Hannah the Binturong

Written by Sydney Fitzpatrick

Hi! Let me introduce myself. I am Hannah the binturong, and I live a wonderful life here at the Houston Zoo. What’s that? You don’t know what a binturong is? Then you should come out to the Houston Zoo on May 12 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to celebrate World Binturong Day!

Let me tell you a little history about myself and my species:

Like I said, my name is Hannah, and I’m now 11 years old. I live at the Houston Zoo in the Natural Encounters building, but you won’t see me on exhibit. I have a home behind the scenes. Since I am an Ambassador Animal for my species, I love to meet Zoo guests during special chats that are all about me. I am here to educate and inspire you to care about binturongs that live in the wild.
Binturongs are the largest of the civets, a small family of carnivorous mammals that are mostly nocturnal. Sometimes people call binturongs “bearcats,” but, because I’m related to neither bears nor cats, it doesn’t make much sense to me. You can find most of us living in dense forests of southeast Asia. We grow to weigh around 25 pounds, and can be over six feet long. We spend most of our time up in the trees, and camouflage well with our black, grey or brown fur. It makes us hard to see because we look just like a shadow, but, if you look up, you might be lucky enough to spot a binturong!

At the Zoo, I live with a lot of logs and beams to climb on. I enjoy having two of my very own houses—one even has a skylight. I spend most of my days napping with my blankets and favorite stuffed animals, but I can be quite adventurous too. Binturongs love climbing, and have a special prehensile tail to help us out. I use my tail like another arm or leg. I like curling my tail around branches, and I can even hang from it! A wild binturong likes to eat birds, insects and fruit, so our prehensile tails can really come in handy for navigating the tree tops. Here, my zookeepers give me meat, special leafeater biscuits and fruit. The fruit is my favorite.

Even though I can do a lot, we binturongs like to live life at a leisurely pace. We would much rather spend our days hanging in the trees than running around like some of those other animals. In between naps, I like to climb around my yard and explore new enrichment items my keepers have given to me. Sometimes, I even find food inside the fun items.

Every day, I spend time with my keepers and trainers, and I’ve learned a lot of behaviors that I show off during special tours and presentations. On May 12, I’ll be out making special appearances during the day at the Natural Encounters building. You will get to learn about me, my unique adaptations (like that I smell like buttered popcorn) and some of the threats other binturongs face in the wild. You will even learn easy things you can do every day to help save them. Also, I’ve heard there will be some fun children’s games and activities, too.

Come out and join the Zoo in celebrating me on May 12!

Getting Dirty to Save Animals in the Wild

On April 26, the Houston Zoo hosted our first-ever Brew at the Zoo beer tasting event for guests 21-and-up. The event was also another first for our zoo-based conservation organization. Brew at the Zoo was our first major attempt at a full-sized zero waste consumer event. Zero waste is a goal for achieving a 90% or more diversion from landfill through reducing, reusing, recycling, and composting materials.

There are many definitions for zero waste, here at the Houston Zoo, we are beginning our zero waste journey by hosting events with a goal of zero-waste to landfill. At Brew at the Zoo, we diverted 80% of the waste from landfill through composting and recycling! This was accomplished through careful planning and communication between various departments within the zoo and our food partner SSA, as well as the composting company New Earth. We looked at the items being used throughout the event, from the souvenir beer sampling mugs, to the items food was served on, to lanyards that can be reused. While we encountered a few unexpected items in the bins, through careful sorting, we were able to ensure that as much of the waste as possible was able to be recycled and composted. The cans and glass bottles that the beer was poured from were recycled and the food items, including the utensils and cups were driven by zoo staff members to a commercial composting facility.

Why are we doing all of this? Our mission is to inspire action to save wildlife, what better way to celebrate local breweries than by saving local wildlife, like bobcats, by keeping waste out of landfills? The less space for landfills, means more space for wildlife! By recycling and composting, these materials are being given a chance to extend their usable lifespan.

