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.

A Tiny Monkey with a Big Story

Written by Amy King


On the morning of February 28, 2017, keepers found a baby Goeldi’s monkey clinging to the bottom of the enclosure where the Goeldi’s are housed at night. It felt cold to the touch so zookeepers wrapped the infant in a blanket and rushed it to the vet clinic. At the clinic, he determined to be a male and weighed in at 44 grams. Typically, newborns weigh between 50 and 60 grams so it was assumed that he was born prematurely. Keepers attempted to introduce the infant back to his family group, but he was unable to cling to his mother, which is crucial for babies to to do. The decision was made that zookeepers would have to step in and hand raise the baby until he became more independent and the team would follow a hand-rearing protocol written by the Brookfield Zoo.

After a short time, the infant was given the name “Benjamin” and was moved to the clinic to get around-the-clock care and was housed in an incubator with his hairy mama (a stuffed animal with hair similar to his mother’s). His family was also moved to the clinic so that they could be near each other at all times. It was very important for Benjamin to know he was monkey and not get too attached to his human caretakers. Goeldi’s live in small family groups and the whole family helps raise the babies. Benjamin’s family consists of his mom, dad, and older brother.

During the day, Benjamin’s incubator was kept in the same area as his family so that they could all see, hear, and smell each other. When he was taken out of the incubator for feedings, keepers sat right next to the family’s area so they could get up-close and see him. At night, he was moved to a different room so that the family’s sleep pattern wasn’t disrupted. He started off getting fed every 2 hours, just like a newborn human. Keepers had to feed him one drop of formula at a timeand massage his throat to encourage him to swallow. He received a special mixture of Enfamil, Ensure, and protein powder and was fed via syringe with a small nipple attached to the tip. He was encouraged to urinate and defecate with a warm, wet cotton ball before and after each feeding.

The primate team typically does not go in the enclosures with the primates, but it was necessary to do so with the Goeldi’s for the whole re-introduction process. We had to get the family used to us being in their space before we brought Benjamin in with us. We made our time in the enclosure with them a positive experience. We put treats and favored produce in their food bowls when we went in the enclosure. The family quickly became very comfortable with us, so we started bringing Benjamin in for feedings so that the family could get up close and touch him if they chose to do so.

Once the incubator temperature was lowered to the same temperature as the building, Benjamin was could spend the day out of the incubator in a “howdy box.” Benjamin and his hairy mama were placed in the howdy box inside the family’s enclosure during the day. This allowed him to be more immersed in the group. The family spent time sitting on top of the box while eating or grooming each other. They also liked to sit on the branches near the howdy box and vocalize back and forth with Benjamin. He was getting to learn their behaviors up close and they were getting used to him being a part of their daily lives.

Benjamin was slowly introduced to solid foods in addition to his formula and keepers slowly weaned him off his formula as he started to eat more solids. His favorite food was (and still is) banana. He also enjoys worms and grapes.

Over the next few weeks, Benjamin’s howdy box was left open so that the family could interact with him and Benjamin could explore the enclosure whenever he chose to do so. Keepers were hopeful that Benjamin would start riding on the back of one of his family members. At this point, he was still at the age where babies are carried around on the backs of their family members. His dad, Opie, spent a lot of time next to him and would present his back to Benjamin to encourage him to jump on, but Benjamin seemed nervous and unsure about what he was supposed to do.

As more time passed, Benjamin started becoming more comfortable with his family, especially Opie. Opie was very good about sharing his food with Benjamin and would bring pieces of food over to Benjamin and let him eat out of his hand. In the wild, this is one way youngsters learn which food is good to eat. Benjamin also started awkwardly riding on Opie for brief amounts of time and even began snuggling up side-by-side with his family members at night.

Right after Benjamin turned three months old, the whole family was brought back down to their habitat in Wortham World of Primates. Benjamin had become pretty independent and the whole family was getting along well. When they first entered the habitat, Benjamin hitched a ride on his mom’s back and after a few minutes of safely taking in all the new sights and sounds he hopped off and began exploring on his own. He put his running and jumping abilities to the test. While he miscalculated his jumps a few times, he did not let that discourage him.

Today Benjamin is six months old and now weighs over 300 grams and is about half the size of the adults. He enjoys spending time with his family and playing with enrichment. He is growing up so quickly and we are very proud of all the progress he and his family have made!

Patty Bear Dies After Long Life

We are sad to announce the death of the current, oldest Andean bear in any AZA-accredited zoo, Patty. Also known as a spectacled bear, Andean bears are native to South American and live to be in their mid-20s in human care. Patty lived to be 31 years old, most of her long life at the Houston Zoo.

