Mourning Zuri

We are mourning the loss of 34-year-old Western lowland gorilla, Zuri. The elderly gorilla was under treatment for severe gastrointestinal disease for the past few months, and after a full assessment of his quality of life, and the worsening of his disease despite treatment, the gorilla team and the veterinarians made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize the nearly 400-pound ape.

Zuri was the head of the family troop of gorillas and could be seen most afternoons in the habitat in the company of Holli, Binti, and Angel. Zuri was an easy-going silverback and sired 10 offspring, including 15-year-old Sufi Bettine, who recently moved to the Toledo Zoo as a part of the gorilla species survival program.

Zuri had a known heart condition that has been under treatment in partnership with MD Anderson cardiologists. Cardiac disease is a known problem for great apes, like gorillas, and the Houston Zoo has been working with the Great Ape Heart Project for many years to help study this matter.

The Houston Zoo has helped to increase wild gorilla populations in Africa through partnerships with Gorilla Doctors providing medical care for wild individuals, Conservation Heritage–Turambe providing gorilla saving education, and GRACE: Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center providing care for orphaned wild gorillas.

Gorillas face many challenges in the wild, but the zoo is part of efforts in Africa that are finding solutions to these threats.

Representing the Houston Zoo’s Mission

Today the Houston Zoo unveiled exciting plans for the future. We’re transforming the very heart of the Zoo and taking our visitors around the world from the far reaches of South America and the Galapagos Islands to our very own Texas wetlands. These projects are the physical expression of our mission to connect communities with animals to inspire action to save wildlife.

Our commitment to our mission goes deeper than our physical footprint. We are passionately committed to living this mission every day, in everything we do. To more effectively express the Zoo’s mission and vision visually, we are proud to introduce a new Houston Zoo logo.

The new Houston Zoo logo is fresh and crisp, and it embodies what the Houston Zoo stands for today. It symbolizes the connection we share with the natural world around us and reflects our commitment to saving animals in the wild. It’s built of two hands, which emphasizes the critical role people play in saving wildlife; the green colors reflect natural landscapes; and the “Z” that has been a part of the Houston Zoo logo for so many years still has its place, in a new, modern way.

To craft this new visual identity, we worked with local design firm Principle. They met with Zoo stakeholders, conducted many interviews, sketched more than 400 ideas, presented concepts, and worked with us to finalize what you see today. We could not be more pleased with our partnership with their firm and the work they have done with us.

Soon you’ll start seeing the Houston Zoo logo around town, online, globally at our conservation partner sites, and when you visit the Zoo. When you see it, we hope you will be reminded of everything it stands for. We hope you will be inspired to see the animals at the Houston Zoo and to help save them in the wild.

March’s Featured Member: Karla Hamilton

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 Zoo Member that deserves recognition. We’re thrilled to introduce you to March’s Featured Member: Karla Hamilton.


We asked Karla to share a few words about what being a Zoo Member means to her. Here’s what she had to say.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“I love being a member of the Houston Zoo. In June of 2010, I went to The Houston Museum of Natural Science everyday to see Lois the Corpse flower while she was blooming. In September of 2011, a friend of mine called to tell me about Pewtunia the Corpse flower at the Houston Zoo. I immediately went down there to see her and became a member of the Zoo that day! I try to get to the Zoo every member morning as my schedule allows. I am a freelance artist and calligrapher and love taking pictures for my own pleasure and to incorporate in my drawings. I love talking to the keepers and appreciate the love they have for the animals and their jobs. I also am a member because I see that the Houston Zoo is a vital part to bringing awareness to the plights of animals in the wild and hope my small contribution is a help.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Also I appreciate how some of the animals were rescued from bad situations and given a better life at the Zoo! I have become fascinated with the Gorillas and the Red River Hogs. I love seeing the babies that have been born there, especially the Flamingos and how fast those little white balls of fluff grow. I try to always see the Cats (I have 3 house cats of my own) and was sad when Jonathan died, but he had a good life. After December’s Member morning, I have now put the Elephants on my regular walk. I can’t wait to see their new environment. I am a great fan of Dinosaurs and was thrilled by the Dinosaur exhibit I went twice. Each month I try to see either the Reptile house, Birds, Bugs, Aquarium and Natural Encounters. There is so much to see and learn about I never get tired of going and appreciate the extra perks like Photo day and the Horticultural tour!”


From all of us here at the Houston Zoo, we want to say thank you to Karla 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!

Welcome to The Year of the Bird!

Written by Jessica Clark


We here at the Houston Zoo are very excited to be participating in monthly events to get the word out on how important and cool birds are. The month of February is when The National Audubon Society does their Great Backyard Bird Count. This count helps researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society learn more about how birds are doing, and how to protect them and the environment. A bunch of us at the Zoo love to go out on our time and bird watch. So, we thought it would be fun to give you some bird watching tips.

