December’s Featured Member: Susan Spjut

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 a Zoo Member that deserves recognition. We’re thrilled to introduce you to December’s Featured Member: Susan Spjut.

Sistersgiraffe-painting

“I grew up in Houston, and have been coming to the Houston Zoo as long as I can remember.  I remember that my brother, John, (when he was probably about 12?) brought home a rooster from the zoo.  It was attacking children in the petting zoo, so they gave the bird to my brother.  That bird crowed every morning under my bedroom window.

I grew up on Sunset Blvd.  Sometimes I could hear the lions roar. It was pretty cool. When my kids were young, we would often come to the zoo, it was free back then.

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I have been a member for several years now.  Mainly to support the zoo. Also because I am an artist at Archway Gallery.  I take photos of the animals and using them as references paint pictures of your animals.

I love the Houston zoo, and have watched it become a much better environment for animals.  I wish the world did not need zoos for the survival of so many species.  The Gorilla exhibit is awesome!”

– Susan Spjut

From all of us here at the Houston Zoo, we want to say thank you to Susan 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!

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. All of the warriors honored were carefully chosen by the Zoo’s admissions’ team. 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 2016 Wildlife Warriors are from our partner projects all over the world saving lions, orangutans, and hirola antelope. Here are this year’s winners.


Eusebio Waiti: Niassa Carnivore Project

Eusebio calls the lions his family and over this period he has changed from a very experienced hunter to a conservationist.  He frequently speaks up at community meetings about his experiences and his belief that conservation holds the future for his community; a difficult thing to do when so few believe in conservation and there is so much resistance to stopping illegal resource use.  Recently at a monthly staff meeting he said to all our staff “We are from the villages here, we are the ones that have to speak to our families and our people about why it is important to conserve them not Mama and Papa Nculi.  It has to come from us and this is important for our future”.

Eusebio would like to take a computer course and visit more conservation programs where communities are involved in conservation, ecotourism, and human wildlife conflict to broaden his experience.


Eddie bin Ahmad: HUTAN Kinabatangan Orang-utan Conservation Program

Initially Eddie was following wild habituated orang-utans at the intensive KOCP study site.  His enthusiasm, personal interest and curiosity were remarkable. Eddie then started to learn remote sensing techniques, such as GIS and other softwares.  After a few years, Eddie started to develop his own unit, the KOCP GIS Unit, which he still leads today.

Eddie would like to travel to Australia to learn some of the latest applications of camera trapping for biodiversity monitoring.


Luke Maamai: Lion Guardians

Luke has been working with Lion Guardians since 2008 and has dedicated his life to conserving lions and preserving cultures. Luke is the Program Manager for Lion Guardians and supervises over 50 staff on the ground, including training non-literate Guardians, all data collection and analysis, conflict-mitigation on the ground (e.g., stopping lion hunts), and all HR matters.

Luke would like to attend leadership seminars in Nairobi and would love to travel to other sites and learn from others working in conflict situations.


Ali Hassan: Hirola Conservation Project

aliHis story is unusual not because he is the only non-Somali member of the team, but because he hails from a bush meat dependent family. Surprisingly and without the mentorship of any individual, Ali innately became a passionate conservationist fighting many battles with poachers some of which are near death experiences across the hirola’s geographic range.

Ali would like further training in wildlife monitoring, anti-poaching skills and working with communities.

Cookies for Conservation

The Houston Zoo works hard to protect animals in the wild. We consider every guest and supporter of the Zoo to be a very valuable conservationist and we are constantly inspired by the species saving action taken in our community.

Photo courtesy of Grevy's Zebra Trust
Photo courtesy of Grevy’s Zebra Trust

At 12 years of age, young Houstonian Conservationist, Sophie, has raised over $10,000 for conservation over the past 2 years. In 2014, Sophie decided to combine her love for animals with her love for baking into Cookies for Conservation. That year she raised over $1,000. In 2015, that amount doubled, with $2,025 raised to benefit the International Rhino Foundation.
This year, after meeting Belinda and Peter of the Grevy’s Zebra Trust at the Saving Wildlife Expo held in April, Sophie decided to raise money to protect the Grevy’s Zebra. She had a goal of $6,000, enough to buy a much-needed new motorbike for the project. In her Bake Sale Wrap-Up, Sophie announced that she had surpassed her goal.
“I would like to thank all my friends and family for supporting this great cause! I am thrilled to announce that my bake sale, along with donations made through my website, raised over $8,000! My goal was to raise $6,000 to cover the cost of a new motorbike for Grevy’s Zebra Trust; but with everyone’s generous donations and bake sale purchases, they’ll be able to do so much more! And, for that, I thank YOU!”M

Sophie’s bake sale also included a special guest this year, Peter Lalampaa from Grevy’s Zebra Trust.
Sophie’s bake sale also included a special guest this year, Peter Lalampaa from Grevy’s Zebra Trust.

