All of the Houston Zoo’s conservation partners (a part of our extended Zoo family) who are saving lemurs in the wild were born and raised in Madagascar. They all went to the University of Tananarive in the capital of Madagascar. This is where they met, Jonah Ratsimazafy, our Director of Madagascar Programs and leader of Madagascar conservation project, GERP. Jonah and his Malagasy (Madagascar people) team work on several areas on the island and all their efforts are focused on protecting 13 species of lemurs, 2 species of carnivore, 17 species of rodents, 3 species of insects, 84 species of birds, 35 species of reptiles, 25 species of amphibians and 433 species of plants. That is a lot of animals; a lot of unique animals as the majority mammals, reptiles, and plants exist nowhere else on Earth.
While different kinds of animals can face different kinds of threats, deforestation is the biggest threat for all the animals in Madagascar. Jonah guides his Malagasy team to strengthen their communities that live around the forests so that those communities can carry out protection efforts like patrolling the forest to stop the poaching of trees and animals and replanting to expand the forested areas. Last year, this group trained 16 local people to be rangers that monitor the forest. Local community members also replanted three hectares of forest and maintained three nurseries of trees for replanting.
We are so grateful and proud of our Madagascar team. They proudly state that they will protect the species under their watch from extinction. We are also grateful for you, our Zoo visitors. Your trip to the Houston Zoo is saving the counterparts of the animals you visit at the Zoo as a portion of your admission and membership is going to this work in Madagascar.
Our admissions’ team raises funds to help save animals in the wild through the sales of colorful wildlife bracelets guests can buy at the entrance to the Zoo. In 2015, the Zoo established a conservation hero award program to use the bracelet funds to recognize and enhance the outstanding staff employed by the Zoo’s existing conservation partners. The program, named Wildlife Warriors, has just awarded four new 2016 Wildlife Warriors from our conservation projects in developing countries. Each and every warrior honored was carefully chosen by the Zoo’s admissions’ team – the group of folks our guests interact with on a daily basis. The award is designed to increase the recipient’s conservation community network and inspire empowerment by providing opportunities to gain further education through training or experiences.
The recipients are nominated by their directors and in most cases are unaware of their nomination until they are contacted by our admissions staff to announce the award. The directors submit specific examples of exceptional conservation leadership being carried out by the individual as well as a description of what further training or skill building opportunity they would be interested in. The 2016 Wildlife Warriors are from our partner projects all over the world saving sharks, painted dogs, gorillas, and giant armadillos. Here are this year’s winners.
Valerie is saving gorillas and other wildlife in Rwanda, Africa. She was born and raised in Rwanda and is a teacher in a village that is close to gorilla habitat. She educates local people that live in areas that surround gorillas about the importance of the gorillas. Locals don’t normally see gorillas, even though they live very close to them. She takes children into the forest to see gorillas for the first time. This is what a few of the children have said after seeing gorillas for the first time:
“I did not know they have eyes!”
“I didn’t know they feel happy like we do!”
“I didn’t know they play like we do!”
Valerie wants to see how another conservation program educates children about wildlife, so the Zoo will set up an opportunity for her to travel to another wildlife conservation partner project we have in Africa.
Hilmar is saving sharks and other marine wildlife with Mar Alliance in Belize. He was born, and now raises his own family, in a small village in Belize. He has relied on the ocean for his food and livelihood for his entire life and now works to save it by protecting large marine wildlife like sharks and rays. He conducts research by setting up cameras underwater, tagging sharks, rays and sea turtles and empowers local people and children to protect the ocean.
Hilmar would like leadership and computer training and the Zoo will assist in making that wish a reality.
Zulu is saving Painted dogs and other wildlife in Zimbabwe, Africa. He was born and grew up in Zimbabwe and is now the Anti-poaching team manager at Painted Dog Conservation in Zimbabwe. He and his team have risked their lives to collect over 12 784 snares, rescued 11 animals from snares, arrested over 89 poachers. He empowers and coordinates wildlife saving planning with many local community members and is very well respected and appreciated in the area.
