Ni Hao from China (Conclusion)

Two members of the Houston Zoo team, Tarah Jacobs and Kevin Hodge, just wrapped up their trip to China. Tarah and Kevin are worked with Chinese Zoos and blogged about their experience abroad.

This post was written by Tarah Jacobs.


Our time in China has come to an end. Over the course of the 2 ½ weeks we were there we met some fantastic people and amazing animals.

whole groupWe had the opportunity to hold 2 workshops on training, enrichment and enclosure design. Over the course of those 2 workshops we had 46 people from 7 different zoos attend. The attendees were animal keepers, animal managers, veterinarians, and directors from their respective zoos.  This gave us a unique opportunity to have many different points of view and many fantastic ideas!

tarah teachingSome highlights:

  • Watching groups from each workshop create and present enclosure designs. We saw so many creative and amazing designs
  • Seeing the smile of the participants (and us!) while the animals enjoyed the enrichments that were created for them. For some animals it was the first time they had been given any enrichment!
  • Watching a Bird keeper from Chengdu zoo train 26 macaws to station when he called each of their names
  • Watching the kangaroo keeper at Hangzhou zoo train each of the female kangaroos to come over and stand so he could check the progress of the joeys in their pouches
  • Meeting amazing colleagues from half way across the world

keeper with monkey

We would like to thank the Hangzhou Zoo and the Chengdu Zoo for being amazing hosts for these workshops. Everyone went out of their way to make sure they were successful and we are so grateful for the opportunity to share our experiences with everyone who attended.

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Year of the Goat- Featuring Levi

This post was written by Amber Zelmer


In the Chinese Zodiac calendar, the ‘Year of the Goat’ is also known as the ‘Year of the Ram.’  A male sheep is also called a ram, so July’s “goat” of the month is actually a sheep!  Levi is our only resident sheep here in the Children’s Zoo, so we get a lot of guest questions about him.

Levi is a Jacob sheep, and he has not just two, but FOUR horns.  In fact, this breed of sheep can have up to SIX horns!  Jacob sheep are a piebald breed of sheep.  They are a popular breed in England, although their country of origin is thought to be Syria.  In the Book of Genesis, Jacob took every spotted or speckled sheep from his father-in-law’s flock and bred them.  Thus the Jacob sheep may be the earliest documented case of selective breeding, and their name is in honor of their original shepherd.

Levi

Like all sheep, Levi has wool instead of fur and does not shed his coat in the summer.  The keepers here shear Levi every summer to make him more comfortable in the warm Houston weather.  This year Levi lost nearly 4 lbs. of wool at his shearing!  Though many clothes can be made from wool, the keepers here use the wool as enrichment for the other animals around the zoo.  Our mongoose, kookaburra and skunk all enjoyed tossing the wool around or rolling in it.  Sometimes the Carnivore keepers will come over and get some of the wool to give to their animals to enjoy as well!

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Not only is Levi a provider of entertainment for guests and other animals, he is also a part of our internship program at the Houston Zoo!  Levi knows several different behaviors such as turning in a circle, walking around a trainer, and even walking through weave poles!  Interns have the opportunity to learn his behaviors from the zookeepers so that they can work with Levi in their spare time.  In fact, Levi’s weave pole behavior was taught to him by a former intern!  Come visit Levi in the Children’s Zoo, and you may be able to see him working with one of our interns or part-time staff members to keep his skills sharp.

Working with Pacific Bird Conservation (Conclusion)

Steve Howard is in the Northern Mariana Islands, working with Pacific Bird Conservation to protect birds and blogging about his experience.

This post was written by Steve Howard


Transport boxes that will be used when the birds are translocated.
Transport boxes that will be used when the birds are translocated.

The adventure ends.

