Redesigned Bear Habitat Coming Soon

Next year, the Houston Zoo will open a completely redesigned bear habitat for its two black bears thanks to the generous support of the Hamill Foundation. This expansion more than triples the space for Belle and Willow to explore. Guests will be able to experience the world of bears with unobstructed views of the habitat and get nose-to-nose with the beloved duo through a brand-new glass wall. The expanded habitat was designed to give the bears the highest quality of life and includes engaging features throughout like a revamped water feature, specially created climbing structures, and ample shade.

The Houston Zoo saves bears in the wild by participating in state protection planning in Texas. The team also leads efforts to help save bears in the wild through promotion of paper reduction and the use of recycled paper products. Bears need trees to live, and by using less paper or recycled-content paper products, fewer trees are cut down.

November’s Featured Members: The Buchanan Family

We love our Members. Their incredible support allows us to make a difference to animals both locally and all over the world. This month, we’re spotlighting a family of Zoo Members that deserve recognition. We’re thrilled to introduce you to November’s Featured Members: The Buchanan Family

We are thrilled to have been zoo members for almost a year now! Our membership was purchased as a Christmas gift for our family last year from Honey and Papa (Hanna’s mom and dad). We could not have asked for a better present, and have made so many wonderful memories. A zoo visit is always our first choice when looking to entertain out of town guests, family and friends. Last year was our first year to attend zoo lights and it was magical. Our children Annie (3) and Rhett (1) were mesmerized by all of the little twinkles, and managed to stay awake, entertained, and happy way past bedtime. When trying to decide how we were going to spend Annie’s birthday this past June, a morning at the zoo was an easy choice!

Our zoo routine usually consists of getting there early, enjoying snacks along the way, and ALWAYS seeing the elephants, gorillas, and giraffes. Feeding the giraffes and riding the zebra on the carousel are Annie’s favorite activities, while Rhett’s favorite is crawling in the fish tunnel inside the natural encounters exhibit. At our last visit one of the incredible zoo keepers went out of her way to let the kids pet Max, the super elephant herding dog as we were watching baby Joy. It made their day, and Max was just precious! The Houston zoo provides so many fun learning opportunities as well as family friendly events. We definitely look forward to renewing our membership again.

From all of us here at the Houston Zoo, we want to say thank you to the Buchanan’s and all of our Zoo Members. As a Houston Zoo Member, your support truly makes an impact on the growth of our Zoo and conservation efforts. THANKS!

 

Zoe the Zookeeper’s Halloween Adventure

Written by Dena Honeycutt


Every time you visit the Houston Zoo, you are saving animals in the wild. Zoe the Zookeeper’s Howlerween Adventure (during Zoo Boo) highlights one of the many ways the Houston Zoo helps our partners in the field. The adventure involves four quick kid-friendly games that teaches kids the process of reintroducing injured or rescued wild howler monkeys back into the wilds of Belize.

When you visit the zoo during Zoo Boo, Zoe’s Howlerween Adventure is on the map. Kids will get a stamp in the guide map after each game and at the end of the adventure, they will receive a special Howler Conservation Hero button!

The Primate department has been raising awareness and fundraising for Wildtracks in Belize www.wildtracksbelize.org (rescues, rehabilitates and releases howler monkeys and manatees) since 2009 during Zoo Boo. We also have a merchandise table selling one of kind animal art work and items made by zookeepers. All proceeds benefit Wildtracks. We also have an annual adult-friendly event called Hops for Howlers at Saint Arnolds.

Houston Zoo Conservation Gala Raises Nearly $1 Million for Madagascar

Last week, the Houston Zoo hosted its 10th annual Feed Your Wildlife Conservation Gala in the zoo’s Masihara Pavilion.  This year’s gala was dedicated to raising funds for saving animals in Madagascar, and the event collectively raised $963,601, of which $250,000 was committed by Herb Simons for the five-year salary of the zoo’s Director of Madagascar Programs Jonah Ratsimbazafy, PhD. 

Credit: Daniel Ortiz

Nearly 500 guests dined on salmon and braised beef by City Kitchen and were captivated by special guests Russell Mittermeier, PhD and Dr. Ratsimbazafy who spoke from the heart about the work being done in Madagascar to save the island’s precious inhabitants, including lemurs. 

Credit: Daniel Ortiz

Some of the evening’s most vied for items included a chance to help bathe the zoo’s Asian elephants, flipping the ceremonial switch to turn on the lights at Zoo Lights Presented by TXU Energy, and the opportunity to get up-close to lions at a training session. Also on offer was a special primate tour led by Dr. Ratsimbazafy to take place the morning after the gala. 