Zulu would benefit from seeing another anti-poaching unit’s operations in Africa. The Zoo will fund him to travel to another project to experience different techniques and exchange ideas.
Gabriel is saving giant armadillos and other wildlife in Brazil. He is a biologist from Brazil that works for our partner at the Giant Armadillo Project. He conducts research, collaborates and trains many other Brazilians and educates children to protect giant armadillos in the wild. Gabriel wants to be fluent in English to increase his impact with his conservation efforts and the Houston Zoo will make that happen through this award.
All of these Wildlife Warriors have deep rooted connections with their communities and are leading the way in saving animals from extinction. The Houston Zoo is very proud of and grateful for all of these Wildlife Warriors and their projects. Every time you visit the Houston Zoo a portion of your admission goes to protecting animals in the wild through projects like these. The next time you visit be sure to ask the Zoo staff you buy your ticket from about these amazing Wildlife Warriors.
The Houston Zoo is grateful to partner with the Galveston Bay Foundation on our annual Crab Trap Cleanup to protect wildlife every year at Fort Anahuac Park, and this year was no exception!
With the help of 85 volunteers (including 23 Houston Zoo staff) we removed 268 abandoned traps and smashed them to send the material to be recycled. If these traps are left in the environment, they are a great danger for wildlife, as they can accidentally capture animals (like otters) that weren’t meant to be caught. By pulling them up we ensure a safer environment for animals like the otters we often see playing around the area. The volunteer team also collected a tremendous amount of waste from around the shore and park. We had over 8 bags of recyclable material by the end of the day and had removed items such as a propane tank, tires and a lot of old fishing line! We filled 2 garbage bags of discarded fishing line to recycle. Volunteers worked hard to untangle and sort the line for recycling.
Removing fishing line from the water and shore is critical to protecting wildlife. The Houston Zoo provided medical treatment for 127 injured or stranded sea turtles last year and some of the turtles we see have injuries from fishing line left on the bay’s and beaches. If the discarded line is left in the environment unsuspecting wildlife can get wrapped in it just like any other form of trap. We had a intern work with us for almost a year from Save the Elephants in Kenya last year. He joined our sea lion keepers in cleaning up abandoned fishing line from Galveston beaches and he likened the activity to the anti-poaching efforts they do in Africa. At Save the Elephants they patrol the park searching for wire set out to trap animals and he felt what they were doing on the beach was the same thing. He felt it was a very heroic effort to protect our local wildlife and we agree.
The Houston Zoo (among many other organizations such as Texas A&M Sea Grant and Turtle Island Restoration Project) installed special bins that are designed to contain the unused fishing line in an effective and safe way along jetties in Galveston, in an effort to reduce the wildlife entanglement cases we saw. This year, we brought one of these bins to the crab trap cleanup anticipating that we may be able to collect a significant amount of line from the shores of the park. They were so popular that the community inquired about installing some in the park in the future. They saw it as a great tool they could utilize to protect wildlife year round!
The crab trap cleanup not only helps to ensure the bay is safe for wildlife, but it also plays a long-term role in ensuring blue crab populations are healthy. The more abandoned traps we pull out of the bay, the healthier the blue crab and wildlife population will be in the future-allowing all Texans a chance at enjoying the seafood we love while protecting our natural resources. In the end, this beautiful Texas bay is cleaner and safer because of our collaborative wildlife protecting efforts. Together, we will protect our Texas wildlife!
Come to the Zoo and help us save animals in the wild! A portion of you admission goes directly to wildlife saving efforts and you can learn more about what you can do to protect the animals you see at the Zoo in the wild. Visit the Take Action page link to see how everyday actions can strengthen efforts to save wildlife.
On your next visit to the Zoo ask us how we are saving animals in the wild. Our wildlife saving efforts are why we exist and we want to share and celebrate our collaborative efforts to protect animals in the wild with you.
