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Zoo News Blog

I’m a Pollinator Pal

The Houston Zoo is well known for its efforts in saving wildlife.  Sea turtles, Houston Toads, Attwater’s Prairie Chickens and even butterflies!  Yearly, staff and volunteers participate in Monarch tagging.  The butterflies are then reported to Monarch Watch when found so their migration can be tracked.

Lisa working with other staff to tag monarch butterflies

Some of our staff have a special interest in pollinators and are Staff Pollinator Pals.  Throughout 2019, we will be spotlighting some of these elite staff so you can get to know them and learn about how they are helping pollinators.

Today I would like to introduce you to Lisa Cariello.  Lisa is a Keeper II in the Children’s Zoo and an amazing Pollinator Pal.  She is a Jersey Girl, born and raised!  She hails from Morristown, New Jersey. She has not one but two animal degrees.  She attended University of Florida where she received her Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science and then went to Santa Fe Teaching Zoo and got her Associates in Zoo Animal Technology.  She has been at the Houston Zoo for 3 years.  In Fact, she celebrated that 3-year anniversary in September of this year.

Lisa has had many zoo roles

Lisa was fortunate enough to volunteer and then intern at Lubee Bat Conservancy in Florida early in her career.  She quickly learned that bats are some of the best and most prolific Pollinators around.  Without them, we wouldn’t have some of the most delicious foods and drinks in the world!  In fact, did you know that bats are the animal that pollinate the agave plant that is used to make tequila?  They also pollinate mango, banana, cocoa and guava plants.   If you like chocolate or an occasional margarita, nectar bats are your friends.

Lisa says that if she must pick a favorite pollinator (all though it was really hard to choose) it would be bees.  Bees are vastly important in the world.  By some reports, they pollinate 80% of the world’s plants and 90 different food crops!  They pollinate so many of the foods we love such as, apples, almonds, blueberries, cherries and so much more.

Lisa with Mayor Sylvester Turner

She is committed to helping to save pollinators in the wild.  How does she do it?  First by helping tag monarch butterflies during their fall migration through Houston.  Second, she has a bird and pollinator friendly garden at home with over 20 native plant species, bird feeders, bird baths and a small herb garden as well.

Lisa believes that pollinators are true unsung conservation heroes!  Without them, we would be without so many fresh fruits, chocolate and even coffee!

If you would like to plant a pollinator friendly garden at your own home, here are some awesome resources for plant selection and purchase:

Houston Audubon:

Native American Seed:

Native Plant Society of Texas, Houston Chapter

Another benefit to planting your own pollinator garden?  Bring photos, reports or journals about your garden to the Swap Shop at the Houston Zoo.  You will be registered as a Houston Zoo Pollinator Pal along with earning points to spend in the shop!  Don’t know about the shop?  Click here to learn more.