Christmas Treecycling

Written by Amber Zelmer


Now that we have stuffed ourselves silly for Thanksgiving, people are putting up their Christmas decorations & getting into the holiday spirit! Many people might be wondering whether to choose a real or artificial tree for their household this year. You may be surprised to learn that using a real Christmas tree can be a better choice for the environment than an artificial tree!

The benefit of artificial trees, is that they don’t need to be watered and are able to be reused year after year. However, most artificial trees are used for less than 4 years before they are thrown out. There are almost no facilities that recycle artificial trees and they can take up to 500 years to break down in a landfill! Most artificial trees are manufactured overseas in China or Korea & must be shipped for sale here in the U.S. According to Audubon magazine, you would have to keep an artificial tree for at least 20 years before it would be a better alternative than the real deal.

Christmas tree farms in the U.S. are a more sustainable source for your holiday tree. It can take a pine tree around 7 years to grow to a harvestable size. During the time it is growing, the tree is providing a habitat for migratory birds & other native wildlife. These trees are also producing oxygen & sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

If you are wondering how to dispose of your natural Christmas tree after the holidays there are many ways that you can use the tree to keep benefitting the environment! Many communities offer drop off sites for your old trees & may use them to help prevent erosion by creating barriers along beaches to help preserve sand dunes. The City of Houston offers an annual Christmas tree recycling program and will pick up trees and turn them into mulch or, if you have the space, you can mulch it yourself and use it in your garden or landscaping. Make sure to check online to see which day your neighborhood is collecting trees for the program. When recycling your tree, you must remove all ornaments, decorations, lights, tinsel & tree stands; flocked trees cannot be recycled. If you are not a resident of Houston proper, be sure to check online for local sites that are participating in tree recycling programs or repurposing used trees.

This holiday season we can all be a little more green!

Recycle Holiday Lights to help Save Animals in the Wild

Recycle your holiday string lights here and help save animals in the wild! Recycling keeps items out of landfills. Less space for landfills means more space for animals! A recycling bin is located at the Zoo’s main entrance. Only string lights will be accepted for recycling; please do not bring other items such as flood lights, extension cords or light hooks.

The collection bin will be open through the last day of Zoo Lights on January 14.


A bobcat, like the ones you are saving by recycling your holiday lights.

It may not feel like winter, but the holidays are almost here and with that comes the task of putting up your holiday lights. This task comes with many issues, what if you put them up and they don’t work? What if they have gone out of style? What if they just use too much energy and you want to buy LED lights instead?

If you are having any of these issues or other issues and need a place to dispose of your old or broken string lights you can bring them to the Houston Zoo to recycle! Recycling holiday lights keeps them out of landfills. Less space for landfills means more space for animals, animals like bobcats, deer, and the Texas State Small Mammal, the armadillo.

Recycle your holiday string lights in this bin, located at the Houston Zoo’s main entrance.

You can bring your holiday string lights to the main entrance of the Houston Zoo until January 14. Simply place them in the bin that says, “Recycle your holiday lights here and help save animals in the wild!” We will make sure they are responsibly recycled and you can enjoy your holidays knowing that you helped save animals in the wild!

With your help, the Houston Zoo has recycled more than 7,486 pounds of holiday lights to date. This is nearly the same weight as a female Asian elephant!

Redesigned Bear Habitat Coming Soon

Next year, the Houston Zoo will open a completely redesigned bear habitat for its two black bears thanks to the generous support of the Hamill Foundation. This expansion more than triples the space for Belle and Willow to explore. Guests will be able to experience the world of bears with unobstructed views of the habitat and get nose-to-nose with the beloved duo through a brand-new glass wall. The expanded habitat was designed to give the bears the highest quality of life and includes engaging features throughout like a revamped water feature, specially created climbing structures, and ample shade.

The Houston Zoo saves bears in the wild by participating in state protection planning in Texas. The team also leads efforts to help save bears in the wild through promotion of paper reduction and the use of recycled paper products. Bears need trees to live, and by using less paper or recycled-content paper products, fewer trees are cut down.

Domestic Dogs to Protect Painted Dogs

In a previous blog you met Enoch Zulu, a Wildlife Warrior from Painted Dog Conservation. As a part of his Wildlife Warrior award, he traveled to another conservation project to learn more about wildlife protection techniques. There, he was inspired by the use of domestic dogs assisting anti-poaching teams in finding snares and poachers.

