Clouded Leopard Cubs Play Outside!

Our twelve-week-old clouded leopard cubs Koshi and Senja took their first romp in the grass today during one of their final days behind-the-scenes. As they grow, their mischievous personalities are becoming more and more apparent. Koshi thinks it’s fun to practice his aerial skills by leaping onto the caregivers while Senja prefers climbing and has perfected the art of escaping over the baby gate barrier.

The pair, born June 6, will soon be moved into their permanent home inside the zoo after nearly three months of around-the-clock care by zookeepers. They will make their public debut in mid-September after a habitat acclimation period, which will take place under the watchful eyes of the carnivore team.

Watch the two cubs play in the grass:

Cheyenne’s Story: What Happens When a Zoo Animal Gets Sick?

The Houston Zoo is very lucky to have a great veterinary team: a Director, a Manager, 4 Veterinarians, 3 Veterinary Technicians, and a myriad of other important players like zookeepers, purchasing and record-keeping staff. It takes a village to keep our animals healthy! Because of our continued, professional veterinary care at the zoo, the clinic staff’s daily schedule involves  routine health checks and monitoring newborn, chronically ill or geriatric animals. But what happens when an animal becomes acutely ill and needs veterinary attention? And, what special considerations needs to be made to treat an animal as large as an orangutan?
Cheyenne & Vascular Team 6.14

Recently, one of our most beloved animals fell very suddenly ill: Cheyenne, our 42 year old orangutan who has been a devoted mother to four adopted kids. She quite abruptly started refusing food, and more alarmingly, water, and all she wanted to do was lie in her nest. Her most recent adoptee, 3 year old Aurora, was happy and active and thankfully did not seem too worried about her mama, but her keepers and the vet staff were extremely concerned.  So, an action plan was developed and Cheyenne was sedated for a thorough physical exam. Indah, our 10 year old Sumatran orangutan female was selected to babysit Aurora while Cheyenne was away, as the two of them had a mutually friendly relationship already.


Cheyenne’s blood values were not looking good as her kidney function seemed compromised and several other important numbers were severely out of whack. Any number of problems could have been the reason for these aberrant results, and after consulting with a number of human doctors it was decided to do an exploratory abdominal surgery in case she had appendicitis or an internal abscess. Fortunately, neither of these were the case, so she was closed up and other veterinary specialists were consulted. It became obvious that she would need extended supportive care, which for an orangutan is not an easy task. A neonatal team of infusion specialists were called in to put an IV into a vein in Cheyenne’s foot, where she would be less likely to try to pull it out. It was covered by a cast once they successfully got it in, and she was kept partially sedated for her treatment and monitoring period that lasted two weeks. Through this IV lifeline, she received antibiotics, fluids and the sedative that kept her from being too active, while ensconced in a lovingly cushioned bed inside a recovery cage in the orangutan night house. She was watched carefully by the primate staff, who took turns staying overnight with her to make sure that her IV line was running properly and that she was resting comfortably. Keepers would offer her pureed fruits and vegetables via a long-handled spoon, and “milkshake” concoctions with everything from vanilla soy-milk to exotic juices, which she drank through a straw. Every 3 days, she was sedated more fully so that she could have additional blood tests done to check to see if her kidney values were improving.  At this time, her recovery cage was completely cleaned and she was given new bedding of soft hay, blankets and makeshift pillows. It was a long, drawn-out period where all of the staff who loves her rallied around her and did everything possible to maximize her recovery and comfort. And….it worked!

Cheyenne has been off the IV and back in with Aurora for a few weeks now, and is slowly but surely getting her strength back. She began going outside again after a couple of weeks, but only in the early mornings when the heat is not too intense. We feel so grateful for her progress and Aurora is very happy to be back with her mama again.

We can never predict when one of our treasured zoo animals might become ill, but when it happens, there is no more determined set of people than our veterinarians and keepers who try their best to make that animal well again. And, we are very lucky to have them.

The Houston Zoo Helps Howler Monkeys in Belize

This post was written by primate keeper, Meredith Ross.

