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

 

Augmented Reality Sandbox comes to the Naturally Wild Swap Shop

What is Augmented Reality Sand? To describe it in one word – Awesome. In fact, if you come into the Swap Shop and we aren’t at the desk, check to see if we are playing in the sandbox.

It was developed by University of California Davis’ W.M. Keck Center for Active Visualization in the Earth Sciences and was supported by the National Science Foundation.  It combines 3D visualization applications with a hands-on sandbox exhibit to teach about earth science concepts.   It uses a computer projector and a motion sensing input device (Xbox 360 Kinect 3D camera).  By changing the levels of the sand, the Kinect detects the distance to the sand below and elevation is projected on the sand, complete with color and contour lines.  Already sounds amazing doesn’t it?  Ever wish you could create your own lake on a hot day?  Or build a mountain to climb?    You can even hold your hand out about 2 feet above the sand surface and the program will simulate rain.  The rain will drain into the lowest lying areas in the sand.  Watersheds, mountains, lakes, rivers.  You can make them all!

If we are in a drought, freshwater is not being added to the watershed. A watershed is an area of land which drains to a specific point.  (such as the Clear Lake watershed or the Armand Bayou watershed) That lack of rain causes lots of problems.  Let’s start with our drinking water.  We need it for survival – I mean how would we even make coffee in the mornings??  Then, think about our lawns and all the plants around us.  They all need water to survive too. So, do our pets and wild animals – birds, rabbits, squirrels, etc.  The issues don’t stop there.  If there isn’t freshwater from rainfall coming into the watersheds it can even have an impact on the bay.  If enough freshwater isn’t coming into the bay from the watersheds, the salt (or salinity) goes up.  That change in salinity can have an adverse effect on plants and animals both.  One example is that oysters cannot thrive in a salt level that is too high.  And, oysters are big business on the gulf coast.  Water is critical to all forms of life – both plant and animal.  Understanding water cycles and how a water shed works is fundamental to protecting that valuable resource.

And the other side of that same coin – floods. We are well versed in flooding in our area, aren’t we?  What have we seen when hurricanes bring a storm surge?  Or when a tropical storm stalls out in our area?  Sometimes the drainage can’t keep up and the watershed has more water than it can handle.  The rising water can not only cause damage to property but, sometimes even lives are lost.  Flooding invades areas that animals would normally be living in causing them to lose their habitat and can cause problems with all the plants around us and leave us stranded.

The goal of the Augmented Reality Sandbox is for our guests to learn about topography, the meaning of contour lines, watersheds, catchment areas, levees and more. We want to raise public awareness and increase understanding and stewardship of freshwater ecosystems.  We hope you will come by and check out the new sandbox.

Don’t know about the Naturally Wild Swap Shop? Click here for more information.

Click here to learn more about Augmented Reality Sand and even find out how to build your own.

Wild About School – August 20

Written by Heather Kilway & Nikki Blakley


Are your little ones getting restless with the end of summer drawing near? Are they dragging their feet when you go shopping for new supplies? Do they complain of boredom, and NOTHING to do? Well we have a solution that is sure to get them excited about the new school season: an entire day of adorable animals in the Children’s Zoo enjoying THEIR OWN new school supplies!

This particular day will be focused on giving Back To School-related ENRICHMENT to some of our animals in the Children’s Zoo. Enrichment is anything new or different that we give to our animals to make their lives more fun, interesting, and to encourage natural behaviors. These things can be boxes, plastic toys, different plants, or even just new bedding. Enrichment is important for our animals’ welfare, and can also be really fun for our guests to watch too!

The Children’s Zoo keepers love to make painted enrichment just for fun, and in honor of HISD school starting on the 28th, we decided to make a special day out of Sunday August 20th and give our Children’s Zoo animals “back to school” themed enrichment! For several weeks, the keepers have been cutting cardboard, making paper mache, and painting with non-toxic tempera paint in their spare time to make cool new enrichment that our animals have not received before.

Below is a schedule of activities and the enrichment that will be given to which animals. So come with your cameras ready for adorable photo opportunities, and your minds sharp to learn some interesting stories about these animals!

 9:00 AM – 2:30 PM
                Naturally Wild Swap Shop “Draw Your Own”
                 Visit the Naturally Swap Shop and share with us what you’ve learned or loved at the Houston Zoo on our Back To School dry-erase board!

9:00 AM – 6:00 PM
                Ocelot Exhibit “Artistic Ocelots”
                 Come see what our ocelots have painted on their window about school!

9:30 AM
                 North American Porcupine Exhibit “Pencil’s Down”
                  Cody can’t wait to tear into those essays.

10:00 AM
                 Swift Fox Exhibit “Lesson Of The Day”
                  Check out what our swift fox, Sookie, is learning today on her new chalk board!

11:00 AM
                 Bobcat Exhibit “Teacher’s Pet”
                 Our bobcat has a special treat for her teacher, is that worm real?

1:00 PM
                Banded Mongoose Exhibit “Catch The Bus”
                 The mongoose are going to be late to school! Can they all fit on board?

2:00 PM
               Llama and Cow Arena “Farm Yard Art Class”
               Can the llama’s and cow use giant paintbrushes? Probably not, but they sure love the bristles!

3:00 PM
             Naturally Wild Swap Shop “Spelling T-a-r-a-n-t-u-l-a”
             We can’t leave out our smaller friends! See Blondie “sit” down for class!

And if you loved seeing all this cool enrichment, make sure you come back on September 16th for the zoo-wide enrichment day where all the different s

Meet Dash and Dinari!

