The next time you visit the Naturally Wild Swap Shop, check out our newest residents. We have received 3 critically endangered Lake Victoria cichlids (Haplochromis perrieri) from the New England Aquarium. Lake Victoria is one of the great lakes of Africa and it is the third largest lake in Africa. Several factors have contributed to the decline of this species in the wild. One of the biggest issues is the Nile Perch. Nile Perch were introduced to Lake Victoria in the 1950’s. This non-native species had a population boom in the 1980’s which coincided with the decline of Haplochromis perrieri from the lake. Sadly, the Haplochromis perrieri haven’t been seen in the wild since the 1980’s.
In general, cichlids are very popular with fish enthusiasts. There are many varieties with a huge range of colors to choose from. There are well over 1,000 cichlid species in the wild and it is estimated that there are several hundred species in Lake Victoria alone.
Cichlids are only found in tropical and subtropical zones of Africa, the Americas and Asia. In Africa, they are found mostly in the lakes of the great rift valley in east Africa – Lake Malawi, Lake Tanganyika and of course, Lake Victoria. They vary in size from the smallest at 1.4” to the largest species at 28-32” in length.
What are some of the most interesting things about cichlids? These fish can change color to reflect their mood – such as aggression, stress or being ready to spawn. They live in very different habitats including rocky shorelines, sandy or muddy bottoms or shores with and without vegetation. Most cichlids are omnivores, eating things like mosquito larvae, tiny crustaceans and worms. Some are pure carnivores and specialize in hunting smaller fish. There are also cichlids that are strictly plant or algae eaters. Some cichlid species are mouth
brooders. Mouth brooders hold eggs in their mouths to hide them from predators. Even after hatching, the babies are allowed into the parent’s mouth if they are in danger.
Our new cichlids are found I Lake Victoria over sand and mud in the littoral or shoreline zones. They can reach a total length of approximately 2.5 inches. The females are primarily gray with some black markings, while the males of the species show more color. They are hunters, eating fish for their diet. They are also mouth brooders and hold the eggs in their mouth until they hatch.
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This spring, three tiny green bush vipers were born on March 26. Like most pit vipers, the neonates were born live instead of hatched from eggs like many other types of snakes. Originally a part of a group of six, only three have survived and have doubled in weight since their birth. They are expected to grow to be between 18-24 inches long. Despite their name, green bush vipers vary in color, mostly shades of green, but can also be bright yellow or grey. These snakes are found in the tropical rainforests of western and central Africa and get their name from their preference for lower bushes rather than the tall canopy trees. Guests can see all kinds of exotic and local snakes in the zoo’s Reptile and Amphibian House. The baby snakes will remain behind-the-scenes while they continue to grow.
Three female African painted dogs have crossed the pond and joined our two bachelors to make a pack of five! Amara, Ghost, and Akilah, formerly from a zoo in the United Kingdom, were introduced to Blaze and Mikita late April. Their keepers have been enjoying seeing the new pack and how the boys appear to be enjoying the company of the new ladies!
From left to right: Ghost, Akilah, and Amara
With a larger pack comes a different challenge for keepers. Carnivore keepers at the Houston Zoo work “protected contact” with the painted dogs. This means that we do not go into their habitat unless they have “shifted” or moved into their bedrooms and the door is secure. We usually call our carnivores into their bedrooms every morning and serve them breakfast before going outside to clean. The dogs have discovered that they can send in a few “scouts” to quickly grab some treats and bring them back into the habitat for the rest of the pack!
Ghost and Akilah greet Mikita
Each girl is starting to show her own personality and it is fun seeing the boys react to their antics. We will be highlighting our new females on the zoo blog in the weeks to come in order to usher in our 4th annual Dog Days of Summer Celebration! Please come join our pack Friday June 10 and Saturday June 11 from 9AM-2PM for keeper interactions, enrichment demonstrations, and free kids’ crafts!
For the Houston Zoo’s pair of elderly male African painted dogs, Tuesday, April 26 brought a whole lot of excitement as they were introduced to their new pack mates, three female dogs that recently moved to Houston from a zoo in the UK. The two- and three-year-old females spent the past 30 days in required quarantine and once they were given the all-clear from the staff veterinarians, moved to their new home where they will reside with Mikita (10) and Blaze (14). The new names of the females will be chosen by the keepers who care for them and will be announced soon.
African painted dogs are also referred to as African wild dogs or African hunting dogs. As one of the most endangered species in Africa, with less than 5,000 left in the wild, the Houston Zoo works with conservationists at Painted Dog Conservation in Zimbabwe to help save this species from extinction. Some of the ways the Houston Zoo helps save these animals in the wild is by providing vital financial support and training to the conservation programs which enables community members to conduct anti-poaching education, rehabilitate injured dogs, reintroduce dogs into the wild, and monitor wild packs. The zoo’s facilities team has also assisted with creating special tracking collars for researchers to use on wild painted dogs. These collars collect valuable data about the painted dogs’ movement patterns, as well as help protect them from deadly snare wire traps set out by poachers.
Our newest hatchling is a Victoria crowned pigeon, hatched Jan. 24. The party-hatted, blue knockout can be seen with its parents in the Birds of the World section of the zoo. While the gender of the bird is still unknown, the bird has a brother who hatched Dec. 21, 2015.
