Great Apes Aren't Doing So Great

Simple fact: Great Apes are in trouble. The next few years could determine the fate of some of the smaller populations of apes such as orangutans, chimpanzees and gorillas spread across their range countries. Gorillas are of particular concern these days as they are being lost for human reasons – lost to habitat fragmentation, disease issues, hunted for meat and young taken to sell into the wildlife trade. And while some populations are stabilizing, the Eastern Lowland Gorillas of the Democratic Republic of Congo continue to decline:

Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) contains between 125,000 and 200,000 individuals remaining in the wild in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Gabon, Republic of Congo, and Equatorial Guinea.

Cross River Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli) only 250-300 individuals remain in Nigeria and Cameroon

Eastern Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla beringei) may be as low as 5,000 individuals, down from 17,000 in 1995. This population is difficult to monitor due to political instability in their range countries, the Democratic Republic of Congo

Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) less than 900 individuals remaining in Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo

Gorillas Sitting

The Houston Zoo currently partners with two amazing programs in Central Africa you have seen on our websites and social media. The Gorilla Doctors work in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and are literally Doctors who make house calls – for gorillas. With a focus on keeping the worlds remaining Mountain Gorillas healthy across three countries and assisting with confiscating and caring for orphaned Eastern Lowland gorillas when called upon, the Gorilla Doctors are at the front line of protecting these species. You can find out more about what they do at www.gorilladoctors.org. A little further north in the DRC sits a unique sanctuary for orphaned Eastern Lowland gorillas called GRACE – Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education center. A one-of-a-kind facility dedicated to recusing, caring for, and one day releasing these individuals back in the wild. More on this project can be found at www.gracegorillas.org

gorilla babyyWorking in regions where poverty is high is complicated and each program offers the development of initiatives to help support local communities; from health to education and even some jobs. Today, protecting wildlife could not be successful without programs which empower these communities to participate in a future for gorillas.

Africa has a mystique. It is awe-inspiring, a living place yet dark and formidable. It is full of cultures and heritage, wildlife and wild places. But, Deepest Darkest Africa is in danger. There is a Congolese proverb which says you do not teach the paths of the forest to an old gorilla. But what if those paths are gone forever? How will the gorilla find its way? And worse, what if the old gorillas have gone away, lost to humans? Who will show the young the paths of the forest?

200 years ago, Thomas Jefferson wrote for if one link in nature’s chain might be lost, another might be lost, until the whole of things will vanish by piecemeal. If we have the opportunity to protect and hold dear this chain; wildlife, habitat and human communities, then we must take that opportunity and act while the old gorilla can still teach the young, his forest path.

 

The Easter Bunny – Really?

Back on the 2nd of February , I de-mystified GroundHog’s Day for you. Big fan of the rodent – just not his or her holiday. Today we tackle the Easter Bunny from a Lagomorph’s (taxonomic order including rabbits and hares) point of view. Later in the year I will explain why Guinea Pigs should also have their own holiday.

Rabbits

To start with – this is a non-denominational blog neither leaning towards the bunny, nor the chocolate easter egg. Disclaimer – DO NOT feed your pet bunny chocolate under any circumstances. Simply put – in ancient times (before the 1970’s) and in the ancient world (before the 1960’s), the rabbit has long been a symbol of fertility. The rabbit is known for its reproductive prowess. In Europe prior to the introduction of Christianity the ancient pagans already had their own springtime festivals, as did almost all other ancient peoples. Because spring is the time, after the harshness of winter that the world begins to bloom once more, it is seen as a time of replenishing and renewal, birth and rebirth, fertility. So there you have it – the rabbit symbolizes rebirth.

Rabbits and Hares – ok – these are two different animals completely and we will not get into the Pikas of which are cute but will add to the potential confusion. Hares and Jackrabbits belong to the family Lepus (Night of the Lepus was a great film from the 70’s where giant mutated jackrabbits turned over trailer homes. This of course was based on the novel The Year of the Angry Rabbit), and their young are called leverets. Hares do not bear young below ground but in a shallow depression which is why people so often come across baby hares while meandering through fields of wildflowers (when was the last time you meandered anywhere?).