  1. Find a good field guide. The ones we like here, are Sibley’s Guide to Birds and National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America. Peterson Field Guide to the Birds of North America is a classic. But if you want photograph’s instead of drawings, The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America and the Kaufman Field Guide to the Birds of North America are the way to go. There are also some great field guide apps.

2. Get a decent pair of binoculars. For birding you want a magnification of 8 or 10. So look for a pair that says it is 8×42 or 10×42, for example. Binoculars fit everybody’s eyes differently, so head to a sporting goods store and try a few out. They also come in a large price range, but there are some good, inexpensive ones out there. And don’t forget that strap!

  1. Find out what to expect to find. If you are going to a park (and Texas has some awesome state and local parks) see if they have a checklist. Some of them have them online and some you can pick up at the ranger offices. These checklists will tell what you may see while visiting a park. They are usually categorized by time of year you may see the bird and how common they are.

There are also some websites that tell you birds you can find in your area if you are doing some backyard or roadside birding.

  1. Learn the four-step of identification. What is the bird’s size and shape; what its main color pattern; take note of its behavior; and factor in what habitat it’s in. Do a little research on where the birds will be. Are they going to be in the tree tops, on the ground, or in the water for example. The internet and your field guide should be able to help with this. Don’t want to be wasting your time looking for an arboreal dwelling bird if you are in scrublands or a duck in the desert.

5. Find a birding group. Your local Audubon website, can let you know if there are groups or trips in your area. Like us here at the zoo, birders love to talk about birds.

  1. Record your sightings. Buy a diary to help you keep track of what and where you have seen birds. There are so many birds, it is easy to forget what you have seen. There are also apps for that. The Ebird app is a great one and you can use it to let other birders know what you have seen.

Houston is a wonderful place for birding because we are on the migratory bird route. You can see many varied species in the area. We took a thirty-minute walk just around Herman park a few days ago and saw 17 different species. From water birds like Ring- billed ducks, Pie – billed grebes, Gadwalls, American coots, Black- bellied whistling ducks and both Double crested and Neo tropic cormorants, to Robins, Yellow – rumped warblers, Pine warblers, Cardinals and Blue Jays.  We even saw a juvenile Bald eagle flying with a Red – tailed Hawk.

So, get out there, enjoy nature, and go birding!

 

The March of the Flamingos: A look into Flamingo “Dating”

Written by Carrie Mansfield


As we approach the spring season, you may notice our Chilean Flamingos becoming more active than usual. Chilean Flamingo courtship happens long before they even begin to build their nests in the summer time. Around January and February, our flock at the Houston Zoo can be seen head flagging, which is one of the first breeding behaviors they start to display. The flamingos will elongate their necks as much as possible and move their heads side to side, looking a lot like flags blowing in the wind.

In March and April, the flock will begin to do wing displays. Some can be seen standing tall and sticking their wings straight out to their sides. Others can be seen leaning forward, like a bow, and flipping their wings straight up to the sky. Some even do a wing display including one of their legs. They will stretch their leg back and to the side while simultaneously stretching their wing on the same side.

Once it gets closer to May, our flock can be seen marching around the island in their exhibit. This is by far my favorite behavior they do, because the whole flock will do it together. This is the indication that the flock is ready to start breeding and they will soon start to pair off. The females will choose the male that has the most impressive dance moves. Once paired off, you can spot the males closely following their female mate wherever they go.

I know a lot of this may be hard to picture, so here is a video from National Geographic of a flamingo flock marching.

Some of our Conservation Education team have also performed an interpretive dance depicting flamingo breeding behaviors. Enjoy.

 

Take some time on your next visit to the zoo to observe our Chilean Flamingo flock and see if you can spot any of these unique behaviors.

And if you’re looking for environmentally friendly ways to impress your sweetheart this Valentine’s day, here are a few things you can do:

  • Make a stuffed animal out of old clothing. The gift will be one of a kind and a great way to upcycle clothes you aren’t using anymore
  • Give a potted plant instead of a bouquet of flowers. A potted plant can be enjoyed for many years
  • If you take your special someone out for dinner, say no to the straw and bring your own Tupperware for leftovers. This will help prevent more plastic waste from entering our oceans
  • Or the best gift of all: create your own jazzy flamingo dance. Who doesn’t love a good dance partner?!

Thanks for reading and I hope that you will join us and National Geographic in the celebration of the year of the bird!

Meet the Mata Mata!

