Amethyst is the birthstone for February and is also the gemstone for the 6th and the 17th anniversary of marriage. While my birthday isnt in February, I do love the rich purple color of amethyst and my birthstone, citrine, is even in the same family as amethyst
Who has a February birthday? Rosa Parks, Babe Ruth, Jennifer Anniston, Abraham Lincoln and more.
It is a purple variety of quartz but, the color can range from a light pinkish violet to a deep royal purple. It is a durable and lasting stone with a rating of 7 on the Moh’s hardness scale. This makes it an excellent option for jewelry. Amethyst can be found worldwide.
There is plenty of history and lore around this beautiful stone. While it is considered a semi-precious stone today, it was a “Gem of Fire” and considered a precious stone in ancient times – at times in history worth as much as a diamond. During the middle ages, amethyst stood for piety and celibacy and was therefore worn by members of the clergy. It was believed that wearing an amethyst ring would keep them well grounded in spiritual thought. In a similar story, during the renaissance, amethyst stood for humility and modesty.
Through history amethyst has also been worn by travelersto protect them from treachery and surprise attacks and it was also believed that it would keep soldiers from harm and gave them victory over their enemies.
Amethyst has been included in royal collections all over the world from ancient Egypt to the British Crown Jewels. Ancient Egyptians believed the stone would guard them against guilty and fearful feelings. Rumor also has it that amethyst was a personal favorite of Queen Catherine the Great of Russia.
The Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. even has an amethyst that weighs 400 pounds!
While the Naturally Wild Swap Shop doesn’t have amethyst as large as the Smithsonian has, we do have amethyst for trade. You can get polished stones, amethyst geodes and even cut gemstones ranging from 150 points to 8,000 points. There is also a beautiful amethyst geode cathedral on display.
Don’t know about the Naturally Wild Swap Shop? Click here for more information.
Many of you know that the Houston Zoo staff works on many conservation projects in the field. Our staff travels to Africa, Panama, Galapagos Islands and more to help save animals in the wild. Recently, two of our staff members, Rodney Honerkamp and I, went on a different kind of conservation trip. A monarch conservation visit right in our area!
We were privileged to go to the home of Houston Zoo Asante Society members, Ron and Demi Rand in Pearland. Demi raises and rescues monarch butterflies and has all stages of their life cycle from egg to adult. A lot of her time is spent tending to the many plants in her gardens that feed the butterflies and bees that visit her yard. Her gardens have two types of milkweed, among other pollinator host plants, and have attracted at least six different types of butterflies, multiple species of bees and even moths at night.
Why is the work Demi does for monarchs so important? Butterflies, along with bees,
bats and other animals, are pollinators. A huge percentage of all the food we eat, the cotton used to make our clothes, even coffee and chocolate rely on pollinators. Without pollinators we would lose all those things and more. This year alone Demi has tagged and released over 1,000 butterflies. The tags are
a small sticker placed on the wing and the information on the sticker is sent to Monarch Watch.
Recently, Houston Zoo staff and volunteers took part in field work on grounds tagging monarchs. They tagged 23 monarchs this season! That means there are 23 more monarchs that can be tracked on their 3,000 mile migration to Mexico.
Monarch Watch is a non-profit, education, conservation and research program based at the University of Kansas. They have information on tagging monarchs along with biology and rearing. They provide information about gardening for monarchs and conduct research projects on things like larval monitoring and monarch flight vectors.
There are several other resources you can use to learn more. In addition to Monarch Watch, check out TVbutterfly.org to learn about a monarch way station that one of Demi’s “Monarch Sisters”, Dr. Amy Harkins has built at the Tuscany Village Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation in Pearland, TX. Monarch Gateway monarchgateway.org and the International Butterfly Breeders Association butterflybreeders.org are also great sites.
Facebook has some groups dedicated to monarchs also like the group The Beautiful Monarch.
The day we went to visit Demi and Ron, we were able to watch as 11 Monarchs were tagged and released. This was the reward after weeks of hard work for Demi. She collects eggs she finds on her milkweed and rinses them in a 5% bleach solution to combat the OE parasite (Ophryocystis elektroscirrha) that has been attacking monarchs. This parasite does the most damage in the pupal stage.