These two-and-a-half-month-old cheetah cubs joined the Houston Zoo as animal ambassadors for their species from two different Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited zoos and have spent the last month behind the scenes getting to know their keepers while the veterinarian team makes sure they are healthy enough to enter our zoo family.

Dash was born at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo, on June 4. His mother did not show interest in him or his littermates so the decision was made to hand-rear the cubs. Dash was soon paired with a male cub, Dinari, from another litter that was also being hand-reared for the same reasons. Dinari was born at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose, TX on June 11.

The Houston Zoo protects cheetahs in the wild by providing support for trained African anti-poaching scouts to walk around the areas where cheetahs live in Africa, to remove wire traps and arrest illegal hunters.

Dash and Dinari will soon make their public debut, and we will let you know when they do. Stay tuned!

Green Sea Turtle from Kipp Aquarium Returns to the Wild

Through our partnership with NOAA Galveston’s sea turtle conservation program, the Houston Zoo spent the last several months rehabilitating a green sea turtle in our Kipp Aquarium. Last Tuesday, the green sea turtle was successfully released into the Bay! NOAA Galveston responds to sea turtle strandings on the Upper Texas Coast, and when medical support and/or rehabilitation support is needed for a stranded animal, the Houston Zoo is proud to work alongside NOAA to provide this care.

Three other turtles were released last Tuesday afternoon, including an injured turtle that was found by the Foster family in the ship channel. The Foster’s reported the turtle to NOAA by calling 1-866-TURTLE-5, and the family was able to assist in its release after the turtle recovered from its injuries. Thanks to local community members like the Fosters, this turtle lived to be rehabilitated and released back into the ocean.

You can ensure Texas sea turtles are protected by reporting any injured or accidentally caught turtle to 1-866-TURTLE-5. Additionally, you can reduce your use of plastic to prevent trash from ending up in our waters, which sea turtles may mistake for food and eat. The Houston Zoo has gone plastic bottle and plastic bag free, and you can too! Try switching to reusable water bottles and fabric shopping bags to reduce your plastic consumption. Find out more about our efforts to reduce plastic pollution here.

Pup-Date: Our Baby Sea Lion Has A Name

The Houston Zoo’s baby sea lion has a name! The five-week-old male California sea lion has been named Max by two of the zoo’s donors. Jim and Beverly Postl won the honor of naming the pup at the zoo’s annual fundraising gala in April, Zoo Ball. The Postl’s are longtime Houston Zoo supporters, and Jim serves on the zoo’s board of directors. Jim says he chose the name because, “I wanted my grandsons to call me Max. However my wife and daughters thought I was out of my mind and nixed that.” So now Jim can proudly call his favorite sea lion by this beloved moniker!

The pup has also begun swim lessons behind-the-scenes. Unlike most marine mammals, sea lions don’t swim when they are born, so must be taught gradually by their mothers. Max’s mother, Cali, has been cautiously allowing Max to play in ever-increasing depths of water under the careful supervision of his trainers. Currently, Max is swimming in about three feet of water. Next, the trainers will continue to deepen the water in the pool, as well as begin introductions to the other three California sea lions, before making his public debut several weeks from now.

As ambassadors for the sustainable seafood Take Action initiative, the zoo’s sea lions help guests understand that the choices they make can save animals in the wild. The zoo’s sea lions consume 23,850 pounds of responsibly-caught, sustainable fish each year. By choosing sustainable seafood options, we can all help protect our oceans’ health.

Houston Zoo Eliminates Plastic Water Bottles

In 2015, the Houston Zoo removed plastic bags in the gift shops to protect animals in the wild, by eliminating an estimated 80,000 plastic bags from entering landfills and the environment each year. Now, two years later, the zoo-based conservation organization has gone one step further and eliminated single-use plastic water bottles from all concession stands.

The zoo provides veterinary care for rescued wild sea turtles that have consumed plastic every year.  The elimination of single-use plastic water bottles will have a significant, wildlife saving, impact on the environment by reducing the amount of plastic waste by nearly 300,000 single-use plastic bottles in just one year.

Guests now have two choices when purchasing water at the zoo – an aluminum reusable water bottle (pre-filled with water) or a JUST Water recyclable, paper-based water bottle at any of the restaurants or kiosks. JUST Water bottles are made up of 82% renewable resources, leaving behind a much smaller carbon footprint than bottles made entirely of plastic. The bottle itself is made of paper from certified forests and the plastic cap is made from sugarcane, making JUST Water bottles 100% recyclable.

The zoo also has water bottle refilling stations throughout its grounds. There are two types of refilling stations– free standing, green fountains and silver, chilled fountains attached to walls, made possible by a partnership with Texas Plumbing Supply.

These fountains are easily recognizable by the “Save Sea Turtles Here” signs. Using reusable water bottles and refilling them at these stations helps save sea turtles in the wild by keeping this waste out of the ocean. Plastic bottles and bags can make their way to Houston’s waterways and end up in the ocean, home to animals like sea turtles, sting rays, sharks, and an array of fish.

“The zoo is committed to saving animals, and their habitats, in the wild and this is just one more way we can inspire guests to take simple actions and join us in protecting wildlife,” says Peter Riger, vice president of conservation education. “We are using this action specifically to highlight the need to protect marine animals from debris. It also allows our guests to play a direct part in making a difference on our planet.”

Guests to the Houston Zoo can also purchase a reusable tote bag in its gift shops to eliminate use of single-use plastic bags. The zoo has a collection of canvas bags artistically designed with images depicting the animals that benefit from a reduction of plastic bags in the ocean. The series includes sea lions, sea turtles, and pelicans.

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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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