Wildlife Warrior Award Winner Visits Uganda

Our admissions’ team raises funds to help save animals in the wild through the sales of colorful wildlife bracelets guests can buy at the entrance to the Zoo.  In 2015, the Zoo established this conservation hero award program called Wildlife Warriors to use the bracelet funds to recognize and enhance the outstanding staff employed by the Zoo’s existing conservation partners. The program has awarded 15 Wildlife Warriors to date from our conservation projects in developing countries. All of the warriors honored were carefully chosen by the Zoo’s admissions’ team. The award is designed to increase the recipient’s conservation community network and inspire empowerment by providing opportunities to gain further education through training or experiences.

Valerie Akuredusenge, Program Director of Conservation Heritage-Turambe was selected as a Wildlife Warrior in 2016. Just last month she completed her training with a conservation education program in nearby Uganda called UNITE. Below is an account of Valerie’s training, in her own words:

To wrap up my story telling about my time with Unite, I am happy to share about my experience and what I took back from my visit.

During my visit with UNITE for the Environment,  I was able to learn about their conservation programs namely Teacher Training and Evaluation by observing teachers while they are teaching in the classroom to assess teaching methods, quality of content used, and whether or not they are integrating environmental education into their teaching.  In addition, I was also given the opportunity to visit two partner schools of UNITE.

What I took back from UNITE to CHT:

What I took back from the UNITE’s Teacher Training is that their approach helps in terms of sharing conservation messages to a wider audience  and one can expand upon the program to more areas. As far as CHT builds up its teacher training through annual open day, my experience with UNITE will significantly contribute in terms of strengthening and improving our existing program.

As far as the UNITE’s evaluation is concerned, I had time to also observe teachers while they were teaching.  By connecting my experience from Teacher training and that of teacher observation, I could really tell that the teachers were integrating environmental education in their teaching. This is another approach that CHT will try to see if it applies by collaborating with its partner schools and education officers.

By also visiting UNITE’s partner schools, I learned about what communities and schools are doing in terms of environmental conservation.

In short; I deeply thank the Houston Zoo and its Admission Team for having selected me as one of their wildlife warrior winners in 2016. I would also like to express my sincere thanks to the North Carolina Zoo for their wonderful program, UNITE for the Environment. Corrine Kendall finds my sincere thanks here as well for playing an important role while putting me in touch with UNITE. Additionally, I would however request a continuous collaboration between CHT and UNITE so we can keep on exchanging programs and learning from each other.

Houston Zoo’s Crisis Fund Provides Aid to Grevy’s Zebra

The past two years in northern Kenya have posed many challenges for our friends at the Grevy’s Zebra Trust. When the short rains of 2016 and the long rains of 2017 did not arrive, areas of Kenya that the Grevy’s zebra call home experienced a severe drought. Much like when we receive droughts in Texas, the lack of rain led to a significant decline in the amount of forage (food) available for both livestock and wildlife. As competition grew for use of this limited food supply, the already endangered Grevy’s zebra population was put in jeopardy.

Our friends at the Grevy’s Zebra Trust took action immediately and started a hay feeding program across all areas of Grevy’s zebra range in order to help prevent starvation and maintain the body condition of these zebras so that they could remain healthy enough to fight off the effects of drought and disease. In May of 2017, part of the range received much needed rain, but in Samburu and Buffalo Springs the rains did not come, and with the Grevy’s Zebra Trust out of funds to run their feeding program, nearly 150 Grevy’s zebra were still in danger of starvation.

The Houston Zoo has a crisis fund that is set up for emergency situations just like this one. Simply put, the crisis fund exists to provide support in the event that a wildlife conservation crisis or situation has occurred, and is in need of urgent action. In this instance, we were able to use this fund to cover the feeding costs for the Grevy’s zebra for an additional 5 weeks – just long enough to keep everyone fed before the rains returned and forage started to grow once again. We are dedicated to doing everything we can to help save animals in the wild, and are grateful to each and every one of you who make programs like this possible through your visit to the zoo. To learn more about this partnership and what you can do to help click here!