The affected butterflies can have difficulty emerging or fall to the ground before they fully expand their wings. It takes 4-5 days for the eggs to hatch and then she needs to be sure the caterpillars have plenty of milkweed to eat. The caterpillars will eat voraciously for 2 to 3 weeks then they will pupate into their chrysalis. Demi monitors the chrysalis closely over the 7 to 10 days it takes for the butterfly to emerge. Once they emerge they live in a protected enclosure until they are dry and their wings are fully stretched out. At that point she is able to tag them and release them. If any emerge with issues that prevent them from flying, she has a special enclosure for those butterflies so they will have nectar readily available.
How can you help? Plant your own pollinator garden! You can even work towards having it registered with Monarch Watch as a monarch way station. It will be a place for the migrating monarchs to stop and refuel on their journey south. If you don’t know what to plant, just stop by our conservation stage at the zoo. It is to your right as you come in. You will find signage about native plants to attract butterflies. Simply take a picture of the sign and take it with you to the nursery where you buy your plants.
You can also get involved at the Houston Zoo. Take a picture of your pollinator garden at home and bring the pictures to the Naturally Wild Swap Shop. You will be registered as a Pollinator Pal and receive points to spend in the shop. Also, be on the lookout for pollinators on zoo grounds. If you get a picture of a pollinator on grounds you can also bring that to the Swap Shop for points and be registered as a
Pollinator Pal. Show the Naturalist in the shop the picture and tell them which of the zoo’s gardens you saw it in. Don’t know about the Naturally Wild Swap Shop? Click here for more information.
The next time you visit the Naturally Wild Swap Shop, check out our newest residents. We have received 3 critically endangered Lake Victoria cichlids (Haplochromis perrieri) from the New England Aquarium. Lake Victoria is one of the great lakes of Africa and it is the third largest lake in Africa. Several factors have contributed to the decline of this species in the wild. One of the biggest issues is the Nile Perch. Nile Perch were introduced to Lake Victoria in the 1950’s. This non-native species had a population boom in the 1980’s which coincided with the decline of Haplochromis perrieri from the lake. Sadly, the Haplochromis perrieri haven’t been seen in the wild since the 1980’s.
In general, cichlids are very popular with fish enthusiasts. There are many varieties with a huge range of colors to choose from. There are well over 1,000 cichlid species in the wild and it is estimated that there are several hundred species in Lake Victoria alone.
Cichlids are only found in tropical and subtropical zones of Africa, the Americas and Asia. In Africa, they are found mostly in the lakes of the great rift valley in east Africa – Lake Malawi, Lake Tanganyika and of course, Lake Victoria. They vary in size from the smallest at 1.4” to the largest species at 28-32” in length.
What are some of the most interesting things about cichlids? These fish can change color to reflect their mood – such as aggression, stress or being ready to spawn. They live in very different habitats including rocky shorelines, sandy or muddy bottoms or shores with and without vegetation. Most cichlids are omnivores, eating things like mosquito larvae, tiny crustaceans and worms. Some are pure carnivores and specialize in hunting smaller fish. There are also cichlids that are strictly plant or algae eaters. Some cichlid species are mouth
brooders. Mouth brooders hold eggs in their mouths to hide them from predators. Even after hatching, the babies are allowed into the parent’s mouth if they are in danger.
Our new cichlids are found I Lake Victoria over sand and mud in the littoral or shoreline zones. They can reach a total length of approximately 2.5 inches. The females are primarily gray with some black markings, while the males of the species show more color. They are hunters, eating fish for their diet. They are also mouth brooders and hold the eggs in their mouth until they hatch.
Don’t know about the Naturally Wild Swap Shop? Click here for more information.
Have you ever been out in nature and found something you thought was amazing? Ever wish you had a way to get your kids more engaged with nature? The Houston Zoo has a way to help!
