Sabgina's Updates: The Asian Elephants at the Houston Zoo

Elephants are the largest mammals on the land. Two species are traditionally recognized, African elephants and Asian elephants. They are slightly different; African elephants have large ears shaped similar to the continent of Africa while Asian elephants have small and rounded ears. African elephants are taller with a shoulder height between 9-13 feet while Asian elephants reach 6.5 – 9 feet at their tallest point. African elephants weigh between 8,800 – 15,400 pounds while Asian elephants weigh 6,500 – 13,200 pounds. African elephants are found in Africa and Asian elephants are found in Asian countries. Elephants in captivity do not face the pressures of elephants in the wild such as drought, habitat loss, poaching and conflicts with people. Elephants in the Houston Zoo are not brought in from the wild for entertainment; they are brought in from other organizations or as rescues.

The Houston Zoo has Asian elephants. I was happy when my supervisor Renee Bumpus assigned me to join elephant zookeepers one day on their daily duties!! Oh my God!!!! What can I say other than awesome!! Not only did this excursion of elephant exhibit exceed my expectations, it went far and above my thinking!! I was warmly welcomed to the elephant exhibit by the zookeepers to join them on their daily work; it was one of the best experiences of my life! It was my first time to be near Asian elephants. My tour was led by Martina. Martina – Elephant Supervisor was fun, informative and she is obviously in love with her job, I learned a lot from her!

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Keepers provide a lot of comfort to the elephants and work every day to build a relationship with the elephants. For humans, the most complex and important emotion is love, and we describe it in a multitude of ways. And from what I learn from Save the Elephants organization I am working with in Kenya, the African elephants society is a very female-based hierarchy, and the loyalty that a herd shows to a matriarch is intensely strong. They will follow her wherever she goes: perhaps that is a manifestation of love of a different sort, the same as what I saw at the elephant’s exhibits with Asian elephants, the powerful bond between (Shanti) a mother elephant, and (Duncan) her calf is an easy one for me to understand but for Martina conversation with elephants is more different and unique! Martina uses signs and voice to talk with an elephants and it seems like the elephants totally understand, it’s more complex than writing a computer program by using coding I think!! I do not know whether to put in English speaking society or what to call that peculiar communication between zoo elephant’s keepers and Asian elephants on exhibit.

Elephants in the Houston Zoo are well taken care of, the daily schedule was tight, 7 – 8:30 am was breakfast time, Houston Zoo keepers work hard to ensure that the elephants get breakfast and they balance the daily diet. Keepers have strictly followed diet timetables that contain daily diets, weekly diets and monthly diets. The level of care the keepers provide for the elephants results in great treatment and health of the elephants.

8:30 am – 10:00 am, bathing time, it’s a typical bath; every part of the body is scrubbed with soap before being rinsed.  Keepers use the bath time to visually examine every part of the animal’s bodies and clean their skin while also providing important interaction and training opportunities for the elephants. Foot care follows a daily schedule that guarantees that all four feet will receive a pad trim and nail file once a week.  The elephants are trained to accept and respond to this care. It’s the best treatment.

10:00 am to 11:00 am, cleaning of barns and elephants released out for exercise through play behaviors such as swimming and interaction with enrichment items like swinging a tire back and forth, digging in the ground with their feet, and standing on the exhibit fencing while stretching to reach hay and also walking helps the elephants maintain weight, muscle tone, and joint flexibility.

The illegal poaching of elephants for their ivory tusks has soared dramatically, causing a wild population of elephants to continue to decline in Africa and Asia. The Houston Zoo and other zoos are playing vital roles as stewards of an important part of the world’s heritage while supporting conservation in the wild.