If you were to ask us how we are saving animals in the wild, we might say that last year we made a decision to go plastic bag free in the Zoo’s gift shops and this action protected sea turtles in the wild. Success! Sea turtles can mistake plastic bags in the water for one of their favorite foods (jellyfish) and accidentally ingest it, causing them to get sick. Reducing plastic use is a simple action all of us can do to save wildlife.
Or, we might say that we provide salaries for local people in Madagascar to replant trees to save lemurs. We could even answer the question by describing how we use rain barrels around the zoo to collect rainwater which is then used to clean our rhino barn and water our vegetable gardens. Reusing rainwater helps reduce the stress on the environment and wildlife! Or, we might say the we are providing salaries for local people in Borneo to put collars on Bornean elephants to discover more effective ways to protect them.
The fact is we have so much to share, and we can’t wait for you hear about what animal saving work you are contributing to when you come to the Zoo! You may even see us wearing a new special shirt that reminds you to ask us how we are saving animals in the wild. Every time you visit the Zoo you are helping save wildlife because a portion of your admission goes directly to our wildlife protection efforts around the world!
The Houston Zoo works hard to protect animals in the wild. The Zoo and the support of our guests have assisted with reintroducing 20 black rhinos in Africa over the past two years. We consider every guest and supporter of the Zoo to be a very valuable conservationist and we are constantly inspired by the species saving actions taken in our community.
Young Houstonian conservationist, Sophie Kalmin started 2016 with a bang by making a difference for rhinos in the wild by using her culinary skills. She organized a bake sale that raised $2,025 for efforts that will save rhinos from extinction!
This was her message on her Instagram invitation “2015 has been an amazing year for me and my passion, raising money for rhinos. I raised over $1000 in May for the Houston Zoo’s rhino, gorilla and lion conservation projects in Africa. I hope to do the same on Saturday, but only this time, do more! Happy New Year!” The Houston Zoo is so inspired by Sophie’s passion and drive to save animals in the wild, she is a real conservation superhero!
Every guest is helping us protect wildlife by coming to the Zoo. A portion of your admission ticket goes straight to saving animals in the wild.
A huge thank you to all of our amazing nominees for the Houston Zoo Wildlife Warrior award. Their work shows how they are incredible heroes! After much careful thought our selection committee has decided on our 2015 Houston Zoo Wildlife Warriors. These exceptional leaders demonstrated excellence and were selected based on their outstanding work in the field. Below is the criteria for the award.
Has to be a current employee of an existing Houston Zoo Wildlife Conservation partner
Nominated by an existing Houston Zoo Wildlife Conservation partner
Grassroots community conservationist, local employee from the project region( local people on the front lines of conservation)
Performed extraordinary things in their communities to save wildlife
Here are the 2015 Wildlife Warriors:
Where he is from: Born in Tanzania
Why he is a Wildlife Warrior:
Ayubu Msago has been the Ruaha Carnivore Project’s community liaison officer since 2009, but has dedicated his whole life to wildlife conservation. Msago gave up his job to come and help start RCP under very difficult conditions – there were only 3 people living in small tents in a remote wilderness area, and the local Barabaig tribe were extremely hostile. Msago worked tirelessly to build a project field camp, and spent years patiently building relationships with the Barabaig, who were killing dozens of lions annually. One night, a young Barabaig girl went missing, so Msago helped organize a search party and searched for 3 days till she was found, very dehydrated but alive. This helped him bond with the fearsome Barabaig warriors, and he became the first outsider they accepted and were willing to work with. Msago tirelessly leads local conservation efforts to help villagers prevent carnivore attacks, even sleeping at households in danger of attack to deter carnivores. He heroically saved the life of a villager who was being attacked by a lion, at extreme risk to his own life, by shooting over the head of the lioness to scare her off the severely injured man and then driving him to the hospital more than 2½ hours away. Long-term conservation depends upon local people seeing real benefits from conservation, so Msago has dedicated years to developing meaningful community benefit initiatives which are linked to wildlife presence. He led local efforts to equip a healthcare clinic, helped establish secondary school scholarships for pastoralist children, developed a program to link village schools with international schools, and implemented Tanzania’s first specialized livestock guarding dog program. He is endlessly passionate about conservation – he conducts wildlife DVD nights in local villages, which have engaged over 20,000 people, and has taken hundreds of warriors, women and schoolchildren on educational Park visits. Living hundreds of miles from his wife and children, Msago is working exceptionally hard to conserve some of the world’s most important carnivore populations, while also helping local communities see real benefits from carnivore presence.
