Houston Zoo Executive Joins Board of Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International

Houston Zoo president and CEO, Lee Ehmke, has been appointed to the board of directors for a prestigious international gorilla conservation organization, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.

© Stephanie Adams, Houston Zoo

The Fossey Fund is dedicated to saving critically endangered gorillas in Africa, through daily protection, scientific study, education, and helping local communities.

As a member of the Board, Ehmke will support the work of the Fossey Fund and provide mission-based leadership and strategic governance.

“I am honored to join this esteemed group of conservation professionals to continue furthering their work to save gorillas in the wild,” said Ehmke. “I am especially interested in helping to find ways to foster greater communication and synergies between the multiple organizations involved in the various aspects of gorilla conservation and related community support.”

Ehmke has had a career where gorillas and Central African conservation have been a constant, from years at Wildlife Conservation Society designing and building Bronx Zoo’s Congo Gorilla Forest and working with the Uganda Wildlife Authority and USAID to help launch gorilla tourism in Uganda, to his current role with the Houston Zoo.

The Houston Zoo has been protecting gorillas in the wild for the past 10 years by providing training, funding and resources for three other gorilla conservation projects in Central Africa-–Gorilla Doctors, Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education (GRACE), and Conservation Heritage-Turambe–and is home to a renowned gorilla habitat.

The Houston Zoo connects communities with animals to inspire action to save wildlife and is committed to being a leader in the global effort to save animals in the wild.

Learn more about how the Houston Zoo works with international gorilla partners.

Bears Move into New Beautiful Habitat

Next week, we’re opening a completely redesigned home for our two North American black bears. The Hamill Foundation Black Bear Exhibit is the first project to be completed thanks to generous donor support of the Zoo’s Keeping Our World Wild centennial capital campaign. This expansion more than triples the space for five-year-old black bears, Belle and Willow, to explore. The beloved duo got their first look at their new home on Monday, and starting Friday, Aug. 31, guests will be able to experience the world of bears and get nose-to-nose with them through a brand-new glass wall. The expanded habitat was designed to give the bears the highest quality of life and includes engaging features throughout like a revamped water feature, specially created climbing structures, and ample shade.

The Houston Zoo saves bears in the wild by participating in state protection planning in Texas. The team also leads efforts to help save bears in the wild through promotion of paper reduction and the use of recycled paper products. Bears need trees to live, and by using less paper or recycled-content paper products, fewer trees are cut down.

Belle and Willow came to the Houston Zoo in 2013 from California where they were being fed by patrons of a restaurant and appeared to be orphaned. US Fish and Wildlife rescued them and asked the Houston Zoo if it could offer them a home. Belle is often seen playing in the pool and rough-housing with Willow. She is the larger of the two and tends to prefer naps. Willow is the mastermind behind the brawn of Belle. She is smaller and seems to like engaging with her enrichment. You can often see her working through a puzzle feeder.

June’s Featured Members: The Buhr 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 June’s Featured Members: the Buhr family.


We love being members of the Houston Zoo! My daughter Mikaela and I received a family membership as a gift when we first moved to Houston 5 years ago and we’ve renewed it ever since. We definitely make good use of our membership, as we usually visit the zoo three to four times a month. Sometimes these visits are only an hour or two and sometimes they take an entire afternoon, but no matter how long we are there, we always have a great time.

One of our favorite things about the zoo is the large selection of keeper chats and we try to time our visits to attend as many as possible. We have learned about llamas, cheetahs, bats, kookaburras, mole rats, buzzards, tarantulas and more in the past month. The keepers are enthusiastic about their animals and are always willing to answer any questions, whether it’s during an official chat or when you approach them in the zoo. We especially like learning the little things about the animals that you wouldn’t know otherwise, like their names, favorite foods, and quirks that make them so unique.