 

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Sabinga collecting marine debris in Galveston

The Houston Zoo is excited to welcome a new intern who comes to us all the way from Kenya, in East Africa. Sabinga is in the United States participating in the Community College Initiative Program (CCIP). The Community College Initiative Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State, administered by Northern Virginia Community College onbehalf of the Community College Consortium (CCC) in partnership with Houston Community College. While participating in this program, he will join us at the zoo as an intern to learn all about what a modern-day zoo is like! Sabinga is already part of the conservation community as he has been working with Save the Elephants in Kenya for over 8 years. He will be documenting his experiences at the Zoo and we will share his thoughts with you here on our blog! Stay tuned for more!

Sabinga's Updates: Zoo Staff Visits Attwater's Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Range

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I got to accompany Dr. Joe Flanagan Houston Zoo vet and other Zoo staff to the Attwater’s Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), located approximately 90 kilometers west of Houston, Texas. This refuge is home to last population of Attwater’s Prairie Chicken.  They are a stocky brown, strongly barred grouse with lighter colored lines with short, rounded and dark neck.  The Attwater’s Prairie Chicken has undergone rapid declines, and has already disappeared from a number of U.S. states in which was formerly found, and only less than 100 in the wild and only found in Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge (NWR).

The Houston Zoo is working together with U.S. Fish and Wildlife and other wildlife organizations to protect the Attwater’s Prairie Chicken from extinction. The Zoo also works hard to educate the community about the plight of this rare species.  The Zoo breeds and raises this rare bird on Zoo grounds and rears the chicks until they are big enough to release them into the wild. Houston Zoo bird staff take them to the Attwater’s Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge to start their life in the wild.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife closely monitors them in the refuge. This shows the importance of the partnership between the Zoo and the government the same as how Save the Elephants works closely with the community and the Kenya Wildlife Service.

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Prairie Chickens are endangered because their habitat has disappeared – their tall grass has been plowed for farmland and covered by cities. Their breeding habitat has been challenged by heavy grazing by cattle, although some cattle ranches maintain good grassland habitat suitable for them.  Many people in this area still do not know how special prairie habitat is and how close to extinction this species is.

Loss of the habitat was prime reason for downfall of the Attwater’s Prairie Chicken. Females lay a dozen eggs and they take a period of 3 weeks to hatch, only 30 percent of nest escape predators that include, red fire ants, coyotes, snakes, skunks and raccoons.

Houston Zoo together with U.S. Fish and Wildlife fitted radio transmitter collars on birds they release into the wild for close monitoring.  These collars are very interesting – they are small enough that they do not affect the bird weight-wise while flying.

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I got to join the Houston Zoo team to replace a radio collar on an individual.  To my surprise the bird that we had to replace the collar was from the Houston zoo.  I saw the I.D. bracelet that is put on every bird reintroduced into the wild.  This experience was magical for me because I thought radio collaring was only for large predators and mammals.  I was excited to join the team, and I was surprised at how difficult it was.  The collaring is done at night when it’s dark, in the tall grass, and swampy and muddy ground.  We had to be careful of pot holes in the ground and snakes .

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Jeremy’s wet foot was full with mud!

Collaring a prairie chicken was even tougher than collaring an elephant. Collaring two prairie chickens took us more than three hours!  Sometimes we got lost because the prairie is so flat and it made it hard to navigate.

In my many years with Save the Elephants I have collared many elephants so that their movements can be traced, their populations counted, and poaching operations can be thwarted. This work continues to take place in the Kibodo, Samburu, and Mount Kenya regions in order to conserve elephants.  But, this work with the prairie chicken was very inspiring, because many of the Attwater’s Prairie Chickens in the refuge are hatched at captive breeding programs at a few U.S. zoos including the Houston Zoo to conserve the species.

 


 

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Sabinga collecting marine debris in Galveston

The Houston Zoo is excited to welcome a new intern who comes to us all the way from Kenya, in East Africa. Sabinga is in the United States participating in the Community College Initiative Program (CCIP). The Community College Initiative Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State, administered by Northern Virginia Community College onbehalf of the Community College Consortium (CCC) in partnership with Houston Community College. While participating in this program, he will join us at the zoo as an intern to learn all about what a modern-day zoo is like! Sabinga is already part of the conservation community as he has been working with Save the Elephants in Kenya for over 8 years. He will be documenting his experiences at the Zoo and we will share his thoughts with you here on our blog! Stay tuned for more!

