Houston Zoo Releases Sea Turtles Back into Gulf of Mexico

Release May 2016

On Thursday May 26, NOAA Fisheries and the Houston Zoo released nine sea turtles at Stewart Beach in Galveston, Texas surrounded by hundreds of onlookers.

Release May 2016

Six of the turtles are Kemp’s ridleys, the other three are loggerheads. All but one of the turtles suffered injuries related to fishing interactions when they were accidentally caught and swallowed fishing hooks.

Release May 2016

The degree of rehabilitation and length of stay at the NOAA sea turtle facility in Galveston varied, ranging from one week to nine months. Call 1-866-TURTLE-5 to report an injured sea turtle.

Release May 2016

A Closer Look at the African Painted Dogs

Dog Profiles:  by Samantha Junker

Join our pack for our 4th annual Dog Days of Summer Celebration at the Houston Zoo June 10 and 11 from 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. We’ll be offering special Meet the Keeper Talks*, enrichment demonstrations, and crafts for the kiddos. In anticipation for the event, we’ve assembled a short profile on our African painted dogs. Each one has their own unique personality. Take a look!


Blaze “The Pirate”

Blaze

Blaze is currently the oldest male painted dog in the country at 14 years old. While he seems to enjoy the company of the new females, their antics sometimes appear to be too much for him and he would much rather nap in the shade away from the ruckus they are making.  The most vocal dog in the pack, Blaze frequently “barks” out his orders at his keepers and demands his food when he wants it and where he wants it.


Mikita “The Alpha”

African Wild DogsMikita is the nephew to Blaze and the leader of our pack. He is the peacekeeper and protector, making sure the young girls don’t play too rough with Blaze.  Once the first dog to approach trainers when called, he has made it perfectly clear that he enjoys the company of the new females more than his keepers.  He will look at us as we call his name for feeding and then walk away to lie down next to one of the girls until they decide to come inside too.


Amara “The Gazelle”

AmaraAmara’s name means “grace” and she has proven it fitting as she leaps like a little gazelle through the grass.  She is easily excitable, especially for food, and will often leap in the air on all four legs to show her delight.  Even at 3 years old, Amara is the leader of the new females and will often call to them to ensure they are nearby and haven’t wandered off.  She is definite proof that big personalities come in small packages.


Ghost “The Brave One”

GhostEvery pack needs a warrior and Ghost is definitely ours.  She is usually the first to charge into any new situation or investigate any new toy, though she will often look to Amara for guidance.  She feels she has to be involved in every situation and will sometimes interrupt training sessions with other dogs to make herself known.  Ghost is easily identified by the white patches with two black spots (eyes) on each shoulder that look like little ghosts.


Akilah “The Obstinate”

AkilahAkilah definitely marches to the beat of her own drum. She does what she wants when she wants and if that doesn’t coincide with her keepers’ plans, then so be it! She is also very tenacious when she feels one of the other dogs has something better than she does.  Her keepers were amazed as she stole a bone right under Mikita’s nose, watched him as he selected another one, stole the second bone, and started her own cache with a third and fourth.


*Meet the Keeper Talks are generously sponsored by Phillips 66.

Thanks for a Great Rain Barrel Workshop

iStock_000010104314LargeOur recent rain barrel workshop, held in partnership with the Galveston Bay Foundation, went off without a hitch! Participants learned how rain barrels can alleviate storm water runoff, reduce water consumption, and even went home with a  rain barrel to begin collecting water!

Rain barrels are a great addition to your home and can reduce your water bill by capturing rain water that you can use for your lawn and plants all-year long. Reusing rain water helps ensure there is enough water in the future for wildlife (like Houston toads) and people.

With this latest workshop complete, there are now 70 more rain barrels out in the community, helping to conserve an estimated 73,500 gallons of water every year!

Want to attend a rain barrel workshop? Check out the Galveston Bay Foundation website for a list of events in your area.

Shark conservationist receives education training at the Houston Zoo

 

IMG_2792

Shark conservationist, Alerick Pacay, Program Coordinator at Fundación Mundo Azul, a non-profit conservation organization, based in Guatemala, received conservation and education training at the Houston Zoo.  Alerick had participated in a video conservation messaging workshop Houston Zoo staff held in Belize last year for marine conservation organizations.  He and his organization,  reached out to Houston Zoo staff when he learned more about the Houston Zoo’s conservation and education programming.

