Do Monkeys Make Good Pets?

Post by: Bailey Cheney

This is probably the most common question that I get as a primate keeper. It often comes up while I’m giving a keeper chat, or while I’m feeding a particularly cute Coquerel’s Sifaka. Despite all the times I hear this question, I never get tired of answering it. This is because the answer is so important to primates and their conservation in the wild. At the zoo, we like to say that conservation starts with education. If I brushed off the question with a callous answer, I would be missing the opportunity to share and educate our guests about how amazing our primates are and how they should remain with their own kind.

FeedingSo, the short answer to that question would be no, monkeys do not make good pets. However, it is a complicated “no” and requires elaboration.  I was recently given the opportunity to travel to Wildtracks in Belize, a wildlife rehabilitation and release center dedicating to ending the illegal pet trade.  It is home to more than 50 monkeys (Yucatan black howler monkeys, Geoffroy’s spider monkeys, and one white-faced capuchin) all of whom were confiscated as illegal pets by the government. All of these monkeys came to the center in conditions that ranged from bad to worse. Most were malnourished, many were sick, and there was even a spider monkey with five gunshot wounds from a poacher who killed her mother.

Wildtracks is fighting to give these monkeys a new life and a new home. They provide veterinary care to the individuals who need it, and are dedicated to giving them the skill sets needed to survive in the wild. They have a very effective methodology for rehabilitating monkeys. A few days before I arrived, Wildtracks got a call about an infant howler monkey who had just been confiscated by the local government. During my tour, Paul, the Director, allowed me into the quarantine room to see her. Before monkeys are placed with any other monkeys, they are kept in quarantine for at least 30 days so as not to spread any illnesses or parasites. They may stay longer than that if their medical conditions are severe. “Cho”, the infant howler, was considered to be a rather severe case.Kitchen

She was a sickly and tiny thing. Physically, she had extremely bad scabies, was malnourished and emaciated. What broke my heart, however, was her mental state.  She was obviously frightened and emotionally shut down. She would pull away from any type of contact and she was nervous when people were nearby. It took quite a bit of convincing for her to eat her food. Paul assigned a volunteer to be with Cho and get her used to a kind human presence so that she would accept medications and desperately needed milk formula. This was the first part of her rehabilitation process.

Like Cho, most monkeys that come into Wildtracks have received grossly neglectful care. Monkeys, although they do funny “human-like” behaviors, are not people. Unfortunately, usually the owners of the illegal pets are completely oblivious as to how to properly care for them and they feed them like you would a human infant. In some cases, they fail to provide even that kind of care. Monkeys have extremely specialized diet requirements that need evaluation according to what stage in life they are in, what their natural habitat is, and what type of produce is in season. Wildtracks takes all this into account and offers the infants and adults proper, fresh produce along with milk formula specifically suited to their nutritional needs.

After newly acquired monkeys are released from quarantine, a suitable group is found for them to live with. Because the goal of all Wildtracks animals is their eventual release back into the wild, they have to learn how to live in a group of their own kind. Primates are highly social creatures and require others of their own species to survive. This is another reason why monkeys make extremely bad pets. More often than not, they are kept as solitary pets and develop behavioral issues that are not normal for them and can often put them in danger. These developmental issues, along with isolation, can cause debilitating depression that can drastically affect their quality of life.  Pre-Release2

After the howler monkeys are placed with a group, they are assigned a caretaker. This caretaker acts as a slightly more hands-off maternal figure. They take them to the outside play-pens where the infants can learn social and survival skills. They also feed them, clean them, and break up any type of squabbles that get out of hand. After the infants get a little bit older, they are moved outside permanently and are weaned off of their maternal figure and human contact. The monkeys take this time to further solidify as a cohesive group. Eventually, they are put in pre-release, open-aired enclosures of around 1-3 acres. This teaches them how to stay in contact with each other over long distances, how to navigate wild vegetation, and how to move together as a group. When they are deemed ready physically and mentally, the howlers are taken to Fireburn, a federally protected preserve that is a natural habitat to howler monkeys. After their release, they are monitored and are still offered supplemental food sources. As time progresses, the howlers are slowly weaned off of those supplemental sources and become fully wild. Pre-Release

Generally, people who illegally own howlers only have them a few months or a year or two, because they begin to bite their owners and are then given away or rescued. As you can see, the rehabilitation process takes years. It requires a significantly long time to rectify the damage that only a few months of improper care can do to an infant or adult primate. This is why I always tell people that primates make bad pets. People can have the best intentions, but ignorance of their social and physiological requirements that primates desperately need always causes irreparable damage.

