Houston Zoo Sea Lion Team Works to Remove Marine Debris

This post was written by Sophia Darling

A few Sundays ago, on March 29th, Houston Zoo sea lion team members Sophia Darling and Heather Crane, along with zoo volunteer Dale Martin, traveled down to the Surfside Jetty for the sea lion team’s monthly jetty cleanup. The Surfside jetty is a high volume fishing area, and especially now that the weather is warming up, you can find lots of people enjoying a beautiful day fishing off of the jetty and beach. Unfortunately, this comes with a cost. More often than not, the people visiting leave a trail at the jetty: aluminum cans, bait leftovers and containers, cigarette butts, and a lot of excess monofilament, more commonly known as fishing line. All of these items are described as marine debris – any man made item that ends up in the marine ecosystem, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

This is a monofilament bin located on the Surfside jetty.
This is a monofilament bin located on the Surfside jetty.

Marine debris is a huge threat to marine life all over the globe. It poses many different hazards to local wildlife, most commonly ingestion and entanglement. The sea lion team decided it was time for action to be taken!! By partnering with NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) the sea lion team has had specially designed bins installed along the Surfside jetty, providing an easy and accessible location to properly dispose of fishing line. Once a month we go down to the jetty and spend a day emptying the monofilament bins and cleaning up the debris left over among the rocks.  This last Sunday we collected 15.4 pounds of recycling, 20.5 pounds of trash, and 1 pound of monofilament fishing line!

This is why it's so important to remove and recycle fishing line.
This is why it’s so important to remove and recycle fishing line.

And we really get into the cracks and crevices to get as much as we can!! Very often plastic bottles, aluminum cans, and large wads of monofilament will get trapped in the cracks between the rocks, and it takes a little extra effort to get it out.

Supervisor Sophia Darling does a handstand between the rocks to try and reach debris among a beautiful bed of anemones!
Supervisor Sophia Darling does a handstand between the rocks to try and reach debris among a beautiful bed of anemones!

Unfortunately, we cannot get to all the inhabitants of this marine environment in time. While climbing among the rocks, we found a local ray (we’re unsure of the species) that had been caught and hooked by someone’s fishing line, most likely un-intentionally. Unfortunately, the method taken to cut the ray loose did not do anything to help it. The line was cut about 10 feet from the hook lodged in the ray’s mouth, which was not removed.

RayBycatch

There are so many things that we can do to help prevent debris from entering the marine environment, and prevention is our greatest ally! Avoid one-time use plastic and paper bags when going to the store, and bring your own thermos or cup when you visit your favorite local coffee shop. If you are going to visit the jetty, our beaches, or even a park, please, PLEASE, clean up after yourself. Make a goal for yourself, that for every visit you take to the coast, you will spend 20 minutes cleaning up a small area of the beach! Here in the city many of our storm drains and bayous lead to the gulf, so be aware of what enters our environment here! Even by overfilling your trash cans while they wait to be collected may lead to debris getting caught up in the wind. Always recycle. Every small thing that we can do can, and WILL, make a difference.

Since August 2014, the Houston Zoo sea lion team has collected 18 pounds of monofilament, 58.5 pounds of recycling and 82.5 pounds of trash from the Surfside jetty. We continue to get this message out in our shows here at the zoo, and we encourage anyone to come talk to us about marine conservation and what we can all do to help!!



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This morning, we humanely euthanized our male, 20-year-old jaguar, Kan Balam. Due to the tremendous care provided to him by his keepers and our veterinary team, Kan Balam lived well beyond his expected lifespan. Jaguars expected lifespan in the wild is between 12-15 years.

The carnivore staff and veterinary team made the decision after his quality of life began to decline. 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 jaguars, often spend a significant phase of their lives as older animals, and are at a higher risk for geriatric complications.

Read more about Kan B, and the love his keepers had for him on our blog: www.houstonzoo.org/blog/mourning-loss-geriatric-jaguar-kan-balam/
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This morning, we humanely euthanized our male, 20-year-old jaguar, Kan Balam.  Due to the tremendous care provided to him by his keepers and our veterinary team, Kan Balam lived well beyond his expected lifespan. Jaguars expected lifespan in the wild is between 12-15 years. 
 
The carnivore staff and veterinary team made the decision after his quality of life began to decline. 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 jaguars, often spend a significant phase of their lives as older animals, and are at a higher risk for geriatric complications.

Read more about Kan B, and the love his keepers had for him on our blog: https://www.houstonzoo.org/blog/mourning-loss-geriatric-jaguar-kan-balam/

 

Comment on Facebook

Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur; happy kitty, sleepy kitty, purr purr purr #RIP #bigbangtheory

I know he lived a lot longer due to the excellent care he got at the Zoo.

Is this the one that had the limp?