All rabbits (except the cottontail rabbits) live underground in burrows or warrens, while hares (and cottontail rabbits) live in simple nests above the ground, and usually do not live in groups. Rabbit young are called kits. Rabbits are clearly distinguished from hares in that rabbits are altricial, having young that are born blind and hairless. In contrast, hares are generally born with hair and are able to see (precocial).

Hares are generally larger than rabbits, with longer ears, and have black markings on their fur. Hares have not been domesticated, while rabbits are often kept as house pets. Hares can run at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour – could you handle this running around your home? No, that’s why rabbits are pets, not hares. 

Eastern Cottontail Rabbit
Eastern Cottontail Rabbit

Invasive Pests: Rabbits have been a source of environmental problems when introduced into the wild by humans. As a result of their appetites, and the rate at which they breed, wild rabbit depredation can be problematic for agriculture. Rabbits in Australia are considered to be such a pest that land owners are legally obliged to control them

Cultural Folklore – rabbits and hares seem to play a role in many cultures beliefs beyond the chocolate egg theory.

  • Somewhere in Central Africa, “Kalulu” the rabbit is widely known as a tricky character, getting the better of bargains.
  • In Aztec mythology, a pantheon of four hundred rabbit gods known as Centzon Totochtin led by Ometotchtli or Two Rabbit, represented fertility, parties, and drunkenness. This last part probably led to that particular myth.
  • A  Korean myth presents rabbits living on the moon making rice cakes. That’s one handy space rabbit.
  • Associated with the Chinese New Year (2014 is Year of the Horse), Rabbits are one of the twelve celestial animals in the Chinese Zodiac. It is noted that the Vietnamese lunar new year replaced the rabbit with a cat in their calendar, as rabbits did not inhabit Vietnam. Thirteen years ago, a new species of rabbit was discovered in Vietnam, the Annamite rabbit – time for them to change their calendars back.

Great Apes are in Trouble

This month, we’re celebrating APE-ril and spending time discussing great apes. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be bringing you all sorts of information to help you understand more about how the Houston Zoo works to save great apes in the wild and how you can help. Enjoy APE-ril!

Simple fact: Great Apes are in trouble. The next few years could determine the fate of some of the smaller populations of apes such as orangutans, chimpanzees and gorillas spread across their range countries. Gorillas are of particular concern these days as they are being lost for human reasons – lost to habitat fragmentation, disease issues, hunted for meat and young taken to sell into the wildlife trade. And while some populations are stabilizing, the Eastern Lowland Gorillas of the Democratic Republic of Congo continue to decline:

gorilla600Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) contains between 125,000 and 200,000 individuals remaining in the wild in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Gabon, Republic of Congo, and Equatorial Guinea.

Cross River Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli) only 250-300 individuals remain in Nigeria and Cameroon

Eastern Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla beringei) may be as low as 5,000 individuals, down from 17,000 in 1995. This population is difficult to monitor due to political instability in their range countries, the Democratic Republic of Congo

Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) less than 900 individuals remaining in Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo

The Houston Zoo currently partners with two amazing programs in Central Africa you have seen on our websites and social media. The Gorilla Doctors work in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and are literally Doctors who make house calls – for gorillas. With a focus on keeping the worlds remaining Mountain Gorillas healthy across three countries and assisting with confiscating and caring for orphaned Eastern Lowland gorillas when called upon, the Gorilla Doctors are at the front line of protecting these species. You can find out more about what they do at www.gorilladoctors.org. A little further north in the DRC sits a unique sanctuary for orphaned Eastern Lowland gorillas called GRACE – Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education center. A one-of-a-kind facility dedicated to recusing, caring for, and one day releasing these individuals back in the wild. More on this project can be found at www.gracegorillas.org

thoughtful gorillaWorking in regions where poverty is high is complicated and each program offers the development of initiatives to help support local communities; from health to education and even some jobs. Today, protecting wildlife could not be successful without programs which empower these communities to participate in a future for gorillas.