If I had to choose two main things that keep us coming back to the zoo so frequently, it’s the staff and the zoo’s mission. The Houston Zoo staff is comprised of amazing people that enjoy their jobs and are passionate about the animals. We’re on a first name basis with staff at the entrance gates and Swap Shop, as well as some of the keepers and they always have a smile on their faces. We’ve never had a bad experience with the staff in the years we’ve been there and, in fact, several have gone above and beyond to make our visits even better.

The zoo’s mission is near and dear to our hearts. Animal and environmental conservation is something we care about, and it’s great to see an organization that not only says it’s passionate it but follows through. The support and training that the zoo provides for organizations directly impacting endangered species is important and I’m happy to know that my membership money contributes to that. I’m also impressed with the zoo’s recycling program and their commitment to have all of their food provided by local sourcing.

The 2018 Sea Lion Save Our Species Event: The Who, What, When, Where, and Why!

Written by sea lion keeper, Anastasia

Come one, come all, to the Spotlight on Species party here at the Houston Zoo! On Sat., June 9th, from 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m., join the sea lion department and learn more about sea lions and how we can better take care of our oceans with fun activities, special sea lion presentations, and zoo-wide World’s Ocean Day festivities.

To commemorate your visit make sure to check out the merchandise table before you leave.  Our sea lions are helping make this Spotlight on Species memorable, so we made one of a kind painted (by sea lions!) reusable canvas bags and pilsner glasses that you could take home. The sea lion team banded together and has created some crafts as well, in order to raise money to support causes near and dear to our hearts.

All proceeds from the merchandise sold will be going to two separate causes: Houston Zoo partner Dr. Marcy Uhart and her marine debris efforts in Argentina and Surfside Jetty cleanup.

A conservationist based in Argentina, Dr. Uhart works with the University of California Davis to protect a variety of marine animals such as sea turtles, sea lions, sea birds, and whales. A portion of the proceeds from the sea lion Spotlight on Species event will be donated to Dr. Uhart to help her host a behavior change workshop for the local communities. In addition to providing training, funding will assist in being able track their results from data collected, all in an effort to reduce marine debris on the beaches of Argentina.

The Surfside Jetty cleanup is a conservation project right in our own backyard, started in 2014 by the Houston Zoo sea lion team. Each month the sea lion team leads a jetty clean up at the Surfside Beach jetty, Texas. With the help of other staff members and volunteers, we have collected approximately 260 pounds of fishing line (monofilament), 1192 pounds of recyclables, and over 2000 pounds of trash! The trash and recyclables get disposed of properly, and the monofilament gets taken back to the zoo where it is sorted and cleaned. Once cleaned, the line gets passed on to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), who ensures that the monofilament is recycled. The profits from our SOS event designated for this local conservation effort will provide more supplies and tools to help keep our beaches clean and our wildlife healthy. We are hoping to see this project grow and involve the community…stay tuned!

 

By visiting the Houston Zoo, YOU are helping to save animals in the wild, and making memories that will last a lifetime.

On behalf of our sea lions here at the Houston Zoo, as well as ALL of their marine animal counterparts in the wild…we hope to see you here!!

 

32 Sea Turtles Released on World Turtle Day

This morning, 11 rescued sea turtles concluded their final rehabilitation test, and swam out in to the Gulf of Mexico. Our partners at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) conducted a public release of the sea turtles on Stewart Beach in Galveston, surrounded by more than a hundred eager watchers. Later in the morning, 21 green sea turtles were released into Christmas Bay.

Many of the 32 turtles released were given medical care by the Houston Zoo veterinary clinic staff. The zoo provides medical care to nearly 80 wild sea turtles each year!

Enormous Mother’s Day Announcement

Asian Elephant Approaching Conclusion of Two Year Pregnancy

The Houston Zoo has made a HUGE Mother’s Day announcement – Asian elephant Tess is pregnant, and after a two-year gestation, the 35-year-old Asian elephant will give birth this summer.