Brew at the Zoo was just the beginning our our zero waste event journey. This event allowed us to look at the way we source and use products, so that at each event we will become closer to achieving our goal of zero-waste to landfill.

K9 Patrol Dogs are Saving Painted Dogs in the Wild

Man’s best friend. It’s no secret that dogs have many talents when it comes to helping humans – they are recruited as therapy and support animals, work with rescue crews, serve alongside soldiers and police officers, provide aid as guide dogs and guard dogs…and of course, they show us unconditional love. With such a stellar reputation as our number one sidekick, it’s no surprise that dogs have taken on yet another special role – protecting and saving their wild canine counterparts the painted dog in Zimbabwe!

Painted dogs are an endangered and truly unique species of canine. No two wild dogs have the same markings, making them easy to identify as individuals. They also have very distinctive rounded ears that help them to keep track of members of their pack over long distances. Did I mention that they only have 4 toes, while other dogs have 5? Unfortunately, painted dogs are endangered because they can accidentally be caught and/or killed in wire snares that have been set to hunt other local wildlife, like antelope.

A K9 unit of highly trained, domestic dogs is now helping to protect painted dogs from poaching (which is when painted dogs are harmed through wire snares). The domestic dogs have excellent tracking abilities-they can smell products that are illegal, and they can find humans who are doing illegal activities. These skills, unique to domestic dogs, help a team called an anti-poaching unit become more effective in reducing wildlife poaching.

Thanks to your visit to the zoo, we were able to fund our partners in Africa at Painted Dog Conservation (PDC) to spend time and learn about anti-poaching units and K9 dogs from another successful project in the region. Because of this success, we then assisted PDC with building a facility for their own K9 anti-poaching unit.

We look forward to hearing more as the K9 unit is brought into the field, taking action to save wildlife like painted dogs. Make sure to stop by and visit our pack of painted dogs on your next visit to the Zoo and come face to face with one of the many species you are helping to save in the wild.

Watch How You Are Saving Elephants in Borneo

Thanks to your visit to the Houston Zoo, we are able to send vital support to protect elephants in Borneo. We are extremely fortunate to have members of our extended zoo family working in Asia to ensure the survival of Bornean elephants. The Kinabatangan Elephant Conservation Unit (ECU) works with local communities in Borneo to raise awareness, improve human-wildlife relationships, and give farmers the tools and training they need for elephant-friendly crop protection. The Danau Girang Field Centre is conducting the first population biology study of the Bornean elephant, and as a part of this effort, the zoo is able to provide funding for radio collars, camera traps, and graduate student scholarships. During the month of May, you will have the chance to meet Dr. Nurzhafarina (Farina) Othman, a Malaysian scientist and member of the Houston Zoo conservation field staff.

Last fall, Zoo staff and crew from KPRC Channel 2 traveled to Borneo to meet with Farina, the team at the Danau Girang Field Centre and Hutan to see the projects the Houston Zoo supports firsthand. You can learn all about Farina’s work and how you are helping her to save elephants in the wild by tuning in to channel 2 this Wednesday, April 25th at 8pm and watching the Borneo special! Here at home we continue to promote these partnerships at our McNair Asian Elephant Habitat, giving our community the opportunity to learn about our herd of elephants at the zoo, and their wild counterparts. This year’s Zoo Ball, An Evening in Borneo presented by Phillips 66 will raise vital funds for our Houston Zoo, which through partners like Farina, works on the front lines in Borneo to protect its precious wildlife. To meet Farina, make sure to check out the Elephant Open House at the zoo on Sunday May 6th.

Mourning Zuri

We are mourning the loss of 34-year-old Western lowland gorilla, Zuri. The elderly gorilla was under treatment for severe gastrointestinal disease for the past few months, and after a full assessment of his quality of life, and the worsening of his disease despite treatment, the gorilla team and the veterinarians made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize the nearly 400-pound ape.

