Painted dog reintroduction: good news from Zimbabwe

Dogs released in Vic Falls in April

Conservation Director, Peter Riger, assisted Painted Dog Conservation in Zimbabwe with the reintroduction of 6 Painted dogs a few months ago.  He is back in Zimbabwe now, and checking up on the pack.  

The translocation of 6 dogs we were lucky enough to witness back in April is going very well. The dogs were released out of their soft holding pens in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and into Hwange National Park  in late July. Since then, they have been observed making 4 successful kills so far including two impala, a water buck and a kudu. This is the best news possible for a newly reintroduced group of dogs as it shows they have learned to hunt as a cohesive pack.

Animal Enrichment: Who Does the Parrot Want to Call?

As a child, I absolutely hated macaroni art. The act of gluing food parts to a sheet of paper seemed to me designed as some form of punishment, designed to punish me by having small pieces of pasta glued up and down my arms. Many other craft activities seemed to be along a similar thread, a waste of time with no real purpose. Being a zookeeper, I’ve had to re-evaluate my feelings because of a need to enrich a wide variety of animals.

 Animal care staff are fairly crafty people – we have to be. The simple fact of the matter is that a variety of crafts open up doors to creating new ways to interact with our animals and encourage natural responses. Being able to create our own enrichment has a variety of benefits:

 1) Purchasing enrichment pieces for all of our animals is simply not an option. With an animal collection numbering into the thousands, keepers at the Houston Zoo utilize their craftiness to come up with our own unique enrichment ideas for a fraction of the cost of purchased items.

 2) Items to be purchased are not necessarily meant for the wide array of exotic animals that are housed at the Houston Zoo. While there are a variety of objects available to encourage interaction, they are typically designed with more domestic species in mind. Designed objects can be created with a variety of animals in mind.

 3) Utilizing our creativity is a way for keepers to create many more nrichment opportunities than would normally be available. We can decide to change enrichment items to focus on different sensations or different natural behaviors.

 

This is our Pesquet’s Parrot (Psittrichas fulgidus) interacting with a phone book. As a novel item, this enrichment encourages a great deal of natural curiosity and observation. This bird is clearly observing the item from every feasible angle before finally reaching out to explore further using the nerve-laden tongue of a parrot.

 

 Want to help further? We also have a wish list of items that many people throw away in the course of their day; some days, these few small items can make all the difference in the world in helping to create a “new” zoo everyday

Enrichment Day at the Houston Zoo is Saturday, September 24th.  This is a great opportunity to come and join in the fun.  Come out and see all of the animals enjoying special enrichment, hear keeper chats and loads of  fun games for kids of all ages!  Enrichment Day celebrates the meaning and joy of enriching our animals and visitors!

Find your favorite animals and see what they’re wishing for at Amazon.com. Then just sit back, shop, click and send your animal of choice a wonderful gift to enrich their life!  They really do appreciate it and so does the Houston Zoo!

Peter Riger reports on the Conservation department's community work in Zimbabwe from Zimbabwe

Health clinic in Lupote

Conservation Director, Peter Riger, has returned to Zimbabwe to assist Painted Dog Conservation in helping the rural communities around Hwange National park with building water catchment systems and upgrading livestock parasite treatment.

Friday August 26th

Did you ever start the day thinking nothing will go as planned? I think this on many trips until bits and pieces fall into place. Today we had some bits and visited some pieces. We started with a visit to the town of Hwange around 10am and a visit to one of the Gov’t Veterinarians Dr. Zishiri to explain what we were working on with Painted Dog Conservation. Very similar to the April meeting with the Chief in the Village of Mabale but we wanted his input on use of tick and disease control methods and the discussions bring us a few steps closer to getting up an running. A few more errands, looking at available building supply material, an attempted meeting with the District Council throughout the day. Visit first to the health clinic in Lupote and then on the dip tank in Mabale for more measurements and figuring out water capacity. This all hopefully sets the stage for another meeting with the Chief so we can get started. If it seems as though this conservation effort is all about people, it is for now but their decisions affect wildlife here every day.