Tess is one of the Houston Zoo’s nine Asian elephants, and mother to Tucker (13) and Tupelo (7). Zoo officials are optimistic that this pregnancy is advancing normally and on schedule. Tess has received nearly two years of prenatal care by the zoo’s elephant team and four veterinarians with regular ultrasounds and blood work.  The zoo team will continue to monitor Tess as she progresses into the labor process, indicated by a hormonal change in her daily blood analysis.

Tess will give birth in the McNair Asian Elephant Habitat cow barn under the supervision of her keepers and veterinary staff. After delivery, she and the calf will undergo post-natal exams and spend several days bonding behind the scenes. The elephant team looks forward to watching the pair share several key moments that will prepare them for their public debut. Nursing, communicating with mom, and hitting weight goals are important milestones for a growing baby elephant.

Last July, the zoo welcomed Joy, born weighing 305-pounds to mother Shanti. Joy now weighs nearly 1,300-pounds, and is thriving under the care of her mother, aunties and animal care team as she approaches her first birthday.

Just by visiting the Houston Zoo, guests help save baby elephants and their families in the wild. A portion of each zoo admission and membership goes straight to protecting wild elephants in Asia. The Bornean elephant population has increased since the Houston Zoo started its wildlife saving support in 2007. The Houston Zoo provides funds for elephant conservationist, Nurzhafarina “Farina” Othman and her team in Asia, to put tracking collars on wild elephants. The collars are used to follow wild elephants, collecting valuable movement data that is used to inform future protection for the elephants as they travel through the forests. Farina also works with farmers that grow and produce palm oil, offering her guidance in elephant-friendly practices on their farm lands.

Orangutan Super Mom and Ambassador

Written by the Primate Team

As we celebrate the moms in our lives, this Mother’s Day, we will be celebrating our own special mom here at the Houston Zoo, Cheyenne the orangutan.

This Mother’s Day, Cheyenne will be celebrating her 46th birthday.  Cheyenne was born at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado on May 13, 1972.  Cheyenne came to the Houston Zoo in 1993. She exhibits high intelligence and a complex personality.

Cheyenne’s nurturing side was not fully appreciated until she became a foster mother.  A hybrid between the two species of orangutan, Bornean and Sumatran, she has no kids of her own, but when in 1999, a 2-year-old orangutan infant named Luna Bela needed a foster mother, primate staff immediately considered Cheyenne.  After gradual introductions between Cheyenne and the infant, Luna was allowed the opportunity to enter Cheyenne’s room.  The new mother gently coaxed Luna through the door and waited patiently for her approach, and they were together until Luna grew up to be a successfully socialized orangutan.

Since Cheyenne’s first experiences with being a foster mother, she has successfully fostered 2 more orangutan infants, Elok, who now lives at the Oklahoma City Zoo and Indah, who now lives at the Sacramento Zoo.

In 2011, Cheyenne once again became a foster mother to her fourth infant, Aurora. At the tender age of 9 months, Cheyenne’s youngest foster infant, entered her life.  Cheyenne has shown a whole new depth to her level of mothering with this infant, and allowed the infant to ride on her back, climb onto her head, and sleep in her nest at night. Aurora, who is 7-years-old, can still be found sleeping in the same nest at night with Cheyenne and she depends on Cheyenne helping her enter and exit the exhibit.

As we are celebrating Cheyenne and all our moms, it is the perfect day to celebrate and pay tribute to orangutan mother’s too.

Each year more and more orangutans, moms and infants, are killed or left homeless as their native rainforest habitat is cleared for palm oil plantations. On Sunday, May 13, 2018, the Houston Zoo will be participating in M.O.M., Missing Orangutan Mothers, campaign. To help raise awareness for the protection of these amazing creatures, primate keepers will be on hand at 12:00PM and 3:30PM, to share information, stories and tips on how our small actions can make a big difference in orangutan’s lives.

Please join us on May 13, 2108 at 12:00PM to wish Cheyenne a happy 46th birthday and Happy Mother’s Day!!