Sabinga's Updates: Houston Teens On Conservation

Renee-Use-THis (1)Houston Zoo has messages about conservation both in the zoo buildings and outside in the public spaces that relate to the animals we care for! Houston Zoo Education Department conducts education programs for all ages.  A program is where an educator or naturalist may show and talk about live animals, or point out important aspects at exhibits, and present brief talks illustrated with slides, films and also sometimes offer summer day-camp programs for children. The last weekend of January was a week where the voice of conservation got louder, a weekend where message of conservation went out to the young minds.  Renee – Conservation Programs Manager, Martha – Conservation Education Coordinator and I did two presentations about conservation to groups of teens. We educated and inspired the teens to become part of our commitment to celebrate, study, and care for wildlife and their habitats. Thanks to the education team for giving us the chance to contribute to their great work.

The voice of conservation stayed strong on the following week when David Brady, the Houston Zoo’s Chief Marketing Officer, and I drove to Green Pine Elementary School. We reached the school around 11:30 am and went straight in school reception, where we received with a warm welcome from Diane (teacher).  Then we were lead through a corridor to one of the classrooms. I was impressed by the look, there were pictures of wildlife and plants on the walls on each side, stars hanging from the roof along the corridor, it looked natural, I felt like I was in a magic kingdom!!  What amazed me most was the attendance of 70 preteens for the presentation!! David gave an excellent, well organized, fascinating and very constructive presentation that related to the mind of young people! I am optimistic his presentation had impressed the kids about the world around them. He is a great speaker and I learned a lot from him that day that I will cherish!

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I gave a presentation after David, that had a similar message and I presented on the similarity of animals in the zoo to animals in the wild.  I was trying to captivate the imagination of the children and lead them into conservation.  I wanted to encourage students to become ambassadors of their rich environment. It is the same message we give at Save The Elephants in Kenya, during our education program.  We visit schools and the community and show films and presentations on conservation.  We know that we need to encourage everyone to join us in the wildlife saving journey.


 

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Sabinga collecting marine debris in Galveston

The Houston Zoo is excited to welcome a new intern who comes to us all the way from Kenya, in East Africa. Sabinga is in the United States participating in the Community College Initiative Program (CCIP). The Community College Initiative Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State, administered by Northern Virginia Community College onbehalf of the Community College Consortium (CCC) in partnership with Houston Community College. While participating in this program, he will join us at the zoo as an intern to learn all about what a modern-day zoo is like! Sabinga is already part of the conservation community as he has been working with Save the Elephants in Kenya for over 8 years. He will be documenting his experiences at the Zoo and we will share his thoughts with you here on our blog! Stay tuned for more!

Sabinga's Updates: Learning About Saving Nature at the Zoo

The Houston Zoo has many ways to get involved with saving wildlife and education. I got a tour of the Houston Zoo’s Naturally Wild Swap Shop by staff member, Charlona. I learned a lot!! The Swap Shop is another place that gives a shot in the arm to conservation! It’s a place where children bring items they found in nature while being aware of rules and laws about not collecting bone or skull from hunted or poached animals.

swap-shop-pinecone

Each item children bring in is awarded a certain number of points, but one can get additional points by telling story of the animal or plant collected! And more points still if one writes or draws something about that item. This helps children to understand exactly what they collected!

Here is one that amazes me: elephant-resize

This is similar to Save the Elephants education department doing by going to schools and give a topic example “living with harmony with elephants” children make a drawing, a play or essay. Education officer select the best and gives a present; Like a game drive to see wildlife in the park, Save The Elephants T-Shirts, or book and pens.