How the award will help:
This award will send Msago to another lion conservation project, the Niassa Lion Project in Mozambique, to learn from their programs to save lions.
Where he is from:
Born in Democratic Republic of Congo
Why he is a Wildlife Warrior: George has been with Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education GRACE in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)since its inception in 2008. Hired as a driver, he was quickly promoted to Facility Manager due to his impressive technical expertise, unparalleled work ethic, and outstanding leadership qualities. His commitment is unwavering. George even stayed with the project throughout a period of insecurity in 2009. To us, George is considered absolutely irreplaceable, as we depend on him in so many ways, from repairing solar panels at the gorilla facility to expertly navigating North Kivu’s treacherous roads to safely transport staff, supplies, and rescued gorillas. George’s accomplishments in 2015, however, show how exceptional he is.
Fourteen gorilla orphans now live at GRACE in a single surrogate family group. GRACE’s ultimate goal is to reintroduce them into their natural habitat, where they can help save the rapidly
dwindling wild Grauer’s gorilla population. For the past three years, George led a massive construction initiative to build the world’s largest forest enclosure to give gorillas an environment
to practice survival-critical skills (e.g., foraging, nest building, coordinating group movements) in preparation for their return to the wild. This groundbreaking achievement, which was completed
in March, was accomplished in one of Africa’s most remote places and all labor was done by hand. George’s team employed over 200 people from local communities, so this project truly
“took a village”.
How the award will help:
This award will send George to a computer training course in the Democratic Republic of Congo to improve his abilities to communicate and share his talents.
Where he is from: Born in Northern Kenya
Why he is a Wildlife Warrior:
Jeneria grew up in Westgate Community Conservancy in northern Kenya. As a Samburu herder, he saw lions only as livestock killers – a threat to his livelihood. In 2008,
however, Jeneria joined Ewaso Lions, whose mission is to conserve lions and other large carnivores by promoting coexistence between people and wildlife.
First working as a Lion Scout and then a Field Assistant, Jeneria learnt that the animal he always knew as a threat was actually itself threatened and wanted to change this. He realised the only way to protect lions would be to engage his own age-class – Samburu warriors; a group traditionally neglected from conservation but who play a central role in protecting their communities and livestock from external threats. In 2010, Jeneria conceived the idea for Warrior Watch, Ewaso Lions’ flagship program.
Warrior Watch encourages warriors to become ambassadors in their communities, raising awareness about carnivores, and advocating for peaceful coexistence. It builds on their traditional protection role by increasing capacity to mitigate human-carnivore conflict and leverages their presence in wildlife areas to monitor threatened species and record conflict incidents. Today, Jeneria manages a network of 18 warriors across 4 Community Conservancies (673 square miles), coordinating their work based on lion movements, and providing leadership and training.
When valuable livestock is lost, tensions can run high but because of his deep connection to the community and constant outreach, Jeneria is usually the first person his community
contacts. Jeneria often intervenes and risks his own life to protect lions. In the past 5 years, Jeneria and his warriors have prevented over 35 retaliatory attacks on lions.
Jeneria has shown such tremendous growth and talent that he has taken on a significant leadership role. As Field Operations and Community Manager, he spends countless hours in the field monitoring lions (covering 1,157 square miles), leads community workshops, and provides management for Ewaso Lions’ community programs: Mama Simba, Lion Kids Camps, and Lion Watch.
Jeneria has already made a significant impact on the survival of lions in Samburu and is shaping up to be a key leader for lion conservation in Kenya.
How the award will help:
This award will send Jeneria to a leadership course that will strengthen his peacemaking skills to encourage peaceful solutions for local people living with lions.
