National Dairy Goat Awareness Week

By: Heather Kilway and Megan Paliwoda

On a beautiful summer morning, under a yellow tent in the shadow of the Washington Monument, representatives of the American Dairy Goat Association presented 6 kids (baby goats) to the US Department of Agriculture, officially marking June 12th, 1986 as the first ever National Dairy Goat Awareness Day. Two years later, on June 17th, 1988 the United States Congress voted that the second Saturday through the third Saturday of June would from that day forward be recognized as National Dairy Goat Awareness Week. This week is typically celebrated every year with fun goat activities such as: milking, hoof trimming, and goat obstacle courses. In honor of National Dairy Goat Awareness Week 2018, the Houston Zoo would like for you to come out and celebrate with us; but in the meantime, here are some fun facts about our dairy goats.

The Houston Zoo is home to 5 different breeds of dairy goat, which can be found in the petting zoo area of the McGovern’s Children’s Zoo:

Nigerian Dwarf: This breed originated in West Africa and is known as one of the smaller breeds of dairy goat, standing roughly 23” (2 feet) high at the shoulder. Nigerian Dwarves are known for their high-quality milk which contains a large percentage of butterfat (high butterfat content gives milk a richer, more creamy taste). They are also very friendly and hardy goats, that can thrive in almost any climate.


Alpine: Originating in the French Alpine mountain region, Alpine goats were introduced to the U.S. in 1920. They are known for their long lactation periods and for producing large amounts of high-quality milk. Alpines are also famed for being curious, friendly, and strong willed. Another fun fact is that Alpines can come in a variety of colors and usually have LONG HAIR!! At the Houston Zoo, our two Alpines, Chewbacca and Han Solo, love getting their hair brushed by guests.


Nubian: Nubian’s today have both African and Indian ancestors. This breed is known for their high-quality, high butterfat milk production. They are very adorable with their long floppy ears, strong “Roman” noses, and their tendency to be vocal. At the Houston Zoo, our Nubians (Alvin, Simon, and Theodore) are easy to spot due to their rich brown color and the fact that Nubian goats are generally at least 30” (almost 3 feet!) tall at the shoulder, and normally weigh around 135 pounds.


Saanen: Saanen goats are the largest of all the dairy breeds (even taller than Nubians!) and are even referred to as “Queen of the Dairy Goats” due to their majestic appearance and calm nature. Saanen goats originated in Switzerland and can come in different shades of white. They are known for regularly producing large amounts of milk, as well as for their sturdiness and tolerance of environmental change. Elsa, is the only Saanen goat currently at the Houston Zoo, and is considered by many to be Queen of the Herd.


Pygmy: Originally from Africa, this very small breed of goat stands no bigger than 22”-23” tall at the shoulder. Pygmies are referred to as being “compact” and having a large circumference (meaning they are noticeably round in the middle). They are known for their high-quality milk production which has an incredibly high butterfat content. Not only that, but Pygmies are hardy, animated, and very social. The three pygmy goats that live at the Houston zoo are: Belle, and her younger twin brothers, Seamus and Finnegan. (You may even see the Fantastic Finnegan performing at The Houston Texans Enrichment Zone!)

2018 Action for Apes Results

We’re excited to announce the 2018 Action for Apes results!

This year, we had 29 organizations take part in the challenge with an estimated 8,000 participants across the greater Houston area and beyond.  With these numbers, it was no surprise that the challenge was a competitive one!  

The collective participation in this program yielded a total of 1,977 handheld electronic devices which amounts to 1,977 actions to help save animals in the wild!  

So, without further delay, our top 3 participating groups for the 2018 Action for Apes Challenge are:

  1. Schmalz Elementary School – 458 handheld electronic devices! – WINNER!
  2. Incarnate Word Academy- 390 devices!
  3. Tomball ISD – 326 devices!