This is one seriously cool turtle.  It is a monotypic genus, which means that it is the only species in the genus.  They live in the Amazon river system in South America and hang out in warm shallow muddy water with lots of vegetative debris.  The shell and skin are excellent camouflage in this habitat, including how the head (with fringes of extra skin with sensitive nerves), looks like mucka mucka leaves (a common aquatic plant).  The snout is a long thin snorkel like tube that is raised to the surface to breathe.

 

Mata matas either ambush or slowly stalk their prey.  When suitable prey is within reach, the head shoots forward and the floor of the mouth lowers.  Just before the mouth reaches the prey, the  mouth opens, creating a vacuum, and prey and water rush into the mouth (which is called the buccal cavity).  The mouth then shuts, but not quite all the way, the floor of the mouth rises, pushing most of the water out, and the prey is swallowed.  This happens so fast, that you can barely see it.  Check it out!

Guest Blogger: Jessica Jones – 2017 Collegiate Conservation Program Intern

This post was written by Jessica Jones. Jessica is a sophomore at University of Houston and was a Collegiate Conservation Program (CCP) intern during the 2017 summer.  Take a look at Jessica’s experience and head to the CCP website to learn more and to apply for summer 2018!


My experience with the Collegiate Conservation Program allowed me to learn about various career opportunities within the environmental field. I started the internship as a Biology major, but at that time I was still unsure of my career path. The internship exposed me to the many jobs related to conservation and to the idea that everyone involved has an impact. The most memorable experiences I had on- and off- zoo grounds involved interacting with the public. Animal handling sparked conversations with zoo guests on the characteristics of the animals along with how we can improve their situation in the wild. One example was sharing the message of one of the ambassador animals, an American alligator named Dr. Teeth. We educated guests on the importance of alligators as they help control the ecosystem population. Through personal interactions with guests who truly wanted to learn about each animal, I realized my passion was sharing the message with others. Another on-zoo grounds benefit was the opportunity to meet with different departments such as development, marketing, education, horticulture, and many more. My encounter with the marketing team expanded my perspective of a business career as I had always been set on science. I learned that marketing was working hand in hand with helping save animals in the wild and that it is an essential part of educating the public.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What I had learned on zoo grounds developed as we met with many of the partner organizations off grounds. From invasive species removal to dune restoration, I experienced what it would be like to work hands on with the environment as a career. Early in the internship, we were able to experience the emergence of 10 million Mexican free-tailed bats from Bracken Cave. It was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen, and it lasted for hours. This internship educated me on the existence of a colony of bats right here in Houston. My fellow interns and I met a young girl around the age of 8 at the Waugh Bat Bridge. Her craving to learn about the bats was inspirational. I want all children and adults to be educated about the importance of the world around us. This 10-week life changing internship helped me investigate my interests and ultimately alter my career path. I have come to believe my passion for conservation may best be pursued through an influential marketing career where I can connect and inspire people of all ages.

Guest Blogger: Kenneth Nalley – 2017 Collegiate Conservation Program Intern

This post written by Kenneth Nalley. Kenneth is a graduate from Tarleton University and was a Collegiate Conservation Program (CCP) intern during the 2017 summer.  Take a look at Kenneth’s experience and head to the CCP website to learn more and to apply for summer 2018!


Summer 2017 will forever hold a special place in my heart. From the moment I heard about the CCP internship with the Houston Zoo I knew it was special, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it. Since I had a friend that had done the internship a summer prior I somewhat knew what to expect. I knew that I would learn about regional and worldwide conservation efforts and the Houston Zoo’s role in those efforts. What I didn’t know was that we would be examining what I now see as the most important part of conservation: the human aspect. Throughout the summer I would be taking a greater look at myself through the eyes of 12 strangers.

This summer consisted of a lot of critical thinking. Where do I fit into this puzzle? What is my role in conservation? It starts with learning more about yourself; which is exactly what we did. We took a strength finders test which told us what our top 5 strengths were and then we each shared our strengths with the group. This was a powerful exercise because it fostered a level of understanding and bonding amongst the group that wasn’t there prior. It allowed us to accept and bond over our differences. Throughout the rest of the summer this bond would grow amongst the group, and this better understanding of each other led to a better understanding of people’s role in conservation.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My philosophy before CCP was that people were the reason we are in this mess. Our selfishness and greed has destroyed habitats, altered our climate, and devastated wildlife. There were people like me—nature-loving, wildlife enthusiasts—and people like them. Now, thanks to the growth I experienced this past summer—I only see people. I met some of the nicest people from EXXON Mobil, who were so generous with their time and investment in us. I was able to see things from different perspectives; no right or wrong…just different. I learned and now understand that we are all in this together. Conservation is not just people who work in this fields issue, we can’t save the world alone. This effort belongs to us all—and we must be willing to listen to everyone. That’s the biggest truth I took away from this summer, and for that, I will be forever grateful for it has shaped my future in this field.

