Thank You for Giving the Gift of Grub!

GiftofGrub15_LogoThe Houston Zoo’s animal family grows every year—along with our grocery bill! That’s why we’re so thankful for the phenomenal generosity shown by our Houston Zoo donors during the 2015 Gift of Grub campaign.

More than 1,700 individual donors made this Gift of Grub effort our most successful yet, with $139,000 raised through December 31! Our partner, TXU Energy, doubled the grub goodness by matching the first $50,000 in gifts, bringing the total to $189,000 in support of the Houston Zoo and our animals.

Since 2010, TXU Energy’s matching gift challenge has made Gift of Grub wildly successful. We are grateful for their incredible dedication to the Houston Zoo.

More than 6,000 animal ambassadors reside at the Houston Zoo and inspire us every day to learn more about the natural world. Our animals deserve only the best care, which starts with nutritious meals and tasty treats! Providing first-class care to our animals is quite an expense, but it’s worth every penny because they represent hope for the future of so many species in the wild.

Thank you again to every Houston Zoo supporter and TXU Energy for sharing our commitment to the well-being of our animals.

If you missed the 2015 Gift of Grub campaign but would like to support the Houston Zoo’s animals all year long, consider making a gift to the Houston Zoo Fund.



Houston Zoo Welcomes First Baby Born in 2016

Baby Gerenuk January-0001-2242On the afternoon of Saturday, Jan. 9 the first baby of 2016 was born at the Houston Zoo. The female gerenuk calf weighed 3.5 kg and began nursing within an hour of birth. The calf is named January in honor of her birth month and can now been seen with mom, Josie, with the rest of the gerenuk family (dad, Mr. Lee, and brother, Julius)at the zoo. Gerenuk are a species of long-necked gazelle and native to the Horn of Africa and the word “gerenuk” means “giraffe-necked” in the Somali language.

Not only do they look different, they have a unique ability that sets them apart from any other antelope or gazelle species. Gerenuk can stand and balance themselves on their hind legs to reach the higher leaves that many other animals cannot reach. Gerenuk have been known to stand on their hind legs like this at just two weeks old. It shouldn’t be long until we see January do the same.

Baby Gerenuk January-0027-2466

11,000 Trees Planted for the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker!

The Houston Zoo is proud to protect wildlife both locally and globally. This past Saturday, Houston Zoo staff as well as Dallas Zoo staff and volunteers, in partnership with the National Park Service, planted long-leaf pine seedlings to reforest an area in the Big Thicket National Preserve. In just one day, we planted 11,000 trees! This is a new one-day planting record, and we’re proud to participate in such an important activity!

Houston Zoo and Dallas Zoo at the long-leaf pine planting in the Big Thicket!
Houston Zoo and Dallas Zoo at the long-leaf pine planting in the Big Thicket!
2 stages of long-leaf pine growth.
2 stages of long-leaf pine growth.
Taking a lunch break before continuing to plant!
Taking a lunch break before continuing to plant!

Long-leaf pine trees are a critical habitat for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. This woodpecker prefers the long-leaf pine trees because the trees often suffer from red heart disease, a fungus which attacks the center of the trunk and causes the inside of the tree to be very soft. This allows the red-cockaded woodpecker to easily create cavities inside the tree to use as shelter!

Red-cockaded woodpecker. Photo courtesy of Audubon.
Red-cockaded woodpecker. Photo courtesy of Audubon.

We spent the majority of the day working in teams of 2. One person held a bag of long-leaf pine seedlings, while the other person used a tool called a dibbler which digs a hole the exact size of the seedling. So, as one person used the dibbler to make holes in the ground, the other teammate followed along behind planting the seedlings in the holes. It was a very effective method, which allowed us to get to the new one-day planting record in the area of 11,000 trees!

Houston Zoo staff member, Alex, using a dibbler to make holes.
Houston Zoo staff member, Alex, using a dibbler to make holes.
Zoo staff member, Andrea, places long-leaf pine seedlings in the ground.
Zoo staff member, Andrea, places long-leaf pine seedlings in the ground.

These trees will take nearly 80 years to grow before the red-cockaded woodpecker will use them for shelter. They are slow growing trees which can live more than 300 years! The decline in long-leaf pine trees occurred because of human development, agriculture, and timber production. It is critical that we protect this important habitat for our local species. You can take action by participating in a local planting effort-keep an eye out on the Zoo website and blog for the next event!

