Pictures Are Worth More Than Just Words

Joel Sartore is no stranger to the Houston Zoo. We’ve been fortunate enough to host Joel multiple times as he works on his Photo Ark, photographing animals to document biodiversity. We’ve even traveled alongside Joel to Vietnam, visiting a variety of rehabilitation and rescue centers to take photos of some of the rarest species in captivity.

Along with being a National Geographic photographer and close friend of the Houston Zoo, Joel Sartore is helping to save animals all over the world. Joel and Gallery for Good are working together to distribute a portion of the proceeds from each sale to the Houston Zoo to help save animals in the wild. Gallery for Good partners with charities and artists to raise money and awareness. We’re both thrilled and flattered to have been selected to benefit from this partnership.

Visit Gallery for Good to see Joel’s prints that are for sale, and spend an extra minute to appreciate the beauty that he captures in every one of his photographs.

Click here to view Joel Sartore’s photos at Gallery for Good





The oldest living thing at the Houston Zoo

There are many living things within the boundaries of the Houston Zoo. Can you guess what the oldest living thing here is? The first thing a lot of people think of is perhaps a parrot, or a tortoise. There are days that the zookeepers work so hard they may feel like they are the oldest thing in the zoo.  But all of those answers are wrong.

Live_Oak-0020-7303Near the jaguar exhibit and Wortham World of Primates is a magnificent live oak tree. It is cared for by our wonderful Horticulture Department with love and patience, and it pre-dates any other living thing in the zoo. Here are some of the things that have happened while it was growing into the amazing tree it is today:

While not an exact measurement of age, some formulas estimate that the tree was germinated in approximately 1721, making it about 293 years old. Settlers were just beginning to come to the area, and there was a lot of unrest with the Native Americans living here.

The construction of a church in San Antonio that would later be known as the Alamo was begun in 1744. The tree was already 23 years old.

In 1832, the Allen Brothers began to buy land in the area.  In 1836, they founded Houston, and Sam Houston captured Santa Anna that same year. The tree was now approximately 115 years old.

In 1845, Texas became the 28th state. Our tree had already been here for 124 years.Live_Oak-0016-7290

When the infamous Hurricane of 1900 hit the Texas coast, Galveston was devastated and many lives were lost. The tree was then approximately 179 years old and survived the remnants of the storm that moved inland.

The tree saw the first automobile arrive in Houston in 1901, and the Houston Ship Channel completion in 1914. When the tree was approximately 214 years old, the first air service was brought to Houston with Braniff Airlines.

The Houston Zoo was started in 1914, and moved to Hermann Park in 1922. The tree was approximately 201 years old when the zoo began to grow up around it.

Some of the zoo staff fondly refers to the tree as “Abuelo” (Grandfather).  Rather aptly named, since Live_Oak-0017-7299this tree has seen staff come and go, and yet it still stands. It has seen battles, storms, construction and a lot of change and yet, still it stands.

Next time you come to the zoo, stop for a moment and consider our old Grandfather, and everything this tree has seen.

A Million Thanks to TXU Energy

What makes the Houston Zoo such a cherished place to learn and play? The devotion of staff and volunteers and a family of 6,000 animal ambassadors are critical to a quality experience for our guests. But as a non-profit, our success begins with the exceptional philanthropic support of the Houston community, including corporate partners like TXU Energy. This generous friend of the Zoo has embraced our mission through giving that recently surpassed the $1 million milestone.

TXU Energy Presents Chill Out
Our animals enjoy cool treats all summer long, thanks to TXU Energy!

As the presenting sponsor of Chill Out since 2011 and Zoo Lights since its inception, TXU Energy makes summer sublime while adding a bit of wonder to winter. With their sponsorship of Pollinator Palooza, TXU Energy helps highlight the importance of birds, butterflies, and bees in our daily lives. Further still, this company leads by example during our annual Gift of Grub campaign by matching every donation up to $50,000, boosting individual giving by an average of more than 20% over the past two years. TXU Energy’s contributions enhance our ability to care for our animals, provide enlightening educational programming, and save endangered species in the wild.

TXU Energy Presents Zoo Lights
TXU Energy has been a sponsor of Zoo Lights since its inception!

TXU Energy’s dedication to the Houston Zoo is ingrained in their culture. “For over 130 years, the family of companies that TXU Energy stems from has made social responsibility a priority. Our commitment to being a company of people who support the communities where we live, work and serve unites and strengthens us as an organization,” says Sydney Seiger, TXU Energy Chief Marketing Officer. The Zoo’s partnership with TXU Energy is reinforced by our mutual enthusiasm for conservation education: “We share a philosophy of educating individuals to make positive impacts wherever they can. For example, whether you’re making decisions for your home or your business, the benefits of managing your energy usage can really make a difference for the environment and your budget,” says Ms. Seiger. “The Houston Zoo is a top-notch destination for family fun and wonderful educational programs. Our partnership with the Zoo gives us a unique opportunity to interact with our customers in a tremendous environment.”

