First Ever "Crowd Curated" Exhibit!

I wanted to give everyone a quick update on where we are with our exhibit.  I have contacted the New World Primate Taxon Advisary Group (TAG) leader to find out the availability of our most frequently mentioned choices.  I included emperor tamarins, callimico (Goeldi’s monkeys) and titi monkeys. 

Titi monkeys are known for the endearing habit of entwining their tails.

Taxon Advisary Groups work under the umbrella of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and over see an entire taxa of animals, for example I mentioned the New World primate TAG. There are also a Felid TAG, a Lizard TAG and many more. If you read my last blog you may remember what an SSP is.  TAGs oversee SSPs.  Have you picked up on the fact that the zoo world has a LOT of acronyms?  The AZA website even has a list you can refer to because there are so many!  For now I think if we can keep AZA, TAG and SSP straight we should be good.

I will keep you posted on what the TAG says about our choices.  I also asked if there were any species that particularly needed space. It’s always good to play nice so if we need to place an animal in the future the TAGs and SSPs will remember that we were willing to help out.

For all the rodent fans out there, there are agoutis available, although we’re not sure how far down the cement around the bottom of our exhibit reaches.  We’re going to look into that to see if there is enough of a dig barrier to contain a rodent species.

Another option comes from reader MC. MC suggested a South American opossum species.  Any ideas of what species might work?  Post your ideas to the comments!

???

Where in the World is Jeffery? Week One of Our New Contest!

Are you ready for this contest??? Don’t forget, there are two ways to play–the fastest answers get points, but the best caption does as well!  Why not go for both?

PLEASE PUT ALL COMMENTS IN THE BLOG’S COMMENT BOX DIRECTLY BELOW THE TEXT ITSELF!

 

Fans of Francis Ford Coppola may recognize this little bar, located in what small town? 

Imagine your hilarious caption here!

 

Thanks for playing, and we’ll be back on Friday!

 

One of these adorable knitted owls will be just one gift of many in the winner's prize basket!
 

 Get more Jeffery updates on Facebook and follow him on Twitter!

Big Cats Don't Make Good Pets, Part 3

A student at Texas A & M University at Galveston where she studies marine biology, Kaitlin McGraw interned at the Houston Zoo last summer.

“When I came to the Zoo, I heard stories about the animals, and where they came from,” said Kaitlin. “I was surprised to learn how many of the animals in the Zoo’s Carnivore Department came from private owners who had kept them as pets,” Kaitlin added.

“I wanted to do something to help people understand that keeping big cats as pets is not a good idea,” Kaitlin added. The result was a series of video presentations profiling the ‘rescued cats’ at the Houston Zoo and recounting their individual stories. The videos were produced using a Canon PowerShot camera and edited on the iMovie platform.

“In the future, I hope to work with an organization like the Houston Zoo, promoting conservation education or traveling to new locales, working with marine and wildlife sanctuaries,” said Kaitlin.

Introducing Jeffery, and a New Contest That Will Take You Around the World!

So maybe the title is a little misleading.  I am introducing a puppet named Jeffery, but this contest won’t literally take you around the world; you’ll have to use your imaginations for that! 

DISCLAIMER: You cannot win around the world tickets in this contest!

As many of you know, the keepers at the Houston Zoo often get together to present the public with Spotlight on the Species events.  This program allows keepers to bring their most cherished conservation causes to the public.  Lion Fun Day, Vulture Awareness Day, Howler-ween and Pollinator Weekends are just a few of the SOS events we’ve recently hosted.

This year, on the first weekend of May, we’re kicking it up a notch!  Three, count them, THREE different zoo departments are coming together to bring you the Birds of Prey Days!

Ever wanted to meet an eagle face to face or wonder just how far a hawk can see? Want owls hanging out in your yard? Would you like to learn about falconry, which has been practiced for approximately FOUR THOUSAND years?? Throughout the following months, we will provide you with more specifics about our event, but right now, I’d like to tell you about the Philippine Eagle Foundation.

The raptor populations of Texas are robust and thriving, but this isn’t the case all over the world. Take a look at this gorgeous bird:

An adult Philippine Eagle with prey. Photo by Mark Wilson
 
A Phlippine Eagle chick about to leave the nest! Photo by Mark Wilson

Not only this this the largest AND most endangered eagle in the world, but in my professional opinion, it’s also the most beautiful.  Since 2008, the bird department has been raising funds for the Philippine Eagle Foundation and with our SOS, we’d like to bring the eagle to the people of Houston.

Unfortunately, there are no Philippine Eagles anywhere in the States, but that hasn’t stopped us!  Our very talented bird supervisor, Rene Ryan, made Jeffery, the traveling Philippine Eagle puppet.  Since September of last year, Jeffery has been traveling around the world with zoo staff, getting ready to promote this Bird of Prey Spotlight on the Species!

Check out this HANDSOME puppet:

See the resemblance???

Now, on to the contest!  Each Monday morning at 10 AM, a photo of Jeffery will be posted, and with the aid of some hints, our blog followers will have to guess where in the world Jeffery is! Jeffery’s already been to a handful of continents, countries and states!