Zoo staff member, John, next to a growing long-leaf pine tree.
Zoo staff member, John, next to a growing long-leaf pine tree.
Our conservation partners in Madagascar do similar planting activities to save lemurs!
In 2015, the Houston Zoo’s conservation partners in Madagascar conducted similar tree-planting activities to save lemurs!

Elderly Zebra Charlie Passes On

charlieWe are sad to report that, after a very long life, Charlie our female Grant’s zebra died Sunday morning, January 24. A month shy of 33 years old, she outlived her life expectancy by eight years. Charlie was an honorary member of the giraffe herd, and the self-appointed giraffe herd leader. Feisty by nature, Charlie could occasionally be observed kicking at even the biggest of the giraffe if they got too close. If she was standing in the doorway to the barn, none of the giraffes would attempt to pass by her!

On Sunday morning, the keepers and veterinary staff worked diligently to provide treatment to Charlie, but she ultimately died from complications of age-related conditions.

Charlie will be missed by staff and guests alike.

Freeze Protection for Plants

Written by Anna Land, AZH Certified Zoo Horticulturist & Houston Zoo Horticulture Supervisor

The Horticulture department at the zoo cares for 55 acres that are covered with a very diverse collection of plants, which makes winter protection a team effort.  We’ve been keeping our eyes on the forecast and have made sure that we’re ready with frost cloth when the time comes, which looks like it may be this weekend.  With the possibility of a freeze tonight, I’ve had several staff and Zoo Members ask me the best way to protect their plants at home.  So I thought I’d share some information on freeze protection.

hibiscus rosa-sinensisHere in Houston, we’re able to grow many tropical plants which have not evolved to deal with freezing temperatures.  For them, when temperatures get down to freezing, ice crystals will form in the cells within the leaf.  These crystals pierce the cell walls of the plant, as the temperatures rise and the ice melts, holes are left in the cell walls causing the fluid to leak.  This results in the mushy tissue you see after temperatures warm up.

To prevent this, you want to keep the temperature around the plant above freezing.  There are several methods that can be used, but the easiest way to do this is to make the radiant heat coming from the ground work for you.  Properly covering a plant with frost cloth or a sheet* will trap that radiant heat and hold it around the plant, keeping it above freezing in most cases. Extended freezes or extreme cold may require additional methods to be used, but when temperatures stay around 32⁰F during overnight hours, covering is sufficient.  To properly trap the heat you must bring whatever covering you’re using all the way to the ground and secure it so that you don’t have cold wind blowing through and pushing warmer air out.  This can be done with rocks, stakes, turf staples, or even toys the kids left in the yard… whatever is small enough to move and heavy enough to withstand wind.   Potted plants can be covered in the same way, moved into a garage or covered area, or even moving them up against the house and giving them a good watering will help.

Driving around town over the years I have seen many trees wrapped like lollypops, this does not trap radiant heat and doesn’t do much for your tree other than turn it into yard art.  If you have a newly planted tree that the crazy weather has caused to start pushing out new leaves and you want to protect them, you can wrap your tree like that, but you will need to provide a heat source inside that covering.  An example would be outdoor rated incandescent tree lights, but make sure you follow all recommended safety guidelines; you don’t want to turn your tree into a candle.

freeze protection

A quick note about frost cloth vs. sheets:  Frost cloth was originally designed for production agriculture, so it’s designed to trap the heat and allow light through and won’t absorb water. This allowed those growers to cover their plants and leave them covered, saving time and labor costs.  This means that if you’re using frost cloth and the forecast calls for multiple nights with freezing temperatures, you can leave your plants covered for extended periods of time.  On the other hand, if you are using sheets to cover your plants, you will need to uncover them during the day once temperatures have risen above freezing.  There are a couple of dangers with leaving sheets over plants for extended periods of time: 1) the plant may not get enough sun light; 2) if the sheet gets wet it could provide conditions for fungal/pest problems; or 3) it could get warm enough underneath to encourage the plant to start growing at the wrong time.

*I don’t recommend using plastic sheeting unless it’s on some sort of framework preventing it from touching the plant.  Laying it directly on a plant can still allow freeze damage and if not removed as temperatures warm, can  “cook” your plant as it accumulates the heat from the sun.