Recently, Wildtracks did a study to watch movement patterns of released groups of howlers in Fireburn. Results showed that they were thriving. They were able to find all of the monkeys that had been released, and, even found that wild howler monkeys were moving into the area. Best of all, a total of four Yucatan Black Howlers had been born to previously rehabilitated monkeys.

Personally, I’d rather see a howler monkey group happily living in a forest, than alone in someone’s home. I’d rather see them moving up in the trees, interacting with their family, and doing what happy, wild monkeys do in the wild: surviving and thriving in their natural habitat. No matter how cute they are, remember that primates do not make good pets. If you really want the best for them, admire them at a distance and let them be monkeys. Appreciate them for what they are: beautiful, incredible, intelligent, social, wild creatures.

 

Do Monkeys Make Good Pets?

Post by Bailey Cheney

FeedingThis is probably the most common question that I get as a primate keeper. It often comes up while I’m giving a keeper chat, or while I’m feeding a particularly cute Coquerel’s Sifaka. Despite all the times I hear this question, I never get tired of answering it. This is because the answer is so important to primates and their conservation in the wild. At the zoo, we like to say that conservation starts with education. If I brushed off the question with a callous answer, I would be missing the opportunity to share and educate our guests about how amazing our primates are and how they should remain with their own kind.

So, the short answer to that question would be no, monkeys do not make good pets. However, it is a complicated “no” and requires elaboration.  I was recently given the opportunity to travel to Wildtracks in Belize, a wildlife rehabilitation and release center dedicating to ending the illegal pet trade.  It is home to more than 50 monkeys (Yucatan black howler monkeys, Geoffroy’s spider monkeys, and one white-faced capuchin) all of whom were confiscated as illegal pets by the government. All of these monkeys came to the center in conditions that ranged from bad to worse. Most were malnourished, many were sick, and there was even a spider monkey with five gunshot wounds from a poacher who killed her mother.

Wildtracks is fighting to give these monkeys a new life and a new home. They provide veterinary care to the individuals who need it, and are dedicated to giving them the skill sets needed to survive in the wild. They have a very effective methodology for rehabilitating monkeys. A few days before I arrived, Wildtracks got a call about an infant howler monkey who had just been confiscated by the local government. During my tour, Paul, the Director, allowed me into the quarantine room to see her. Before monkeys are placed with any other monkeys, they are kept in quarantine for at least 30 days so as not to spread any illnesses or parasites. They may stay longer than that if their medical conditions are severe. “Cho”, the infant howler, was considered to be a rather severe case.Kitchen

She was a sickly and tiny thing. Physically, she had extremely bad scabies, was malnourished and emaciated. What broke my heart, however, was her mental state.  She was obviously frightened and emotionally shut down. She would pull away from any type of contact and she was nervous when people were nearby. It took quite a bit of convincing for her to eat her food. Paul assigned a volunteer to be with Cho and get her used to a kind human presence so that she would accept medications and desperately needed milk formula. This was the first part of her rehabilitation process.

Like Cho, most monkeys that come into Wildtracks have received grossly neglectful care. Monkeys, although they do funny “human-like” behaviors, are not people. Unfortunately, usually the owners of the illegal pets are completely oblivious as to how to properly care for them and they feed them like you would a human infant. In some cases, they fail to provide even that kind of care. Monkeys have extremely specialized diet requirements that need evaluation according to what stage in life they are in, what their natural habitat is, and what type of produce is in season. Wildtracks takes all this into account and offers the infants and adults proper, fresh produce along with milk formula specifically suited to their nutritional needs.

