Houston Zoo Conservation Gala Raises Nearly $1 Million for Madagascar

Last week, the Houston Zoo hosted its 10th annual Feed Your Wildlife Conservation Gala in the zoo’s Masihara Pavilion.  This year’s gala was dedicated to raising funds for saving animals in Madagascar, and the event collectively raised $963,601, of which $250,000 was committed by Herb Simons for the five-year salary of the zoo’s Director of Madagascar Programs Jonah Ratsimbazafy, PhD. 

Credit: Daniel Ortiz

Nearly 500 guests dined on salmon and braised beef by City Kitchen and were captivated by special guests Russell Mittermeier, PhD and Dr. Ratsimbazafy who spoke from the heart about the work being done in Madagascar to save the island’s precious inhabitants, including lemurs. 

Credit: Daniel Ortiz

Some of the evening’s most vied for items included a chance to help bathe the zoo’s Asian elephants, flipping the ceremonial switch to turn on the lights at Zoo Lights Presented by TXU Energy, and the opportunity to get up-close to lions at a training session. Also on offer was a special primate tour led by Dr. Ratsimbazafy to take place the morning after the gala. 

The Houston Zoo is proud to connect communities with wildlife, inspiring action to save animals in the wild. During the cocktail reception, guests met and took photos with several animals representing Madagascar including Mr. Pickles the Madagascar radiated tortoise, Jonah (named for Dr. Ratsimbazafy) the Madagascar lesser hedgehog tenrec, and some Madagascar hissing cockroaches.

Notable attendees:  Cathy & Joe Cleary; Coert & Molly Voorhees; Courtney & Bas Soleveld; David & Nancy Pustka; Dr. Cullen Geiselman; Lisa Marshall; Kay Onstead; Charles & Annie Duncan; Event Chairs Josh & Mindy Davidson; Matt & Rosemary Schatzman; Isabel and Danny David.

The Children’s Zoo’s Personal Artist

Have you ever noticed the amazing art work on the keeper chat sign in the Children’s Zoo?

There is one keeper in the Children’s Zoo responsible for that beautiful art. Her name is Nikki Blakely and she has been with the Houston Zoo for 4 years.  Her career here started with a part time position in April 2013 and she was promoted to full time in October of 2015.

Nikki is a primary keeper in our Ambassador Animal Building and takes care of  a wide variety of animals.  The Zoo’s Ambassador Animals are the animals you see at presentations, events and on Zoomobiles.   She is also a primary trainer on several animals, including one of her favorites, Luna the Virginia Opossum.

While Nikki isn’t the only Zookeeper with artistic talents, her art is what you are likely to see as you enter the Children’s Zoo.  We always have our Keeper Chat sign out in front of the Naturally Wild Swap Shop to let guests know what the Children’s Zoo chats are for the day.   (Don’t know about the Naturally Wild Swap Shop?  Click here form more info) As you can see, Nikki has used both flora and fauna for her inspiration.  She has also used her talents on some of the enrichment for the animals.

Nikki has been coming to the Houston Zoo her whole life.  Unlike many of us, she is a Native Houstonian.  She even stayed true to Texas as she chose a college.  She attending University of Houston and Texas A & M University earning a degree in Biology.  She has raised many animals at home too!  She has had horses, fish, birds and even chickens.  Currently her pets include a ball python, 2 cats and a dove.

What would Nikki like everyone to know about her job as a Zookeeper?  She says the job is very rewarding and in more ways than just being with the animals.  It has given her an outlet for connecting her artwork with guest enjoyment to make her job even richer.

The next time you are visiting the Children’s Zoo, take a look at the keeper chat sign.  And if you see Nikki on grounds, say hi and let her know how much we all appreciate what she does.

Celebrate World Okapi Day with Us!

Written by Mary Fields


 You love okapis? So do we! That’s why the Houston Zoo is celebrating World Okapi Day with a Spotlight on Species!