Zuri was the head of the family troop of gorillas and could be seen most afternoons in the habitat in the company of Holli, Binti, and Angel. Zuri was an easy-going silverback and sired 10 offspring, including 15-year-old Sufi Bettine, who recently moved to the Toledo Zoo as a part of the gorilla species survival program.

Zuri had a known heart condition that has been under treatment in partnership with MD Anderson cardiologists. Cardiac disease is a known problem for great apes, like gorillas, and the Houston Zoo has been working with the Great Ape Heart Project for many years to help study this matter.

The Houston Zoo has helped to increase wild gorilla populations in Africa through partnerships with Gorilla Doctors providing medical care for wild individuals, Conservation Heritage–Turambe providing gorilla saving education, and GRACE: Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center providing care for orphaned wild gorillas.

Gorillas face many challenges in the wild, but the zoo is part of efforts in Africa that are finding solutions to these threats.

Meet Tapir Researcher Dr. Pati Medici at the Houston Zoo

The Houston Zoo supports researchers saving adult and baby tapirs in the wild. We provide funding and resources for Dr. Pati Medici, and her team at the Lowland Tapir Conservation Initiative to protect tapirs in Brazil by following them with tracking devices. Finding tapirs and processing data on individuals before they are released back into the wild helps conservationists understand more about them, which then helps to create protection plans for them. This project continues to build the most extensive database of tapir information in the world and has been successfully applying their results for the conservation of tapirs in Brazil and internationally! Pati will be visiting us here in Houston at the end of April to celebrate Dia del Nino, and participate in the Tapir Spotlight on Species event! Pati will be out on zoo grounds from 10:30am to 2:30pm on the 28th and 29th of April. Hear from the keepers at 11am and 2pm each day to learn how they care for our tapirs, and see the tapirs get some special enrichment. You will get to hear from Pati on how you are helping to save tapirs in the wild and have the opportunity to take photos with this wildlife superstar! Throughout each event you’ll be able to participate in games and activities as well as purchase tapir-related souvenirs – proceeds will be donated to help save tapirs in the wild. Want to get in on the fun? Both events are free with your paid Zoo admission and are free for Zoo members – all you have to do is show up.

Tapirs were big news here at the Houston Zoo last year with the birth of Antonio, a Baird’s tapir, and a visit by the Tapir Specialist Group which is comprised of researchers from all over the globe working to save this species in the wild. That being said, with tapirs being about as unique as the mythical unicorn, it can be hard to remember just what they are or what they look like. Tapirs are the largest land mammal in South America and can be easily recognized by their unique noses – resembling a shortened trunk, it can be used to grab leaves when foraging for a snack and even acts as a snorkle when swimming! There are four species of tapir in the world, with three of the four species found in Latin America – Baird’s, lowland, and mountain. The fourth species, the Malayan tapir, is found in Southeast Asia. Here at the Houston Zoo, we have a family of Baird’s tapir. We hope to see you at the zoo celebrating this amazing species with us – thanks for helping to save species like the tapir in the wild!

 

 

Become a Sea Turtle Superhero in 4 Easy Steps

Spring has finally sprung here in Texas, and Texans much like the rest of the animal kingdom are emerging from their winter hideouts to embrace the sunshine. For many, clear skies and warm weather are an invitation to leave the city and make a break for the coast  – after all, who doesn’t want to spend a gorgeous day at the beach playing in the water or trying to land that perfect catch? What you may not know is that it isn’t just humans flocking to Texas beaches this spring, it is sea turtles too! April marks the beginning of nesting season, which means a heightened presence of Kemp’s ridley and green sea turtles is likely as summer approaches. A trip to the beach for our endangered friends is not always as pleasant as our trips as they are faced with many threats including plastic left in the water and on land, but luckily we have some simple ways to help make their journey safer so they continue to call Texas home for many years to come!

We want to do everything we can to help save sea turtles, but we need your help! Here are four easy ways you can become a sea turtle superhero:

  1. If you accidentally catch or spot a sea turtle on the beach, call 1-866-TURTLE-5
  2. Going fishing? Place any broken or unusable line in a monofilament recycling bin – line is recycled and made into products like tackle boxes!
  3. Taking a stroll on the beach? Bring a bag with you and pick up trash as you walkalong the shore
  4. Visit the zoo! Just by purchasing a ticket to the zoo you are helping to save sea turtles in the wild by supporting efforts like those mentioned below:
    Look for a fishing line recycling bin like this one next time you need to dispose of line!

Here at the Houston Zoo, we work to save sea turtles in a number of ways. Every Monday, a member of our staff assists our partners at NOAA Fisheries with their weekly sea turtle surveys. Additionally, some sea turtles NOAA picks up when they receive a call are in need of medical care.  These turtles are brought here to our vet clinic where Dr. Joe Flanagan and his team will take xrays, administer medications, perform hook extractions, and anything else the turtle may need. The sea lion team has been organizing and running monthly clean-ups at Surfside Jetty since 2014. Houston Zoo staff and volunteers spend an entire day down at the mile-long jetty picking up trash, recycling, and fishing line to help ensure that this debris is properly disposed of so it doesn’t end up in the ocean where it becomes a threat to animals like sea turtles.

The newest project we are involved in is in partnership with members from the Audubon Texas Coastal ProgramGalveston Bay Area Chapter of Texas Master Naturalists, and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality -Galveston Bay Estuary Program. This team identified discarded fishing line as one of the biggest threats to wildlife like sea turtles and pelicans, and devised a plan to help solve this problem by working directly with members of the community! The Texas City Dike (TCD) was selected as the area the group wanted to work in because of its reputation as a prime, year-round fishing spot. Once this study area was chosen, the group decided that the next step would be to take a trip to the dike, and collect discarded fishing line from specific locations to see just how much line was present. This collection of line took place on December 4th of last year and thanks to an amazing team of volunteers, we were able to collect a total of 21.9 pounds of fishing line from TCD. Since then, the team has made trips to some of our region’s most popular fishing locations and have conducted surveys with over 200 anglers in order to learn more about their current fishing line containment and disposal practices. From this data, we will come up with several potential messages to test with a focus group of anglers to see what resonates best with them to encourage the recycling of fishing line.

 

 

 

 

News from the Wild: How You’re Helping Turtles in Indonesia

Turtles, tortoises, terrapins…is one of these not like the other, or are they all the same? It turns out that while the 3 Ts are similar enough to belong to the same order, each has slight differences that make it possible to tell them apart. For example, terrapins are a type of turtle, but they spend their time either on land, or in swampy, slightly salty water. You can see a very special turtle, the painted terrapin, right here at the Houston Zoo. What’s better than that? Just by coming to visit the painted terrapin, you are helping to save this species in the wild through your ticket proceeds supporting projects like the Satucita Foundation in Indonesia!

You may be asking, what makes the painted terrapin so special? For starters, the painted terrapin is ranked among the 25 most endangered tortoises and freshwater turtles on earth. At first glance, this terrapin may not seem very remarkable, with its grey/brown coloring that matches its swampy surroundings. However, when breeding season arrives, the males become quite colorful! Their shells will lighten to reveal bold black markings, and their grey heads turn pure white with a bright crimson red strip developing between the eyes. This species also has an upturned snout, which makes it easier for them to feed on vegetation lying on the surface of the water.

Painted terrapins face a number of threats in the wild, including: poaching for eggs, predation, the pet trade, and habitat loss. When project founder Joko Guntoro first started his painted terrapin research in 2009, no one knew if the species even existed in the Aceh Tamiang region of Indonesia, as it had already gone extinct in Malaysia, Brunei, and Thailand. In that first year, only 9 adult painted terrapins were found, but by putting regular patrols of nesting beaches in place as well as doing community outreach and improving methods for egg incubation, this project has seen amazing success. As of March 8th, 61 eggs from the latest nesting season that were being raised in the hatchery have successfully hatched! This nesting season the team was able to save 443 eggs from threats such as egg poaching and natural predators like wild pigs. To date, 1,204 hatchlings have been released back into the wild to restore the painted terrapin population in the Indonesian district of Aceh Tamiang.

