Where in the World is Jeffery? The FINAL Week!

Melissa, Tess and Linda, it’s been a great pleasure!  Thanks for sticking with Jeffery this entire time, and I will be in touch with each of you on Friday, after the final total is announced.  I hope to see you on Saturday or Sunday for our Birds of Prey Days! We plan to have lots of games, keeper chats and opportunities to learn about raptors and the Philippines!

Right now, it’s time to reveal the final photo in our contest!!!

Jeffery visited this public art installation originally created by the art group Ant Farm that encourages visitors to add to the art by spray painting vehicles half-buried nose-first in the ground, at an angle corresponding to that of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.

Where in the world is Jeffery?


You have until Friday at 10 AM to submit your final captions!

An Oasis in the City

Everyone that visits the Houston Zoo surely has an animal that they prefer over any other. People pick their favorite primate, favorite reptile, favorite underwater creature. But how about a favorite plant? The Houston Zoo is home to a lush and diverse array of tropical and native plants, flowers, trees, and various ground coverings.

Our team of horticulture professionals spends over 20,000 hours each year planting, pruning and working tirelessly to keep the landscape healthy, vibrant, and colorful for our animals and guests. The horticulture team at the Zoo is just one group of the many unsung heroes that help us operate on a daily basis. Considerable thought is put into the plant life here, focusing on native Texas species and their place at the Zoo. Our animal enclosures also feature plants that the various animals are accustomed to, highlighting the importance of regional plant life.

On your walk through the Zoo, you’ll be able to see various palms, cycads, and bamboos abound, along with flowers of every color, shape and size. This gorgeous array of vegetation provides some amazing photo opportunities and we certainly encourage you to point your camera at both animals AND plants. The morning light provides for some incredible shots, and there are certainly a plethora of plants to shoot(with your camera!).

While walking through the Zoo, it is very easy to get caught up in rushing to which animal you are going to see next. You should slow down! Grab a seat on a bench, take a deep breath, and enjoy this amazing oasis in the middle of Houston’s metropolis.

Oh yeah, and next time you’re at the Zoo and see one of our horticulture professionals working away, give them a friendly smile and wave!




















Where in the World is Jeffery? Lucky Week 13

Please don’t forget about our Birds of Prey Days on May 5th and 6th.  The Houston Zoo will be hosting a fun-packed educational event to help raise awareness and funds for the survival of the largest and most endangered eagle in the world, the Philippine Eagle! Meet our birds of prey and their keepers, play games, win prizes, and go wild at the Houston Zoo!


Alright Jeffery fans, this is your second to last chance to make it to the top! Final results will be calculated soon, but I can already tell you, Tess, Melissa and Linda will be winning prizes! This photo may take a little research, and we will only give points to the correct answer, giving the correct name and state (there’s a hint for you!)

Unveiled in 2004, Jeffery visited this Stonehenge replica which matches the original Stonehenge horizontally, but is approximately 14 percent shorter in height than the original.

I may be small, but don't count me out!

Earth Day In The Naturally Wild Swap Shop

The Houston Zoo will be celebrating Earth Day April 21-22!  The Naturally Wild Swap Shop will certainly be part of the celebration.  Any nature journal on an Earth Day topic will receive double points.

Earth Day topics include some of the following:

  • endangered or extinct plants and animals
  • edible plants
  • the rock cycle
  • the water cycle
  • habitat loss and how it affects animals

Not sure how the Swap Shop works?  Click here for more information.

Enjoy the other activities throughout the zoo – Earth Day Scavenger Hunt, Mother Earth Maze, Re-usable Mural and more.  And, as always, the animal Keepers here at the zoo will be sharing their knowledge with you during Meet the Keeper Talks.   You will be able to learn more about how the way we treat the planet affects our animals.

The best part?  All of these Earth Day activities are included with your paid Zoo admission!

Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle Rescue

Be ready for a story of an endangered Kemp’s ridley female sea turtle with a happy ending! 
Our head veterinarian, Dr. Joe Flanagan has been working to save sea turtles for many years now.  He is the main sea turtle vet in the area and knows no limits when it comes to helping the species.  Last Memorial Day, a large female endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle was found by sea turtle beach patrol staff digging a nest in the sand on a Galveston beach.  The team immediately noticed that she had sustained severe injuries.  She had attempted to dig 3 nests, but had not dropped any eggs.  They rushed her to the Houston Zoo’s veterinary clinic for treatment and examination by Dr. Joe.
Upon arrival Dr. Joe was alarmed by the state of this female Sea turtle.  He has seen many injured and stranded sea turtles over the years and tries to remain optimistic for most of his cases, but Joe later admitted he was very doubtful this one would survive her injuries.  She had lost a lot of blood and her carapace or shell was severely damaged, it was clear she had been impacted by a boat propeller. 


Identification tags revealed that Joe had met this turtle before.  He discovered that he had released her as a baby turtle almost 20 years prior.  She was a Head-start (a process where individuals of a species are sheltered in captivity through the more vulnerable stages of development and then released where they were found) turtle released in1992.  This case quickly became very near and dear to his heart. 
After Joe had done everything he could for the turtle at the Zoo’s clinic she was transported to the sea turtle Barn in Galveston to recover.  She laid the eggs she had attempted to deposit on the Galveston beach.  Many of them were viable and sent to Padre Island to be incubated and hatched.  Her offspring were released later in the year. 

