Little Tikes: Gigi the Spunky Giraffe

Have you ever wondered what our baby animals are up to after they’re born? How much have they grown? How do the keepers maintain the animal’s healthy diet? We want you to learn about our adorable babies as they grow up, so we’ve decided to give you a small peek into the lives of our little superstars.

gigi updateI sat down with Memory Mays, one of our giraffe keepers, to learn more about how our baby giraffe Gigi has been adapting to her new home:

It’s been two months since Gigi joined the Houston Zoo family and every minute has been spent in the excellent care provided by our keepers. In just a short time with us, Gigi has sprung from 6 feet 3 inches and 130 pounds at birth to a current 7 feet 4 inches and 310 pounds. To most of us that sounds like a surprising amount of growth for a newborn, however Memory said that Gigi is growing at a normal rate and that most Masai giraffes are at this height by the time they are Gigi’s age. Due to this rapid growth rate from giraffes, the keepers monitor Gigi’s weight on a consistent basis to make sure that she is growing up healthy.  Right now Gigi’s weight is being monitored once every other day to insure she is getting the proper nutrients from her mother’s milk. Memory said once Gigi gets a little bit older she will only receive weight checkups once a week like the rest of her herd.

gigi update 2Most of you probably want to know what Gigi does on a daily basis. Is she active? Is she enjoying her new home? Well you will be happy to know that Gigi is not only energetic but has become one of a kind! Memory said that giraffes usually have the same type of personality but out of the herd, Gigi is definitely the spunkier and more independent one. Gigi is known to be very reliable and does what she is asked to do. Gigi just comes right up to Memory and the other keepers and when they are done doing a training session, Gigi will go right back to playing in the yard with ease. According to Memory, Gigi and her three siblings typically stick together in their own mini heard, running around and kicking up dust.

gigi update 3Since giraffe feeding is one of the coolest things to do here at the Houston Zoo, most of you may be looking to feed Gigi on your next visit. However, you may have to wait a little longer. Although Gigi is adapting well to her environment, she still is very much trying to figure everything out around her. Gigi is still nursing from her mother, Asali, and is in the beginning stages of trying to consume solid foods. When Gigi reaches about six months old, she will be able to fully join the herd in eating all the solid food she needs: grain, carrots, and sweet potatoes are just a few of the goodies given to our giraffes. Until then you can catch Gigi running around the yard with her siblings and enjoying the wonderful life we provide our animals here at the Houston Zoo.

The Orangutan Workshop – Coming Together to Make a Difference

By Tammy Buhrmester

Have you ever wondered how the staff at the Houston Zoo stays current on taking care of the animals? Many keepers, supervisors, curators and administration staff attend workshops and conferences to learn as much as they can to make the animal’s lives at the Houston Zoo the best they can be.

Tammy BuhrmesterFrom October 12-15, more than 70 orangutan experts gathered for the 9th annual Orangutan SSP Husbandry Workshop, which was held in Wichita, Kansas.  Two keepers from the primate department were included in this assembly of experts. The workshop covered many topics, including husbandry, behavioral enrichment, veterinary techniques, training and conservation.  Each day specific topics were presented and discussed.  The first day covered SSP (Species Survival Plan) updates and ongoing projects to aid the orangutans in zoos and in the wild. Did you know that 54 North American zoos house 219 orangutans?  We learned that Cheyenne, one of our orangutans, is the 3rd oldest hybrid female in captivity in the United States. We discovered that this is the first time in a very long time that we have equal amount of Bornean and Sumatran orangutans in captivity. We discussed how taking pictures of and notes about our orangutan’s teeth can aid in establishing the age of orangutans in the wild.  Did you know that they have the same number of teeth that we do?  Aging is done by counting how many teeth the youngsters from the age of 0-12 have behind their canine teeth and when they come in.

We also were honored to hear a lecture by Lone Droscher Nielsen, a woman who founded the world’s largest orangutan rehabilitation center in Borneo.  Through all of her dedication and hard work, Nyaru Menteng is the biggest orangutan sanctuary in the world, with over 600 young orangutans in its care. 148 of these animals have been released and another 100 currently are eligible for release as space becomes available. Each confiscated baby orangutan that they care for represents one adult female who was killed when her forest home was destroyed.