The Houston Zoo shares successes but still needs everyone out there to contribute to our successes, because everyone from this country and around the world have something special inside themselves and nature is waiting for your ideas, your services, your skills, and your expertise! It’s time for you to show up, absolutely stand up for this nature; you have greatness within you, to protect wild animals and plants from extinction!


 

Sabinga-Profile-Resize
Sabinga collecting marine debris in Galveston

The Houston Zoo is excited to welcome a new intern who comes to us all the way from Kenya, in East Africa. Sabinga is in the United States participating in the Community College Initiative Program (CCIP). The Community College Initiative Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State, administered by Northern Virginia Community College onbehalf of the Community College Consortium (CCC) in partnership with Houston Community College. While participating in this program, he will join us at the zoo as an intern to learn all about what a modern-day zoo is like! Sabinga is already part of the conservation community as he has been working with Save the Elephants in Kenya for over 8 years. He will be documenting his experiences at the Zoo and we will share his thoughts with you here on our blog! Stay tuned for more!

Sabinga's Updates: The Houston Zoo Staff Conservation Fund

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Sabinga collecting marine debris in Galveston

The Houston Zoo is excited to welcome a new intern who comes to us all the way from Kenya, in East Africa. Sabinga is in the United States participating in the Community College Initiative Program (CCIP). The Community College Initiative Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State, administered by Northern Virginia Community College onbehalf of the Community College Consortium (CCC) in partnership with Houston Community College. While participating in this program, he will join us at the zoo as an intern to learn all about what a modern-day zoo is like! Sabinga is already part of the conservation community as he has been working with Save the Elephants in Kenya for over 8 years. He will be documenting his experiences at the Zoo and we will share his thoughts with you here on our blog! Stay tuned for more! I joined the Houston Zoo as an intern in November 2014 in the conservation department, precisely under Renee Bumpus – Conservation Programs Manager. I understood the work of the Houston Zoo from Renee Bumpus with other accommodating and professional employees (Martha – Conservation Education Coordinator, Elyse – Conservation Coordinator, Ryan – Interactive Marketing coordinator and many more). They assisted me in everything I know, and Renee is fortunately not tired of me. She is my mega star on this matter I must say! She is constantly providing information according to Houston Zoo policy that an intern needs to know, to do and to learn. It’s a timely internship according to my school major and makes me feel on cloud nine (extreme happiness). On my internship I attend many meetings and workshops, join teams in the field, assist several departments according to schedule given. I extremely enjoy all of them, but I became tongue-tied by Houston Zoo Staff Conservation Fund.

SCF_with_tagline Staff Conservation Fund is a program where Zoo employees donate a portion of their hard-earned wages to conserve wildlife. The program provides funds for Houston Zoo staff to use to carry out programs to save wildlife. The program seeks to provide opportunities and resources for any Zoo staff member to become involved in conservation efforts and increase and strengthen the connections between Houston Zoo staff and conservation projects that help conservation, education, research, community outreach and allow staff to implement conservation initiatives on or off the Zoo ground, targeting those species, places and issues that need critical attention, or where the effects of the Staff Conservation Fund can have the greatest, widest impact. The Houston Zoo’s staff are pioneers on this Staff Conservation Fund Program that began in 2004 as a mechanism for staff involvement in conservation and saving wildlife. No other zoo in the United States operates such a successful program; it’s mind-blowing and heart opening in conservation.   This flourishing Staff Conservation Fund is well structured with a committee comprised of 11 staff members.  4 permanent positions on the committee are the conservation department; remaining 7 positions are from both animal and non-animal departments and rotate after 2 years terms. There are some successful projects that were funded by Staff Conservation Fund like Barton Spring Salamanders, Houston Toad Research, Marianas Islands Project, Painted Dog Rehabilitation Center Training and 22 other projects funded since the start of the program. To mention one, Lisa Marie – Veterinary Hospital and Animal Nutrition Manager at the Houston Zoo, applied for the Staff Conservation Fund and was awarded. She traveled across borders all the way to Africa to save painted dogs in the wild-an endangered species. She has done a marvelous job on assisting Painted Dog Conservation in Zimbabwe to set up the new research laboratory, expand the project and use acquired parasitology skills to collect data on painted dogs by sampling scat for DNA, stress and reproductive hormones, prey hair analysis and now working together with the Houston Zoo Veterinary Clinic on basic parasitology. This entire project was funded by the Staff Conservation Fund. It’s unique in its conservation mission and yields unquestionable positive results and sheds light on conservation projects like Painted Dog Conservation.

