Houston Zoo Attwater's Prairie Chickens Thriving in the Wild!

Last week, staff from the Houston Zoo conservation, veterinary and bird departments assisted in Attwater’s prairie chicken field work at the Attwater’s Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge.  US Fish and Wildlife staff drove us out into the refuge in the dark of the night.  We stopped and parked the vehicles at the precise location they had tracked birds to earlier in the day.  Never having seen an Attwater’s prairie chicken in the wild before, I was very excited to trek off into the dark prairie with the US Fish and Wildlife staff member, Mike Morrow. He carried his radio telemetry equipment, I carried the net and another Houston Zoo staff member followed ready to carry the captured bird back to the vehicles to be processed.   

Each captive bird that is released into the wild is fitted with a radio collar that is used to track the birds movements.  Radio telemetry equipment is then used to track and capture specific individuals.  Each bird that was captured was examined and blood and fecal samples were taken in an effort to monitor their health.   The birds were then re-released where they were captured in the refuge.

Houston Zoo staff holding wild Attwater’s prairie chicken for examination.

It is beautiful on the prairie at night.  No city lights means a clear starry night sky and the only sounds were our feet making contact with the prairie vegetation, the birds’ wings pounding the air as we flushed them from their roosting spots and the eerie coyote calls in the distance.    We captured the first several birds relatively quickly, but the 5th bird proved to be a bit more of a challenge.   This particular bird would not let Mike get within 6 feet of her, and we made 6 attempts before deciding to give up on her.  As we began to reorient ourselves to get back to the vans, Mike revealed his feeling of defeat over the failed mission to capture this bird.  I told him I felt this was a great example of the will of this species to survive.   This animal has a fighting chance with the many predators it will face if we can’t even sneak up on it.  He whole heartedly agreed with this perspective and enthusiastically carried on with this essential species-saving work.

We assisted with the capture of 15 birds and to our delight 2 of them were raised at the Houston Zoo.  The Houston Zoo has been working with the Attwater’s prairie chicken recovery effort since 2004, so seeing an animal that has been raised at the Houston Zoo, thriving in the wild is a magnificent experience.  This is another wonderful reminder of the important role the Houston Zoo plays in the race to save species.  For more about this awesome local recovery program and others at the Houston Zoo click here.

 

The Year in Blogs

I do not even know where to start to make sense of some of our blog posts in 2012, all written to try and bring your attention to both the successes and issues facing our environment. I really have no idea what may or may not have caught your attention. No matter how often our IT and web team send me graphs and charts showing reader algorithms, viral feeds (unrelated to a blog on emerging infectious diseases), hits and views – it is beyond my grasp of the new world we live in. Remember, I have a smart phone and do recall saying it was making us all a little dumber, me especially.

So a quick look back at MacGyver, Cheddar Bacon and Peppermint Shakes, Chicken Pants and the fact that  Groundhogs are not the Nostradamus of the rodent world as they can barely remember which drawer they left their pants in, let alone predict the changing of the seasons.

These were all very important topics, near and dear to my heart from pollinators to climate change and even Chicken Pants which I have no idea what I was thinking of at the time that spurred that thought process. But the point is simply this – the world is a messy place, our role in the zoo is to focus on wildlife and so most of what you see and read here is about the environment and the people who work tirelessly to protect wildlife and their habitats around the clock.

We can do more to help our partners and the environment and it is so simple it hurts my head to think about it.

Have 30 seconds to spare? Try this: Recycle a cell phone – protect wildlife in Africa. Lets make this a friendly disease called the Responsible Consumer Syndrome. You can catch this syndrome by also understanding where the Palm Oil in your products originates – and protect Orangutans in Southeast Asia

The great plastic debate? Not really a debate – we are addicted to plastic shopping bags and water bottles. Do you think Krogers, Randalls, HEB and others realizes how much money they could save by not providing its customers millions of plastic bags every year which in turn would protect the environment and wildlife? Probably equal to the economy of a small country. Interesting someone thought enough of the water bottle issue to ban them from Grand Canyon National Park – I guess they think it is prettier than the other parks since it is the only one that bans plastic water bottles.

Who would have thought the National Park System would be following the lead of these countries  (mild disclaimer – these countries have banned plastic bags but they still drink water): Papua New Guinea, Germany, Kenya, South Korea, Belgium, Sweden, Bhutan, Botswana and a handful of others. You may recall I ranted about this on my  bestselling blog Doggie Doo’s and Doggie Dont’s (another disclaimer, my blogs are not for sale but I found a quarter after posting that one).

So for 2013 – we can do better. Smartphones and Smart tablets can inform us but cannot lead us to action – that is a human trait that we need to figure out how to enhance if we are going to continue to protect the worlds wildlife in the face of growing human populations and habitat loss. We have to care more to do more.

