8 of photographic scavenger hunt, Mystery Image Mondays at the Houston Zoo! If you want to brush up on your sleuthing skills, or just want to check out what you’ve been missing in our past seven installments, just click here!


The rules for the game are very easy: we are about to show you a portion of a photo- it may be of an animal, a habitat, or some other point of interest found on Zoo grounds. Your knowledge of the Zoo, partnered with the three clues that will follow the photo, will aid you in identifying the location and subject of the photo. Post your guesses below and return this afternoon between 3:00 and 4:00 pm to find out if you were right!

Are you ready? Good, then let the (scavenger) hunt begin! We are proud to present…

This Week’s Image, a.k.a #8:

The Clues

1. People always seem to be afraid to take a drink from me- I don’t know why, I don’t bite!

2. I’m very proud of my celebrity status here at the Zoo. I’m the pride of my family, who lives nearby!

3. I’d be lyin’ if I told you I’m a newcomer to the zoo- I’ve been here for ages!

Psst- here’s a freebie hint: all the photos are Chill Out themed!



The Answer

That’s right, you guessed it! This is a photo of our lion water fountain located along the path that runs from the exit of The African Forest to the Cypress Circle Café. For all of the expert navigators out there (and those who took a sneak a peek at our online map!) you will notice this path runs right beside the lion habitat. Pretty cool placement, huh?

Don't worry, he won't bite!

Our lion water fountain has been a guest favorite for many generations- and here are some “retro” photos to show it!

The Fountain in the early-mid 1960's


And here he is again in the early 1970's


Here he is posing for one of many family pictures!

Unfortunately, records of when this thirst-quenching lion joined the Houston Zoo family are hard to come by. So while we look to the past for more clues, we have decided to share what some of our guests have said about everyone’s favorite big-cat-shaped water fountain! These quotes are taken directly from the comment section in a previous blog post asking for your favorite zoo memory!


               When I was a little girl my parents took me to the zoo. I was so thirst and had a drink of water out of the lion water fountain/ My mom took a picture of me on my little top toes drinking out of that lion water fountain/ When I was a grumpy pre-teen I begrudgingly had my picture taken out[side] of the lion water fountain. Now as and adult when I go to the zoo I still take a picture of myself drinking from the fountain and I email it to my mom and dad to remind them of all the fun times we had at the Houston Zoo. Don’t ever get rid of that fountain! –  Amanda L

               I vividly remember my first trip to the zoo back in 1968. I was almost 5 years old. My father wanted to take pictures of me in front of the Tiger exhibit… and I was completely terrified to back myself up to the for fear I would be eaten. …I also remember drinking from the Lion waer fountain… of course this was after much discussion that it was not a real lion!  Amy Fagan



Feel free to share your favorite Houston Zoo water fountain memory; they make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside- and folks I ain’t lyin’ about that!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this installment of Mystery Image Mondays at the Houston Zoo! Come back next Monday, and every Monday throughout our TXU Energy presents Chill Out at the Houston Zoo.

Come Root for the Home Team – Houston Zoo Night at the Astros Game

Houston Zoo fans are in for a special treat as we partner up with the Houston Astros to present Zoo Night at the Astros vs. Cincinatti Reds game on Tuesday, August 2 at 7:05 p.m.

With the special ticket prices offered only to our Houston Zoo fans, you’ll have more cash to buy that three-foot-tall margarita or gourmet hot dog. Below is information on how you can purchase your discounted ticket.


You won’t want to miss this special game – with Beth Schaefer, our Curator of Primates and Carnivores, throwing the first pitch!

Bird Brained Challenge: Answer #5

This bird is the Rainbow Lorikeet!

Rainbow Lorikeets are an energetic and playful species that we are happy to have on display at the Houston Zoo. These bright and colorful birds are commonly classified with regard to their varying coloration. Green-naped Lorikeets are just one example of this highly-variable parrot.