Sable Antelope

Not very exotic visiting building supply stores, cows and goats but we are still in Zimbabwe and if you want to see one of the most attractive antelope in the world, look up Sable Antelope. We were winding our way through some baboons on the main road (just another normal occurrence) and off to the side in the brush were a group of 6-7 Sable. Turn off down the dirt road to our housing, round the corner, and there stood 15-20 Elephants in the Pan. We typically call them waterholes but in Zimbabwe and Botswana these sites are known as Pans. Given we are in the winter drought season, they are more mud holes than waterholes. Water is more difficult to find so the elephants congregate here to drink what they can. Around the next corner was a small group of Common Waterbuck with a juvenile and of course back at the house the sounds of elephant, jackal, kalahari toads, insect-eating bats and a male lion are easily heard from the porch.

The project may be people and cows, but this is still Africa as you always imagined it.

By Peter Riger

Stay tuned for more of Peter’s exciting reports from Zimbabwe.

FOTO Friday Winner of the Week!

Welcome to the Houston Zoo’s FOTO FRIDAY Caption Challenge results post from Friday, August 26 !

This photo is from Zoo Guest Carol Baudat!!

Thanks for this VERY caption worthy shot Carol.

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 top voted caption by Kaci Danielle Smith !!! (Croaking our congrats!)

"Ok so there's a boy out there who can talk to snakes and make glass disappear... IS THERE ONE THAT MAYBE SPEAKS ANURA TONGUE!?"

TIE for FIRST RUNNER UP:

Rick Eierdam: Talk to the HAND

Bridget Robbins Haines: Live long, and prosper!

SO MANY FUNNY CAPTIONS- Here are just a few as Honorable Mentions:

Stacey Ricks: And now the famous mime The Golden Amphibian will perform IN A BOX for Houston Zoo Fans!

Erik Burington: Hello Clarisse

Sheila Livingston: Damn, the forcefield’s still intact. One day…

Bryan Skinner: Arrgh…I just can’t get this Hook ‘Em sign down!

Nikki Eddy: I knew I shouldn’t have eaten all those bananas

Jennifer Compte: Where’s Harry Potter when you need him?

Nan Wagoner: You didn’t get the email that today was yellow day?

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL!

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. Click here for all our chill activities and tips.

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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.

 

The Director of Conservation's adventures at Painted Dog Conservation in Zimbabwe

Conservation Director, Peter Riger, has returned to Zimbabwe to assist Painted Dog Conservation in helping the rural communities around Hwange National park with building water catchment systems and upgrading livestock parasite treatment.  Here is the first instalment of his adventures in Zimbabwe.

Thursday, August 25th.

It has been a typical two day journey back to Painted Dog Conservation near Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe.  It has been nearly 4 months since we visited to start gathering ideas for community support programs here. We returned home in early May thinking we could initiate a livestock health program in the local village, and possibly secure a water source for the main health clinic as well. Friday we meet with the regional government veterinarian to outline some of the ideas.  We then go to town to look for supplies, so we can sketch out some ideas over the weekend .

Conservation Director, Peter Riger, and Agricultural Specialist, John Huston in Hwange National Park

When you return to work on a project, you have plenty of airplane time to think about what might and might not go as planned. By the time you finally reach your destination and get to talking with people you have not seen for many months, you tend to ignore what is going on around you. Hearing lions or jackals in the bushes while sitting outside before dinner seems perfectly normal. In Houston, we would run inside as fast as we can. Elephants trumpeting 20-30yards away? No one missed a beat in the conversation. “Oh look, there’s a leopard”. Now that got our attention. Of course we all ran towards the area to try and get a better look as a tail disappeared into the brush just 20 feet away from one of the volunteer houses. We of course stayed by the back door. We have not managed to keep all our toes and fingers intact working around animals by not being cautious. It is just amazing for all of us to be able to see a leopard just passing by. 10 minutes later of course we were rummaging around on the path looking for paw prints, but surely he had moved on by then??? Of course the Hyena are now making a racket and my room is filled with the sounds of squeaking bats in the roof. At least it is only 80 degrees here today.

Stay tuned for more exciting conservation adventures in Zimbabwe.