Wildtrack’s volunteers carry the howler monkeys through the jungle to the release site(photo courtesy of Molly Davis)

Belize is home to two species of endangered primates, the Yucatan black howler monkey and the Geoffroy’s spider monkey.  It is illegal to own primates in Belize, but despite that, one of the biggest threats in the wild is the pet trade. That’s where Wildtracks comes in. Located just outside Sarteneja, Belize, Wildtracks is home to forty-three monkeys, most of which have been rescued from the illegal pet trade. Wildtracks will rehabilitate these monkeys and release them back into the wild in the nearby Fireburn Reserve. Seventeen howler monkeys have been released into Fireburn thus far, and in June 2014, they were joined by four more. Two pairs of howler monkeys, “Sultan & Livvy” and “Paz & Kofi”, were placed in carriers, taken for a car ride, a boat ride and then were carried on bamboo poles up to their new home in the jungle. They were kept in pre-release cages for three days in order to acclimate them to their surroundings and then, on the morning of June 16th, their cages were finally opened and they were returned to the wild. Sultan and Livvy were the first to be released. Livvy began to explore immediately, while Sultan was a bit unsure, staying on top of the cage for a few minutes. Eventually they both began to move through the trees and happily munch on the plentiful leaves in their new home. Paz and Kofi were released at a site several yards away from the first group. Once again the female of the group, Kofi, was the brave one; she immediately started to explore her new jungle home. Paz had to be coaxed out of the cage by one of his caregivers, but then happily joined his mate Kofi, up in the trees. They will be followed by staff and volunteers for the next three months to ensure that they are adjusting well to life in the jungle. I followed Paz & Kofi for their first three days of freedom. They seemed a bit hungry on the first day, but by day two they were eating lots of leaves, finding nice places to rest near each other, and spending time at the tops of trees sunning themselves. Paz in particular is a success story. He spent his early life as a pet on a very short chain, where he could only rock himself for comfort. Even at Wildtracks, he exhibited nervous tics attributed to his former life as a pet. Once he returned to the wild, all those aberrant behaviors seemed to fade away as he followed his mate Kofi through the jungle.

Paz and Kofi exploring their new home
Kofi “hanging out” in the jungle
Photo courtesy of Wildtracks
Photo courtesy of Wildtracks


Back at Wildtracks, volunteers work tirelessly to prepare the next generation of monkeys for release.  The youngest members,” Ini” and “Vicki”, are at least three  years from release but they are still learning valuable skills to help return them to the wild, like which leaves to eat, and how to  climb branches that will support their weight. Like most of the monkeys at Wildtracks, Vicki was stolen away from her family and sold into the pet trade; she was moved to Wildtracks after being rescued by the Belize Forestry Department. Ini was found alone in the forest with a broken arm, his mother presumably shot by poachers. Despite their troubled past, both are doing great now, healthy and happy in their new home.

The Houston Zoo Primate Department has helped fundraise for Wildtracks and spread their conservation message for the last few years at our Howlerween event each October. Houston Zoo Primate Keepers have traveled to Wildtracks for the past couple of years to share their knowledge of primate care, including the creation of enrichment devices like the forage board above, as well as tracking the post-release howler monkeys in the jungle. In 2011, Houston Zoo Primate Keeper Rachel met a tiny, scared and malnourished 5 month old howler monkey named Nicky during her two week stay at Wildtracks. Last year, primate keeper Lucy Dee was there as Nicky was released back into the wild. This year, as I walked through the Belizean jungle, I got to meet Nicky. He was high up in the canopy of a tree, howling at the people below him, while the other members of his group kept traveling through the forest.  He is finally back where he belongs, successfully living as a truly wild howler monkey and a living testament to the amazing rehabilitation work of Wildtracks.

7We hope to continue to spread awareness of the importance of primates living in nature in order to finally stop the traffic of these animals as pets. Wildtracks and the Houston Zoo, working together, are making a difference in Belize. Come to our Howlerween celebration to learn more and see how YOU can help! To learn more visit

Photos courtesy of Wildtracks

Help Us Clean Up the Galveston Beach – Saturday, Aug. 23

We’re organizing a beach clean-up day and need your help! Come volunteer with us as we work to make Galveston beaches a little cleaner.


When: Saturday, August, 23, 2014   8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Where: We will be meeting across the street from “The Spot” restaurant near the Pleasure Pier (3204 Seawall Blvd, Galveston, TX 77550)
Clean up location: Galveston seawall between 29th st. & 39th st.
How to sign up: E-mail to sign up and get more information


Volunteers will be required to complete a release of liability form before participating in Beach Cleanup Day. Please print, complete, and bring the form with you on Saturday, August 23. BeachCleanupRelease.pdf


It’s very important to keep our beaches free of trash and debris, namely plastic. Take a look at how damaging plastic pollution can be.