By recycling these cell phones and other handheld electronic devices, these participants have helped the Houston Zoo divert approximately 165 POUNDS of battery waste containing harmful chemicals from our landfills, local habitats and waterways. Materials, like tantalum, from these phones and other handheld devices can now be reused in new devices, reducing the demand for this material mined from gorilla habitat.

In addition, money raised from the recycling of these devices helps pay for a month’s salary of one of the Houston Zoo’s conservation education staff partners in Rwanda.

Remember to recycle your unused electronic devices too! The collection box is at the front of the Zoo near Guest Relations.

Click here for more information about handheld electronic recycling and reduction. 

 

June’s Featured Members: The Buhr 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 June’s Featured Members: the Buhr family.


We love being members of the Houston Zoo! My daughter Mikaela and I received a family membership as a gift when we first moved to Houston 5 years ago and we’ve renewed it ever since. We definitely make good use of our membership, as we usually visit the zoo three to four times a month. Sometimes these visits are only an hour or two and sometimes they take an entire afternoon, but no matter how long we are there, we always have a great time.

One of our favorite things about the zoo is the large selection of keeper chats and we try to time our visits to attend as many as possible. We have learned about llamas, cheetahs, bats, kookaburras, mole rats, buzzards, tarantulas and more in the past month. The keepers are enthusiastic about their animals and are always willing to answer any questions, whether it’s during an official chat or when you approach them in the zoo. We especially like learning the little things about the animals that you wouldn’t know otherwise, like their names, favorite foods, and quirks that make them so unique.

If I had to choose two main things that keep us coming back to the zoo so frequently, it’s the staff and the zoo’s mission. The Houston Zoo staff is comprised of amazing people that enjoy their jobs and are passionate about the animals. We’re on a first name basis with staff at the entrance gates and Swap Shop, as well as some of the keepers and they always have a smile on their faces. We’ve never had a bad experience with the staff in the years we’ve been there and, in fact, several have gone above and beyond to make our visits even better.

The zoo’s mission is near and dear to our hearts. Animal and environmental conservation is something we care about, and it’s great to see an organization that not only says it’s passionate it but follows through. The support and training that the zoo provides for organizations directly impacting endangered species is important and I’m happy to know that my membership money contributes to that. I’m also impressed with the zoo’s recycling program and their commitment to have all of their food provided by local sourcing.

Save Wildlife: Bring a Water Bottle to the Zoo

The zoo 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.”

Orangutan Super Mom and Ambassador

Written by the Primate Team

As we celebrate the moms in our lives, this Mother’s Day, we will be celebrating our own special mom here at the Houston Zoo, Cheyenne the orangutan.

This Mother’s Day, Cheyenne will be celebrating her 46th birthday.  Cheyenne was born at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado on May 13, 1972.  Cheyenne came to the Houston Zoo in 1993. She exhibits high intelligence and a complex personality.

Cheyenne’s nurturing side was not fully appreciated until she became a foster mother.  A hybrid between the two species of orangutan, Bornean and Sumatran, she has no kids of her own, but when in 1999, a 2-year-old orangutan infant named Luna Bela needed a foster mother, primate staff immediately considered Cheyenne.  After gradual introductions between Cheyenne and the infant, Luna was allowed the opportunity to enter Cheyenne’s room.  The new mother gently coaxed Luna through the door and waited patiently for her approach, and they were together until Luna grew up to be a successfully socialized orangutan.

Since Cheyenne’s first experiences with being a foster mother, she has successfully fostered 2 more orangutan infants, Elok, who now lives at the Oklahoma City Zoo and Indah, who now lives at the Sacramento Zoo.

In 2011, Cheyenne once again became a foster mother to her fourth infant, Aurora. At the tender age of 9 months, Cheyenne’s youngest foster infant, entered her life.  Cheyenne has shown a whole new depth to her level of mothering with this infant, and allowed the infant to ride on her back, climb onto her head, and sleep in her nest at night. Aurora, who is 7-years-old, can still be found sleeping in the same nest at night with Cheyenne and she depends on Cheyenne helping her enter and exit the exhibit.

