This year was filled with countless challenges, but we made it through thanks to our Zoo members, donors, staff, volunteers, and friends. Check out a few of our 2020 successes below!
1. Baby Boom
We welcomed several new additions to our herd, including Nelson the Asian elephant, Kivuli the okapi, Peter Rabbit the Schmidt’s red-tailed monkey, three bongos, a blue-throated macaw, and more. Thanks to the support of our visitors, we recycled 225 pounds of electronic devices, with a total of 762 cell phones, which is helping save animals like bongos and okapi in the wild by reducing the demand for new materials to be mined.
2. South America’s Pantanal
On October 10, we unveiled the first-in-the-nation South America’s Pantanal exhibit that highlights the tropical wetlands of Brazil and the animals that we are helping protect in the wild, including giant anteaters, tapirs, and more. In 2020, the Houston Zoo provided support to monitor 10 wild giant anteaters. The data collected from these individuals will inform future wildlife protection plans in Brazil, including safer road-crossing solutions to protect them and other animals.
3. Renovated Orangutan Habitat
In mid-November, our renovated orangutan habitat reopened to the public after 4.5 months. Home to Rudi, Kelly, Cheyenne, and Aurora, plus four different endangered Asian turtle species, this remodeled space features enhanced climbing structures and enrichment opportunities for the orangutans. In 2020, the Zoo has supported the replanting of over 150,000 trees in palm oil plantations to save orangutans, elephants, clouded leopards, and their habitat in Borneo.
4. Houston Toads
Since 2007, the Houston Zoo has been working hard to make sure the Houston toad doesn’t disappear from Texas forever. About 600 toads live permanently at the Houston Zoo and these toads have a very important job – make more Houston toads. In 2020, we released 899,700 Houston toad eggs into the wild to save this Texas species from extinction.
5. Attwater’s Prairie Chickens
Even though 2020 may have looked different, our team worked hard to release 57 Attwater’s prairie chickens back into the wild this year. The Zoo has been working tirelessly to save the Attwater’s prairie chicken from extinction since 1995, and we are committed to protecting this Texas native species.
6. Saving Sea Turtles
Houston Zoo staff have worked diligently to support the recovery of endangered species by providing veterinary care and rehabilitation for sea turtles and facilitating threat reduction efforts with communities on the upper Texas coast. In December, the Zoo was part of a sea turtle rescue flight and is treating 20 wild sea turtles that needed care after sudden cold ocean temperatures in Cape Cod, Mass. In 2020, we also provided medical care and support for 50 wild injured or stranded sea turtles, and 28 of those turtles have been released back into the wild so far.
Our vet, sea lion, and aquarium teams (pictured below) were named Recovery Champions by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for our rehabilitation work to save sea turtles in 2019, in collaboration with our partners, including USFWS, the National Park Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and Texas A&M University- Galveston.
7. New Additions – African Painted Dogs and Pygmy Hippo
We welcomed back African painted dogs to the Zoo in August and Silas, our pygmy hippo, also joined the herd this fall. We provided support for Kenyan wildlife scouts to remove 107 illegal wire traps to protect animals like African painted dogs in the wild.
Thank you to everyone who has supported the Houston Zoo throughout this challenging year. Happy holidays and cheers to 2021!