High School Students Pledge to Save Wildlife

The students at Harmony Science Academy High School celebrated Earth Day in a big way this spring, and the Houston Zoo was proud to support their incredible efforts. French teacher and National Honor Society (NHS) coordinator Ineke Kerkhofs visited the Washed Ashore exhibit (previously at the Zoo from January – April 2016) and was inspired by the sculptures and the chance for guests to pledge to go plastic bag free to help save animals, like sea turtles, in the wild.

“I thought this was a great way to create awareness with our high school students that plastic bags are an unnecessary danger to our environment,” Kerkhofs said.

lauren blog 2
Inspired by Washed Ashore, Harmony Science Academy NHS students collected recycled items to create their own artwork.

After brainstorming with the NHS students, they created a plan to celebrate Earth Day and spread the message of the effects of plastic pollution on the ocean to all the students. They collected plastic water bottles during Spring Break and created an art piece (much how the Washed Ashore team creates their sculptures) made with these bottles. With help from the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) Club and the art department, they created the art piece (pictured above) and revealed it in their lunch periods on Earth Day, April 22. The piece was such a success that it will hang in the cafeteria as a permanent art display!

“We wanted to create something that can last for a longer period of time and that will be a reminder that caring for our planet is an ongoing concern, not just something to think about during Earth Day,” Kerkhofs added.

In addition to the reveal, the NHS students encouraged their classmates to take a pledge to reduce their use of plastic bags and help save animals in the wild. Through all four lunch periods, 115 students and staff took the pledge! When they took the pledge, the students and staff signed the Earth Day banner the team had created (pictured below), much like the thumbprints on the mural at the Zoo. “The exhibition at the Zoo, Washed Ashore, was a very big inspiration for us,” Kerkhofs said.

lauren blog 1
Students signed the Earth Day banner as they pledged to go plastic bag free for 30 days to save our planet.

Way to go, Harmony Science Academy High School! We are so proud of this great project and the efforts made to share how we can all take action to help save animals in the wild.

If you would like to get your community, school, or organization involved in an effort to save wildlife, please visit our Take Action page for inspiration! The Houston Zoo is proud to work with the Houston community to develop and initiate impactful efforts to save wildlife. Everyone is a conservationist and can make a difference, just like the students and teachers at Harmony Science Academy High School!

Saving Sea Turtles in the Gulf – Part 2

Lauren 2We’re back with more sea turtle-saving stories from Panama City! The Houston Zoo recently visited Florida with our partners at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to test turtle excluder devices (TEDs) for fisheries across the globe to incorporate into their shrimp nets. These TEDs are critical – and required by federal law – to ensure the safety of sea turtles while fishermen work to provide some of our favorite seafood, like shrimp!

Each year, about 200 sea turtles are driven to Florida from Galveston to test each TED, and about 25 turtles will attempt to swim through each TED. That’s a lot of turtles and swim time! Our partners at NOAA Galveston spend all year getting the sea turtles in their care ready for this critical work! This year, they allowed Houston Zoo staff to come along and observe the process of ensuring shrimp nets around the world are safe for sea turtles.

From Wednesday through Friday, Houston Zoo staff got aboard NOAA’s boat, the Caretta, and what a beautiful three days it was!  We arrived at NOAA’s Panama City, Florida site each day at 6 a.m. and immediately began preparing the turtles and the boats for the days’ adventures. This work included feeding those turtles that had already swum through the TED a delicious breakfast of squid and crating other turtles that would swim through an excluder device that day. Once everyone arrived to the site, we boarded the boat and headed out for a short 12-hour day on the water.

Lauren 1

So, how does it work? TED testing requires three different boats: the main boat where the sea turtles are released into the ocean, the dive boat where the three divers launch, and the catch boat where staff retrieve the sea turtles from the water after they’ve journeyed through the TED. We were able to experience each boat throughout the day, all the while hearing stories from all of the NOAA staff and learning why TEDs are so important to protect these threatened and endangered sea turtles.

In order for a TED to be approved and certified, a sea turtle must be able to make its way safely through the net in five minutes or less. Three divers are underwater with the shrimp net to document the turtle’s journey through the water and to ensure the turtle gets back on the boat. They take very detailed notes and video so the team can evaluate the turtles’ performances that day and whether or not they need to adjust the TED design.

After all of the turtle excluder devices have been tested, the Caretta returns back to its home in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and the loggerhead sea turtles are released back into the ocean.

Be sure to check back soon for more information on TED-testing and how YOU can help save sea turtles in the wild!

