Earth Day 2013 at the Houston Zoo


April 22 is Earth Day, and here at The Houston Zoo we’ll be celebrating on Saturday, April 20 and Sunday, April 21 from 9:00 am – 3:00 pm.  Started in 1970, Earth Day is a day that raises awareness of ways we can protect our planet.  Earth Day is important because it reminds us to take action now and protect our environment before it’s too late.

At the Houston Zoo, every day is Earth Day.  One major focus we have: Recycling. We take recycling seriously.  Not only does our staff recycle, but we encourage our guests to recycle as well by placing recycling bins throughout the Zoo.  Over the past two years over 90 tons of recycling has been collected – that’s equal to 30 female adult Asian elephants!

Did you know you can recycle your old cell phone? There is a cell phone collection bin (chargers and batteries can also be dropped off) located near the main gift shop.  Recycling your phone at the Zoo today will not only ensure it is reused or properly disposed of, but can also help gorillas!  Read more about how cell phones are linked to gorillas in the wild here. Plus, proceeds from our cell phone recycling program benefit the Zoo’s wildlife conservation efforts.

We are always looking for new ways to be environmentally friendly. What can we all do to help our environment?  Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle!  It’s as easy as 1,2,3.

1. Reduce

Reducing our intake of certain products can dramatically help our environment.  We can reduce our use of paper and plastic shopping bags by using reusable shopping bags.  Over a lifetime, use of reusable bags by just one person takes the place of over 22,000 plastic bags. Also, instead of buying cases of bottled water, use re-usable lightweight aluminum-constructive water bottles.  If everybody stopped using plastic water bottles we can put an end to the nearly 18,834,000,000 bottles that end up in landfills each year (that’s in the U.S. alone!).  We can also reduce our energy consumption by carpooling with friends to work or school and by doing something as simple as unplugging your cell phone charger when it is not being used.

 

2. Reuse

In addition to re-usable shopping bags and water bottles, you can also donate items that you no longer need or want. Items such as clothing, toys, and electronics can be dropped off at consignment shops or thrift stores.  Another way we can reuse is by purchasing used items like books and cars. Take silverware and a reusable cup to work and cut down on your use of plastic cutlery.  Borrow, rent, or share items that are used infrequently, like party decorations or tools.  All of these actions put together can help us waste less.

 

3. Recycle

Do you know all the things that can be recycled?  Recycling can be done in the following areas:  paper, plastic, metal, compost, oil, batteries, electronics, glass, and tires.  By recycling not only do we reduce waste, we also save energy. Recycling requires less energy than creating new products made from raw materials.  Recycling also reduces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change and, most importantly, it helps sustain the environment for future generations for humans and animals alike.

This Earth Day we challenge you to take these three steps to preserve our beautiful Earth and to spread the word.  What changes will you take on?  How will you make every day Earth Day?  If we all work together, we can make a difference and create a better tomorrow.

For more information on the Zoo’s conservation efforts or tips on what you can do to help our environment, check out the Do Your Part page on the Houston Zoo’s website.

Exciting News for our Madagascar Big Headed Turtles

The Houston Zoo is dedicated to the health of our animals.  An important part of making sure that they remain healthy is by giving physical exams done by our veterinary staff.  Some of our animals are a little more complicated to get to their appointments than others.  Located in Wortham World of Primates in our lemur moat are some critically endangered Madagascar Big-Headed turtles.  To get these aquatic animals, we had to drain the water low enough for us to go in with waders and tall  boots.  Since the turtles like murky water, it can be hard for keepers to see them and capturing them requires quick reflexes.  The primate keepers were able to retrieve all seven turtles in record time.

 

 

 

They were taken in separate tubs to our veterinary clinic where our lead veterinarian, Dr. Joe Flanagan, was able to identify each turtle with a microchip reader.  Each turtle was weighed and measured.  After a thorough physical exam, Dr. Joe was able to give a clean bill of health to all seven turtles.

Not only were the turtles healthy, but the ultrasounds found that all of our females were ovulating properly and radiographs showed that 2 of our females had eggs.  Since the ground is still too cold for the eggs to be able to develop,  the vet 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 two separate incubators behind the scenes of our Reptile house.  Each species has very specific temperatures  needed to  incubate eggs.  One incubator is set at 28.5° Celsius (83.3°F) and the other at 30.5° Celsius (86.9°F).  Since we are the first zoo in North America to hatch these turtles and there is very little data about their husbandry and management, it is hard to say exactly how many days it will take for the turtles to hatch, but we will be keeping a hopeful  eye out for emergence starting in May.

