They are Toadally Texan!

Some of the most amazing things about Texas are all of the fabulous native wildlife species.  Texas has a long and rich natural history – from the Horned Lizard, to the Nine Banded Armadillo, to the state flying mammal, the Mexican Free-tailed Bat.  But, some of our native species are in jeopardy.

Meet Tina Toad.  She is one of the Houston Zoo’s ambassador animals and is a retired Houston Toad that was a part of the Zoo’s breeding program.  After laying over 10,000 eggs (yes, Moms, I said 10,000), she was retired and came to live in the Naturally Wild Swap Shop.  Recently, we were able to get a picture of her with another kind of Texan.  Kurtis Drummond, safety with the Houston Texans, came by along with Bethany and Brianna from the Houston Texans Cheerleaders.

The Houston Toad is one of Texas’ most imperiled species.  Its range was formerly known to include 12 counties in Texas, but it is now only in a few counties in east-central Texas.  The largest remaining populations are found in the Lost Pines region of Bastrop County.  Habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation are the most serious threats facing the Houston Toad.  Red fire ants can also have a devastating impact by killing young toads and altering local insect and arthropod populations which the toads feed on.

From Left to Right: Sr. Naturalist Suzanne, Houston Texans Cheerleaders Bethany and Brianna, Texans Safety Kurtis Drummond and Sr. Keeper David.
From Left to Right: Sr. Naturalist Suzanne, Houston Texans Cheerleaders Bethany and Brianna, Texans Safety Kurtis Drummond and Sr. Keeper David.

Their habitat is associated with deep sandy soils within the Post Oak Savannah of east central Texas.  The toads burrow into the sand for protection from cold weather in winter and hot dry conditions in the summer.

Breeding season peaks in March and April.  Large numbers of eggs are produced; however, each egg has less than one percent probability of survival.  Eggs hatch within seven days and tadpoles turn into tiny toads in as little as fifteen days.

The Houston Zoo has a 1200 square foot Houston Toad quarantine facility, managed by two full-time Houston Toad specialists, that serves as a location for the captive breeding and head-starting of wild Houston toad egg strands for release.  Approximately 1,950 Houston toad tadpoles were transferred from the Houston Zoo to Texas State University for release into native habitat as of January 2015.  The zoo also has established a collaborative, conservation-based Houston Toad research project with local universities including Rice University and the University of Saint Thomas.

To meet Tina the Houston Toad, come by the Naturally Wild Swap Shop between 9AM and 5PM any day the Zoo is open.

 

Don’t know about the Naturally Wild Swap Shop?  Click here to find out more.

 

Golden-headed Lion Tamarins: “Golden Opportunity”

By Amy Berting and Nina Russo

Photos by Stephanie Adams

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Don’t miss out on this golden opportunity to see the zoo’s newest primates, Marcos and Maya!  The twin golden-headed lion tamarins came to us from Brevard Zoo and brought the Florida sunshine with them!

Golden-headed lion tamarins are one of four species of lion tamarins and are located in Wortham World of Primates.  You can see a second species, the golden lion tamarins, in the Natural Encounters building here at the zoo!  While very similar in shape and size, these two species differ a little in color.  Golden-headed lion tamarins are predominantly black with golden hair around their face, tail, feet, and hands.  Golden lion tamarins are almost completely gold in color.

These primates can be found in the tropical rainforests of Brazil.  A life in the tree tops produced the adaptation of claws instead of flat nails like humans have. These sharp nails at the end of their fingers are perfect for clinging to trees.

In the wild a golden-headed lion tamarin’s diet mainly consists of fruit, flowers, and insects.  They use their long, skinny fingers to extract sap and insects from trees and have also been known to opportunistically eat small birds and lizards.

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Like most primates, golden-headed lion tamarins are very social.  They live in groups consisting of 2-11 individuals. Twinning is typical for this species and our brother/sister pair is a perfect example.  Twins sure do sound like a lot of work! Fortunately, these mothers have lots of help.  Other members of the group take turns carrying and babysitting the babies.