Our SOS will be from 10:00am-3:00pm this Wednesday, October 18th, in front of the okapi exhibit by our new elephant habitat.

The Houston Zoo is a supporter of the Okapi Conservation Project that helps preserve okapis in the wild. Okapis are an endangered species that, despite their zebra-like stripes, are actually related to giraffes! The main reason that okapis are endangered is habitat loss due to illegal mining in the Ituri Forest. What are they mining? Primarily coltan for cell phones, tablets and other handheld devices.

How can you help? It’s easy, you can help by recycling your old cell phones and other handheld electronic devices at the Houston Zoo and by visiting our SOS!

We will also be having a raffle that you can enter for paintings made by our very own male okapi, Kwame. You can enter the raffle by either donating an old cell phone or money that will go to the Okapi Conservation Project. So, come hang out with us, our okapis and help support okapis this Wednesday! We hope to see you there!

Gorilla Doctors Train at the Houston Zoo

Two veterinarians, Dr. Ricky and Dr. Fred, from the Gorilla Doctor project in Uganda visited the Houston Zoo last week to train with our Vet Clinic staff. Drs. Ricky and Fred, along with the other Gorilla Doctors, are first responders for gorillas in the wild, providing house calls in the forest.

The training with our staff in a clinic setting, with a variety of animals they would never see otherwise, was a new and invaluable experience for them. Dr. Fred found the visit “very rewarding to learn new techniques and appreciating the usual ones in a much more participatory way.”

Drs. Fred and Ricky had a full week, including a routine exam on a cougar and a trip to Galveston to see our local conservation work with sea turtle rehabilitation, with the added surprise of getting to help NOAA release two sea turtles. A big moment in their visit was a personal and transformative meeting with a rattle snake that positively altered their views of all snakes and inspired them to advocate for saving snakes in the wild; “during the training, I was amazed by the way the animal keepers handle snakes. This event changed my mind set to save snakes,” said Dr. Ricky.

We were proud to host these two impressive champions for wildlife and wish them the best! With every visit to the Houston Zoo, you are helping the Gorilla Doctors save animals in the wild!

Happy Howlerween – Learn About our Howler Monkeys

Written by Rachel Sorge

One of the first animals you’ll see when you walk into our Wortham World of Primates complex at the Houston Zoo are our Black Howler Monkeys! However, you may hear them before you see them. Howler monkeys are thought to be not only the loudest primate on the planet, but possibly one of the loudest living land mammals in the world. Their garbage-disposal like call can be heard up to 3 miles away in a dense forest. Our howler monkey troop tends to start calling in reaction to the leaf blowers we have on grounds.

During the month of October, the primate team at the Houston Zoo puts on a Howlerween fundraiser to help raise money for Wildtracks; an organization that cares for and rehabilitate orphaned, injured, and sick howler monkeys back into the wild.

Here at the Houston Zoo we have three howler monkeys. Vida who is 23, Garcia, who is 21, and Ramone, who is 14. Vida and Garcia were both born here in Houston, but Ramone came to us in 2012 from the Palm Beach Zoo in Florida.

Ramone is very easily distinguishable from our two girls due to his black color, while Vida and Garcia are both tan-brown in color. All howler monkeys are born a tan color to help them camouflage easily in the forest canopy, but the males develop the black color as they get older. Males are also much larger than the females.

Vida and Garcia may be difficult to tell apart by just a glance, but if you study their faces you can tell that Garcia has a much smaller and shorter face, while Vida’s face is wider and longer. Vida tends to be braver than Garcia, and is always ready to explore enrichment items or new objects placed in the exhibit by her keepers. Garcia however, likes to wait to see if new things are safe before exploring.

Our howler group has a variety of favorites that they enjoy. They will always come greet their keepers if there is a fig or hibiscus flower in hand and they react best to food enrichment when there are frozen bananas involved. The howler monkeys also really enjoy when their keepers hang up mirrors for them, because they absolutely love staring at themselves, and we don’t blame them!