 

 

 

February’s Featured Members: The Costigan 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 February’s Featured Members: the Costigan family.


We asked Sorcha Costigan to share a few words about what being a Zoo Member means to her. Here’s what she had to say.

“My husband Quentin and I have been members since fall of last year, when we initially signed up for a small family membership.  We are both animal lovers and advocates, and we come to the zoo several times a year just to admire the critters and pet the goats. 🙂  My sister Rebekah and her husband Ryan moved home to Houston in June of this year, after living in Denver for 7 years.  They came home with my 2 year old nephew Rory and my 4 year old niece Ivy Anne in tow, who were born in Denver and loved the Denver Zoo, so we decided to go ahead and get the big family membership so we can all bring the kiddos to the Houston Zoo whenever we want (and when the weather cooperates!).  We took them for their first trip in September and got the family membership at that time.

We are proud to support the efforts of the zoo, and to teach Rory and Ivy Anne the importance of conservation and animal husbandry, as well as educating them about animals all over the world and how critical they are to OUR survival, as we are to theirs.  The residents at the zoo allow us to show them creatures from all over the globe; mammals birds, reptiles, and fish, and to see them in native environments. Our favorites are the cats – the big cats and the little ones!  Ivy Anne got to give a high five to a sleeping lioness through the viewing window, which was her favorite part of the entire day.  We hope to be able to participate in the program where you get to give the lions some water with a squirt bottle – that was the neatest thing ever!!  My sister and her husband are raising my niece and nephew to be caring and responsible contributing members of society, and the zoo helps us toward that goal.  Plus, we get to pet the goats (That’s my favorite part, and yes, I’m a grown woman of 45 LOLOL!)!”

From all of us here at the Houston Zoo, we want to say thank you to the Costigans 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!

Meet the SPARK Team

Have you ever seen the SPARK team at Houston Zoo?  This dynamic team is waiting to engage, inform and entertain you every time you walk through the Zoo gates!

SPARK stands for:
Spontaneous interactions
Passionate staff
Awe and inspiring guest reactions
Relationship building
Keeping guests 1st

The team is made up of three amazingly creative individuals who interact with more than 120,000 guests each year.  Bennett Dones, interpretative program supervisor, has been with the team since it was created “before 2000.”  Bennett can be seen weekdays at the Zoo.  He is constantly “roaming” around and his favorite interactions are those spontaneous moments with guests as he walks around the Zoo.  He loves to tell stories and jokes.

Sarah Fern rejoined the team in 2016 after spending a few years in a school environment.  She is here Wednesday through Sunday.  Sarah loves to surprise guests with carousel tickets or telling stories about our amazing elephant herd.

Celina Burgueño joined the team after graduating from college in 2017.  Celina loves performing various programs at the Houston Texan’s Enrichment Zone where she can be seen leading a marching band or introducing guests to our animal athlete ambassadors. She can be seen on Thursday s through Mondays.

Every day, find Sarah, Celina or Bennett presenting some of their favorite animal ambassadors at the Conservation Stage and other locations across the zoo. Will you get to meet Charles the Chuckwalla, a Houston Zoo legend, or take a picture with Ernie, the North American porcupine? Whoever you meet, the SPARK team is sure to teach you all about your newest friend. As you walk through the Children’s Zoo, stop by the Houston Texan’s Enrichment Zone to catch the latest presentation. Daily programming may include a chance to meet some animal athletes, make some noise as you audition to become a member of the Houston Zoo Recycle Band, or even save the Zoo from trash villain Disastra at the Conservation League of Heroes. Any time throughout the day, you can catch the team on one of their daily storytelling walks, in front of a favorite habitat and ready to tell you all about the amazing animals that call Houston Zoo home. Wherever you see them, SPARK is sure to awe and inspire you with spontaneous programming for the whole family.

Search Blog & Website
[jetpack_subscription_form title="Subscribe to the Blog" subscribe_text="Enter your email address to subscribe and receive new blog posts by email."]
Houston Zoo Facebook Page

Over the past few days, our veterinary team has helped three sea turtles in need of special care. We are happy to partner with our friends at NOAA to help the sea turtles and give them a second chance in the wild. ... See MoreSee Less

10

Over the past few days, our veterinary team has helped three sea turtles in need of special care. We are happy to partner with our friends at NOAA to help the sea turtles and give them a second chance in the wild.

 

Comment on Facebook

Thank you for always being there to help these amazing creatures!

Thank you for helping these amazing, wonderful animals!

This makes my heart smile.. <3

Sarah maybe they will have some to see again!!

You do great work, thank you!

+ View more comments

Animals In Action

Recent Videos

[youtube_channel]