December’s Featured Member: Susan Spjut

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 December’s Featured Member: Susan Spjut.


“I grew up in Houston, and have been coming to the Houston Zoo as long as I can remember.  I remember that my brother, John, (when he was probably about 12?) brought home a rooster from the zoo.  It was attacking children in the petting zoo, so they gave the bird to my brother.  That bird crowed every morning under my bedroom window.

I grew up on Sunset Blvd.  Sometimes I could hear the lions roar. It was pretty cool. When my kids were young, we would often come to the zoo, it was free back then.


I have been a member for several years now.  Mainly to support the zoo. Also because I am an artist at Archway Gallery.  I take photos of the animals and using them as references paint pictures of your animals.

I love the Houston zoo, and have watched it become a much better environment for animals.  I wish the world did not need zoos for the survival of so many species.  The Gorilla exhibit is awesome!”

– Susan Spjut

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

Year of the Monkey: November

Year of the Monkey: November

Schmidt’s red-tailed monkey

By Dena Honeycutt; photos by Houston Zoo staff

One of my favorite monkeys is the Schmidt’s red-tailed monkey. They share the exhibit in WWP with Allen’s swamp monkeys. There are a lot of cool things about the red-tails including the following:

1. White nose – Most primates have coloration to aid them in concealing themselves from predators, so not sure the purpose of the white nose, other than it makes them really cute. They are not born with a white nose, but by 6 months they have adult coloration.

2. Long red tail – Interestingly enough, like the white nose, they are not born with red on their tail. Their long tails aid them in balancing on vines and branches (and ropes in the exhibit). I enjoy watching them navigate the ropes and seeing their tails switching back and forth to help them keep balance. They are much better at it than the swamp monkeys (who share the exhibit with them) who have a much shorter tail.yotmxnovximagex3

3. Cheek pouches – gives all new meaning to “all you can eat buffet”! This is a fun adaptation, since they are not at the top of the food chain in the wild, sometimes they need to grab food and run, so they can store food in their cheeks to eat later. In captivity, where they don’t need to worry about predators, they still will use cheek pouches to store food, so they can grab favorite foods when the dominant animal isn’t looking and eat it later.


Houston Zoo Staff Travel to Save Animals in the Wild

This blog was written by Mollie Coym, a Supervisor in the Zoo’s Bird Department. Mollie Coym received an award from the American Association of Zoo Keepers and support from the Houston Zoo to visit Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya.  We will be posting a series of blogs as Mollie documents her experiences overseas. 

rhinoBowling for Rhinos (BFR) started in 1990 as an American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK) fundraiser to support the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya.  Since then, over 80 AAZK chapters from all over the country host annual bowling events and all the donations are sent to directly support rhino conservation areas in Kenya and in Indonesia.  Each June, the Greater Houston Chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers (GHCAAZK) hosts a Bowling for Rhinos event.  The Houston chapter has donated over $160,000 since we started hosting BFR events in 1991.

Each year, AAZK awards two people the opportunity to see how their efforts help aid wildlife
conservation at Lewa Conservancy in Kenya.  In 2015, I was awarded the Anna Merz Champion Honorary trip to Lewa.  With additional support from the Houston Zoo, I was able to travel to Lewa earlier this month.

bfr-photoThe Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is a model for community based conservation and became a UNESCO world heritage site in 2013.  Not only does Lewa work to protect the habitat and the species (especially endangered ones) that live within their boundaries, but they also work with other neighboring conservancies and the surrounding communities.  Through a variety of security programs, school programs, health clinics, and community based projects, Lewa works with the communities to improve their conditions which, in turn, helps wildlife.

In this blog series, I will talk about my amazing experiences and explain how Lewa collaborates with many community partners to protect not just rhinos, but a whole ecosystem.

To learn more about Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, please visit

November’s Featured Family Members: The Antonio 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 Antonio family.

We asked the Antonio’s to share a few words about what being a Zoo Member means to them. Here’s what they had to say.
20160315_095807“We have been Members for at least 5 years. We love going to the zoo and we go at least once a month. I have three boys (2, 4, 6) and they love running from animal to animal. Every time we go, the animals are doing something different. After each trip, my boys love to talk about their favorite animal from our trip. For example, the last time we went, we all loved watching the baby elephant swim in the pond. We had never seen that before. It was our favorite by far. We always try to make it to the elephant baths because we love to see the elephants up close. We have gone to Zoo Boo and Zoo Lights and always have a great time. My oldest attended Camp Zoofari and had a blast! Everyday at the zoo for a week! When it’s hot, we cool off by playing in the splash pad and visiting the air conditioned exhibits. It was a special treat to get to see the gorilla exhibit early because we are zoo members. It’s also nice to be able to go just for a quick trip1473277635004.
When my 1st grader was studying big cats in school, we made a trip to the zoo just to see the lion, cheetah, tiger, cougar, jaguar, and the other cats. We only stayed for about an hour. We did the same thing when the baby giraffe was born. We made a quick trip just to see how small it was. I’m so glad we made time to see it when it was first born, because it seemed to get big so quick.
We have benefited from our Houston zoo membership when we received discount tickets at The Texas State Aquarium in Corpus, the Memphis Zoo, and the Oklahoma City Zoo. My boys love collecting stuffed animals from the zoo. They enjoy recreating the zoo at home. They will group the stuffed animals similar to the groupings at the zoo. They put all the cats together, the reptiles together and so on. We often meet friends at the zoo or go with our cousins. It is the perfect play date. We have very much enjoyed our zoo membership and plan to continue each year. Not only do we have lots of fun, we also make it a learning experience. We make sure to read about the animals. My boys love learning new facts about animals. They love to tell people that wombats have square poop! A fact we would never have known without visiting the zoo!”