Nature journals are a great way to explore and learn about nature. Kids (and adults too!) can write about, sketch, or paint things seen in nature. It is a great way to document what you have seen and you can even go back later to research if you want to learn more about a particular item.
There is a wonderful website and blog at scratchmadejournal.com with a lot of great information on nature journaling. The author even has some printable pages to get you started! Click here to check out her awesome blog and get some amazing ideas about nature journals. She includes examples, recommendations on supplies, and a list of places to find more help and examples. Included on her blog are posts geared towards nature journaling specifically for kids. You don’t have to be a award winning artist or write like a novelist – just record what you see and add sketches as you see fit. And the more you journal, the better they get!
Do you know the best benefit to nature journals? Kids 18 and younger can bring their nature journals to the Naturally Wild Swap Shop to earn points! The points can be used in the shop to get some amazing things like bones, shells, minerals or even a re-usable bag that kids can take home and enjoy. Need more information on the Naturally Wild Swap Shop? Click here to learn more.
The first ever Texas Pollinator BioBlitz will be taking place from October 7th to October 16th. This is a statewide effort to observe and identify as many pollinators, and pollinator habitats as possible and the Houston Zoo will be participating!
How can you participate at the zoo?
First, take pictures of any pollinators you see and the plants you see them on around the zoo. Some of the pollinators you might see are butterflies, honey bees, and bumblebees. Then, take those pictures to the Naturally Wild Swap Shop and you will be registered as a Pollinator Pal and will receive 50 points to spend in the shop. Don’t know about the Naturally Wild Swap Shop? Click here for more information.
Second, you can share your photos or videos of the pollinators on Instagam or iNaturalist. On Instagram, posts should include #SaveThePollinators.
Why are pollinators so important to us? They make our daily lives better in so many ways! Without pollinators we would lose much of the fruit and vegtables we eat every day. We would also lose chocolate,
coffee, tequila even cotton. Our meat would be effected too because we would lose the plants that the cattle and other animals eat.
Come out to explorer your Houston Zoo and help us save pollinators.
There are multiple animal exhibits in the Naturally Wild Swap Shop. One of them is home to two Houston Toads: Tina Toad and her friend, Mr. Toad.
The Houston Toad is one of Texas’ most imperiled species. Its range was formerly known to include 12 counties in Texas, but it is now only in a few counties in east-central Texas. The largest remaining populations are found in the Lost Pines region of Bastrop County.
The Houston Zoo has a 1200 square foot Houston Toad quarantine facility, managed by two full-time
Houston Toad specialists, that serves as a location for the captive breeding and head-starting of wild Houston toad egg strands for release. Part of the Houston Toad specialist’s job is to count the eggs in each egg strand!
Look at the pictures in this post. What you are seeing is a picture of one of Tina the Houston Toad’s egg strands. The version with the white dots is an example of how the eggs are counted and marked as they go through the photo of the egg strand.
We recently had a contest in the Swap Shop to guess how many eggs were in the strand. The total in the strand, according to the toad keepers, was 8,533. Our closest guess was from Isabel S. who guessed 8,600. For her expertise in counting toad eggs, she received 100 points to spend in the Swap Shop!
Don’t know about the Naturally Wild Swap Shop? Click here for more information.
Well, my plan worked! I have moved into a beautiful new room in the Ambassador Animal Building! I have directed
my staff…..I mean the zookeepers, on what to put in my room and how to arrange it.
I have cat trees, boxes, kennels, and lots of toys. So many things to keep me happy and busy. And, the keepers talk to me and keep me company all the time. I feel so regal in this new spot that I am considering wearing my tiara.
My next door neighbor is Peanut, the Aardvark. She is a very pleasant neighbor. In fact, she sleeps most of the day so she is no bother at all. Denver the Macaw gets a little loud sometimes, but that’s ok too. I can handle it – even though I might have to have a talk with him at some point. There are chinchillas, rabbits, birds, and reptiles here too. I have some amazing neighbors.
I still get to go out in the zoo. My handlers bring me out on my leash to visit and see zoo guests. I also get to go to presentations and classrooms. I still go to the Naturally Wild Swap Shop from time to time too.
