Meet Dash and Dinari!

These two-and-a-half-month-old cheetah cubs joined the Houston Zoo as animal ambassadors for their species from two different Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited zoos and have spent the last month behind the scenes getting to know their keepers while the veterinarian team makes sure they are healthy enough to enter our zoo family.

Dash was born at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo, on June 4. His mother did not show interest in him or his littermates so the decision was made to hand-rear the cubs. Dash was soon paired with a male cub, Dinari, from another litter that was also being hand-reared for the same reasons. Dinari was born at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose, TX on June 11.

The Houston Zoo protects cheetahs in the wild by providing support for trained African anti-poaching scouts to walk around the areas where cheetahs live in Africa, to remove wire traps and arrest illegal hunters.

Dash and Dinari will soon make their public debut, and we will let you know when they do. Stay tuned!

Zoo Staff Take the Plastic-Free Challenge

Written by: Stephanie Krail

There is always something going on at the Houston Zoo and this past month was no different. Employees from all parts of the zoo accepted to partake in a month-long challenge to reduce their plastic-footprint thereby protecting animals in the wild.

The challenge is called Plastic Free July and the goal is to “choose to refuse” single-use plastic to save wildlife. Plastics do not break down; they can be consumed by wildlife or break up into smaller pieces and never truly go away. Items such as single-use plastic coffee cups, straws, grocery bags and doggie waste bags are only used for a few minutes until they serve their purpose and then get tossed in the trash to end up in a landfill or waterways. The Houston Zoo decided several years ago to help spread awareness of the problems plastics can hold by encouraging staff to participate in this challenge.

Several departments around the zoo joined together to discuss how they could reduce their plastic use not only as individuals at home but also as staff members here at work.

The Admissions, Membership and Call Center teams came together and signed their commitment to accept the challenge on a white board in their office. Some of the things they have strived to do includes using reusable grocery bags, reusable food containers instead of plastic sandwich baggies, and reusable drinking bottles, and the main thing, saying “NO” to plastic drinking straws. These teams received reusable tote bags to help jump start their participation. Reusable tote bags are great alternatives to using plastic grocery bags! You aren’t limited to using them just at grocery stores; bring a couple with you the next time you’re at the mall or out running errands.

The Children’s Zoo team has eliminated all plastic bags from the animals’ diet delivery and switched to reusable containers. This has saved over 7,000 plastic bags from entering landfills each year! They also switched to using trash buckets that they wash daily instead of using bags which has not only resulted in over 2,000 bags saved, but has also saved them money on having to purchase new trash bags.

Michelle Witek, Children’s Zoo Supervisor, has encouraged and shared countless tips with zoo staff by sharing her trips to the grocery store on Facebook. Some things that Michelle does while at the store are:

  • Purchase meats that are wrapped in butcher paper
  • Bring reusable sandwich style bags to fill with items from the bulk isle
  • Place all produce in reusable mesh bags
  • Look for glass jars or cardboard as an alternative to buying things in plastic containers (even deodorant)
  • When at the deli counter, ask to use own reusable sandwich style bags

Michelle certainly has inspired several of zoo staff to be more conscious of what we are purchasing at the store, but some items may not have a glass or cardboard alternative. This is where you can get creative and repurpose those items into new things, such as repurposing large dog food bags into storage bags for the recycling or garage.

The elephant team started to eliminate plastic anywhere they could two years ago for Plastic Free July and they have continued to do this year-round ever since. They no longer carry blood samples to the clinic each week in single-use plastic bags but now use reusable bags. The elephants at the zoo go through several loaves of bread which come in plastic bags. The team didn’t want to stop giving the elephants bread just because it came in plastic so they now collect these bags throughout the week and bring them home to use as doggie waste bags. This is a great example of not giving up on a product you need just because it doesn’t have a reusable alternative. Simply find a way to use it again, and you have doubled its purpose!

Some of the most difficult things the staff have run into is plastic straws! When eating out it can be hard to remember to say no to them, especially in drive-thru lines. Another challenge in going plastic-free is that it can be less convenient and, at times, seem a bit overwhelming. But know that any effort, big or small, is making a difference for wildlife. Something as simple as bringing a reusable water bottle every day to work instead of a plastic bottle helps to save animals in the wild.

In 2015, the Houston Zoo removed plastic bags in the gift shops to protect animals in the wild, by eliminating an estimated 80,000 plastic bags from entering landfills and the environment each year. Now, two years later, the zoo-based conservation organization has gone one step further and eliminated single-use plastic water bottles from all concession stands. This elimination of single-use plastic water bottles will reduce the amount of plastic waste by nearly 300,000 single-use plastic bottles in just one year.