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


Reticulated Python Joins Reptile House

The Houston Zoo would like to give a warm-blooded welcome to the latest cold-blooded housemate to join our reptile family. She’s an 18-foot (5.4 m) long reticulated python, weighing in at 156 lbs (70 kg). Her species hails from Southeast Asia, but she is a native Texan herself. Her name is…well we haven’t found the perfect name yet.

Our latest beautiful python has not yet been given a name, but we’re excited to have her here. So far, she has made quite the impression on zoo guests with just her size alone. Eighteen feet of pure muscle can cause a stir in the reptile house. Her species can grow upwards of 28 feet in length and is known to the be longest of all snakes on earth.

The name “reticulated” was given to this species because of their patterns in their scales. These designs of yellow, brown, tan and black help reticulated pythons stay hidden from predators and allows them to attack prey in the shadows of the forests in reticulated-python-smaller-close-upSoutheast Asia. Like all pythons, the reticulated python is a non-venomous constrictor that uses its body strength to kill prey. A typical diet for these reptiles consists of almost anything they can catch including rats, birds, pigs, and deer.

Please join us in welcoming this incredible animal, and we hope you will stop into our reptile building to see her on your next visit to the Houston Zoo.

Year of the Monkey: October

Howler Monkey Female-0001Hey, everyone! It’s my favorite time of year again: Zoo Boo! Zoo Boo would not be complete without Howlerween. Howlerween you say? Are you sure you don’t mean Halloween? Nope! Here at the Houston Zoo we have been calling it Howlerween for the last 7 years. Howlerween is a cool play on the Halloween season, but it features Howler monkeys!

This is the perfect time to learn all about our prehensile-tailed relatives that live in the Wortham World of Primates. Come out and earn a special conservation hero button that you can only get at Howlerween! To do this you must join Zoe the Zookeeper as she navigates her way through 4 activities focusing on the rehabilitation and release process: picking a good habitat, preparing the animals for release, releasing the animals and monitoring the animals. You will also learn about sea turtles, Houston toads and Attwater’s prairie chickens as they go through these steps!

In addition, every Howlerween we help raise funds for a sanctuary in Belize called Wildtracks. This is a non-profit organization that helps to rehabilitate howler monkeys that people thought would make good pets. In Belize it is illegal to have a howler monkey as a pet so if you do, that animal will get confiscated by the Belizean Forestry Department and then taken to Wildtracks. There, they help sick and injured howler monkeys by giving them medical care and putting them in a troupe so they have lifelong friends. Eventually after a lot of hard work, they relocate them and put them back into the wild in a protected part of the forest. This is an amazing feat!
Howler Monkey Male-0001


The Houston zoo has been helping Wildtracks with monetary donations since 2010, and the first year we were only able to send about $500, which for a non-profit is still a good chunk of money. Last year we were able to send over $3,000!!!! Our goal every year is to keep making that number go higher. They use this money to help fund the release itself; for example, buying transport crates and helping to feed the monkeys while they transition to being in the wild. We not only send them money, we also are able to send our own staff including primate keepers, education, and conservation staff to Wildtracks. There, we help them with monkey husbandry (care) and we both learn from each other.


Wildtracks has accomplished many amazing things over the last six years. They have just rescued their 100th monkey, have released 49 monkeys back into the wild, and have had 13 babies born in the wild to mothers that were rescued! Their most recent howler monkey rescue was injured multiple times by an air riffle pellet gun and will need a lot of medical care going forward. Their goal is to never have to rescue a monkey again, which they can only do by educating the people of Belize about the natural treasures they have in their backyards. That the monkeys are comfortable enough to have babies in the wild is a true testament to the amazing work they do. They currently have 46 monkeys that they still have to rehabilitate and will eventually release.

Wildtracks is just one conservation effort that the Houston zoo has its hands in right now. So come on out and learn with Zoe the zookeeper on how else to help save animals in the wild. You will find her by our duck lake, right next to the Wortham World of Primates during Zoo Boo.

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