IMG_2742Fundación Mundo Azul main goal is to protect the ocean.  Alerick works with local fishermen to monitor the 30 species of sharks in Guatemala and spends much of his time inspiring visitors to the Guatemala Zoo and local communities about the importance of protecting sharks.  He educates his audiences about the importance of sharks and other wildlife in the ocean and how they can save this wildlife by reducing their plastic use.  Plastic and other trash in the oceans is one of the biggest threats to marine life.

The training he received provided him with the knowledge to increase his impact with his audiences.  Our staff also learned a tremendous amount from Fundación Mundo Azul’s programs.

Along with training at the Zoo, he also got to accompany our staff and our partners at NOAA in some sea turtle protection work in the wild.  He assisted with rescuing a very big loggerhead sea turtle in Galveston.

We are so grateful for all of the work Fundación Mundo Azul and Alerick are doing  to protect our oceans and save marine animals.  Alerick would like all readers to know that you can help us all save animals like sharks by saying no to straws.  Millions of straws end up in the oceans and they can be harmful to marine animals when they mistaken them for food.  You can purchase medal straws here http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00KGIANQ2/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?qid=1463519716&sr=81&pi=SY200_QL40&keywords=metal+straws&dpPl=1&dpID=413ApCH1pZL&ref=plSrch and carry one with you, if you don’t want to go without.IMG_2793

New Girls in Town! African Painted Dogs

New Girls in Town!

Three female African painted dogs have crossed the pond and joined our two bachelors to make a pack of five! Amara, Ghost, and Akilah, formerly from a zoo in the United Kingdom, were introduced to Blaze and Mikita late April.  Their keepers have been enjoying seeing the new pack and how the boys appear to be enjoying the company of the new ladies!

dogs 1

 

 

 

 

 

From left to right: Ghost, Akilah, and Amara

With a larger pack comes a different challenge for keepers.  Carnivore keepers at the Houston Zoo work “protected contact” with the painted dogs.  This means that we do not go into their habitat unless they have “shifted” or moved into their bedrooms and the door is secure.  We usually call our carnivores into their bedrooms every morning and serve them breakfast before going outside to clean.  The dogs have discovered that they can send in a few “scouts” to quickly grab some treats and bring them back into the habitat for the rest of the pack!

dogs 2

 

 

 

 

 

Ghost and Akilah greet Mikita

Each girl is starting to show her own personality and it is fun seeing the boys react to their antics.  We will be highlighting our new females on the zoo blog in the weeks to come in order to usher in our 4th annual Dog Days of Summer Celebration!  Please come join our pack Friday June 10 and Saturday June 11 from 9AM-2PM for keeper interactions, enrichment demonstrations, and free kids’ crafts!

 

Texas, Our Texas! Wildlife Spotlight on Species Event

Contortionist SMCome out to the Houston Zoo and show off your Texas pride this Friday and Saturday, May 20th and 21st. We will be hosting a Native Texas Wildlife Spotlight on Species event highlighting and showcasing just some of Texas’s own native species living at the zoo. Here you can participate in fun activities, learn cool facts, watch training demonstrations, and much more! Activities are free with admission!

Don’t forget to check out Houston Urban Wildlife Facebook page where you can learn more about your creepy crawling friends or get more information about an animal you may have spotted in your backyard or even on your last hike.  By downloading your pictures to their page they will help to properly identify and give some fun facts about our native species.

So come on out to the Houston Zoo and show off your Texas pride and spirit by supporting your native Texas wildlife!

Carnivore Keeper Chats: Both days Friday May 20th and Saturday May 21st

10:00AM- Jaguar keeper chat

11:30AM-Black Bear enrichment toss/keeper chat

1:00PM-Ocelot Chat

2:00PM-Cougar training session/keeper chat

10:30AM and 1:45PM- Meet some animals up close!

Children’s Zoo Keeper Chats:

Friday, May 20th:

10:00 Bobcat Chat at exhibit

10:30 North American Porcupine Chat in Texas Plaza

2:30 North American River Otter Chat at exhibit

10:30, 11:30, and 12:30 Front Entry chats featuring native species.