The Houston Zoo is proud to connect communities with wildlife, inspiring action to save animals in the wild. During the cocktail reception, guests met and took photos with several animals representing Madagascar including Mr. Pickles the Madagascar radiated tortoise, Jonah (named for Dr. Ratsimbazafy) the Madagascar lesser hedgehog tenrec, and some Madagascar hissing cockroaches.

Notable attendees:  Cathy & Joe Cleary; Coert & Molly Voorhees; Courtney & Bas Soleveld; David & Nancy Pustka; Dr. Cullen Geiselman; Lisa Marshall; Kay Onstead; Charles & Annie Duncan; Event Chairs Josh & Mindy Davidson; Matt & Rosemary Schatzman; Isabel and Danny David.

Happy Howlerween – Learn About our Howler Monkeys

Written by Rachel Sorge

One of the first animals you’ll see when you walk into our Wortham World of Primates complex at the Houston Zoo are our Black Howler Monkeys! However, you may hear them before you see them. Howler monkeys are thought to be not only the loudest primate on the planet, but possibly one of the loudest living land mammals in the world. Their garbage-disposal like call can be heard up to 3 miles away in a dense forest. Our howler monkey troop tends to start calling in reaction to the leaf blowers we have on grounds.

During the month of October, the primate team at the Houston Zoo puts on a Howlerween fundraiser to help raise money for Wildtracks; an organization that cares for and rehabilitate orphaned, injured, and sick howler monkeys back into the wild.

Here at the Houston Zoo we have three howler monkeys. Vida who is 23, Garcia, who is 21, and Ramone, who is 14. Vida and Garcia were both born here in Houston, but Ramone came to us in 2012 from the Palm Beach Zoo in Florida.

Ramone is very easily distinguishable from our two girls due to his black color, while Vida and Garcia are both tan-brown in color. All howler monkeys are born a tan color to help them camouflage easily in the forest canopy, but the males develop the black color as they get older. Males are also much larger than the females.

Vida and Garcia may be difficult to tell apart by just a glance, but if you study their faces you can tell that Garcia has a much smaller and shorter face, while Vida’s face is wider and longer. Vida tends to be braver than Garcia, and is always ready to explore enrichment items or new objects placed in the exhibit by her keepers. Garcia however, likes to wait to see if new things are safe before exploring.

Our howler group has a variety of favorites that they enjoy. They will always come greet their keepers if there is a fig or hibiscus flower in hand and they react best to food enrichment when there are frozen bananas involved. The howler monkeys also really enjoy when their keepers hang up mirrors for them, because they absolutely love staring at themselves, and we don’t blame them!

A lot of our guests often wonder why our howlers are sleeping for a large portion of the day, and it’s not because they’re just lazy! In the wild, the howler monkey diet consists mostly of leaves and a small variety of fruits and nuts. Due to the lack of calories in their diet howler monkeys tend to sleep for a majority of their day, about 80%, saving their energy for the important things, like foraging for food and calling to defend their territory!

The next time you are walking through our Wortham World of Primates make sure to say hello to our trio!

 

 

October’s Featured Members: The Amador Family

We love our Members. Their incredible support allows us to make a difference to animals both locally and all over the world. This month, we’re spotlighting a family of Zoo Members that deserve recognition. We’re thrilled to introduce you to October’s Featured Members: The Amador Family


We asked the Amador’s to share a few words about what being Zoo Members means to them. Here’s what they had to say.
“We received a Houston Zoo membership as a Christmas gift from some out-of-state family three years ago. We had so much fun bringing our (then infant) son to the zoo throughout that first year that we have renewed our membership each year since.

Our family has grown since then, and we each have our favorite animals and reasons to visit the zoo. We typically visit first thing in the morning when it’s cooler and many of the animals are eating breakfast, or late in the afternoon on Friday when it’s quiet. Zoo Lights has become one of our favorite cool-weather traditions, and last year Shepherd (now 3) had a blast wearing his costume (beware of the tiny tiger!) for Zoo Boo with his friends.

Houston Zoo is one of the best places in the city to enjoy time outdoors with young kids. The Zoo’s environment engages and encourages their sense of wonder about everything that creeps, crawls, soars, climbs, gallops, and glides. My kids crouch down to trace the “animal tracks” on the walking paths, press the sound buttons at the rhino and chimpanzee exhibits, crawl through the aquarium, and browse through the Swap Shop in wonder of all the curious natural treasures.

We go to the zoo at least once per month, and we ALWAYS see something new. We always learn something new, too. Whether it’s about the animals (did you know that cheetahs can’t retract their claws like other cats?), or about different challenges facing wildlife, and what we can do to help — like shop for household products that use sustainable palm oil.