Zoo Raises Record Funds at Annual Ball

2018 Zoo Ball

On Saturday, May 5, Zoo Ball: An Evening in Borneo Presented by Phillips 66 rose vital funds for the Houston Zoo. At this year’s black-tie gala, more than 600 Houstonians celebrated the rhythm of the rainforest and raised a record-breaking $1.12 million dollars to support the zoo. This year’s event, hosted by chairs Peggy Kostial and Macey Reasoner Stokes, was themed to highlight the zoo’s work on the front-lines in Borneo to protect its precious wildlife, and welcomed special guest, Dr. Nurzhafarina Othman, a Malaysian scientist and Houston Zoo conservation partner.

The party-goers turned up the volume on gowns and glamour, and the zoo transformed its tented event space, Masihara Pavilion, into a colorful ballroom. City Kitchen served an island-themed, multi-course dinner beginning with sesame shrimp wonton tostada and roasted rainbow cauliflower and noodle salad, followed by succulent duck breasts in plum wine reduction over coconut rice and vegetables, and a guava pana cotta for dessert.

2018 Zoo Ball

During dinner, Houston Zoo board chair, Stacy Methvin thanked the co-chairs and warmly recognized event honoree Jim Postl for his years of service as a zoo board member and his generosity as a long-standing donor. Additionally, zoo president and CEO, Lee Ehmke shared the zoo’s master plan, and multi-year, $150 million-dollar fundraising campaign that will see the zoo to its 100th anniversary in 2022.

Guests bid on silent auction items during cocktail hour with the highest bid going for the Honorary Observer spot for two at the final round of the 2019 Houston Open for $3,280. After dinner, a spirited live auction called by auctioneer Logan Thomas, highlighted five very competitive items. Week-long stays in private homes on Lake Travis and Telluride went for $5,000 and $8,000, respectively. A safari to Tanzania sold for $13,000, $16,000 got a guest a week at a private villa in Tuscany, and the night’s honoree, Jim Postl, won with the chance to name a wild elephant in Borneo with his donation of $21,000.

This year, the zoo’s young professional’s donor club, Flock, hosted the after party called Rainforest After Dark presented by Accenture. Taylor Pace Orchestra kept revelers dancing until midnight.

Principle Goes to the Zoo

A peek behind the scenes from the creative firm chosen to redefine the Houston Zoo’s new identity.

Contributed by Principle

As lifelong patrons and admirers of the Houston Zoo, our team at Principle was beyond thrilled to get a late Fall call from their team. Would we be interested in helping them re-brand their organization?

We quickly consulted our bucket list—check!—and happily accepted.

We kicked off the project by diving into a two-day tour and strategy session with the Zoo’s creative and marketing team, leadership staff, board members, conservation specialists, keepers, volunteers, and others to better understand how their zoo works, and our role in all of it.

We emerged brimming with excitement, adrenaline, a small mountain of notes, and a fair share of butterflies. This was no small task. And no ordinary zoo.

 

The Challenge

We were wowed by the clarity of the Zoo’s vision, the thoughtfulness of the extraordinary new Master Plan, the infectious unity of the Houston Zoo’s team—and the sheer magnitude of what the Houston Zoo actually does every day, for people and animals all over the planet.

We had no idea.

And many still don’t—exactly their motivation behind the re-branding effort.

The mission behind the re-brand.

 

We asked ourselves:

How do we symbolize conservation?

How do we reframe the conversation around zoos?

How do we help represent this organization’s leadership and their life’s work as smart and professional and bold and important, without neglecting the joy and excitement that stems from time spent outdoors at the zoo with loved ones (animal and otherwise!)?

And in an age when major re-brands are often measured in years versus weeks, how do we do it most thoroughly?

 

The Design Process

We whittled many hours’ worth of listening, learning, scheming, sketching, writing, researching, (and trading pictures of baby animals with each other) into five core takeaways that drove the design solutions we presented.

Overwhelmingly, we heard THEIR PEOPLE championed again and again.

The human element is critical in saving wildlife.