Keep a lookout in our lemur exhibit for any nesting activity.  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.

Come and see the Madagascar Big-headed Turtle Hatchlings!

In September 2012, 5 critically endangered Madagascar Big-headed turtles here at the Houston Zoo were hatched in our Lemur exhibit. . Since they are extremely vulnerable to predation when first hatched, they were immediately taken behind-the-scenes to our Reptile house for safe keeping. There they have flourished! They are now eating turtle pellets, earthworms, black worms, snails, crickets, and duck weed

The hatchlings started out very small, averaging 6.8 grams. They were just a little larger than a US quarter. Now, their average weight is 23.74 grams which is 3.5 times more than what they weighed when they first hatched, and they are almost the length of an AA battery (2 inches).

Since they are out of the danger zone, the turtles are now where everyone can coo and “aww” at how adorable they are. Be sure to stop by the Reptile house and see the first representatives of this species hatched in a North American zoo. When you see them, you might wonder why they have little green spots on their shell. Since we need to be able to identify them to make sure that they are eating well and staying healthy, we need an accurate way to identify them. The adults have a readable transponder under their skin just like the ones cats and dogs are given. Since they are still too small for the transponder, we use a spot of green nail polish on their scutes because it is safe and durable.

Remember: Make sure to advise your little ones not to tap on the glass, as it can stress the animals. . We want to do everything possible to make sure that they stay safe and healthy here at the zoo. These little reservoirs of turtle DNA are very important to the survival of this species and we hope to breed more in the future! And, you can still see their parents floating in the moat or basking on the rocks at the Wortham World of Primates lemur exhibit.

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

Snow Day at The Houston Zoo

It’s snowing again at the Zoo this summer! This July 21, we’re inviting you to play in the snow at the Zoo from
9:00 a.m. until 11 a.m. We’ll have a designated area for our littlest guests so bring the whole family as kids of
all ages can enjoy this mid-summer treat! Grab your mittens and play around, build a tiny snowman, and enjoy tunes from Sunny 99.1. Get here early because who knows how long the snow will last in the Houston heat!

For the first time baby elephants Baylor and Tupelo will get to discover snow as well.  Check out the elephant exhibit at 9:30 and see how much they like the surprise snowmen, with their favorite food treats hidden inside.

Also, this Saturday only, you can participate in the TXU Energy Scavenger Hunt! Visit the TXU Energy booth in the Front Plaza or any of the 13 indoor, air-conditioned Chill Zones to get a fan and start your hunt! After visiting
all 13 Chill Zones you can redeem your fan for a FREE sno kone, courtesy of TXU Energy, at any of our sno kone stands until 4:00 p.m.

So beat the heat and join the Houston Zoo, TXU Energy, and Sunny 99.1 on Saturday, July 21 for some frosty “cool”  fun!

World Oceans Day

Saturday, June 9

9 a.m. – 3 p.m.

 Almost two weeks after her release, we can only guess which waters our rescued Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle is exploring today.  One thing is for certain though—she’s got underwater company. With an estimated 50 – 80% of Earth’s creatures living under the ocean’s surface, we can rest assured that she has made plenty of friends since her first splash into the Galvestonwaters on May 19.

On SATURDAY, JUNE 9, you’re invited to come aboard as we celebrate marine creatures like this sea turtle and all of her newfound companions during our World Oceans Day event. Dock your ship at the Houston Zoo and prepare to sail through a day of nautical -themed activities, made possible by the event’s sponsors K12 and United Airlines.

From 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. young sailors can enjoy our Activity Zone throughout the event and afternoon readings of Dr. Seuss’s timeless children’s story One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish on the Butterfly Stage in the McGovern Children’s Zoo at 11:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. In addition, guests can get unique insights into a few of our marine residents and their underwater worlds during special Meet the Keeper Talks at the Kipp Aquarium. Bring the kids and watch our sea turtle feeding at 10:00 a.m. or learn all about jellyfish at 2:00 p.m.