What is all that screaming about?  When you visit the zoo you may hear high-pitched trills and whines coming from these small creatures.  These tamarins use a variety of different sounds to communicate things such as greetings, danger, and locating food.

Golden-headed lion tamarins also communicate using smells.  They have scent glands which they use to mark their territory and pathways to food sources.  Individuals can be identified by one another based on their scent. Can you sniff out your friends?

July’s Featured Members: The Singh Family

We love our Members. Their incredible support allows us to make a difference to animals both locally and all over the world. This month, we’re spotlighting Zoo Members that deserve recognition. We’re thrilled to introduce you to July’s Featured Members: The Singh family!


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We asked the Singh family what being Zoo Members means to them and here’s what they had to say, “We feel fortunate to live in a sprawling metropolis like Houston. Having a zoo in the city helps A LOT especially when two of our three kids want to be zoo keepers when they grow up and third one most likely will want do the same once he begins to speak for himself! Right now he is supposed to be a doctor or engineer because parents want him to be (missing the opportunity on the first two) one.

We are also Zoo Members because as a Member, we can wake up and decide to come to the Zoo at a moments’ notice. We have been Zoo Members for about three years now.

We have three children, Gahan (7), Aarya (5) and Maneet (1).  Gahan’s favorite animal is the giraffe because giraffes are the tallest animal in the world. The elephant is Maneet’s favorite animal because it is dad’s favorite animal and because he is too young to decide. Finally Aarya’s favorite animal depends upon the day of week, month, temperature, season of the year and if she had a miff with one of her brothers or both.

We also like special Zoo events. An exciting part of Houston’s Zoo is there is always some new exhibit or activity going on throughout the year. The new gorilla exhibit is really amazing and a must-see whenever we visit. The kids love to watch elephants eat breakfast and take a bath in the morning too. When it gets hot, the kid’s water splash area is an added plus!

llIn addition to all of these advantages, the Houston Zoo is surrounded by a beautiful lake and park. The kids love to go on a boat and train ride on their way out of the Zoo. While we are at the Zoo, depending on time and day, sometimes we get the opportunity to feed pigeons too!

Normally the entire family comes with lunch. Sometime the kids like to come to the Zoo with their friends mostly once a month or sooner if there are special events or activities. Our favorite activities are Zoo Boo and Member Mornings.

We love the Zoo and feel that animals are well cared for at the zoo. The Zoo has an attractive range of animals, organizes special events and always adding to new attractions.”


From all of us here at the Houston Zoo, we want to say thank you to the Singh family, and all of our Zoo Members. As a Houston Zoo Member, your support truly makes an impact on the growth of our Zoo and conservation efforts. THANKS!

Houston Zoo Conservation Partner Visits the United States-Part II

This blog was written by Valerie Akuredusenge, the Program Director of Conservation Heritage-Turambe (CHT). CHT is a conservation partner of the Houston Zoo. Valerie visited us in March to build her capacity and skills to further educate local communities living alongside Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. This is one blog in a series about Valerie’s experience in the United States.

Hi there. This is Valerie Akuredusenge, the Program Director of Conservation Heritage – Turambe with more news about my visit at Houston Zoo.

Martha Parker, the Houston Zoo staff member took me to the Zoo as I continued to enjoy my visit. I was very excited to see how big the Zoo is and what kinds of animals are calling the Zoo their home. To be honest with you, I couldn’t visit all animals in the Zoo but it was my goal. The Houston Zoo is huge!! I was only able to see about half of the animals in the Zoo.  Regarding the animals I saw, some were familiar to me, others I had no idea they have ever existed on this Planet Earth!  I was so impressed by seeing the coral reef. I went back home to Rwanda and shared my experiences, but even so, my colleagues back in Rwanda do not get the idea about what is the coral reef. I will try to keep explaining it to them.

I learned a lot from my visit with the Houston Zoo and still cannot finish telling the story about it.

I learned about the cell phone recycling system that is helping save gorillas in wild.

Valerie posing with the Zoo's recycled cell phone statue.
Valerie posing with the Zoo’s recycled cell phone statue.

I learned about the recycling and reusing methods at Houston Zoo.

