Year of the Monkey: September

Brotherly Love
Written by Amy Berting

Goeldi’s monkeys are small, predominantly black primates weighing around a pound. They live in the Amazon rainforest and are mostly arboreal, meaning they can be found up in the trees.

© Stephanie Adams, Houston Zoo

In the wild most of the Goeldi’s diet consists of fruit, fungus, and insects. They are also known to occasionally eat small reptiles and amphibians.

Goeldi’s live in groups of 2-12 individuals.  A female’s gestation is about 5 months long and she typically gives birth to a single offspring.  Twinning is very rare.  At birth a Goeldi’s baby weighs only 2 ounces.  The mother carries the infant on her back for about a month before allowing dad to take his turn carrying the baby.  After that, the entire group will help care for the baby.

goeldis-blog-photoPeach and Andy were the zoo’s original breeding Goeldi’s pair.  They met here in Houston and really hit it off.  2.5 years later they welcomed their son, Opie, into the world.  Shortly after Opie’s arrival, Peach was pregnant again with her second son, A.J. (Andy Junior).  Sadly, Andy passed away before he had the chance to meet his second son.  Opie stepped up and took on the role of both father and brother.  He shared the responsibility of carrying around A.J. and teaching him how to be a proper Goeldi’s monkey.  He also fulfilled his brotherly duties of wrestling and playing chase around the exhibit.

The Goeldi’s family can be found in the Wortham World of Primates here at the Zoo.

A Species Went Extinct Today

Today a species went extinct. We believe little-studied and unknown species may be disappearing without our knowledge, but on September 29, 2016 the world is actually documenting the extinction of a species – the Rabbs’ fringe-limbed treefrog or Ecnomiohyla rabborum.

Photo by Brian Gratwicke

Once called The Loneliest Frog in the World, this one last individual has been cared for by the Atlanta Botanical Gardens for nearly a dozen years. Collected on a rescue mission in Panama as a fungus swept down through Central America decimating amphibian populations along the way, he was the last individual of a species poorly known to science since.

Most people have never heard of the Rabbs’ fringe-limbed treefrog, even Panamanians had rarely heard or seen them. It is not the last species to go extinct during our lifetimes, but as we watch them disappear, we need to find ways to get people inspired to care about animals they love, and animals they have barely ever heard of.

Take a simple action to make a change and then grow that action to inspire others to care. Take a few seconds to watch a video clip from our colleague and Photo Ark founder Joel Sartore of the world’s last Rabbs’ fringe-limbed treefrog:

Rabbs’ Fringe-limbed treefrog from Joel Sartore on Vimeo.

Joshua Is Your Next (Giraffe) Bachelor!

On Saturday, September 24, the Houston Zoo welcomed Joshua, a male Masai giraffe, from the Virginia Zoo. Joshua joins the Houston Zoo family at the recommendation of the Giraffe Species Survival Plan (SSP) of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, with hopes for him to sire calves with female Masai giraffes in the Houston herd.


The arrival comes days after Miles, a seven-year-old male Masai giraffe, departed the Houston Zoo for Greenville Zoo in South Carolina under the same SSP recommendations as Joshua. Miles was a regular visitor to the giraffe feeding platform, where he enjoyed offerings of lettuce from Zoo guests who could easily recognize his unique, heart-shaped birth mark.

Joshua will spend a standard duration of 30 days in quarantine at the giraffe barn, and will be monitored by Zoo veterinarians and keepers before making his public debut.

Nature Journals Made Easy

Have you ever been out in nature and found something you thought was amazing?  Ever wish you had a way to get your kids more engaged with nature?  The Houston Zoo has a way to help!

Nature journals are a great way to explore and learn about nature.  Kids (and adults too!) can write about, sketch, or paint things seen in nature.  It is a great way to document what you have seen and you can even go back later to research if you want to learn more about a particular item.

Journal pages from
Journal pages from

There is a wonderful website and blog at  with a lot of great information on nature journaling.  The author  even has some printable pages to get you started!  Click here to check out her awesome blog and get some amazing ideas about nature journals.  She includes examples, recommendations on supplies, and a list of places to find more help and examples.  Included on her blog are posts geared towards nature journaling specifically for kids.  You don’t have to be a award winning artist or write like a novelist – just record what you see and add sketches as you see fit.  And the more you journal, the better they get!

Even a simple drawing can enhance your Nature Journal
Even a simple drawing can enhance your Nature Journal

Do you know the best benefit to nature journals?  Kids 18 and younger can bring their nature journals to the Naturally Wild Swap Shop to earn points!  The points can be used in the shop to get some amazing things like bones, shells, minerals or even a re-usable bag that kids can take home and enjoy.  Need more information on the Naturally Wild Swap Shop?  Click here to learn more.

Saving Endangered Grey Crowned Cranes

The Houston Zoo is proud to announce a new partnership with the Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association to save the endangered grey crowned crane.