After newly acquired monkeys are released from quarantine, a suitable group is found for them to live with. Because the goal of all Wildtracks animals is their eventual release back into the wild, they have to learn how to live in a group of their own kind. Primates are highly social creatures and require others of their own species to survive. This is another reason why monkeys make extremely bad pets. More often than not, they are kept as solitary pets and develop behavioral issues that are not normal for them and can often put them in danger. These developmental issues, along with isolation, can cause debilitating depression that can drastically affect their quality of life.  Pre-Release2

After the howler monkeys are placed with a group, they are assigned a caretaker. This caretaker acts as a slightly more hands-off maternal figure. They take them to the outside play-pens where the infants can learn social and survival skills. They also feed them, clean them, and break up any type of squabbles that get out of hand. After the infants get a little bit older, they are moved outside permanently and are weaned off of their maternal figure and human contact. The monkeys take this time to further solidify as a cohesive group. Eventually, they are put in pre-release, open-aired enclosures of around 1-3 acres. This teaches them how to stay in contact with each other over long distances, how to navigate wild vegetation, and how to move together as a group. When they are deemed ready physically and mentally, the howlers are taken to Fireburn, a federally protected preserve that is a natural habitat to howler monkeys. After their release, they are monitored and are still offered supplemental food sources. As time progresses, the howlers are slowly weaned off of those supplemental sources and become fully wild. Pre-Release

Generally, people who illegally own howlers only have them a few months or a year or two, because they begin to bite their owners and are then given away or rescued. As you can see, the rehabilitation process takes years. It requires a significantly long time to rectify the damage that only a few months of improper care can do to an infant or adult primate. This is why I always tell people that primates make bad pets. People can have the best intentions, but ignorance of their social and physiological requirements that primates desperately need always causes irreparable damage.

Recently, Wildtracks did a study to watch movement patterns of released groups of howlers in Fireburn. Results showed that they were thriving. They were able to find all of the monkeys that had been released, and, even found that wild howler monkeys were moving into the area. Best of all, a total of four Yucatan Black Howlers had been born to previously rehabilitated monkeys.

Personally, I’d rather see a howler monkey group happily living in a forest, than alone in someone’s home. I’d rather see them moving up in the trees, interacting with their family, and doing what happy, wild monkeys do in the wild: surviving and thriving in their natural habitat. No matter how cute they are, remember that primates do not make good pets. If you really want the best for them, admire them at a distance and let them be monkeys. Appreciate them for what they are: beautiful, incredible, intelligent, social, wild creatures.

 

Pollination Station Arrives

Check out the new amazing Pollination Station in the Children’s Zoo!  What is a Pollination Station?  Just think of it as an insect hotel.

Before
Before

 

You will notice that many different materials were used in our Pollination Station’s making.  This allows many different insects to use the different shape openings to lay their eggs.

30% of all North American bees use some kind of tunnel in which to lay their eggs.  Providing a food source and houses for these bees is very important in the efforts to help our pollinators.

A huge percentage of our food crops rely on pollinators.  Without our pollinators, we could lose nuts, spices, many fruits and vegetables, cotton, alfalfa and even chocolate.  75% of flowering plants and over

Pollination Station in progress
Pollination Station in progress

30% of our food crops rely on pollinators.

What kinds of insects will be making this palace their home?  Wasps, dragonflies, bees, moths, and spiders.

The next time you are in the Children’s Zoo, check out the Pollination Station next to the Naturally Wild Swap Shop.  And, if you have planted pollinator plants in your own gardens, bring a report or pictures to the Swap Shop for points and you can be registered as a Pollinator Pal.

The finished Pollination Station
The finished Pollination Station

 

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

Elephant Keepers Kim Klein and Andrea Pohlman are Saving Elephants

Written by Andrea Pohlman


Kim and Andrea

Welcome to your behind-the-scenes look at Houston Zoo staff conservation in action! Elephant Keepers Kim Klein and Andrea Pohlman are beginning a new project to help endangered Asian elephants, focusing on the population within Lao. The Houston Zoo provides this unique opportunity by way of the Staff Conservation Fund. This program is funded solely by Houston Zoo staff members, who are so passionate about the Zoo’s commitment to saving species that they donate a portion of each paycheck to help save animals all around the world. To date, the Staff Conservation Fund has supported 26 conservation efforts started by zoo staff, and our project is the newest to be approved!

For the past 4 years, The Elephant Conservation Center has focused on starting a new era for Asian elephant conservation within Lao. With over 400 elephants working within the Lao logging industry, the Center has become a rescue sanctuary for overworked elephants, a safe haven for pregnant and nursing elephants, and an educational facility for elephant caretakers and the local community.