Palm oil tree created by our primate staff to showcase the everyday items that contain palm oil, and which companies to buy from who are making palm oil in a way friendly to wildlife.
Palm oil tree created by our primate staff to showcase the everyday items that contain palm oil, and which companies to buy from who are making palm oil in a way friendly to wildlife.

They are growing a vegetable garden at Houston Zoo. And guess what – we are doing the same thing at CHT too!

Children's Zoo vegetable garden-complete with a rain barrel to harvest and catch rain water.
Children’s Zoo vegetable garden-complete with a rain barrel to harvest and catch rain water.

Once again, thank you very much Houston Zoo for hosting me. I learned a lot during my visit which I have started applying and sharing at Conservation Heritage – Turambe (CHT). More to come soon!

Introducing Our 2016 Wildlife Warriors

Our admissions’ team raises funds to help save animals in the wild through the sales of colorful wildlife bracelets guests can buy at the entrance to the Zoo.  In 2015, the Zoo established a conservation hero award program to use the bracelet funds to recognize and enhance the outstanding staff employed by the Zoo’s existing conservation partners. The program, named Wildlife Warriors, has just awarded four new 2016 Wildlife Warriors from our conservation projects in developing countries. Each and every warrior honored was carefully chosen by the Zoo’s admissions’ team – the group of folks our guests interact with on a daily basis. The award is designed to increase the recipient’s conservation community network and inspire empowerment by providing opportunities to gain further education through training or experiences.

The recipients are nominated by their directors and in most cases are unaware of their nomination until they are contacted by our admissions staff to announce the award.  The directors submit specific examples of exceptional conservation leadership being carried out by the individual as well as a description of what further training or skill building opportunity they would be interested in.  The 2016 Wildlife Warriors are from our partner projects all over the world saving sharks, painted dogs, gorillas, and giant armadillos. Here are this year’s winners.


Valerie Akuredusenge:

ValerieValerie is saving gorillas and other wildlife in Rwanda, Africa.  She was born and raised in Rwanda and is a teacher in a village that is close to gorilla habitat.  She educates local people that live in areas that surround gorillas about the importance of the gorillas.  Locals don’t normally see gorillas, even though they live very close to them.  She takes children into the forest to see gorillas for the first time.  This is what a few of the children have said after seeing gorillas for the first time:

  • “I did not know they have eyes!”
  • “I didn’t know they feel happy like we do!”
  • “I didn’t know they play like we do!”

Valerie wants to see how another conservation program educates children about wildlife, so the Zoo will set up an opportunity for her to travel to another wildlife conservation partner project we have in Africa.


Hilmar Salazar:

Shark conservationsist

Hilmar is saving sharks and other marine wildlife with Mar Alliance in Belize.  He was born, and now raises his own family, in a small village in Belize.  He has relied on the ocean for his food and livelihood for his entire life and now works to save it by protecting large marine wildlife like sharks and rays.  He conducts research by setting up cameras underwater, tagging sharks, rays and sea turtles and empowers local people and children to protect the ocean.

Hilmar would like leadership and computer training and the Zoo will assist in making that wish a reality.


Enock Zulu:

enock

Zulu is saving Painted dogs and other wildlife in Zimbabwe, Africa.  He was born and grew up in Zimbabwe and is now the Anti-poaching team manager at Painted Dog Conservation in Zimbabwe.  He and his team have risked their lives to collect over 12 784 snares, rescued 11 animals from snares, arrested over 89 poachers.  He empowers and coordinates wildlife saving planning with many local community members and is very well respected and appreciated in the area.

Zulu would benefit from seeing another anti-poaching unit’s operations in Africa.  The Zoo will fund him to travel to another project to experience different techniques and exchange ideas.

 


Gabriel Massocato:

Gabriel

Gabriel is saving giant armadillos and other wildlife in Brazil.  He is a biologist from Brazil that works for our partner at the Giant Armadillo Project.  He conducts research, collaborates and trains many other Brazilians and educates children to protect giant armadillos in the wild.  Gabriel wants to be fluent in English to increase his impact with his conservation efforts and the Houston Zoo will make that happen through this award.