On the second day, we covered maternal care, nutrition, cardiac care and veterinary care. We heard how Utah’s Hogle Zoo taught their 9 year old female orangutan to mother her new little brother after their mother passed away.  We discussed pregnancies (normal and high-risk), births, and maternal care training for mothers expecting babies. Two zoos presented together on how they are helping other zoo’s monitor cardiac care.  The number one cause for death in orangutans in captivity is heart disease. Many zoos are training their orangutans to present their chest to their keeper and vet in order to take ultrasound pictures of their hearts.  It is a training technique that takes time, patience and trust.  It is very hard to explain to an orangutan that we are going to smear a gooey substance on their chest and then take a plastic stick that is hooked to a machine and place it on their chest!

The veterinary portion covered many topics such as parasite control, teeth cleaning, dry skin treatment, chronic respiratory disease, how to disinfect properly, cardiac care, weights, diet preparation and vitamins.

The third day consisted of management and husbandry practices. We discussed many topics, such as nesting behaviors, shifting, enrichment, training, growth charts for infants, exhibit design, introductions, and problem solving. This was our day to do a presentation about flexible social housing of orangutans.  We use this technique as a management tool that mimics what can happen in the wild.  If you spent a couple of days in front of the orangutan exhibit, you would see a different combination of animals out on exhibit. You might see Kelly and Rudi on exhibit together, then another day you may see Kelly and Indah together.  You might see them alone. (Orangutans in nature are semi-solitary and do spend time on their own, with the exception of mothers and infants.)


On the last day, topics included past, present and future management, and conservation. We learned about several zoos that are designing new exhibits and night houses.  We were honored to watch two presentations on two elderly female orangutans, Maggie and Daisy, who have helped their species because their keepers have shared knowledge about their husbandry. A presentation followed by a discussion of how zoos and keepers can educate their guests about orangutans in the wild was also held.

Going to workshops and conferences offer many educational opportunities for zoo staff.  No matter how experienced we are, there is always room to learn more.  Networking with peers offers time to discuss problems, spark ideas and get to know each other.  Discovering new products, husbandry tools, and enrichment and training techniques will only make the animal’s lives better.  Attending workshops has allowed the staff to learn new things which help to make each individual animal at every zoo enjoy a high quality of life, and that is the goal that all of us share.

Houston Zoo’s Dr Lauren Travels to Singapore to Save Elephants – Post # 3

One of our expert veterinarians is currently in Singapore working with other wildlife professionals to save elephants from a deadly virus. Embark on this journey with her as she writes about the efforts being made to eradicate the virus and protect Asian elephants around the world.

Here I am sharing the results of one of our smaller group discussions, where we itemized several things that need to get done

(In cab on way back from Singapore Night Safari):

Today I got to stand up in front of a crowd of 50 people from 10 different countries in Asia and explain how we have saved elephants from EEHV at the Houston Zoo. Veterinarians from Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Malaysia, India, Borneo, Singapore, and Sri Lanka attended the first day of our three  day workshop on the Asian EEHV Strategy meeting hosted by the Singapore Zoo. As I’ve mentioned earlier, elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) causes severe, fatal hemorrhagic disease in young Asian elephants. Today I presented background information on EEHV as well as details of the Houston Zoo’s intensive EEHV monitoring and treatment program. I presented along with Dr. Paul Ling of Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Willem Schaftenaar of the Rotterdam Zoo in the Netherlands, and Dr. Arun Zachariah of the department of Forest and Wildlife in Kerala,  India. We also heard case reports and field updates from Dr. Christopher Stremme in Indonesia, and  Dr. Chatchote Thitaram, from the Center of Excellence in Elephant Research and Education in Thailand. I learned that our Houston Zoo EEHV Protocol, which we update yearly, was used as an important resource at the First Meeting of the Thailand EEHV Task Force in October 2015. The treatment information in our protocol also contributed significantly to the survival of three young elephants in Thailand who became ill from EEHV in 2013-2015. Unfortunately, these survivors were in the minority, with 25 elephants in Thailand having died of EEHV since 2006, with more than half of the fatalities occurring since 2012.Dr. Ellen Wiedner shares information with range country veterinarians on elephant ICU care and elephant blood cells

