Wild Sea Turtles Receive Care at Houston Zoo Vet Clinic

On February 26th Houston Zoo wildlife partners at NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) brought in several wild sea turtles for medical care.

A wild Kemp’s ridley sea turtle gets an x-ray.
A green sea turtle getting medical care at the Houston Zoo
A green sea turtle getting medical care at the Houston Zoo.

These sea turtles were looked over by the Houston Zoo’s vet team and will be rehabilitated at NOAA’s sea turtle barn in Galveston until they are ready to be released into the wild.

On March 23rd, an additional green sea turtle visited the Zoo’s vet clinic. This turtle had obvious boat wounds and will need plenty of care before it can return to the wild. As the turtle was receiving care, the Zoo’s vet staff noticed that not only did it have a boat wound, but the turtle also had parts of a fishing hook in the front left flipper. Dr. Joe at the Zoo’s clinic removed the hook and provided care to the carapace (shell) before the turtle returned to Galveston for rehabilitation by NOAA staff.

A green sea turtle is checked by Houston Zoo Vet staff
A green sea turtle is checked by Houston Zoo Vet staff
Don’t worry, we don’t use band aids! This one is just Phototshopped in for the photo.

We are just beginning the sea turtle nesting season in Texas. If you happen to see sea turtle tracks, a nesting sea turtle, or an injured/sick/stranded turtle on the beach, please report it to 1-866-TURTLE-5. In addition, if you are fishing and accidentally catch a sea turtle, please also report it to this number! SeaTurtleSticker_outline

Conservation Education Staff Travel to Belize – Day 1

1The Houston Zoo has partnered with Wildtracks in Belize since 2010.  The Wildtracks wildlife rehabilitation center is located in the north east corner of Belize outside Sarteneja on the shore of the Corozal Bay. Originally a Manatee rescue/ rehabilitation and release center in Belize, Wildtracks added the endangered Yucatan Black Howler Monkey in 2010 to their wildlife rehabilitation program and have a successful release program.  Primate keepers from the Houston Zoo began the relationship with Wildtracks by going down to the facility in Belize and sharing their expertise in howler monkey husbandry and aiding Wildtracks staff in releasing rehabilitated animals into the wild.  With the Wildtracks’ animal husbandry techniques excelling, the decision was made to focus our efforts on enhancing the public outreach component of the Wildtracks mission.

2Through the Houston Zoo’s Staff Conservation Fund, which consists of donations from Houston Zoo staff designated for Houston Zoo staff conservation efforts, we were granted the opportunity to travel down to Belize and aid our partners in their community outreach, public education, and national conservation messaging endeavors.

After many months (almost three years!) of planning and preparing, the time for our trip finally arrived.  On January 26th, we left from the fancy, new international terminal at Houston Hobby Airport. The flight from Houston to Belize City, Belize was a bit over two hours in length.   We were both surprised by how easy it was to travel from Houston to Belize.  Honestly, it is more of a challenge to get to other cities in the U.S. than it is to travel internationally to Belize.


DeAndra Ramsey and Elizabeth Fries – Ready for take-off!

Flying over Belize
Welcome to Belize

After our very easy flight, Paul and Zoe Walker picked us up from the Belize International Airport.  Paul and Zoe Walker run the Wildtracks facility.  We had roughly a 5 hour journey via their SUV to get from Belize City to the Wildtracks facility.  Along the way, we stopped at various shops for supplies as well as our first meal in Belize.

Our first meal in Belize: a fabulous dinner in the town of Orange Walk at Nahil Mayab Restaurant

We finally reached the Wildtracks facility around 9:00 pm on January 26th.  We helped unload the vehicle, set up our sleeping quarters in the produce room, and called it a day.  We had a very interesting night of being woken up every two to three hours by various creatures being very loud in the jungle.  Since the room we were sleeping in was a screened in porch, we could hear every little sound that was being made.  It definitely made for a memorable first night in Belize.