Recently we attended one of Houston Zoo’s Saving Wildlife Expo events and we are SO impressed with our zoo’s commitment to supporting wildlife conservation all over the world. They don’t just talk the talk — Houston Zoo is walking the walk for wildlife. Because of the Expo and what we’ve learned about Houston Zoo’s conservation efforts, we now have a far greater appreciation for the oft-overlooked, albiet fascinating animals like tamarins, bats, and Grevy’s Zebra.

We’re proud to be members of Houston Zoo and count ourselves lucky to have access to this gem in the city. And you can bet the next time we visit, we’ll be marching straight to the cheetah corner to see those *beautiful* new ambassadors, Dash and Dinari!”

From all of us here at the Houston Zoo, we want to say thank you to the Amador’s and all of our Zoo Members. As a Houston Zoo Member, your support truly makes an impact on the growth of our Zoo and conservation efforts. THANKS!

Pen Pals to Save Okapi: Camera Trap Conservation

Written by Mary Fields and M’monga Jean Paul


In the last pen pals blog, Jean Paul told us why he thinks zoos are great for conservation. In this blog, we will be learning about the importance of camera traps in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve (OWR).

Okapis, forest elephants, chimpanzees and many other species call the OWR home. Camera traps help document the presence of these species within the Ituri Forest. These photos and videos are extremely important for research and conservation efforts of okapis. Instead of relying on droppings and footprints in the 13.7 square kilometers that is the OWR (about 5.3 square miles), researchers can record data through photos and videos! This also allows them to check on the state of the animal and to check the animal’s identity.

Along with telling us about the importance of camera traps, Jean Paul sent us some camera trap photos and videos. Some of these animals’ cousins call the Houston Zoo home, including okapis, duikers and chimpanzees. These photos help researchers see what animals go through an area on any given day.

So how can you help okapis? Come visit our Okapi Spotlight on Species event at the Houston Zoo on October 18th! You will be able to recycle your old cell phones for a chance to win an okapi painting, play fun games and learn more about okapis in honor of the second annual World Okapi Day! Make sure to follow our blog to continue learning about okapi conservation and hear more from Jean Paul!

 

World Gorilla Day – Sunday, September 24

Written by Helen Boostrom


Why have a day to celebrate gorillas?

In fact, if you ask me and our youngest male gorilla, Ajari, gorillas should be celebrated every day!

But for those of you who need more convincing about celebrating this special day, read on for cool facts about gorillas.

Gorillas are social apes and typically live in a harem society with multiple females and one dominant male leader.  Occasionally, unattached males will form loose coalitions, or “bachelor groups” consisting of multiple male gorillas. Houston Zoo is home to both a family group and a bachelor group.

Female gorillas usually only produce one offspring every 4-6 years giving birth only about 3-4 times in their life. This low reproduction rate makes it difficult for gorilla populations to sustain themselves amid growing threats.

There are two species and four subspecies of gorilla: mountain gorilla, Grauer’s gorilla, western lowland gorilla, and cross river gorilla. The gorillas at the Houston Zoo are western lowland gorillas.

World Gorilla Day was created to help encourage people all over the world to take action to help these amazing but highly endangered animals.

How can you Take Action & Celebrate World Gorilla Day:

  • Recycle your mobile device
    • Recycling your cell or smart phone, tablet, or MP3 player will help reduce the demand for ore that is mined in some gorilla habitats, plus if you recycle it at the Houston Zoo, you’ll help raise funds for gorilla conservation.
  • Visit your local conservation organization that supports gorillas!
    • Between 2010 and 2014, Association of Zoos and Aquariums- accredited zoos contributed over $4.5 million to gorilla conservation efforts. Underlining zoos’ financial investments in these programs are their long-term commitments to bolstering their success through organizational support, scientific research, educational opportunities, and veterinary consult.

You can also join me and Ajari in our goal to make every day a gorilla celebration by learning more about these awe-inspiring animals and ways you can help. Start here.

A Tiny Monkey with a Big Story

Written by Amy King


On the morning of February 28, 2017, keepers found a baby Goeldi’s monkey clinging to the bottom of the enclosure where the Goeldi’s are housed at night. It felt cold to the touch so zookeepers wrapped the infant in a blanket and rushed it to the vet clinic. At the clinic, he determined to be a male and weighed in at 44 grams. Typically, newborns weigh between 50 and 60 grams so it was assumed that he was born prematurely. Keepers attempted to introduce the infant back to his family group, but he was unable to cling to his mother, which is crucial for babies to to do. The decision was made that zookeepers would have to step in and hand raise the baby until he became more independent and the team would follow a hand-rearing protocol written by the Brookfield Zoo.