At the forefront of the mission is Elephant Conservation Center biologist Anabel Lopez Perez. Anabel is currently working to expand the living area of the rescued elephants at the Center, and has secured a large area of land along Nam Tien Lake. Obtaining a large living space was Anabel’s primary goal for the rescued elephants, and the need to physically engage and mentally stimulate these intelligent animals within their new home is critical to their social development.
This is where Kim and Andrea can provide their collective 13 years of elephant care experience to help develop an exciting new enrichment program for the Center! Enrichment provides a stimulating environment where the elephants can develop social skills, encourage natural behaviors, engage and challenge higher level thinking, and provide physical activity. Kim will be traveling to Lao in October to work with Anabel and her staff on developing, building and evaluating the enrichment activities at the Center. Cultivating these skills among the Center’s staff will allow them to encourage family bonds within the rescued elephants by using enrichment techniques. It is Anabel’s long-term goal to release the rescued elephants back into the forests of Lao, so that they may integrate with wild elephants.

feeder picEmbarking on a journey halfway across the Earth means that many of our supplies and tools will come from the local markets within Lao. Over the coming weeks, Anabel and her staff will be collecting firehose for constructing a variety of toys and feeders, used tires and PVC tubes, as well as heavy-duty chain for hanging the enrichment. Items that are strong and durable enough for elephants can be difficult to find, so Kim will be transporting almost 200 lbs of supplies with her! Clevices, nuts and bolts and swivels will be packed in Kim’s suitcase, all made from galvanized steel. Galvanized steel is not easy to find in Lao, but is imperative to long lasting and safe elephant enrichment. Another item that Anabel has had trouble locating are soccer balls, so Kim will be bringing several along from the US.

Supporting the Elephant Conservation Center in Lao is one of the many ways that the Houston Zoo is working to save species all over the world. With an estimated population of 40,000 animals left in the wild, Asian elephants are an endangered species. Human-elephant conflict, loss of habitat, poaching and removing individuals from the wild for use as work animals have all caused a sharp decline within the population. Through community education, securing protected habitat, and the rescue and re-habilitation of elephants throughout Lao, the Elephant Conservation Center is actively working to protect and grow the local population, which is currently estimated to be about 700 wild individuals.

Over the coming months, Kim and Andrea will share details of Kim’s time in Lao and her experiences with the elephants and staff at the Elephant Conservation Center. If you would like to learn more about the Elephant Conservation center in Lao, you can visit http://www.elephantconservationcenter.com/

2015 Wildlife Warriors!

A huge thank you to all of our amazing nominees for the Houston Zoo Wildlife Warrior award. Their work shows how they are incredible heroes! After much careful thought our selection committee has decided on our 2015 Houston Zoo Wildlife Warriors. These exceptional leaders demonstrated excellence and were selected based on their outstanding work in the field. Below is the criteria for the award.

Qualifications:

  • Has to be a current employee of an existing Houston Zoo Wildlife Conservation partner
  • Nominated by an existing Houston Zoo Wildlife Conservation partner
  • Grassroots community conservationist, local employee from the project region( local people on the front lines of conservation)
  • Performed extraordinary things in their communities to save wildlife

 

Here are the 2015 Wildlife Warriors:

Ayubu Msago

Where he is from:
Born in Tanzania

Why he is a Wildlife Warrior:
Ayubu Msago has been the Ruaha Carnivore Project’s community liaison officer since 2009, but has dedicated his whole life to wildlife conservation. Msago gave up his job to come and help start RCP under very difficult conditions – there were only 3 people living in small tents in a remote wilderness area, and the local Barabaig tribe were extremely hostile. Msago worked tirelessly to build a project field camp, and spent years patiently building relationships with the Barabaig, who were killing dozens of lions annually. One night, a young Barabaig girl went missing, so Msago helped organize a search party and searched for 3 days till she was found, very dehydrated but alive. This helped him bond with the fearsome Barabaig warriors, and he became the first outsider they accepted and were willing to work with. Msago tirelessly leads local conservation efforts to help villagers prevent carnivore attacks, even sleeping at households in danger of attack to deter carnivores. He heroically saved the life of a villager who was being attacked by a lion, at extreme risk to his own life, by shooting over the head of the lioness to scare her off the severely injured man and then driving him to the hospital more than 2½ hours away. Long-term conservation depends upon local people seeing real benefits from conservation, so Msago has dedicated years to developing meaningful community benefit initiatives which are linked to wildlife presence. He led local efforts to equip a healthcare clinic, helped establish secondary school scholarships for pastoralist children, developed a program to link village schools with international schools, and implemented Tanzania’s first specialized livestock guarding dog program. He is endlessly passionate about conservation – he conducts wildlife DVD nights in local villages, which have engaged over 20,000 people, and has taken hundreds of warriors, women and schoolchildren on educational Park visits. Living hundreds of miles from his wife and children, Msago is working exceptionally hard to conserve some of the world’s most important carnivore populations, while also helping local communities see real benefits from carnivore presence.

