This Monkey’s Call Sounds Like a Garbage Disposal

Story written by Houston Zoo primate keepers.

One of the first animals you’ll see when you walk into our Wortham World of Primates are our Black Howler Monkeys! You may hear them before you see them:

Howler monkeys are thought to be not only the loudest primate on the planet, but possibly one of the loudest living land mammals in the world. Their garbage-disposal like call can be heard up to 3 miles away in a dense forest. Our howler monkey troop tends to start calling in reaction to the leaf blowers we have on grounds in the early mornings.

Here at the Houston Zoo we have two howler monkeys. Vida is 23, and Garcia turned 22 on October 2nd. Vida and Garcia were both born here in Houston and are sisters.

Female black howler monkeys are brown.

You may be looking at our lovely, tan-brown, ladies thinking “If they’re called ‘Black Howler Monkeys’, why aren’t they black?” Well, the male monkeys are black, and the females are tan-brown! All howler monkeys are born a tan color to help them camouflage easily in the forest canopy, but the males develop the black color as they get older and the females remain tan in color. Males are also much larger than the females.

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

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

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

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

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

February Featured Members: Thank You Stanley Family!

Thank you to the Stanley family for these kind words:

“The Houston Zoo holds a special place in our hearts. We moved to the Houston area just over six years ago when our first son, Hudson, was almost one and I was pregnant with our second son, Walker. We were excited to explore our new city and anxious to find ways to entertain (and wear out) ours sons. Hudson loves animals so we decided to check out the Houston Zoo, and fell in love. We quickly decided to become members, so we could enjoy a few hours at the zoo a couple times a month.

One of the things we look forward to the most during our visits to the zoo is the keeper talks outside the animal habitats. They are very informative and the keepers are always so patience when my sons ask them A LOT of questions about the animals. Through the zoo keeper talks and docents we have learned most of the animals’ names and their history, which makes the zoo feel more like “our zoo.”

Over the years we have enjoyed member mornings, discounts on Zoo Lights (a must during the holidays), and early access Feast with the Beasts tickets, but our favorite thing is the behind the scenes tours. We have made it a tradition to get Hudson (the animal lover) a behind the scenes tour for his birthday present. We have gone behind the scenes with the Rhinos and the Elephants. Each experience has been amazing. Getting to touch and feed the animals is something we will all remember.

We look forward to watching the zoo grow and build amazing new habitats.”

Bottle It Up! Bottled Water Facts & Figures

The past twenty years have seen a phenomenal boom in the use of bottled water. While many of us find the packaging convenient, what is the cost of that convenience to the environment? Did you know:

  • Each bottle requires triple its own volume in water, just to be manufactured
  • The fuel consumed annually in the transportation of bottled water could fuel 1 million cars for a year
  • Nearly half of the water on store shelves is bottled from municipal supplies (tap water)
  • The earth’s freshwater supply is being depleted as it is redistributed, consumed, and emptied into the sea
  • Only about one out of five plastic bottles ever gets recycled

Whale bottle

The good news is, there are things we can all do to bring positive change!  The Houston Zoo has already eliminated plastic shopping bags from our gift shops in favor of stylish canvas alternatives, and recycling receptacles can be found throughout the Zoo. As always, a portion of every ticket or membership sold supports local and international conservation programs.

What can you do? Helping at home is easy!  Do your part to save the environment, money, and wildlife by filtering water at the tap or from a pitcher. Even sodas can be made at home! Then, fill up a reusable water bottle when you go out. Make sure waste is disposed of properly; reduce or reuse it whenever possible.

Houston Zoo is Ditching Plastic Bags

Take-Action-Logo-300pxOn July 1, we will begin asking shoppers to find alternate ways to take their merchandise home from the Zoo’s Gift Shop. Why you ask? Plastic pollution is harmful to wildlife such as sea turtles and pelicans. Known to many as “the world’s most preventable problem,” plastic pollution has grown exponentially over the last 50 years suffocating our oceans. While that sentence is full of disheartening truth the reality is that all hope is not lost!

Plastic most definitely enters oceans via activity on land. The miracle polymer that has provided humans with engineering and medical advances certainly has a place in the world. Can you imagine a hospital without a sterile IV? However, the single-use, throw away items could be used less. Drink lids, straws, and single-use plastic bags are some of the most prevalent items found floating in the open ocean. The good news is they all have reusable options! So what happens to the plastic when its time on land is done and it makes its way out to sea?t It will eventually, though it may take years, make its way to one of the five gyres. These gyres are located in the North and South Pacific Oceans, the North and South Atlantic Oceans, and the Indian Ocean. Think of a gyre as a huge tornado of currents that pulls in the plastic aimlessly floating around. Plastics in our oceans harm wildlife and are susceptible to removal by animal consumption. Laysan albatross are attracted to colorful plastic pieces that look like small fish and sea turtles may confuse a plastic bag with a tasty jellyfish. Not only do marine animals have to watch out for plastics they can see, but an even more substantial issue is the plastic they can’t see. Plastic never REALLY goes away. It’s so efficient in its construction that it only breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, but never actually biodegrades. Instead, it becomes microplastic. Small enough to integrate into schools of phytoplankton and krill, microplastics then become a part of one of the largest part of the ocean’s food chain and are ingested by whales and other marine wildlife.