The first to guess correctly will earn 10 points. The second, 7 points and the third 5 points. Fourth place will receive 2 points.  The comment time stamp will confirm the quickness of your answers!

But wait, there’s a twist! Have you missed our FOTO Fridays?  The best caption for the featured photo (to be decided by zoo staff) will earn a whopping 8 points!

Unlike FOTO Friday, please leave your caption as a comment on the contest blog posted on Mondays, not on Facebook.

Here’s a quick example of what Monday’s posts will look like:

According to legend, William B. Travis drew a line in the dirt for troops to cross over to certain death at this famous historical site.

Where in the world is Jeffery?

Contestants would then race to answer (sorry, not all photos will be this easy to place!), and brush up their funny bones to attempt to win the photo caption round!  Friday morning at 10 AM, all will be revealed, as well as contestant rankings!

What’s in it for you?

The winner will receive a goody basket full of our handmade items which will be for sale during the event, as well as Philippine Eagle art and merchandise.  This prize will be amazing, and throughout the next few months, we will reveal photos of the contents, but for right now, trust me, you want it!

The contest begins Monday, January 30th, 2012!

You do not have to live in Houston to participate, but no Houston Zoo staff are allowed to enter.

 

 Get more Jeffery updates on Facebook and follow him on Twitter!

There's No Such Thing as Too Many Chicks!

For the bird department, 2011 was a very busy and productive year, and 2012 is shaping up to be the same.  That’s why you’re getting this rundown of our significant hatches and adorable baby birds of 2011 in late January of this year…we’re pretty busy, with more babies! 
 
Last year our department hatched 40 different species of bird.  That’s not just 40 babies folks, that’s 40 different kinds of birds that hatched, and in many cases, there was far more than one!  These hatchings included ducks, parrots, pheasants, curassows, tanagers, kingfishers, ibis and many more.  The Blue-billed Curassow and Waldrapp Ibis are critically endangered, and the Micronesian Kingfisher is extinct in the wild!  We are working with other zoos around the world to establish a healthy captive population of these animals to fend off complete extinction. 
 
Not to mention, the babies are cute! 
 
Beware, below you will find some cripplingly adorable photos, some are of very high quality, and some come to us from the magic that is the smart phone:
 
Black-naped Fruit Dove Chick photo by Benjamin King
Attwater's Prairie Chicken Chick photo by Mollie Coym
Blue-billed Curassow Chick with foster chicken hen photo by Christopher Holmes
 
Lady Ross Turaco chick photo by Megan Neal
 

Congo Peafowl chick photo by Rene Ryan
 
 

Speckled Mousebird chicks photo by Benjamin King
 
Micronesian Kingfisher chick in the nest with mom. Photo by Benjamin King

 

 

Pheasant Pigeon chick photo by Stephanie Adams

 

Madagascan Buttonquail Chick photo by Jeremy Whitted.
Crested Wood Partridge chick photo by Mollie Coym

 

Sunbittern chick with parent photo by Stephanie Adams
 
 

Silver-beaked Tanager Photo by Jeremy Whitted
 

White-headed Buffalo chick photo by Samantha Montgomery
 
Siamese Fireback chick photo by Rene Ryan
 
Waldrapp Ibis chicks photo by Samantha Montgomery
 
Red-billed Blue Magpie chicks photo by Rene Ryan

 

Blue-bellied Roller Chick photo by Samantha Montgomery

Big Cats Don’t Make Good Pets, Part 2

A student at Texas A & M University at Galveston where she studies marine biology, Kaitlin McGraw interned at the Houston Zoo last summer.

“When I came to the Zoo, I heard stories about the animals, and where they came from,” said Kaitlin.  “I was surprised to learn how many of the animals in the Zoo’s Carnivore Department came from private owners who had kept them as pets,” Kaitlin added.
“I wanted to do something to help people understand that keeping big cats as pets is not a good idea,” Kaitlin added.  The result was a series of video presentations profiling the ‘rescued cats’ at the Houston Zoo and recounting their individual stories.  The videos were produced using a Canon PowerShot camera and edited on the iMovie platform.

“In the future, I hope to work with an organization like the Houston Zoo, promoting conservation education or traveling to new locales, working with marine and wildlife sanctuaries,” said Kaitlin.

 

First Ever "Crowd Curated" Exhibit!

Hi All.  Hope everyone enjoyed the holidays!

On our exhibit front, bad news on pudu. Currently there are none available, and it doesn’t look like there will be any time soon. Many species in North American zoos have what is called a Species Survival Plan(SSP). This is a management group that is under the umbrella of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums(AZA). The SSP committee keeps track of genetics of all the animals in accredited zoos in North America and makes breeding recomendations in order to preserve genetic diversity in captive populations.  The pudu population in North America is very small and there are no available animals at the moment.  Dissapointing, especially since the husbandry manual indicates they are very tolerant of both humidity and temperatures below freezing so they would be perfect in Houston’s climate.  Any other ideas?