We are happy to announce that our partners at Ewaso Lions have informed us that the rains have returned to Samburu! The vegetation is finally growing back, and river beds are filling, meaning the supplementary feedings are no longer necessary.

Staff Saving Wildlife in Vietnam

One of our amazing veterinary technicians is currently in Vietnam training staff from the organization, Save Vietnam’s Wildlife. Jess, our talented vet tech is training staff in Vietnam on medical procedures for animals including blood collection, animal handling skills, intubation techniques and how to respond to different anesthetic situations.

Developing these skills in the staff at Save Vietnam’s Wildlife will help them further develop their animal health assessments of critically endangered animals such as pangolins. Jess started her work immediately upon arrival, when the organization rescued a total of 32 pangolins, bringing the total under their care to 77. Pangolins are the most trafficked mammal in the world.

Jess’s work is fully-supported by our Staff Conservation Fund, a grant for Houston Zoo staff, funded by Houston Zoo staff to support their passion to save animals in the wild. This is a unique program to the Houston Zoo and has allowed our staff to carry out 43 projects around the world to save wildlife over the past 10 years.

The Naturally Wild Swap Shop adds it’s 10,000th Trader

On October 15, 2017, The Naturally Wild Swap Shop in the John P. McGovern Children’s Zoo reached a huge milestone. We registered our 10,000th trader!

The honor was awarded to Maya Rojo. She is 4 years old and was so excited!

The Rojo family includes Oscar, Vanessa and of course, Maya.   Oscar is originally from El Paso and Vanessa is from McAllen but they made their way to Houston as soon as they could and have lived here for over 17 years now.  They are proud Rice and University of Houston alums.  Maya herself is a native Houstonian.

The Rojo Family are long time lovers of nature and the Houston Zoo. The Houston Zoo is just one of the places they go to fulfill their need for nature.  Their love of the outdoors has taken them to Brazos Bend, Huntsville State Park, Yosemite and more.

Following her parents lead, Maya is also a lover of nature. Her favorite animal is probably her dog Teddy, but she also loves finding garden insects – specifically praying mantis and lady bugs.  She loves pelicans and has had some great morning sightings at Huntsville State Park.  She will be soon going to visit her Tito and Tita in Corvallis, Oregon and hopes to see some wild turkeys when she is there.

They all learned about the Swap Shop during a presentation in the Children’s Zoo and had come in multiple times before Maya actually signed up and made her first trade. They had made a trip to Galveston and searched for shells to bring in.  Maya found some beautiful clam and oyster shells.  They also learned about jellyfish  careful to avoid stepping on them while hunting for shells.  Her shell treasures earned her points to spend in the Swap Shop and as a part of her award as 10,000th trader she also received 1,000 points along with a certificate and an amazing insect display!

Mr and Mrs Rojo had some wonderful things to say about the Swap Shop in response to Maya’s award.

Today we got our snacks ready to go to the zoo, but also packed a ziplock full of clam and oyster shells.  Our little one, Maya would be going to the swap shop to earn her first points.  She received a big surprise being named the 10000th trader. To commemorate the milestone, the staff made her a certificate and presented her with an amazing display of three beautiful beetles.  That was the obvious reward.  The less tangible one was the affirmation of our little 4-year-old lady’s hard work in writing her journals, collecting specimen etc. that the staff gave her.  We often, as do many others, tell her that those women and men in charge studied a lot to know so much about animals.  What they didn’t study but what is instead either a part of someone or not is the willingness and desire to affect this little generation of nose-picking, curious goofs.  There were 9,999 registered traders before Maya and countless more families that benefit from this knowledgeable and kind staff that time after time has been just pure class with so many of us.  From our little troop, a sincere thank you to Suzanne Jurek who came up with the idea to celebrate the 10,000th, Sara Riger for answering so many questions from so many with skill and to Angie Pyle for making the Children’s zoo so special.  Amber Zelmer, Wendy Morrison, Julie LaTurner, Brian Stuckey, Stephanie Turner, Kimberly Sharkey, Megan Paliwoda, Lisa Cariello all who we’ve seen throughout the zoo, from petting goats, learning about animal upkeep etc. From the McDonald’s observatory, Yosemite to Brazos Bend or Huntsville State Park, we’ll all keep encouraging our little ones to keep digging, asking questions.  That is in no small part due to you all.  Once again, thank you for being a part of our daughter’s life since she was tiny. Oscar, Vanessa and Maya