Challenges of Plastic Pollution:

  • There is roughly 315,000,000,000 pounds of plastic in our oceans right now.
  • The average American will throw away approximately 185 pounds of plastic per year.
  • Plastic bags are petroleum-based and do not biodegrade.
  • 100,000 marine animals die each year from eating plastic pollution in our oceans.
  • Sea turtles and other marine creatures mistake plastics and other garbage as food (such as jellyfish) and ingest it. This causes blockages within their digestive system and lead to severe medical issues.

How You Can Help:

  • Come to our beach clean-up day!
  • Be a hero-use biodegradable garbage bags and pet waste bags! They break down naturally, and don’t leave harmful chemicals behind.
  • Visit the Houston Zoo-a portion of every ticket purchased goes towards saving animals in the wild!
  • Be a hero-avoid using plastic! Buy a reusable water bottle and reusable canvas grocery bags instead of the plastic alternatives. By Using a canvas bag you can eliminate the use of 1,000 plastic bags!

Help Save Elephants in the Wild!

Asian elephants at the Houston Zoo

Post by Lauren St. Pierre

Calling all elephant enthusiasts! Did you know elephant population numbers are rapidly declining in the wild? Do you know there are ways YOU can help protect these magnificent animals in the wild? You can start by joining the more than one hundred Zoos and thousands of individuals across the country on Tuesday, August 12 in celebrating World Elephant Day!

Elephants are the largest land mammals in the world and among the most intelligent animals on earth. Unfortunately, Asian elephants are also among the world’s most endangered species. At the turn of the 20th century, more than 100,000 Asian elephants roamed their native habitat. Today, less than 50,000 Asian elephants remain in the wild. And this number continues to decline due to habitat loss, human-elephant conflict and poaching for their ivory tusks. Each day, 96 elephants are gunned down for their ivory.

Here at the Houston Zoo, we are committed to protecting animals outside of our zoo gates, and elephants are in serious need of our support. In the past five years, the Houston Zoo has worked closely with partners in both Africa and Asia, funding over $500,000 in field conservation programs.

YOU can help, too! Simply by visiting the Houston Zoo, you help protect animals in the wild – a portion of your admission ticket goes directly to conservation efforts around the world. You can also attend special events throughout the year, such as Elephant Open House, where registration fees are also donated to conservation efforts.

Check out the Houston Zoo’s website to learn more of how we and YOU can help elephants.

We can’t be the generation that allows elephants to disappear. Sign the petition at to support a moratorium on ivory products in America.

World Elephant Day Activities Include:

10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

  • See and touch an elephant tooth
  • Create your own elephant mask
  • Sign our petition to ban the sale of ivory and ivory products
  • Find out more about the Houston Zoo’s Asian elephant herd: Thai, Methai, Shanti, Tess, Tucker, Tupelo, Baylor & Duncan

10 a.m. – Daily Elephant Bath at The McNair Asian Elephant Barn

1:30 p.m. – Meet the Keeper Talk at The McNair Asian Elephant Habitat

The Day is almost here!

The count down is on – Trader Appreciation Day is almost here!

The Naturally Wild Swap Shop
The Naturally Wild Swap Shop

On Saturday, August 16, 2014, from 9AM to 3PM we will be celebrating the Naturally Wild Swap Shop’s five year anniversary by honoring all the traders that have made it such a success.

Anyone trading during the event will receive 100 extra points.   We will also have some amazing doorprizes throughout the day.  Door prizes will include items from our fossil, mineral, bone, insect and shell collections.

We will have lots of special guests, too.  There will be booths for  TheTexas Marine Mammal Stranding

Penny is one of our animal ambassadors you might see in the shop
Penny is one of our animal ambassadors you might see in the shop

Network, Texas Parks and Wildlife Bat Team,  Houston Zoo’s own Horticulture team, and crafts for the kids.  You can be on the lookout for special animal guests in the shop that day, also.

Dont know about The Naturally Wild Swap Shop?  Click here for more information.

The Birth of a Baby Giraffe Helps Us Grow by 6 Feet!