Buy this reusable canvas bag in the Houston Zoo Gift Shop on your next visit!

Such a huge problem seems like it can never be solved, but that is not the case. By taking action and making small choices in your everyday life YOU can be a part of the solution! Use a reusable shopping bag and water bottle, politely decline straws and drink lids, and buying products that don’t contain microbeads are easy, everyday choices all of us can make that add up to big solution.

The Houston Zoo wants to be a part of the solution. Next time you visit the Zoo gift shop bring your own resuable bag, buy one of the reusable options if you don’t already have one, or decline the use of a bag completely. Thank you for taking action and helping save wildlife.

Party for the Planet at the Houston Zoo!

orangEver wonder what it would feel like to save black bears, chimpanzees, sea turtles or orangutans?  We love all of our animals at the Zoo and we are constantly seeking ways to protect their relatives in the wild but we need your help!  For this Earth Day we would like to provide you a simple “how to” guide on simple ways to save animals in the wild.

How can you save Black bears in the wild?

Use recycled paper products!  Black bears depend on forested areas for survival.   You can save bears in the wild by only using recycled toilet paper, napkins, paper towel and other paper products.

How does the Houston Zoo save Black bears in the wild?

We only use recycled toilet paper and blow dryers all over the Zoo.  Visit our Zoo’s restrooms on your next visit to see how we are saving bears in the wild.

How can you save chimpanzees in the wild?

Recycle your unused cell phones!  There is a material in cell phones that is collected in Central Africa, which can damage chimps’ homes. For more information click here. By recycling your phone you can stop this from happening.  Bring your old cell phones to the Zoo on your next trip and drop them in the cell phone recycling bin at the main entrance!

How does the Houston Zoo save chimpanzees in the wild?

We have recycled 4,587 cell phones over all so far.  Help us spread the word and build on that number!  Encourage schools, businesses and organizations to hold unused cell phone drives for the Zoo, or join our annual Action for Apes Challenge and recycle cell phones to win an enormous painting done by our apes!

© Houston Zoo/Stephanie AdamsHow can you save sea turtles in the wild?

Use canvas or fabric reusable shopping bags and say no to plastic!  After being thrown out, tons of plastic bags and other plastic garbage  end up in the ocean and injure and entangle sea turtles.

How does the Houston Zoo save sea turtles in the wild?

We sell reusable canvas bags at our events, we provide medical care to wild sea turtles and can rehabilitate them in our Kipp Aquarium.

How can you save Orangutans in the wild?

Buy food and cosmetics with good ingredients!  Some food and cosmetics contain an ingredient called  palm oil.  The production of this ingredient can damage orangutan’s homes.

How does the Houston Zoo save orangutans in the wild?

We buy candy that is palm oil free for Zoo events.  We also only use palm oil free soap in all of our hand washing areas.

Great news!  Another awesome way you are saving animals in the wild is by visiting the Zoo!

Every time you visit the Houston Zoo a portion of your ticket goes toward protecting animals in the wild.


Thanks to our generous Party for the Planet sponsors:

worley parsons

Games, Crafts All About Lemurs At Their Spotlight on Species Event

ringblog1Come out to the zoo August 31st – Sept 2nd from 10AM – 3PM for a fun filled day to learn about lemurs.  Our Spotlight on Species events are always free with admission and we’ll be having lots of activities for all ages.  Lemurs are a special kind of primate called prosimians.  There are over 100 species of lemurs and come in all different shapes and colors.    Come out to receive a special lemur that  kids can color and lots of fun “lemur” words that you can search for in our word search puzzle game.  You’ll also get a chance to see how our Ring-tailed lemurs communicate by helping us “mark” a tree.  Lemurs are amazing animals.  Did you know Coquerel’s Sifaka can jump OVER 15 feet?  Jump by our lemurs and see how far you can leap!  You’ll also be able to meet with the keepers who care for these and other amazing animals from Madagascar.  Be sure to check our daily keeper chat board for special keeper chats featuring our lemurs, tenrec, and fossa-all from Madagascar!

Come out and get your picture taken with a conservation  message that kids help color, so we can send it over to Madagascar to show them we care about lemurs, too.  You can even help create our “Tree of Life” that will be with our message.

While you’re here, don’t forget to check out our conservation table where we will have lots of items that make great gifts for you or your friends.  The primates here at the Houston Zoo  helped out by painting some special items.  Our little Coquerel’s Sifaka, Julius, was the inspiration for a wildlife painting by artist Corina St. Martin.  Prints will be available for purchase at the table while supplies last.  While here, you can participate in our face painting from 2PM – 3PM with a small donation.  All proceeds from our conservation table will go to helping lemurs in the wild.