Be sure to catch our next installment where we will cover our exciting Day 2 at the Wildtracks facility.

Our sleeping quarters
Our sleeping quarters





The Golden Girls

Written by Tammy Buhrmester

“Thank you for being a friend, Traveled down the road and back again, your heart is true you’re a pal and a confidant.”

If you can recall these words then you know where they come from-“The Golden Girls” T.V. show!!

The Golden Girls was a sitcom which revolved around four women sharing a house together.  The four ladies were Blanch, Rose, Dorothy and her mother Sophia.  We here at the Houston Zoo have our own “golden girls”–the patas monkeys who share some of the same characteristics.

Allow me to introduce you to our Golden Girls:

RipleyRipley, our 11-year old, is much like the character Dorothy, watchful and smart.  She is the dominant member of our group.  She is independent, thinking ahead, but still is a daydreamer.  She is always watching over the group, especially her mother, Cassie.








CassieCassie is the Sophia of the group. She was wild born in Senegal and estimated to be 30 years old.  Cassie is wise, socially smart, sometimes fills the role as the leader, and can be manipulative in social situations.










The character Blanch was the southern belle of the group and our southern belle is Troi, born at the Houston zoo 22 years ago. Troi has had two offspring currently living at other zoos.  She is the outsider of the group and can be selective of whom she calls a friend; but once a friend, she is very loyal.  Troi enjoys routine in her day.









AliceLastly but not least is Alice.  Alice is our youngest at 7-years old.  Alice, like Rose, is considered to be sweet, sometimes insecure, simplistic, a follower and leans on the girls for guidance.

Found in equatorial Africa, patas monkeys have reddish-colored hair on their back and sides, grayish white hair on their underside, legs and feet, and dark colored hair above their eyes and on their nose with a white mustache.  Their coloring helps them blend into the savannah grasses where they live.  Patas monkeys have a narrow body and long, slender limbs and are the fastest out of all primates, reaching speeds up to 34 mph when running from danger.  They are omnivores, meaning their diet consists mainly of fruit, seeds, and insects, but they do enjoy grass, leaves, roots and bird eggs as well.  Although they live on the savannah and spend a good portion of their time foraging on the ground, patas usually sleep high in trees for safety.  Female patas monkeys live in permanent social groups.

Now that you know our Golden Girls, the next time you are visiting the Houston Zoo, I invite you to stop by the Patas exhibit in the Wortham World of Primates and check in on Cassie, Ripley, Troi and Alice and then go home and eat cheesecake.

Our Lemur is Famous!

©National Geographic
©National Geographic

Announced yesterday on NBC’s Today Show, a Houston Zoo’s Coquerel’s sifaka–a type of lemur–is one of ten animals featured on National Geographic’s April covers. According the magazine, “In a publishing first for National Geographic magazine, the April 2016 issue has 10 different covers featuring the work of well-known National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore.”

Also from National Geographic, “The April covers highlight the National Geographic Photo Ark project, a multiyear effort with Sartore to photograph all captive species and inspire people to save these animals before they disappear. For many of Earth’s creatures, time is running out. Species are disappearing at an alarming rate. To motivate people to care and help stop the crisis, Sartore is creating intimate portraits of an estimated 12,000 species of birds, fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates. To date, he has photographed nearly 6,000 animals. Once completed, Photo Ark will serve as an important record of each animal’s existence and a powerful testament to the importance of saving them.”

The Houston Zoo has been proud to partner with Sartore and his National Geographic Photo Ark project for six years and many of the Houston Zoo’s animals have played a central role in the project. In 2015, Sartore’s photo of one of the Houston Zoo’s clouded leopards was featured on the Vatican and his images of Houston Zoo sifaka, greater eland, and hawk-headed parrot were projected onto the Empire State Building. Two of the zoo’s staff members even organized trips with Sartore to Vietnam and Colombia to capture images for his world-wide search for unique animals.