One thing I really do not care to learn more about is Poutine which my Canadian colleague tried to poison me with this year. I like my french fries with ketchup thank you, not brown gravy and curd cheese. But what we want you to learn more about are all are wonderful partners which can be found on our website or at a few of the links below:

Niassa Lion Project Mozambique, Cheetah Conservation Botswana, Hutan-Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation, Danau Girang Elephant Conservation, Painted Dog Conservation Zimbabwe, Gorilla Doctors, Education for Nature VietnamFaleme Chimpanzee Conservation Senegal, Coastal Prairie Partnership, Lowland Tapir Project Brazil, El Valle Amphibian Conservation Panama, Jane Goodall Institute, International Rhino Foundation, Art of Conservation Rwanda, NOAA’s Sea Turtle Program, USFWS, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Texas State University, National Marine Fisheries Service, Human Wildlife Conflict Collaboration, Terra Incognita EcotoursWildlife Conservation Network, Galapagos Tortoise Program, Natural Habitat Adventures, and a Thank You to all of our zoo staff, zoo members and supporters including Land Rover UAE, Anadarko, Chevron, numerous private foundations, individuals and followers.

Chicken Pants

There, I said it. Chicken Pants. Plain and simple.

We were discussing today the Houston Zoo webpage and when you look at the drop down menus, what the public is interested in seeing.

Plan Your Visit, Memberships, Animal Exhibits, Conservation are all scrolled across the top. Conservation is the home of some 40 pages highlighting the programs of the Houston Zoo Wildlife Conservation Program but is that what catches your attention? Probably not. So I blurted out CHICKENPANTS which definitely would.

I am amazed at how easy it was to find this photo

It all goes back to our evolution of an attention span that lasts mere seconds in todays technological age. Back in the Stone Age, they may have stared at the word for 3-4 minutes before being distracted by a piece of grass. Today, we have seven seconds to catch your attention and gather your interest in a story or important information.

Did you know Chickens used to just be called Domestic Fowl? Chicken comes from the word chicks (little chickens basically) and we became lazy and just resorted to Chickens. Fowl clearly did not have enough vowels to be a proper term. There are more than 24 billion chickens in the world. How have they not taken over the planet?

Penguins are practically Chickens and this is my favorite - Feathers McGraw from Wallace and Grommitt's The Wrong Trousers

The Houston Zoo is involved with a breeding and reintroduction program here for a bird that is not a chicken but is known as the Attwater’s Prairie Chicken which we also sometimes refer jokingly to as Space Chickens due to our support from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in allowing us to reproduce this endangered Texas native on their property. It is actually a Grouse. The Attwater’s Prairie Chicken (not a chicken) is also the southernmost Grouse (still not a chicken) in the world.

Which leads me back to your attention span, actually mine which has crossed over more topics than I have toes in just a few hundred words or less. Chickens for the most part do not wear pants but we are a curious bunch and just need to know why the Houston Zoo would use this as a header – it grabs our attention. In the end, we simply switched the word Conservation on our website with Saving Animals. We are conservationists as are our partners but what we all want is to Save Animals. Actually what I want right now is a palm oil free chocolate bar so I can protect Orangutans and happily eat chocolate at the same time.

Borneo Orangutan, Malaysia. This species is threatened by loss of habitat due to Palm Oil Plantations across Malaysia and Indonesia

But Saving Animals is what we help our partners do. Whether it is Cheetahs in Botswana, Lions in Mozambique, Gorillas in Rwanda, Tapirs in Brazil or right here in Texas where we work to save the Houston Toad (which no longer survives in Houston) or the Attwater’s Prairie Chicken (still not a chicken – yes, we are our own conservation oxymoron) we will strive to develop educational programs, support communities, train skills, raise funds and awareness to protect the world’s wildlife.

Now everyone get out your Chicken Pants and dance your way into the weekend.

 

I do not know what is happening here, and it is for the best

 

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This morning, we humanely euthanized our male, 20-year-old jaguar, Kan Balam. Due to the tremendous care provided to him by his keepers and our veterinary team, Kan Balam lived well beyond his expected lifespan. Jaguars expected lifespan in the wild is between 12-15 years.

The carnivore staff and veterinary team made the decision after his quality of life began to decline. Quality care and continuous advances in veterinary medicine extends animals’ lives longer than ever, with most felines in human care living well beyond previous generations. Because of this, all cats, including domestic house cats and jaguars, often spend a significant phase of their lives as older animals, and are at a higher risk for geriatric complications.

Read more about Kan B, and the love his keepers had for him on our blog: www.houstonzoo.org/blog/mourning-loss-geriatric-jaguar-kan-balam/
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This morning, we humanely euthanized our male, 20-year-old jaguar, Kan Balam.  Due to the tremendous care provided to him by his keepers and our veterinary team, Kan Balam lived well beyond his expected lifespan. Jaguars expected lifespan in the wild is between 12-15 years. 
 
The carnivore staff and veterinary team made the decision after his quality of life began to decline. Quality care and continuous advances in veterinary medicine extends animals’ lives longer than ever, with most felines in human care living well beyond previous generations. Because of this, all cats, including domestic house cats and jaguars, often spend a significant phase of their lives as older animals, and are at a higher risk for geriatric complications.