Mystery Image Mondays at the Houston Zoo: Week Thirteen

It’s Monday morning and you know what that means! It’s Week 13 of photographic scavenger hunt, Mystery Image Mondays at the Houston Zoo! Can you believe we only one more week in this summer series after today? Wow, the time really has flown! If you want to brush up on your sleuthing skills, or just want to check out what you’ve been missing in our past twelve 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 #13:

The Clues

1. I am frequently confused with my cousin, which can be very frustrating sometimes!

2. Although I do enjoy a good bark, I’m certainly not a dog!

3. Guests love my daily Keeper Chats so much, they tend to flip out!

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

The Answer

That’s right, you guessed it! This photo was taken during one of our dailyCalifornia Sea Lion demonstrations!

Al.....most......there!

California Sea Lions, as the name implies, are native to the Pacific west coast and can be found from the tip of the California Baja to the Alaskan panhandle. Sea Lions are sometimes mistaken for seals, their pinniped brethren.

 

The difference between the two comes down to the shape of their ears- ya, really their ears! Sea lions have small earflaps that protrude from the head, while seals possess tiny openings from which to hear.

 

They are highly social creatures that really enjoy their twice-a-day Keeper Chats, which guests can enjoy on the Sea Lion deck– a popular venue with our Special Events teams. Our sea lions love interacting with their keepers and enjoy demonstrating their aquatic acrobatics. Our family of sea lions has even taken to the human sport of basketball- so much so, that they spent time predicting the winner of the 2011 NCAA College Basketball Tournament to great viral success!

 

 

We hope you have enjoyed this installment of Mystery Image Mondays at the Houston Zoo! Come back next Monday for our last post of the series during our TXU Energy presents Chill Out at the Houston Zoo.

Spotlight on Species: The St.Vincent Parrot's Home

The St. Vincent Amazon Parrot (Amazona guildingii) is found on the small, volcanic, Caribbean island of St. Vincent.  The island of St. Vincent is part of the country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  Houston is more than four times the size of St. Vincent!  This small island is the only place in the world that the St. Vincent Amazon Parrot is found in the wild.

The Caribbean, where the nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is located.

The St. Vincent Amazon Parrot is listed as a vulnerable species, with less than 800 left in the wild.  The Houston Zoo has housed St. Vincent Amazon Parrots since 1967 and is currently the only zoo in North America to do so.

The Houston Zoo hatched Vincent Deuxieme in 2008

To learn more about this exotic species, their habitat, and their history on the island of St. Vincent, join us on Sunday, September 4th from 11 AM until 3 PM at the St. Vincent building (near Stormy the bird bank) for our Spotlight on the Species.

Keepers will be hosting fun activities about the island and the St. Vincent Parrot, including a volcano demonstration, flag creation station, face painting and more.  The keepers will also be there to answer any questions you may have about this special parrot.

This is one of the most beautiful birds, and your very own Houston Zoo is the only place they can be seen in all of North America so please mark your calendars and join us!

Written by Senior Bird Keeper Mollie Coym

Carnivore Enrichment: Hunting, Pouncing and Chasing!

The Zookeepers at the Houston Zoo strive to get natural behaviors from their animals by providing novel enrichment items.  Enrichment helps to improve an animal’s well being by stimulating them mentally and physically in order to encourage natural behaviors.  Each enrichment item is geared to stimulating one of their basic senses: sound, taste, sight, touch and smell.  You can help provide items for your favorite carnivore at Amazon.com.

If we want to encourage a Jaguar to hunt like they would in the wild, we will hide a barrel with meat inside on exhibit.  It’s not room service every day at the zoo!!!  In this example the Jaguar smells the meat but cannot see it.  He would have to use his sense of smell to find the food source and then he has to manipulate the barrel in order to get the meat out.  Manipulating the barrel stimulates the Jaguar physically and mentally, often turning into play as well. 

The Carnivore Department provides a different type of enrichment every day.  To prevent repetition and boredom we are constantly changing our enrichment schedule and trying to come up with fresh ideas.  Some of the most popular enrichment items for Carnivores include novel food items, bones, ice pops, various scents, bedding and boxes. 

Bonita, our Maned Wolf loves it when we give her a box of crickets.  The noise and movement created by the crickets stimulate Bonita’s hunting behaviors and she loves tearing the box apart. 