How the award will help:
This award will send Msago to another lion conservation project, the Niassa Lion Project in Mozambique, to learn from their programs to save lions.


 

George Kakule

 

weWhere he is from:
Born in Democratic Republic of Congo

Why he is a Wildlife Warrior:
George has been with Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education GRACE in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)since its inception in 2008. Hired as a driver, he was quickly promoted to Facility Manager due to his impressive technical expertise, unparalleled work ethic, and outstanding leadership qualities. His commitment is unwavering. George even stayed with the project throughout a period of insecurity in 2009. To us, George is considered absolutely irreplaceable, as we depend on him in so many ways, from repairing solar panels at the gorilla facility to expertly navigating North Kivu’s treacherous roads to safely transport staff, supplies, and rescued gorillas. George’s accomplishments in 2015, however, show how exceptional he is.

Fourteen gorilla orphans now live at GRACE in a single surrogate family group. GRACE’s ultimate goal is to reintroduce them into their natural habitat, where they can help save the rapidly
dwindling wild Grauer’s gorilla population. For the past three years, George led a massive construction initiative to build the world’s largest forest enclosure to give gorillas an environment
to practice survival-critical skills (e.g., foraging, nest building, coordinating group movements) in preparation for their return to the wild. This groundbreaking achievement, which was completed
in March, was accomplished in one of Africa’s most remote places and all labor was done by hand. George’s team employed over 200 people from local communities, so this project truly
“took a village”.

How the award will help:
This award will send George to a computer training course in the Democratic Republic of Congo to improve his abilities to communicate and share his talents.


 

Jeneria Lekilelei

1

Where he is from:
Born in Northern Kenya

Why he is a Wildlife Warrior:
Jeneria grew up in Westgate Community Conservancy in northern Kenya. As a Samburu herder, he saw lions only as livestock killers – a threat to his livelihood. In 2008,
however, Jeneria joined Ewaso Lions, whose mission is to conserve lions and other large carnivores by promoting coexistence between people and wildlife.

First working as a Lion Scout and then a Field Assistant, Jeneria learnt that the animal he always knew as a threat was actually itself threatened and wanted to change this. He realised the only way to protect lions would be to engage his own age-class – Samburu warriors; a group traditionally neglected from conservation but who play a central role in protecting their communities and livestock from external threats. In 2010, Jeneria conceived the idea for Warrior Watch, Ewaso Lions’ flagship program.

Warrior Watch encourages warriors to become ambassadors in their communities, raising awareness about carnivores, and advocating for peaceful coexistence. It builds on their traditional protection role by increasing capacity to mitigate human-carnivore conflict and leverages their presence in wildlife areas to monitor threatened species and record conflict incidents. Today, Jeneria manages a network of 18 warriors across 4 Community Conservancies (673 square miles), coordinating their work based on lion movements, and providing leadership and training.

When valuable livestock is lost, tensions can run high but because of his deep connection to the community and constant outreach, Jeneria is usually the first person his community
contacts. Jeneria often intervenes and risks his own life to protect lions. In the past 5 years, Jeneria and his warriors have prevented over 35 retaliatory attacks on lions.

Jeneria has shown such tremendous growth and talent that he has taken on a significant leadership role. As Field Operations and Community Manager, he spends countless hours in the field monitoring lions (covering 1,157 square miles), leads community workshops, and provides management for Ewaso Lions’ community programs: Mama Simba, Lion Kids Camps, and Lion Watch.

Jeneria has already made a significant impact on the survival of lions in Samburu and is shaping up to be a key leader for lion conservation in Kenya.

How the award will help:
This award will send Jeneria to a leadership course that will strengthen his peacemaking skills to encourage peaceful solutions for local people living with lions.

FullSizeRender
Houston Zoo staff with Wildlife Warrior, Jeneria.

The Houston Zoo is so grateful for and proud of all of these outstanding wildlife saving heroes!