TXU Energy matches every donation up to $50,000 in the yearly Gift of Grub campaign
TXU Energy matches every donation up to $50,000 in the yearly Gift of Grub campaign

We proudly recognize TXU Energy for their active role in growing the greater Houston community and extend our sincere thanks for everything TXU Energy does to brighten the lives of the Houston Zoo’s animals and guests!


TXU Energy Logo



YOU Can Help Animals in the Wild-Say No To Products Made From Exotic Animals!

At the Houston Zoo, we are proud to exhibit some of the world’s most amazing animals! In addition to providing excellent care for our animals at the zoo, we are committed to saving animals in the wild.  We depend heavily on our staff, volunteers, Board members and YOU (our guests and supporters) to help us in our animal saving efforts.

Just recently, a Houston Zoo volunteer found an unfortunate advertisement to purchase a product made from an exotic animal right here in Houston. Although these opportunities do exist in the United States, we feel strongly that buying items made from exotic animals can hurt wildlife populations. You can help us in securing a future for animals in the wild by always saying no to products made from exotic animals, and telling your family and friends to do the same!

One animal that is heavily impacted by this trade is the rhino. Just this past weekend, we celebrated World Rhino Day at the Houston Zoo to raise awareness of this issue. Unfortunately, rhinos in Africa are in big trouble due to people poaching them for their horns. This is just one type of illegal trade that is severely impacting wildlife populations. Other animals that are impacted include elephants, tigers, pangolins and bears-and these animals need our help!

Help save rhinos and other animals in the wild by always saying no to exotic animal products!
Help save rhinos and other animals in the wild by always saying no to products made from exotic animals!

Join us in saving animals in the wild by always saying no to products made from exotic animals, and help us increase our reach by telling your coworkers, friends and family to do the same! And remember, every time you visit the Houston Zoo you help to save animals in the wild!

Thank You for Making Get Out and Play a Success!


On Saturday, September 6, we hosted Get Out and Play Presented by Kelsey-Seybold Clinics. This Zoo-wide event challenged families to put down the electronics and enjoy the outdoors through exciting and fun games and activities for children and adults. We wanted to say a big THANK YOU to Kelsey-Seybold Clinics, McDonald’s, and United for sponsoring this fantastic event.

Since our lives can be consumed by smart phones, video games, laptops, tablets and countless other electronic devices, it’s important to step away and take a breath of fresh air (literally!). Even though the Get Out and Play Presented by Kelsey-Seybold Clinics event has passed for this year, we encourage you to spend a few extra minutes outdoors and appreciate the beauty and health benefits of being outside.

Soon the weather will get a little cooler, and we have some fun ideas to get your kiddos outdoors:

Campout at Home

Supplies: Tent and sleeping bags.
Purpose: Outdoor experience for the very young ones, or those not ready to camp away from home.
This one is super easy, and great for those young campers who might not be old enough to camp away from home. Set up a tent in the back yard with the kids and sleep under the stars! You can tell scary or funny stories, read books by flash light, and more(get creative)! If the kiddos don’t enjoy it, you can always head right back inside. This is a great activity because you never have to worry about strange places or dirty campground bathrooms.

Lawn and Order

Supplies: TV and extended cabling if needed.
Purpose: Outdoor time for those kiddos who have a hard time putting down the electronics
If your little ones have a hard time putting down the electronics and getting outside, we have a suggestion for you. With a little prep, this activity can be a great way to enjoy the outdoors with the family. Set up the TV outside and watch a movie with the family from the comfort of sleeping bags and chairs in your backyard. If moving the TV all the way outside is too tough, try to move it close to a window and open the window to the backyard. Make some popcorn and watch your movie in the fresh air. This can be a great way to introduce the little ones into the importance of fresh air and being outside. It’s a great compromise for those who just can’t disconnect!

Got more outdoor ideas? Let us know in the comments! Thanks again to Kelsey-Seybold Clinics, McDonald’s, and United for making Get Out and Play 2014 such a huge success!

Penny has been working hard in the Naturally Wild Swap Shop

My goodness, but this summer was busy.  The zoo had great attendance and, here in the Naturally Wild Swap Shop, we had record numbers of trades in June, July and August!

Just such hard work being a cat.

My name is Penny, and it is my job to greet guests and be an ambassador for the zoo. I have been quite busy.  With so many people coming through the shop, I had so many shoes to sniff and strollers to examine that I had a hard time getting it all done.  Of course, there was still  time for the guests to pet me while I lay in the sun.  That is a very important part of my day.

I got to see many of our regular traders.  Maya and her brother Simon, Jocelyn and Brydon, Harper, Hudson and Helena and even Beckett and Davis  all came in this summer.  I wish I could list all the great traders I got to see, but there were so many of them.  For the 3 months of summer we did over 1,200 trades!  I was exhausted.  I mean, it is really hard work being a cat.  I have to supervise everything.

The Naturally Wild Swap Shop
The Naturally Wild Swap Shop

There were some really amazing items brought in.  We got skulls (including a really large alligator gar skull), Hawaiian sand, a mermaid purse (who knew mermaids needed a purse?), and reports on all kinds of nature topics.  We even celebrated the Swap Shop’s 5th anniversary in August with Trader Appreciation Day.  That was really fun.

