We have invited Carolyn Jess back to help us out as guest blogger in 2014 with a focus on native wildlife. Jess is a 13 year old student who has agreed to be our special guest blogger about wildlife conservation. We first met Carolyn in October 2011 when she came out to the Zoo to meet our special guest Jack Hannah. If you would like to contact Carolyn or have comments, you may send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The holidays are quickly approaching and soon you will start buying gifts for loved ones. Remember to include the ones that you love at the Houston Zoo, or the animals out in the wild! I’m sure that if these animals could ask for something for Christmas, it would be for you to remember them and to spread the word about the reasons why they are endangered. There are many great people and organizations that are working hard to protect the animals that are struggling to survive out in the wild.
You’ve heard of the Houston Toad. It actually used to live in Houston, but is now only found in East Central parts of Texas. It is endangered due to habitat loss. Its habitat is being cleared for housing or other buildings. Sometimes their woodland areas are being turned into man-made, permanent ponds, which actually is not good for the Houston Toad. When that happens, the toads have a greater chance of being eaten by other predators, such as snakes. The ponds also increase the competition for food sources for the Houston Toad. The Houston Zoo works very hard to increase the population of the Houston Toad by breeding and then releasing the toads.
Then there is my favorite, the Texas ocelot. This cat once roamed plentifully in south Texas. Their beautiful coat blends in perfectly with the shrub land they like to live on, but there are not many of these beautiful cats left here in Texas. They don’t have a lot of land left to roam on due to habitat loss and more roads are being built around their habitat. Scientists at Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute radio collar these cats and study their movements. Work is being done to build fences to keep the ocelot from getting injured on the roads, but these cats have a long way to go still. It is estimated that there are less than 100 ocelots left in South Texas.
The Attwater’s Prairie Chicken is an endangered Texas species that once roamed freely on the Texas coastal prairies. In the early 1900s, there were about 1 million Attwater’s Prairie Chicken and now there are less than 100. This too, is due to habitat loss. This bird, which is not actually a chicken, but a grouse, needs prairie to live on. Due to new buildings and construction, much of the prairie land is just not there anymore. There is much work being done to help this species come back, but they need your help.
The last one I would like to remind you about is the Texas Blind Salamander. This endangered animal lives in the Edward’s Aquifer area around San Marcos. There used to be plenty of these interesting salamanders around, but due to a massive population increase in that area, water gets used up faster and the groundwater levels fall. Along with falling water levels, more pollution is being introduced. The salamanders need clean water to live in. Dr. Glenn Longley, at Texas State University, monitors the Blind Salamander population and conducts research to help the salamander’s population.
These are some of my favorite animals that I like to help. There are many ways you can help these animals as well. Just being aware of these animals is the first step to saving them. Visiting the Houston Zoo is another step. If you would like to give these animals some Christmas cheer, you can donate to The Houston Zoo. They are working now to increase the populations of all these animals and they are working directly with the Attwater’s Prairie Chicken and the Houston Toad. If you would like to help the ocelot, you can donate to the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute or if you’d rather help out the Texas Blind Salamander, you can get in touch with Texas State University and contact The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment.