Houston Zoo Conservation Gala Raises Nearly $1 Million for Madagascar

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

Credit: Daniel Ortiz

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

Credit: Daniel Ortiz

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

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

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

Gorilla Doctors Train at the Houston Zoo

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

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

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

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

October’s Featured Members: The Amador Family

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

 

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.

 

What Do Veterinary Interns Do?

Written by Jennifer Urda


Hello, my name is Jennifer Urda and I am just finishing a veterinary research internship involving the Attwater’s Prairie Chicken. I will be starting my second year of veterinary school at Midwestern University in Arizona in the fall. The Houston Zoo is like a second home to me, as I have spent the previous three summers here as an intern in two different departments (Birds and Children’s Zoo) and also as a seasonal zookeeper for the Attwater’s Prairie Chickens. Every summer I’ve spent here has been incredible; I’ve truly gained invaluable experience and knowledge associated with the husbandry and care of the species in the Zoo’s collection as well as made valuable friendships. I am incredibly honored and proud to have had the opportunity to intern with the veterinary clinic this summer and would like to share some of my experiences in hopes of creating awareness for other current and future veterinary students that might like to apply to this program. This internship is one of two the Houston Zoo offers (the other internship involves the Houston Toads) to first and second year veterinary students, which makes it very unique as most other AZA accredited institutions only accept students on their clinical rotations.

First, I’d like to talk about the Attwater’s Prairie Chicken (APC). The Attwater’s Prairie Chicken is a critically endangered species of grouse (not a chicken!) found only in the coastal prairies of Texas. About 100 years ago, there were once around 1 million of these birds between the Texas and Louisiana coastal prairies, but throughout the 20th century their numbers began to dwindle, largely due to habitat destruction; there are estimated to be less than 100 APCs left in the wild today. Thankfully, the Houston Zoo is part of a captive breeding program for these rare birds, and birds that are eligible for release in the late summer are slowly introduced back into the wild.

As the APC veterinary intern, I am largely responsible for administering medical treatments on the growing prairie chickens. These birds can be challenging to raise and often require medical care such as administering fluids via injection and antibiotics as well as tube feeding food, sometimes up to three times a day. I am also responsible for inputting the medical records on these birds, recording my observations, and discussing treatment plans and options with the veterinarians at the Zoo. As a large component of my internship involves research, I was able to pick a topic that would be both beneficial to the Zoo and the preservation of the species, so much of my time was also spent in this manner. Additionally, I have had some opportunities to shadow the Zoo’s veterinarians and participate in other procedures such as drawing blood from a duck and giving routine vaccinations. In the coming months I hope to submit a scientific paper to Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine regarding the findings of my research over the summer.

The veterinary hospital staff is an amazing team, and I’ve learned so much from every single one of them; all are incredibly passionate about their work and the Houston Zoo’s message of conservation and education. I know that the experience I have gained here as well as the connections I’ve made will be valuable in my future as a veterinarian. I highly recommend any first or second year veterinary student with a passion for conservation or zoo and wildlife medicine to apply — the experience and mentoring you will receive is phenomenal.

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

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

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

 

Comment on Facebook

How much are the tickets?

I told u dude

Dina Reyes Dora Zmagaňa for the kids

Lets go Laura Sanchez

TheMizzes Get Right

Alex Garza

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

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

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

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

 

Comment on Facebook

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

What the prices for the movie

How much

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

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

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

Peter Gaytan this would be cool to do with the girls

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

Philip, movie night at the zoo? 😊

Laura Inman Ricky Heeth this may be fun for yalls kiddos

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

Cat Patzen think baby boss would like this?

Mario Mancillas want to take juliette she likes this movie

Darleen is the movie on Saturday?

James Clancy we have to take Chloe!

Brian Williams we should take briley!!

What happens if it rains?

Let’s go I’m down

This looks like fun😃

Heather Bourg Lopez?

Amy let's take our babies??

Aaron I wanna go

Luis Flores let’s take Lauren

Go next weekend when Im off.

Ash Denton LET'S GO!!

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Houston Zoo added 6 new photos.
Houston Zoo

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

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Comment on Facebook

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

Becca Dorris look at all the people you could meet!

Love it!!❤️❤️

Betsy Oliver Freeman Your team!!

Why yes it is!!! 😍👍🏼🏈

Bravo a toute l équipe

Jeanine Davis Pitts

Michael Zarate

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