In North America, most of the institutions that care for elephants have the same challenges and priorities, intensively managing smaller herds and focusing EEHV monitoring efforts on a handful of young elephants in their collections. Throughout these different countries in South East Asia, the situations and needs vary greatly from region to region. Some elephant camps or sanctuaries have full time veterinarians, and some have veterinarians visit regularly or only when an illness is noted. The logging elephants in Myanmar have strict government guidelines outlining their care.  The Elephant Transit Camp in Sri Lanka houses up to forty elephant orphans under 6 years old, eventually rehabilitating most and releasing them back the wild. The challenge we will face the next two days will be to take what we have learned about EEHV in North America, and the testing and treatment protocols we have developed at the Houston Zoo, and see how we can apply this all to the various situations across Asia, where an elephant’s blood sample may travel for three days at room temperature before it can make it to a lab, and where electricity to keep refrigerators working is not always reliable. It’s a thrill being able to share information from our EEHV Collaboration in Houston with these incredible veterinarians who face so many challenges (habitat destruction, fragmenting of wild herds, lack laboratories)  in the work of keeping their elephants safe and healthy. More to come!!

Houston Zoo Veterinarian Travels to Singapore to Save Elephants – Post #2

One of our expert veterinarians is currently in Singapore working with other wildlife professionals to save elephants from a deadly virus. Embark on this journey with her as she writes about the efforts being made to eradicate the virus and protect Asian elephants around the world.

Elephant Mating

Another elephant in the United Kingdom died of elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) earlier this week, this brings the total in the US and the UK up to 5 young elephant deaths in 2015,which is 5 elephants too many. We’ve learned so much about this deadly disease and yet we have so much left to learn. The first case of EEHV was identified in Washington DC at the National  Zoo in 1995. A young female elephant, Kumari, died suddenly and had some findings on necropsy (that’s an autopsy for animals) that the zoo community had never seen before: bleeding and bruising in most of her organs, blue discoloration of the tongue, fluid build up around the heart.  Veterinarians and pathologists eventually identified a herpes virus as the cause of Kumari’s death, finding the virus present within the cells that lined her blood vessels. These are called  endothelial cells, so the virus was named elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus. I grew up in a suburb outside of Washington DC and went to the National Zoo regularly when I was younger. When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to meet Kumari and her mother in person, shortly after she was born. I was in college when my parents told me she had died, and I didn’t realize that, 10 years later, the same disease would send me to places across the US as well as Copenhagen, Rotterdam, and Bangkok.elephant fam

I’m sitting at the gate here at IAH waiting to board my flight to Tokyo, then Singapore. It takes 24 hours of traveling to get to Singapore from Houston! I am looking forward to the start of the three day international EEHV workshop that is focusing on the Asian range countries where wild elephants still make their homes. I’ll be sharing more about the history of EEHV and my work in Singapore with other like minded veterinarians, researchers, conservationists and elephant specialists soon!!

Year of the Goat – Featuring Jasper

In honor of the Chinese animal zodiac, we’re celebrating the Year of the Goat! We have over 20 different goats representing 5 different breeds. In addition to their different colors, shapes, and sizes, all of our goats also express individual preferences and personalities!

To highlight our goats individual ‘flair’, we’ve decided to feature a different goat each month and share what makes each one so unique and lovable!


Are you familiar with the phrase ‘they have a face for radio?’  If you’ve ever heard those words uttered, you can be certain they weren’t said in reference to November’s goat of the month!  Jasper the Nigerian goat is so handsome that the zoo decided to use him as our model goat for multiple signs in the zoo! Jasper has a tricolored coat and a striking white blaze across his nose that helps him stand out in a herd of brown and tan. His adorable visage can be seen on several signs around the zoo, although you may not recognize him immediately because the signs feature his baby picture!Jaspersign

Jasper was actually born on the first of April in 2007, so I’m sure he hears a lot of April Fools jokes! This happens to be the same birthday as the zookeeper who trains Jasper! Kim has been a keeper in the Children’s Zoo for 8 years now and Jasper holds a special place in her heart because they can celebrate together each year; although Kim prefers chocolate cake and Jasper prefers peanut butter and jelly ‘cake.’Jaspertrain

Even though there are still several months before Jasper and Kim get to celebrate another birthday together, you can still come down to the Contact Area and pay Jasper a visit. He enjoys a good brushing session or a gentle scratch on the head. While you’re here be sure to keep your eyes peeled and see if you can’t spot a baby Jasper on graphics around the zoo.