Guest Blogger Carolyn Jess Talks Reusable Water Bottles

We have invited Carolyn Jess back to help us out as guest blogger in 2015 with a focus on native wildlife. Jess is a 14 year old student who has agreed to be our special guest blogger about wildlife conservation. Carolyn was awarded the Alban Heiser Conservation Award in 2014, presented to her by Jack Hanna. If you would like to contact Carolyn or have comments, you may send them to conservation@houstonzoo.org.


I am sure you have heard the story that if you took all the plastic water bottles thrown away in one year, they could circle the earth four times! If you stop and actually think about that, it’s kind of scary and overwhelming. Will we be drowning in a pile of plastic bottles, trying to keep our heads above the top? What about our sea turtles, birds, and whales who mistake these bottles, floating in our oceans, as jellyfish or other food? Humans and animals alike are facing a real challenge with plastic pollution.

But, plastic is all around us, as I type my school papers and click my mouse, I have plastic at the tip of my fingers. We need it, but what will happen to all those bottles and other plastics that are not recycled? They have to go somewhere and we are not recycling them fast enough to really keep up with what we are using. It takes about 450 years for one bottle to decompose. So where do we go from here?

 

reusable water bottleI know it is important to recycle my plastic bottles, which is a step in the right direction, but it’s time to take that action a little bit further. How many plastic water bottles could I save by using a refillable thermos or reusable water bottle? If I do the math and figure that if someone drank about three bottles of water a day, that is 21 bottles in one week. If that person used a reusable water bottle for a full month, they would have saved about 84 plastic bottles, not to mention the money saved by not having to buy bottled water in the first place. What if I got all my friends to try this water bottle challenge, or even my school? That is a whole lot of plastic not being used. I did some research on the amount of plastic water bottles thrown each year. The number was much higher than I anticipated. It is estimated that we throw away 35 billion plastic water bottles every year.

Plastic is so convenient and easy to use, but eventually, we are going to run out of room in our oceans and our land and have a sea of plastic. Take the challenge of not using plastic water bottles for a week. Use a thermos or refillable water bottle instead. With the money you saved from not buying water, you can take yourself out to the Houston Zoo to see the animals you are helping out in the wild!

Houston Shows Pride for Lions

Conservation Gala 2015Last night, the Houston Zoo hosted 425 guests at its annual Feed Your Wildlife Conservation Gala where it honored prominent Houston conservationist, Cullen Geiselman, Ph.D, and raised funds for African lion conservation alliance Pride. Pride is an alliance of wildlife conservation leaders across eastern Africa who direct carnivore long-term conservation projects and are committed to working together to use their collective knowledge and experience to increase the effectiveness and impact of their conservation efforts.  Early estimates show that event raised $872,000. The proceeds will go towards animal conservation projects around the world, including Pride.

Scientists estimate there are less than 30,000 lions left in Africa, half the number of 20 years ago, and the biggest reasons for their decline are conflict with people and loss of habitat and prey due to human population growth. Each of these conservation leader’s programs focus on ensuring peaceful solutions for their communities to live with wildlife, within Pride they can share their best practices and unit on community-based approaches for greater impact over broader areas.

Houston Zoo guests raised their “paws” for a lively live auction and pledge drive totaling $191,150. The biggest draw of the live auction was “Trip for 2: Bespoke Journey to Northern Italy’s Milan and Lake Como (Includes airfare on United Airlines),” won for $13,500. The intense silent auction raised more than $42,000 in total. The most fought over prize of the evening was the “Sea Turtle Research and Rehabilitation Tour, Galveston TX with Houston Zoo Sea Turtle Expert and Head Veterinarian, Dr. Joe Flanagan” with 74 bids!

Notable guests included event emcee KPRC-2 anchor Andy Cerota, former Houston Zoo CEO Deborah Cannon, honoree Dr. Cullen Geiselman, Wally and Jeanie Kilroy Wilson, Charles and Anne Duncan, Bob and Annie Graham, event co-chairs Kelli Cohen Fein and Martin Fein, Houston Zoo Board Chair Suzanne Nimocks, Alie and Dave Pruner, Sybil Roos, and Wildlife Conservation Network Founder Charlie Knowles.

Houston Zoo Wildlife Partners Work Together to Save Gorillas!