As we are celebrating Cheyenne and all our moms, it is the perfect day to celebrate and pay tribute to orangutan mother’s too.

Each year more and more orangutans, moms and infants, are killed or left homeless as their native rainforest habitat is cleared for palm oil plantations. On Sunday, May 13, 2018, the Houston Zoo will be participating in M.O.M., Missing Orangutan Mothers, campaign. To help raise awareness for the protection of these amazing creatures, primate keepers will be on hand at 12:00PM and 3:30PM, to share information, stories and tips on how our small actions can make a big difference in orangutan’s lives.

Please join us on May 13, 2108 at 12:00PM to wish Cheyenne a happy 46th birthday and Happy Mother’s Day!!

May’s Featured Members: The Duncan 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 May’s Featured Members: the Duncan family.


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

“Like Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book mongooses we strive to live by the family motto “Run and Find out!” The Houston Zoo affords us with consistent opportunities to do just that. We have been members of the Houston Zoo for the past three years, years that have given us countless opportunities to learn and to grow, to ask questions and to seek answers, and to quite literally run and find out.

The Naturally Wild Swap Shop has long been a favorite of our family. No matter where we are we keep our eyes peeled for interesting natural finds that we can collect and research and trade. Our son, Nils (4), has been saving up his swap shop points and dreams of one day owning his own piece of dinosaur coprolite. Our daughter, Carolena (6), has been swapping for years and now has an amazing collection including an African porcupine quill, a pearl, and a small fossilized dinosaur bone. The swap shop has encouraged us to keep asking questions and finding answers and looking for interesting discoveries at every turn.

One of the best things about our trips to the Houston Zoo is gaining first-hand exposure to such a variety of animals. Lions, and tigers, and… Go Away Birds! Our children are often asked “what is your favorite animal?” when people discover we frequent the zoo. We can’t help but laugh at the surprise in people’s faces when our son enthusiastically replies, “the Go-Away Bird!” Birds are popular with us as Carolena loves the flamingoes, Casey loves the storks, and Chris always stop hoping to hear the kookaburras laugh. The zoo continues to introduce us to animals we never knew and reintroduce us to the ones we only thought we did.

Time at the zoo is always time well spent. We never regret the choice to spend time with family and friends, enjoying the outdoors, and growing deeper in our appreciation for animals and one another. Whether bundled up in coats or slathered in sunscreen, no matter the season you can find our family enjoying the Houston Zoo and all it has to offer.  From the tropical bird house to the giraffes and yes, the mongooses whose family motto we share, our family loves to spend time at the Houston Zoo where we run and find out.”

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

Principle Goes to the Zoo

A peek behind the scenes from the creative firm chosen to redefine the Houston Zoo’s new identity.

Contributed by Principle

As lifelong patrons and admirers of the Houston Zoo, our team at Principle was beyond thrilled to get a late Fall call from their team. Would we be interested in helping them re-brand their organization?

We quickly consulted our bucket list—check!—and happily accepted.

We kicked off the project by diving into a two-day tour and strategy session with the Zoo’s creative and marketing team, leadership staff, board members, conservation specialists, keepers, volunteers, and others to better understand how their zoo works, and our role in all of it.

We emerged brimming with excitement, adrenaline, a small mountain of notes, and a fair share of butterflies. This was no small task. And no ordinary zoo.

 

The Challenge

We were wowed by the clarity of the Zoo’s vision, the thoughtfulness of the extraordinary new Master Plan, the infectious unity of the Houston Zoo’s team—and the sheer magnitude of what the Houston Zoo actually does every day, for people and animals all over the planet.

We had no idea.

And many still don’t—exactly their motivation behind the re-branding effort.

The mission behind the re-brand.

 

We asked ourselves:

How do we symbolize conservation?

How do we reframe the conversation around zoos?

How do we help represent this organization’s leadership and their life’s work as smart and professional and bold and important, without neglecting the joy and excitement that stems from time spent outdoors at the zoo with loved ones (animal and otherwise!)?