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Lisa Marie training staff at Painted Dog Conservation in Zimbabwe

The Save the Elephants organization in Kenya where I work has an almost matching program developed by field team and adopted by organization, called the Community Outreach Program. We have the Community Outreach Program because Save the Elephants is trying any way possible to win the battle against poaching of elephants. One example of an effort under the Community Outreach Program is reforming some of the notorious poachers to be conservationists and protectors of the wildlife. The battle is by no means won, but through Save the Elephants ever-growing Community Outreach Program, we see less elephants being poached. The Community Outreach Program is the project that Save the Elephants staff is doing outside of their normal daily activities; outside of our normal work to ensure animals are safe in the wild. This is very similar to the Staff Conservation Fund at the Houston Zoo, where employees take on work outside of their daily activities to make sure animals are safe in the wild. This is very encouraging program and big thumbs up to Houston Zoo staff, we need to follow their steps, it’s true time to set things right, enough for ourselves, for the wild we must fight, protect their kind, we have taken enough, now it is time to give and remember extinction is forever, we must act now, time is running out.

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Sabinga at an ivory burning in Kenya

Sabinga's Updates: How Saving Elephants is Like Saving Sea Turtles

Sabinga-Profile-ResizeThe Houston Zoo is excited to welcome a new intern who comes to us all the way from Kenya, in East Africa. Sabinga is in the United States participating in the Community College Initiative Program (CCIP). The Community College Initiative Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State, administered by Northern Virginia Community College on behalf of the Community College Consortium (CCC) in partnership with Houston Community College. While participating in this program, he will join us at the zoo as an intern to learn all about what a modern-day zoo is like! Sabinga is already part of the conservation community as he has been working with Save the Elephants in Kenya for over 8 years. He will be documenting his experiences at the Zoo and we will share his thoughts with you here on our blog! Stay tuned for more!

It was Friday morning, I just reported back after Christmas and New Year break from my internship in the Houston Zoo, was the second day of January 2015. This day was planned last year for me to join Martha Parker (Conservation Education Coordinator) and Marketing team (Christine – Marketing Director, Shayla – Promotions Coordinator, Lauren – Marketing Coordinator, and Mary Kate– Marketing Coordinator) to travel to Galveston to visit NOAA’s sea turtle barn, the clock was ticking 11:01 am it’s time to go. We quickly get the big group ready to go. Christmas and New year stories occupied the air, each individual sharing their Christmas exciting memories, from beautiful Christmas trees full of sparkling, glittery ornament, sounds of giggling, toys blurring through the house and many more stunning detailed stories. Abruptly the stories were cut short because we had to go, six of us left “Oohing” and “Aaahing” Christmas season stories never stop, six of us continue chatting and laughing with joy! While Martha was driving and concentrating on the road, she kept contributing to the stories too, in about 30 minutes on the road, silence took control. I knew I didn’t contribute or tell my stories of my Christmas season, I knew it was my time! I didn’t know how to start my story of Christmas, so I asked Martha if I had told her about watching an NBA basketball game. Her exciting response it gave me energy to narrate was a nice story too, and I added more sweetness by showing pictures on my phone! By that time we were close to our destination.

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It was noon and one of us suggested if we can eat lunch before visiting the barn. It was the best suggestion and went unopposed, so we went to a restaurant, very nice and clean, looked like a museum with drawings and sculptures around the walls. We sat on one table, everyone served his or her favorite, and we enjoy our lunch like family in every aroma and every bite!  After lunch we headed to NOAA’s (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) sea turtle facility.