Africa has a mystique. It is awe-inspiring, a living place yet dark and formidable. It is full of cultures and heritage, wildlife and wild places. But, Deepest Darkest Africa is in danger. There is a Congolese proverb which says you do not teach the paths of the forest to an old gorilla. But what if those paths are gone forever? How will the gorilla find its way? And worse, what if the old gorillas have gone away, lost to humans? Who will show the young the paths of the forest?

200 years ago, Thomas Jefferson wrote for if one link in nature’s chain might be lost, another might be lost, until the whole of things will vanish by piecemeal. If we have the opportunity to protect and hold dear this chain; wildlife, habitat and human communities, then we must take that opportunity and act while the old gorilla can still teach the young, his forest path.

Stay tuned for more APE-ril blogs this month!

Sign on to protect Elephants

Did you know you can still buy ivory legally in the United States? Unfortunately it’s true, and the sale and demand of ivory is causing the African elephant population to drop at an alarming rate every single day. Here at the Houston Zoo, we are committed to protecting animals outside of our zoo gates, and African elephants are in serious need of our support.

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Our Houston community can help save elephants from extinction by simply telling our Texas representatives to ban the sale of ivory and ivory products in the United States. Join us in our fight to save elephants in the wild by adding your name and information to the initiative below. Signatures will be sent to our local congressman and representatives to urge them to ban the sale of ivory and ivory products in the United States. www.houstonzoo.org/elephant-petition.

Our goal is to collect 5,000 signatures by March 1, 2014, and we need YOUR help to get there!

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The Houston Zoo has joined The Wildlife Conservation Society as a partner in the recently launched 96 Elephants Campaign.  The Campaign has three goals – securing a U. S. moratorium on illegal ivory; reinforce the protection of African elephants; and inform the public about the link between ivory consumption and the elephant poaching crisis.

The Houston Zoo’s partnership with WCS expands the reach of the 96 Elephants Campaign to Texas.  The Campaign brings together multiple organizations to help raise awareness and drive action to save elephants.  The 96 Elephants Campaign is designed to educate and engage the public through a series of activities including online petitions and letter writing campaigns enhanced through local media.

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“The illegal ivory trade is pushing elephants to the brink of extinction and the Houston Zoo is proud to partner with WCS’s 96 Elephants Campaign,” said Houston Zoo Director Rick Barongi. “In 2013 alone 35,000 African elephants were killed for their ivory.  No species can withstand this kind of loss and survive,” he added.

About the 96 Elephants Campaign

96 Elephants is named for the number of elephants illegally killed each day for their ivory.  According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), there are currently 166 African elephants and 142 Asian elephants in the AZA Elephant Species Survival Plan (SSP).  That means that there are more elephants killed in four days than are living in all of the AZA-accredited zoos combined.

What the 96 Elephants Campaign is Doing for Elephants

  • Bolsters elephant protection in the wild by increasing support for park guards, intelligence networks, and government operations in the last great protected areas for elephants throughout the Congo Basin and East Africa.
  • Directly engages the elephant poaching crisis with high-tech tools ranging from drones and remote cameras to specially trained sniffer dogs to find smuggled ivory in ports and trading centers.
  • In  2013, the Houston Zoo generated over $200,000 for elephant conservation programs including Save the Elephants’ efforts to reduce poaching in Kenya and support for local community efforts to reduce human-elephant conflict in Mozambique.

Thank you for joining the Houston Zoo in our effort to save elephants in the wild. We couldn’t do it without you!

It's Groundhog Day! Well, it will be on Sunday…

So if you have been following our blogs a few years, you may have seen this one before. Basically, nothing has changed about Groundhogs Day in the past 200+ years, let alone since early 2013. But for all you newcomers – use this to make you friends believe you are a rodent genius.

Normally, our winters are mild but the past few months has pushed us to the precipice of Arctic disaster. This is not really true but groundhogs are alarmists and feel they take the blame for all weather – good or bad. This year, they take the blame for Houston’s cold weather.