Saving Sea Turtles in the Gulf – Part 1

Greetings from Panama City! The Houston Zoo recently visited Florida with our partners at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to test turtle excluder devices (TEDs) for fisheries across the globe to incorporate into their shrimp nets. These TEDs are critical – and required by federal law – to ensure the safety of sea turtles while fishermen work to provide some of our favorite seafood, like shrimp!

Turtle excluder devices help protect sea turtles, like this guy, from shrimp nets!
Turtle excluder devices help protect sea turtles, like this guy, from shrimp nets!

Every summer NOAA staff spends three weeks in Panama City testing newly-constructed or tweaked TED designs that will, if approved, later be used by fishermen. Turtle excluder devices are used to allow fishermen to catch animals like shrimp, while excluding animals like sea turtles that may accidentally be caught in their nets.

Each year, about 200 sea turtles are driven to Florida from Galveston to test each TED, and about 25 turtles will attempt to swim through each TED. That’s a lot of turtles and swim time! The sea turtles are then released back into the wild after the weeks of TED testing.

Our partners at NOAA Galveston spend all year getting the sea turtles in their care ready for this critical work! This year, they allowed Houston Zoo staff to come along and observe the process of ensuring shrimp nets around the world are safe for sea turtles.

ST-blog
The Zoo’s vet team provides veterinary care to sea turtles brought in from Galveston.

In addition to field work assistance in Panama City this summer, the Houston Zoo helps save sea turtles in a number of ways. One way the Zoo helps is by providing veterinary care to sea turtles brought in from Galveston, sometimes also housing rehabilitating sea turtles at the Zoo in the Kipp Aquarium. The Zoo also hosts sea turtle events at the Zoo to increase awareness, participates in weekly beach surveys to look for stranded or nesting sea turtles, and serves only ocean-friendly seafood to Zoo animals and guests!

Be sure to check back soon for more information on TED testing in Panama City!

Eat Pizza. Save Gorillas!

We have another fun (and tasty) way for you to help save gorillas!papa-johns-pizza-1

This Thursday, May 21, order Papa John’s online, use promo code GORILLA, and $1 of your purchase will be donated to the Houston Zoo’s gorilla conservation program. This offer is valid only on May 21. Order online at www.papajohns.com, and don’t forget to use the promo code GORILLA.

And be sure to visit the gorillas at the Zoo this summer! The new habitat opens this Friday, May 22, and you can experience what makes these animals so wonderful. Up close and incredible.Gorillas Explore Their Habitat

Want to learn how the Houston Zoo helps gorillas in the wild, and how you can, too? Visit houstonzoo.org/gorillas.

And remember, every time you visit the Houston Zoo, you help save animals in the wild!

Hey Kids! Celebrate Dia del Nino at the Zoo This Sunday

Dia del Nino LogoMany nations throughout the world celebrate Día del Niño, or Children’s Day, to honor and celebrate children who represent the hopes and dreams of every community. This Sunday, April 26 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., we will be joining in the celebration with games, activities and music just for kids!

Visit the booth in the Zoo’s Front Plaza to color a picture of Zoe the Zookeeper and pick up your scavenger hunt that will send you throughout the Zoo looking for Latin American animals. Those who complete this activity can return to the booth for a special prize!

Continue down the Reflection Pool for more games including Pin the Tail on the Donkey, the coloring mural, and learn what howler monkeys eat (and shouldn’t eat!). Zoo volunteers will host a table of interesting biofacts to teach kids about different Latin American species; be sure to stop by and learn some fun facts about these animals. Free airbrush temporary tattoos will also be available – pick your favorite animal and have it painted on your face or arm.

What’s a celebration with music and dancing? We’ll have a DJ on-site playing music and encouraging kids to dance, as well as special Latin dance performances by Ballet Folklorico Azteca de Houston for all to enjoy.

Ballet Folklorico
Ballet Folklorico Azteca de Houston will perform at 11:30, 12:30, and 1:30 at the Reflection Pool.

Plus, there’s MORE! The Children’s Maze will be up, located just past elephants; can you find your way to the end? Visit the Tapir Spotlight on Species event, taking place at the tapir habitat, and learn how the Houston Zoo helps this species in the wild, as well as how YOU can help them, too!