When visiting the zoo, you can purchase an aluminum reusable water bottle (pre-filled with water) or a JUST Water recyclable, paper-based water bottle at any of the restaurants or kiosks. Or if you bring your own reusable water bottle, you can refill your water bottle at the water refilling stations located throughout the zoo. You can also purchase a reusable tote bag in its gift shops to eliminate use of single-use plastic bags. The zoo has a collection of canvas bags artistically designed with images depicting the animals that benefit from a reduction of plastic bags in the ocean.

Challenges like Plastic Free July are great ways to help save wildlife, and we encourage you to join our team and continue the challenge year-round!

Houston Zookeeper Crowned Golden Keeper

Our very own Sara Riger, Naturally Wild Swap Shop naturalist, has won the Golden Keeper award by the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK). Sara was crowned champion after receiving the most “likes” from peers, family, and several supporters on the AAZK Facebook page contest.

Zoos and aquariums across the country celebrated National Zoo Keeper Week July 16 – 22, highlighting the diversity of zookeepers and their contributions to global conservation efforts. AAZK, celebrating their 50year anniversary, received nominations from several zookeepers around the country for the first-ever Golden Keeper award. Nominated by her close colleague, Katie Buckley-Jones, Sara was one of just 10 zookeepers chosen as a finalist.

Sara’s career working at zoos began more than two decades ago. She began working at the Bronx Zoo in New York 25 years ago working with birds and mammals. She then moved to an upstate New York zoo to work with primates and lions. From New York, Sara moved to Tennessee to work for the Nashville Zoo, where she helped open their Critter Encounters exhibit and later became a supervisor of mammals. For the past 13 years, Sara has worked at the Houston Zoo, caring for carnivores, primates, and now working in the Swap Shop. As a naturalist in the Swap Shop, she inspires guests to explore the outdoors and save animals in the wild.

You can meet and visit Sara, and learn all about the natural world, at the Naturally Wild Swap Shop, located in the John P. McGovern Children’s Zoo. She’ll be there to greet you with a warm smile, and sometimes with an animal in-hand!

We are so proud to have someone as passionate, dedicated, and kind as Sara on our team. Please join us in congratulating Sara on this wonderful achievement!

Take Action for Our Oceans

It’s a well-known fact that the ocean makes up a very large part of the planet we live on. In fact, the ocean covers more than 70 percent of Earth’s surface! Though it may seem a daunting task to keep ALL that ocean healthy, we can all take small actions that have a big impact in protecting the ocean and the animals living there.

First things first. Why should you want to protect the ocean? Our ocean actually make oxygen, and that’s pretty neat (and also life-saving)! Phytoplankton living near the surface of the water absorb carbon dioxide during photosynthesis just like plants do on land. They cover a lot more surface area of the planet and, therefore, produce half of the Earth’s oxygen supply. We can thank the ocean for helping us be able to breathe!

In addition to oxygen, the ocean also provides food! The diversity of life in the ocean makes for some interesting meals, but some species are being overfished and upsetting the delicate balance of life in the big blue. The good news is we can protect these overfished species! When you’re eating seafood at a restaurant or purchasing it at the grocery store, make sure to choose ocean-friendly, sustainable seafood. Ocean-friendly seafood is seafood that has been caught or farmed in a way that protects animals like sharks and rays and ensures fish populations thrive over time.

Being ocean-friendly can be simple, too! Download the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch app to learn which seafood options are best choices or good alternatives. Use the app when making your ocean-friendly seafood purchases at grocery stores or ordering at restaurants.

The Houston Zoo is also ocean-friendly! All the animals at the zoo that eat seafood eat only sustainable seafood. In fact, the sea lions ate 23,850 pounds of ocean-friendly, sustainably-caught fish last year. The zoo also ensures seafood served at any on-site restaurant or special event is always sustainably-sourced.

You can learn this and so much more at World Oceans Day Presented by Whole Foods Market this Saturday, June 10 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visit booths and enjoy activities as you learn how you can keep our oceans healthy and protect the animals living there, sign up for our annual beach clean-up, and enjoy themed Meet the Keeper Talks presented by Phillips 66. This event is included in your zoo admission and is free for Zoo Members. Click here to learn more about World Oceans Day Presented by Whole Foods Market and how to protect the ocean.

World Oceans Day Presented by Whole Foods Market is generously sponsored by Whole Foods Market and JUST Water.

Bronze Sculpture Soars at the Houston Zoo

This is the final piece of a three-part series on the history and current updates of the Houston Zoo Reflection Pool.

On Wednesday, May 24, the Houston Zoo held a dedication ceremony to honor the generous gift from the Marvy Finger Family Foundation, honoring Jerry and Ronny Finger. About 60 guests were in attendance, including close family members, zoo board members, and friends, including John and Jessie Killian, the couple who introduced the artist, Bob Guelich, to Marvy Finger.