Here at the Houston Zoo, we think World Oceans Day is a great occasion to recognize all the marine life that call the Seven Seas their home, especially those species that are endangered. Many marine life populations are decreasing at an alarming rate. Right now you can learn more about endangered species by visiting the Rhythm of Conservation website. Brought to you by The Association of Zoos and Aquariums and K12, the site provides information on a new endangered animal everyday and offers fun activities for kids! Make sure to also enter their daily sweepstakes, ending June 15, which enters you for a chance to win a trip to Walt Disney World!

Let’s do our part to learn about marine animals, and make sure they stay around for years to come! We’ll see you at World Oceans Day!

 

Meet the Keeper Talks:

Sea Turtle Feeding – 10:00 am – KIPP Aquarium

Storytime – 11:00 am – Butterfly Stage

Piranha Feeding – 11:30 am – Natural Encounters

Storytime – 12:30 – Butterfly Stage

Jellyfish Chat – 2:00 pm – KIPP Aquarium

This event is FREE with your Zoo admission.

 

 

Thank you to our generous sponsors!

              

We Bought A Zoo

 

At The Houston Zoo, there are 6,000 animals and 800 species to wonder at as you make your way through our 22 acres. Each of the 6,000 animals housed at The Houston Zoo has a story to tell. As ambassadors for their counter parts in the wild, they serve as a reminder of how vital they are for our planet. Their role is an important one, and no group of people knows this better than those that take care of them each and every day. Freeze or fry, wet or dry, there is a dedicated group of people at the Zoo 365 days-a-year to care for the animals in their respective departments. On any given day you can see keepers cleaning tanks, mowing enclosure lawns, placing enrichment items in exhibits, and generally caring for the happiness and well-being of every animal at The Houston Zoo. Their day starts early as animals are fed and enclosures are cleaned, and throughout the day you can see them giving Keeper Chats so you, our guest, can learn more about these animal ambassadors.

As you make your way around the Zoo you may notice Keeper Chats at different exhibits. These Keeper Chats give you face-time with our incredible animal staff as well as information on our animals’ daily lives. Training is a crucial part of everyday interaction. It is important to remember that the animals housed at the Zoo are not pets, and they must always be treated with respect and caution. However, for their well-being, they are trained to mimic behaviors they would perform in the wild or actions that help maintain their good health. To help encourage natural behaviors, keepers perform what is known as “enrichment”. Enrichment is vital for our animals’ happiness. Every day an effort is put forth to keep all the animals active and engaged. It can be anything from placing items into enclosures for playing, strategically placing new scents in new areas for animals to seek out, or anything that encourages a variety of different behaviors. Anything approved by our keepers that can be used as a tool or toy is enriching their lives at the Zoo and keeps our animals active an engaged. Some departments keep track of Enrichment Charts so the animals in their care are occupied with different activities and don’t see the same items too often. Tracking the enrichment a particular animal chooses to engage, or not engage in, helps the keepers know how to better care for that animal and gives them insight into their individual personalities. 

You may ask yourself, why would someone do all of this each and everyday? One of the rewards of working with these amazing animals is aiding conservation efforts. At The Houston Zoo we are involved in 20 different projects in 9 different countries. Beyond that, there are countless programs in place that aid in the conservation of the ever-increasing numbers on endangered species list. However, educating you, our guests, about choices you can make that impact the environment helps take names off of that long list.

A lot of work is involved in the daily upkeep of animals at zoos across the country, you can see it by visiting The Houston Zoo or your local zoo, but a good representation of the love that goes into caring for animals can be seen theatrically in We Bought a Zoo, the movie starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansen. As of April 3, We Bought a Zoo is out on Blu-Ray™ and for a limited time your purchase of the Blu-Ray disc also gets you ONE FREE child admission ticket to The Houston Zoo with the purchase of an adult ticket! This offer is valid until June 30, 2012. For more information visit AZA.org/weboughtazoo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rhythm of Conservation

 

In 1968, a small amphibian landed a spot on the list of “Rare and Endangered Fish and Wildlife of the United States.” Five years later, the Houston toad was included in the passing of the Endangered Species Act, one of the first amphibian species in the United States and maybe even the world to be recognized as declining.  Today the Houston toad is no longer found in its namesake city, and fewer than 300 individuals remain in the wild, largely due to habitat loss.  The Houston Zoo is working with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas State University, and the Environmental Defense Fund to ensure the toad’s survival by caring for them in captivity in their early stages of life.  It is estimated that one out of every 1000 toad eggs will make it to be an adult toad. Because tadpoles are food for just about everything in the pond, The Houston Zoo collects the eggs from the wild, lets them hatch and grow from tadpole to toad, and then releases them back into the wild.  The Zoo also works with private landowners to restore habitat and monitor populations in Houston toad counties.