Three U.S. Zoos Team Up to Save Rare Borneo Elephants

borneo elephantThree U.S. zoos announced a new agreement with Borneo-based wildlife organizations today to protect the endangered Borneo pygmy elephant. The first partnership of its kind, the Borneo Elephant Zoo Alliance will provide support for solutions to the frequent and sometimes deadly conflicts between people and elephants on the Southeast Asian island of Borneo.
The entire population of the little-known Asian elephant subspecies has been reduced to around 2,000 in the wild, where deforestation — largely driven by logging and palm oil production — threatens their survival. Agricultural workers sometimes kill or injure elephants that raid their plantations, and the clashes can also separate calves from their herds. Houstonians are more familiar with Borneo pygmy elephants’ larger cousin the Asian elephant which are also endangered.

“When you are a local villager and you see your crop completely destroyed overnight, you will not be inspired to save the elephants,” said Dr. Marc Ancrenaz, scientific director for Borneo-based conservation organization Hutan. “Elephants need forests to survive, and people need to convert the forest into other types of land uses, like agriculture, to survive, hence the conflict. If we can’t make peace there, extinction is inevitable.”

The partnership, formed by the Houston Zoo, Oregon Zoo, and Seattle-based Woodland Park, will focus on researching how human-elephant conflicts arise and mitigating those conflicts through community outreach, policy, technology and in some cases, elephant relocation. The work is carried out in Borneo by the Sabah Wildlife Department and conservation organizations HUTAN KOCP and Danau Girang Field Centre.

“The health of the forest is in many ways connected to healthy elephant populations,” said Peter Riger, vice president of conservation and education at the Houston Zoo, which has supported Borneo conservation programming since 2004. “Their need for protected areas and migration corridors literally protects hundreds of species, including amphibians, insects, mammals, birds and many others. In turn, the health of the landscape supports human communities in their livelihoods.”
HUTAN KOCP-200_3229The first line of defense in human-elephant conflict is largely a hardware approach. Installing electric fences and training communities to peacefully repel marauding pachyderms are two such tactics. But according to Ancrenaz, elephant-proofing only works in tandem with viable travel alternatives for elephants, such as corridors along waterways. That takes money, but also a detailed understanding of elephant migration patterns, land-use planning and backing from the government — all part of the project’s strategy.
HUTAN KOCP-200_3036 (2)“Conservation depends on local and international partnerships,” said Woodland Park Zoo vice president of field conservation Fred Koontz. “A consortium of organizations brings more resources to bear in support of the monumental effort of protecting elephants and their habitats.”
“This is the first step in a long-term, multi-zoo commitment to protecting Borneo’s wildlife and ecosystems,” said Oregon Zoo conservation and research manager Dr. Nadja Wielebnowski. “We hope this model will both strengthen Malaysia’s resolve to protect wildlife and inspire more conservation organizations to get involved.”

As a zoo-based conservation organization, the Houston Zoo aims to save animals from extinction through strategic partnerships. The zoo’s main conservation focus is to foster and grow our partnerships to strengthen our conservation impact around the world.

Photos courtesy of Marc Ancrenaz/HUTAN.

Houston Zoo Chief Veterinarian Helps Restore Giant Tortoise Population in Galapagos

Written by Dr. Joe Flanagan, Chief Veterinarian at the Houston Zoo


The Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative is a long-term plan to restore giant tortoises in Galapagos to their original populations and densities.  In November 2015, I participated in one of the most ambitious projects yet to recover species.  In an accident of human history, giant tortoises originally intended to be food on long ocean voyages, landed on the west coast of Isabela Island where they established a small colony, adjacent to the “native” tortoises of Wolf Volcano, the northernmost volcano of Isabela Island.

Genetics done by Yale University scientists show that these unique animals are remnants of 2 populations of tortoises now thought to be extinct.  The Pinta Island tortoise went officially extinct in 2012 with the passing of “Lonesome George”, but the population was depleted nearly 100 years ago.  The Floreana Island tortoise went extinct in about 1850, shortly after the island was visited by Charles Darwin.

32 Animals were brought into captivity to form the breeding nucleus that will hopefully restore giant tortoises where none have roamed for as much as 200 years!  I was invited to treat the tortoises for ectoparasites (ticks) and endoparasites (worms) to prevent these from becoming problems for the breeding population at the rearing center on Santa Cruz Island.


As a zoo veterinarian for over 30 years, I know that moving an animal to a new home is one of the most stressful things that can happen to it. Moves from zoo to zoo can bring out disease symptoms from otherwise unapparent bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Moves from the wild to captivity are even more likely to create problems — with a change in diet, a new social environment, and a need to learn to navigate new habitat, which includes people. To help animals in this transition, we treat them for both internal and external parasites — such as ticks — to reduce the load.