Today I left Tinian for Saipan, where I’ll spend the night before heading home. As of this morning, the goal of catching 50 Bridled White Eyes was met, and we were close to 50 Tinian Monarchs. In the coming days they’ll close up the nets and load the birds they have on a boat (one, frankly, which doesn’t look all that seaworthy) and take them to Guguan, an island which is a 14 hour boat ride north. Once there, the transport boxes will be strapped to backpack frames and hauled up the hill in the center of the island on people’s backs. Once in the appropriate habitat the boxes will be opened, and new populations of two threatened species will be founded.

From habitat loss to the introduction of the brown tree snake, humans have done a lot to affect the animals of the Mariana Islands. This time, the affect was positive. I’m grateful to have played my part.

One last thought. I fly tomorrow to Guam, then Tokyo, then Houston. I leave Tokyo at 4:45 Saturday afternoon, and get to Houston at 2:30 Saturday afternoon. I just can’t wrap my head around that!!

Working with Pacific Bird Conservation (Part 6)

Steve Howard is in the Northern Mariana Islands, working with Pacific Bird Conservation to protect birds and blogging about his experience.

This post was written by Steve Howard


Before I came to Tinian, I read about using mist nets to trap birds. I imagined a small net put in a quiet corner forest while we watched to see if birds went in. Not so much. It turns out there is a LOT of work involved.

This is a good spot for a lane
This is a good spot for a lane

The nets are large – 18 to 36 feet long and 8 feet high, and if the forest is at all dense, which this forest is, a space must be cleared for the net. First, you have to cut a path through the forest, all the time looking for a good spot to put up a net. The undergrowth has to be cleared and fallen braches removed in order to make a trail. When an open spot can be found where a net can be put up with a minimum of clearing, you cut a “lane” to make room for the net. Once the lane is cleared, the net is strung on two poles, usually fly fishing poles that telescope together, and the poles are secured with cord tied to tress or roots

The lane has been cleared and the net put up
The lane has been cleared and the net put up

Then you continue to cut the path and look for another spot to make a lane. It’s hot and humid in the forest, and there is very little breeze. In there, hacking with a machete and cutting things out of the way with a saw is hot, hard and tiring work. I have blisters on my feet, and my arms and legs are scratched up and sore. And I love it!!!

The birds that we catch will start a new population on another island. This will help to protect a vulnerable animal from extinction. All my life I have been sad to think of the extinction an animal as beautiful as these birds. Now, I have the chance to do something about it, directly. So, for all the hard work and blisters, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything!!

Working with Pacific Bird Conservation (Part 5)

Steve Howard is in the Northern Mariana Islands, working with Pacific Bird Conservation to protect birds and blogging about his experience.

This post was written by Steve Howard


Two of the species we have trapped are the Rufous Fantail and the Tinian Monarch. The thing is, they both like flies. It’s very important to give the birds a diet as close to what they ate in the wild as possible. So where do you get the flies? Well, you start with tuna.

fly trap 2Here’s how it goes: you take a large metal tray about 4 inches deep and put two whole tuna in it. You take a 10 gallon bucket and cut the bottom off, turning it into a tube. Then set it over the tray. You take some window screen and make a large cone out of it, as big across as the 10 gallon bucket, then cut a small hole in in the point. You now have a fly funnel. Tape the funnel to the top of another bucket and push it inward so that it points to the bottom. Then put the bucket with the funnel upside down on top of the “tube bucket” that’s over the tuna. Wait. Flies will gather, and fly up into the tube and onto the screen and get trapped in the bucket.

fly dish fillingNow, here’s the trick. How do you get them into the cage with the bird? Take a small plastic petri dish with a lid on it, and drill a small hole on the bottom. Pull the funnel so that it is now pointing at the sky, and put the hole in the petri dish over the hole in the funnel and wait. Soon the dish will be full of flies. Place the dish in the cage, pull off the lid and quickly shut the door. Voila, that’s all it takes!!

That and a strong stomach for the smell!

Working with Pacific Bird Conservation (Part 4)

Steve Howard is in the Northern Mariana Islands, working with Pacific Bird Conservation to protect birds and blogging about his experience.