The Houston Zoo is dedicated to saving animals in the wild, including the endangered Coquerel’s sifaka. Native only to the small island of Madagascar, sifaka are threatened by deforestation, habitat fragmentation, and hunting. To help save these animals from continued decline, the Houston Zoo partners with a Malagasy (native people of Madagascar) conservation organization based in Madagascar called GERP, a French acronym which translates to Primate Education and Research Program. GERP is comprised of many Malagasy researchers and conservationists that have grown up around the areas where they now work to protect the wildlife and habitat. Not only do they address threats to the animals, they have a clear understanding of the challenges their own local people face as well. In finding solutions that benefit the people and animals, they ensure long-term sustainability and success.

 ©National Geographic  Top row, from left: waxy monkey tree frog, hippopotamus, Reimann’s snake-necked turtle, snowy owl, Malayan tiger. Bottom row, from left: Brazilian porcupine, southern three-banded armadillo, Indian peafowl, mother and baby koalas, Coquerel’s sifaka.
©National Geographic
Top row, from left: waxy monkey tree frog, hippopotamus, Reimann’s snake-necked turtle, snowy owl, Malayan tiger. Bottom row, from left: Brazilian porcupine, southern three-banded armadillo, Indian peafowl, mother and baby koalas, Coquerel’s sifaka.

Guests to the Houston Zoo can see a family of three Coquerel’s sifaka in Wortham World of Primates in the center of the zoo where they can learn all about primates and what they can do to help protect them. People take action to help save these unique animals by simply being aware of the kind of woods they buy. Many precious woods such as rosewood and ebony are illegally logged from Madagascar’s forest to be made into furniture, musical instruments and other items. Buy locally sourced wood products where ever possible.

Full press release from National Geographic

Recycle Electronics with the NCAA Final Four, Save Gorillas, Get Tickets to Fan Fest!

Recycle your electronics with the NCAA Final Four on Sunday, March 13, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Discovery Green, and help save gorillas! Recycling your electronics helps save wildlife like gorillas and chimpanzees who live in habitats where electronic materials are mined. By reusing our materials, we ensure their habitat is protected.


There are more than 250 million cell phone users in the United States alone and the average lifespan of a cell phone is 18 months. That means there are A LOT of cell phones being produced to meet our demand. Each cell phone requires specific metals to be manufactured. One material used in cell phones, tantalum, is found in Central Africa — a rain forest home to animals like chimpanzees, gorillas, okapis and mandrills. If we recycle cell phones and other electronics like cameras and laptops, the materials taken from wildlife habitats can be reused, allowing those habitats to be protected.


Everyone who recycles items at this event will be entered into a chance to win a gorilla tour at the Houston Zoo! The tour is good for 5 people over the age of 12. Tour must be redeemed by September 30th, 2016. Tour available T/TH/SA/SU.

In cooperation with NCAA Corporate Partner LG Electronics USA and EPC (Executive Personal Computers), a FREEElectronics Recycling Event will be held on Sunday, March 13, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Discovery Green in conjunction with the Selection Sunday Celebration. Those who bring their electronics for responsible will receive a FREE ticket to Final Four Fan Fest presented by Capital One.Take-Action_Small_Tile

Items accepted: computers, computer components, home electronics, small home and office electronics, and gaming equipment.

Items not accepted: manifested hazardous, radioactive and bio-hazardous waste, devices that contain mercury or freon, large appliances such as refrigerators, washing machines, and dishwashers, as well as light bulbs and microwaves.

Please join the Houston Zoo, NCAA Final Four, LG Electronics USA and EPC in this important recycling effort. By recycling your electronics, you are ensuring wildlife like gorillas and chimpanzees are protected in the wild!