When you visit the Houston Zoo, you too are saving animals in the wild as a portion of every ticket and membership goes toward conservation.

Year of the Monkey: November

Year of the Monkey: November

Schmidt’s red-tailed monkey

By Dena Honeycutt; photos by Houston Zoo staff

One of my favorite monkeys is the Schmidt’s red-tailed monkey. They share the exhibit in WWP with Allen’s swamp monkeys. There are a lot of cool things about the red-tails including the following:

1. White nose – Most primates have coloration to aid them in concealing themselves from predators, so not sure the purpose of the white nose, other than it makes them really cute. They are not born with a white nose, but by 6 months they have adult coloration.

2. Long red tail – Interestingly enough, like the white nose, they are not born with red on their tail. Their long tails aid them in balancing on vines and branches (and ropes in the exhibit). I enjoy watching them navigate the ropes and seeing their tails switching back and forth to help them keep balance. They are much better at it than the swamp monkeys (who share the exhibit with them) who have a much shorter tail.yotmxnovximagex3

3. Cheek pouches – gives all new meaning to “all you can eat buffet”! This is a fun adaptation, since they are not at the top of the food chain in the wild, sometimes they need to grab food and run, so they can store food in their cheeks to eat later. In captivity, where they don’t need to worry about predators, they still will use cheek pouches to store food, so they can grab favorite foods when the dominant animal isn’t looking and eat it later.

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It’s Just One Piece: Surfside Jetty Clean-up and Sea Turtle Rescue

This blog post was written by Taylor Rhoades, Conservation Impact Intern at the Houston Zoo. 

It’s just one piece. Surely someone else will come along and pick it up, right? If it’s still there after my meeting I’ll come back and throw it away when I’m not in such a hurry.

How many of us have muttered those phrases to ourselves as we walk by trash on the street or drop something as we are rushing about our day? As easy as it is for us to pick up just one piece of trash and help clean up the areas around us, it is equally as easy, in the hustle and bustle of a huge metropolitan area, for us to disconnect from our surroundings and not think twice about where our litter ends up.

Some of our trash can make its way into our waterways, which lead to larger bodies of water like lakes or oceans. Here in Houston, we often find that trash ends up in the Gulf of Mexico. This body of water that we flock to each summer to escape the Texas heat is also home to hundreds of marine species that may find their homes polluted by debris.

It is because of this understanding that trash in our waterways can negatively impact local animals like sea turtles and pelicans that our Houston Zoo staff began assisting partners at NOAA who initiated a fishing line recycling program at the Surfside Jetty. The sea lion team that has taken the lead on this collaborative effort became deeply invested in this project because of Astro, a former Houston Zoo sea lion who came to us from California with a neck injury that is suspected to have been caused by trash in the ocean. Here at the Houston Zoo our animals serve as ambassadors for their wild counterparts, so whether we are working with sea turtles or sea lions we want our actions both on and off zoo grounds to reflect our mission of connecting communities to animals and inspiring action to save wildlife. As the zoo’s conservation impact intern, I was given the opportunity to join one of these jetty clean-ups on Halloween weekend.

Astro the sea lion was an ambassador for his species-bringing awareness to the problem of marine debris.
Astro the sea lion was an ambassador for his species-bringing awareness to the problem of marine debris.

I will be first to admit that participating in a jetty clean-up can be daunting – the jetty stretches out as far as the eye can see, and trash is abundant. Down on the rocks, with waves crashing against me, I found myself determined to reach every piece of trash I could see yet frustrated by how much surrounded me and how difficult it could be to pry bottles and fishing line free. But then, something incredible happened – we saved a sea turtle.

Green sea turtle entangled in fishing line off the Surfside Jetty, Texas.
Green sea turtle entangled in fishing line off the Surfside Jetty, Texas.

