Guest Blogger Carolyn Jess Talks Reusable Water Bottles

We have invited Carolyn Jess back to help us out as guest blogger in 2015 with a focus on native wildlife. Jess is a 14 year old student who has agreed to be our special guest blogger about wildlife conservation. Carolyn was awarded the Alban Heiser Conservation Award in 2014, presented to her by Jack Hanna. If you would like to contact Carolyn or have comments, you may send them to conservation@houstonzoo.org.


I am sure you have heard the story that if you took all the plastic water bottles thrown away in one year, they could circle the earth four times! If you stop and actually think about that, it’s kind of scary and overwhelming. Will we be drowning in a pile of plastic bottles, trying to keep our heads above the top? What about our sea turtles, birds, and whales who mistake these bottles, floating in our oceans, as jellyfish or other food? Humans and animals alike are facing a real challenge with plastic pollution.

But, plastic is all around us, as I type my school papers and click my mouse, I have plastic at the tip of my fingers. We need it, but what will happen to all those bottles and other plastics that are not recycled? They have to go somewhere and we are not recycling them fast enough to really keep up with what we are using. It takes about 450 years for one bottle to decompose. So where do we go from here?

 

reusable water bottleI know it is important to recycle my plastic bottles, which is a step in the right direction, but it’s time to take that action a little bit further. How many plastic water bottles could I save by using a refillable thermos or reusable water bottle? If I do the math and figure that if someone drank about three bottles of water a day, that is 21 bottles in one week. If that person used a reusable water bottle for a full month, they would have saved about 84 plastic bottles, not to mention the money saved by not having to buy bottled water in the first place. What if I got all my friends to try this water bottle challenge, or even my school? That is a whole lot of plastic not being used. I did some research on the amount of plastic water bottles thrown each year. The number was much higher than I anticipated. It is estimated that we throw away 35 billion plastic water bottles every year.

Plastic is so convenient and easy to use, but eventually, we are going to run out of room in our oceans and our land and have a sea of plastic. Take the challenge of not using plastic water bottles for a week. Use a thermos or refillable water bottle instead. With the money you saved from not buying water, you can take yourself out to the Houston Zoo to see the animals you are helping out in the wild!

Celebrate World Lion Day

Carolyn-Jess-2014-ResizeWe have invited Carolyn Jess back to help us out as guest blogger in 2015 with a focus on native wildlife. Jess is a 14 year old student who has agreed to be our special guest blogger about wildlife conservation. Carolyn was awarded the Alban Heiser Conservation Award in 2014, presented to her by Jack Hanna. If you would like to contact Carolyn or have comments, you may send them to conservation@houstonzoo.org


This summer seemed to go by extremely fast, which, like it or not, leads into going back to school very soon. Just before I head back into the classroom, I am feeling the need for one more celebration before I hit the books and my studying. What is there to celebrate when there is so much back to school mayhem? World Lion Day of course! World Lion Day is on August 10th and is a great way to celebrate our lions everywhere in the world. These majestic creatures symbolize strength, honor, and bravery. I think back on books I’ve read and movies I’ve watched with lions in them, and all of them use lions to suggest strength and courage. Our lions in Africa and India are strong and courageous, but they need our help in a battle that they are continually fighting. This is a battle that is truly hard for them to win, but all of us can help them to overcome this struggle. One struggle the lions are facing is called human-wildlife conflict. Basically, as more land is taken away from the lions’ territory for agricultural development and as populations increase, more human –wildlife conflict is occurring. This seems to be a difficult problem to fix, but there is a solution that has proven to be successful. Lion Guardians, men who are in charge of protecting lions, are helping to increase the lions’ population and intervening in positive ways. Lion guardians help with building protective fences around livestock, help find lost and wandering livestock, warn farmers when lions are spotted on their land, and are creating an awareness of the lion’s importance for the people who live in these areas. These men use what is called “conflict mitigation” and they have been successful in helping their communities gain a greater understanding of carnivores.

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The Houston Zoo supports projects which provide training and resources for the Lion Guardians. These projects provide the materials and critical resources needed to the villagers in these areas that provide hope for our lions. Without these groups, we could one day only see these lions in the books and movies and not in the wild.
Let’s celebrate the importance of our world’s lions and create awareness for them. August 10th is the lions’ special day, so why not visit them at the zoo?