11NOAA is an agency that enriches life through science. Compound was not big, I might be wrong to estimate, but no matter the size it has much in it, it’s home for more than 400 turtles. It has big storage tanks you might think it’s for Oil storage and vessel but no-it’s just for circulation of water from the sea to more than 400 turtle pools so they feel they are in the sea!

22Question is why Houston zoo involved? Because the sad fact of the matter is that sea turtle populations around the world are plummeting. So they are getting to the heart of the matter to protect these vulnerable creatures. To involve protecting the adult and baby turtle is not just an important thing to do, it is also a step in the right direction to preserve this species for generations to come and protecting sea turtle is not only an act of compassion, it reinforces a necessary link in the fragile chain of our earth ecosystem. When humankind is in harmony with the wildlife on the land and in the sea the benefits are far reaching – we are all connected, that is why Houston zoo assists sea turtle efforts on the Texas Coast by partnering with organizations like NOAA, Moody Gardens, Sea Turtle Restoration Project, Texas A&M Galveston, among many others. The zoo provides staff expertise and resources to assist sea turtle efforts. These include staff to assist in weekly beach surveys, graphics assistance in designing sea turtle awareness signage for local beaches, and medical care and rehabilitation for injured sea turtles by our veterinary and aquarium staff. Experience the thrill of helping to save endangered sea turtles, when you go on a turtle tour, we saw four species of the sea turtles include Kemp’s Ridley, Hawksbill, Green and Loggerhead.  We learned a lot and I found many things related to work of Save the Elephants in Kenya.

33Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) is an amazing technology where it allows sea turtles to escape the back of the fishing trawl, while still capturing small animals like fish and shrimp. This is where zoo and government work with the community on saving sea creatures, where members of the community are part of conservation. The same idea where Save the Elephants works closely with the community by making them involved with conservation and be proud of their wildlife. An example is our beehive fence, where farmers use beehive fences around their farms, where bee sounds and stings scare elephants away before they can destroy crops. Also farmers harvest honey, thus reducing the conflicts between elephants and farmers.

Also Save the Elephants’ text message technique was best to bring community to conservation where farmers receive a text message from collared elephants telling them which way the elephants are coming including the time and date when elephants about 500 meters from the farm. This also makes the community to feel involved and part of conservation.

After the tour in turtle burn we head back, this time the stories in the car are different, all of us processing and remembering what we learned, some asking questions not because they failed to ask them at the barn but because it helped remind us what we learned. It reminded me of school where we always discuss what we learn, this is showing that everyone has the heart of conservation, besides their normal work.

What’s near and dear to our heart is cooperative conservation, and knowledge sharing can make the difference between survival and extinction, that’s why we inspire others to remain motivated and work together towards building and maintaining a winning team!

Let’s join hands to work together, so we can win this battle against extinction!

Sabinga's Updates: Wildlife Protection Efforts Near the Ocean

Sabinga-Profile-ResizeThe Houston Zoo is excited to welcome a new intern who comes to us all the way from Kenya, in East Africa. Sabinga is in the United States participating in the Community College Initiative Program (CCIP). The Community College Initiative Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State, administered by Northern Virginia Community College on behalf of the Community College Consortium (CCC) in partnership with Houston Community College. While participating in this program, he will join us at the zoo as an intern to learn all about what a modern-day zoo is like! Sabinga is already part of the conservation community as he has been working with Save the Elephants in Kenya for over 8 years. He will be documenting his experiences at the Zoo and we will share his thoughts with you here on our blog! Stay tuned for more!