After a short time, the infant was given the name “Benjamin” and was moved to the clinic to get around-the-clock care and was housed in an incubator with his hairy mama (a stuffed animal with hair similar to his mother’s). His family was also moved to the clinic so that they could be near each other at all times. It was very important for Benjamin to know he was monkey and not get too attached to his human caretakers. Goeldi’s live in small family groups and the whole family helps raise the babies. Benjamin’s family consists of his mom, dad, and older brother.

During the day, Benjamin’s incubator was kept in the same area as his family so that they could all see, hear, and smell each other. When he was taken out of the incubator for feedings, keepers sat right next to the family’s area so they could get up-close and see him. At night, he was moved to a different room so that the family’s sleep pattern wasn’t disrupted. He started off getting fed every 2 hours, just like a newborn human. Keepers had to feed him one drop of formula at a timeand massage his throat to encourage him to swallow. He received a special mixture of Enfamil, Ensure, and protein powder and was fed via syringe with a small nipple attached to the tip. He was encouraged to urinate and defecate with a warm, wet cotton ball before and after each feeding.

The primate team typically does not go in the enclosures with the primates, but it was necessary to do so with the Goeldi’s for the whole re-introduction process. We had to get the family used to us being in their space before we brought Benjamin in with us. We made our time in the enclosure with them a positive experience. We put treats and favored produce in their food bowls when we went in the enclosure. The family quickly became very comfortable with us, so we started bringing Benjamin in for feedings so that the family could get up close and touch him if they chose to do so.

Once the incubator temperature was lowered to the same temperature as the building, Benjamin was could spend the day out of the incubator in a “howdy box.” Benjamin and his hairy mama were placed in the howdy box inside the family’s enclosure during the day. This allowed him to be more immersed in the group. The family spent time sitting on top of the box while eating or grooming each other. They also liked to sit on the branches near the howdy box and vocalize back and forth with Benjamin. He was getting to learn their behaviors up close and they were getting used to him being a part of their daily lives.

Benjamin was slowly introduced to solid foods in addition to his formula and keepers slowly weaned him off his formula as he started to eat more solids. His favorite food was (and still is) banana. He also enjoys worms and grapes.

Over the next few weeks, Benjamin’s howdy box was left open so that the family could interact with him and Benjamin could explore the enclosure whenever he chose to do so. Keepers were hopeful that Benjamin would start riding on the back of one of his family members. At this point, he was still at the age where babies are carried around on the backs of their family members. His dad, Opie, spent a lot of time next to him and would present his back to Benjamin to encourage him to jump on, but Benjamin seemed nervous and unsure about what he was supposed to do.

As more time passed, Benjamin started becoming more comfortable with his family, especially Opie. Opie was very good about sharing his food with Benjamin and would bring pieces of food over to Benjamin and let him eat out of his hand. In the wild, this is one way youngsters learn which food is good to eat. Benjamin also started awkwardly riding on Opie for brief amounts of time and even began snuggling up side-by-side with his family members at night.

Right after Benjamin turned three months old, the whole family was brought back down to their habitat in Wortham World of Primates. Benjamin had become pretty independent and the whole family was getting along well. When they first entered the habitat, Benjamin hitched a ride on his mom’s back and after a few minutes of safely taking in all the new sights and sounds he hopped off and began exploring on his own. He put his running and jumping abilities to the test. While he miscalculated his jumps a few times, he did not let that discourage him.

Today Benjamin is six months old and now weighs over 300 grams and is about half the size of the adults. He enjoys spending time with his family and playing with enrichment. He is growing up so quickly and we are very proud of all the progress he and his family have made!

Patty Bear Dies After Long Life

We are sad to announce the death of the current, oldest Andean bear in any AZA-accredited zoo, Patty. Also known as a spectacled bear, Andean bears are native to South American and live to be in their mid-20s in human care. Patty lived to be 31 years old, most of her long life at the Houston Zoo.

Patty suffered from allergies much of her life which resulted in thinning hair, but the keepers who spent their lives caring for Patty gave her local honey which helped her allergies.  One and a half years ago, Patty was found to have cancer that the zoo’s veterinarians removed, however, this week during an exam, her cancer was found to have returned and spread. Due to her advanced age, and the progression of the cancer, the animal care team made the decision to euthanize Patty.

Patty’s keepers will remember her relaxed personality and for how much she seemed to like building and fluffing nests out of sheets and wood wool, so she could find the perfect sleeping or napping position.

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Jack the ocelot and his tiny snowman friend (and some tasty meatballs!)

 

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Jack is so cute I wish I could take him home and cuddle with him.

Look, Steve Hawkins! Ethan’s favorite animal there!

Bret!! :DDD

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