Be sure to also check out these special Meet the Keeper Talks presented by Phillips 66:

    10:15 – Latin American Amphibians (Reptile House)
    10:30 – Caiman Lizard (Reptile House)
    11:00 – Jaguar
    12:00 – Tamarins (Wortham World of Primates)
    1:00 – Tamandua (Natural Encounters)
    1:30 – Prehensile-tailed Porcupine (Naturally Wild Swap Shop in the Children’s Zoo)
    2:00 – Cougar
    2:30 – Brazilian Rainbow Boa (Natural Encounters)
    3:30 – Howler Monkeys (Wortham World of Primates)
    4:00 – New World Monkeys (Natural Encounters Rainforest)

All of these exciting events are included in your Zoo admission and free for Members. We hope to see you at the celebration!

And remember, every time you visit the Houston Zoo, you help save animals in the wild!

Love Seafood? Check Out These Recipes for Sustainable Seafood!

By now you have heard us talk about sustainable seafood and why it is important to be mindful when choosing which seafood to eat and which options are best to avoid. Embracing the use of sustainable seafood is one of the best ways we can all contribute to our oceans’ health, and we have three easy ways you can be fish-friendly.

  1. Download the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch app on your smart phone – available at the Apple Store and Google Play.
  2. Be mindful and make smart choices about what seafood you eat and where you buy it. Several local grocery stores provide sustainable seafood options: H-E-B, Fiesta, Kroger and Whole Foods, just to name a few.
  3. If you are out enjoying a meal at your favorite restaurant, you can ask them if the seafood they serve is sustainable.

After your purchase your sustainable seafood from the store, take a look at one of our delicious recipes. Let us know which one is your favorite!

 

Baja-Fish-Tacos


Blackened-Catfish-with-Corn-Maque-Choux


Jerk-Catfish-with-Pineapple-Rice-and-Mango-Salsa


Korean-Spicy-Shrimp


Seafood-Cioppino


Tex-Mex-Shrimp-and-Grits


Tuna-Puttanesca

Fish of the Week – Post #7

By now you have heard us talk about sustainable seafood and why it is important to be mindful when choosing which seafood to eat and which options are best to avoid. Embracing the use of sustainable seafood is one of the best ways we can all contribute to our oceans’ health, and we have three easy ways you can be fish-friendly.

  1. Download the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch app on your smart phone – available at the Apple Store and Google Play.
  2. Be mindful and make smart choices about what seafood you eat and where you buy it. Several local grocery stores provide sustainable seafood options – H-E-B, Fiesta, Kroger and Whole Foods, just to name a few.
  3. If you are out enjoying a meal at your favorite restaurant, you can ask them if the seafood they serve is sustainable.

This can make a huge impact on our oceans and the animals living there! fish blog


The final recipe in our Fish of the Week series is Seafood Cioppino. 

cioppino

A classic Italian dish: a great seafood stew with slices of French bread perfect for a date night with that special someone.

Ingredients:

3 tbls Olive Oil
2 tsp Garlic, Minced
6 oz Chorizo Sausage, Raw
1 cup Leeks, Diced
1 cup Onions, Diced
½ cup Fennel, Diced
2 tbls Tomato Paste
2 cups Chicken Stock, Store Bought
2 cans Diced Canned Tomato
1 cup White Wine
1 tsp Fish Sauce
16 ea Mussels, Cleaned
8 oz Red Drum
1 lb Large Shrimp (Peeled and Deveined)
1 ea French Bread Loaf

Preparing the Stew:

Clean mussels and pull beards

Cut Red Drum into 1-inch cubes

In a deep pan, brown chorizo and remove from pan. Remove half the grease.

Add leek, onions, garlic and fennel to pot. Cook until tender or for 2 minutes.

Add tomato paste and cook until darkens to a deep brown, careful not to burn the paste.

Add white wine and reduce heat by half.

Add chicken stock and fish sauce. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer

Next, place cooked sausage and seafood into pot. Cook until mussels open.

Add parsley.

Serve into soup bowls and enjoy with a couple slices of French bread.

Servings: 4
Degree of Difficulty: Moderately difficult


We hope you have enjoyed our featured meals and learned how you can help protect our oceans and the animals who call it home. Thanks for doing your part to save wildlife. And remember, every time you visit the Houston Zoo, you help save animals in the wild!

Fish of the Week – Post #6

You may have heard about sustainable seafood and know which choices to make, but if you haven’t, no worries – we will break it down for you!fishing boat

Sustainable seafood is defined as seafood that is either wild-caught or farm-raised that not only sustains current populations, but thrives over the long term. The methods by which the seafood is harvested or raised must not cause undue harm to their natural ecosystems. The Houston Zoo strongly believes that embracing the use of sustainable seafood is one of the best ways we can all contribute to our oceans’ health.