Ticks. Nasty, skin-crawling, blood-sucking, head-burying, disease-transmitting ticks. I hate them. Wild giant tortoises in Galapagos are frequently infested with dozens or even hundreds of ticks attached to their skin and even to their shells! I was fortunate to participate in the 2008 tortoise census on Wolf Volcano, and on that trip we encountered ticks on most of the hundreds of tortoises observed, as well as along tortoise trails. For the 2015 expedition, it was my job to get rid of as many of these nasty creatures as I could from the tortoises headed to the Tortoise Center on Santa Cruz.


While ticks are “normal” on giant tortoises in Galapagos — part of the process of natural selection, as are the diseases they might carry — they are problematic for captive animals and the people who care for them.

As for internal parasites, the primary ones affecting tortoises are worms. Like their external counterparts, there is a balance between the worm load and the tortoise, with wild tortoises regularly exposed to low levels. Some think the presence of intestinal parasites may help tortoise digestion. When a tortoise is stressed, however, a heavy population of worms can further weaken it. Although it is nearly impossible to eliminate all worms from the tortoises, by reducing the burden, the tortoises have a better chance of adapting to captivity.

During the planning phase of the 2015 Wolf Expedition, I worked closely with GC’s Wacho Tapia to develop a treatment protocol for tortoises moving to the Tortoise Center on Santa Cruz and to ensure we had all the necessary supplies. After each tortoise was carefully delivered onto the deck of theSierra Negra and freed from the net, we did a brief physical examination, took standard measurements, made sure each animal had a microchip for identification, collected a blood sample to verify genetics, and — in some animals — to look for tick-born disease.


Before placing the tortoise into the ship’s hold, it was sprayed with a tortoise-safe insecticide and treated orally with a de-wormer, effective against the most-probable worms. Our goal was to improve the health of each tortoise, prevent “seeding” the corrals at the Tortoise Center with ticks and tortoise parasites, and, in consideration for the crew of the Sierra Negra, make sure the ship didn’t get infested with ticks!

As described in previous blogs in this series, locating tortoises on Wolf was slow until it rained on the third day. Rain brings tortoises “out of the bush.” The dispersed teams started to find tortoises, sometimes in very high numbers! Native Wolf tortoises are a large, dome-shaped species, which still occurs in high numbers due to the inaccessibility of their habitat precluding much harvest by whalers and other seafarers in centuries past. Although majestic and fascinating, these tortoises were not the objective of our mission so they were only counted and measured, then left to live their lives in one of the most unspoiled habitats in the world.

But when a few of the teams started encountering tortoises “of interest” — animals previously identified by the Yale team as genetically significant or with the characteristic saddleback shape of those animals — we found ourselves scrambling, with tortoises arriving two or three at a time; sometimes with up to six giants wandering the deck before we could examine them.


Near the end of the expedition, we worried we’d run out of space to house all the animals that were coming in! The ship’s hold was full. We started lining the gunnels with larger animals that were “misbehaving” in the ship’s hold — climbing over their brethren, and knocking over what we thought was safely stowed gear. We ultimately collected 32 animals to form the breeding nucleus to resurrect two species of tortoises and to restore ecological balance to Floreana and Pinta Islands.

While my main “job” on this expedition concerned tortoise health and prophylactic treatment for potential disease organisms, I also joined the team that searched a patch of Wolf Volcano’s lower slopes for tortoises, going ashore each morning. Our zone was a patchwork of a’a lava, broken plates of pahoehoe lava, and fine soil, with vegetation ranging from completely barren to thick, impenetrable stands of woody vegetation. At this low elevation, we encountered few adult tortoises; most animals we found measured 6-18 inches in length. It is hard to believe that tortoises could survive in such a harsh environment, without anything green to eat and no source of water to drink. We humans left bits of skin and blood as we walked over the rough terrain and through thick and thorny vegetation.


Each afternoon, we returned to the ship to receive and process tortoises. After the call-ins from the field teams, the helicopter made several trips to collect the tortoises. We’d watch its return against the backdrop of Wolf’s green slopes, trailing a net full of tortoises.

It’s hard to describe the feeling of being part of a conservation effort of this magnitude. For more than 20 years I’ve been lucky to visit these remote islands and work with their unique species, volunteering on numerous projects with myriad organizations. Over the years, I have witnessed many positive changes: invasive species have been eliminated on some islands; populations of some native and endemic species are recovering; and every year more of Galapagos is protected and restored to its primordial condition.