Learn about all the organizations that the Houston Zoo works with to save lions in the wild and read about the 2015 Feed Your Wildlife Conservation Gala on October 14th 2015.  You can help us protect lions in Africa.  This event will support a regional effort called Pride: Lion Conservation Alliance, that is finding solutions to save lions from extinction across East Africa.

Guest Blogger Carolyn Jess is Back to Talk About Endangered Species Day

Carolyn-Jess-2014-ResizeWe have invited Carolyn Jess back to help us out as guest blogger in 2015 with a focus on native wildlife. Jess is a 13 year old student who has agreed to be our special guest blogger about wildlife conservation. Carolyn was awarded the Alban Heiser Conservation Award in 2014, presented to her by Jack Hanna. If you would like to contact Carolyn or have comments, you may send them to conservation@houstonzoo.org.

 


Wouldn’t it be great if there was a whole day dedicated to endangered species around the world? Wait, there IS such a thing!  This Friday is Endangered Species Day – the whole day is for these animals to get  the attention they need and to create awareness about who they are, where they live, and why they are endangered.  Endangered Species Day is celebrated  in the United States every year on the 3rd Friday in May.  Now that you know there is a special day to celebrate endangered animals, here are some ways to celebrate.  First, you can talk to a teacher or librarian to see if they could help support you in getting the word out.  You could have some informational booths set up at school about different endangered species around the world and reasons why they are in decline.  You could also get a club at your school to sponsor a movie night and show one of the Disney Nature movies.  As a fundraiser, you could sell popcorn and drinks and send that money to the Zoo or Wildlife Refuge since they work with many of these endangered animals.

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You could also do something as simple as making a few changes in your home to help these species.  Practicing using less water when you bathe or shower and brush your teeth would be a great idea.  The Texas Blind Salamander is endangered due to the overuse of water in the aquifers that they live in San Marcos.

Another idea would be to volunteer at a wildlife refuge or wildlife rescue center.  These places could really use the help and they work directly with many of these endangered animals.  You could volunteer just once a week and truly make a difference for the wildlife in your area.

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There is also a pretty easy way to get the word out really fast – social media.  You can advertise this  day of awareness with pictures of your favorite endangered animal or captions that tell about  Endangered Species Day.

One last thing you can do is to go out to your local wildlife refuge, Zoo, aquarium or other place that works with wildlife on Endangered Species Day.  Most of these places will have events and activities planned out to spread the word about these animals and what you can do to help them.   Maybe next Endangered Species Day, you can be the one handing out information and teaching others about what they can do to help our animals in the wild.

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Guest Blogger Carolyn Jess is Back to Talk About Ocelots

Carolyn-Jess-2014-ResizeWe have invited Carolyn Jess back to help us out as guest blogger in 2015 with a focus on native wildlife. Jess is a 13 year old student who has agreed to be our special guest blogger about wildlife conservation. Carolyn was awarded the Alban Heiser Conservation Award in 2014, presented to her by Jack Hanna. If you would like to contact Carolyn or have comments, you may send them to conservation@houstonzoo.org.

 


If you have read my other blogs, you can see that ocelots mean a lot to me.  They are beautiful yet elusive and are quickly disappearing from their natural scrub land habitat in south Texas.  Habitat loss and highways are making this mysterious animal almost nonexistent.  Last year, two ocelots were hit by cars on highway 100.  The concrete barrier between the roads caused the ocelots to get trapped and confused.  The loss of these ocelots is devastating because it  diminishes the breeding population and shrinks the genetic diversity. But, I have some exciting news!  The Texas Department of Transportation is planning to install FOUR highway wildlife crossings for ocelots this summer.  These crossings are built to go under the roads so the ocelots can travel safely without crossing the busy streets.  The barriers work by having fencing up to block the animals from crossing the highways and funnels the animal down to the tunnel under the road.  This was done in Florida to help their panther population and has been successful.

Hearing this news and knowing that people are trying to make a difference for our Texas ocelots shows that there IS hope for our ocelots and people are aware of their situation.  This is a huge step in ocelot conservation.  This is how conservation works!!

By teaching and telling others about our endangered species, you can get the knowledge out there.  That knowledge spreads quickly!  Texas Department of Transportation is helping the ocelot stand a chance at surviving and YOU can too!  Spread the word about endangered species like the ocelot.  There are many ways you can help, but being aware is the very first step.  Next, find something you can do to help.  I had my annual fundraising for the ocelot and just sent my donations over to researchers at CKWRI – they work directly with the ocelots in south Texas.  You can even adopt an ocelot  on the Laguna Atascosa website. Be an advocate for the animals.