The Houston Zoo is so grateful for and proud of all of these outstanding wildlife saving heroes!
The Houston Zoo created a new program called Wildlife Warriors to honor the outstanding heroes from developing countries protecting their local wildlife. Wildlife Warriors are awarded with an a educational experience (training course, exchange to another related conservation project, etc.) of their choosing and a $500 donation to their conservation program efforts.
These brave individuals are on the front lines protecting lemurs, tapirs, lions, gorillas and other wildlife in harsh landscapes. They are over coming all odds to save species from extinction and we want to make sure their efforts are recognized.
Meet our outstanding candidates for the Houston Zoo 2015 Wildlife Warriors! Our selection committee had a hard time selecting the winners, but stay tuned to see who fit the criteria for the award the best.
Ayubu Msago is saving lion and other wildlife in Africa.
Msago was born in Tanzania and works for the Ruaha Carnivore Project in Tanzania. He heroically saved the life of a villager who was being attacked by a lion, at extreme risk to his own life. Msago has helped establish school scholarships for children, developed a program to link village schools with international schools, and implemented Tanzania’s first specialized livestock guarding dog program for locals to live peacefully with lions.
The Houston Zoo Wildlife Warrior award would enable Msago the opportunity to go to the Niassa Lion Project in Mozambique to learn from their programs to save lions.
Gabriel Massocato is saving giant armadillos and other wildlife in Brazil.
Gabriel was born in Brazil and started working for the Giant Armadillo project in Brazil in 2011. Gabriel´s progress as a field biologist has been outstanding. He has excellent field skills, loves to share his knowledge with trainees, is a great project spokesman and is easily able to convey his passion for our work to local people.
The Wild Warrior Award could enable Gabriel to take an English course.
George Kayisavira is saving gorillas in Africa.
George was born in Democratic Republic of Congo and has worked with GRACE gorilla project since 2008. George led a massive construction initiative to build the world’s largest forest enclosure to give orphaned gorillas an area to recover in until they can be reintroduced into the wild. George’s team employed over 200 people from local communities.
The Houston Zoo Wildlife Warrior award would give George the opportunity to take a computer training course in Rwanda to improve his abilities to communicate and share his talents.
Jeneria Lekilele saving lions and other wildlife in Africa.
Jeneria grew up in Kenya and works for Ewaso Lions in Kenya. He often intervenes and risks his own life to protect lions. He created an idea called Warrior Watch. Warrior Watch encourages locals to become wildlife protectors in their communities. He trains and manages the warriors to track lions and watch over the lions. coordinating their work based on lion movements.
The Houston Zoo Wildlife Warrior award would enable Jeneria to participate in a leadership course that would strengthen his peacemaking skills to encourage peaceful solutions for local people living with lions.
José Ralison saving lemurs and other wildlife in Africa.
José was born and raised in Madagascar and is currently a technical coordinator within the GERP association (an organization for primates’ study and research). José is always providing training for the local communities so that they can protect plants and wildlife. He has published lemur conservation articles in both national and international journals. Jose listens to local people to empower them to assist with conservation efforts.
The Wildlife Warrior award could give Jose training in communication skills.
Valerie Akuredusenge is saving gorillas and other wildlife in Africa.
Valerie grew up in Gakenke District in the Northern Province of Rwanda and is the Program Director for Conservation Heritage – Turambe. She has taught over 3,200 children in communities bordering Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park about how to maintain healthy lives for the health of the local communities and the local gorilla population. She is creating the next generation of Rwanda’s wildlife conservationists by inspiring local students to care about their natural resources, and act on behalf of wildlife and habitats.
The Wildlife Warrior award could give Valerie the opportunity to visit other conservation organization’s education programs.
We love our painted dogs at the Zoo and are partnering with people in Zimbabwe to protect them in the wild. In May of this year the Houston Zoo designed a sticker for Painted Dog Conservation to save wildlife in Zimbabwe. The sticker features a phone number that people can call to report any illegal wildlife activity or report on sightings of Painted dogs in the area. The message on the sticker is in the three local languages.