Sabinga writes:
Do you know that Houston Zoo also doing their part to bolster dwindling populations of animals still living free in the wild? The sea turtle is an example. The green sea turtle gets its name not from the color of its shell but from the greenish shade of its fat. A saw-like beak helps these herbivores tear through vegetation. Their shells, which are lighter and more hydrodynamic than those of terrestrial turtles, allow them to glide easily through the water, while flippers enable them to swim long distances. Male sea turtles spend their entire lives at sea, but females return to the same beaches they were born on, once every two years or so, to lay eggs. It’s a unique creature!!

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Just a few days ago I was busy working on my computer when I heard a voice behind me asking me if I wanted to go into the field with Martha (Conservation Education Coordinator) and sea lion staff on the following Tuesday. I quickly realized the voice was Renee! (Conservation Programs Manager) But it took me lot of thinking to manage and organized my thoughts about word “field” in the zoo as I turn my chair to face her slowly buying time for my thoughts, the only thing running in my head is back in Kenya, in Save the Elephants where we go to the field on daily monitoring, community outreach and anti-poaching campaigns for wildlife. I turn to face her and still have no clue what she meant. My thoughts fail me. I repeated the same statement to her. “Field?” Maybe she though I repeated a word to her for confirmation, not knowing there was so much going in my head. And that was where my new lesson started about what field work with the Houston Zoo meant.

The 16th of December, 2014 Tuesday morning was our mission day of Surfside beach clean-up to protect animals like sea turtles, it took us approximately one hour, was a long drive but was a journey with lot of fun, lots of laugh and a great way to get a word out about the sea Turtles! Aiming to talk to beach residents in an effort to monitor, preserve and protect sea turtle and their vicinity as well as to educate the local residents on the plight of sea turtles and other marine animals, it is the same way Save the Elephants approaches the community on elephant poaching.

Martha had lot of responsibility; she was our team leader, driver and main spokesperson to the community although Sophie Darling and Heather Crane contributed too to the effort. I was keen to learn about how they approach the community! From my heroes (Martha, Sophie and Heather), my first impression was the sea turtle sign at the entry of the beach, this sign was made by the Houston Zoo graphics team in collaboration with  NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric administration) which is also the same way that Save the Elephants collaborates with the Kenyan Government -Kenya Wildlife Service.
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NOAA & Houston Zoo staff put fishing line recycling bins on a long jetty for fishermen to put their broken fishing line that is dangerous for the sea turtles and other marine animals.  We started cleaned the jetty from the far end coming where we began by collecting common marine debris items including things like cigarette butts, cans, plastic bags and bottles, styrofoam, balloons, lighters, discarded or lost fishing gear such as lines, nets and anything else dangerous to sea life. This is hard work but there is still a lot to be done.  We still need to do a lot of collecting and messaging to win this, we cannot give up!!!!

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Sophie and Heather’s comments on their experience, “It feels so good to be out and actively participating in such an important mission, I just wish that I could get every piece of monofilament out there! That was the hardest part, like you said, was having to come to terms with the fact that I couldn’t get everything.  I cannot wait to spread this to the community here at the Zoo and all over Houston! I feel extremely proud to be a part of all of this.”

The total amount or marine debris the sea lion team has collect this fall is:

  • 34.1 lbs of rope
  • 11 lbs of recycling
  • 26.4 lbs of trash
  • 2 lbs of monofilament (fishing line)

Why should we care about sea turtles? Just like other species, sea turtles are also important to the economy. Some fishermen depend on fishing for their jobs and if sea turtle go extinct, the underwater ecosystem would be unbalanced. Why? Sea turtles are one of the only animals that eat sea grass, and sea grasses need to be kept short. Why? So it can grow across the ocean floor. Why? Without the sea grass the species of fish that live there will be lost, the people that fish for them couldn’t anymore. What if that was YOU?  Some just think,  “oh well other people will care for them”; others may say, “I am busy with my business”  – yeah well many other people may be thinking other things – that is why we have this problem. So do your part. Please join us to save sea turtles by reducing the use of plastic bags so that they don’t end up in the ocean and cleaning the beach. It is of great value to our community and the world. We need to take action together, and spread the news! Your actions today affect tomorrow’s outcomes!