Since you most likely need a little background on the winter vs. rodent discussion, I thought it would be a good idea to re-broadcast some Groundhogs Day (Feb. 2nd) information which also happens to be Super Bowl Sunday.  Groundhogs by the way do not like Broncos or Seahawks. One animal steps on their burrows and the other picks them up and drops them in the sea – let me repeat that this may not be true, Groundhogs just think it to be so.

Lets get something straight, “Groundhog” are not the Nostradamus of the rodent world. They can barely remember which drawer they left their pants in, let alone predict the changing of the seasons.

We do not hear much about weather predicting rodents in Houston as we normally only have two seasons: Hot and humid or gonna be hot and humid soon, but folks in the North go nuts over this critter every February. I am ignoring the past few 20 degree days here in January, it is Houston after all and this should not happen for another 10 years. According to folklore, if a groundhog emerging from its burrow on this day fails to see its shadow, it will leave the burrow, signifying that winter will soon end. If on the other hand, the groundhog sees its shadow, the groundhog will supposedly retreat into its burrow, and winter will continue for six more weeks.

Tradition has it that the early German settlers in Pennsylvania thought the groundhog to be a particularly sensitive and intelligent creature. They decided that if the sun shone on Candlemas Day then a wise animal such as the groundhog would see its own shadow and hurry back to its burrow for another six weeks of winter. The origins go back to ancient European weather lore where they relied on a badger or a bear to help them determine the change of the season. Actually Germans used a hedgehog to predict “a second winter”. Who wants to be standing out in a field when a Badger or a Bear wakes up for the season and is hungry?

What is a Groundhog anyway? Also known as Woodchucks or Whistle Pigs, they are actually Marmots of which there are 14 species and at up to 13lbs, the largest member of the Squirrel family. Woodchucks are true hibernators, relying solely on body fat for winter survival. This begins at the first frost of the season and ends in early Spring. Is there a reason they wake up in early February other than to celebrate this tradition (envision groundhogs in party hats ringing in the new year…)? Emergence is determined by the outside daily temperature and an internal circannual clock which governs biological seasonality. Soon after leaving hibernation, sexually mature woodchucks begin the reproductive process. In essence, they are out looking to protect their territories from other males as well as find a mate, or they need to go the bathroom, possibly both. Humans manage to disrupt some of this by parading around their fields trying to figure out where a shadow is.

A few parting points here. On the news every year we see someone in Gobblers Knob, Pennsylvania with a Top Hat from the Groundhog’s Club Inner Circle (yes, this is for real) picking up Punxsutawney Phil to make his prediction. Do not try this at home! I repeat, keep your hands out of hibernating mammal dens. Next – did you know one of the most critically endangered mammals in North America is a Marmot? The Vancouver Island Marmot to be exact – link over to their website for more information and to see one of the cutest rodents on the planet.

An Elephant's Illegal "White Gold" – Stopping the Sale of Ivory

In early September, the Houston Zoo Wildlife Conservation Program began two months of programming focused on the African Elephant and the Ivory Crisis. In a world of constant communication, and distractions, we felt the best way to get our message across and gain people’s attention was to do so as often as we could. In this way, we would bring your attention to the plight of the African Elephant, one of Africa’s most iconic species.

DSC_0332

And we would do so with positive messages about our partners in the field who have dedicated their lives to the elephant and many other very special animals. On occasion we would promote a current story which may not have been as positive – people need to hear these stories as elephants continue to be illegally hunted for their ivory which finds its way from Africa across to Asia where it is turned into personal and religious ornamental carvings and sold at prices higher than the value of gold. It is today’s “white” gold and until the governments of China and other up and coming Asian countries decide to put a stop to the trade and sale of ivory, elephants will continue to die so people can own their tusks. The illegal ivory trade may be driven by China but it is an international issue. The US is sitting on a stockpile of 6 tonnes, possibly more, of ivory confiscated in our own country.

Today, there could be as many as a half a million elephants left on the continent of Africa. Just 30 years ago, that number was more than double but today the goal is not to increase the population back to historical numbers – if only 30 years can be considered historical. There is simply not enough space left for 1.2 million elephants to roam across the continent. Africa’s savannahs and forests are different now with people and communities spreading out across the landscape. Today, the goal should be to stop the killing of elephant for the ornamental ivory trade and stabilize their populations as well as continue to work to reduce the conflict between humans and elephants who compete for both water sources and space needed for food.

