Happy holidays from our herd to yours! We want to thank you for supporting the Zoo in 2023 and helping us save animals in the wild. View our top 10 successes from 2023 as we close out the year and move on to 2024. Cheers to the New Year!
1. Galápagos Islands Opens
Opened in April 2023, our newest exhibit, Galápagos Islands, is the first major exhibit of its kind to showcase the remarkable wildlife of the legendary island chain. From California sea lions and Galápagos tortoises to our One Ocean aquarium and a Zoo first – Humboldt penguins, this exhibit immerses guests in an environment evoking the archipelago’s unique landscapes and oceanic habitats.
2. Madagascar Ibis Chick Hatched
The Houston Zoo welcomed its first ever Malagasy sacred ibis chick on September 3. This marks the first time the endangered species has successfully hatched in a North American zoo. With an estimated world population of 2,300 to 3,000 Malagasy sacred ibis birds left, this species was highlighted as having a high conservation need by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
3. Sweet Baby Pickles
At 90 years young, Mr. Pickles is the oldest animal at Houston Zoo and became a first-time father this year after three radiated tortoise eggs hatched. These little Pickles are named Dill, Gherkin, and Jalapeño. They are a big dill for radiated tortoise genetics as their father, Mr. Pickles, is the most genetically valuable radiated tortoise in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan® (SSP).
4. First Northern White-Cheeked Gibbon Born
A Houston Zoo first! On May 30, a male northern white-cheeked gibbon, named Marv, was born to first-time parents Ting and Max. Northern white-cheeked gibbons are native to southeast Asia, Vietnam and southern China and are critically endangered in the wild. Their numbers have declined by 80% over the past 45 years, primarily due to habitat loss and poaching.
5. Taipei Zoo Friendship
In October, Houston Zoo traveled to Taipei, Taiwan to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Taipei Zoo. This ceremonial letter of friendship was created to establish a sister-zoo relationship with one of Southeast Asia’s top zoos. While Houston and Taipei have been sister cities for more than 60 years, this is the first time two organizations have formalized a friendship.
6. Zoo Ball Raised over $2 Million
On October 21, Zoo Ball 2023 – A Starry Night in the Galápagos presented by Phillips 66 raised vital funds for Houston Zoo. At this year’s black-tie gala, a crowd of more than 740 Houstonians were welcomed to Houston Zoo’s Galápagos Islands and raised more than $2 million to support the Zoo at the sold-out event.
7. Wattled Curassow
Father’s Day had a special meaning this year for our wattled curassows, as a rare, wattled curassow chick hatched. This was the first time in almost 30 years that a wattled curassow hatchling is being raised by its parents. Guests can see the family in the Savanna Aviary inside South America’s Pantanal.
8. Tally the Sea Turtle
In an extraordinary tale of resilience, Tally, a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, returned home to the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico after her years long journey. Discovered washed up on the shores of Wales, U.K. in 2021, Tally’s fate took a dramatic turn when she was found by a group of dedicated individuals. She flew overseas and received a clean bill of health from our veterinarian team before she was released back into the wild in September.
9. Houston Zoo Exceeds Centennial Campaign Goal
The Houston Zoo’s “Keeping Our World Wild” centennial fundraising campaign efforts exceeded the targeted goal of $150 million. The campaign has contributed to the opening of The Hamill Foundation Black Bear Exhibit, Cypress Circle Café, Kathrine G. McGovern Texas Wetlands, a renovated orangutan exhibit, the award-winning South America’s Pantanal, and Galápagos Islands. This accomplishment is a testament to the generous support of the community and is a significant milestone in the Zoo’s history.
10. Saving Texas Wildlife
Every time you visit the Zoo, you’re helping us save native Texas wildlife as part of the Zoo’s wildlife-saving efforts that take place behind the scenes.
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 2023, we provided medical care and support for 43 injured or stranded wild sea turtles. If you find an injured or stranded sea turtle, please call 1-866-TURTLE-5.
Attwater’s Prairie Chickens: Since 1994, the Zoo has worked tirelessly to save a Texas native, the Attwater’s prairie chicken, from extinction. In 2023, we released 47 Attwater’s prairie chickens back into the wild.
Houston Toads: You are supporting the Zoo’s work to breed Houston toads at the Zoo and reintroduce them into the Texas wild. In 2023, we released 1,157,800 eggs, 876 tadpoles, and 1,688 toadlets into the wild.