While working as a field veterinarian with another Houston Zoo conservation partner, the Gorilla Doctors, Olivier Nsengimana was motivated by his childhood experiences of seeing the cranes dance and hearing their calls, to branch off of the Gorilla Doctors to start this project. grey-crowned-craneHe created a multipart project aimed at addressing all sides of the threats facing grey crowned cranes. “As soon as I was out in the field, working with these animals, I thought, wow, this is me, conservation is what I was meant to do with my life.”
The grey crowned crane is the only species of crane in Rwanda. Its population has fallen by up to 79% over the past 45 years due to illegal poaching and trade. A symbol of wealth and longevity, the grey crowned crane is often kept as pets by hotels and wealthy families who are unaware of the harmful impact this has on the individual crane and the species.


Each step of the project aims at building on the previous step to help save grey crowned cranes in the wild as well as help the local communities around the cranes.

Step 1: A national media campaign. This step is focused on raising awareness about the cranes and the threats they face.

grey-crowned-crane-school-groupStep 2: Creating a national database of all captive cranes. The database includes information on the cranes as well as the owners. The creation of the database included fitting the cranes with a uniquely numbered leg band. By knowing how many cranes are in captivity and where they are located, the project is able to identify any new cranes in captivity.
Step 3: Community engagement and education. This step is a crucial component for the reintroduction of the cranes to be sustainable in the long term. In order to deter people from poaching cranes, an alternative source of income has to be found, this involves educating the local community.  Nsengimana wants to inspire other young conservationists in Rwanda, the same way the Gorilla Doctors inspired him. This is accomplished through visits to local schools as well as through the creation of an educational comic book.

Step 4: The rehabilitation and reintroduction of captive cranes to the wild. The reintroduction of the grey crowned cranes is the main goal of the project, but can only be accomplished in conjunction with the other steps. Captive cranes with a high potential of thriving in the wild are moved to a quarantine facility for health checks, then to a rehabilitation facility in Akagera National Park. When the cranes feel ready, they can fly out of the rehabilitation facility and into the wild.


So far, 70 captive cranes have been reintroduced to the wild and 6 chicks have been born from those reintroduced cranes.


How can you help save Grey Crowned Cranes?

To learn more about saving endangered Grey Crowned Cranes visit the Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association webpage.

All photos by the Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association.

Baby Giant Anteater Rides Into Our Family

baby-anteater-0003-4501Riding atop mom, zoo guests may catch a glimpse of Rio, a two-week-old giant anteater pup, born on September 3 to parents Olive and Pablo.

Giant anteaters spend the first few weeks of life clinging to their mothers and will typically hitch a ride on mom’s back for almost 12 months.

Olive has been very attentive to Rio, carefully nursing and transporting the pup around their habitat. After allowing the pair plenty of time to bond, keepers and zoo veterinarians will determine if the baby is male or female.


Giant anteaters face threats resulting from habitat loss and agricultural expansion. Rio, Olive, and Pablo serve as ambassadors for their wild counterparts, helping zoo guests understand this unique species. The Houston Zoo is proud to support the Giant Armadillo Conservation Program, a group working to protect giant armadillos and anteaters in the wild.

What is a Volunteer Enrichment Committee?

Last weekend, we hosted our annual Enrichment Day. In addition to the hard work of our keepers, a special group of Houston Zoo Volunteers focuses on creating enrichment for the animals at the Zoo. Hear from Heather Simm, one of our great Volunteers, as she discusses the Houston Zoo Volunteer Enrichment Committee and why enrichment is so important.

Written by Heather Simm
enrichment3The Volunteer Enrichment Committee is an adult volunteer-led committee comprised of creative, handy, and crafty Houston Zoo Volunteers. The committee meets throughout the year to build an array of exciting new enrichment items for the animals at the Houston Zoo.

The committee works with Zoo staff to make items that encourage natural behaviors, such as foraging for food. To be eco-conscious, many of our projects also involve reusing materials in a new way. For example, we have used old fire hoses to weave a floating hammock for the sea lions and a daybed for the Zoo’s dingos. Newspaper is reused to make papier mache items that can be filled with various treats for all sorts of different animals. We have also constructed bird toys out of egg cartons, playing cards, paper towel tubes, and cardboard boxes.


Whether a task requires crocheting, power tools, or an array of crafting skills, the dedicated volunteers on the Zoo’s Volunteer Enrichment Committee attack each project with a passion. enrichment1You may have seen items the committee built for Enrichment Day this year: a large paper and cardboard “tiger” that was filled with treats for the orangutans, two 5-foot tall papier mache “termite mounds” that feature tunnels where keepers can hide all sorts of bugs and treats for the anteaters, and cardboard and feather “birds” which will be introduced to some of the Zoo’s resident carnivores.

Interested in being a part of this talented group? Visit  for more information.