Each week we feature a sustainably-sourced seafood option along with a recipe provided by our very own Chef Larry. Not only will get you get to hear from one of the Zoo’s top chefs, but you can also prepare meals at home that help protect marine wildlife and their ecosystems!


This week’s recipe is Tex-Mex Shrimp & GritsTex Mex Shrimp and Grits

Taking that Southern classic and putting a Tex-Mex kick to it! Be mindful when you are buying your shrimp; U.S. Farmed and Alaskan Wild are going to be your best choices. Try to avoid Gulf Wild-caught for the time being, as their nets are not a great choice for turtles and other marine animals.

Ingredients:

Shrimp Prep
1.5 lbs Large Shrimp (Peeled and Deveined)
1 tbls Vegetable Oil
1 tbls Minced Garlic
1 ea Roasted Poblano Pepper, Diced
½ cup Roma Tomatoes, Diced
¼ cup Green Onions, Bias Cut

Grits Prep
1 tbls Vegetable Oil
2 tsp Minced Garlic
1 cup Fresh Corn
1 cups Baby Spinach, Julienne
3 cups Water
¾ cup Grits
1 cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1 tbls Butter

Garnish
¼ cup Chopped Fresh Parsley
¼ cup Green Onions, Bias Cut

Making the Grits:

In a large sauté pan, heat oil and add garlic. Cook 1 min.

Add fresh corn and cook for 2 min. Add spinach and cook until spinach is wilted. Turn off and hold.

Bring water to a boil, add grits slowly, stirring constantly. Cook for 5 min, reduce heat to low and add corn mixture, butter and cheese. Hold for service.

Cooking the Shrimp:

In a large sauté pan, heat oil. Add garlic and roasted peppers, cook for 2 min.

Add shrimp and cook 2 min on each side. Add tomatoes and green onions. Heat thru

Serving Family Style: In the middle of the large serving platter, pour grits and make a well in the center. Pour cooked shrimp in the well and garnish with chopped parsley and bias cut green onions.
Servings: 4
Degree of Difficulty: Moderately difficult


SFW LogoThere are even more ways to be ocean-friendly! Download the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch app to learn about “Best Choice” and “Good Alternative” seafood options. Click here to download the app from the Apple Store or Google Play. Be mindful and make smart choices about what you eat and where you buy it. If you are out enjoying a meal at your favorite restaurant, you can ask them if the seafood they serve is sustainable. This can make a huge impact on our oceans and the animals living there!

Thanks for doing your part to save wildlife. And remember, every time you visit the Houston Zoo, you help save animals in wild!

Fish of the Week – Post #5

It’s week five of seven for our Fish of the Week blog series! This week’s meal features sustainably-sourced catfish along with a recipe provided by our very own Chef Larry. We hope you are enjoying these meals at home, and we thank you for helping protect marine wildlife and their ecosystems!


This week’s recipe is: Blackened Catfish with Corn Maque ChouxRedfish-Maque-Choux

Good ole down home cookin’ – Yum! When buying your catfish filets, the best option is going to be U.S Farmed, though most options are all Good Alternatives.

Ingredients:

Spices Blend:
3 tbls Paprika
2 tbls Garlic Powder
2 tbls Onion Powder
1 tsp Thyme, Dry
1 tbls Black Pepper, Ground
1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp Oregano, Dry
1 tsp Basil Dry
1 tbls Salt
4 ea Catfish Filets
3 tbls Vegetable Oil

Corn Maque Choux:
2 tbls Vegetable Oil
1 tsp Garlic Minced
6 ea Fresh Ears of Corn
1 link Andouille Sausage, Diced
½ cup Onion Chopped
¼ cup Green Pepper, Diced
¼ cup Red Pepper, Diced
¼ cup Celery, Diced
1 cups Half-and-Half Cream
2 oz Cream Cheese
½ cup Green Onion, Chopped

Garnish:
½ cup Green Onions, Bias Cut

Cooking Instructions:

Mixing the Spice:
Combine first 9 ingredients in a baking dish.
Rub your catfish filets with spice rub and hold to marinate

Making the Corn Maque Choux:
In a medium pot, heat oil. Add sausage, onions and garlic cook 2 min.
Add celery and peppers. Cool 2 min, add 1 tsp of blacken spice.
Add corn and cook 3 min. Add half-and-half and reduce heat by half. Taste for seasoning & adjust if needed.
Add cream cheese and hold for service on low heat, stirring every so often.

