More New Babies at the Houston Zoo!

Adorable baby okapi not enough cuteness for you? Never fear, more Zoo babies are here! These little ones were born recently at the Houston Zoo. We hope you have a chance to come out and visit them soon!

This year, we had not one, but two baby De Brazza’s monkeys! A baby was born in January after seven years of hoping that Amelia and Albert would have one. Then this month we were excited to welcome another new baby into the family! One of the most important jobs of a zoo is breeding animals that are declining in the wild, and this animal is declining in the wild because of habitat loss and other serious issues. This sweet newborn still doesn’t have a name. Our keepers are waiting to know if the baby is a “she” or a “he” before deciding on a name.

Baby De Brazza's Monkey

This baby bongo’s name is Sheldon. Bongos are among the largest of the African forest antelope, and they are the only forest antelope to form herds. They are critically endangered, and there may be as few as 200 left in the wild.

Sheldon, the Baby Bongo
Sheldon, the baby bongo

Also recently born is this baby male nyala named Rowan. Nyala are almost invisible in the habitats where they live in southeast Africa because their coats provide excellent camouflage.

Baby Nyala Rowan
Baby nyala, Rowan

New Houston Zoo Intern Joins us From Kenya!

The Houston Zoo is excited to welcome a new intern who comes to us all the way from Kenya, in East Africa. Sabinga is in the United States participating in the Community College Initiative Program (CCIP). The Community College Initiative Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State, administered by Northern Virginia Community College on behalf of the Community College Consortium (CCC) in partnership with Houston Community College. While participating in this program, he will join us at the zoo as an intern to learn all about what a modern-day zoo is like! Sabinga is already part of the conservation community as he has been working with Save the Elephants in Kenya for over 8 years. He will be documenting his experiences at the Zoo and we will share his thoughts with you here on our blog! Stay tuned for more! 

Sabinga writes:

Houston Zoo is the first zoo I ever been (my first time in the zoo), although I had heard of a Zoo before, what I learn for this few days at the Houston Zoo was beyond my thinking and expectation of the zoo.

People out there may think zoo animals are for entertainment, it is wrong, I learn it is a conservation practice. Me being an intern here I feel the same way I feel while working with my conservation organization, Save the Elephants in the wild.

Sabinga, a native Kenyan and employee of Save the Elephants joins the Houston Zoo intern family!
Sabinga, a native Kenyan and employee of Save the Elephants joins the Houston Zoo intern family!

I came to learn, excellent care Houston Zoo provide for animal mean at the same time committed to saving animals in the wild for example just by coming to the zoo, you have taken action to save wildlife. A portion of the entrance fee or membership goes to wildlife conservation, best thing I learnt!

Attending Wildlife Conservation Program Planning meeting in October shared by Renee, I learn Houston Zoo educate many of visitors each year about endangered species and related conservation issues, which is the same as what I do in my work of conserving elephants and I am hoping to learn more from the Zoo staff and share what I know with them as well.

Field conservation focuses on the long-term survival of species in natural ecosystems and habitats. Zoos participate in conservation projects that support studies of populations in the wild, species recovery efforts, veterinary care for wildlife, conservation awareness, ivory ban petitions, mobile phone recycling, and plastic among many more.

I learn also that Houston zoo believes in fostering a vibrant and diverse community, helping drive educational and cultural development across Houston benefits everyone and by participating in community initiatives, education program and make community to fill involve and be proud to the zoo as part of them.

Stay tuned to hear more from Sabinga in the coming months as his internship at the Houston Zoo unfolds!

Baby Okapi Born at the Zoo!

What looks like a zebra, but is related to giraffe? Okapi! The Houston Zoo is proud to announce the birth of a baby okapi.  The yet-to-be-named male calf was born on November 6 and has been thriving under the care of his mother, Tulia.The pair will continue to bond behind the scenes for the next several weeks.  This is the first successful birth of a baby okapi at the zoo.

Baby Okapi No 2014

Okapis are also known as the “forest giraffe” and are native to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa. Since 2013, the species has been classified as endangered by habitat destruction and poaching.


Okapi facts:

–  Zebra and giraffe live in herds, but okapi usually live alone in the forest. Sometimes a mother will live with its one calf until the calf is grown.
–  Like giraffes, okapi have long tongues they use for plucking leaves, buds, and branches from trees to eat.
–  Okapi are solitary creatures that hide in the dense forest where they live. They were not discovered until 1901!
–  Okapi need thick rainforests to live, but their homes are being cut down. People are working to protect the rainforests to make sure okapi have the food, water, and shelter they need to survive.