Upon his return to Painted Dog Conservation, he set about to create a domestic dog anti-poaching program. Zulu is now managing a K9 unit to help his anti-poaching team be more effective in protecting wildlife. 2 anti-poaching team members recently trained with domestic dogs to be used in their new program. The Houston Zoo is supporting this new K9 unit by providing funding for their dog assistance facility.

Every time you visit the Houston Zoo, you are supporting Zulu and the Painted Dog Conservation project, as a portion of every ticket and membership goes to saving animals in the wild.

 

The November Birthstone

November – Is it Citrine or is it Topaz?

For years, those of us – including me – who have November birthdays knew that topaz was our birthstone. Now most birthstone lists say citrine.  Which is it?  Actually, it is both!  While citrine and topaz are different stones, they are both considered to be the birthstone for November.

So, how are they different?

Citrine is a yellow form of quartz. In the days before modern gemology, it was often mistaken for topaz.  Finding a natural citrine is actually rare.  Most of the citrine on the market today is heat treated amethyst.  Who knew if you heated amethyst it turned yellow?  Citrine has a hardness of 7 on the Mohs scale and the color varies from lemon yellow to reddish brown.

Topaz is a silicate like the quartz family but has a hardness of 8. Topaz also has a much wider variety of color.  They can come in yellow, pink, green, purple, orange, blue and white which is clear.

Topaz can be found in Russia, Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa and the U.S. Most citrine is found in Brazil but it can also be found in Russia, France and Madagascar.

There is a lot of history and lore about both stones.

Some of the largest cut gemstone pieces throughout history have been cut out of topaz. Ancient Egyptians believed that topaz received its golden hue from the sun god Ra. Golden Topaz was said to change color in the presence of poisoned food or drink.

Citrine has been said to aid in urinary, kidney and digestive diseases. It was also believed to ward off evil thoughts and protect from the effects of snake venom.  In ancient Greece, citrine was popular between 300 and 150 B.C.  It was also used to adorn weapons by Scottish weapon makers in the 17th century.    Queen Victoria loved citrine.  With the attention and admiration citrine received her parties, it became a part of shoulder brooches and kilt pins in Highland attire.  Even now, it is considered an essential part of the tradition.

What were some of the more notable stones? The Luxembourg Royal Family citrine and pearl tiara and earrings, the citrine and diamond tiaras by Cartier for the coronation ceremony of King George VI in 1937 and Kate Middleton’s citrine drop earrings.   The El Dorado Topaz is the largest faceted gemstone in the world at 31,000 (yes, that’s 31 thousand) carats.  The American Golden Topaz is a whopping 22,892.5 carats and is on display at the Smithsonian Institute.

In the Naturally Wild Swap Shop, you can trade for citrine and topaz both!!

Don’t know about the Naturally Wild Swap Shop? Click here to find out more.

Zoe the Zookeeper’s Halloween Adventure

Written by Dena Honeycutt


Every time you visit the Houston Zoo, you are saving animals in the wild. Zoe the Zookeeper’s Howlerween Adventure (during Zoo Boo) highlights one of the many ways the Houston Zoo helps our partners in the field. The adventure involves four quick kid-friendly games that teaches kids the process of reintroducing injured or rescued wild howler monkeys back into the wilds of Belize.

When you visit the zoo during Zoo Boo, Zoe’s Howlerween Adventure is on the map. Kids will get a stamp in the guide map after each game and at the end of the adventure, they will receive a special Howler Conservation Hero button!

The Primate department has been raising awareness and fundraising for Wildtracks in Belize www.wildtracksbelize.org (rescues, rehabilitates and releases howler monkeys and manatees) since 2009 during Zoo Boo. We also have a merchandise table selling one of kind animal art work and items made by zookeepers. All proceeds benefit Wildtracks. We also have an annual adult-friendly event called Hops for Howlers at Saint Arnolds.

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!

 

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This morning, we humanely euthanized our male, 20-year-old jaguar, Kan Balam. Due to the tremendous care provided to him by his keepers and our veterinary team, Kan Balam lived well beyond his expected lifespan. Jaguars expected lifespan in the wild is between 12-15 years.

The carnivore staff and veterinary team made the decision after his quality of life began to decline. Quality care and continuous advances in veterinary medicine extends animals’ lives longer than ever, with most felines in human care living well beyond previous generations. Because of this, all cats, including domestic house cats and jaguars, often spend a significant phase of their lives as older animals, and are at a higher risk for geriatric complications.