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And living in the United States it is hard to understand that message. Africa is such a vast and varied continent, how could there be space issues between people and wildlife? The issues are as large as the continent itself. So the Houston Zoo set out to bring attention to these issues and what we, hopefully with the assistance of our friends, members and guests, could do to help protect Africa’s elephants.

It is really about the awareness needed to generate significant funding to put the right people and resources on the ground to protect elephants and people. To identify the sources of local conflict with elephants that raid peoples crops – many times their only source of food; to fund programs that will engage local governments to reduce illegal poaching; to support local communities with resources so they see value in elephants alive, not dead. Here is a great example of a group doing work on the ground in Africa to protect elephants and one of the Houston Zoo’s main partners in Africa this year – Save the Elephants

Elephants matter. To the role they play on the landscape, to the culture of Africa,  they simply belong. We would ask for you to help us support elephant conservation any way you can go. Be an advocate, write your local representatives to place a complete ban on the trade in Ivory in the US, support the effort through the Houston Zoo or attend a few of our upcoming events.

You can support the Elephant Crisis Campaign here

Join Us: November 14th Reception 6pm-8pm. Art for Conservation: Wildlife Photography, Original Watercolors and Giclees. Gremillion & Co. Fine Art Gallery, 2501 Sunset Blvd. Show is open until December 1st

Or just come out to the zoo and enjoy our elephants (https://www.houstonzoo.org/meet-the-animals/mammals/) getting their morning bath daily around 10:00am – a bit like this young elephant in Africa, without the mud…

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Jack Hanna – Live in Houston this Friday

Are you and your family ready to take an adventure through the eyes of Jack Hanna? On Friday, January 25 at 7:00 pm, Jack Hanna will be at the Bayou Music Center as Into the Wild-Live! provides insight into the world of conservation and protecting endangered species while having some fun along the way!  Houston Zoo members can purchase 4 tickets for the price of 3 and $2.00 of each ticket sold will be donated to the Gorilla Doctors-Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project. Just use the code ‘GORILLA’ at the end of your ticket purchase.

Buy Your Tickets Here through Live Nation

The Houston Zoo will be on hand in the vendor area helping to raise money for the Gorilla Doctors project. We will have gorilla carvings from Rwanda and Gorilla Doctors t-shirts for sale. If you cannot make it out the event, you can still get your t-shirt here in support of the project.

Gorilla Doctors: Saving a Species One Gorilla at a Time The Gorilla Doctors are dedicated to saving the lives of critically-endangered mountain and Grauer’s gorillas through health care. Our international team of veterinarians is the only group providing these animals with direct, hands-on care in the wild.

With approximately 800 mountain gorillas left in the world today, it is critical to ensure the health and well-being of every individual gorilla. The distribution of gorillas includes the Virunga Volcanoes Massif, which spans Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, DR Congo’s Virunga National Park, Uganda’s Mgahinga National Park, and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda.

Gorilla Doctors also focus on human health in one of the most densely populated regions in Africa. Recognizing that the health of the gorillas is inextricably linked to that of the entire ecosystem, in addition to providing life-saving care, our veterinary team further protects gorillas by supporting health programs for people and their animals living and working in and around gorilla habitat.

So come on out Friday night January 25th – you never know what Jack Hanna might have planned for the evening and you will be supporting gorilla conservation.

Awareness Leads to Action: Reduce, Recycle, Reduce Some More

Here is a simple fact: If you tell me to do something, I am more than likely not going to do it, even if I wanted to before you told me to. It is not that I am stubborn (I am but will not admit it) but we are constantly bombarded with messages about what we should do. What to buy, what to eat, which mattress to purchase, which car to drive, not to make your chicken wear pants. The list goes on and on.

So, I am not going to tell you what to do (that is an outright lie, you have been warned) but we do want you to see that being Aware leads to Action, good actions that we can do everyday and in doing so, can make a world of difference no matter how small.