On the primate side, tamarins still seem to be the popular vote, especially Emperor tamarins. I will start checking to see if Emperor tamarins are available, and if not then what other species may be.

Gotta love those moustaches! Photo credit: Aspex Design

All of you should think about what other species we may want to investigate in lieu of pudu. 

Let me know what you come up with!

The Houston Zoo Cares About Diamondback Terrapins, By Rachel Godambe

Do you love turtles? I love Turtles! Do you want to do something to help preserve turtles and their habitat? I know I do! Houston Zoo keepers have planned an awesome turtle bonanza weekend for all you turtle lovers!! Starting Friday, January 20th the East Texas Herpetological Society is hosting a lecture by our very own Houston Zoo Keeper, Jordan Gray about the Jewel of the Salt Marsh, the Diamondback Terrapin. The Diamondback Terrapins lives exclusively in brackish water and was once hunted to the brink of extinction for use in turtle soup. Although numbers appear to have rebounded considerably, their population status along the Texas coastline is not fully known. Due to its unique requirements this species remains especially susceptible to local extinction. Potential threats to survival include habitat alteration, crab trap bycatch, boating, and other human activities. Natural disasters such as hurricanes may also negatively impact the species because of the fragile nature of its limited range. Extensive field research will lead to a better understanding of this species in Texas and offer potential strategies to ensure its continued survival. This free lecture will be at the Houston Zoo Brown Education Building. Doors open at 7:30 and enter through Gate 5. Enjoy refreshments at 7:30 pm and talk begins at 8:00 pm. Enjoy the rest of your weekend here at the Houston Zoo for the Spotlight On Species Event for the Diamondback Terrapins at the Reptile Building from 10 am to 3 pm Saturday, January 21st and Sunday, January 22nd. There will be crafts to do, activities, and keeper chats galore! You can even leave the Zoo with information on how to help the Houston Zoo Conservation Department with their annual Crab Trap Clean up next month. Please come out to the SOS event next weekend and stop by the Crab Trap Clean Up booth in front of the Reptiles Building for more information. Together we can help turtles!!

By: Rachel Godambe, Natural Encounters Keeper

 

Houston Zoo Featured in The Biodiversity Project

West Usambara two-horned chameleon (Kinyongia multituberculata)

National Geographic magazine contributing photographer Joel Sartore has been working on a personal initiative, the Biodiversity Project, which has taken him around the world to document a wide range of animals.

Over the last six years he has created a collection of striking images of nearly 1,800 species. In December, Joel visited the Houston Zoo and this month he will be visiting several AZA-accredited zoos in an attempt to add another 25 species to the collection.
Joel is journaling his adventures on the National Geographic Society’s blog. To see some of the photos he captured during his Houston Zoo visit last month visit http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/visions/field-test/sartore-biodiversity/dispatch-6

Joel uses an interesting technique to ensure that all species receive the same engaging treatment in his photos – he shoots the animals using either a black or white background. Using this method, creatures of all sizes are given equal weight – and hopefully equal consideration by viewers. The idea is to show people, through beautiful images, what is at stake in terms of species loss and to inspire people to care.

The Biodiversity Project began while photographing endangered species in the United States, resulting in a 2009 story in the National Geographic magazine and a book in 2010 entitled Rare: Portraits of America’s Endangered Species. Joel shared some of his adventures at AZA’s 2010 Annual Conference in Houston, Texas.

His down to earth writing style and sense of humor make for an informative and amusing read. Check out his blog every day to see what Joel is up to, and please share the link with your colleagues!

To see more pictures from the Biodiversity Project, visit Joel’s website (http://www.joelsartore.com/galleries/the-biodiversity-project/).

 

Coquerel’s sifaka (Propithecus coquereli)

 

Prevost’s squirrel (Callosciurus prevostii) named “Walnut”

 

Damaraland mole rats (Cryptomys damarensis)

Houston Zoo Welcomes Baby Bongo

Our new baby is Brody, born December 6, 2011. Brody weighed in at 18.3 kg (just over 40 pounds) at birth. He’s a big healthy boy with a good appetite as evidenced by his current weight 5 weeks later – 42 kg (just over 92 pounds).

Houston Zoo Welcomes new bongo calf "Brody"

Brody can be seen every day (weather permitting) on exhibit with his 3 year old mom Penelope. His favorite spot for resting and naps is in the front right hand corner of the exhibit.

Bongos are among the largest of the African forest antelope.

To the casual observer, all bongo calves look alike. But our keepers found a perfect way to tell them apart – they count the white stripes on their side. Bongo can have 10 to 14 white stripes on each side and each side can present a different configuration. For instance, Penelope has 11 stripes on each side.

So, you might ask – what’s a bongo? Well, a bongo is a type of antelope native to the lowlands and mountain forests of Kenya and western Africa. In the wild, bongos are shy and elusive but very social. In fact, bongos are the only forest antelope to form herds.

The Western or lowland bongo is classified as near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the IUCN. The Eastern or mountain bongo is classified as endangered.

 

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