Houston Zoo Veterinarian Travels to Singapore to Save Elephants – Post #1

One of our expert veterinarians is currently in Singapore working with other wildlife professionals to save elephants from a deadly virus. Embark on this journey with her as she writes about the efforts being made to eradicate the virus and protect Asian elephants around the world.

Asian Elephant Baylor-0489-1886

Baby elephants are dying in Sumatra. And Nepal. And Thailand. The cause is a virus called elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV), which causes a devastating hemorrhagic disease not unlike Ebola in people. I have the unique opportunity to travel to Singapore next week to contribute to a workshop that will focus on EEHV in Asian elephants in their native countries. Over three days, I’ll be working with 40 other scientists (veterinarians, researchers, conservationists, and elephant care specialists) representing more than 10 Asian countries, Europe, and the United States, on how to monitor for EEHV, how to treat it, how to better understand it, and how to help get resources organized and set protocols in place to try to save baby elephants throughout Asia.

The Houston Zoo re-affirmed its commitment to fighting EEHV in 2009 when it began its partnership with the Baylor College of Medicine, a neighbor right across the street in the medical center. Since then, we’ve been working closely with Dr. Paul Ling, a human herpesvirus expert with BCM’s Department of Molecular Virology and Microbiology. The synergy between Dr. Ling’s laboratory expertise and our zoo’s commitment to science and advanced elephant care has resulted in exponential forward strides in our understanding of this devastating virus. We still have so much to learn, but we are making progress. The most obvious evidence of this progress is that our two 5 year old elephants, Tupelo and Baylor, both survived EEHV infections in the summer and fall of 2014, not once but twice. Each. We here at the Houston Zoo are confident that it was our intensive EEHV monitoring protocols, and our constant vigilance and ability to act swiftly and aggressively, that got our two elephants through their potentially fatal infections.

And now, I have the humbling responsibility to take what we’ve learned here, from the Asian elephants under human care across North America, and share it with the myriad of veterinarians and conservationists across Asia who are doing their best to keep wild and orphaned elephants healthy. I look forward to sharing my journey with our many friends of the Houston Zoo over the next 2 weeks!!



Featured Members: The Gurbach 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 that deserves recognition. We’re thrilled to introduce you to our November Featured Members: The Gurbach Family.

We asked the Gurbach family to tell us about their experience at the Zoo and why they are members. This is what they had to say:gurbach2

“When our son, Riley, was six months, he really liked animals. We took him to the zoo, and he immediately fell in love with the Mandrills, laughing at their colorful bodies and trying to talk to them.  We upgraded our tickets to a membership that visit and starting planning his first birthday at the zoo.  He is now 7 and we still go almost every member Saturday and a few other times during the year.

Why is the zoo still a big part of our lives even after all of these years? Well, Riley still loves animals, and the peaceful atmosphere and special programs the zoo has to offer keeps us coming back. Also, we travel a lot around the country.  The zoo reciprocity program is an added benefit that keeps us members as well.  It offers discounted rates to other zoos in in other states all across the US. However, we can happily say that even after visiting zoos across the United States; we always want to return to “our” zoo. It is hands down the best zoo in the country!gurbach3

The Swap Shop is also one of the best programs at the Houston Zoo.  Riley’s has been trading since he could talk and loves to visit and learn from the staff.  Ms. Suzanne or Ms. “Zoo” as Riley called her when he was two, loves to see the bugs Riley brings in.  He has learned about the cuckoo wasp, praying mantis, moths/butterflies, and numerous other insects that he has traded for rocks to add to his rock and mineral collection.  We love that each zoo member treats us like extended family and enjoys imparting knowledge on every visit. They know us and our family when we walk in and always make an effort to show us that even though the zoo has thousands of visitors, we are important to them.  Also, we participate in  Zoo Boo, Zoobilee, and Zoo Lights every year that encourage Riley to learn about his environment and help animals all over the world.gurbach
After we fell in love with the Houston Zoo, we started to bring anyone that would come with us. Now most of our family and close friends are members as well, and we never know who we are
going to run into on Early Member Saturdays. The zoo has helped us build seven years of memories, and we know that there are many years of good memories to

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

Do Monkeys Make Good Pets?