A visitor to the jetty spotted the turtle about 20 feet out from the jetty wall, and recognizing that it was struggling to swim, reported the sighting to zoo volunteers. We immediately notified the sea turtle hotline (1-866-TURTLE-5). Soon, we received instruction to monitor the turtle and have someone stay with it and report any changes. From the shore, it appeared that the green sea turtle was entangled in fishing line and was struggling to free itself. As we awaited, the turtle appeared to becoming more stressed and more entangled. As it fought to get free, it only exacerbated the problem. After thoughtful deliberation and safety planning, it was decided that if this turtle was to survive, it would be absolutely necessary to enter the water and extract the turtle. It is never recommended for members of the public to enter the water to extract a turtle due to the in-water dangers that exist. However, given the circumstances, Heather (the leader of our group) and I waded out to it without hesitation, cut it free, and brought it back to shore where we could monitor it. Shortly thereafter, biologists from NOAA arrived and provided the care the sea turtle needed, bringing it back to their facility in Galveston for rehabilitation. When the fate of another living being is resting quite literally in your hands, the importance of such clean-up efforts hits you on an entirely different level. It is no longer just about picking up trash – it is about how even the smallest of actions can help to prevent a potential life or death situation.

Houston Zoo staff and intern rescue a green sea turtle entangled in discarded fishing line.
Houston Zoo staff and intern rescue a green sea turtle entangled in discarded fishing line.
Green sea turtle flipper entangled in discarded fishing line.
Green sea turtle flipper entangled in discarded fishing line.
Ball of fishing line mixed with seaweed. Discarded fishing line is a major threat to animals like sea turtles who can become entangled in it, making it difficult for them to swim and find food.
Ball of fishing line mixed with seaweed. Discarded fishing line is a major threat to animals like sea turtles who can become entangled in it, making it difficult for them to swim and find food.

Tired from the endeavor, we began our trek back to the picnic benches to sort through the waste we had collected. We couldn’t help but scan the jetty walls as we walked. After saving that turtle, could we really call it a day when there was more trash to be collected? It was like an itch that had to be scratched – we immediately jumped back into action, picking up pieces as we went. By the end nine of us had collected 70 lbs of recycling, 89 lbs of trash, and 15 lbs of fishing line.

If nine of us could collect almost 200 lbs of waste in a day, imagine the difference we could all make if everyone picked up a piece of trash each day and disposed of it properly. Just one simple action could mean the difference between seeing a sea turtle in distress and seeing it swim freely. With only one percent of sea turtle hatchlings reaching adulthood the turtles in our Texas waters have overcome incredible odds – let’s do our part to keep them healthy!

Successful rescue of a green sea turtle on the Surfside Jetty! If you see a sea turtle on the beach or in need of help, please report it by calling 1-866-TURTLE-5.
Successful rescue of a green sea turtle on the Surfside Jetty! If you see a sea turtle on the beach or in need of help, please report it by calling 1-866-TURTLE-5.

You can help save sea turtles and other ocean animals by:

  • Using re-usable bags and water bottles instead of plastic, which can end up in the ocean causing harm to animals!
  • If you fish, dispose of your used line at home, or in monofilament bins located along the coast at popular fishing spots – this will help to ensure that fishing line does not make its way back into the water
  • Pick up trash on daily walks or trips to the beach to help reduce the amount of debris that could make its way into our oceans!
  • Report any sea turtles on the beach to NOAA biologists at 1-866-TURTLE-5

 

 

Houston Zoo Staff Travel to Save Animals in the Wild

This blog was written by Mollie Coym, a Supervisor in the Zoo’s Bird Department. Mollie Coym received an award from the American Association of Zoo Keepers and support from the Houston Zoo to visit Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya.  We will be posting a series of blogs as Mollie documents her experiences overseas. 

rhinoBowling for Rhinos (BFR) started in 1990 as an American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK) fundraiser to support the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya.  Since then, over 80 AAZK chapters from all over the country host annual bowling events and all the donations are sent to directly support rhino conservation areas in Kenya and in Indonesia.  Each June, the Greater Houston Chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers (GHCAAZK) hosts a Bowling for Rhinos event.  The Houston chapter has donated over $160,000 since we started hosting BFR events in 1991.

Each year, AAZK awards two people the opportunity to see how their efforts help aid wildlife
conservation at Lewa Conservancy in Kenya.  In 2015, I was awarded the Anna Merz Champion Honorary trip to Lewa.  With additional support from the Houston Zoo, I was able to travel to Lewa earlier this month.

bfr-photoThe Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is a model for community based conservation and became a UNESCO world heritage site in 2013.  Not only does Lewa work to protect the habitat and the species (especially endangered ones) that live within their boundaries, but they also work with other neighboring conservancies and the surrounding communities.  Through a variety of security programs, school programs, health clinics, and community based projects, Lewa works with the communities to improve their conditions which, in turn, helps wildlife.