Saturday, May 21st:

10:30 Swift Fox Chat at exhibit

1:15 Harris Hawk in the Texas Plaza

2:30 Bobcat Chat at exhibit

Bird Keeper Chats:

Both days Friday May 20th and Saturday May 21st

1:30 PM-Pelican Feeding

Horticulture Keeper Chats:

I'm Not Doing Anything SM

Friday May 20th

10AM and 1PM-Butterfly garden/native carnivorous plants chat

Saturday May 21st

10AM and 12PM- Butterfly garden/native carnivorous plants chat

Carnivore Keeper Chats: Both days Friday May 20th and Saturday May 21st

10:00AM- Jaguar keeper chat

11:30AM-Black Bear enrichment toss/keeper chat

1:00PM-Ocelot Chat

2:00PM-Cougar training session/keeper chat

10:30AM and 1:45PM- Meet some animals up close!

Children’s Zoo Keeper Chats:

Friday, May 20th:

10:00 Bobcat Chat at exhibit

10:30 North American Porcupine Chat in Texas Plaza

2:30 North American River Otter Chat at exhibit

10:30, 11:30, and 12:30 Front Entry chats featuring native species.

Saturday, May 21st:

10:30 Swift Fox Chat at exhibit

1:15 Harris Hawk in the Texas Plaza

2:30 Bobcat Chat at exhibit

Bird Keeper Chats: Both days Friday May 20th and Saturday May 21st

1:30 PM-Pelican Feeding

Horticulture Keeper Chats:

Friday May 20th

10AM and 1PM-Butterfly garden/native carnivorous plants chat

Saturday May 21st

10AM and 12PM- Butterfly garden/native carnivorous plants chat

Jaguar

Endangered Species Day

Endangered Species Day is an opportunity for people of all ages to learn about the importance of protecting endangered species as well as everyday actions they can take to help protect them. The Houston Zoo, and other AZA-accredited institutions around the world, have united to bring awareness to the global conservation effort to save endangered species and their habitats in the wild.

What makes a species endangered? According to the International Union for Conservation in Nature (IUCN)

An Endangered species is a species which has been categorized by the IUCN Red List as likely to become extinct. “Endangered” is the second most severe conservation status for wild populations in the IUCN’s schema after Critically Endangered.

We have a number of endangered species at the Houston Zoo and some of them might be your favorite animals! Did you know Asian elephants, orangutans, and gorillas are all endangered? The Zoo’s Conservation team works with 30 conservation partners in 16 different countries to help these animals and others including the Grevy’s zebra, shark and ray species, cheetahs, and more! Global partners use our conservation resources for funding, business development, and even event planning to connect their local cultures to the animals they’re trying to save.

In addition to our global conservation efforts, the Houston Zoo works diligently to help three local species and increase their chances of long-term survival.

toadLocal conservation projects happen behind-the-scenes at the Houston Zoo where dedicated keepers work with these animals daily to increase their numbers in the wild. One such animal is the Attwater’s prairie chicken. This dynamic bird used to call the plains of Texas home, but now only about 100 exist in the wild. The good news is, 362 eggs are currently being incubated to raise and release back into the wild thanks to the amazing bird department here at the Zoo!

A mature, male Attwater’s prairie chicken at the Attwater’s Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge.

The juvenile birds are released at the Attwater’s Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge to grow to maturity and repopulate the area. Last year 176 chickens were released!

Similarly, the Houston toad is no longer in Houston, but its numbers are growing thanks to the work of the Herpetology department and volunteers at the Zoo. The Herpetology department at the Houston Zoo currently has 700,000 eggs ready to be released in the Bastrop area. In 2015 they released 600,000 eggs in cases that protect the fragile eggs until they become tadpoles.

Local wildlife like the critically endangered Houston toad can benefit when we reuse water.
Local wildlife like the critically endangered Houston toad can benefit when we reuse water.

So far, 2016 has been a successful year thanks to those 600,000 eggs. In past years, mating calls of Houston Toads have been scarce, but were more prominent this year. A very good sign for long-term sustainability!

Finally, the Zoo partners with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to help save sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico. Our veterinarians provided medical care for 124 turtles in 2015 and 17 in 2016 to-date.

A common green sea turtle rehabs in the Houston Zoo Kipp Aquarium.