And don’t forget, you can always recycle your small electronics at the Zoo’s main entrance! Take Action_Logo_FullColor_web

Rare Bird Hatches at the Zoo

Our newest hatchling is a Victoria crowned pigeon, hatched Jan. 24.  The party-hatted, blue knockout can be seen with its parents in the Birds of the World section of the zoo. While the gender of the bird is still unknown, the bird has a brother who hatched Dec. 21, 2015.
vic pig

vic pig2The first chick was hatched out by keepers after the parents abandoned the egg. He is currently being hand-raised behind-the-scenes by the zoo’s expert bird keepers.  While they can fly, the extinction-vulnerable Victoria crowned pigeons are ground-dwellers and native to the island of New Guinea. Victoria crowned pigeons are also monogamous, and typically mate for life.


Crab Trap Cleanup Removes More Than 250 Abandoned Traps


The HoustonIMG_2358 Zoo is grateful to partner with the Galveston Bay Foundation on our annual Crab Trap Cleanup to protect wildlife every year at Fort Anahuac Park, and this year was no exception!

With the help of 85 volunteers (including 23 Houston Zoo staff) we removed 268 abandoned traps and smashed them to send the material to be recycled. If these traps are left in the environment, they are a great danger for wildlife, as they can accidentally capture animals (like otters) that weren’t meant to be caught. By pulling them up we ensure a safer environment for animals like the otters we often see playing around the area. The volunteer team also collected a tremendous amount of waste from around the shore and park. We had over 8 bags of recyclable material by the end of the day and had removed items such as a propane tank, tires and a lot of old fishing line! We filled 2 garbage bags of discarded fishing line to recycle. Volunteers worked hard to untangle and sort the line for recycling.

Removing fishing line from the water and shore is critical to protecting wildlife. The Houston Zoo provided medical treatment for 127 injured or stranded sea turtles last year and some of the turtles we see have injuries from fishing line left on the bay’s and beaches. If the discarded line is left in the environment unsuspecting wildlife can get wrapped in it just like any other form of trap. We had a intern work with us for almost a year from Save the Elephants in Kenya last year. He joined our sea lion keepers in cleaning up abandoned fishing line from Galveston beaches and he likened the activity to the anti-poaching efforts they do in Africa. At Save the Elephants they patrol the park searching for wire set out to trap animals and he felt what they were doing on the beach was the same thing. He felt it was a very heroic effort to protect our local wildlife and we agree.

IMG_2342The Houston Zoo (among many other organizations such as Texas A&M Sea Grant and Turtle Island Restoration Project)  installed special bins that are designed to contain the unused fishing line in an effective and safe way along jetties in Galveston, in an effort to reduce the wildlife entanglement cases we saw. This year, we brought one of these bins to the crab trap cleanup anticipating that we may be able to collect a significant amount of line from the shores of the park. They were so popular that the community inquired about installing some in the park in the future. They saw it as a great tool they could utilize to protect wildlife year round!

IMG_2347The crab trap cleanup not only helps to ensure the bay is safe for wildlife, but it also plays a long-term role in ensuring blue crab populations are healthy. The more abandoned traps we pull out of the bay, the healthier the blue crab and wildlife population will be in the future-allowing all Texans a chance at enjoying the seafood we love while protecting our natural resources. In the end, this beautiful Texas bay is cleaner and safer because of our collaborative wildlife protecting efforts. Together, we will protect our Texas wildlife!

Successes2015_SeaTurtleCome to the Zoo and help us save animals in the wild! A portion of you admission goes directly to wildlife saving efforts and you can learn more about what you can do to protect the animals you see at the Zoo in the wild. Visit the Take Action page link to see how everyday actions can strengthen efforts to save wildlife.

Ask us how we are saving wildlife!

On your next visit to the Zoo ask us how we are saving animals in the wild.  Our wildlife saving efforts are why we exist and we want to share and celebrate our collaborative efforts to protect animals in the wild with you.


If you were to ask us how we are saving animals in the wild, we might say that last year we made a decision to go plastic bag free in the Zoo’s gift shops and this action protected sea turtles in the wild. Success! Sea turtles can mistake plastic bags in the water for one of their favorite foods (jellyfish) and accidentally ingest it, causing them to get sick. Reducing plastic use is a simple action all of us can do to save wildlife.