Post by: Bailey Cheney

This is probably the most common question that I get as a primate keeper. It often comes up while I’m giving a keeper chat, or while I’m feeding a particularly cute Coquerel’s Sifaka. Despite all the times I hear this question, I never get tired of answering it. This is because the answer is so important to primates and their conservation in the wild. At the zoo, we like to say that conservation starts with education. If I brushed off the question with a callous answer, I would be missing the opportunity to share and educate our guests about how amazing our primates are and how they should remain with their own kind.

FeedingSo, the short answer to that question would be no, monkeys do not make good pets. However, it is a complicated “no” and requires elaboration.  I was recently given the opportunity to travel to Wildtracks in Belize, a wildlife rehabilitation and release center dedicating to ending the illegal pet trade.  It is home to more than 50 monkeys (Yucatan black howler monkeys, Geoffroy’s spider monkeys, and one white-faced capuchin) all of whom were confiscated as illegal pets by the government. All of these monkeys came to the center in conditions that ranged from bad to worse. Most were malnourished, many were sick, and there was even a spider monkey with five gunshot wounds from a poacher who killed her mother.

Wildtracks is fighting to give these monkeys a new life and a new home. They provide veterinary care to the individuals who need it, and are dedicated to giving them the skill sets needed to survive in the wild. They have a very effective methodology for rehabilitating monkeys. A few days before I arrived, Wildtracks got a call about an infant howler monkey who had just been confiscated by the local government. During my tour, Paul, the Director, allowed me into the quarantine room to see her. Before monkeys are placed with any other monkeys, they are kept in quarantine for at least 30 days so as not to spread any illnesses or parasites. They may stay longer than that if their medical conditions are severe. “Cho”, the infant howler, was considered to be a rather severe case.Kitchen

She was a sickly and tiny thing. Physically, she had extremely bad scabies, was malnourished and emaciated. What broke my heart, however, was her mental state.  She was obviously frightened and emotionally shut down. She would pull away from any type of contact and she was nervous when people were nearby. It took quite a bit of convincing for her to eat her food. Paul assigned a volunteer to be with Cho and get her used to a kind human presence so that she would accept medications and desperately needed milk formula. This was the first part of her rehabilitation process.

Like Cho, most monkeys that come into Wildtracks have received grossly neglectful care. Monkeys, although they do funny “human-like” behaviors, are not people. Unfortunately, usually the owners of the illegal pets are completely oblivious as to how to properly care for them and they feed them like you would a human infant. In some cases, they fail to provide even that kind of care. Monkeys have extremely specialized diet requirements that need evaluation according to what stage in life they are in, what their natural habitat is, and what type of produce is in season. Wildtracks takes all this into account and offers the infants and adults proper, fresh produce along with milk formula specifically suited to their nutritional needs.

After newly acquired monkeys are released from quarantine, a suitable group is found for them to live with. Because the goal of all Wildtracks animals is their eventual release back into the wild, they have to learn how to live in a group of their own kind. Primates are highly social creatures and require others of their own species to survive. This is another reason why monkeys make extremely bad pets. More often than not, they are kept as solitary pets and develop behavioral issues that are not normal for them and can often put them in danger. These developmental issues, along with isolation, can cause debilitating depression that can drastically affect their quality of life.  Pre-Release2

After the howler monkeys are placed with a group, they are assigned a caretaker. This caretaker acts as a slightly more hands-off maternal figure. They take them to the outside play-pens where the infants can learn social and survival skills. They also feed them, clean them, and break up any type of squabbles that get out of hand. After the infants get a little bit older, they are moved outside permanently and are weaned off of their maternal figure and human contact. The monkeys take this time to further solidify as a cohesive group. Eventually, they are put in pre-release, open-aired enclosures of around 1-3 acres. This teaches them how to stay in contact with each other over long distances, how to navigate wild vegetation, and how to move together as a group. When they are deemed ready physically and mentally, the howlers are taken to Fireburn, a federally protected preserve that is a natural habitat to howler monkeys. After their release, they are monitored and are still offered supplemental food sources. As time progresses, the howlers are slowly weaned off of those supplemental sources and become fully wild. Pre-Release

Generally, people who illegally own howlers only have them a few months or a year or two, because they begin to bite their owners and are then given away or rescued. As you can see, the rehabilitation process takes years. It requires a significantly long time to rectify the damage that only a few months of improper care can do to an infant or adult primate. This is why I always tell people that primates make bad pets. People can have the best intentions, but ignorance of their social and physiological requirements that primates desperately need always causes irreparable damage.