Fisherman and Fisherwomen! Please do not cut your fishing line when you get hooked and leave it to float in the ocean because at some point – this will absolutely happen and not only to turtles but to dolphins and birds as well:

Sea Turtle trapped in abandoned monofilament line and debris in Galveston

Instead, look for monofilament recycling bins on the jetties or at least take it home and dispose of properly. More Awareness = More Action.

I am not sure in my lifetime the reduction of plastic waste will ever occur but do you really need to get all your water from these 12 once bottles which are also made from petroleum and do not break down in the landfills? We hope you will at least recycle every bottle you use. We understand it is inevitable in todays society to use plastics but we can all make a small difference by reducing our use of plastic bottles. Our Sea Lions can do it – so can you. More Awareness = More Action.

We all know Styrofoam is bad for the environment but I am not going to tell you it is because then you will think it is not. But someone just told me that it is hazardous for wildlife and even bad for humans so it must be true. Styrene,  which is what Styrofoam is made from, is a known carcinogenic and is made from petroleum – enjoy that Milkshake or cup of coffee! How easy is it to not use Styrofoam? Ridiculously easy, just reach for something else at the store and only go to restaurants, diners, drive-throughs that no longer use Styrofoam cups for your drinks. Did I mention it does not break down in the landfill – ever, and at some point ends up in our waterways? Styrofoam products are the number one source of Marine Debris. More Awareness = More Action.

Each year Americans throw away 25,000,000,000 ‘Styrofoam’ cups. That is equal to how many times I am told to do something, and I ignore it. Do not even think about ignoring me on this one.

I know you are hit with a million messages a day, and at least 12 texts, and you cannot absorb all of them, but we all know right from wrong. I do not want to sound like I am telling you what to do or making an issue bigger than it really is. That is actually the job of the Drama Llama.

We are just asking that you help us pay a little more attention to the products we all use and the waste we are leaving behind as it affects our communities and our wildlife. If you recall I noted earlier I would not be telling you what to do. I lied – I am telling you not to leave your Guinea Pig outside without sunblock no matter how cool he looks in sunglasses. More Awareness = Healthy Guinea Pigs.

Backyard Wildlife

Backyard Wildlife. We have blogged and blogged about what you can do to attract birds, bees, and butterflies to your back yard no matter how small. I live in a single family home subdivision – our backyard is small enough to take in with a blink of your eye but over the years everything from hummingbirds to bees, a dog dressed up like a taxi cab, toads and a weird burrowing snake has come through.

But it is not often you hear of front yard wildlife and I am sure it is against homeowners association rules to have animals that do not conform to their guidelines, including the one about grass not to exceed 2.3″ above sea level during a drought. So it was quite a surprise the other day when I looked up to see this perched not in our front yard but what can best be describes as a very small alcove 10 feet above our front door. Remember, I do not live on a big piece of property but in a community subdivision surrounded by other houses with cats, dogs (some dressed in their finest winter gear) and that weird burrowing snake thing.

American Kestrel or Comcast cable repair bird? You decide.

About once or twice a year we see American Kestrels hanging out on the electrical wires near our local detention pond but this is the first time I had one staring down at me every time I walk in and out our door. When you say Wildlife – most people think Lions, Gorillas, Deer, Shark – but people forget we are surrounded by wildlife every day. Yes some of them sting but I told you not to grab bees so that is your own fault. And we do not live far outside Houston – 20 miles south down 288 actually. Our little detention pond is a haven for all types of migratory birds, including Pelicans which surprise me a bit given we are an hour north of Galveston Bay.

This detention pond is literally a birding hotspot. Kingfisher, Black necked Stilt, Ibis, Egret, Cormorant, Osprey, Caracara, Black Vulture, Whistling Duck and a few other ducks I am not very good at identifying, herons, roseate spoonbill and a few others. All within 20 yards of the community. Oh, don’t worry, people are managing to cut down trees adjacent to the pond and build just like everywhere else. If nothing else, humans are good at turning every inch of open land into a concrete parking lot and building. But yet these birds still show up ever year. And for the past two years, these have showed up to nest – successfully raising one chick in 2011:

So whether you have a backyard, front yard, or cable wire over your door – wildlife will find it if you set it aside for them and give them just enough space to feel comfortable. We will be giving tours of our front door every tuesday and thursday between the hours of 4pm and 5pm if you would like to view wildlife and I am only charging $3.00 per tour.