All of these Wildlife Warriors have deep rooted connections with their communities and are leading the way in saving animals from extinction.  The Houston Zoo is very proud of and grateful for all of these Wildlife Warriors and their projects.  Every time you visit the Houston Zoo a portion of your admission goes to protecting animals in the wild through projects like these.  The next time you visit be sure to ask the Zoo staff you buy your ticket from about these amazing Wildlife Warriors.

Three Tiny Bush Vipers at Houston Zoo

By: Jackie Wallace

13415660_10154349183977526_1128220140336758444_oThis spring, three tiny green bush vipers were born on March 26. Like most pit vipers, the neonates were born live instead of hatched from eggs like many other types of snakes. Originally a part of a group of six, only three have survived and have doubled in weight since their birth. They are expected to grow to be between 18-24 inches long. Despite their name, green bush vipers vary in color, mostly shades of green, but can also be bright yellow or grey. These snakes are found in the tropical rainforests of western and central Africa and get their name from their preference for lower bushes rather than the tall canopy trees. Guests can see all kinds of exotic and local snakes in the zoo’s Reptile and Amphibian House. The baby snakes will remain behind-the-scenes while they continue to grow.

 

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Houston Zoo Conservation Partner Visits the United States!

This blog was written by Valerie Akuredusenge, the Program Director of Conservation Heritage-Turambe (CHT). CHT is a conservation partner of the Houston Zoo. Valerie visited us in March to build her capacity and skills to further educate local communities living alongside Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. This is one blog in a series about Valerie’s experience in the United States.

Hi there. My name is Valerie Akuredusenge, the Program Director of Conservation Heritage – Turambe (CHT). CHT works with local communities bordering Volcanoes National Park, home to the critically endangered mountain gorillas in Musanze District, Rwanda. The work focuses on teaching schoolchildren about how to maintain healthy lives through staying healthy messages such as covering your mouth when they cough and sneeze, brushing their teeth, washing their hands, eat a healthy diet, keep a clean home and getting a regular exercise. The next part focuses on conservation of wildlife with an emphasis on mountain gorillas. All our lessons on conservation of mountain gorillas turn around the theme of “One – Health Approach”. Children get to realize themselves how their everyday activities can affect the environment so they decide to get involved.

Our mission is educating local communities living near Volcanoes National Park to ensure they live in harmony with mountain gorillas and their habitat.

I am very happy to report on my very recent trip to USA specifically my visit with Houston Zoo now. The aim of my visit was to see and learn about the Zoo. In addition, I got chance to meet the staff, volunteers, partners and friends.  I was very fortunate they all wanted to learn about CHT’s work too! This become an exchange of ideas and it was what I really wanted.

Upon my arrival in Houston Texas, I met Martha Parker who came to pick me up at the Houston Airport. She warmly welcomed me and took me to her house. My first question to her was to know where the Houston Zoo was and is located. She told me it was close! I was so excited to see the Zoo, how big it is and what kind of animals live there!

I went to bed thinking of what I had to see the next day. Early morning, Martha Parker called me and said:” Let us go see the sea turtles”. I became so excited! Every time we moved, I was asking questions to her. What is that? How about that? And so on.  I was so fortunate because it was Ocean Discovery Day, the day on which many people from the community go to Galveston to learn about how to save sea turtles and ocean life and I met many people who came to visit and learn about saving the sea turtles.

Ocean Discovery Day at NOAA, Galveston
Many people came to learn about saving sea turtles and I was there too.

I learned about the type of nets they developed to be able to catch shrimp and release the sea turtles.

Valerie with a shrimp net and the turtle excluder device.
Valerie with a shrimp net and the turtle excluder device.
Process of excluding sea turtles from a shrimp net.
Process of excluding sea turtles from a shrimp net.
Visiting the sea turtles at NOAA, Galveston
Visiting the sea turtles at NOAA, Galveston

Thank you so much Martha Parker for taking me there because I learned about sea turtles which I had never seen in my life!! What a great opportunity for me to learn about new things!

Valerie visiting the Waugh Drive bat colony with zoo education staff member, DeAndra
Valerie visiting the Waugh Drive bat colony with zoo education staff member, DeAndra
Valerie enjoying herself learning about Texas sea turtles!
Valerie enjoying herself learning about Texas sea turtles!