This post was written by Steve Howard


We started netting birds on Thursday afternoon, which means my education on how to extract birds from the net began as well. Mist nets are made of very small nylon thread, which makes them almost invisible, especially in low light levels. When a bird flies into it, they become tangled in the mesh, and removing them takes some skill. The bird must be removed from the same direction from which it entered the net, as the net is designed to not let the bird fly through it. Attempting to pull the bird through the net will injure it. The mesh should be removed from the feet first, then the wings, then the head – basically in the opposite order that it entered the net. I wasn’t great at it at first, but I think I’m getting the hang of it! I removed several birds today by myself.

3 Honey extractedAll the birds here are beautiful, but by far the most beautiful (to my mind) is the Micronesian Honey Eater. The feathers on the back and head are flame red and they shine in the sun as it flies by. To see one of these up close is a great privilege. We have collected a pair that will go to the Guam Zoo. This species lived on Guam before the Brown Tree Snake showed up, and to have it back, even if it is just a pair in the zoo, is very exciting for the staff of the zoo. Who knows, someone may see them there, learn the story, and decided to take action!

Spotlight on Species – Tyra, the Masai Giraffe

This post was written by Kendall Thawley.


Tyra with calf, Hasani
Tyra with calf, Hasani

Soon, The Houston Zoo will be celebrating World Giraffe Day with a Spotlight on Species for Giraffes. For just a moment, though, we’d like to shine the spotlight on one of our resident Masai giraffe, Tyra. Although her overall disposition is quite sweet and calm with her keepers, Tyra is wary of strangers and rarely seen eating at the Giraffe Feeding Platform, so many of our guests might not be as familiar with her as some of our other giraffe.  At 16 years old, Tyra is the oldest member of our giraffe herd, and has been an excellent mother to eight calves, five of which still live at The Houston Zoo. Oftentimes, when in the late stages of her pregnancies, she becomes very reluctant to leave the barn in the summer. She prefers the quiet, coolness of the barn to the heat of the outside. She also enjoys grabbing hold of small sticks and twirling them around in her mouth with her tongue and many of her offspring have picked up on the same habit. One of her sons, Jack, in particular can be seen doing this frequently throughout the days. Tyra was also the model for the large giraffe statue located directly across from the giraffe yard here at The Houston Zoo. It’s about eight feet tall, and perfect for taking photos with!

Windows Photo Viewer Wallpaper

Tyra and her family have a very important job to do here at The Houston Zoo. They are all ambassador animals for the wild giraffe populations in Africa. Worldwide, giraffe populations are plummeting. In just the past 17 years, the total number of giraffes on the planet has dropped over 40%. There are now less than 80,000 that remain. Habitat loss, poaching, and disease are claiming the lives of wild giraffe every day.  We cannot sit back and let these giants of the savannah slip quietly into extinction. On June 21st, 2015 The Houston Zoo will be holding a giraffe SOS. With it, we hope to bring awareness to the plight of wild giraffe and to do that we will have several giraffe-themed activities for people of all ages. We will also have some special and unique items for sale and all the proceeds will go towards the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, the only conservation institution focused primarily on researching and protecting giraffe in the wild. Come join us at The Houston Zoo on Sunday, June 21st and help us save giraffe!

Ni Hao from China: Houston Zoo Interacting with Animals Around the World (Update #4)

Two members of the Houston Zoo team, Tarah Jacobs and Kevin Hodge, are currently in China. Tarah and Kevin are working with Chinese Zoos and blogging about their experience abroad.

This post was written by Kevin Hodge.


After a 2.5 hour flight from Hangzhou we arrived in Chengdu. We were greeted at the airport by Daisy, a Panda keeper from the Chengdu Zoo. As we drove to the zoo she explained that Chengdu is a rapidly growing city of around 10 million people. We noticed that the most popular mode of transportation is a moped, even for families.  We saw a family of four riding on a moped but we felt more comfortable traveling by car.