Now that school is back in session, it is quieter in the shop.  I miss getting petted so much – I mean seeing so many traders.  I am

Checking out the shells
Checking out the shells

still supervising though. I have to sniff every new item.  So many interesting smells.  Like I said, it is really hard work being a cat.  If you come to the Swap Shop, I will be here.  Just come on by and pet me a little.

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

Come with us to see wolves in Yellowstone!

Edit-2The Houston Zoo travels to the Tetons and Yellowstone national Park several times a year and you can join us!  We have biologists from the area guide us on wildlife focused adventures that provide thrilling encounters with bison, wolves and many other animals.

All of our food and accommodations once we are in the park are taken care of on these amazing expeditions.  This is always a unique and memorable trip, so click here for more details!


For most of our exciting wildlife spotting our biologists provide high powered spotting scopes and binoculars to observe the animal’s natural behavior.


Last Spring we had several astonishing wolf encounters.  We saw wolves on four separate  occasions!    This male was chilling in the afternoon after a bit of a feast on a carcass.


This female wolf  gave us a very memorable experience.


She came up right along side our vehicle.  She had a tracking collar on and was well known to our biologists.


Her identification number was 889 and she was a part of a pack called the Junction Bute pack.  It was such an honor to be in her presence!



We watched this beautiful fephoto3male wolf from the safety and comfort of our vehicle.  Our biologists in Yellowstone provide us with this specially designed wildlife viewing vehicle that we can pop up through the top for any close encounters that may happen.

Our Yellowstone biologists are from Teton Science School’s Wildlife Expeditions and they create unforgettable experiences by guiding us to the best animal viewing opportunities.   Join us on these exciting wildlife adventures in one of the most outstanding National Parks in the world, Yellowstone!  Click here to see dates and sign up!

The Houston Zoo loves our bobcat, black bear, river otters and other north american animals and we are constantly committed to protecting them in the wild.  We know saving these and all species will take armies of people that care.  We can achieve this by bringing people eye to eye with animals in the Zoo and in the wild.

Every time you visit or travel with the Zoo you save animals in the wild.  A portion of your admission and travel cost goes to efforts to protect wildlife from extinction.










Colobus Monkey Gets a Second Chance at Sight with Cataract Surgery

This post written by Bailey Cheney of the Houston Zoo Primate Department.

We first realized that Caesar, our geriatric Eastern black and white Colobus monkey, was losing his sight around January of 2013. It started off with one of the keepers realizing that his eyes were a little cloudy. Then we noticed that he was slightly hesitant about moving around his bedroom. A sure sign that his sight was in decline was when one of the keepers noticed him bump into a new bench that had been installed. After that, it seemed that his sight was going downhill at an alarming rate. He would sit in the same spot for a long time. Whenever he moved, he would pat the ground where he walked to feel his way around.

Caesar is the oldest eastern black and white colobus monkey in a zoo at 32 years old. He lives with his mate “Bibi” in an off-exhibit special-care facility where geriatric primates are housed with indoor/outdoor access. Instead of going outside once his sight decreased, he would sit right in the doorway to feel the sunshine and enjoy the breeze all from the comfort and safety of his “old man porch.” He moved around less, understandably, and as time passed, the entire primate staff was growing more concerned about him.

Our veterinarians got in contact with Dr. Nicholas Millichamp of Eye Care for Animals. The clinic is about a forty-five minute drive from the Houston Zoo. The day of the surgery, Caesar was moved into a crate with just enough room to relax and be comfortable. Once sedated, Caesar was given a pre-surgery screening to make sure that he still had functional retinas. Thankfully, he passed that test and the surgery began. During the surgery, Dr. Millichamp dyed the cataracts for better contrast to see what he was working on. He used a very small instrument to scrape, and then suck away, the old cataracts. After removing them, Dr. Millichamp put new lenses into both eyes. During the whole surgery, the doctor used a microscope to be able to closely see what he was doing. This microscope was set up to a camera and a screen so that those observing could see everything that Dr. Millichamp saw.


Once he returned home to the zoo and recovered, the entire primate staff was very anxious to see results. The first time that I realized that he could see was when a piece of zucchini (one of Caesar’s favorites) was rolling off of the feeding tray and Caesar caught it quickly.  We observed him walk right up to his food, and he walked with confidence on the props in his bedrooms.

After a few bumps in the road as his eyes were a little slow to heal, he was finally cleared to go outside. When the door was opened, Bibi immediately went out, but Caesar hesitated. Then, he took a few steps forward and stepped onto the high walkway and followed Bibi over to a ray of sunshine, where he basked delightedly. We saw him enjoying the warm sun, watched birds fly by, and contentedly enjoy his surroundings.

Caesar continues to do amazingly well and it seems to us as if he’s lost ten years off of his 32 years. He vocalizes and displays vigorously in the morning to show the keepers who is boss, and interacts more with Bibi. These are all behaviors he had stopped doing when he was blind. He continues going strong, to the delight of the entire primate staff, and we hope to have much more time with him. We are all very thankful to the veterinary ophthalmologists who donated their time to so improve the quality of our old man’s Caesar’s life!

Caesar the colobus monkey
Caesar the colobus monkey
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