And in an age when major re-brands are often measured in years versus weeks, how do we do it most thoroughly?

 

The Design Process

We whittled many hours’ worth of listening, learning, scheming, sketching, writing, researching, (and trading pictures of baby animals with each other) into five core takeaways that drove the design solutions we presented.

Overwhelmingly, we heard THEIR PEOPLE championed again and again.

The human element is critical in saving wildlife.

So we narrowed down themes related to these core takeaways, and explored how we might articulate them visually.

Themes explored.

 

We presented a wide range of logo solutions—from highly contemporary to more conservative—which we then refined further after insightful feedback from their team. Final selections were presented to an executive committee, and with board approval, a winner emerged.

 

The Solution

Houston Zoo logo anatomy.

 

A balanced approach

The new logo reflects the meaningful balance in the zoo’s new tagline, See them. Save them.

The duality of the shape represents the human element so critical in saving wildlife—the coming together of two hands—and the continued connection, conversation, and collaboration needed to succeed in protecting the home we all live in. You and me. Cause and effect. Locally and globally. Today and tomorrow.

See them. Save them.

 

Naturally inspired

The mark pays respect to the habitats of wildlife—two halves of a leaf—with a natural palette that draws from the landscapes of the Zoo’s future exhibits and their corresponding partner efforts in the wild, from the African forests to the Galapagos to our own Texas Wetlands.

A global palette.

 

A quiet force for good

Lastly, the negative space in the mark forms the letter Z, representing the zoo at the heart of these efforts—and pays subtle tribute to the Z that has historically nestled within the Houston Zoo’s logo.

Logo embossed.

 

 

Just the Beginning

We always like to point out that a logo is only the tip of the iceberg. The Houston Zoo is as unique and complex an organism as those it harbors.

Overall, our shared goal was to uncover an elegant solution that feels fresh, clean and simple, but can flex within a serious brand system. One that avoids the familiar trappings of visually championing one animal, or defaulting to the popular safari theme—because the Houston Zoo’s focus and reach are so truly comprehensive.

By way of thoughtful typography, color, and fabrication techniques, the new identity can push, pull and pivot across the Zoo’s myriad audiences and applications—from vibrant and playful to understated and polished—and spark conversation around what a contemporary zoo can do.

From playful to polished, the new zoo travels comfortably all over the planet.

 

It’s been such a privilege to partner with the Houston Zoo, and to learn that the humans behind all these animals are just as inspiring, intelligent and fun. We’re honored to continue on this journey with them—much more in the works!—and we can’t wait to share what’s next.

Celebrating the brand reveal with custom ties and scarves.

 

Principle’s Houston Team at the Campaign Kickoff

Teens Working Together to Protect Texas Ecosystems

By Teen Programs Participants: Madi S., Julia S., Makynzie L., Lilianna G., Skyler N., Connor P., Ethan S., Michael T., Habib A., and Aly A.

During the second week of March, a group of teens, accompanied by staff from the Houston Zoo, piled into a van and drove to Big Thicket National Preserve. The preserve, which covers 100,000 acres, has many interesting features:

  • It is the site of one of the biggest biological convergences in the world.
  • It is split up into many regions and contains nine different types of ecosystems.
  • Within the boundaries of the preserve, many unique animals and plant life can be found such as carnivorous plants, snowy egrets, and many species of spider.
  • The preserve is much different than most preserves or parks; it allows hunting and fishing,
  • The preserve is under threat; poaching, litter, and invasive species have become prevalent in the eyes of the community.
  • One of the numerous species of plant life that is protected by the preserve’s borders is the longleaf pine. Logging and the shrinking preserve borders have drastically reduced the population of the tree down to three percent of its original size. The longleaf is unique to many plants; it relies on controlled fires to sprout to its full size.