Guest Blogger Carolyn Jess Talks About Houston Zoo Crew

Carolyn-Jess-2014-ResizeWe have invited Carolyn Jess back to help us out as guest blogger in 2015 with a focus on native wildlife. Jess is a 13 year old student who has agreed to be our special guest blogger about wildlife conservation. Carolyn was awarded the Alban Heiser Conservation Award in 2014, presented to her by Jack Hanna. If you would like to contact Carolyn or have comments, you may send them to conservation@houstonzoo.org.

 




If you are between the ages of 13 to 17 and have a passion for animals, then the Houston  Zoo’s teen volunteer program, Zoo Crew, might be the perfect  opportunity for you!  Zoo Crew is a volunteer program where you get a chance to learn more about animals, how to protect them, and the day-to-day operation of the Houston Zoo.  You first have to apply for a position and go through an interview process.  It is great experience and helps to guide you in the right direction for your future career.

When you apply, there are three different areas you can choose from, which are:  theater, education and Camp Zoofari.  After you turn in your paperwork by the due date and go through the interview process, you will get emailed whether you were accepted and which position you got.  You then choose the three weeks you can work.  Zoo Crew starts June 1st and ends August 7th.  It is very important to show up for your assigned weeks because lots of people, and animals, are depending on you.

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When you work Zoo Crew, everyday is always different!  Whether you are working with the younger campers, teaching the public about animal facts, or performing skits for Zoo guests to teach about conservation, every day is something new.  I worked in Theatrical Interpretation and had a lot of fun.  No matter the job, there is so much information to learn and to pass on to everyone you come in contact with.  I would love to tell you a typical day at Zoo Crew, but there really is no typical day.

I will be honest, the first day I was very nervous.  I applied for Theatrical Interpretation because I have experience in theater.  Despite my experience, I was still was not quite sure what to expect.  But, the group leaders were there to help with the daily schedule and expectations.  My three weeks that I worked were lots of fun and went by way too fast for me.  I was able to learn lots about the animals and I also made some really good friends those weeks.  Most importantly, my group was able to teach a lot of people about animal conservation.

Zoo Crew is an experience that any teen wanting to help animals should try.  It helps you to learn not only about animals and what it takes to operate a zoo, but you learn more about yourself too.  You get more confidence in your abilities, make new  friends, and Zoo Crew helps you learn more about a zoological career.

Applications for Zoo Crew are online now! You can find the Zoo Crew Application here.  Good luck and I hope to see you at Zoo Crew.

Guest Blogger Carolyn Jess Explains How You Can Help Save Animals in the Wild

We have invited Carolyn Jess back to help us out as guest blogger in 2014 with a focus on native wildlife. Jess is a 13 year old student who has agreed to be our special guest blogger about wildlife conservation. We first met Carolyn in October 2011 when she came out to the Zoo to meet our special guest Jack Hannah. If you would like to contact Carolyn or have comments, you may send them to conservation@houstonzoo.org.

The holidays are quickly approaching and soon you will start buying gifts for loved ones.  Remember to include the ones that you love at the Houston Zoo, or the animals out in the wild! I’m sure that if these animals could ask for something for Christmas, it would be for you to remember them and to spread the word about the reasons why they are endangered.   There are many great  people and organizations that are working hard to protect the animals that are struggling to survive out in the wild.

You’ve heard of the Houston Toad.  It actually used to live in Houston, but is now only found in East Central parts of Texas.  It is endangered due to habitat loss.  Its habitat is being cleared for housing or other buildings.  Sometimes their woodland areas are being turned into man-made, permanent ponds, which actually is not good for the Houston Toad. When that happens, the toads have a greater chance of being eaten by other predators, such as snakes.  The ponds also increase the competition for food sources for the Houston Toad. The Houston Zoo works very hard to increase the population of the Houston Toad by breeding and then releasing the toads.

ocelot-bloggThen there is my favorite, the Texas ocelot.  This cat  once roamed plentifully in south Texas. Their beautiful coat blends in perfectly with the shrub land they like to live on, but there are not many of these beautiful cats left here in Texas.  They don’t have a lot of land left to roam on due to habitat loss and more roads are being built around their habitat.  Scientists at Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute radio collar these cats and study their movements.  Work is being done to build fences to keep the ocelot from getting injured on the roads, but these cats have a long way to go still.  It is estimated that there are less than 100 ocelots left in South Texas.

apcThe Attwater’s Prairie Chicken is an endangered Texas species that once roamed freely on the Texas coastal prairies.  In the early 1900s, there were about 1 million Attwater’s Prairie Chicken and now there are less than 100.  This too, is due to habitat loss.  This bird, which is not actually a chicken, but a grouse, needs prairie to live on.  Due to new buildings and construction, much of the prairie land is just not there anymore.  There is much work being done to help this species come back, but they need your help.