Patty suffered from allergies much of her life which resulted in thinning hair, but the keepers who spent their lives caring for Patty gave her local honey which helped her allergies.  One and a half years ago, Patty was found to have cancer that the zoo’s veterinarians removed, however, this week during an exam, her cancer was found to have returned and spread. Due to her advanced age, and the progression of the cancer, the animal care team made the decision to euthanize Patty.

Patty’s keepers will remember her relaxed personality and for how much she seemed to like building and fluffing nests out of sheets and wood wool, so she could find the perfect sleeping or napping position.

Happy Great Ape Day! September 9 & 10

Written by: Tammy Buhrmester, Zookeeper

Did you know that there are six distinct species of great apes and that the Houston Zoo is home to three species?

Orangutans, gorillas and chimpanzees are members of the great ape family.

Is It a Monkey or an Ape?

One easy way to tell the difference between a monkey and an ape is to look for a tail.  The great apes are tailless primates that have larger bodies and bigger brains than other primates.

The Social Lives of Great Apes

Gorillas live in “harem” groups (one adult male with several females and their offspring) of around five to ten individuals in a family group, although on occasion the group can be larger.

Chimpanzees live in multi-male, multi-female groups which can consist of a few dozen individuals, or more than one hundred.  Chimp groups practice “fusion-fission” which means smaller subsets exist with the larger group and members come together and split apart depending on food availability and other factors.

Orangutans tend to live alone more than gorillas and chimpanzees.  Adult females will travel with their offspring and recently have been found to also travel with another female and her offspring. Males and females only interact in order to produce an offspring.

The Houston Zoo Great Apes

At the Houston Zoo, we have 27 individual Great Apes; 7 gorillas, 14 chimpanzees and 6 orangutans.

When you visit the Great Ape gallery in the Africa forest, you get the opportunity to be surrounded by chimpanzees and gorillas.  When you watch the chimpanzee exhibit you may see Lucy sitting on her perch on the large termite mound watching over the group.  You may catch Lulu sitting in front of the air conditioner in the training room.  Willie our youngest male, may be in the yard playing a game of tag with Abe, Charlie, Kenya or Kira.

If you visit in the Great Ape Gallery in the morning, you will have the opportunity to see our gorilla family in their large indoor playroom.  Zuri, our dominant male of the family group may be eating or resting with his large foot resting on the glass.  Look up and you may see one of the three females sitting on the large tree or resting on the platform in the middle of the playroom.  Binti, our oldest female normally is found resting on the ground the floor on the left side of the play room. We also have three amazing bachelor males that can be seen outside in the large yard.  Mike usually can be found in the middle of the exhibit sitting under a tree and Chaka and Ajari are usually near each other.

When you visit the orangutan exhibit, you may see one or two orangutans on exhibit at the same time.  Each day, the orangutans take turns out on the exhibit. They each get several hours a day outside.  We vary the times that they go outside.  Normally we rotate them at 9AM, 12PM and 3PM.  Rudi Valentino prefers to go outside in the morning and Kelly likes to go out anytime of the day.  Pumpkin loves to sit by the glass and look at everyone visiting.  Cheyenne and Aurora usually can be found sitting around the platform at the front of the exhibit.  Aurora loves to hang out on top of the platform, so if you don’t see anyone, look up and you might see her.

Take Action: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

One of the major threats facing Great Apes is habitat loss and fragmentation. Habitat loss due to logging, mining, palm oil plantations and human encroachment has had a devastating impact on Great Ape populations.

On Great Ape Day, we encourage everyone to reduce the use of paper products by purchasing Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood, paper and furniture products. When you are grocery shopping, read labels and purchase only products that is made with sustainable palm oil or no palm oil product.

Great Ape Day will be celebrated at the Houston Zoo on Saturday and Sunday, September 9 and 10.  Please stop by at the Africa Forest Great Ape gallery at 12:30PM to learn all about our chimpanzees and gorillas and at 3:30PM at the orangutan exhibit at the Wortham World of Primates to learn all about orangutans.

 

Bat Houses for the Bayou

Caoilin, Enya, Keenan, Skyler, Joaquin, Noe, and Lila built bat houses for the displaced bats of the Waugh Street Bridge.

The Waugh Street bridge, built over Buffalo Bayou, is a Houston landmark for bat watching. The flood waters from Buffalo Bayou during Hurricane Harvey caused the bats to leave their home under the bridge and take refuge elsewhere.