 
For more information about how you can help The Houston Toad, visit our own Houston Toad website.

 

Learning about endangered species is the first step in helping to protect them. According to iucnredlist.org, there are 5,689 known endangered species and 10,002 known vulnerable species on the planet. Can you imagine how different our Earth was before the populations for these species began dwindling?   The Houston Toad is just one of the many species you can learn about. Knowledge is power. The more you know, the more we can help protect the habitats of these precious creatures.

 

To learn about a new endangered species each day, visit the Rhythm of Conservation website. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums has teamed up with K12 to bring you information on seventy-five different endangered species as well as fun activities for the kids! The best part is you can enter their sweepstakes daily, up to seventy-five days, for a chance to win a trip to Walt Disney World! As always, you can visit our Conservation Blog for information about endangered species and what we can do to help!

 

A Cougar Tale

Our newest male cougar came to us from Washington State in early December of 2011. Like many of our animals that reside at The Houston Zoo, our new cougar now serves as an ambassador for his species in our newly renovated cougar exhibit. However, unlike his counterparts in the wild, this little cub has a very special job. He’s now the official mascot for the University of Houston! Thanks to a new partnership with The University of Houston Alumni Association, Shasta VI will make live appearances during UH events via webcam and, most importantly, guard UH senior rings before the class ring ceremony.

The road Shasta took to get here began a bit rocky.  His mother was shot by a hunter, leaving Shasta and his two brothers orphans. Thankfully, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife stepped in after a good samaritan was able to save one of the cubs, and the search began for Shasta VI and his brother.  The second brother was found, but little Shasta still proved elusive, so the search team came up with an inventive plan.  In the wild, cougars make chirping sounds to communicate with one another. A biologist helping with the rescue imitated this ‘chirp’, and was relieved to hear a chirp in response. Other than being hungry and thirsty, our little guy was safe, and made the trip to the Houston Zoo.

At the Houston Zoo, Shasta VI lives in safety and comfort with his fellow cougar Haley, exploring the heights of his exhibit and observing Zoo guests. On Saturday, March 24, from 10:30-12:00 join us at the cougar exhibit as we officially introduce Shasta and announce all the details of this new partnership between The Houston Zoo and The University of Houston Alumni Association! Show up in UH gear and receive half-price admission! UH students get in FREE with a student ID. We’ll see you there!

Conservation Night with the Houston Aeros March 18!

 

Cell phones have become a permanent fixture in our everyday lives. It’s one of the first things you look at in the morning, and the last thing you look at before sleeping. They keep us connected and help us in almost everything we do, but have you ever wondered about their impact on the environment?  

 Columbite-tantalite, or Coltan for short, is an essential element in the production of cell  phones,laptops, and many other electrical devices. This element is mined in the Congo, rapidly depleting the habitat of endangered gorillas and elephants.

In fact, eighty percent of the world’s known Coltan supply is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But fear not! There is something you can do to help. With technology constantly evolving, it is estimated that there may be around 500 million unused cell phones floating around the United States alone, with as many as 100 million added each year. Bring those outdated cellular devices to the Aeros game on Sunday, March 18 for Conservation Night and participate in our Cell Phone Recycling Program! Find the Houston Zoo table, turn in your old cell phone, and you will receive four tickets to the Aeros game on Sunday, April 15 and a kid’s pass to the Zoo!

Parts of your old devices can be reused to reduce the amount of Coltan that is mined in the Congo, preserving what is left of the depleted habitat of these amazing animals as well as reducing waste that ends up in landfills. You can also recycle old cell phones year-round by dropping them in our Cell Phone Recycling Bins at the front entrance of the Zoo! Not only will you be relieving yourself of some extra clutter, but the proceeds from all devices collected benefit the Houston Zoo’s Wildlife Conservation Fund. So come out and see us at the Aeros game on Sunday, March 18! We’ll see you there!

 

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