A lot of our guests often wonder why our howlers are sleeping for a large portion of the day, and it’s not because they’re just lazy! In the wild, the howler monkey diet consists mostly of leaves and a small variety of fruits and nuts. Due to the lack of calories in their diet howler monkeys tend to sleep for a majority of their day, about 80%, saving their energy for the important things, like foraging for food and calling to defend their territory!

The next time you are walking through our Wortham World of Primates make sure to say hello to our trio!

 

 

October’s Featured Members: The Amador Family

We love our Members. Their incredible support allows us to make a difference to animals both locally and all over the world. This month, we’re spotlighting a family of Zoo Members that deserve recognition. We’re thrilled to introduce you to October’s Featured Members: The Amador Family


We asked the Amador’s to share a few words about what being Zoo Members means to them. Here’s what they had to say.
“We received a Houston Zoo membership as a Christmas gift from some out-of-state family three years ago. We had so much fun bringing our (then infant) son to the zoo throughout that first year that we have renewed our membership each year since.

Our family has grown since then, and we each have our favorite animals and reasons to visit the zoo. We typically visit first thing in the morning when it’s cooler and many of the animals are eating breakfast, or late in the afternoon on Friday when it’s quiet. Zoo Lights has become one of our favorite cool-weather traditions, and last year Shepherd (now 3) had a blast wearing his costume (beware of the tiny tiger!) for Zoo Boo with his friends.

Houston Zoo is one of the best places in the city to enjoy time outdoors with young kids. The Zoo’s environment engages and encourages their sense of wonder about everything that creeps, crawls, soars, climbs, gallops, and glides. My kids crouch down to trace the “animal tracks” on the walking paths, press the sound buttons at the rhino and chimpanzee exhibits, crawl through the aquarium, and browse through the Swap Shop in wonder of all the curious natural treasures.

We go to the zoo at least once per month, and we ALWAYS see something new. We always learn something new, too. Whether it’s about the animals (did you know that cheetahs can’t retract their claws like other cats?), or about different challenges facing wildlife, and what we can do to help — like shop for household products that use sustainable palm oil.

Recently we attended one of Houston Zoo’s Saving Wildlife Expo events and we are SO impressed with our zoo’s commitment to supporting wildlife conservation all over the world. They don’t just talk the talk — Houston Zoo is walking the walk for wildlife. Because of the Expo and what we’ve learned about Houston Zoo’s conservation efforts, we now have a far greater appreciation for the oft-overlooked, albiet fascinating animals like tamarins, bats, and Grevy’s Zebra.

We’re proud to be members of Houston Zoo and count ourselves lucky to have access to this gem in the city. And you can bet the next time we visit, we’ll be marching straight to the cheetah corner to see those *beautiful* new ambassadors, Dash and Dinari!”

From all of us here at the Houston Zoo, we want to say thank you to the Amador’s and all of our Zoo Members. As a Houston Zoo Member, your support truly makes an impact on the growth of our Zoo and conservation efforts. THANKS!

4 Sea Turtles Receive Medical Care at Houston Zoo

On Friday, September 29th, 4 sea turtles visited the Houston Zoo’s Vet Clinic for medical care. These turtles had a variety of issues that needed attention, and were rescued by biologists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Galveston facility.

3 of the 4 sea turtles were Kemp’s ridleys, one of the most endangered sea turtle species on the planet (and the smallest in size!). One of these turtles had an injury on its’ shell and Houston Zoo vets performed surgery on the turtle to try to repair the damage. The remaining Kemp’s ridley turtles were brought to the Zoo to ensure they did not accidentally ingest fishing hooks, and our radiographs showed that they had not.

The fourth turtle seen by Houston Zoo vets was a hawksbill sea turtle. This turtle showed signs of internal digestion issues. Zoo vets performed surgery on the turtle and it will recuperate at NOAA’s facility in Galveston until it is healthy enough to be released.