Seven young Houstonians took it upon themselves to help the displaced bats from Waugh Street Bridge by building them new homes in the form of bat houses. “My daughters and her friends were upset about the Waugh bridge bats so they responded by making these rocket houses,” said Woodland Heights resident, Alan. The plans for the rocket houses came from Bat Conservation International.

The new bat houses will be mounted along Buffalo Bayou, near the Waugh Street Bridge.

Meet the newest Wildlife Warriors

The Houston Zoo’s Wildlife Warriors are chosen from the staff of our wildlife Conservation Partners all over the world. The directors of our partner projects submit a member of their staff for this enhancement award. The Wildlife Warrior Award provides funds to support training and experiences that will strengthen the candidate’s skills and knowledge in saving wildlife. The Houston Zoo staff that welcome you at the entrance of the Zoo select the Wildlife Warriors based on wildlife saving criteria. Remember to ask them about these winners the next time you visit.

Here are the most recent recipients of the Wildlife Warrior Award:
Ms. Elisa Panjang was born and raised in Sandakan, Sabah, a town in the northern part of the Malaysian island Borneo. She is a Malaysian PhD student dedicating her studies to protecting the pangolin, the world’s most trafficked mammal.
Our staff was captivated by her passion for the wildlife she has grown up with and her commitment to saving this fascinating creature from extinction. Funds from this award will provide her with support for training in further protection techniques for pangolins.

Dr. Jean Bosco “Noel” Noheri is a Field Veterinarian with Gorilla Doctors and works out of the headquarters in Rwanda, his home country. Every week, he treks into the high-¬‐altitude Volcanoes National Park to check on the health of mountain gorilla families. Every time there is a report of an ill or injured gorilla, Noel is the first one of the team to check on it. To date in 2017, Gorilla Doctors has performed 12 separate clinical interventions to save the lives of wild gorillas.
Our staff was so amazed by Noel and very excited about the fact that he would like to use the funds from this award to support him with a Veterinary training program here at the Houston Zoo. He will travel to the Zoo and work with our veterinarians to strengthen his wildlife veterinary skills.

Lady is a wildlife biologist born in the Galapagos Islands. She created an ecology club which brings together more than 20 local youth, between 15 and 18 years old, weekly to monitor and lead projects that protect wildlife. Her students watch over sea turtle nests on Galapagos beaches and track giant tortoise in Galapagos National Parks.
Our staff was moved with Lady’s dedication to empowering the next generation of conservation leaders in Galapagos. Lady would like to use the funds from this award to support her participation in an environmental education training course in the United States, to further expand her impact.

Mr. Aden Mohamed is from rural Kenya with no formal education. He has 6 kids, has herded cattle all his life and in the past, relied on poaching to survive. Mr. Aden is now committed to saving wildlife and his knowledge of the poacher’s tricks and locations have saved animals like giraffe, hirola, kudu and gazelles.
Our staff was awe-inspired by his wildlife protection efforts to turn dangerous poachers in to the authorities, confiscation of harmful wire traps in wildlife habitat, and his work in transforming 3 former poachers into conservationists. They were also moved by Mr. Aden wanting to use the funds to support him in training school to learn how to read and write.

Andrew Letura is 32 years old, from Samburu, Kenya. Growing up next to Samburu National Reserve, Andrew was always interested in wildlife and now works tirelessly to save zebra. Andrew oversees 29 zebra protection staff (19 women and 10 men), training and supporting them in monitoring, data collection, and conservation outreach.
Our team was impressed with how he feels very passionate about supporting women in this training, so that they can gain more respect in their communities. And, how he has been known to camp out with injured wild zebras until veterinary assistance arrives.

With every visit to the Houston Zoo, you are helping these Wildlife Warriors in their work to save animals in the wild!

September’s Featured Members: The Dalmolin 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 September’s Featured Members: The Dalmolin  Family


We asked the Dalmolin’s to share a few words about what being a Zoo Member means to them. Here’s what they had to say.

“We have been members for the last 2 years. I have always loved the Houston Zoo and after our first daughter was born we knew would be frequent zoo visitors. We have 2 girls (3 and 1). It has been fun seeing their love for animals develop as we visit each exhibit. We can always count on the zoo to provide us with some great family memories. Each year we attend Zoo Lights and Zoo Boo. I love that Zoo Boo is including in the membership. We usually make it a big family event and invite grandparents and cousins. There are so many games and activities that are age appropriate for the kids. Of course my daughters favorite part is wearing her costume and going around to all the candy stations, shouting “Trick or Treat”. The pumpkin patch with mini pumpkins that the kids can decorate is another favorite event.