Saving the Blue-billed Curassow

Imagine you’ve been transported deep into the humid, tropical forests of northern Colombia, traversing the El Paujil reserve. You scramble down a steep hillside, trying to stay on your feet as you dodge low-hanging branches and push through dense, prickly underbrush. You’ve been searching for what seems like forever, and you’re tired. You sit down to rest and have a drink of water. Your eyes glance up to a small clearing, and you can’t believe it. You see what you’ve been searching so hard to find: a bird so rare that fewer than 700 still exist in the wild…possibly many less. You found the blue-billed curassow.

Blue-billed Curassow

The blue-billed curassow, as beautiful as it is rare, is facing some serious issues in the wild that are causing its population to decline. Its habitat is being used for agriculture; the forests are being replaced with farms. The El Paujil reserve is the only one in the world dedicated to the blue-billed curassow (which is called El Paujil in its native Colombia).

Fortunately, there are people working every day to make sure these birds will never go extinct. One way is to make sure there are birds in zoos so that if the wild population takes a drastic nose dive, the population still stays viable.

Zoos work together to determine which birds have the most genetic diversity and then pair them together so they can ensure the long-term survival of the species. The Houston Zoo, for example, worked with Zoo Lourosa in Portugal to trade pairs of blue-billed curassows for this purpose. After the trade, the new birds were then paired with other existing birds, and now there have been babies born at both zoos.

Baby Chick from Portugal
One of the blue-billed curassow chicks that was hatched in Portugal after trading bird pairs with the Houston Zoo

It is also important that people see curassows in person and appreciate their uniqueness so they will care about them and want to help them.

The Houston Zoo has been working to save these birds since the 1970s – there have been more than 50 blue-billed curassows born in Houston. Zoos in Colombia have also been working for many years with species like the curassow that can be challenging to breed. The Houston Zoo has been working with Colombian Zoos since 2004 to share our knowledge and our resources to help their breeding programs. The ultimate goal is for Colombian zoos to be successful in breeding these birds, and then to release birds back into the wild once the population can be sustained.

And there is good news from this very important effort: in January 2014, the Aviario Nacional de Colombia became the first Colombian zoo to breed the blue-billed curassow in its native Colombia. The very next month, the Houston Zoo’s Chris Holmes, assistant curator of birds, traveled to Colombia and hosted an incubation workshop at this same place to train 21 staff members from four Colombian zoos. Four incubators and other related equipment was also donated.

To date, there have been 10 chicks that have hatched at the Aviario Nacional de Colombia.

What can you do to help? Visit the Houston Zoo and see the blue-billed curassow for yourself. The more you appreciate and understand this bird, the more knowledge you can share with others. And when you visit, a portion of every ticket goes to saving animals in the wild.

Keep an Eye Out For Cold Sea Turtles!

When the temperature changes quickly in our typically hot and humid environment, humans aren’t the only ones who get chilly. Sea turtles often times become “cold stunned” during extreme temperature changes. They are accustomed to warmer water temperatures, and if a cold front comes in quickly and unexpectedly, they don’t have the time to move to warmer waters and thus become “stunned” by the cold.

Green sea turtles often wash onto our shores when the temperature drops drastically. Call 1-866-TURTLE-5 to report a sea turtle that you suspect is cold-stunned or injured!
Green sea turtles often wash onto our shores when the temperature drops drastically. Call 1-866-TURTLE-5 to report a sea turtle that you suspect is cold-stunned or injured!

Since sea turtles are reptiles and cold blooded, they can’t regulate their body temperature like we can (that’s why we shiver-to warm ourselves up!) and become weak, typically washing up on our bay shores and beaches. Several green sea turtles have recently washed up on our shores as a result of the cold.

Green sea turtles who have been cold stunned this week by our cooler temperatures
Green sea turtles who have been cold stunned by our cooler temperatures

So, if you are  braving the cold weather this winter and spending time near Galveston Bay or our beaches, please make sure to keep a look out for cold stunned turtles. If you happen to see a sea turtle, please report it immediately by calling 1-866-TURTLE-5.