The first chick was hatched out by keepers after the parents abandoned the egg. He is currently being hand-raised behind-the-scenes by the zoo’s expert bird keepers. While they can fly, the extinction-vulnerable Victoria crowned pigeons are ground-dwellers and native to the island of New Guinea. Victoria crowned pigeons are also monogamous, and typically mate for life.
The Houston Zoo is proud to welcome their newest resident, an adult male tiger named Berani. The three-year-old, 280lb Malayan tiger made his Texas debut Tuesday morning after making the long journey to Houston from Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma, WA in late January. The move was the result of a recommendation by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) to find Houston Zoo’s female Malayan tiger, Satu, a suitable companion.
Berani and Satu, will take turns in the tiger yard while they undergo a formal introduction process overseen by the zookeepers. They will spend increasingly longer periods of time together in the yard as they complete the formal introduction process.
Fewer than 3,500 tigers of all tiger subspecies remain in the wild today, according to the Tiger Conservation Campaign. Malayan tigers surviving on the Malay Peninsula are critically endangered with an estimated population of 300 remaining in the wild.
What is small, cute, has really long skinny legs, and very tiny hooves? Have you ever seen a newborn Gerenuk gazelle calf? Well, enjoy this picture of absolute cuteness.
Like any baby, Gerenuk calves are extremely adorable even though they may look a little unique with their skinny long legs and neck. If you’ve never seen one before, you might want to think about visiting The Houston Zoo soon. We are extremely happy to announce that our resident Gerenuk named Josie has just given birth to a healthy calf on January 9, 2016. The calf is a little female and has been named January by her caretakers.
Weighing in at 7.8 pounds, January was already walking when she was 45 minutes old and exploring her new home shortly after. January will join her older brother Julius and father Mr. Lee on exhibit soon and will have many adventures there. Next time you visit the Houston Zoo, make sure you stop by to see January with her family. If she isn’t running around the yard having her adventures, she’ll probably be curled up napping in the grass, so keep your eyes wide open.
On the afternoon of Saturday, Jan. 9 the first baby of 2016 was born at the Houston Zoo. The female gerenuk calf weighed 3.5 kg and began nursing within an hour of birth. The calf is named January in honor of her birth month and can now been seen with mom, Josie, with the rest of the gerenuk family (dad, Mr. Lee, and brother, Julius)at the zoo. Gerenuk are a species of long-necked gazelle and native to the Horn of Africa and the word “gerenuk” means “giraffe-necked” in the Somali language.
Not only do they look different, they have a unique ability that sets them apart from any other antelope or gazelle species. Gerenuk can stand and balance themselves on their hind legs to reach the higher leaves that many other animals cannot reach. Gerenuk have been known to stand on their hind legs like this at just two weeks old. It shouldn’t be long until we see January do the same.
Meet Opal. She’s one of four baby nyala born at the Houston Zoo over the past two months, and boy is she a cutie! The zoo’s keeper team noticed soon after she was born on Aug. 25 that she wasn’t nursing very well from mom, Ruby, so they quickly intervened and taught the calf to bottle-feed, but kept her living with her mother so they could continue to bond behind-the-scenes. Soon, however, the keepers saw Opal nursing from Ruby! This Monday, the team ended all bottles for Opal, and she is continuing to successfully nurse and eat solid foods which includes grain, hay, and produce.
Opal and her mom will continue to stay in their barn for a few more weeks, but guests and Members can see the other three new nyala frolicking around the yard every day at the zoo’s West Hoofed Run. Additional baby nyala include Wallace (mom Willow), born July 29; Fancy (Lola), Aug. 12; and Fern (Ivy), Sept. 8.
Nyala are members of the antelope family and the spiral-horned males can weigh up to 275 pounds and females weigh up to 150 pounds. When born, nyala generally weigh 10 pounds.
The Malaysian giant pond turtle, Orlitia borneensis, is a large turtle found in the rivers and lakes of the Malay Peninsula, Borneo, and Sumatra. Adults can reach almost three feet in length and can weigh over 100 pounds. Its diet consists mostly of fish, vegetation, and fruits. Listed as Endangered by the IUCN, the Giant pond turtle has been heavily exploited for its meat, and populations are in decline throughout the native habitat.
Because of the large size and nature of giant pond turtles, this species is rarely seen in zoos. Captive reproduction is very rare. The Houston Zoo was fortunate to acquire a group of these animals as juveniles and has been displaying them since 2002. The turtles have now reached maturity and we are proud to report that this summer, the Houston Zoo successfully hatched four adorable babies! Getting out of a shell can be tough work. Baby turtles have something called an egg tooth. The egg tooth or caruncle is a temporary structure that is used to cut through the egg membrane and break through the shell. Once there is a hole in the egg, the turtle can break out. Although the hatchlings are currently not on display, you can see the adults in the orangutan moat; though you may have to be patient as they are a very secretive species!
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You may remember a previous post about Justin, a sea turtle superhero. The last time we caught up with Justin, he and his son Trenton had come to the aid of almost a dozen sea turtles that had been cold-stunned in early December. With the recent cold front, Justin and his three children Cheyenne, Trenton, and Emma, headed back out to Christmas Bay in search of turtles in need of rescue. Read their story here: ... See MoreSee Less
Many of you may remember a post from a few weeks back about Justin, a local community member, and sea turtle superhero. Justin has a passion for sea turtles, and while he works full-time in the city, you can find him during his down time saving sea turtles all along the Texas Coast. The last …
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dunno if the Zoo staff considered him a pet but he was certainly a family member, and because of that i offer this:
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....
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.
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
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!!
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.