Joe visited her at the Galveston Turtle Barn many times throughout the year, delighted to see her respond to his many treatments.  The skin has healed nicely and although there is a potion of her carapace/shell missing, but it does not affect her ability to swim.  He was very excited to announce recently that she is fit to be released.  Almost a year from finding her severely damaged body on the beach she is ready to go back to the wild!

Joe ultrasounding nester


Polly Want a… Paintbrush?

One of the most rewarding aspects of being an animal keeper at the Houston Zoo is the opportunity to interact with so many visitors who are continually impressed by the wide array of behaviors our animals exhibit. On any given day it is possible to see animals eating, playing, napping, bathing, running, jumping, swimming… and painting? 

Rainbo, the Eclectus Parrot
Rainbow the Eclectus Parrot Painting

Indeed, several of the animals at the zoo have demonstrated themselves to be talented artists. This is Rainbo, a male Eclectus Parrot found in the John P. McGovern Children’s Zoo. As we can all plainly see, Rainbo is quite the accomplished artist. He is able to utilize a variety of techniques to create outstanding and unique works. 

Some pose the question: Why painting? After all, you will not find a single keeper who will tell you that these animals can be found painting on canvas in the wild. However, animals readily problem-solve and socialize in the wild; keepers are able to help provide for the well-being of our animals by providing them necessary outlets for these crucial behaviors. Getting the paint to the canvas is a “problem” that results in much-desired treat food items (for a parrot like Rainbo, these food items could include a variety of greens, fruits and vegetables). Furthermore, some animals (such as parrots) benefit from a bit of special attention. 

Keepers at the zoo work hard to ensure the overall well-being of the animals under our care. Painting provides numerous benefits for a variety of species, and keepers closely supervise the interaction of the animals in these instances to maintain a positive experience?

Interested in having an animal masterpiece of your very own? Learn more about animal paintings here. Animal paintings from the Houston Zoo help to support a range of conservation efforts!

Guest Blogger Carolyn Jess Discusses the Ocelot

Carolyn Jess is an 11 year old student who has agreed to be our special guest blogger about wildlife conservation. We first met Carolyn in October 2011 when she came out to the Zoo to meet our special guest Jack Hannah, who was visiting the Zoo to speak at our Conservation Gala. If you would like to contact Carolyn or have comments, you may send them to conservation@houstonzoo.org.




Four years ago, I first learned about an endangered animal that has become one of my favorites – the ocelot. The ocelot, which is a cat, has a beautiful coat with spots.  It is about twice the size of a normal house cat.  The ocelot lives in the low shrub lands of southTexas.  There are only about 100 ocelots left in theUnited Stateswith half of them living inTexasat the Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge.  The reason why the ocelot is endangered is because their habitat is being destroyed due to housing and other developments.  People are also killing them for their beautiful pelts and some ocelots get hit by cars.

Two years ago, I traveled to the Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge in hopes of spotting an ocelot.  I knew my chances of seeing one were very slim, but I hoped for a miracle that day.  Well, my miracle didn’t happen.  I did not get to see my ocelot out in the wild.  I did manage to see a stuffed one in a display case – he had been killed by a speeding car.  I was disappointed but this helped me to be even more concerned with the ocelots’ survival.

I have continued to raise funds for the endangered ocelot.  A great place that I found to send my donations to is the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Center at Texas A&M Kingsville.  Dr. Michael Tewes works directly with the ocelot and is the director of feline research.  He has used my donations to purchase camera equipment to monitor the ocelot population in Texas.  Mike really cares about the ocelot and works really hard to help these big cats have a fighting chance.

If you would like to see one of the few remaining ocelots, you can visit Novia at the Houston Zoo. She has overcome many obstacles in her life.  She is beautiful and agile and is probably one of the few live ocelots you and I will get to see.

Are you ready to help the ocelot?  If you answered yes, there are some things you can do.  First, you can visit my website:  www.ocelotrescue.webstarts.com.  This website gives facts about the ocelot and other great information like why you should help this big cat.  You could learn more about the ocelot by checking out a book from the library or searching on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.  One of the BEST ways to help is to go see Novia at the Houston Zoo and tell your friends about how close the ocelot is to disappearing forever.

We Bought A Zoo


At The Houston Zoo, there are 6,000 animals and 800 species to wonder at as you make your way through our 22 acres. Each of the 6,000 animals housed at The Houston Zoo has a story to tell. As ambassadors for their counter parts in the wild, they serve as a reminder of how vital they are for our planet. Their role is an important one, and no group of people knows this better than those that take care of them each and every day. Freeze or fry, wet or dry, there is a dedicated group of people at the Zoo 365 days-a-year to care for the animals in their respective departments. On any given day you can see keepers cleaning tanks, mowing enclosure lawns, placing enrichment items in exhibits, and generally caring for the happiness and well-being of every animal at The Houston Zoo. Their day starts early as animals are fed and enclosures are cleaned, and throughout the day you can see them giving Keeper Chats so you, our guest, can learn more about these animal ambassadors.