Call 1-866-TURTLE-5 if you see a cold stunned sea turtle
Call 1-866-TURTLE-5 if you see a cold stunned sea turtle

Working to Save Birds in the Marianas Islands

The Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands is a chain of about 14 islands in the Pacific around 3,000 miles west of Hawaii. For the better part of a decade, a group of bird professionals from institutions accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) have been doing important work in this beautiful and exotic location. The Mariana Avi-fauna Conservation program, or MAC for short, started in 2004 when the local government and the US Department of Fish and Wildlife asked AZA zoos for help to save the bird species of the islands from a dangerous predator.

fruit dove

Here, the bird species are under threat from an introduced species – the brown tree snake. Right across the water in Guam, the brown tree snake has pretty much obliterated the native forest bird species since the snake inhabited the island after stowing away on ships during World War II. When people began to see brown tree snakes on the neighboring island of Saipan, an action plan was created to prevent the devastating losses that were seen in Guam.

The Mariana fruit-dove is one species of bird that zoos like the Houston Zoo are working to protect. This bird is endemic to Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands. Endemic means that the bird isn’t found anywhere else in the world, which highlights the importance of ensuring the fruit-dove’s future. Hannah Bailey, the Houston Zoo’s curator of birds, has done extensive conservation field work across the world, including traveling to Saipan to assist with efforts to help the Mariana fruit-dove.

vet check birdWhile in Saipan, Hannah joined a team of dedicated professionals who use nets to capture not only fruit-doves, but species such as the bridled white-eye and Tinian monarchs. Each bird captured is given a physical exam to take important measurements including tail length, wing cord length, tarsus length, and bill length. This information combined with the incoming weight of the birds provides a snapshot of the overall health of the birds. After the health check is complete, a number is assigned to the bird and a band is placed on the bird’s leg.

This team then decides which birds to release and which birds to select for captive breeding programs back in the U.S. This tough work in the jungle is taxing and difficult, but Hannah and other dedicated professionals are safeguarding the fruit-dove’s long term survival and making sure that these incredible species will not disappear into history.

Give Thanks for Species Rescued from the Brink of Extinction

attwater's blogAs American families prepare for the annual ritual of giving thanks, they can add to their list of things to be thankful for a rare victory in the battle against global climate change – more than 30 endangered species brought back from the brink of extinction thanks to America’s accredited zoos and aquariums.

With climate change, population growth and deforestation, and poaching threatening species around the world, we are facing what scientists call the “Sixth Extinction.”

But the 229 accredited members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums have built a unique infrastructure to save endangered species – breeding programs that coordinate across many institutions to ensure genetic diversity, systems so that animals can be safely moved between institutions, and partnerships with local, national, and international conservation organizations working on re-introducing these animals to their native ranges.

Here at the Houston Zoo, our zookeepers are working on conservation programs for more than 15 endangered species, including Attwater’s prairie chickens, sea turtles, Houston toad and gorillas.

fruit dove

Because of that infrastructure, there is good news in the face of the extinction crisis:  from the Florida manatee to the California condor, the Hawaiian crow to the Puerto Rican crested toad, the Chinese alligator to the American bison, zoos and aquariums have saved more than 30 species, and are working today on dozens more.

Over the next several months, AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums will be celebrating these successes, and inviting the public to support efforts to save even more species.  In November, in honor of Thanksgiving, the Houston Zoo is spotlighting endangered birds, including the blue-billed curassow, Marianas fruit dove and the Attwater’s prairie chicken.

Stay tuned as we tell the stories of these incredible animals and the people who are doing great things to help maintain their survival.


2014 TXU Energy Houston Turkey Calling Contest at the Zoo

TXU TURKEY TROtA gaggle of your favorite local news media personalities is headed to the Houston Zoo and we hope you will join them.

The annual TXU Energy Houston Turkey Calling Contest returns to the Houston Zoo on Saturday, Nov. 15. Local TV, radio and print personalities will be on hand to flap their elbows and belt out their best turkey gobble. The TXU Energy Houston Turkey Trot is the largest Thanksgiving footrace and it benefits more than 192,000 seniors and children that Neighborhood Centers serves each year.

 The media personality who delivers the best turkey call will be honored with a tree planting in the city and zoo guests will be invited to join the turkey call to win their own prizes.

 The turkey calling contest kicks off at 10 a.m. at the Butterfly Stage in the Children’s Zoo.

 The TXU Energy Houston Turkey Trot features competitive and fun 10K, 5K and wheelchair races as well as a kid’s play area, food and friendly visitors from our zoo.

 SPECIAL REGISTRATION RATE – As a friend of the Zoo, you and your immediate family have the opportunity to register for the TXU Energy Houston Turkey Trot at a 20 percent discounted rate through Nov. 26. Register here and use promotion code ZOO2014TROT to take advantage of this offer.

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