So we narrowed down themes related to these core takeaways, and explored how we might articulate them visually.

Themes explored.

 

We presented a wide range of logo solutions—from highly contemporary to more conservative—which we then refined further after insightful feedback from their team. Final selections were presented to an executive committee, and with board approval, a winner emerged.

 

The Solution

Houston Zoo logo anatomy.

 

A balanced approach

The new logo reflects the meaningful balance in the zoo’s new tagline, See them. Save them.

The duality of the shape represents the human element so critical in saving wildlife—the coming together of two hands—and the continued connection, conversation, and collaboration needed to succeed in protecting the home we all live in. You and me. Cause and effect. Locally and globally. Today and tomorrow.

See them. Save them.

 

Naturally inspired

The mark pays respect to the habitats of wildlife—two halves of a leaf—with a natural palette that draws from the landscapes of the Zoo’s future exhibits and their corresponding partner efforts in the wild, from the African forests to the Galapagos to our own Texas Wetlands.

A global palette.

 

A quiet force for good

Lastly, the negative space in the mark forms the letter Z, representing the zoo at the heart of these efforts—and pays subtle tribute to the Z that has historically nestled within the Houston Zoo’s logo.

Logo embossed.

 

 

Just the Beginning

We always like to point out that a logo is only the tip of the iceberg. The Houston Zoo is as unique and complex an organism as those it harbors.

Overall, our shared goal was to uncover an elegant solution that feels fresh, clean and simple, but can flex within a serious brand system. One that avoids the familiar trappings of visually championing one animal, or defaulting to the popular safari theme—because the Houston Zoo’s focus and reach are so truly comprehensive.

By way of thoughtful typography, color, and fabrication techniques, the new identity can push, pull and pivot across the Zoo’s myriad audiences and applications—from vibrant and playful to understated and polished—and spark conversation around what a contemporary zoo can do.

From playful to polished, the new zoo travels comfortably all over the planet.

 

It’s been such a privilege to partner with the Houston Zoo, and to learn that the humans behind all these animals are just as inspiring, intelligent and fun. We’re honored to continue on this journey with them—much more in the works!—and we can’t wait to share what’s next.

Celebrating the brand reveal with custom ties and scarves.

 

Principle’s Houston Team at the Campaign Kickoff

Launching into 2022 With a New Zoo

Launching the Most Ambitious Fundraising Campaign for Our Centennial Anniversary

See the Future of the Zoo

In 2022, the Houston Zoo will celebrate its 100th anniversary by completing the most dramatic transformation in its history. Today, the zoo launched its $150 million centennial fundraising campaign and unveiled plans for several new multi-species habitats during an event at the zoo’s historic Reflection Pool. During the momentous occasion, Houston Zoo president and CEO Lee Ehmke, Mayor Sylvester Turner, and Houston Zoo campaign co-chairs Cullen Geiselman and Joe Cleary shared the zoo’s vision for the next five years, revealed a new visual identity, and announced significant campaign successes. One such success includes a $50 million gift from the John P. McGovern Foundation, the largest gift in the zoo’s history. In total, more than $102 million has been secured for the campaign through individual, foundation, and corporate contributions and the zoo’s own cash flows.

“We aim to redefine what a zoo can be with beautiful and immersive habitats, compelling guest experiences, and an unyielding commitment to saving wildlife,” said Lee Ehmke, Houston Zoo president and CEO. “I invite you to join me on this thrilling journey to build the world-class zoo Houston deserves. Together, we will keep our world wild.”

Since privatization in 2002, more than $150 million in community investment has revitalized the Houston Zoo. Today, the zoo is a leading conservation and education organization providing care to thousands of animals. All while remaining a cherished destination for fun, family, and inspiration for all of Houston’s diverse communities.