The Satucita Foundation team still has a long road ahead of them, but each year the future looks a little brighter for painted terrapins in Indonesia. We are honored to have such incredible partners in the field saving wildlife, and it is an even greater honor to be able to introduce our community to such a unique species right here at the Zoo. Make sure to drop by the orangutan habitat in the Wortham World of Primates on your next visit to catch a glimpse of not one, but two species that you are helping to save in the wild.

Become a Houston Zoo Pollinator Pal

What is a Pollinator Pal? Possibly the coolest conservation title ever!

Most of us know the importance of pollinators. Without them, our grocery store shelves and our pantries would be pretty empty.  By some reports, we would lose half of the food in our grocery stores, as well as things like coffee, chocolate and tequila without our pollinators!  Even the clothes we wear would be different.  Cotton that is used to make a lot of clothing relies on….you guessed it…..pollinators.

So, the question is, how can we help them?

First, you can plant a pollinator garden at home. A pollinator garden can be as small as one Milkweed plant in a pot or as large as a full-blown flower bed.  There are a huge number of plants that attract or feed pollinators in every stage of their lives.  Check with your local nursery to find out what native pollinator plants would be best for your area.

Another big help? Use natural products in your garden that won’t harm the bees, butterflies and other pollinators that visit it.  Pesticides can have a huge effect on them.

Build your own Pollinator Palace or Pollination Station to provide living space for pollinators. They are a fun way to create a decorative, natural space in your yard.

Now, back to Pollinator Pal. You can earn that amazing title for helping pollinators in your own back yard.  Bring pictures, reports or drawings of your pollinator garden to The Naturally Wild Swap Shop at the Houston Zoo.  You will not only be registered as one of the Houston Zoo’s Pollinator Pals, but you will earn points to spend in the shop as well.

Another way to participate is by posting observations of pollinators seen on zoo grounds on iNaturalist. There is a project titled “Native Wildlife at the Houston Zoo” in iNaturalist.  If you post a pollinator picture to the project and show the Naturalists in the Swap Shop, you can be registered and earn points!

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

Now get out there and look for those pollinators! Before you know it, you will be a Pollinator Pal too!

 

Launching into 2022 With a New Zoo

Launching the Most Ambitious Fundraising Campaign for Our Centennial Anniversary

See the Future of the Zoo

In 2022, the Houston Zoo will celebrate its 100th anniversary by completing the most dramatic transformation in its history. Today, the zoo launched its $150 million centennial fundraising campaign and unveiled plans for several new multi-species habitats during an event at the zoo’s historic Reflection Pool. During the momentous occasion, Houston Zoo president and CEO Lee Ehmke, Mayor Sylvester Turner, and Houston Zoo campaign co-chairs Cullen Geiselman and Joe Cleary shared the zoo’s vision for the next five years, revealed a new visual identity, and announced significant campaign successes. One such success includes a $50 million gift from the John P. McGovern Foundation, the largest gift in the zoo’s history. In total, more than $102 million has been secured for the campaign through individual, foundation, and corporate contributions and the zoo’s own cash flows.

“We aim to redefine what a zoo can be with beautiful and immersive habitats, compelling guest experiences, and an unyielding commitment to saving wildlife,” said Lee Ehmke, Houston Zoo president and CEO. “I invite you to join me on this thrilling journey to build the world-class zoo Houston deserves. Together, we will keep our world wild.”

Since privatization in 2002, more than $150 million in community investment has revitalized the Houston Zoo. Today, the zoo is a leading conservation and education organization providing care to thousands of animals. All while remaining a cherished destination for fun, family, and inspiration for all of Houston’s diverse communities.