Successes2015_ElephantOr, we might say that we provide salaries for local people in Madagascar to replant trees to save lemurs.  We could even answer the question by describing how we use rain barrels around the zoo to collect rainwater which is then used to clean our rhino barn and water our vegetable gardens. Reusing rainwater helps reduce the stress on the environment and wildlife! Or, we might say the we are providing salaries for local people in Borneo to put collars on Bornean elephants to discover more effective ways to protect them.

  1. The fact is we have so much to share, and we can’t wait for you hear about what animal saving work you are contributing to when you come to the Zoo! You may even see us wearing a new special shirt that reminds you to ask us how we are saving animals in the wild.  Every time you visit the Zoo you are helping save wildlife because a portion of your admission goes directly to our wildlife protection efforts around the world!

New Tiger Joins Houston Zoo Family

The Houston Zoo is proud to welcome their newest resident, an adult male tiger named Berani. The three-year-old, 280lb Malayan tiger made his Texas debut Tuesday morning after making the long journey to Houston from Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma, WA in late January. The move was the result of a recommendation by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) to find Houston Zoo’s female Malayan tiger, Satu, a suitable companion.

© Stephanie Adams, Houston Zoo
© Stephanie Adams, Houston Zoo

Berani and Satu, will take turns in the tiger yard while they undergo a formal introduction process overseen by the zookeepers. They will spend increasingly longer periods of time together in the yard as they complete the formal introduction process.

Fewer than 3,500 tigers of all tiger subspecies remain in the wild today, according to the Tiger Conservation Campaign. Malayan tigers surviving on the Malay Peninsula are critically endangered with an estimated population of 300 remaining in the wild.

National Pig Day

Written by Helen Boostrom and Nina Russo

Today we would like to celebrate 2 amazing residents of Wortham World of Primates: Remley & Jambi, our Babirusa. Babirusas are members of the pig (Suidae) family. Pigs in Wortham World of Primates? Babirusa are found in the same type of Indonesian forest as orangutans and both species are in danger of extinction largely due to habitat loss. At the Houston Zoo, the babirusa live across from the orangutan exhibit.

Babirusa swimmingBabirusa are very cool! In fact, they spend a lot of time working to keep cool. They like to roll and wallow in mud which helps protect them from the sun and bugs. They also really like to swim as they are island dwellers.

The easiest way to tell them apart is by their teeth. Jambi is our male and has very obvious tusks. These are his canine teeth which will grow continuously throughout his life. Babirusa males wear down these tusks by rubbing them against trees and rocks.

Jambbi 1

Remley also has canine teeth but they don’t become tusks or grow continuously. Males have these tusks to use when sparring with other males over females or territory. Males are semi-solitary and spend most of their lives alone. Females spend most of their time with other females and offspring. They don’t usually engage in conflicts with others and so have no need for tusks.

Remley pic

So why should care about babirusa? For starters, they are very intelligent. Here at the Houston Zoo, we train husbandry behaviors with our babirusa. This means that they learn behaviors that help us take better care of their health. And you thought you couldn’t teach an old pig new tricks!  To keep their minds sharp we provide them with daily enrichment such as putting their food in a puzzle feeder or forage pile, or placing scents around the exhibit for them to discover.

They are also very unique and attractive animals which brings wildlife enthusiasts to Indonesia for ecotourism. This helps support the local economy. In addition, the babirusa have been an important part of the culture of the region. They show up in art including masks and folklore. One legend says the babirusa use their tusks to hang off tree branches when they sleep at night. And they are just so cute!

What’s even cuter than an adult babirusa is a little babirusa piglet. Remley and Jambi have had one offspring Hadiah who has grown up and moved to start a family of her own.

Hadiah pic

How can you save these adorable, genius babirusa?

Babirusa are endangered in the wild. One of the biggest problems they face is habitat loss. Palm oil plantations are a major cause of habitat loss in Indonesia. By paying attention to product labels and only using items that use sustainable palm oil, you can help protect babirusa and many other Indonesian species.

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