Thank you so much Houston Zoo and St. Lawrence University for arranging my visit in USA in March 2016. More on my visit with Houston Zoo to come soon…

Meet the Houston Zoo 2016 Wildlife Warriors

Our admissions’ team raises funds to help save animals in the wild through the sales of colorful wildlife bracelets guests can buy at the entrance to the Zoo.  In 2015, the Zoo established a conservation hero award program to use the bracelet funds to recognize and enhance the outstanding staff employed by the Zoo’s existing conservation partners. The program, named Wildlife Warriors, has just awarded four new 2016 Wildlife Warriors from our conservation projects in developing countries. Each and every warrior honored was carefully chosen by the Zoo’s admissions’ team – the group of folks our guests interact with on a daily basis. The award is designed to increase the recipient’s conservation community network and inspire empowerment by providing opportunities to gain further education through training or experiences.

The recipients are nominated by their directors and in most cases are unaware of their nomination until they are contacted by our admissions staff to announce the award.  The directors submit specific examples of exceptional conservation leadership being carried out by the individual as well as a description of what further training or skill building opportunity they would be interested in.  The 2016 Wildlife Warriors are from our partner projects all over the world saving sharks, painted dogs, gorillas, and giant armadillos. Here are this year’s winners.


Valerie Akuredusenge:

ValerieValerie is saving gorillas and other wildlife in Rwanda, Africa.  She was born and raised in Rwanda and is a teacher in a village that is close to gorilla habitat.  She educates local people that live in areas that surround gorillas about the importance of the gorillas.  Locals don’t normally see gorillas, even though they live very close to them.  She takes children into the forest to see gorillas for the first time.  This is what a few of the children have said after seeing gorillas for the first time:

  • “I did not know they have eyes!”
  • “I didn’t know they feel happy like we do!”
  • “I didn’t know they play like we do!”

Valerie wants to see how another conservation program educates children about wildlife, so the Zoo will set up an opportunity for her to travel to another wildlife conservation partner project we have in Africa.


Hilmar Salazar:

Shark conservationsist

Hilmar is saving sharks and other marine wildlife with Mar Alliance in Belize.  He was born, and now raises his own family, in a small village in Belize.  He has relied on the ocean for his food and livelihood for his entire life and now works to save it by protecting large marine wildlife like sharks and rays.  He conducts research by setting up cameras underwater, tagging sharks, rays and sea turtles and empowers local people and children to protect the ocean.

Hilmar would like leadership and computer training and the Zoo will assist in making that wish a reality.


Enock Zulu:

enock

Zulu is saving Painted dogs and other wildlife in Zimbabwe, Africa.  He was born and grew up in Zimbabwe and is now the Anti-poaching team manager at Painted Dog Conservation in Zimbabwe.  He and his team have risked their lives to collect over 12 784 snares, rescued 11 animals from snares, arrested over 89 poachers.  He empowers and coordinates wildlife saving planning with many local community members and is very well respected and appreciated in the area.

Zulu would benefit from seeing another anti-poaching unit’s operations in Africa.  The Zoo will fund him to travel to another project to experience different techniques and exchange ideas.

 


Gabriel Massocato:

Gabriel

Gabriel is saving giant armadillos and other wildlife in Brazil.  He is a biologist from Brazil that works for our partner at the Giant Armadillo Project.  He conducts research, collaborates and trains many other Brazilians and educates children to protect giant armadillos in the wild.  Gabriel wants to be fluent in English to increase his impact with his conservation efforts and the Houston Zoo will make that happen through this award.

All of these Wildlife Warriors have deep rooted connections with their communities and are leading the way in saving animals from extinction.  The Houston Zoo is very proud of and grateful for all of these Wildlife Warriors and their projects.  Every time you visit the Houston Zoo a portion of your admission goes to protecting animals in the wild through projects like these.  The next time you visit be sure to ask the Zoo staff you buy your ticket from about these amazing Wildlife Warriors.