Cooking the Fish:
In a medium cast iron skillet, heat remaining oil to almost smoke point.
Carefully add catfish to the oil taking great care not to burn yourself. Cook 3 min each side on med high flame.
In a soup bowl or plate, place the corn maque choux in the center of dish and place the catfish on top
Garnish with bias cut green onions

Servings: 4
Degree of Difficulty: Easy

Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes


 

 

AA035422Here’s the low-down on sustainable seafood and a few ways you can be fish-friendly!

 

You can think of the ocean like your own heart. Just as your heart circulates blood and regulates the body’s temperature, the ocean controls the circulation of water and moisture throughout the planet, affecting both sea and land life! Texas fishermen use responsible fishing techniques to harvest your favorite seafood. They do this to ensure that fish are healthy and abundant for future generations.

 

 

How can you help, you ask? Here are a few ways:

  • Make smart choices about what you eat and where you buy it. This can make a huge impact on our oceans and the animals living there! Some of the top grocery stores in North America have public sustainable seafood sourcing policies – this list includes (but not limited to) Fiesta, H-E-B, Kroger, Target, Walmart and Whole Foods. These stores provide sustainably-sourced seafood options for you to purchase and be confident you are making fish-friendly choices.
  • If you are out enjoying a meal at your favorite restaurant, you can ask them if the seafood they serve is sustainable. Choosing responsibly-sourced seafood is one of the best ways to contribute to our oceans’ health.SFW Logo
  • You can also refer to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch consumer guide to learn which seafood options are best choices or good alternatives. Click here to download the app from the Apple Store or Google Play.

Thanks for doing your part to save wildlife. And remember, every time you visit the Houston Zoo, you help save animals in wild!

Fish of the Week – Post #4

We are now at the halfway mark of our Fish of the Week blog series! Each week we feature a sustainably-sourced seafood option along with a recipe provided by our very own Chef Larry. Not only will get you get to hear from one of the Zoo’s top chefs, but you can also prepare meals at home that help protect marine wildlife and their ecosystems!

This week’s recipe is: Tuna PuttanescaSpicy-Tuna-Puttanesca

A classic Italian dish – fresh tuna and a spicy, salty tomato sauce, served with pasta and bread for dipping. If you don’t like your tuna medium-rare, cook it to the temperature you like. Your best choice for sustainable tuna is going to be a Yellowfin Tuna (Ahi), US Troll and Pole. This recipe also works well with shrimp and any other firm white fish (Gulf Grouper or Red Drum).

Ingredients:

4 ea Tuna Steaks 4oz portions
1 tbls Olive Oil

Sauce:
1 tbls Olive oil
1 tbls Minced Garlic
¼ tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1 tsp Anchovy Paste
1 cup White Wine
2 can Crushed Tomatoes (14.5oz)
1 tsp Lemon Juice
½ cup Olives Kalamata
2 tbls Capers, Drained
¼ cup Chopped Fresh parsley
1 lb Angel Hair Pasta

Cooking Instructions:

Cook Pasta. Hold for service; reserve a little pasta water for reheat.

In a large saute pan, heat 1tbls oil. Salt and pepper tuna

Add tuna to your pan and cook to desired temperature, med-rare about 2 to 3 min each side. Remove and hold.

In the same pan, add remaining oil, anchovy paste, garlic and red pepper flake. Cook 1 min.
Add wine and reduce heat by half.
Add tomatoes and lemon juice. Heat to a boil. Add parsley.
Add reserved pasta water and pasta to sauce. Heat.

Served Family Style – On a serving platter, pull hot pasta from the sauce and place in center. Lay tuna steak over pasta. Pour sauce over tuna and pasta and serve with a slice of French bread.

Servings: 4
Degree of Difficulty: Moderately difficult

Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes


You can think of the ocean like your own heart. Just as your heart circulates blood and regulates the body’s temperature, the ocean controls the circulation of water and moisture throughout the planet, affecting both sea and land life! Choosing responsibly-sourced seafood is one of the best ways to contribute to our oceans’ health. Texas fishermen use responsible fishing techniques to harvest your favorite seafood. They do this to ensure that fish populations remain healthy and abundant for future generations. SFW Logo

Want to be ocean-friendly? Download the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch app to learn about “Best Choice” and “Good Alternative” seafood options. Click here to download the app from the Apple Store or Google Play. And be sure to check back next week for a new, tasty recipe to try!

Thanks for doing your part to save wildlife. And remember, every time you visit the Houston Zoo, you help save animals in wild!

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Today, we are working with BBVA Compass Stadium to plant a new pollinator garden at the stadium! This beautiful new pollinator garden supports local pollinators like bees, butterflies, and more, and is located at the North entrance to BBVA Compass Stadium. Great partnership for an even greater good. ... See MoreSee Less

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