The Houston Zoo partners with organizations around the world to save wildlife. In Central Africa, we partner with 3 organizations (GRACE, Gorilla Doctors and Conservation Heritage-Turambe) who all work to save gorillas in the wild. These organizations often work together to achieve their missions of making sure gorillas are safe in the wild. Below is an update from Conservation Heritage-Turambe who recently had a Gorilla Doctors staff member visit their classroom to teach Rwandan youth about what it’s like to work in the field as a veterinarian for wild gorillas.

Blog written by Valerie Akuredusenge, Program Director of the conservation education program, Conservation Heritage-Turambe (Rwanda). 

Conservation Heritage – Turambe (CHT) partners with Gorilla Doctors on messaging and leading classes on the conservation and protection of the critically endangered mountain gorillas. Last week, Dr. Methode Bahizi (Gorilla Doctors) came to a CHT class to talk about when, why, and how they treat mountain gorillas.

Dr. Methode Bahizi from Gorilla Doctors discusses when, why and how they treat mountain gorillas in the field.
Dr. Methode Bahizi from Gorilla Doctors discusses when, why and how they treat mountain gorillas in the field.

During his discussion with students, he focused on activities that Gorillas Doctors do such as monitoring the health of gorillas, treating ill and injured gorillas, doing research, conducting necropsies and collecting samples to analyze them. He also demonstrated how they treat gorillas using real equipment.

Dr. Methode Bahizi shows some of the equipment used by Gorilla Doctors to CHT students.
Dr. Methode Bahizi shows some of the equipment used by Gorilla Doctors to CHT students.

This lesson is very important for CHT students because they learn about their community’s natural resources. In addition, Rwandan students see someone from their local community with a very important conservation job, which helps them to understand what jobs they could grow up and have if they work hard.

Gorilla Doctors staff demonstrates how they use dart guns to treat sick gorillas in the wild.
Gorilla Doctors staff demonstrates how they use dart guns to treat sick gorillas in the wild.

During the lesson, CHT students realize how their health is really linked to that of mountain gorillas.  Humans get the same illnesses that mountain gorillas get such as pneumonia, intestinal parasites (protozoans or worms) and some of these parasites affect humans and gorillas equally.

Using a stuffed gorilla toy, Dr. Methode acts out the entire scenario one may go through while treating/taking care of a sick gorilla.
Using a stuffed gorilla toy, Dr. Methode acts out the entire scenario one may go through while treating/taking care of a sick gorilla.

CHT team thanks so much Gorilla Doctors for coming to class to keep on inspiring the future conservationists of Rwanda.

You can help gorillas all the way from Houston by simply visiting the Zoo! A portion of every ticket sold goes directly to our wildlife saving efforts. In addition, you can recycle your small electronics (like cell phones) at our main gate. These electronics contain a material mined in gorilla habitat and when we recycle that material, less of it needs to be mined from the homes of gorillas. Find out more about taking action at the Houston Zoo here!

The Houston Zoo Wildlife Warrior Award

The Houston Zoo created a new program called Wildlife Warriors to honor the outstanding heroes from developing countries protecting their local wildlife.  Wildlife Warriors are awarded with an a educational experience (training course, exchange to another related conservation project, etc.) of their choosing and a $500 donation to their conservation program efforts.

These brave individuals are on the front lines protecting lemurs, tapirs, lions, gorillas and other wildlife in harsh landscapes.  They are over coming all odds to save species from extinction and we want to make sure their efforts are recognized.

Meet our outstanding candidates for the Houston Zoo 2015 Wildlife Warriors!  Our selection committee had a hard time selecting the winners, but stay tuned to see who fit the criteria for the award the best.

 

Ayubu Msago is saving lion and other wildlife in Africa.

Msago was born in Tanzania and works for the Ruaha Carnivore Project in Tanzania.  He heroically saved the life of a villager who was being attacked by a lion, at extreme risk to his own life. Msago has helped establish school scholarships for children, developed a program to link village schools with international schools, and implemented Tanzania’s first specialized livestock guarding dog program for locals to live peacefully with lions.

The Houston Zoo Wildlife Warrior award would enable Msago the opportunity to go to the Niassa Lion Project in Mozambique to learn from their programs to save lions.


Gabriel Massocato

Gabriel Massocato is saving giant armadillos and other wildlife in Brazil.