As you make your way around the Zoo you may notice Keeper Chats at different exhibits. These Keeper Chats give you face-time with our incredible animal staff as well as information on our animals’ daily lives. Training is a crucial part of everyday interaction. It is important to remember that the animals housed at the Zoo are not pets, and they must always be treated with respect and caution. However, for their well-being, they are trained to mimic behaviors they would perform in the wild or actions that help maintain their good health. To help encourage natural behaviors, keepers perform what is known as “enrichment”. Enrichment is vital for our animals’ happiness. Every day an effort is put forth to keep all the animals active and engaged. It can be anything from placing items into enclosures for playing, strategically placing new scents in new areas for animals to seek out, or anything that encourages a variety of different behaviors. Anything approved by our keepers that can be used as a tool or toy is enriching their lives at the Zoo and keeps our animals active an engaged. Some departments keep track of Enrichment Charts so the animals in their care are occupied with different activities and don’t see the same items too often. Tracking the enrichment a particular animal chooses to engage, or not engage in, helps the keepers know how to better care for that animal and gives them insight into their individual personalities. 

You may ask yourself, why would someone do all of this each and everyday? One of the rewards of working with these amazing animals is aiding conservation efforts. At The Houston Zoo we are involved in 20 different projects in 9 different countries. Beyond that, there are countless programs in place that aid in the conservation of the ever-increasing numbers on endangered species list. However, educating you, our guests, about choices you can make that impact the environment helps take names off of that long list.

A lot of work is involved in the daily upkeep of animals at zoos across the country, you can see it by visiting The Houston Zoo or your local zoo, but a good representation of the love that goes into caring for animals can be seen theatrically in We Bought a Zoo, the movie starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansen. As of April 3, We Bought a Zoo is out on Blu-Ray™ and for a limited time your purchase of the Blu-Ray disc also gets you ONE FREE child admission ticket to The Houston Zoo with the purchase of an adult ticket! This offer is valid until June 30, 2012. For more information visit AZA.org/weboughtazoo.




















Rhythm of Conservation


In 1968, a small amphibian landed a spot on the list of “Rare and Endangered Fish and Wildlife of the United States.” Five years later, the Houston toad was included in the passing of the Endangered Species Act, one of the first amphibian species in the United States and maybe even the world to be recognized as declining.  Today the Houston toad is no longer found in its namesake city, and fewer than 300 individuals remain in the wild, largely due to habitat loss.  The Houston Zoo is working with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas State University, and the Environmental Defense Fund to ensure the toad’s survival by caring for them in captivity in their early stages of life.  It is estimated that one out of every 1000 toad eggs will make it to be an adult toad. Because tadpoles are food for just about everything in the pond, The Houston Zoo collects the eggs from the wild, lets them hatch and grow from tadpole to toad, and then releases them back into the wild.  The Zoo also works with private landowners to restore habitat and monitor populations in Houston toad counties.

For more information about how you can help The Houston Toad, visit our own Houston Toad website.


Learning about endangered species is the first step in helping to protect them. According to iucnredlist.org, there are 5,689 known endangered species and 10,002 known vulnerable species on the planet. Can you imagine how different our Earth was before the populations for these species began dwindling?   The Houston Toad is just one of the many species you can learn about. Knowledge is power. The more you know, the more we can help protect the habitats of these precious creatures.


To learn about a new endangered species each day, visit the Rhythm of Conservation website. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums has teamed up with K12 to bring you information on seventy-five different endangered species as well as fun activities for the kids! The best part is you can enter their sweepstakes daily, up to seventy-five days, for a chance to win a trip to Walt Disney World! As always, you can visit our Conservation Blog for information about endangered species and what we can do to help!


This Contest is Intense!

I prefer tasty mice, so I’m sending this to Ara, my BFF in Bolivia. He’s a Blue-throated Macaw, another critically endangered bird. Think he’ll like it?--Tess


So I thought last week’s photo was a little tough, but within 3 minutes, each of our contestants had submitted the correct answers! I’m so happy each of you ladies is excited about Jeffery and this contest!

Before I get to this week’s (the second to last!) photo, I’d like to share some wonderful news with you from the Philippine Eagle Foundation!

Our favorite eagle saviors in the Philippines just announced another first in bird conservation–the first captive breeding of the Pinsker’s Hawk Eagle! With some feathers mimicking a large spike on their heads, these eagles are the punk rock answer to the adorable Philippine Eagle! Just like the Philippine Eagle, this endemic species is threatened by loss of habitat. Guess what? Husbandry practices developed at the foundation for breeding of the Philippine Eagle helped in the breeding of the Pinsker’s! It’s not just one eagle we are trying to save; it’s an entire habitat, and everything that depends on it.


Now onto our current standings:

Tess came in third with the answer, but won the caption contest, to leave her with 102 points

Melissa has 90 points

Linda had 88 points


It’s still anybody’s game!


**Jeffery visited the largest military installation in the United States, where is he?**

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