IMG_3708The Director of the Veterinary and Animal Care, Mr. Yu, was waiting at the zoo to greet us when we arrived.  It was great to see a familiar face in Chengdu. We met Mr. Yu when he visited the Houston Zoo in December and we both had an opportunity to show him around our zoo and now, he is able to give us a tour of his zoo.

IMG_3749The Chengdu zoo is very fortunate to have a few animals that we do not have in Houston including, South China tiger, Golden monkey Hog deer, Takin, and Giant panda.  Mr. Yu has hired translators from Animals Asia to attend and assist with interpreting while we are here to make sure we all understand each other’s ideas.  Overall there are 26 participates from 4 different zoos from around this area attending the workshop. Our plan is the same as it was in Hangzhou. We will present our power points on Exhibit Design, Enrichment and Training and then visit several of the exhibits in the zoo to brainstorm on ways to improve the exhibit or ways to start an enrichment and training plan for the animals.

In addition to the workshop Mr. Yu and several of the keepers introduced us to the Szechuan style food that they are famous for in Chengdu.  Saying the food is spicy is definitely an understatement!  Even though we both like eating spicy food, we were in tears and sweating while we enjoyed our dinner.  After eating they informed us that the food we were eating is very mild compared to what they normally eat.  They said it was what they would feed 5 year old children here!

Working with Pacific Bird Conservation (Part 3)

Steve Howard is in the Northern Mariana Islands, working with Pacific Bird Conservation to protect birds and blogging about his experience.

This post was written by Steve Howard


 

fishing pole netToday I learned how to put up a 12-meter mist net! We’ll be trapping birds along one of the old WWII Navy runways which has been almost completely taken over by the forest. The best place to set up the net is in a break in the vegetation. So where the forest has grown in from both sides of the runway, but there is still a space in the middle, is the perfect place. The nets are stretched between twenty-foot tall poles, which are rigged so they can be raised and lowered like a flag. The poles are supported with 4 guy lines that are tied to concrete nails pounded into the asphalt. So I learned how to tie knots today – the clove hitch and sheet bend – how to pound in concrete nails without breaking off the head (learned that the hard way), and how to tie the guy lines so they stay tight.

We also put some nets up in the forest. These are easier to set up because we can tie the lines to trees and put stakes in the ground. After we’re done setting a net up, if it’s not going to be used, it’s tied up so we don’t catch anything by accident. The pictures are of a net fully open and of a net closed up.

closed netsPreparations are complete now for the trapping and care of the birds. We can net them, transfer them to the transport box, get them back to bird room, put them in the cages we assembled already and feed them there! We’ll keep them in the bird room cages until they are taken, by 14 boat ride, to the Island of Guguan and released. We will go back to the woods this afternoon and start netting.

Working with Pacific Bird Conservation (Part 2)

Steve Howard is in the Northern Mariana Islands, working with Pacific Bird Conservation to protect birds and blogging about his experience.

This post was written by Steve Howard


working on the boxesToday we’ll be setting up the bird room. The hotel has given us a large room to keep the birds in after they are caught. And what is behind all this work? The Brown Tree Snake. The snakes reached Guam sometime in the 1950s, probably on a cargo ship. They are very curious animals and will climb into containers to investigate, and wind up traveling with the cargo. They eat birds and chicks from the nests, and the birds here have no defense. The birds on Guam were all but wiped out. The fear now is that the snakes will find their way to the other islands. The birds on the smaller islands are also vulnerable to loss from severe storms.

So birds are caught, put into small cages temporarily and carefully monitored, banded, and then released on other islands to start new populations. These form a sort of safety net against loss of birds in the original habitat.completed boxes

So, today I learned how to put the cages together, and then we assembled ninety of them.

Once the bird room is ready, we start catching birds!

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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?

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.

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. 😔

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.

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 ..

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

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....

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.

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?

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.

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'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.

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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