So come out Labor Day weekend and join us in our celebration of lemurs!

Leaping For Lemurs and Dodging Extinction!

Join us at Sky Zone Sports for where you can literally LEAP for LEMURS!    Come to the Sky Zone Sports anytime on Wednesday, September 4th or Thursday, September 5th to help support lemur conservation.  25% of the proceeds will go directly to saving lemurs in the wild.

This year we will also be having a Dodge ball tournament on Thursday, September 5th at 7PM for ages 13 and up.  This is a fun, non competitive, tournament to help the Houston Zoo raise money for the Lemur Conservation in Madagascar.

When: Thursday, September 5th @ 7pm.  All players must be checked in by 6:45pm.

Where: Sky Zone Sports Houston (South Gessner & Beltway 8)
10207 S. Sam Houston Pkwy W.
Houston, TX 77071

Cost: $13 per person – Fees due at check in.

There will be prizes for the winning team!

Single elimination tournament: participants will be allowed to open jump from 7:00p.m. to 8:00p.m. between games or after elimination.  Additional jump time, prior to the start of the tournament, will be available for purchase for those who want to jump earlier.

The spots are limited for this tournament (12 teams max), so get your teams signed up now!

We look forward to seeing you come out and leap into action to help save these amazing animals!

Call 713-292-5000 to register your team over the phone.

Wildlife artist donates artwork featuring Houston Zoo’s Coquerel’s Sifaka, Julius!

sifaka blog
Come out to the Houston Zoo on Labor Day weekend for our Lemur Spotlight on Species event to purchase an original print of our very own Coquerel’s Sifaka, Julius!  All proceeds will be donated to saving lemurs.

All the way from Indiana, wildlife artist Corina St. Martin has generously donated prints to help raise money to save these endangered animals.  She also is donating 50% of the proceeds from the sale of the original artwork, so keep an eye out for the auction!  The fun and vibrant colors capture Julius’ outgoing personality.  Be sure to visit Corina’s etsy shop for a chance to see more and purchase some of her AMAZING artwork: and

To find out more details about the Lemur Spotlight on Species Event:

Do you like to Move it, Move it?

Lemurs do!  Over the past year, the Houston Zoo has had a Coquerel’s Sifaka infant and two Ring-tailed lemurs born!  Watching all of their crazy antics, we can’t help but love lemurs!  Lemurs can only be found on an island off the east coast of Africa, called Madagascar.  Did you know that the World Wildlife Fund has estimated that in a mere 40 years, there will be no more rainforest left in Madagascar at the rate it is being cut down?  If this happens, the lemurs will no longer have a place to call home.  This why we are having almost a whole week dedicated to promoting lemur conservation.


It all starts on August 31st with a three day Spotlight on Species highlighting the Coquerel’s Sifaka. This event will occur from 10 AM – 3 PM in the Wortham World of Primates every day through September 2nd. Visitors to the zoo will be able to learn all about lemurs and other animals native to Madagascar from the zookeepers who care for these species.  There will also be face-painting and fun ‘lemur’ activities for the whole family. While learning about lemurs, you can also support lemur conservation.  Keepers will be selling a wide variety of unique items as well as paintings completed by our zoo animals.. All of the profits will be going to support conservation efforts in Madagascar.

finnegan2On September 4th & 5th, show off your lemur leaping skills by visiting Sky Zone Sports indoor trampoline park for “Leaping for Lemurs”. They will donate 25% of the proceeds on these two days to lemur conservation in Madagascar. We will also having a “Dodging Extinction” dodgeball tournament from 7 PM – 8 PM on Thursday, September 5th at the Sky Zone Sports with prizes for the winning team.  The spots are limited for this tournament, so get your teams of 6 players signed up now!  We look forward to seeing you come out and leap into action to help save these amazing animals!

Critically Endangered Turtles hatched AGAIN!

Picture taken by Beth Moorehead

You may remember that on March 5th, we discovered during a physical examination on our Madagascar big-headed turtles that 2 of our females had eggs!  Since the ground was still too cold for the eggs to be able to develop, we induced the females to lay their eggs in the safety of our clinic.  The two females laid a total of 33 eggs!  We have taken those eggs and put them in incubators behind the scenes of our Reptile house.

We are proud to announce that on May 18th and 19th, three Madagascar big-headed turtles have hatched!  Unfortunately, the rest of the eggs proved to be infertile which is common in young female turtles that have just reached maturity.  The hatchlings will be kept behind the scenes until they are big enough to be on exhibit.  Meanwhile, you can see their older siblings that hatched last September 15th, on exhibit inside the reptile house.

Remember to keep a lookout in our lemur exhibit for any nesting activity by our adult big-headed turtles.  When you are looking at the left bank of the lemur island, look for the special area keepers have made with a mixture of sand and dirt to make it easier for the turtles to dig in.  This is where last year’s hatchlings emerged – and we are very eager to have a repeat clutch of eggs laid in the very same spot!

To learn about conservation efforts in the wild, visit the Turtle Survival Alliance webpage.

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