Lorikeets of all types have a variety of adaptations for their specialized diet, and Rainbow Lorikeets are no exception. These small parrots eat a variety of soft fruits, but an important component of their diet is the nectar of a variety of plant species. Lorikeets have modified papillae (structures on the tongue) that resemble the bristles of a paintbrush. This adaptation makes these birds uniquely suited to consume plant nectar. Their scientific genus (Trichoglossus) actually refers to this adaptation.

Like most parrot species, the Rainbow Lorikeet can readily be found in the pet trade – and like most parrot species, the Rainbow Lorikeet is typically not regarded as a good choice for a pet. Parrots are loud and messy birds that require great amounts of social interaction to compensate for the interaction the bird would otherwise experience in the wild. Veterinarians specializing in aviculture are not as common as those treating mammalian companion animals, making care of these animals more difficult and potentially expensive. Furthermore, an abundance of information on the care of these animals exists in easy to access sources such as the internet – unfortunately, this information is rarely consistent from one source to another (and sometimes it is downright wrong). Instead, we encourage guests to take advantage of the chance to see and learn more about our parrots at the Houston Zoo, which includes the intriguing Pesquet’s Parrot and the critically endangered St. Vincent Amazon. In this way, guests can experience the wonder of watching parrots interact with a variety of stimuli, knowing that these animals are well cared for by the trained staff of one of the largest and most diverse avian collections in the country!

Photo by Leigh Spencer

Why Did the Cassowary Cross the Road? Cassowary Spotlight on the Species: July 23rd!

Unfortunately, there’s no punch line and the situation is no laughing matter. Habitat loss and fragmentation have left the Australian population of cassowaries on the brink of extinction. These huge birds need large amounts of land to roam in search of food and to breed, but their habitat is breathtakingly beautiful, leading to a boom in residential and commercial construction in the area. Everyone wants to live near the rainforests of Australia, but there’s simply not enough room for everyone.

When roads are built through cassowary habitat, horrible things happen:

Cassowaries don't belong on roads!


The reality of the human impact on wild cassowaries.


It’s not just the cassowary that’s impacted by humans moving in. Habitat loss and fragmentation affect ALL the animals and plants of the rainforest. The cassowary just happens to be the largest and most noticeable example of species that are just around the corner from extinction.

The Australian rainforests are home to approximately 3,000 different plant species from 210 families including:

  • 65% of Australia’s ferns
  • 21% of the country’s cycads
  • 37% of its conifers
  • 30% of its orchid species


  • 36% of Australia’s mammals
  • 30% of its marsupials including tree kangaroos and possums
  • 60% of its butterflies
  • 48% of its bird species
  • 25% of its frog and reptiles
  • 37% of its freshwater fish
  • 50% of the country’s bat species

The cassowary is just one of so many threatened species!

If you’re still wondering what this has to do with you, given that Australia is on the other side of the world and you may never get there to visit, think about this:

80% of the flowers in the australian rainforest are not found anywhere else in the world.

Still don’t care? They’re just flowers? Well, a large amount of the ingredients we use for modern medication come from rainforest plants. Imagine where we would be as a species without modern medicine, and imagine how far we still have to go. With plant and animal species becoming extinct, we not only lose diversity and beauty in our world, but we lose knowledge, and potential scientific and medical breaththroughs!

That’s why this Saturday, July 23rd, we are hosting a Spotlight on the Species for the Double-wattled Cassowary! We will be raising funds to help the C4 Foundation save precious rainforest habitat.

There will be numerous keeper chats throughout the bird area, Natural Encounters and the Reptile buidling highlighting Australian species, as well as an ostrich keeper chat at 11 AM!

Come to the cassowary exhibit for games, prizes and tons of fun! Just take a look at what we have planned for our guests!

Follow the Cassowary Crossing signs to Darwin's exhibit where you can play games and chat with keepers!
Think you can jump like a cassowary? Find out this Saturday!


All coins go to save the Australian Rainforest!


What's this cassowary missing? His wattle! Help him find it at the Cassowary Exhibit this Saturday!


Hand-made crafts, like these cassowary finger puppets, will also be for sale.
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