But these projects are costly. Funding for this expedition came from the government of Ecuador, Galapagos Conservancy, and Yale University, as well as out of the pockets of the expedition’s participants (many who donated their time). This high level of collaboration allowed funding from Galapagos Conservancy to be leveraged, resulting in a project many times larger than could be done by any one organization.

One of the greatest rewards of working in Galapagos is the great mix of people. The 2015 Wolf Expedition included participants from four continents — biologists, botanists, veterinarians, geneticists, technicians, park rangers, geologists, mariners, and pilots. Getting to know each other as we focused on our mission — talking, dining, traveling, and working together — a synergy occurred. New questions formed; some were captured for further consideration for future research projects; others were resolved or discounted. All resulted in friendships and collaborations that will last a lifetime. The conservation of one of the world’s greatest treasures is a unifying force. Galapagos is a magic place.


To read more about this historical expedition, please visit the Galapagos Conservancy blog here. You can also visit the Zoo’s Galapagos tortoises near Duck Lake. Every time you visit the Houston Zoo, you help save animals (like giant tortoises) in the wild!

Our Houston Zoo Plastic Bottle Sculpture

In celebration of the Washed Ashore exhibit, which contains sculptures of plastics found washed up along coasts and beaches, the Houston Zoo has used YOUR recycled plastic bottles to create a unique plastic sculpture of our own!

Sea Lion Recycling

Each time you visit the Zoo you have the option to take actions, like recycling plastic bottles, to help protect wildlife as you walk throughout the Zoo. The plastics and trash that build up along coasts are things we use daily that are either left on beaches or simply not recycled, often blowing and falling out of trash cans to be taken by rains into storm drains and eventually released into our oceans. By recycling items like plastics, you help to ensure that wildlife like sea turtles don’t interact with them in the wild, as they often eat plastics that look like jellyfish in the water or can get entangled in plastics like soda ties. Washed Ashore is a great visualization of how we forget about our trash, and how such a large amount of it can actually be reused and end up again in our hands as new products rather than in the environment affecting animals.

Sculpture Process 5

Running from January 15 to April 15, the first item you will see when walking into the Washed Ashore exhibit is an installation above your head at the entrance that includes the ‘Ocean Wave’ sculpture of plastic bottles from the recycling bins on Zoo grounds…from the bottles you recycled at your visit here! Our innovative Zoo teams were able to create this sculpture with the environment in mind, sourcing materials that could easily be recycled or reused on Zoo grounds, and planning for the sign itself to be able to be disassembled and used again in future exhibits. Your actions in recycling at the Zoo have allowed these bottles to have not just a second life, but countless more after we eventually recycle this sculpture in the future.

Check out some of the process of how our Theming and Design Team constructed the ‘Ocean Wave’ sculpture:

Scuplture Process 4

Many, many plastic bottles were gathered straight from the recycling bins you use when visiting us! It may seem a bit gross right now, but watch how what is considered trash evolves to a beautiful sculpture, especially when visiting the huge jellyfish sculptures at the Washed Ashore exhibit.

Scuplture Process 1Scuplture Process 2

We started out with a background of the ocean, and then began to form our sculpture bottle by bottle.

Sculpture Process 3

Once you see the transition it’s easier to visualize that the things we throw away are often not trash at all, but resources we can use to make new things. Take a look at what is in your trash daily, and imagine if those items could have a second life away from landfills or the environment that wildlife calls home.

For an advanced challenge, ask yourself if you can reduce the plastics you buy to lessen the amount of waste you have overall. Reducing the need for one-time-use plastics lessens the need to create more items like plastic bottles.


At the Zoo, your options to take action for wildlife start simply with your admissions ticket, as a portion of each ticket funds local and global wildlife projects the Houston Zoo works with. As you make your way through the Zoo, you will see easy options to take action to protect wildlife in doing things like refilling your reusable water bottles, planting pollinator gardens, learning about ocean-friendly seafood options, recycling your cell phones, choosing earth-friendly ingredients, and even by visiting our gift shop to get a reusable tote (the Zoo is plastic-bag free!). Learn more about all of our Take Action initiatives you can do at the Zoo on our webpage.


This is a sustainability reference document. 


The Year of the Monkey is Here!

Written by Lynn Killam

The primate department takes any opportunity to celebrate our monkeys and apes – and our prosimians, too. When we found out that 2016 was the year of the monkey, we decided to feature our wonderful simians in monthly blogs. But first, you must know that monkeys are different from the other primates: the prosimians, the lesser apes and the great apes.