The Year in Blogs

I do not even know where to start to make sense of some of our blog posts in 2012, all written to try and bring your attention to both the successes and issues facing our environment. I really have no idea what may or may not have caught your attention. No matter how often our IT and web team send me graphs and charts showing reader algorithms, viral feeds (unrelated to a blog on emerging infectious diseases), hits and views – it is beyond my grasp of the new world we live in. Remember, I have a smart phone and do recall saying it was making us all a little dumber, me especially.

So a quick look back at MacGyver, Cheddar Bacon and Peppermint Shakes, Chicken Pants and the fact that  Groundhogs are not the Nostradamus of the rodent world as they can barely remember which drawer they left their pants in, let alone predict the changing of the seasons.

These were all very important topics, near and dear to my heart from pollinators to climate change and even Chicken Pants which I have no idea what I was thinking of at the time that spurred that thought process. But the point is simply this – the world is a messy place, our role in the zoo is to focus on wildlife and so most of what you see and read here is about the environment and the people who work tirelessly to protect wildlife and their habitats around the clock.

We can do more to help our partners and the environment and it is so simple it hurts my head to think about it.

Have 30 seconds to spare? Try this: Recycle a cell phone – protect wildlife in Africa. Lets make this a friendly disease called the Responsible Consumer Syndrome. You can catch this syndrome by also understanding where the Palm Oil in your products originates – and protect Orangutans in Southeast Asia

The great plastic debate? Not really a debate – we are addicted to plastic shopping bags and water bottles. Do you think Krogers, Randalls, HEB and others realizes how much money they could save by not providing its customers millions of plastic bags every year which in turn would protect the environment and wildlife? Probably equal to the economy of a small country. Interesting someone thought enough of the water bottle issue to ban them from Grand Canyon National Park – I guess they think it is prettier than the other parks since it is the only one that bans plastic water bottles.

Who would have thought the National Park System would be following the lead of these countries  (mild disclaimer – these countries have banned plastic bags but they still drink water): Papua New Guinea, Germany, Kenya, South Korea, Belgium, Sweden, Bhutan, Botswana and a handful of others. You may recall I ranted about this on my  bestselling blog Doggie Doo’s and Doggie Dont’s (another disclaimer, my blogs are not for sale but I found a quarter after posting that one).

So for 2013 – we can do better. Smartphones and Smart tablets can inform us but cannot lead us to action – that is a human trait that we need to figure out how to enhance if we are going to continue to protect the worlds wildlife in the face of growing human populations and habitat loss. We have to care more to do more.

One thing I really do not care to learn more about is Poutine which my Canadian colleague tried to poison me with this year. I like my french fries with ketchup thank you, not brown gravy and curd cheese. But what we want you to learn more about are all are wonderful partners which can be found on our website or at a few of the links below:

Niassa Lion Project Mozambique, Cheetah Conservation Botswana, Hutan-Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation, Danau Girang Elephant Conservation, Painted Dog Conservation Zimbabwe, Gorilla Doctors, Education for Nature VietnamFaleme Chimpanzee Conservation Senegal, Coastal Prairie Partnership, Lowland Tapir Project Brazil, El Valle Amphibian Conservation Panama, Jane Goodall Institute, International Rhino Foundation, Art of Conservation Rwanda, NOAA’s Sea Turtle Program, USFWS, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Texas State University, National Marine Fisheries Service, Human Wildlife Conflict Collaboration, Terra Incognita EcotoursWildlife Conservation Network, Galapagos Tortoise Program, Natural Habitat Adventures, and a Thank You to all of our zoo staff, zoo members and supporters including Land Rover UAE, Anadarko, Chevron, numerous private foundations, individuals and followers.

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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?

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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