Sabinga's Updates: How Saving Elephants is Like Saving Sea Turtles

Sabinga-Profile-ResizeThe Houston Zoo is excited to welcome a new intern who comes to us all the way from Kenya, in East Africa. Sabinga is in the United States participating in the Community College Initiative Program (CCIP). The Community College Initiative Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State, administered by Northern Virginia Community College on behalf of the Community College Consortium (CCC) in partnership with Houston Community College. While participating in this program, he will join us at the zoo as an intern to learn all about what a modern-day zoo is like! Sabinga is already part of the conservation community as he has been working with Save the Elephants in Kenya for over 8 years. He will be documenting his experiences at the Zoo and we will share his thoughts with you here on our blog! Stay tuned for more!

It was Friday morning, I just reported back after Christmas and New Year break from my internship in the Houston Zoo, was the second day of January 2015. This day was planned last year for me to join Martha Parker (Conservation Education Coordinator) and Marketing team (Christine – Marketing Director, Shayla – Promotions Coordinator, Lauren – Marketing Coordinator, and Mary Kate– Marketing Coordinator) to travel to Galveston to visit NOAA’s sea turtle barn, the clock was ticking 11:01 am it’s time to go. We quickly get the big group ready to go. Christmas and New year stories occupied the air, each individual sharing their Christmas exciting memories, from beautiful Christmas trees full of sparkling, glittery ornament, sounds of giggling, toys blurring through the house and many more stunning detailed stories. Abruptly the stories were cut short because we had to go, six of us left “Oohing” and “Aaahing” Christmas season stories never stop, six of us continue chatting and laughing with joy! While Martha was driving and concentrating on the road, she kept contributing to the stories too, in about 30 minutes on the road, silence took control. I knew I didn’t contribute or tell my stories of my Christmas season, I knew it was my time! I didn’t know how to start my story of Christmas, so I asked Martha if I had told her about watching an NBA basketball game. Her exciting response it gave me energy to narrate was a nice story too, and I added more sweetness by showing pictures on my phone! By that time we were close to our destination.


It was noon and one of us suggested if we can eat lunch before visiting the barn. It was the best suggestion and went unopposed, so we went to a restaurant, very nice and clean, looked like a museum with drawings and sculptures around the walls. We sat on one table, everyone served his or her favorite, and we enjoy our lunch like family in every aroma and every bite!  After lunch we headed to NOAA’s (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) sea turtle facility.

11NOAA is an agency that enriches life through science. Compound was not big, I might be wrong to estimate, but no matter the size it has much in it, it’s home for more than 400 turtles. It has big storage tanks you might think it’s for Oil storage and vessel but no-it’s just for circulation of water from the sea to more than 400 turtle pools so they feel they are in the sea!

22Question is why Houston zoo involved? Because the sad fact of the matter is that sea turtle populations around the world are plummeting. So they are getting to the heart of the matter to protect these vulnerable creatures. To involve protecting the adult and baby turtle is not just an important thing to do, it is also a step in the right direction to preserve this species for generations to come and protecting sea turtle is not only an act of compassion, it reinforces a necessary link in the fragile chain of our earth ecosystem. When humankind is in harmony with the wildlife on the land and in the sea the benefits are far reaching – we are all connected, that is why Houston zoo assists sea turtle efforts on the Texas Coast by partnering with organizations like NOAA, Moody Gardens, Sea Turtle Restoration Project, Texas A&M Galveston, among many others. The zoo provides staff expertise and resources to assist sea turtle efforts. These include staff to assist in weekly beach surveys, graphics assistance in designing sea turtle awareness signage for local beaches, and medical care and rehabilitation for injured sea turtles by our veterinary and aquarium staff. Experience the thrill of helping to save endangered sea turtles, when you go on a turtle tour, we saw four species of the sea turtles include Kemp’s Ridley, Hawksbill, Green and Loggerhead.  We learned a lot and I found many things related to work of Save the Elephants in Kenya.

33Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) is an amazing technology where it allows sea turtles to escape the back of the fishing trawl, while still capturing small animals like fish and shrimp. This is where zoo and government work with the community on saving sea creatures, where members of the community are part of conservation. The same idea where Save the Elephants works closely with the community by making them involved with conservation and be proud of their wildlife. An example is our beehive fence, where farmers use beehive fences around their farms, where bee sounds and stings scare elephants away before they can destroy crops. Also farmers harvest honey, thus reducing the conflicts between elephants and farmers.

Also Save the Elephants’ text message technique was best to bring community to conservation where farmers receive a text message from collared elephants telling them which way the elephants are coming including the time and date when elephants about 500 meters from the farm. This also makes the community to feel involved and part of conservation.

After the tour in turtle burn we head back, this time the stories in the car are different, all of us processing and remembering what we learned, some asking questions not because they failed to ask them at the barn but because it helped remind us what we learned. It reminded me of school where we always discuss what we learn, this is showing that everyone has the heart of conservation, besides their normal work.

What’s near and dear to our heart is cooperative conservation, and knowledge sharing can make the difference between survival and extinction, that’s why we inspire others to remain motivated and work together towards building and maintaining a winning team!

Let’s join hands to work together, so we can win this battle against extinction!

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