In order to fully connect communities with wildlife to inspire action to save animals in the wild the zoo embarked on a strategic planning process in 2016 that identified eight strategic priorities to guide the future, and the mission, of the Houston Zoo.  One of the priorities recognized that a new zoo required a new logo. The new visual identity for the Houston Zoo was created by local branding agency Principle and symbolizes the connection people share with the world around them, reflects the Houston Zoo’s commitment to saving animals in the wild, and will represent the zoo in Houston and around the world.

 

The Houston Zoo’s strategic plan brought to life by a new 20-year master plan, which will reconfigure the campus into experiential zones that highlight wildlife and ecosystems found in Texas and around the world. With conservation messaging integrated throughout these zones, guests will leave the zoo inspired to take action to save animals in the wild.

The Keeping Our World Wild: Centennial Campaign will secure $150 million from individuals, foundations, corporate partners, and the Houston Zoo’s operational cash flows to complete Phase I of the master plan by 2022. Every year leading to the centennial, an exciting new chapter will open for guests to explore.

Additional Campaign Facts

  • Nearly half of the Houston Zoo’s acreage will be redeveloped by 2022
  • $5 million from the campaign will be dedicated to conservation projects

Multi-Species Habitats

Heart of the Zoo – 2018 – 2019

Celebrating the biodiversity of Texas, enhancing amenities, and setting the stage for a more navigable Houston Zoo.

  • Cypress Circle Café will be transformed into a signature gathering place (late 2018)
  • Texas Wetlands habitat featuring alligators, bald eagles, whooping cranes, turtles, and waterfowl (Spring 2019)
  • Enhanced orangutan and bear habitats

The Texas Wetlands exhibit will engage visitors in the zoo’s breeding, monitoring, rehabilitation, and release programs with local species of birds, reptiles, bats, and pollinators; students can connect this exhibit with hands-on, in-the-field conservation work experienced through zoo-led education programs.


Pantanal: Trail of the Jaguar – 2020

Exploring the legendary tropical wetlands of Brazil – home to South America’s greatest concentration of wildlife.

  • Lush South American wetland with jaguars, monkeys, giant river otters, capybaras, birds, and tapirs
  • Shaded Animal Encounter Hacienda for informal presentations with ambassador animals and zoo staff

The zoo partners with on-the-ground conservationists in South and Central America to study and protect jaguars, macaws, tapirs, and other Pantanal inhabitants; the exhibit will strengthen the zoo’s conservation investment by offering visitors and students a more immersive, engaging experience of this ecosystem.


Ancient Relatives Phase I – 2021

Showcasing the zoo’s signature, award-winning bird conservation work.

  • Reimagined Bird Garden with interactive bird feeding opportunities for guests
  • New Avian Conservation Center will relocate many birds into new, lushly landscaped aviaries, setting the stage for a later expansion of bird, reptile, and amphibian exhibits
  • New incubation and rearing room that allows for behind-the-scenes experiences

The new facility will directly support the zoo’s breeding programs for rare curassows and macaws as well as the signature program to breed and release Attwater’s prairie chickens, a local endangered species.


Galapagos Islands, North Entry, and Reflections – 2022

A first-of-its-kind exhibit starring the landscape and wildlife that made history, plus enhancements to the Houston Zoo’s main entry.

  • Unique Galapagos exhibit featuring sea lions, sharks, giant tortoises, and other iconic species
  • New Arrival Plaza to welcome guests
  • New Reflections event hall and terrace, as well as a new casual café, enhance the historic Reflection Pool and garden area

No place better illustrates the wonders of unique species, the delicate balance of ecosystems, or the pressing need for conservation action than the Galapagos. This exhibit will immerse visitors in that sense of place; highlight the zoo’s ongoing field work with giant tortoises, birds, and marine animals; and serve as a jumping-off point for educational experiences, including travel.

To learn more about the centennial campaign, visit www.HoustonZoo.org/future.

 

 

Search Blog & Website
[jetpack_subscription_form title="Subscribe to the Blog" subscribe_text="Enter your email address to subscribe and receive new blog posts by email."]
Houston Zoo Facebook Page
Animals In Action

Recent Videos

[youtube_channel]