Did you know you could be a holiday animal hero just by visiting the Houston Zoo this holiday season for our 2nd annual Zoo Lights event? A portion of every ticket sold here at the Houston Zoo goes towards saving animals in the wild. I bet you didn’t know that as a Houston Zoo guest, you are helping us save wildlife and wild places?! Well, it’s true.
And here’s something else to consider. You could be even MORE of a holiday animal hero by visiting our Zoo Lights event AND recycling an old cell phone at our front entrance (we know you have those old phones hidden somewhere!). Here is what you do:
1. Find old phone while cleaning the house and preparing for the holidays (we know this is on the to-do list).
2. Bring that old phone (or phones) with you, walk on up to our main entrance, and drop the phone in the recycling bin by our Guest Relations office (right before you hit the Admissions line!). Give yourself a pat on the back.
2. Visit TXU Energy Presents Zoo Lights (6-10pm, Nov. 22nd-Jan. 4th), spend time with family and friends as you look at the beautiful lights throughout the Zoo and leave feeling GREAT that you not only helped animals in the wild by visiting the zoo, but you specifically helped animals like chimpanzees and gorillas by recycling your old cell phone with us.
Wait a minute…how in the world does recycling your cell phone at the zoo help animals like chimpanzees and gorillas?
1. A mineral (called coltan) is found in almost every cell phone, as well as laptops and cameras. This mineral comes from the ground in Central Africa, which happens to be where animals like chimpanzees, gorillas and okapis live.
2. When the mineral is taken from chimpanzee habitats to be used in electronics, the homes of chimps, gorillas and okapis become disrupted and these animal populations decrease.
3. If you recycle your old cell phone with us, then the materials in the phone can be reused instead of getting new minerals from the ground in Central Africa.
4. When you recycle your at the zoo, we return it to a company called Eco-Cell that sells the individual parts of the phone so that they can be reused. Any proceeds then go to conservation efforts to save animals in the wild.
So, bundle up, grab your old phones, and bring your family and friends to our 2nd annual Zoo Lights event-you’ll leave knowing you are an official holiday animal hero!
Come to the Houston Zoo to help us celebrate and learn about orangutans and their rainforest habitat.
International Orangutan Caring Week is observed globally from Nov. 9 to Nov. 17. And during that same period, the Houston Zoo’s primate staff will conduct a Meet the Keeper Talk at the Wortham World of Primates orangutan habitat daily at 3:30 PM.
Plus, visit our booth at the orangutan exhibit on November 9 and November 10 to shop for painted magnets, photo note cards, orangutan painted jewelry and many other items to raise funds to protect them in the wild. We will have available the beautiful one-of-a-kind orangutan painted Christmas ornaments, that can only be purchased once a year at this event.
This year we are debuting our own Houston Zoo’s orangutan painted sun catchers. Our orangutans have painted beveled pieces of glass and then keeper add beads to make beautiful one-of-a kind sun catchers.
The staff will have activities for children to participate in — they will be able to try on an orangutan sized sweater to see how they measure up and color paper leaves and then the staff will send these leaves to companies that are committed to using 100% RSPO sustainable palm oil by 2015.
Asia’s only great ape, orangutans are one of the most endangered species. Many experts believe orangutans will become extinct in the wild over the next 20 years.
Approximately 1,000 are thought to perish every year as the rainforests on which they depend are cut down for logging and palm oil production.
Originally some 300,000 orangutans lived throughout Southeast Asia. Today they survive only in isolated pockets on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. In the past 20 years, 80 percent of their habitat has been destroyed – and only about 2 percent of what remains is legally protected in reserves.
Orangutans (the name means “man of the forest”) are one of our closest relatives, sharing about 97 percent of our DNA. Mothers keep their babies with them for 8 to 10 years, and have a single baby every eight years or so. Their rate of reproduction – the slowest of all the great apes – makes them particularly vulnerable.
Orangutans have long been threatened by the pet trade for every one that is sold as a pet, five or six are thought to die. And they are also killed for meat.
But it is the destruction of the rainforest that is their greatest threat. It has long been cleared for logging and agriculture, but this has accelerated to meet the booming demand for palm oil. Palm oil can be found in cookies, crackers, frozen dinners, shampoo, lotions, cosmetics, pet food, and many other products, palm oil is now the most widely produced edible oil. It is also found in a wide array of products sold in natural food stores, and it is being used as a possible fuel alternative.
What the Zoo is doing?
We assist with research and protection efforts to save orangutans in the wild.
All candy at Zoo Boo, our Halloween event here at the Zoo was palm oil free!