The last one I would like to remind you about is the Texas Blind Salamander.  This endangered animal lives in the Edward’s Aquifer area around San Marcos. There used to be plenty of these interesting salamanders around, but due to a massive population increase in that area, water gets used up faster and the groundwater levels fall.  Along with falling water levels, more pollution is being introduced.  The salamanders need clean water to live in.   Dr. Glenn Longley, at Texas State University, monitors the Blind Salamander population and conducts research to help the salamander’s population.

These are some of my favorite animals that I  like to help.  There are many ways you can help these animals as well.  Just being aware of these animals is the first step to saving them. Visiting the Houston Zoo is another step.  If you would like to give these animals some Christmas cheer, you can donate to The Houston Zoo. They are working now to increase the populations of all these animals and they are working directly with the Attwater’s Prairie Chicken and the Houston Toad.   If you would like to help the ocelot, you can donate to the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute or if you’d rather help out the Texas Blind Salamander, you can get in touch with Texas State University and contact The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment.

Guest Blogger Carolyn Jess Talks Bushmeat

We have invited Carolyn Jess back to continue to help us out as guest blogger in 2014 with a focus on native wildlife. Jess is a 13 year old student who has agreed to be our special guest blogger about wildlife conservation and is currently working on the Houston Zoo Crew. If you would like to contact Carolyn or have comments, you may send them to conservation@houstonzoo.org.

I never have heard of the Bushmeat Crisis until I visited the Houston Zoo this past weekend. I was on my lunch break for Zoo Crew training and was looking around at everything I could. I got to the primate area and read some of the signs, and that’s where I found out about the Bushmeat Crisis.

In Africa, the forests are also called “the bush”.  The animals that live in the bush, many of them endangered animals, are killed so that they can be eaten.  Chimpanzee, elephants and gorillas are just a few of the animals that are killed to eat.   It is a big industry now and people in Africa are making a lot of money from selling bushmeat, so much that when these people hunt, they are not thinking about just killing a few animals, but all that they can shoot.

That’s not all though.  Once the animal is shot, there is often a baby left behind without their parent.  These animals are taken as well and sold as pets or sold off to another place.  These animals usually die on their way to the market due to the containers they are shipped in.  The containers are often too small or don’t have holes for oxygen to get in.  Because of this, there has been a number of sanctuaries  opened to help take care of these orphaned babies and the workers help raise awareness of this problem.

These animals deserve better than this.  There are alternative food sources, but this meat is cheap and in big demand.  There are many things you can do to help stop this horrible crisis.  First of all, become aware of the problem and tell others.  You can visit the Bushmeat Crisis Task Force website to get information sent to you.  You can also get your senators to help.  Jane Goodall has a website for you to type in your name and address and a  letter will be sent to your senator.  The senators can support the African governments with making stricter laws for poaching and owning illegal animals.  You can also support a wildlife refuge or wildlife sanctuary in Africa. If people are aware of this problem, then we can all try to help.  If no one knows or reads about it, the problem will go on and our wildlife in Africa will disappear.

Guest Blogger Carolyn Jess Talks Recycling Cell Phones

We have invited Carolyn Jess back to help us out as guest blogger in 2014 with a focus on native wildlife. Jess is a 13 year old student who has agreed to be our special guest blogger about wildlife conservation. We first met Carolyn in October 2011 when she came out to the Zoo to meet our special guest Jack Hannah. If you would like to contact Carolyn or have comments, you may send them to conservation@houstonzoo.org.

For the second year, my school is participating in the Action For Apes cell phone recycling challenge.  Schools and businesses are invited to take action and enter this competition.  The goal of the program is to recycle as many old cell phones as you can.  The top prize is a really cool painting done by the chimps here at the Houston Zoo.  Rasco Middle School, where I went to school last year, won the painting and it is still hanging up in the hallway.  That is great for Rasco, but now I need a chimp painting for the hallway at Lake Jackson Intermediate.  I am hoping my school will step up and accept this challenge.
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Whether my school wins or loses, the real winners are the chimps and apes that live in the African Congo.   That is where the mineral coltan is mined.  Coltan is the material in electronics that holds electric charges.  The coltan is really being mined hard on the boundary of the Kahuzi  Biega National Park.  There, the gorilla population has been cut in half due to the mining of coltan.  The forest there that was once lush and green is being torn down and dug up.  The amount of coltan that is being exported every year is increasing largely.