I saw him limping about 2 weekends ago. The first time we walked by he was fine. When we walked by on the way out he was limping and moaning pretty loudly. I wondered what happened but I figured his keeper already knew or would find out shortly. Super Sad. He was always a lively one.

This was my daughters favorite critter at the Zoo. We always went to say hello to him before anyone else whenever we went. When she was 7 years old we sent a post out to out neighborhood on Halloween saying Paisley was asking for pocket change donations in lieu of candy for Halloween and all amounts would be donated to Kan thru the zoo. She raised over $40 in coins! I still have the letter from the zoo thanking her for her donation. He was a sweet boy and will be missed. 😔

Jaguar habitat is in the Zoo or Jungle's? ??or is only entertainments for person's? ??$$$$$$$!.Sorry animals the person's don't love you ..

Dunno if the Zoo staff considered him a pet but he was certainly a family member, and because of that i offer this: RainbowBridge Author Unknown Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable. All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind. They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster. You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart. Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

Aww. When interning in the carnivore dept he was one of my faves. So smart! Ashley remember when Angie was teaching him to do the moonwalk after Michael Jackson passed?

Sending love to the keepers that are broken hearted right now. And thank you for all the care you’ve given.

Sorry to hear about your loss. We also lost a jaguar(melanistic variety) at Reid Park Zoo about a year ago. Nikita was 21 years old and was euthanized due to health-related issues. Sad, but they have a GOOD life at the zoo! No predators, a steady food supply, medical attention, loving kindness from her keeper(s) and admiration by the public. Geriatric animals have unique problems and we are blessed to get to know them as long as we do.

Thank you Houston Zoo for taking such good care of him and all the animals! I've been going to this zoo since I was little bitty. I always enjoy it.

Beautiful jaguar ....so grateful for the Houston Zoo keepers and veterinary team that gave their time and efforts to share this awesome jaguar with us for so many years.

He was well-cared for and most of all well-loved. My heartfelt condolences to those missing Kan B as well as me. What an amazing ambassador for his kind. What a beautiful old gentleman. Thank you for loving him into old age and giving him peace.

What a great long life he lived because of his excellent care at the zoo Thoughts go out to his keepers and the entire Houston Zoo staff

Thank you for doing what was right and kind for Kan Balam even though it was hard and painful for you. That’s true love for an animal. ❤️

RIP Kan Balam. You have given the visitors so much pleasure just watching you over these years. You were taken care of by top notch professional handlers, etc.

I'm so sorry for your loss. Thanks for taking such great care of him so he was able to live a long life. My thoughts are with his keepers and all who adored him. <3

Jaguars are one of my favorite and he seems like a sweet boy. I'm so sad but I'm happy he can be painless and be free now. RIP❤️

The Houston Zoo staff has lost several animals this year and I am sure each one is so hard to go through.

Aww I’m so sorry for the loss, I’ve seen him many times, he was absolutely gorgeous! I’m glad that you guys were able to make him comfortable, sometimes the best thing we can do is let them be at peace. Will miss this handsome guy; play hard at the Rainbow Bridge friend, day hi to my cat, Junior for me!! Much love to the HZI staff!!

I am soo sorry for the loss of this handsome fella Kan Balam. May he rest in peace and run free or any pain over the rainbow bridge.. My heart and prayers go out to each and every one of the staff at the Zoo.

Katie Rose Buckley-Jones I won’t ever forget the time you asked him to bring something and he ripped off a piece of cardboard and tried to hand it to you ❤️ thank you for introducing me to him. Sending you guys many hugs

So sorry to the keeping staff for your loss i cant imagine how youre feeling :( his old age is a testimony to the amazing care he received

I will miss him. The last time I saw him he looked tired, and it appeared his foot was bothering him.

Sad to hear of this. Thanks for taking such good and compassionate care for him and the other animals.

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Social Media Guy to Sea Lion Keeper: Can you send me a pic of you working with the sea lions in this chilly weather?

Sea Lion Keeper: Sure... (sends picture next to sea lion statue)

SMG: I'm still using this.
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Social Media Guy to Sea Lion Keeper: Can you send me a pic of you working with the sea lions in this chilly weather?

Sea Lion Keeper: Sure... (sends picture next to sea lion statue)

SMG: Im still using this.

 

Comment on Facebook

Are there some zoo animals that enjoy this weather?

SMG is another reason why Houston Zoo is the best Zoo!

Happy New Year “sea lion keeper “ 💖💖

More snow for TJ and Max ❤️ lucky them!

Are we positive that’s the statue rather than it really just being that cold? 😛

That’s my best friend Sophie for ya! 😂

Brrrrr

Omg the Zoo is so awesome 😂😂😂 Alana Berry

Omg be warm sweetoe

Haha!! Good one!

Sweetie 💞

Ashley Jucker 😂

Lauren Gonzales

Mike DePope

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