Anyone spending time in the Galveston Bay/Gulf of Mexico area can potentially come into contact with a sea turtle. If you see a sea turtle on the beach or accidentally catch it while fishing, please report it by calling 1-866-TURTLE-5 so a biologist can respond to the turtle and make sure it gets the care it needs before going back into the ocean. Similarly, while fishing, you can ensure the protection of sea turtles by placing your fishing line in monofilament recycling bins so it does not end up in the water, potentially entangling a marine animal.

Saving Snakes in India

The Houston Zoo is proud to announce a new conservation partner, Murthy Kantimahanti. Murthy is the founder and lead conservation biologist for the Eastern Ghats Wildlife Society. He has been working closely with communities in providing education and human-wildlife conflict intervention strategies.

Murthy works in the Eastern Ghats, located in Southern India, to mitigate human-snake conflict and build local community support in snake conservation. Fear and lack of knowledge about snakes has led to a rise killing of many snake species, including the king cobra. Murthy and his team are working to transform the fear of snakes into a respect and appreciation for the important role that snakes play in the ecosystem. Snakes are an important species to control rodent populations that spread deadly diseases.

With the support of the Houston Zoo and you, the Eastern Ghats Wildlife Society will be able to give school presentations, awareness talks at universities in towns and community centers in rural areas with human-snake conflict. Through this work, communities will learn how to identify venomous vs. non-venomous snakes, as well as learn valuable snake bite and first aid skills.

Please join us in welcoming this amazing conservation partner to the Houston Zoo family. With every visit to the Houston Zoo, you are helping save animals, like the king cobra, in the wild.

Friend The Eastern Ghats Wildlife Society on Facebook to learn more!

Pen Pals to Save Okapi: Camera Trap Conservation

Written by Mary Fields and M’monga Jean Paul


In the last pen pals blog, Jean Paul told us why he thinks zoos are great for conservation. In this blog, we will be learning about the importance of camera traps in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve (OWR).

Okapis, forest elephants, chimpanzees and many other species call the OWR home. Camera traps help document the presence of these species within the Ituri Forest. These photos and videos are extremely important for research and conservation efforts of okapis. Instead of relying on droppings and footprints in the 13.7 square kilometers that is the OWR (about 5.3 square miles), researchers can record data through photos and videos! This also allows them to check on the state of the animal and to check the animal’s identity.

Along with telling us about the importance of camera traps, Jean Paul sent us some camera trap photos and videos. Some of these animals’ cousins call the Houston Zoo home, including okapis, duikers and chimpanzees. These photos help researchers see what animals go through an area on any given day.

So how can you help okapis? Come visit our Okapi Spotlight on Species event at the Houston Zoo on October 18th! You will be able to recycle your old cell phones for a chance to win an okapi painting, play fun games and learn more about okapis in honor of the second annual World Okapi Day! Make sure to follow our blog to continue learning about okapi conservation and hear more from Jean Paul!

 

World Gorilla Day – Sunday, September 24

Written by Helen Boostrom


Why have a day to celebrate gorillas?

In fact, if you ask me and our youngest male gorilla, Ajari, gorillas should be celebrated every day!

But for those of you who need more convincing about celebrating this special day, read on for cool facts about gorillas.

Gorillas are social apes and typically live in a harem society with multiple females and one dominant male leader.  Occasionally, unattached males will form loose coalitions, or “bachelor groups” consisting of multiple male gorillas. Houston Zoo is home to both a family group and a bachelor group.

Female gorillas usually only produce one offspring every 4-6 years giving birth only about 3-4 times in their life. This low reproduction rate makes it difficult for gorilla populations to sustain themselves amid growing threats.

There are two species and four subspecies of gorilla: mountain gorilla, Grauer’s gorilla, western lowland gorilla, and cross river gorilla. The gorillas at the Houston Zoo are western lowland gorillas.

World Gorilla Day was created to help encourage people all over the world to take action to help these amazing but highly endangered animals.