Discover What Makes the Houston Toad So Unique

IMG_9112The Houston Zoo is excited to welcome a new intern who comes to us all the way from Kenya, in East Africa. Gilbert Sabinga is in the United States as participating in the Community College Initiative Program (CCIP). The Community College Initiative Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State, administered by Northern Virginia Community College on behalf of the Community College Consortium (CCC) in partnership with Houston Community College. While participating in this program, he will join us at the zoo as an intern to learn all about what a modern-day zoo is like! Sabinga is already part of the conservation community as he has been working with Save the Elephants in Kenya for over 8 years. He will be documenting his experiences at the Zoo and we will share his thoughts with you here on our blog!

Sabinga writes:

Sabinga blogHouston Zoo is the nature in it’s wildest. Every day coming to the zoo it offers me a new chance to get up close from wildlife around the world, and learn close facts about the animals. This time I was introduced to toads!!!! The little I knew about the toads is valuable part of our outdoor heritage. Most of people probably don’t give them much thought, and rarely credit what we consider lesser life not with emotions big as ours; but we need these amphibians to control destructive insects and to offer their voices to the sounds of spring and summer nights. Just hearing or seeing them adds to our enjoyment of outdoor joy and makes our environment beautiful. I visited and got to help in the toad department under the instruction of Tyler Parker, who never get tired of me asking questions about toads. He really taught me much on toads and expanded my knowledge about the toads especially Houston toads.

Sabinga blog2Today, with species threatened and habitats disappearing worldwide, the Houston Zoo  is playing a new role in conservation: the Zoo is expanding their efforts far beyond keeping animals alive in captivity. An example of this is the toad quarantine facility that serves as a location for captive breeding and head- starting of Houston toads eggs stand for release in to the wild, and this facility is managed full-time by Houston toad specialists who care for the toads and work closely. I never thought of how great this is wow! Credit to toad keepers.

The best part is that we would all love to think that wild animals in reality are at least a little bit like they are in National Geographic movies – cute, cuddly and happy to be in human company. Certainly toads can get used to human caretakers. Dr. Lauren Howard held one told and I was surprised that the toad did not struggle and even closed its eyes! I was wondering is it love? Or, the warmth of Lauren’s hand, or cues from the toad that it enjoys the care.  We all need to care for these magnificent local Texas creatures.

Sabinga blog3
Amphibian species are now on the verge of extinction. How do we save them?

– Toads like to take their time crossing the road…give them a brake! Roadkill is a significant cause of toad and frog mortality in many parts of the world. So drive slower on wet nights. Help a frog or toad cross the road (careful: don’t cause an accident or get squashed yourself).

– If you are building a pond, and want to support a healthy toad community, do not stock fish in it–even native species. Fishless ponds always tend to have a higher amphibian biodiversity than do ponds with fish.

– Most of the products we use in our daily life, and even the things we take for granted (food, water, electricity) have been removed from their natural place in the environment. We therefore offer the following suggestions on how you can reduce your ecological footprint: Turn off your air conditioning when it’s not in use. Take a shorter shower. Put a lid on that pot of boiling water. Turn off your lights. Print on both sides of the sheet of paper. Turn your jacuzzi off when it’s not in use. Going for a picnic? Don’t use styrofoam plates; most supermarkets sell biodegradable corn plates.

For more information visit; conservation@houstonzoo.org

Point to remember; Toads may be begging for their environmental freedom!!!

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Houston Zoo added a new photo — in Sukau, Sabah, Malaysia.
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Thursday's update from SMG's trip to Borneo is up now! www.houstonzoo.org/saving-wildlife/journey-to-borneo/ ... See MoreSee Less

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Thursdays update from SMGs trip to Borneo is up now! https://www.houstonzoo.org/saving-wildlife/journey-to-borneo/
Houston Zoo added a new photo.
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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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