Recently, Wildtracks did a study to watch movement patterns of released groups of howlers in Fireburn. Results showed that they were thriving. They were able to find all of the monkeys that had been released, and, even found that wild howler monkeys were moving into the area. Best of all, a total of four Yucatan Black Howlers had been born to previously rehabilitated monkeys.

Personally, I’d rather see a howler monkey group happily living in a forest, than alone in someone’s home. I’d rather see them moving up in the trees, interacting with their family, and doing what happy, wild monkeys do in the wild: surviving and thriving in their natural habitat. No matter how cute they are, remember that primates do not make good pets. If you really want the best for them, admire them at a distance and let them be monkeys. Appreciate them for what they are: beautiful, incredible, intelligent, social, wild creatures.


Elephant Keepers Kim Klein and Andrea Pohlman are Saving Elephants

Written by Andrea Pohlman

Kim and Andrea

Welcome to your behind-the-scenes look at Houston Zoo staff conservation in action! Elephant Keepers Kim Klein and Andrea Pohlman are beginning a new project to help endangered Asian elephants, focusing on the population within Lao. The Houston Zoo provides this unique opportunity by way of the Staff Conservation Fund. This program is funded solely by Houston Zoo staff members, who are so passionate about the Zoo’s commitment to saving species that they donate a portion of each paycheck to help save animals all around the world. To date, the Staff Conservation Fund has supported 26 conservation efforts started by zoo staff, and our project is the newest to be approved!

For the past 4 years, The Elephant Conservation Center has focused on starting a new era for Asian elephant conservation within Lao. With over 400 elephants working within the Lao logging industry, the Center has become a rescue sanctuary for overworked elephants, a safe haven for pregnant and nursing elephants, and an educational facility for elephant caretakers and the local community.

At the forefront of the mission is Elephant Conservation Center biologist Anabel Lopez Perez. Anabel is currently working to expand the living area of the rescued elephants at the Center, and has secured a large area of land along Nam Tien Lake. Obtaining a large living space was Anabel’s primary goal for the rescued elephants, and the need to physically engage and mentally stimulate these intelligent animals within their new home is critical to their social development.
This is where Kim and Andrea can provide their collective 13 years of elephant care experience to help develop an exciting new enrichment program for the Center! Enrichment provides a stimulating environment where the elephants can develop social skills, encourage natural behaviors, engage and challenge higher level thinking, and provide physical activity. Kim will be traveling to Lao in October to work with Anabel and her staff on developing, building and evaluating the enrichment activities at the Center. Cultivating these skills among the Center’s staff will allow them to encourage family bonds within the rescued elephants by using enrichment techniques. It is Anabel’s long-term goal to release the rescued elephants back into the forests of Lao, so that they may integrate with wild elephants.

feeder picEmbarking on a journey halfway across the Earth means that many of our supplies and tools will come from the local markets within Lao. Over the coming weeks, Anabel and her staff will be collecting firehose for constructing a variety of toys and feeders, used tires and PVC tubes, as well as heavy-duty chain for hanging the enrichment. Items that are strong and durable enough for elephants can be difficult to find, so Kim will be transporting almost 200 lbs of supplies with her! Clevices, nuts and bolts and swivels will be packed in Kim’s suitcase, all made from galvanized steel. Galvanized steel is not easy to find in Lao, but is imperative to long lasting and safe elephant enrichment. Another item that Anabel has had trouble locating are soccer balls, so Kim will be bringing several along from the US.

Supporting the Elephant Conservation Center in Lao is one of the many ways that the Houston Zoo is working to save species all over the world. With an estimated population of 40,000 animals left in the wild, Asian elephants are an endangered species. Human-elephant conflict, loss of habitat, poaching and removing individuals from the wild for use as work animals have all caused a sharp decline within the population. Through community education, securing protected habitat, and the rescue and re-habilitation of elephants throughout Lao, the Elephant Conservation Center is actively working to protect and grow the local population, which is currently estimated to be about 700 wild individuals.

Over the coming months, Kim and Andrea will share details of Kim’s time in Lao and her experiences with the elephants and staff at the Elephant Conservation Center. If you would like to learn more about the Elephant Conservation center in Lao, you can visit

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