Coltan is mined kind of like gold was mined back in the 1800s.  Large holes are dug, layers of dirt are put into screens, and then water is added to wash away the small pieces.  What’s left are the chunks of coltan.

We can help though.  If we reduce the need for coltan by recycling our old phones and electronics, we reduce the amount of mining that needs to be done.  You can help reduce the need for mining coltan by joining the Action for Apes challenge.  Encourage your school or business to take part.  You can also take your old phones to the Houston Zoo to recycle.  (Or you can give them to me!) Even if my school does not win the painting, we have won part of this battle for the Congo by teaching people about this problem.  Be a hero and recycle your electronics today.

Guest Blogger Carolyn Jess Spots Whooping Cranes

We have invited Carolyn Jess back to help us out as guest blogger in 2013 with a focus on native wildlife. Jess is a 12 year old student who has agreed to be our special guest blogger about wildlife conservation. We first met Carolyn in October 2011 when she came out to the Zoo to meet our special guest Jack Hannah. If you would like to contact Carolyn or have comments, you may send them to conservation@houstonzoo.org.

Recently,  I was able to participate in the Audubon Christmas Bird Count at the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge with my Junior Naturalist group.    We volunteer every year to help identify and check off the birds we see.  It was very cold that day, but we were all prepared and had lots of layers of clothes on along with our binoculars, scope, bird guides, and checklists.  We were able to find almost 30 different species of birds in our 15 mile radius.

The Audubon Society always needs volunteers to help with the bird counts.  It’s a fun family activity that you can take part in during the holidays.   Another fun family activity to do over the Christmas break is to go to Rockport to see the whooping cranes.  There are a lot of tour boats and charter boats that take families and groups out to go see the whooping cranes.

The whooping crane is the tallest North American bird and grows to be five feet tall and have a wingspan of seven and a half feet.  They are white with a red head and black wing tips.  They mate for life and produce one chick per year.    Whooping cranes breed in Canada and migrate down to the Texas Gulf Coast in the winter months.  The whooping crane is an endangered species – there are only about 300 of them left.  In the 1940s, there were only about 20 whooping cranes.  The 300 we have now are all descendants of those original 20.  Their population was being wiped out by hunting and loss of habitat.  Hopefully, with our conservation efforts, we will continue to increase their numbers.   If you would like to help out the whooping crane, you can visit the International Crane Foundation.  They list ways you can help this endangered species survive.

Guest Blogger: Carolyn Jess Talks About Her Time at Camp

We have invited Carolyn Jess back to help us out as guest blogger in 2013 with a focus on native wildlife. Jess is a 12 year old student who has agreed to be our special guest blogger about wildlife conservation. We first met Carolyn in October 2011 when she came out to the Zoo to meet our special guest Jack Hannah. If you would like to contact Carolyn or have comments, you may send them to conservation@houstonzoo.org.

I just finished my Keeper Training Camp at the Houston Zoo.  If you have not taken one of the Camp Zoofari sessions before, you should try one.  My class went to a lot of the keeper talks and heard about animal diets, how they animals are trained, and what a day for an animal keeper is like.  One of the most interesting things I got to watch was the kookaburras eat. If you aren’t familiar with how this species feeds, you should definitely try to find some videos online.

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While I was at camp, I noticed a sign up about palm oil.  I had not heard much about palm oil before and looked it up this weekend.  Palm oil is in about 50% of items sold in grocery stores.  It is used in chocolate candy, many snack foods, and ice cream.  Basically, huge amounts of rainforests are being cut down and replaced with palm plantations.  That doesn’t sound too bad, right? Wrong!  The animals that are used to living in the rainforest can’t survive on palm plantations.  These animals are losing their homes and starving when their rainforest home is taken away.  This sounds similar to our ocelot and blind salamander.  These animals are losing their homes because of humans.

The first thing you can do to help the rainforest animals is to be aware of this problem and tell your friends.  Write to your favorite snack food company and ask them to not use palm oil from destructed forests.  If they get enough letters, they may listen.  You want to buy from companies who are in the RSPO – Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.

This is a problem that has some very bad consequences.  If we work together, animals and our environment will be better off.  We can’t wait until it is too late.

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