We are hosting a palm oil workshop/planning session with orangutan researchers, Zoos and local companies dedicated to palm oil free products.
What can you do?
Become an orangutan-friendly shopper:
Read the label: so you know what’s inside
Whenever possible, choose local and unprocessed food-this is better for your health and for the planet!
Be an informed consumer: consult websites and blogs to find lists of palm oil free product ad support companies promoting the use and growth of sustainable palm oil products.
Join us at the Zoo November 9th and 10th for a special orangutan caring event. Visit the orangutans and purchase orangutan painted items. All proceeds will go to saving orangutans in the wild!
Join us at the Texas Rock Gym on November 13th for the third annual Climbing for Clouded Leopards event! Texas Rock Gym will be donating 50% of their proceeds between the hours of 4pm and 9pm to clouded leopard conservation. We will also have a silent auction and raffle from 6-9pm with tons of amazing paintings done by our zoo animals and prizes donated by community businesses. Don’t worry if you’ve never been rock climbing before, the fantastic gym staff will be happy to give you an introduction to climbing and we’ll have volunteers on hand to be climbing partners. There will also be slacklining and acro-yoga demonstrations and live animal visitors!
Clouded leopards are an elusive cat found in the forests of Southeast Asia. They are named for the beautiful cloud like spots on their coat. Clouded leopards are amazing climbers with large feet and a long tail to help them balance. They can climb upside down underneath tree branches, hang from their back feet, and descend trees headfirst, like a squirrel. The clouded leopard is also a fierce predator with the longest canine teeth relative to skull size of any modern carnivore. These impressive teeth have caused the clouded leopard to be compared to extinct saber-tooth cats. Clouded leopards are so secretive and rare that very little is known about their wild behaviors. Proceeds from the event will be donated to the Bornean Clouded Leopard Programme to help with their continued research and conservation efforts.
The Houston Zoo is home to two young clouded leopards, Tarak and Suksn. Come visit them to see their awesome climbing abilities in action!
When: Wednesday, November 13 from 4-9pm. Auction and raffle held from 6-9pm.
The Bird department is all aflutter with flamingos – in the last three months they have had four chicks hatch behind the scenes and three hatch on exhibit to proud flamingo parents.
“We requested eggs from the Atlanta Zoo,” explained Birds Supervisor Mollie Coym, “and then were surprised by our flamingos having chicks of their own as well.” The first two hand-raised hatchings are Atlanta Zoo flamingos, and the remainder are all ours.
Keepers weren’t sure if our flamingos would sit on the eggs and keep them warm until they hatched, so at first they pulled the eggs to be kept in incubators, and replaced them with dummy eggs. “We were careful to keep track of which egg came from which sets of parents,” added Coym. When they showed great parental skills at egg sitting, keepers swapped the dummies back out with their original eggs, and soon the chicks hatched.
When flamingo chicks hatch they resemble oversized cotton balls with beaks. They sprout up rapidly growing long necks and long legs, and their feathers turn a soft gray. Bright flamingo pink is first visible when they stretch their wings, but they won’t have their full adult plumage for two years, so you’ll be able to identify the young ones for quite some time on the webcams or your visit to the zoo.
Bird keepers walk their hand-raised chicks on a parade from behind the scenes to the flamingo yard every day at 2 p.m. Check the Daily Schedule on your next visit and join them for the parade! The daily parades will continue as they get gradually more independent, but sometime in the next two months they will likely be old enough to spend all their time with the other flamingos.
But don’t wait until then to see these cuties live; check them out on the Flamingo Webcam. If you’re watching the webcams you may see the parents feed their chicks a reddish liquid from their beaks – that’s crop milk. Don’t be alarmed – it’s supposed to be that color!
In Belize it is illegal to own a pet howler monkey, and the forestry department confiscates monkeys from people to eventually be brought back into the wild. In June I had the opportunity to travel to Belize and help release two troops of howler monkeys back into a safe spot deep within the Amazon rainforest called Fireburn. (Wondering why they are not allowed as pets? Read all about why having a monkey as a pet is bad for the monkey and for you.)
In Belize is ‘Wildtracks’, a non-profit organization that shelters the howler monkeys and rehabilitates them. This can involve medical needs, special feedings and/or socialization with other howler monkeys. Wildtracks receives animals aged from a few months old to adulthood. Each animal is eventually put into a group with other monkeys and once they become a cohesive group, they are ready to move on to the next step. This next step is the pre-release area, which is an area of forest fenced off by electrical fencing.