The teens assisted in the conservation efforts of the preserve by eliminating the invasive plant species, Chinese Tallow, that has ravaged the area. Chinese Tallow is detrimental to native Texas plants because it they outcompete the natives for space and sunlight. One of the teens, Julia, described this experience as “Exciting. I got to do something destructive but helpful.” In clearing this area, the teens discovered several surprises, including tree frogs, wolf spiders, skinks, centipedes, pitcher plants, and the carnivorous sundew.


Earlier that day, the teens started out their morning by clearing out an area near the visitor’s center that would soon become a pollinator garden. This garden will be essential to the survival of many pollinator species. Pollinator awareness is one of the Houston Zoo’s six Take Action Initiatives. The Houston Zoo encourages visitors to plant native plants to help local pollinators like monarch butterflies and bees. Pollinators are vital to our food sources. About a third of our foods, like chocolate, vanilla, honey, and many fruits and vegetables, produced with the help of pollinators. Without them, our world would be very different. Eventually this area in front of the Big Thicket National Preserve Visitor Center will become habitat for local pollinators like bees and butterflies. While clearing the area, Connor remarked, “It’s fun seeing all the creatures.” Makynzie, another teen, said her favorite part was, “Getting dirty.”


The next day, the teens explored the Neches River, and got on their lifejackets. Using canoes, the teens scoured the shores and the water for any trash. In the process, the teens also took down several fishing lines, some of which had fish still hooked on them. One of the Zoo’s Take Action Initiatives is plastic pollution reduction. Monofilament fishing line is very harmful to many marine animals and has been identified as the number one plastics threat to wildlife in our region. By removing the fishing line from the Neches River, we are ensuring the fishing line will not end up in the ocean which will help save animals like sea turtles. Madi observed the scenery around the river as they removed paddled and removed trash and noted, “I had to maneuver through the cypress like Indiana Jones.”


On the last day, the teens took a scenic hike at Big Sandy Creek. There, they found cypress trees and insects of all sorts. The teens also got to see a different portion of the Neches River. Aly commented, “I was really surprised. The trail was very peaceful.” Later that day, they cleaned up an area near a trail head and repainted some of the signs. Lastly, the teens took another hike and cleaned up trash along the trail.

Together, the teens and the Zoo are working together to better protect our wildlife. You don’t have to hop in a kayak to make a difference. Doing something as simple as picking up trash or recycling can make a huge impact. Houston Zoo Teen Programs participants encourage you to take action by doing something like starting a recycling drive at your school or within your community. You could also get a group of friends together to do a beach clean-up or build a pollinator garden in your neighborhood. In fact, the Big Thicket National Preserve wasn’t founded by a governing body, but by a group of community members that worked together to save the area when they noticed the damage being inflicted on it. Next time you visit the Houston Zoo, you can visit our pollinator gardens and/or the carnivorous plants that are near the Bug House to get a closer look at what lives in the wilderness of Texas. If you want to venture into the wilderness yourself, visit the Big Thicket. Get your feet dirty and help continue our everlasting efforts to conserve and protect the wildlife that we share this earth with.

Continued Search for Rare Bird in Colombia

Blue-billed curassow
A couple of months back, we ventured to Colombia with assistant bird curator Chris Holmes. Chris has been directly involved in the conservation of a rare bird, the blue-billed curassow since joining the Houston Zoo full-time in 2000. In February, with the help of Houston Zoo partner Proyecto Titi, Chris, who serves as the American Zoos and Aquariums regional program population manager for the species and Christian Olaciregui, the Colombian population manager for blue-billed curassows and head of biology and conservation at Barranquilla Zoo, ventured into the Montes de Maria region of Colombia  – an area where the blue-billed curassow is believed to live but has been rarely seen. During their first trip into the study area, Chris and Christian set up and installed 6 camera traps in an attempt to locate any blue-billed curassows that might be in the area. Determining if these birds are in the area will help to fill a current gap in the knowledge of this species’ current range, and will help to shape future conservation efforts. Chris has since returned back home to Texas, but Christian and the team in Colombia have been checking the traps periodically to see what images they are able to recover! Highlights from their latest report are listed below: 
Image of a puma (cougar) caught on one of the installed camera traps
  • No records of blue-billed curassows were obtained during the first month following camera trap installations, but images of 35 reptile, bird, and mammal species were recovered!
  • One puma (cougar) was spotted on camera, which is the most recent record of this species in the study region.
  • Cameras also recorded the first known images of a striped hog-nosed skunk and a greater grison (resembles a honey badger) in the Montes de Maria region.
Striped hog-nosed skunk