The sculpture was commissioned in 1979 for a building Finger owned at the time. About three years later, the artwork, which features a flock of 10 Canada geese flying through the air, was complete.

“I envisioned these birds landing after a long migration southward from who-knows-where, honking and announcing their arrival,” said Guelich.

 

More than 30 years later, the sculpture was reconditioned and plans were set to bring it to the zoo. Standing at an impressive 18 feet long and 13 feet tall, this bronze sculpture weighs 8,500 pounds! It’s so massive that the zoo maintenance team had to use a large crane to get the sculpture to its current location in the Reflection Pool.

In an extraordinary act of generosity, Finger donated this sculpture for all to enjoy—now, and for generations to come. “It’s just overwhelming to me,” said Finger of his excitement that the sculpture would live at the zoo.

Left to right: Artist Bob Guelich, Marvy Finger, and Lee Ehmke, Houston Zoo CEO and president

During your next visit to the zoo, head over to the Reflection Pool to see this magnificent work of art. It’ll make for a great photo!

Looking Back: A Brief History of the Zoo’s Reflection Pool

This is part two of a three-part series on the history and current updates of the Houston Zoo Reflection Pool.

The Reflection Pool at the Houston Zoo was first conceptualized shortly after the zoo’s opening in 1922. Designed by Hare & Hare in 1924 and constructed in 1926, the Reflection Pool was a collection of three smaller pools flanked by live oak trees along both sides. This design was intended to replicate, on a much smaller scale, the Mary Gibbs and Jesse H. Jones Reflection Pool located at the entrance of Hermann Park.

The Reflection Pool, in 1944, divided into three small pools.

Then, in the 1950s, the zoo’s Reflection Pool underwent construction when the “Monkey Mansion” (now the Wortham World of Primates) was built. This transformed the pool from the three mini pools into the one long pool that you can currently see at the zoo.

A 1971 aerial view of the Zoo shows the Reflection Pool as one long pool.

Though it has undergone changes in the last century, the Houston Zoo Reflection Pool maintains the lush landscaping and majestic oak trees that was originally planned and constructed by Hare & Hare in the early 1920s, a true historic landmark on zoo grounds.

Check back next week as we show you some of the recent changes we’ve made and unveil its newest sculpture!

Houston-Area Schools Are Saving Wildlife!

What an incredible time we had at Party for the Planet Presented by CenterPoint Energy on Saturday, April 22nd!

At the Houston Texans Enrichment Zone, students from KIPP Academy Middle School put on a “Trashion” show with fashion they made from recycled products.  The students turned trash into art and had an amazing wildlife-saving message behind each beautiful creation.  Below is a picture of Susannah modeling her dashiki made from plastic bags, straws and cardboard.

We also had a grand performance of songs from The Lion King, sung by 2nd through 5th grade students from Lyons Elementary.  Lyons made all of their costumes and backdrop from recycled materials.  Their backdrop, a beautiful African sunset, was made from over 400 milk cartons that the students collected!

The Houston Zoo started working with Lyons Elementary through our Mascot Program.  The students raise money through their “Love Your Lions” initiative and all the funds go directly to Niassa Lion Project.  DeAndra Ramsey, School Program Coordinator in the  Houston Zoo’s Conservation Education Department, was able to attend the opening night of The Lion King at Lyons Elementary that was held at their school on April 20, 2017.  She opened the show by speaking on how the Houston Zoo works to save wildlife, the importance of practicing sustainable behaviors like recycling, and highlighting how the students at Lyons Elementary were becoming wildlife warriors! She was blown away by the wonderful efforts of the entire school! 

Both schools did an amazing job inspiring our guests to help save wildlife during Party for the Planet Presented by CenterPoint Energy by simply getting creative and reusing everyday items instead of throwing away.

Reflection Pool Gets a New Look

This is part one of a three-part series on the history and current updates of the Houston Zoo Reflection Pool.

If you’ve visited the Houston Zoo recently, you might have noticed the Reflection Pool was closed to the public. That’s because the Reflection Pool just underwent routine maintenance for cleaning and water quality control.

The first step in cleaning the pool is to remove all the fish and transport them to quarantine tanks located behind the Kipp Aquarium. Once aquarium staff have removed the fish, zoo maintenance staff completely drains the pool, clears all leaves and pressure washes the emptied pool. Leaves aren’t the only items found when cleaning out the pool – zoo staff collected toys, sunglasses, conservation bracelets, and more!

They then inspect the area for any repairs needed, remove all the sculptures currently in place and will prepare to install a newly-donated sculpture. After the sculpture is set in place, zoo horticulture staff will update plants along the pool, water will be poured back in, and the fish will return to their homes.

Ideally this routine maintenance takes place once every year, though if water chemistry and conditions are up to standards, the process takes place every other year.

Be sure to check back on more updates of the Reflection Pool construction. And don’t miss the unveiling of the newly-donated sculpture later this month!