How can you Take Action & Celebrate World Gorilla Day:

  • Recycle your mobile device
    • Recycling your cell or smart phone, tablet, or MP3 player will help reduce the demand for ore that is mined in some gorilla habitats, plus if you recycle it at the Houston Zoo, you’ll help raise funds for gorilla conservation.
  • Visit your local conservation organization that supports gorillas!
    • Between 2010 and 2014, Association of Zoos and Aquariums- accredited zoos contributed over $4.5 million to gorilla conservation efforts. Underlining zoos’ financial investments in these programs are their long-term commitments to bolstering their success through organizational support, scientific research, educational opportunities, and veterinary consult.

You can also join me and Ajari in our goal to make every day a gorilla celebration by learning more about these awe-inspiring animals and ways you can help. Start here.

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Houston Zoo Facebook Page

Zoo Boo weekend number two! Join us this weekend for Halloween activities. Bring your little gobblins, ghouls, and ghosts and have a spooktacular time!

All Zoo Boo activities are included in your Zoo admission or your Membership.
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Zoo Boo weekend number two! Join us this weekend for Halloween activities. Bring your little gobblins, ghouls, and ghosts and have a spooktacular time!

All Zoo Boo activities are included in your Zoo admission or your Membership.

 

Comment on Facebook

How much are the tickets?

I told u dude

Dina Reyes Dora Zmagaňa for the kids

Lets go Laura Sanchez

TheMizzes Get Right

Alex Garza

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See "Hotel Transylvania" at the Zoo this Saturday at 7:15 p.m.
New this fall, we've got even more Halloween fun for the entire family. Dress in your best costume and visit the Zoo for a spooktacular Zoovie Night.

The movie begins at 7:15 p.m. Activities & games will run from 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. Only guests attending the movie screening will be allowed to remain in the Zoo after 7:00 p.m.
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See Hotel Transylvania at the Zoo this Saturday at 7:15 p.m.
New this fall, weve got even more Halloween fun for the entire family. Dress in your best costume and visit the Zoo for a spooktacular Zoovie Night. 

The movie begins at 7:15 p.m. Activities & games will run from 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. Only guests attending the movie screening will be allowed to remain in the Zoo after 7:00 p.m.

 

Comment on Facebook

Houston Zoo what are admission pricing for this event? There is no details on the website. :(

What the prices for the movie

How much

Cory Bebee can we do this Saturday after the birthday party?

Shannon Harris, maybe we could do this? Activities are at 5.... I could just be Thurs wheel unless Jesse gets off lol

Ok lobs, so we know where we will be 😎 Radnee okay kaya?

Peter Gaytan this would be cool to do with the girls

Gracias, no se si podremos ir pero si se acomoda todo ahí estaremos

Philip, movie night at the zoo? 😊

Laura Inman Ricky Heeth this may be fun for yalls kiddos

Sandra Ideker-Soulé dang it I wish I was gonna be here Saturday night I’d totally take ben!!!

Cat Patzen think baby boss would like this?

Mario Mancillas want to take juliette she likes this movie

Darleen is the movie on Saturday?

James Clancy we have to take Chloe!

Brian Williams we should take briley!!

What happens if it rains?

Let’s go I’m down

This looks like fun😃

Heather Bourg Lopez?

Amy let's take our babies??

Aaron I wanna go

Luis Flores let’s take Lauren

Go next weekend when Im off.

Ash Denton LET'S GO!!

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Houston Zoo added 6 new photos.
Houston Zoo

Yesterday, Houston Texans Ryan Griffin, Tom Savage, and Nick Martin and their families made some new friends at the Houston Zoo. Thanks for spending your day off with us, guys -- Go Texans! ... See MoreSee Less

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Comment on Facebook

Houston, we are extremely fortunate to have such a fabulous Zoo..! 🤠🙌🏼❤️

Becca Dorris look at all the people you could meet!

Love it!!❤️❤️

Betsy Oliver Freeman Your team!!

Why yes it is!!! 😍👍🏼🏈

Bravo a toute l équipe

Jeanine Davis Pitts

Michael Zarate

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