Read more about Kan B, and the love his keepers had for him on our blog: https://www.houstonzoo.org/blog/mourning-loss-geriatric-jaguar-kan-balam/

 

Comment on Facebook

Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur; happy kitty, sleepy kitty, purr purr purr #RIP #bigbangtheory

I know he lived a lot longer due to the excellent care he got at the Zoo.

Is this the one that had the limp?

Sorry to hear about your loss. We also lost a jaguar(melanistic variety) at Reid Park Zoo about a year ago. Nikita was 21 years old and was euthanized due to health-related issues. Sad, but they have a GOOD life at the zoo! No predators, a steady food supply, medical attention, loving kindness from her keeper(s) and admiration by the public. Geriatric animals have unique problems and we are blessed to get to know them as long as we do.

This was my daughters favorite critter at the Zoo. We always went to say hello to him before anyone else whenever we went. When she was 7 years old we sent a post out to out neighborhood on Halloween saying Paisley was asking for pocket change donations in lieu of candy for Halloween and all amounts would be donated to Kan thru the zoo. She raised over $40 in coins! I still have the letter from the zoo thanking her for her donation. He was a sweet boy and will be missed. 😔

I saw him limping about 2 weekends ago. The first time we walked by he was fine. When we walked by on the way out he was limping and moaning pretty loudly. I wondered what happened but I figured his keeper already knew or would find out shortly. Super Sad. He was always a lively one.

Jaguar habitat is in the Zoo or Jungle's? ??or is only entertainments for person's? ??$$$$$$$!.Sorry animals the person's don't love you ..

Sending love to the keepers that are broken hearted right now. And thank you for all the care you’ve given.

Dunno if the Zoo staff considered him a pet but he was certainly a family member, and because of that i offer this: RainbowBridge Author Unknown Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable. All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind. They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster. You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart. Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

Thank you Houston Zoo for taking such good care of him and all the animals! I've been going to this zoo since I was little bitty. I always enjoy it.

Aww. When interning in the carnivore dept he was one of my faves. So smart! Ashley remember when Angie was teaching him to do the moonwalk after Michael Jackson passed?

Beautiful jaguar ....so grateful for the Houston Zoo keepers and veterinary team that gave their time and efforts to share this awesome jaguar with us for so many years.

He was well-cared for and most of all well-loved. My heartfelt condolences to those missing Kan B as well as me. What an amazing ambassador for his kind. What a beautiful old gentleman. Thank you for loving him into old age and giving him peace.

What a great long life he lived because of his excellent care at the zoo Thoughts go out to his keepers and the entire Houston Zoo staff

Thank you for doing what was right and kind for Kan Balam even though it was hard and painful for you. That’s true love for an animal. ❤️

RIP Kan Balam. You have given the visitors so much pleasure just watching you over these years. You were taken care of by top notch professional handlers, etc.

Aww I’m so sorry for the loss, I’ve seen him many times, he was absolutely gorgeous! I’m glad that you guys were able to make him comfortable, sometimes the best thing we can do is let them be at peace. Will miss this handsome guy; play hard at the Rainbow Bridge friend, day hi to my cat, Junior for me!! Much love to the HZI staff!!

I'm so sorry for your loss. Thanks for taking such great care of him so he was able to live a long life. My thoughts are with his keepers and all who adored him. <3

Jaguars are one of my favorite and he seems like a sweet boy. I'm so sad but I'm happy he can be painless and be free now. RIP❤️

The Houston Zoo staff has lost several animals this year and I am sure each one is so hard to go through.

I am soo sorry for the loss of this handsome fella Kan Balam. May he rest in peace and run free or any pain over the rainbow bridge.. My heart and prayers go out to each and every one of the staff at the Zoo.

Katie Rose Buckley-Jones I won’t ever forget the time you asked him to bring something and he ripped off a piece of cardboard and tried to hand it to you ❤️ thank you for introducing me to him. Sending you guys many hugs

So sorry to the keeping staff for your loss i cant imagine how youre feeling :( his old age is a testimony to the amazing care he received

I will miss him. The last time I saw him he looked tired, and it appeared his foot was bothering him.

Sad to hear of this. Thanks for taking such good and compassionate care for him and the other animals.

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Social Media Guy to Sea Lion Keeper: Can you send me a pic of you working with the sea lions in this chilly weather?

Sea Lion Keeper: Sure... (sends picture next to sea lion statue)

SMG: I'm still using this.
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Social Media Guy to Sea Lion Keeper: Can you send me a pic of you working with the sea lions in this chilly weather?

Sea Lion Keeper: Sure... (sends picture next to sea lion statue)

SMG: Im still using this.

 

Comment on Facebook

Are there some zoo animals that enjoy this weather?

SMG is another reason why Houston Zoo is the best Zoo!

Happy New Year “sea lion keeper “ 💖💖

More snow for TJ and Max ❤️ lucky them!

Are we positive that’s the statue rather than it really just being that cold? 😛

That’s my best friend Sophie for ya! 😂

Brrrrr

Omg the Zoo is so awesome 😂😂😂 Alana Berry

Omg be warm sweetoe

Haha!! Good one!

Sweetie 💞

Ashley Jucker 😂

Lauren Gonzales

Mike DePope

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