In this blog series, I will talk about my amazing experiences and explain how Lewa collaborates with many community partners to protect not just rhinos, but a whole ecosystem.

To learn more about Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, please visit www.lewa.org.

Epic 12-hour Facebook LIVE Journey through Zoo

facebookliveEvery four years, elephants and donkeys battle it out for power, and this year might be the most contentious clash in modern history. Election coverage has been relentless and this Tuesday will be no different. But this year, the Houston Zoo is offering a break from the madness with a 12-hour Facebook Live interactive video event where people can see what it takes to give an Asian elephant a bath, or find out what a donkey’s genetic cousin, the zebra, eats for lunch. The Houston Zoo is inviting people to take a few minutes away from the stress and watch a sea lion play with her pup, see a giraffe up-close, or ask a zoo keeper a question about western lowland gorillas.

gorilla-family-outside-web-image

 

On Tuesday, Nov. 8 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. the Houston Zoo will take viewers on a journey throughout the zoo, getting close to the animals and talking to the experts who care for the incredible animals every day. Watchers will be able to ask questions live, and hear answers straight from the source.

To follow along, “like” the Houston Zoo’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HoustonZoo.

Sea Lion Keepers Save Sea Turtle While Picking Up Trash

This week, our sea lion team went above and beyond for wildlife. For two years, this group of Houston Zoo keepers has made regular trips to the Surfside jetty, picking up trash and recyclables. The team also spends time speaking with fisherman and visitors on the jetty about the dangers that discarded monofilament fishing line poses to marine life like sea lions and sea turtles. This self-started program has included Houston Zoo staff from 14 departments and resulted in the collection of 729 pounds of trash, 529 pounds of recycling, and 114 pounds of discarded fishing line.

sea-turtle-rescueWhile working on the jetty this Wednesday, our sea lion team rescued a sea turtle that had been entangled in fishing line. Houston Zoo sea lion keeper, Heather Crane, was on the jetty and helped free the turtle. We asked Heather to share her experience and here’s what she had to say.

“On October 30th, a group of dedicated volunteers and I went to the Surfside Jetty for a scheduled sea lion monofilament team collection. As we made our way out to the end of the jetty to begin our work, we passed by a number of fishermen, surfers, and people enjoying taking in the sights. Our monofilament cart and team seemed to generate a lot of attention by the jetty-goers and we were able to share our story of why we were there to clean the jetty. Not long after, civilians jumped in and joined the efforts to collect trash and fishing line from the jetty sidewalks. It has been a few months since I have visited the jetty myself and I was so impressed by the difference in the vibe I received from the fishermen. After 2 years, I notice a definite difference in the attitudes and perspectives of the people who frequent the jetty the most. Originally, it seemed people were unsure of why we were there and what our intentions may be. But yesterday, I received an overwhelmingly wonderful and warm welcome and acts of gratitude from the jetty-goers. Several fishermen stopped to thank us as we emptied the monofilament bins placed on the jetty for recycling fishing line.

As we collected fishing line, trash, and recyclables, a civilian reported to one of our volunteers that there was a turtle that was possibly entangled. We immediately notified the sea turtle hotline (1-866-TURTLE-5). Soon, we received instruction to monitor the turtle and have someone stay with it and report any changes. From the shore, it appeared that the green sea turtle was entangled in fishing line and was struggling to free itself. As we awaited the arrival of NOAA scientists, the turtle appeared to becoming more stressed and more entangled. As it fought to get free, it only exacerbated the problem. After thoughtful deliberation and safety planning, it was decided that if this turtle was to survive, it would be absolutely necessary to enter the water and extract the turtle. NOAA never recommends or requests members of the public to enter the water to extract a turtle due to the in-water dangers that exist. When I reached the turtle, I found it to be anchored in two spots to the bottom. Fishing line wrapped around the hindflipper, the neck, and tightly around the front left flipper. We removed the loose line around the neck and hind-flippers, but awaited help from the NOAA scientists to remove the front flipper entanglement to prevent further damage of the flipper that probably resulted from an initial entanglement.

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NOAA biologist, Lyndsey Howell, works to remove fishing line from sea turtle.
NOAA biologist, Lyndsey Howell, works to remove fishing line from sea turtle.