Dominic J. Nyathi, Conservation Clubs & Programs Coordinator of Painted Dog Conservation has reported that the community has been very excited about the stickers and the hotline calls are increasing as a result.
Here is their recent report.
“We had praises and appreciation on the language used from the Chief.
Last week, the volunteers found a snared antelope during their patrol and used the line to get in touch with the APU manager.
We have discovered a new pack in the forestry area that is near the communal land. People have called us to let us know of their presence.
We have also made some arrest through the hotline. A poacher was arrested through the tip from the line.
Another woman was also arrested when found selling some meat through the line. It was later discovered by the police that she got the meat from hunters.
We have also received some messages on wildlife crimes.
The stickers have been given to village heads to use them in their community meetings.
The stickers are doing great and all need them. Motorists also want them on their vehicle!”
The Houston Zoo partners with the Hirola Conservation Program in Africa to save the hirola, one of the rarest mammals in the world from extinction. Hirola can only be seen in the wild in Africa, they are not in any zoos. They live around many of the animal species we have here at the Zoo like painted dogs and gerenuk, by protecting this extremely rare animal we are also protecting the other wildlife in the area.
Here is an exciting report from our partners at the Hirola Conservation Program:
The Hirola Conservation Program:works in Ishaqbini Conservancy, Hirola sanctuary and in Arawale National reserve and works with local communities to save hirola. We are in the middle of the dry season and only four herds of hirola have remained in Ishaiqbini conservancy. Other herds have moved out in search of pasture and water resources outside the conservancy. Within the conservancy, two poachers have killed one common zebra but our scouts have later arrested these poachers and taken them to court in collaboration with the local police. No Hirola mortality recorded in the conservancy this month which is a great news.
Six hirola groups exist in the sanctuary and two hirola females have given birth this month—July 2015. We recorded seven carcasses inside the sanctuary this month (one zebra, three male giraffes, one lesser kudu and two gerenuks. Regarding our collared females over two years ago only 3 out of 9 are currently on animals and most of the animals have been killed by predators.
Our field team in collaboration with the Kenya Wildlife Service Rangers went out for anti-poaching exercise. During this patrol exercise, we recorded two poaching incidences along the river. We found remains of a buffalo killed but transported and unfortuantely no one was arrested. However, during the same day, we caught a poacher with kill of a dikdik (dwarf antelope common in eastern Kenya) and the poacher was arraigned in court.
In collaboration with international partners particularly the Houston Zoo, we initiated a world’s first Hirola Day to be marked in August every year. As a starting point of this long-term event, we focused this year on awareness creation, with meeting of local youths culminating in a football match between locals clubs. In the coming years we will continue to mark this event.
Next time you visit the Zoo make sure you catch our sea lion presentations to hear how the sea lion team is organizing efforts to save marine animals in the wild! All of our animal care specialists love the animals they provide care for and feel a devotion to protecting their wild counterparts.
In the past year, the sea lion team has organized 11 trips with Zoo staff to Galveston and collected:
140 lbs of fishing line from specially-designed bins placed along the jetties. These bins were built by the Zoo!
140 lbs of recycling from the beach
250 lbs of trash from the beach
During these animal saving expeditions, they have talked to beach goers and fisherman about the importance of properly discarding fishing line in the designated containers along Galveston jetties so that the line does not blow into the ocean or onto the beaches. The Houston Zoo assists with the rehabilitation of approximately 85 stranded or injured wild sea turtles a year, with some of them showing injuries resulting from becoming entangled in the fishing line and other garbage.
Please help us save wildlife by spreading the word.
If you like to fish, know local fishermen, or like to spend time at the beach, make sure you tell everyone you can about how to save wildlife by:
Properly disposing of all fishing line in the designated bins
Properly sorting the recycling and garbage you find or bring to the beach
Calling 1-866-Turtle-5 (1-866-887-8535) if you happen to catch a sea turtle while fishing, or see an injured or stranded turtle.
Thank you for protecting wildlife with us!
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