Adult Female Gorilla Joins Houston Zoo Family

Recently, we welcomed 29-year-old female, western lowland gorilla, Angel, from the Denver Zoo. This move was at the recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) gorilla specialists.


Angel and the other gorillas will take turns in the day room inside The Robert & Janice McNair Foundation Great Ape Gallery while they undergo a formal introduction process overseen by the zookeepers. Parts of the Great Ape Gallery may be closed over the course of the next few weeks while the family gets to know one another. Once the integration is complete, she will reside with the family group of gorillas which includes silverback Zuri, adult females Holly and Binti, and adolescent female Sufi. In March 2015, the Houston Zoo successfully introduced adult female Binti to the family troop, and is confident of another successful integration. The bachelor gorillas, Chaka, Mike, and Ajari, will continue to live separate from the family group.

Majestic Lion Passes at the Zoo

jon blog 2Jonathan, the Houston Zoo’s 18-year-old male lion died early this morning after veterinarians discovered he had a serious blood clotting issue and low white blood cell count – findings that are not uncommon in geriatric patients, who often develop the more complex medical conditions. After discovering he was starting to feel unwell, the aging lion was given a complete examination. Jonathan spent last night in the zoo’s animal hospital but, despite the veterinary team’s best treatment efforts, he died overnight.

Jonathan spent the majority of his life at the Houston Zoo after being rescued from a private owner when he was just a few years old. Jonathan’s regal mane was identifiable to all who visited him at the Houston Zoo, and since his arrival in 2006, has been a guest and keeper favorite. Guests could usually find the elderly lion lounging in the sun, surrounded by his pride of three females.

“Jonathan’s impact on our keepers and guests will not be forgotten,” said Dr. Adrian Fowler, Vice President of Animal Operations for the Houston Zoo. “Our team of keepers who have spent more than a decade caring and bonding with this incredible animal are grieving this loss, and we support them through this sad time.”

Quality care and continuous advances in veterinary medicine extends animals’ lives longer than ever, with most felines in human care living well beyond previous generations. Because of this, all cats, including domestic house cats and lions, often spend a significant phase of their lives as older animals, and are at a higher risk for geriatric complications

Jonathan, and his surviving pride, are ambassadors for their wild counterparts in Africa and serve to educate guests about the work being done to help save this vulnerable species.  Scientists estimate there are less than 30,000 lions left in Africa, half the number of 20 years ago, and the biggest reasons for their decline are conflict with people and loss of habitat and prey due to human population growth. The Houston Zoo is proud to partner with several organizations in Africa who are dedicated to saving this amazing species.

6 Sea Turtles Receive Care at the Houston Zoo

Yesterday, our partners at NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) brought 6 sea turtles to the Zoo’s veterinary clinic for medical care. 3 of the 6 sea turtles were loggerheads. 2 sea turtles were Kemp’s ridleys, and 1 sea turtle was a green. All turtles were radiographed and checked by Zoo veterinary staff.

One of the Kemp’s ridley sea turtles was accidentally caught on a fishing hook. Dr. Joe Flanagan removed the hook and the turtle will be rehabbed at NOAA’s facility in Galveston, and then released back into the wild. Unfortunately, this was the second time this summer that this turtle was caught by accident by a fishermen and reported to NOAA biologists! For this reason, it is important that all turtles are reported by calling 1-866-TURTLE-5, in the event that the turtle may have ingested several hooks, or have other medical issues that can’t be easily seen.

Houston Zoo vet team removing a fishing hook from a sea turtle caught by accident in Galveston
Houston Zoo vet team removing a fishing hook from a sea turtle caught by accident in Galveston
Hook successfully removed!
Hook successfully removed!

The second Kemp’s ridley that visited the Zoo was a post-hatchling, meaning it hatched from its egg just this summer! As you can see, at this age, sea turtles are tiny and can become prey to many different species living in or near the ocean. This Kemp’s ridley has a flipper injury and will be rehabilitated by NOAA biologists until it is healthy enough for release.

Kemp's ridley hatchling
Kemp’s ridley post-hatchling

The green sea turtle who visited the Zoo was also accidentally caught, but did not require a hook removal. It was given x-rays and will be moved to NOAA Galveston for further care.

Green sea turtle brought to the Zoo by NOAA biologists to receive medical care
Green sea turtle brought to the Zoo by NOAA biologists to receive medical care

You can help our local sea turtle population by reporting injured, stranded, dead,or nesting sea turtles by calling 1-866-TURTLE-5. Another way to help is by reducing your use of plastic-bottles, bags, balloons, you name it! These items often end up in our ocean and sea turtles mistake them for food, like jellyfish. When ingested, sea turtles can become sick. If we replace plastic items with reusable items (bags and bottles) and avoid releasing balloons, we can protect sea turtles in their natural habitat! In addition, you can help by placing your discarded fishing line in recycling bins, rather than leaving it on the ground or in the water. This will help prevent animals like sea turtles and birds from becoming entangled in the line.

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