All five species of sea turtle – Kemp’s ridley, green, loggerhead, leatherback, and hawksbill – found in the Gulf are endangered.

What can you do to help?

Attwater’s prairie chicken 

A male Attwater's prairie chicken
A male Attwater’s prairie chicken

Come to the Zoo! Each time you visit, a portion of your ticket goes towards our conservation programs – including the Attwater’s prairie chicken!

Houston toad 

Recycle your old batteries. Batteries leak harmful chemicals into waterways when they aren’t disposed of properly. Since amphibians, like the Houston toad, have sensitive skin that absorbs the environment around them, recycling batteries will help keep them healthy!

Sea turtle 

Keep an eye out for green sea turtles who often wash up "cold stunned" during these sudden temperature drops. Call 1-866-TURTLE-5 to report a sighting of a cold stunned turtle.
Keep an eye out for green sea turtles who often wash up “cold stunned” during these sudden temperature drops. Call 1-866-TURTLE-5 to report a sighting of a cold stunned turtle.

Use a reusable bag when you go shopping. Single-use plastic bags are often confused by sea turtles as sea jellies – one of their favorite foods! Using a reusable bag when you go to the store will keep these single-use bags out of the environment and keep sea turtles out of harm’s way.

Want to know more about what you can do to help save animals in the wild? TAKE ACTION

From Plastic Bottles to Protecting Tamarins: News from our friends in Colombia

Blog written by our friends at Proyecto Titi in Colombia.

Cotton-top tamarin, which Proyecto Titi works to protect in the wild in Colombia
Cotton-top tamarin, which Proyecto Titi works to protect in the wild in Colombia

From Plastic Bottles to Protecting Tamarins: First Tití Posts Installed at Tití’s Biological Reserve

With a turn of a shovel and a pound of a hammer, members of Proyecto Tití installed 100 Tití Posts this month to build a fence around Tití’s Biological Reserve in San Juan. Tití Posts have a huge impact on cotton-top tamarins as they protect a reserve designed especially for our fluffy haired friends and also reduce the need to harvest wood for traditional fence posts. However, their impact doesn’t end there! Tití Posts are made from recycled plastic collected by local community members. This reduces contamination of land and waterways and allows families to earn a small income from collecting plastic. We are so thankful to all of you that have donated to our “Save a Tree, Save a Tamarin” campaign to help us make and install these new posts. We still have more forest to protect and more cotton-top tamarins to conserve, so visit the project here to support the Tití Post campaign. A donation of $15 can help both cotton-top tamarins and local community members in Colombia.

Cleaning up plastic trash to make the Titi posts.
Cleaning up plastic trash to make the Titi posts.
The Titi posts, made from recycled plastic, ready to be used!
The Titi posts, made from recycled plastic, ready to be used!
The final product!
The final product!

Year of the Monkey: May

Written by Abby Varela

Pygmy marm 4Last month we talked about mandrills, the largest monkeys… this month we are featuring pygmy marmosets the smallest monkey in the world. Adult pygmy marmosets weigh 120-170 grams (about the weight of a baseball), while newborns can weigh around 11 grams, which is the equivalent of two nickels! They are a new world monkey, found in the rainforest, along the Amazon basin in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia and are strictly diurnal, meaning they are only active in the daytime.

These tiny monkeys are considered mature at the age of 15 to 17 months and live in family groups ranging anywhere from 2 to 15 individuals.  In these groups, all the males help care for offspring by taking turns carrying when the infants are not being fed by the dam (mom). The sire (dad) of the group is often times the last to eat, as he is very watchful while everyone else eats, to be sure that there are no threats around. Pygmy marmosets can turn their heads 180 degrees to help watch for predators and can leap as far as 15 feet! They also have claw-like nails as opposed to flat nails to assist them in climbing and running across trees and vines. Additionally, their teeth are specially designed to help them tear into trees so they can eat the sap from them. When the group is comfortable and feels safe, they can be seen foraging, basking, grooming each other and even adults play with each other and juveniles at times. Pymy marm 2

Here at the Houston Zoo, they rotate on exhibit in the Indoor Rainforest Exhibit in the Natural Encounters building. We currently have two females that spend a lot of time with our golden lion tamarin pair. You might even be able to catch them basking in the sun together, playing, or grooming each other!

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