In order to fully connect communities with wildlife to inspire action to save animals in the wild the zoo embarked on a strategic planning process in 2016 that identified eight strategic priorities to guide the future, and the mission, of the Houston Zoo.  One of the priorities recognized that a new zoo required a new logo. The new visual identity for the Houston Zoo was created by local branding agency Principle and symbolizes the connection people share with the world around them, reflects the Houston Zoo’s commitment to saving animals in the wild, and will represent the zoo in Houston and around the world.

 

The Houston Zoo’s strategic plan brought to life by a new 20-year master plan, which will reconfigure the campus into experiential zones that highlight wildlife and ecosystems found in Texas and around the world. With conservation messaging integrated throughout these zones, guests will leave the zoo inspired to take action to save animals in the wild.

The Keeping Our World Wild: Centennial Campaign will secure $150 million from individuals, foundations, corporate partners, and the Houston Zoo’s operational cash flows to complete Phase I of the master plan by 2022. Every year leading to the centennial, an exciting new chapter will open for guests to explore.

Additional Campaign Facts

  • Nearly half of the Houston Zoo’s acreage will be redeveloped by 2022
  • $5 million from the campaign will be dedicated to conservation projects

Multi-Species Habitats

Heart of the Zoo – 2018 – 2019

Celebrating the biodiversity of Texas, enhancing amenities, and setting the stage for a more navigable Houston Zoo.

  • Cypress Circle Café will be transformed into a signature gathering place (late 2018)
  • Texas Wetlands habitat featuring alligators, bald eagles, whooping cranes, turtles, and waterfowl (Spring 2019)
  • Enhanced orangutan and bear habitats

The Texas Wetlands exhibit will engage visitors in the zoo’s breeding, monitoring, rehabilitation, and release programs with local species of birds, reptiles, bats, and pollinators; students can connect this exhibit with hands-on, in-the-field conservation work experienced through zoo-led education programs.


Pantanal: Trail of the Jaguar – 2020

Exploring the legendary tropical wetlands of Brazil – home to South America’s greatest concentration of wildlife.

  • Lush South American wetland with jaguars, monkeys, giant river otters, capybaras, birds, and tapirs
  • Shaded Animal Encounter Hacienda for informal presentations with ambassador animals and zoo staff

The zoo partners with on-the-ground conservationists in South and Central America to study and protect jaguars, macaws, tapirs, and other Pantanal inhabitants; the exhibit will strengthen the zoo’s conservation investment by offering visitors and students a more immersive, engaging experience of this ecosystem.


Ancient Relatives Phase I – 2021

Showcasing the zoo’s signature, award-winning bird conservation work.

  • Reimagined Bird Garden with interactive bird feeding opportunities for guests
  • New Avian Conservation Center will relocate many birds into new, lushly landscaped aviaries, setting the stage for a later expansion of bird, reptile, and amphibian exhibits
  • New incubation and rearing room that allows for behind-the-scenes experiences

The new facility will directly support the zoo’s breeding programs for rare curassows and macaws as well as the signature program to breed and release Attwater’s prairie chickens, a local endangered species.


Galapagos Islands, North Entry, and Reflections – 2022

A first-of-its-kind exhibit starring the landscape and wildlife that made history, plus enhancements to the Houston Zoo’s main entry.

  • Unique Galapagos exhibit featuring sea lions, sharks, giant tortoises, and other iconic species
  • New Arrival Plaza to welcome guests
  • New Reflections event hall and terrace, as well as a new casual café, enhance the historic Reflection Pool and garden area

No place better illustrates the wonders of unique species, the delicate balance of ecosystems, or the pressing need for conservation action than the Galapagos. This exhibit will immerse visitors in that sense of place; highlight the zoo’s ongoing field work with giant tortoises, birds, and marine animals; and serve as a jumping-off point for educational experiences, including travel.

To learn more about the centennial campaign, visit www.HoustonZoo.org/future.

 

 

Search Blog & Website
[jetpack_subscription_form title="Subscribe to the Blog" subscribe_text="Enter your email address to subscribe and receive new blog posts by email."]
Houston Zoo Facebook Page
Animals In Action

Recent Videos

[youtube_channel]