At Wildtracks, they have two pre-release areas, and they had two troops of monkeys to release this year. Nicky, Sultan, Livvy, Willow and Hazel had been living with Wildtracks for a year. The other troop, Charlie, Paz, Mia, Fern and Ritchie, had been at Wildtracks for about half a year. I was able to help them with this year’s release at Fireburn, an area of protected forest that traditionally had howler monkeys in it; therefore a great place to do a release! So…picture it; a bumpy ride on the back of a truck on a dirt road, then a beautiful boat ride across a lagoon, then a tractor ride deep into the jungle, then an hour trek even deeper into the jungle – this is how you travel to Fireburn Reserve!
When we went to the reserve, there were several steps to accomplish in order to free a monkey:
1. Go to Fireburn and build release caging – this involved bringing a generator, drill, ladder and several panels of caging deep into the jungle! This will be the monkeys’ home for a couple of days and also a home base once they are released.
2. Next we bring the monkeys to the jungle and put them in their release cages.
3. Allow the monkeys to get used to their surroundings, while feeding them fruit and freshly cut leaves from the forest, called browse.
4. Release the monkeys!
5. Monitor the monkeys to make sure they are doing well and eating well. They will be provisioned with food for about 3 months until they start to eat on their own.
This was my second trip to Belize. I was there three years ago to meet some monkeys that were being rehabilitated and assist with the project. When we released the first troop of monkeys this year, that first group that I met three years ago came to see what was happening! It was so rewarding to be able to see the monkeys I met before being wild and free in the jungle again. One of those monkeys’ names was Eden. She had been confiscated as a baby, so small she could fit in your hands. When I first met her she was still being bottle-fed and was very wary of newcomers. It broke my heart to think that she had been taken away from her mom in the forest and was someone’s pet. When I saw her this year she was huge! As a fully grown adult at this point, she was swinging in the trees, howling and fully a part of her new troop. This gives me a good feeling that the 2 troops we released this year have a very good chance of thriving in the jungle of Belize!
Rehabilitation and release of any animal is a difficult and time consuming process. Although everything went extremely well overall, there were three monkeys that will need to wait until next year to be released. Livvy unfortunately broke her arm a day before the release and has had extensive medical care that is ongoing. Paz lost the rest of his troop and could not find them and so had to be returned to Wildtracks to try again next year, and Sultan, who was showing great movement and independence in the trees at Wildtracks, was simply not ready to be out in the wild and will also be tried again next year. Although these are setbacks, looking at the big picture, seven howler monkeys were successfully released this year!
My trip was made possible through the support of the Houston Zoo Staff Conservation Fund. The Fund is the donations of many Zoo employees, pooled together to support a select few of our staff’s proposals. It allows us to actively participate in conservation at many different levels and in places from Texas to far-flung areas like Belize. In the primate department, for the past 4 years we have raised awareness and provided funding for howler monkey conservation each October during our event called ‘Howlerween’. In addition to contributing funds, we travel to Belize and help them with whatever they need, from carpentry to assisting with medical procedures.
Thanks to this Fund and Wildtracks, I was able to contribute to conservation and have an amazing learning experience this past June!
The howler monkeys we have here at the Houston Zoo are ambassadors for the monkeys in the wild, and I hope to see all of you come to the Houston Zoo to see our amazing howler monkeys in action!
We have invited Carolyn Jess back to help us out as guest blogger in 2013 with a focus on native wildlife. Jess is a 12 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. If you would like to contact Carolyn or have comments, you may send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Does your school recycle? My school recycling program is going well and I hope that other schools have started their recycling programs. November 15 is America Recycles Day, so this month is a great time to start a recycling program for your school, church or business. Two years ago, when I was in middle school, we had recycling bins set up in every classroom and the green recycling dumpsters in the back of my school. It looked like we had a good recycling program, until one afternoon, I noticed that the custodians took the papers in the recycling bins and threw them in the regular trash. I went to my school principal, told her what I saw, and asked if I could start a school recycling club. She said yes and was very supportive. During those two years, I had about 40 kids that helped recycle papers, boxes and plastic bottles once a week. This year I moved on to the intermediate school. I found out there had been programs to recycle in the past, but not this year. In September, my student council and some of my old recycling club members got together here at my new school and got our recycling club started again and recycle once a week.
It is very easy to set up a program for recycling. If you are a student and you are not sure if your school recycles, ask your principal. If you don’t have a program, you should get permission to start a club – just taking out the accumulated papers once a week makes a huge difference for our environment. There are even recycling contests your school can enter and the top prize is $1000. All you have to do is have your school register and keep up with how much you are recycling.
So many things depend on a clean environment. Papers, boxes, and plastic bags can all be recycled, but they always seem to be on the side of the road or in wetland areas. If we recycle these things, we can Keep Texas Beautiful.
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