I will miss getting to say hello to the regular traders at the Swap Shop, but this new room is amazing!
Don’t forget about me. I sure won’t forget about you. I still love all my pals that come to the Swap Shop. When you are at the zoo, keep your eyes open. You never know where or when you will see me.
Don’t know about the Naturally Wild Swap Shop? Click here for more information.
Well. This looks pretty nice in here. I wonder who will be living in this room? I have heard it is called the Ambassador Animal Building.
Look! Some of the animals have started moving in! Ernie the North American Porcupine is here. So is Fiona the Flemish Giant rabbit. These guys are getting some really nice spaces to live in. The building has room for all the Ambassador mammals and a whole separate room for the Ambassador reptiles. There are going to be some amazing birds in here too. A Kookaburra, some parrots and even a roadrunner. Staff and volunteers can take these animals to classrooms, presentations and special events.
Just look at this corner room. No one has moved in yet. I could totally live here. I could turn that space into a kitty paradise. Oh, I am envisioning cat trees, toys, my own furniture. Yes, I can see it now.
And look outside! Is that our own exercise yard? With a pool? This building is amazing!
On July 16th, from 10AM – 3PM, the Houston Zoo will be celebrating a Spotlight on Species (SOS) all about otters!
Did you know that there are 13 different species of otters and that several of the species are endangered?
Did you know we have otters right here in Texas?
Come and learn about Texas otters and otters around the world. Meet our North American River Otter and
Asian Small Clawed Otters that call the Houston Zoo home.
The SOS will take place in both the John P. McGovern Children’s Zoo and the Natural Encounters building. There will be lots to learn along with activities and fun for the whole family. There will be tables with information and education materials along with special Meet
the Keeper chats at both locations. It is also going to be Snow Day at the Zoo, and our North American River Otter, Belle, will be
getting snow to play in!
The Naturally Wild Swap Shop will be participating too! Any nature reports or nature journals on otters brought in on the day of the SOS will receive DOUBLE points! Also, if you take the electronic pledge that day to go plastic bag free and come tell us in the Swap Shop, you will earn you 25 points. If you take the pledge you will also be entered in to a drawing for one of two special otter experiences.
Don’t know about the Naturally Wild Swap Shop? Click here to learn more.
Something big is happening behind the scenes in the George P. McGovern Children’s Zoo! I can hear a lot of noise and see a little movement behind the fence, but I can’t quite figure it out.
I really wanted to go check it out, so I got one of my handlers to take me over to see what is going on.
You won’t believe it! The building that houses the animals that go to events, presentations and classrooms is being re-done! So much construction! The building is being expanded and there will be lots of room for the ambassador animals to live.
I am a little jealous. Those guys are going to have so much space and such a nice new building. Being the Princess Kitten that I am, I think I deserve a new spot too, don’t you? A cat like me should be living in luxury.
I am going to have to start working on a plan…….
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You may remember a previous post about Justin, a sea turtle superhero. The last time we caught up with Justin, he and his son Trenton had come to the aid of almost a dozen sea turtles that had been cold-stunned in early December. With the recent cold front, Justin and his three children Cheyenne, Trenton, and Emma, headed back out to Christmas Bay in search of turtles in need of rescue. Read their story here: ... See MoreSee Less
Many of you may remember a post from a few weeks back about Justin, a local community member, and sea turtle superhero. Justin has a passion for sea turtles, and while he works full-time in the city, you can find him during his down time saving sea turtles all along the Texas Coast. The last …
This morning, we humanely euthanized our male, 20-year-old jaguar, Kan Balam. Due to the tremendous care provided to him by his keepers and our veterinary team, Kan Balam lived well beyond his expected lifespan. Jaguars expected lifespan in the wild is between 12-15 years.
The carnivore staff and veterinary team made the decision after his quality of life began to decline. Quality care and continuous advances in veterinary medicine extends animals’ lives longer than ever, with most felines in human care living well beyond previous generations. Because of this, all cats, including domestic house cats and jaguars, often spend a significant phase of their lives as older animals, and are at a higher risk for geriatric complications.
Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur; happy kitty, sleepy kitty, purr purr purr #RIP #bigbangtheory
I know he lived a lot longer due to the excellent care he got at the Zoo.
Is this the one that had the limp?
This was my daughters favorite critter at the Zoo. We always went to say hello to him before anyone else whenever we went. When she was 7 years old we sent a post out to out neighborhood on Halloween saying Paisley was asking for pocket change donations in lieu of candy for Halloween and all amounts would be donated to Kan thru the zoo. She raised over $40 in coins! I still have the letter from the zoo thanking her for her donation. He was a sweet boy and will be missed. 😔
I saw him limping about 2 weekends ago. The first time we walked by he was fine. When we walked by on the way out he was limping and moaning pretty loudly. I wondered what happened but I figured his keeper already knew or would find out shortly. Super Sad. He was always a lively one.
Sorry to hear about your loss. We also lost a jaguar(melanistic variety) at Reid Park Zoo about a year ago. Nikita was 21 years old and was euthanized due to health-related issues. Sad, but they have a GOOD life at the zoo! No predators, a steady food supply, medical attention, loving kindness from her keeper(s) and admiration by the public. Geriatric animals have unique problems and we are blessed to get to know them as long as we do.
Jaguar habitat is in the Zoo or Jungle's? ??or is only entertainments for person's? ??$$$$$$$!.Sorry animals the person's don't love you ..
Sending love to the keepers that are broken hearted right now. And thank you for all the care you’ve given.
Thank you Houston Zoo for taking such good care of him and all the animals! I've been going to this zoo since I was little bitty. I always enjoy it.
Dunno if the Zoo staff considered him a pet but he was certainly a family member, and because of that i offer this:
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....
Aww. When interning in the carnivore dept he was one of my faves. So smart! Ashley remember when Angie was teaching him to do the moonwalk after Michael Jackson passed?
Beautiful jaguar ....so grateful for the Houston Zoo keepers and veterinary team that gave their time and efforts to share this awesome jaguar with us for so many years.
He was well-cared for and most of all well-loved. My heartfelt condolences to those missing Kan B as well as me. What an amazing ambassador for his kind. What a beautiful old gentleman. Thank you for loving him into old age and giving him peace.
What a great long life he lived because of his excellent care at the zoo Thoughts go out to his keepers and the entire Houston Zoo staff
Thank you for doing what was right and kind for Kan Balam even though it was hard and painful for you. That’s true love for an animal. ❤️
RIP Kan Balam. You have given the visitors so much pleasure just watching you over these years. You were taken care of by top notch professional handlers, etc.
I'm so sorry for your loss. Thanks for taking such great care of him so he was able to live a long life. My thoughts are with his keepers and all who adored him. <3
Aww I’m so sorry for the loss, I’ve seen him many times, he was absolutely gorgeous! I’m glad that you guys were able to make him comfortable, sometimes the best thing we can do is let them be at peace. Will miss this handsome guy; play hard at the Rainbow Bridge friend, day hi to my cat, Junior for me!! Much love to the HZI staff!!
Jaguars are one of my favorite and he seems like a sweet boy. I'm so sad but I'm happy he can be painless and be free now. RIP❤️
The Houston Zoo staff has lost several animals this year and I am sure each one is so hard to go through.
I am soo sorry for the loss of this handsome fella Kan Balam. May he rest in peace and run free or any pain over the rainbow bridge.. My heart and prayers go out to each and every one of the staff at the Zoo.
Katie Rose Buckley-Jones I won’t ever forget the time you asked him to bring something and he ripped off a piece of cardboard and tried to hand it to you ❤️ thank you for introducing me to him. Sending you guys many hugs
So sorry to the keeping staff for your loss i cant imagine how youre feeling :( his old age is a testimony to the amazing care he received
I will miss him. The last time I saw him he looked tired, and it appeared his foot was bothering him.
Sad to hear of this. Thanks for taking such good and compassionate care for him and the other animals.