Reflection Pool Gets an Update

This is part one of a three-part series on the history and current updates of the Houston Zoo Reflection Pool.

If you’ve visited the Houston Zoo recently, you’ve noticed the Reflection Pool is closed to the public. That’s because the Reflection Pool is undergoing routine maintenance for cleaning and water quality control.

So what does it take to clean it up?

Zoo staff clear the pool of dirt and leaves

First things first: Take out the koi. Aquarium staff removes all the fish and transports them to quarantine pools located behind the scenes. Once the fish have been safely relocated, zoo maintenance staff completely drains the pool, clears all leaves, and pressure washes the emptied pool. Leaves aren’t the only items found when cleaning out the pool – zoo staff collected toys, sunglasses, conservation bracelets, and more! (Psst, let’s try to keep those things out of the pool when it reopens.)

Anyone missing a lizard stuffed animal, sunglasses or a toy car?

Then, they inspect the area for any repairs needed, remove all the current sculptures and prepare the pool for a brand-new sculpture which will be installed in May. Lastly, zoo horticulture staff will update plants along the pool, water gets poured back in, and fish are returned to their pool.

Ideally this routine maintenance takes place once every year; though, if water chemistry and conditions are A-Okay, the process takes place every other year.

Be sure to check back on more updates of the Reflection Pool construction. And don’t miss the unveiling of the newly-donated sculpture next month!

Large base built to hold the new statue

Save the Bees!

Spring has sprung, and with it comes our beloved buzzing pollinators, bees. However, we know they aren’t always welcome in our backyards or on our properties. If you are unsure as to how to safely rid them from your property, no need to worry! A simple bee rescue and relocation is all you need.

Nearby bee protection organizations (a sample list is provided below) rescue and move these bee colonies to safe environments, all without the use of pesticides. With bee rescue and relocation, you get rid of the bees you don’t want on your property, and the bees can continue to do what they do best – pollinate our food! All you have to do is give them a call, and they’ll do the rest.

Why should you care for the welfare of these animals? There’s been a sharp decline in honeybee populations in the US and around the world, and bees are an important pollinator, responsible for some of our favorite foods.

European honey bee
photo courtesy of Bellengen Bees

It’s exciting to go outside in the spring and gaze at the butterflies hovering around colorful flowers, hear the buzz of the bees, and catch a glimpse of a hummingbird flitting around some honeysuckle; but lately pollinators have had a tough time keeping their populations up because of habitat loss, climate change, and pesticides that harm the beneficial bugs that provide pest control.

Bee-pollinated plants provide us with every third bite of food we eat… it is certainly in our best interest to take care of ALL of our bees, honeybees and native bees alike.

Learn more about how you can save pollinators, like bees, in the wild at www.houstonzoo.org/takeaction.

Here are just a few places to call if you’re looking to remove bees from your backyard:

  • Houston Bee Removal
  • Harris County Beekeepers Association
  • Prime Bees – Bryan/College Station
  • American Honey Bee Protection Agency (AHBPA) – Based in Austin
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Houston Zoo Facebook Page

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

The carnivore staff and veterinary team made the decision after his quality of life began to decline. Quality care and continuous advances in veterinary medicine extends animals’ lives longer than ever, with most felines in human care living well beyond previous generations. Because of this, all cats, including domestic house cats and jaguars, often spend a significant phase of their lives as older animals, and are at a higher risk for geriatric complications.

Read more about Kan B, and the love his keepers had for him on our blog: www.houstonzoo.org/blog/mourning-loss-geriatric-jaguar-kan-balam/
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This morning, we humanely euthanized our male, 20-year-old jaguar, Kan Balam.  Due to the tremendous care provided to him by his keepers and our veterinary team, Kan Balam lived well beyond his expected lifespan. Jaguars expected lifespan in the wild is between 12-15 years. 
 
The carnivore staff and veterinary team made the decision after his quality of life began to decline. Quality care and continuous advances in veterinary medicine extends animals’ lives longer than ever, with most felines in human care living well beyond previous generations. Because of this, all cats, including domestic house cats and jaguars, often spend a significant phase of their lives as older animals, and are at a higher risk for geriatric complications.

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

 

Comment on Facebook

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

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

Is this the one that had the limp?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SMG: Im still using this.

 

Comment on Facebook

Are there some zoo animals that enjoy this weather?

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

Happy New Year “sea lion keeper “ 💖💖

More snow for TJ and Max ❤️ lucky them!

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

That’s my best friend Sophie for ya! 😂

Brrrrr

Omg the Zoo is so awesome 😂😂😂 Alana Berry

Omg be warm sweetoe

Haha!! Good one!

Sweetie 💞

Ashley Jucker 😂

Lauren Gonzales

Mike DePope

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