We’re all smiles and happy to announce the birth of another Masai giraffe! Neema delivered the healthy female calf shortly after 7 a.m. on Sunday at the McGovern Giraffe Habitat at The African Forest following a 14-month pregnancy.


“After a very short labor, Neema delivered her baby girl at 7:20 a.m. Sunday, August 3,” said Houston Zoo Hoofed Stock Supervisor, John Register.  “The calf was standing on her own and nursing shortly after,” added Register. The calf weighs 132 pounds and is six feet tall.

With this new arrival, our herd of Masai giraffe has grown to 10, including six males and four females. Mom, Neema, and father, Mtembei (Ma-tim-bay), are both seven years old.  The new baby will be closely monitored by the keeper team and veterinary staff to ensure she continues to grow healthy and strong.

The giraffe keepers who cared for Neema during her pregnancy will have the honor of naming the newest addition to the giraffe herd. We’ll be sure to let everyone know once a name is picked.

The Making of Houston Zoo Kids

It all started because of a problem, as many things do.

As a Zoo, we work hard to protect animals in the wild every day, and we have lots of ways we inform our guests about what is happening out there and how they can help. This information has always been accessible to adults, but we just hadn’t figured out a really good way to get kids in on the fun. So we sat down, kicked some ideas around, and realized that we had arrived at the perfect solution: build a truly immersive, interactive, educational…and most importantly, FUN website just for kids!

Now…how to build it?


First, you have to assemble a talented team. We started within the Zoo, bringing together our conservation, education, and animal teams as well as assembling a talented group of people to execute the task. We needed photos, videos, illustrations, animal facts, and sounds. We also needed somebody to put it all together in a beautiful and functional package and somebody to actually make it work.

Our “dream team” from outside the Zoo was assembled from three different cities: Kansas City, Seattle, and New Orleans. First, there was Tad Carpenter – he’s an incredible illustrator that has worked with everybody from Conan O’Brien to Jack Johnson and creates some of the most imaginative illustrations you’ve ever seen.


Next, the guy who put it all together: Kevyn Smith. He did an amazing job redesigning the main Houston Zoo website, so we literally couldn’t imagine anybody else designing this one. If you could only peek into his brain – it’s full of so many great ideas!

Finally, the guy who made it all live and breathe: Chris Boyd, owner of Apptitude. If there’s something out there he can’t make work, we’d like to see it – because we don’t believe it. We were lucky enough to get to collaborate with Apptitude on some other website projects, and we knew they were the perfect company for the task.


One of the most important things on the site is to make sure that all the information we provide to kids is up-to-date and accurate. We worked with our conservation, animal, and education teams to ensure that all the environments and animal illustrations were reflective of what you would actually see in nature. We sat down with these same teams to determine what animal facts we would present, how they would be written, and to ensure everything was correct.

The next to-do on our list was FUN. How can we make sure that kids are learning, but also having fun, so they will want to come back and learn even more? We decided on a series of games where kids can actually save animals in the wild and become field researchers themselves. They can also explore the three environments of the game with real tools from the field: binoculars, a camera, and a camera trap. Kids can then save everything they collect in their field journal.


We hope you have enjoyed exploring the site, and if you haven’t – well, it’s time to have some fun! Visit to begin your adventure!

Trader Appreciation Day

The Naturally Wild Swap Shop
The Naturally Wild Swap Shop

Five years ago this August, the Naturally Wild Swap Shop made its debut in the McGovern Children’s Zoo.  Over that 5 year time span, the shop has grown by leaps and bounds.  We now have over 4,000 traders and continue to grow.

To celebrate this anniversary and to thank all the traders who have made the shop such a success, we will be hosting Trader Appreciation Day on Saturday, August 16, 2014 from 9AM to 3PM.

Checking out the shells
Checking out the shells

We will have lots of special things going on!  Anyone trading during the event will receive 100 extra points.  In addition, we will have  door prize drawings each half hour for those who trade that day.

Studying items up close

Door prizes will include items from our fossil, mineral, insect, bone and shell collections.  There will also be some special guests here.  We will have the Texas Parks and Wildlife Bat Team, the Marine Mammal Stranding Network, the Houston Zoo Horticulture Team and more.  You can be on the lookout for animal ambassadors and keeper chats in the Shop too.

Come on out and join the fun!

Don’t know about the Naturally Wild Swap Shop?  Click here for more information.


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