Gabriel was born in Brazil and started working for the Giant Armadillo project in Brazil in 2011. Gabriel´s progress as a field biologist has been outstanding. He has excellent field skills, loves to share his knowledge with trainees, is a great project spokesman and is easily able to convey his passion for our work to local people.

The Wild Warrior Award could enable Gabriel to take an English course.


weGeorge Kayisavira is saving gorillas in Africa.

George was born in Democratic Republic of Congo and has worked with GRACE gorilla project since 2008.  George led a massive construction initiative to build the world’s largest forest enclosure to give orphaned gorillas an area to recover in until they can be reintroduced into the wild. George’s team employed over 200 people from local communities.

The Houston Zoo Wildlife Warrior award would give George the opportunity to take a computer training course in Rwanda to improve his abilities to communicate and share his talents.


 

Ewaso Lion3_photo Tony Allport

Jeneria Lekilele saving lions and other wildlife in Africa.

Jeneria grew up in Kenya and works for Ewaso Lions in Kenya.  He often intervenes and risks his own life to protect lions. He created an idea called Warrior Watch. Warrior Watch encourages locals to become wildlife protectors in their communities. He trains and manages the warriors to track lions and watch over the lions.  coordinating their work based on lion movements.

The Houston Zoo Wildlife Warrior award would enable Jeneria to participate in a leadership course that would strengthen his peacemaking skills to encourage peaceful solutions for local people living with lions.


 

jose Ralison

José Ralison saving lemurs and other wildlife in Africa.

José was born and raised in Madagascar and is currently a technical coordinator within the GERP association (an organization for primates’ study and research).  José is always providing training for the local communities so that they can protect plants and wildlife.  He has published lemur conservation articles in both national and international journals.  Jose listens to local people to empower them to assist with conservation efforts.

The Wildlife Warrior award could give Jose training in communication skills.


 

12

Valerie Akuredusenge is saving gorillas and other wildlife in Africa.

Valerie grew up in Gakenke District in the Northern Province of Rwanda and is the Program Director for Conservation Heritage – Turambe.  She has taught over 3,200 children in communities bordering Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park about how to maintain healthy lives for the health of the local communities and the local gorilla population.  She is creating the next generation of Rwanda’s wildlife conservationists by inspiring local students to care about their natural resources, and act on behalf of wildlife and habitats.

The Wildlife Warrior award could give Valerie the opportunity to visit other conservation organization’s education programs.

 

 

Howler Monkeys and Howlerween

Written by Kaitlyn Spross & Willam Weeks 

If you’ve been to the Houston Zoo primate section, you may have visited our awesome black howler monkeys:  Vida, Garcia and Ramone. And chances are they’ve either been asleep, resting in the sun or munching on leaves with what could be described as a ‘frowny’ look on their faces. Zoo guests often comment on our howlers’ pouty appearance. “Why does that howler monkey look that way? It looks so sad! Is that howler monkey judging me!?” The truth is, our howler monkeys aren’t sad at all! They just have on their resting howler face.

Howler 1.1When it comes to their diet, howler monkeys are mainly folivores, which means they eat lots of leaves and plant material. Because leaves are difficult to digest and don’t provide much energy, a howler monkey’s favorite pastime is taking a nice long nap to digest all that greenery. Along with their usual leafy foods, they do enjoy a nice fruit here and there as well. And, they even chow down on an egg once a week.

A howler monkey is at their happiest right after they have eaten; all they do is rest and relax while they absorb all that food. The Houston Zoo howler monkeys certainly live the life of luxury! They get their food delivered every day, and all they have to worry about it is finding the perfect sunny spot to take a six hour siesta.

When the howlers aren’t napping, they can be seen climbing around using their super-cool prehensile tails. A prehensile tail means that their tails are muscular and can be used to grasp things, like branches, which makes them particularly good climbers. Having a prehensile tail is like having an extra limb!

Howler 1.2If you come to the zoo early in the morning, you might even get lucky enough to hear our howlers monkeys howl! Their vocalization sounds like a very low, loud, and rumbling call that can be heard up to 3 miles away! It is a territorial call and also one which encourages the group to bond together as they vocalize.

This October, plan a visit to Zoo Boo Presented by Bank of America and our Howlerween conservation event each weekend.  You can visit our wonderful howler monkeys and learn more about what the Houston Zoo is doing to save howler monkeys in their wild habitat in Belize!

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