Houston Zoo Participates in Marine Wildlife Protection Workshop

By: Martha Parker

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The Houston Zoo is currently in Argentina participating in a marine debris/wildlife protection workshop with friends from UC Davis Veterinary Medicine and the Buenos Aires Zoo. Before the workshop began, we visited a new recycling center that is committed to increasing recycling in a small town on the coast of Argentina. Recycling is not standard in every town,and this company is doing amazing things to decrease waste! This company currently has a landfill but they are hoping to move more materials into recycling. Since the community is not used to recycling yet,the company sorts all of the materials (separating trash, organic materials and recycling) by hand! They have even started their own compost pole. They hope that in the near future they will be able to get the community to sort their trash and recycling themselves. We were very fortunate to meet with the owner of this company, who also attended both days of the marine debris workshop.

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After visiting the recycling center we had one more day to prepare for the workshop before the nearly 50 attendees arrived. The workshop was held at Mundo Marino, which is a zoological facility that is committed to rehabilitating local wildlife in need such as penguins, fur seals and sea turtles! We were given a tour of the area where wild animals are rehabilitated before they could be released into the wild. This is a photo of a green sea turtle (a species that comes to our Texas waters!) who was hit by a boat most likely and is undergoing treatment before it can be released. We also saw penguins being cared for because of an interaction with oil, and fur seals who were orphaned and needing care as they cannot survive in the wild at this age without parental care.

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June’s Featured Members: Maxine and Gerald

We love our Members. Their incredible support allows us to make a difference to animals both locally and all over the world. This month, we’re spotlighting Zoo Members that deserves recognition. We’re thrilled to introduce you to June’s Featured Members: Maxine & Gerald.


I remember for decades my parents taking my brother, sister and me on occasional visits to the Houston Zoo. It was always a special outing for us. Over the years, we have enjoyed many changes and improvements, both by the increased residency from the animal kingdom and additions of the lovely horticultural surroundings.

Asian Small Clawed Otter-2558

Today, as members of the zoo and as senior citizens, my husband, Gerald, and I can attest to the special attention given to those who choose to support this outstanding organization. Although we cannot attend all the activities, we have had the special privilege of attending some of the events offered wherein we can further support these beautiful creatures. One such annual event is the ever-popular “Feast with the Beasts.” The variety of food offered from local establishments pleases the palates of all.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention “Zoo Lights.”  That event will take your breath away. The enormous amount of time and effort it takes to create a “winter wonderland” among those magnificent animals is so much appreciated. We have encouraged our friends and family to make it a must during their holiday festivities to offer their support In behalf of this fun-filled event.

Recently, we attended a rain barrel workshop on Zoo premises, presented by The Galveston Bay Foundation, wherein we were educated on the importance of water conservation and protection. The fact that The Houston Zoo supports the efforts of such organizations speaks proud of their interest in local activities that promote protection of our environment, hence protection of the animals that delight us and bring such pleasure. It was an event my sister, my husband and I felt was very worthwhile.

From the majestic stature of the elephants, giraffes and gorillas (Gerald’s favorite exhibit), to the playful antics of the meerkats and otters (my favorite entertainers), we have been royally entertained as visitors to their home. From the mighty oak trees to the colorful blossoms throughout the grounds, our stroll passed the habitats is always exciting and more than enjoyable.

In appreciation of this outstanding and beautiful facility, I can say that we will continue to offer our support to the care and protection of these special animals that call the Houston Zoo their home. We also say “thanks” to the keepers and staff, who are anxious to answer any questions we have during out visits and who are quick to offer interesting facts about their special “friends.” Keep up the good work.

Over the years, we have visited the Houston Zoo on numerous occasions. Because we feel an obligation to do our part to help in the care and protection of the zoo animals, we recently chose to become members. Being members has allowed us the privilege and satisfaction of doing our small part in promoting the appreciation and preservation of all these amazing creatures.

Thank you, Houston Zoo (animals and staff).
Proud members, Maxine and Gerald


From all of us here at the Houston Zoo, we want to say thank you to Maxine, Gerald, and all of our Zoo Members. As a Houston Zoo Member, your support truly makes an impact on the growth of our Zoo and conservation efforts. THANKS!

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