 

 

Christian and Oscar Medina, Animal Care Coordinator at Barranquilla Zoo were able to collect this valuable research with the help of Daniel Martinez and Roberto Meza. Both men own the properties within the Montes de Maria region where the camera traps were installed. They have been living in the region for over 20 years and can both attest to the presence of blue-billed curassows in the area! While the team may not have found any evidence of this elusive bird yet, they haven’t given up hope. Throughout the first half of April, the team will be visiting three other sites in the region which have been recommended by locals – 6 camera traps will be installed at each site.

Greater grison

Knowing if these birds are in the area will help to strengthen conservation efforts for this critically-endangered bird species, and will inform next steps as plans for the future are discussed. While we await the results gathered by this new batch of camera traps, make sure to drop by and check out the wattled curassow, an endangered relative of the blue-billed curassow, on your next trip to the zoo and come face-to-face with one of the many species you are helping to save in the wild!

Family Programs

The fun never stops at the Houston Zoo! As part of our mission to connect communities with animals, inspiring action to save wildlife, the Zoo offers several family-geared experiences to get you outside exploring nature. Play, explore, learn and grow both at the Zoo and at natural spaces in Houston and beyond.

Looking for ways to connect your adventure-seeking family with our native Houston environment? Look no further than our Family Adventure Programs! Experience truly one of a kind, immersive adventures all over Houston and the surrounding gulf coast area.

Family Nature Club is an opportunity for families to explore the natural world together at various parks and nature centers around the Houston area. Join other parents and caregivers in knowing that you are providing your little one with meaningful opportunities for exploration and play, instilling confidence in them and increasing their sense of wonder and awe for nature close to home. Come explore with us as we take a nature walk through Sheldon Lake State Park, May 12 starting at 9 a.m. Spot native wildlife like herons and alligators, and climb the John Jacob Observation Tower for a panoramic view of the Bayou City.

Calling all night owls! Family Overnights are back with brand new adventures. Join us for Zoo Overnight: Nocturnal Nights, a special after-hours event, May 12 starting at 7 p.m. We’ll see what the animals are up to at dusk on a guided hike around the Zoo and meet endangered animals up close as we camp out indoors in our Brown Education Center.

Summer’s right around the corner, and what better way to have fun than to join your child for Camp Zoofari Family Camp? You and your camper are invited to two action-packed days of animal-themed adventure. Learn all about the care and enrichment Zoo residents receive as you partake in camp games, parents versus children challenges and more! Family camps will be offered July 2 – 3 and July 5 -6. Camps start at 8:45 a.m. and end at 3:45 p.m.

And last, but most certainly not least, is the grand adventure for those that are seriously committed to getting out in nature. As part of our Family Travel Program, join the Houston Zoo for Yellowstone: A Family Adventure, June 25 – 30. This truly one-of-a-kind experience will take you to two of the world’s most beautiful and wild-life abundant hotspots—Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park! Participate in a Scenic Float Trip on Snake River, view wildlife in Oxbow Bend, hike Trout Lake in Lamar Valley, explore the Old Faithful area and more! Can you believe there’s more? This exclusive program is limited to six families, so sign up today for the adventure of a lifetime.

Family connections and experiences are critically important, and what better opportunity to create memories than to get outside and explore our natural world together. We can’t wait to see you and your family at our next event. For event dates and more information, visit www.houstonzoo.org/experiences/families/. Register today!

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