The Rojo family are involved in charity here and in Mexico. They have a small charity in San Miguel de Allende that focuses on academic support.  They also like creating a sense of community with some efforts in the Houston area.

They love coming to the zoo specifically what they consider to be the dynamic areas including the Swap Shop. They consider the Naturally Wild Swap Shop a connection to the outside world and for one, their Maya loves it.

We are so grateful that the Rojo family has shared their little Maya with us. We value every one of our 10,000 traders and love sharing our time and knowledge with each one of them.

Want more information about the Naturally Wild Swap Shop? Click here.

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!

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.

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!

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!

Houston Zoo Receives Rescued Sea Turtle in Sharpstown

On Wednesday, Aug. 30, the Houston Zoo answered the call to receive a green sea turtle who had been rescued by a resident in Sharpstown, and handed over to the firefighters at Houston Fire Station 51. The first responders named the turtle “Harvey” after the natural disaster that likely brought the turtle so far out of his natural habitat.

The resident found the turtle in road and just knew it didn’t belong this far inland.  The firefighters immediately put it into a cooler with a wet towel to maintain its body temperature and keep it wet, as directed by sea turtle biologists after the rescue was reported to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Galveston. NOAA, a long-time partner of the Houston Zoo, called our team to see if we could get to the turtle.

 

Fortunately, the zoo’s conservation impact manager, Martha Parker, lives a few miles from the fire department and could safely get to fire department, and also to the Houston Zoo.

The green sea turtle was checked over by one of the zoo’s four veterinarians, and found to be healthy. Harvey suffered a few minor scratches on his big journey north, and he is now safely with the zoo’s aquarium team until it can be re-released into Galveston Bay or moved to NOAA’s sea turtle facility.

If you find an injured or stranded sea turtle, please call 1-866-TURTLE-5 so someone can respond to the turtle-giving it adequate care and attention.

Hurricane Harvey Update – Tuesday, Aug. 29

A Message From Houston Zoo CEO, Lee Ehmke

Tuesday, Aug. 29

We continue to hear devastating news about our beloved city, and our thoughts are with everyone who has been affected by this terrible event.  I am grateful to report that our Zoo is still an island of relative normalcy in an ocean of crisis, with my deepest gratitude going to my fellow ride-out crew members.  These incredible individuals have been working tirelessly for our animals and facilities.

I also want to share some information about how our fellow AZA-accredited Texas zoos are pitching in.  This morning, the San Antonio Zoo and SeaWorld San Antonio flew a helicopter full of supplies and assistance into Houston to help the Downtown Aquarium, which has suffered major flood damage.  This group has also begun arranging to help the Texas Zoo in Victoria.  I have been receiving messages of concern and support from all over the world, and wanted you to know that we have an army of people who are pulling for us.  We have re-activated some of our animal webcams to provide reassurance to our many supporters, stakeholders and fans that we are doing okay.

We will be closed tomorrow, Wednesday, August 30, and have started discussions on when we might re-open, keeping in mind the ability for our team members and guests to safely travel to the Zoo.  As soon as those decisions have been made, we will certainly let you know. Until then, stay safe!

– Lee

 

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Jack the ocelot and his tiny snowman friend (and some tasty meatballs!)

 

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Jack is so cute I wish I could take him home and cuddle with him.

Look, Steve Hawkins! Ethan’s favorite animal there!

Bret!! :DDD

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