Zoo Lights can be a bit crowded but definitely worth seeing my girls face light up as they see all the light displays. Pair the lights with some hot chocolate and its another memorable family event we participate in each year to help kick off the holiday season. We had a chance to host daughters and my nieces’ 2nd birthday party in the yellow pavilion last year. It was one of the easiest experiences for us as both families just had our second babies. We had an air conditioned room to take a break from the heat and the kids had a blast.

This summer we took advantage of our membership by adding our nanny as a cardholder. She was able to take the girls to the zoo during the day while my husband and I worked. They would head out in the morning and sit down with their packed lunch and eat before it got too hot. Last time they were there both girls had a hard time leaving the carousel and the oldest requested to ride the rhinos:) We love that the Houston Zoo allows you to bring coolers of food and drinks, makes for an economical trip. Our daughter has assigned us all with our favorite animals; she says her favorite animals are the lions, my husbands are the wolves, the youngest likes the elephants and I like the giraffes. We thank the Houston Zoo for providing our family with some great memories. We plan to keep enjoying our membership for years to come.”

From all of us here at the Houston Zoo, we want to say thank you to the Dalmolin’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!

Zoo Reopens Friday with Discounted Admission, Launching Employee Relief Fund

Although the storm has moved on, most of Houston is still reeling in hurricane Harvey’s aftermath. The entire Houston Zoo team is humbled by the concern and support shown by this community, and we could not be more proud of our fellow Houstonians as the city begins to recover.

As a place for families and communities to gather and find respite, the Houston Zoo will resume limited operations on Friday, Sept. 1.  The zoo will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the last ticket sold at 4 p.m. A special ticket price of $5 will be offered at the main gate for both child and adult admission ($5 tickets not available online). Included in the $5 ticket are unlimited rides on the Texas Direct Auto Wildlife Carousel, as well as admission to Nature Connects: Art with LEGO Bricks.

“I am grateful to report that our zoo is an island of relative normalcy in an ocean of crisis,” said Lee Ehmke, Houston Zoo CEO and president. “My deepest gratitude goes to the ride-out crew members who worked tirelessly for our animals and facilities over the past seven days.”

Throughout the storm, the animals at the zoo were safe and secure in their barns and night houses and cared for by a dedicated crew of team members who stayed at the zoo for the duration of the weather event.

The zoo sustained minor storm-related flooding and downed tree limbs, but no significant damage.  However, many of the zoo’s team members were affected by this catastrophe. The zoo has launched an employee relief fund to help its team members who need assistance during this difficult time. Information about the relief fund can be found at https://www.houstonzoo.org/harveyrelief/.

Standard operating hours and admission prices will resume Saturday, Sept.2.

 

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There's still time to explore the Houston Zoo’s special exhibit – Nature Connects®: Art with LEGO® Bricks Presented by Coca-Cola!
Now through October 1, see some of your favorite animals unlike ever before, built with tens of thousands of LEGO bricks.

www.houstonzoo.org/natureconnects/
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Theres still time to explore the Houston Zoo’s special exhibit – Nature Connects®: Art with LEGO® Bricks Presented by Coca-Cola! 
Now through October 1, see some of your favorite animals unlike ever before, built with tens of thousands of LEGO bricks.
 
https://www.houstonzoo.org/natureconnects/

 

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My kids dragged me to this and it was totally worth it - I think I liked it more than they did. Amazing sculptures!

Wow..! Reminds me the iguanas in Puerto Vallarta..!

We have to go!! Erik Baza

Awe you should take Arian! Ariana Chavez

How did they do that

Technicolor Chameleon...that's pretty cool!

Gaby Torres mira tu niño seria feliz ahi

JP Harvey!

Michael Enstein

Jonathan Drake

Becky Turner, Ashley Martin, Susan Rives Horridge

José Julian Coronado Zury Coronado

Natasha Wallace

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Our latest Ten Second Science video goes deep to explore how interesting nature can be. Enjoy! #SequentialHermaphroditism ... See MoreSee Less

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Monday... It's okay to start thinking about happy hour already, right? Right?!

Join us at Saint Arnold Brewing Company on Friday to support howler monkey conservation efforts in the wild. From 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., $1 from every pint sold will go directly to Wildtracks, a rescue and rehabilitation center for howler monkeys in Belize.
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1

Monday... Its okay to start thinking about happy hour already, right? Right?!

Join us at Saint Arnold Brewing Company on Friday to support howler monkey conservation efforts in the wild. From 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., $1 from every pint sold will go directly to Wildtracks, a rescue and rehabilitation center for howler monkeys in Belize.

 

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