Cotton_TopHow, you ask? Well, let’s start with prosimians (literally, in Latin: “before monkeys”). These are the lemurs from Madagascar, the tarsiers and lorises of Asia, and the potto and the bushbabies of Africa. These prosimians are smaller-brained and more attuned to scent and scent-marking than most monkeys. And, about 75% of them are nocturnal, so most don’t see color as well. Typically they have more than one offspring, and most are quite arboreal.

In the ape department, everyone knows about gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans and bonobos: the wizards of the primate world. These are the primates that use tools, have complex thoughts, solve problems, and have emotions just like humans do. But, we mustn’t forget the small or lesser apes, the gibbons. These are found only in Asia and are all masters of song. These long-armed and beautiful animals can brachiate (swing hand-over-hand) and walk bipedally, as well. They sing complex and melodic vocalizations that serve as territorial markers.

Garcia howler monkey

Now back to monkeys. These intelligent animals are found in Central and South America (New World monkeys) and Africa and Asia (Old World monkeys). There are over 260 species of monkey, many of which are on the endangered species list because humans are cutting down their forests, eating them for bushmeat and taking them for the pet trade. As this list threatens to get larger because of human encroachment, scientists are still discovering new species: some new species of titi monkey and one species of mangabey were discovered within the last decade.

Mandrill Baby Dec 2014-0038-4599Some big distinctions between monkeys and apes are: monkeys have tails and apes do not, and apes have a bigger brain, a longer gestation, a longer period of dependency on their mother, and take much longer to grow up than monkey babies do.

In the next few months, you will learn more about our wonderful collection of monkeys at the Houston Zoo, and gain some insight into their habits, personalities and interesting behaviors in our “Monkey of the Month” series. And, you can always come to visit them at the Wortham World of Primates, in the heart of the zoo.

Zoo Surpasses Previous Attendance Record in 2015

The Houston Zoo enjoyed another record attendance in 2015, welcoming more than 2.46 million visitors through its gates. This number exceeds the 2.38 million guests that visited during 2014, and celebrates eight years of consecutive growth.

This new attendance peak also nudges the Houston Zoo into an elite group as it is now the second most-visited zoo in the country that charges entrance fees, with attendance only exceeded by the San Diego Zoo.

Over the past 12 months, the zoo has also hosted more than 200,000 school children on official field trips and educational programs. As an educational attraction for so many children, teachers and families, the Houston Zoo utilizes its own Education Department to create captivating programs related to the animal kingdom.
elephant fam

In addition to record-breaking attendance, and hundreds of thousands of school children educated in 2015, Deborah Cannon retired from her position in August as the organization’s CEO after leading ten years of prosperous growth and financial stability. Prominent zoological leader Lee Ehmke was named as the new President and CEO of the Houston Zoo in September, moving from Minnesota where he served as the Director and Chief Executive of the Minnesota Zoological Garden and President of the Minnesota Zoo Foundation.

“It has been a privilege to step into my new role here in Houston. Modern zoos and aquariums have a responsibility to expand their focus from traditional attractions to promoting and engaging in wildlife conservation efforts on a global scale,” said Mr. Ehmke. “The Houston Zoo’s incredible staff excels at connecting visitors to nature, and the creation of these memorable experiences is why I believe that this organization has continued to see increased visitation year after year.

In addition to the millions of guests and school children served, with more than 430 full-time employees, hundreds of contract labor, and millions of dollars spent on construction, the Houston Zoo has an economic impact of approximately $107 million to the Houston community.

western-lowland-gorilla-animal-thumb-zuriAdditional 2015 Milestones

  • Gorillas of the African Forest, a state-of-the-art habitat opened in May 2015, continues to draw visitors anxious to appreciate the majesty of gorillas face-to-face. This lush home to two groups of western lowland gorillas instantly established itself as a guest-favorite with acclaim throughout the Houston community and beyond.
  • Now finishing its fourth year, TXU Energy Presents Zoo Lights dazzled patrons with a holiday experience that featured more than two million energy-saving LED lights. A brand new Texas-themed area included illuminated photo opportunities showcasing native Texas wildlife.
  • The zoo remains dedicated to supporting wildlife conservation efforts and education programs that empower local people to take action. In tandem with its own commitment to conservation, the organization is proud to support many projects across the globe, all tirelessly working to protect threatened wildlife. In 2015 the zoo partnered with 28 conservation organizations in 10 different countries to help save wild animals in their home ranges.
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