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!
Do you know that Houston Zoo also doing their part to bolster dwindling populations of animals still living free in the wild? The sea turtle is an example. The green sea turtle gets its name not from the color of its shell but from the greenish shade of its fat. A saw-like beak helps these herbivores tear through vegetation. Their shells, which are lighter and more hydrodynamic than those of terrestrial turtles, allow them to glide easily through the water, while flippers enable them to swim long distances. Male sea turtles spend their entire lives at sea, but females return to the same beaches they were born on, once every two years or so, to lay eggs. It’s a unique creature!!
Just a few days ago I was busy working on my computer when I heard a voice behind me asking me if I wanted to go into the field with Martha (Conservation Education Coordinator) and sea lion staff on the following Tuesday. I quickly realized the voice was Renee! (Conservation Programs Manager) But it took me lot of thinking to manage and organized my thoughts about word “field” in the zoo as I turn my chair to face her slowly buying time for my thoughts, the only thing running in my head is back in Kenya, in Save the Elephants where we go to the field on daily monitoring, community outreach and anti-poaching campaigns for wildlife. I turn to face her and still have no clue what she meant. My thoughts fail me. I repeated the same statement to her. “Field?” Maybe she though I repeated a word to her for confirmation, not knowing there was so much going in my head. And that was where my new lesson started about what field work with the Houston Zoo meant.
The 16th of December, 2014 Tuesday morning was our mission day of Surfside beach clean-up to protect animals like sea turtles, it took us approximately one hour, was a long drive but was a journey with lot of fun, lots of laugh and a great way to get a word out about the sea Turtles! Aiming to talk to beach residents in an effort to monitor, preserve and protect sea turtle and their vicinity as well as to educate the local residents on the plight of sea turtles and other marine animals, it is the same way Save the Elephants approaches the community on elephant poaching.
Martha had lot of responsibility; she was our team leader, driver and main spokesperson to the community although Sophie Darling and Heather Crane contributed too to the effort. I was keen to learn about how they approach the community! From my heroes (Martha, Sophie and Heather), my first impression was the sea turtle sign at the entry of the beach, this sign was made by the Houston Zoo graphics team in collaboration with NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric administration) which is also the same way that Save the Elephants collaborates with the Kenyan Government -Kenya Wildlife Service.
NOAA & Houston Zoo staff put fishing line recycling bins on a long jetty for fishermen to put their broken fishing line that is dangerous for the sea turtles and other marine animals. We started cleaned the jetty from the far end coming where we began by collecting common marine debris items including things like cigarette butts, cans, plastic bags and bottles, styrofoam, balloons, lighters, discarded or lost fishing gear such as lines, nets and anything else dangerous to sea life. This is hard work but there is still a lot to be done. We still need to do a lot of collecting and messaging to win this, we cannot give up!!!!
Sophie and Heather’s comments on their experience, “It feels so good to be out and actively participating in such an important mission, I just wish that I could get every piece of monofilament out there! That was the hardest part, like you said, was having to come to terms with the fact that I couldn’t get everything. I cannot wait to spread this to the community here at the Zoo and all over Houston! I feel extremely proud to be a part of all of this.”
The total amount or marine debris the sea lion team has collect this fall is:
- 34.1 lbs of rope
- 11 lbs of recycling
- 26.4 lbs of trash
- 2 lbs of monofilament (fishing line)
Why should we care about sea turtles? Just like other species, sea turtles are also important to the economy. Some fishermen depend on fishing for their jobs and if sea turtle go extinct, the underwater ecosystem would be unbalanced. Why? Sea turtles are one of the only animals that eat sea grass, and sea grasses need to be kept short. Why? So it can grow across the ocean floor. Why? Without the sea grass the species of fish that live there will be lost, the people that fish for them couldn’t anymore. What if that was YOU? Some just think, “oh well other people will care for them”; others may say, “I am busy with my business” – yeah well many other people may be thinking other things – that is why we have this problem. So do your part. Please join us to save sea turtles by reducing the use of plastic bags so that they don’t end up in the ocean and cleaning the beach. It is of great value to our community and the world. We need to take action together, and spread the news! Your actions today affect tomorrow’s outcomes!