We recently installed a zip line for our African Wild Dog exhibit.  The zip line gives us a whole new way to present bones, hides and large chunks of meat to the African Wild Dogs.  The dogs have to chase their enrichment item and then pull it off the line.  You can see in the photo below it’s a group effort!  Chasing, tearing, pulling and working for their food are all behaviors the Dogs would exhibit in the wild.

By encouraging natural behaviors through enrichment guests visiting the Houston Zoo can see Jaguars hunting, Maned Wolves pouncing and African Wild Dogs chasing.  Hopefully these kinds of moments at the Zoo will foster an appreciation for the plight of all animals in the wild. 

Enrichment Day at the Houston Zoo is Saturday, September 24th.  This is a great opportunity to come and join in the fun.  Come out and see all of the animals enjoying special enrichment, hear keeper chats and loads of  fun games for kids of all ages!  Enrichment Day celebrates the meaning and joy of enriching our animals and visitors!

Find your favorite animals and see what they’re wishing for at Amazon.com. Then just sit back, shop, click and send your animal of choice a wonderful gift to enrich their life!  They really do appreciate it and so does the Houston Zoo!

End of Summer Bash!

Even though the summer has been hot, we will still miss the days of travelling, hanging pool-side and not attending classes! Thanks to TXU Energy presents Chill Out at the Houston Zoo, we at the Zoo have stayed cool all through the summer in our 13 air-conditioned Chill Zones and our animals have stayed refreshed with icy treats, baths and showers. Join us as we celebrate another great summer at the Houston Zoo on Saturday, September 3 from 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.

We will have some amazingly COOL things going on at this end of summer bash!

When you walk through the entrance, be sure to stop at the TXU Energy tent to pick up your fan (trust us, these life savers will get you through the day!), and start your exciting scavenger hunt around the CHILL ZONES at the Zoo! Once you finish your voyage through our 13 air-conditioned locations you will be rewarded with a FREE sno cone!

You will have the exciting chance to see a one-of-a-kind ice sculpture created right before your eyes! The well-known Houston ice sculptor, Reverend Butter, will be taking giant blocks of ice and creating animal ice sculptures to offer some chilly relief.

Leah White and the Magic Mirrors will also be here performing their hits. Winners of the 2009 Nickelodeon Parent’s Choice Awards, Leah White and the Magic Mirrors provide fun and entertaining music for all ages!

We can’t wait to see you all there as we bid a fond farewell to summer!

FOTO Friday Winner of the Week!

Welcome to the Houston Zoo’s FOTO FRIDAY Caption Challenge results post from Friday, August 19 !

FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER, we used a photo from one of our Zoo guests, Heidi Massin!! Thanks for the cool shot of the ring tailed lemurs Heidi.

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 top voted caption by Brian Block !!! (Doing a big ring-tailed dance!)

"OK, see the human I'm talking about? Look but don't look. No, look but don't look. OH MY GOSH, OH MY GOSH, THEY CAN SEE US!"

TIE for FIRST RUNNER UP:

Alma Garza Mescher: “Psssttt…I heard the kids are going back to school. We’ll be seeing less children and happier parents soon!”

Kathy Burgamy: “ I’ve told you before you have to rinse thoroughly after you shampoo…that’s why you have dry scalp.”

SECOND RUNNER UP:

Nikki Morin: “Well I heard from a friend who heard it from a guy, who heard it from his neighbor’s sister’s”

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Bridget Robbins Haines I can see DAYLIGHT through here!

Pam Hogno ” Presenting your royal highness, our illustrious King Julian the XIII, self-proclaimed lord of the lemurs, etc, etc, hooray, everybody.”

Janet Denton I’ve never worn a stitch of Abercrombie and Fitch in my life. Why don’t they offer to pay ME? (**a refrence for those who watch Jersey Shore)

Alan G Pallister I heard the chimps are planning a meeting at midnight by the Tiger constructiont to plan the take over.

Daniel Reed I know you are, but what am I? (**he heh -We love Pee Wee)

Dale Martin “Do you want to know a secret? Do you promise not to tell? …” (**we can hear the Beatles tune now…)

Esmeralda Hernandez Your way better than a conch shell, I can hear the ocean in your mouth but the great thing is yu can scratch my back too….ur awesome

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL!

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. Click here for all our chill activities and tips.

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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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