We waited for help to arrive and continued monitoring the turtle. During this time, we were able to educate onlookers about the importance of recycling fishing line and how to contact the turtle hotline to report injured turtles. It was a great teachable moment and seemed to captivate and inspire this audience the turtle invited. When NOAA scientist, Lyndsey arrived, the remaining fishing line was removed and he was taken to the sea turtle facility in Galveston for further evaluation and treatment. It was a special day and I could not be more proud of the team that collaborated to make the rescue successful. For me, this is a testament and reminder to the importance of the work we do to keep our waterways clean for animals in the wild, and it makes me proud to work for the Houston Zoo.”

sea-turtle-rescue-with-lyndsey

Great work Heather and sea lion team! We want to take a quick moment to reiterate that if you see an injured sea turtle, please immediately dial NOAA at 1-866- TURTLE-5. NOAA’s expert biologists are on-call 24/7 to respond and advise to reports of hurt or nesting sea turtles. Thanks to our friends and conservation partners at NOAA for helping this turtle get ready for another chance in the wild.

November’s Featured Family Members: The Antonio 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 a family of Zoo Members that deserve recognition. We’re thrilled to introduce you to November’s Featured Members: the Antonio family.


We asked the Antonio’s to share a few words about what being a Zoo Member means to them. Here’s what they had to say.
20160315_095807“We have been Members for at least 5 years. We love going to the zoo and we go at least once a month. I have three boys (2, 4, 6) and they love running from animal to animal. Every time we go, the animals are doing something different. After each trip, my boys love to talk about their favorite animal from our trip. For example, the last time we went, we all loved watching the baby elephant swim in the pond. We had never seen that before. It was our favorite by far. We always try to make it to the elephant baths because we love to see the elephants up close. We have gone to Zoo Boo and Zoo Lights and always have a great time. My oldest attended Camp Zoofari and had a blast! Everyday at the zoo for a week! When it’s hot, we cool off by playing in the splash pad and visiting the air conditioned exhibits. It was a special treat to get to see the gorilla exhibit early because we are zoo members. It’s also nice to be able to go just for a quick trip1473277635004.
When my 1st grader was studying big cats in school, we made a trip to the zoo just to see the lion, cheetah, tiger, cougar, jaguar, and the other cats. We only stayed for about an hour. We did the same thing when the baby giraffe was born. We made a quick trip just to see how small it was. I’m so glad we made time to see it when it was first born, because it seemed to get big so quick.
We have benefited from our Houston zoo membership when we received discount tickets at The Texas State Aquarium in Corpus, the Memphis Zoo, and the Oklahoma City Zoo. My boys love collecting stuffed animals from the zoo. They enjoy recreating the zoo at home. They will group the stuffed animals similar to the groupings at the zoo. They put all the cats together, the reptiles together and so on. We often meet friends at the zoo or go with our cousins. It is the perfect play date. We have very much enjoyed our zoo membership and plan to continue each year. Not only do we have lots of fun, we also make it a learning experience. We make sure to read about the animals. My boys love learning new facts about animals. They love to tell people that wombats have square poop! A fact we would never have known without visiting the zoo!”


From all of us here at the Houston Zoo, we want to say thank you to the Antonio’s 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!


 

Reticulated Python Joins Reptile House

The Houston Zoo would like to give a warm-blooded welcome to the latest cold-blooded housemate to join our reptile family. She’s an 18-foot (5.4 m) long reticulated python, weighing in at 156 lbs (70 kg). Her species hails from Southeast Asia, but she is a native Texan herself. Her name is…well we haven’t found the perfect name yet.

Our latest beautiful python has not yet been given a name, but we’re excited to have her here. So far, she has made quite the impression on zoo guests with just her size alone. Eighteen feet of pure muscle can cause a stir in the reptile house. Her species can grow upwards of 28 feet in length and is known to the be longest of all snakes on earth.

python-constricted
The name “reticulated” was given to this species because of their patterns in their scales. These designs of yellow, brown, tan and black help reticulated pythons stay hidden from predators and allows them to attack prey in the shadows of the forests in reticulated-python-smaller-close-upSoutheast Asia. Like all pythons, the reticulated python is a non-venomous constrictor that uses its body strength to kill prey. A typical diet for these reptiles consists of almost anything they can catch including rats, birds, pigs, and deer.

Please join us in welcoming this incredible animal, and we hope you will stop into our reptile building to see her on your next visit to the Houston Zoo.

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