Read more about Kan B, and the love his keepers had for him on our blog: www.houstonzoo.org/blog/mourning-loss-geriatric-jaguar-kan-balam/
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This morning, we humanely euthanized our male, 20-year-old jaguar, Kan Balam.  Due to the tremendous care provided to him by his keepers and our veterinary team, Kan Balam lived well beyond his expected lifespan. Jaguars expected lifespan in the wild is between 12-15 years. 
 
The carnivore staff and veterinary team made the decision after his quality of life began to decline. Quality care and continuous advances in veterinary medicine extends animals’ lives longer than ever, with most felines in human care living well beyond previous generations. Because of this, all cats, including domestic house cats and jaguars, often spend a significant phase of their lives as older animals, and are at a higher risk for geriatric complications.

Read more about Kan B, and the love his keepers had for him on our blog: https://www.houstonzoo.org/blog/mourning-loss-geriatric-jaguar-kan-balam/

 

Comment on Facebook

Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur; happy kitty, sleepy kitty, purr purr purr #RIP #bigbangtheory

I know he lived a lot longer due to the excellent care he got at the Zoo.

Is this the one that had the limp?

I saw him limping about 2 weekends ago. The first time we walked by he was fine. When we walked by on the way out he was limping and moaning pretty loudly. I wondered what happened but I figured his keeper already knew or would find out shortly. Super Sad. He was always a lively one.

This was my daughters favorite critter at the Zoo. We always went to say hello to him before anyone else whenever we went. When she was 7 years old we sent a post out to out neighborhood on Halloween saying Paisley was asking for pocket change donations in lieu of candy for Halloween and all amounts would be donated to Kan thru the zoo. She raised over $40 in coins! I still have the letter from the zoo thanking her for her donation. He was a sweet boy and will be missed. 😔

Jaguar habitat is in the Zoo or Jungle's? ??or is only entertainments for person's? ??$$$$$$$!.Sorry animals the person's don't love you ..

Dunno if the Zoo staff considered him a pet but he was certainly a family member, and because of that i offer this: RainbowBridge Author Unknown Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable. All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind. They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster. You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart. Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

Aww. When interning in the carnivore dept he was one of my faves. So smart! Ashley remember when Angie was teaching him to do the moonwalk after Michael Jackson passed?

Sending love to the keepers that are broken hearted right now. And thank you for all the care you’ve given.

Sorry to hear about your loss. We also lost a jaguar(melanistic variety) at Reid Park Zoo about a year ago. Nikita was 21 years old and was euthanized due to health-related issues. Sad, but they have a GOOD life at the zoo! No predators, a steady food supply, medical attention, loving kindness from her keeper(s) and admiration by the public. Geriatric animals have unique problems and we are blessed to get to know them as long as we do.

Thank you Houston Zoo for taking such good care of him and all the animals! I've been going to this zoo since I was little bitty. I always enjoy it.

Beautiful jaguar ....so grateful for the Houston Zoo keepers and veterinary team that gave their time and efforts to share this awesome jaguar with us for so many years.

He was well-cared for and most of all well-loved. My heartfelt condolences to those missing Kan B as well as me. What an amazing ambassador for his kind. What a beautiful old gentleman. Thank you for loving him into old age and giving him peace.

What a great long life he lived because of his excellent care at the zoo Thoughts go out to his keepers and the entire Houston Zoo staff

Thank you for doing what was right and kind for Kan Balam even though it was hard and painful for you. That’s true love for an animal. ❤️

RIP Kan Balam. You have given the visitors so much pleasure just watching you over these years. You were taken care of by top notch professional handlers, etc.

I'm so sorry for your loss. Thanks for taking such great care of him so he was able to live a long life. My thoughts are with his keepers and all who adored him. <3

Jaguars are one of my favorite and he seems like a sweet boy. I'm so sad but I'm happy he can be painless and be free now. RIP❤️

The Houston Zoo staff has lost several animals this year and I am sure each one is so hard to go through.

Aww I’m so sorry for the loss, I’ve seen him many times, he was absolutely gorgeous! I’m glad that you guys were able to make him comfortable, sometimes the best thing we can do is let them be at peace. Will miss this handsome guy; play hard at the Rainbow Bridge friend, day hi to my cat, Junior for me!! Much love to the HZI staff!!

I am soo sorry for the loss of this handsome fella Kan Balam. May he rest in peace and run free or any pain over the rainbow bridge.. My heart and prayers go out to each and every one of the staff at the Zoo.

Katie Rose Buckley-Jones I won’t ever forget the time you asked him to bring something and he ripped off a piece of cardboard and tried to hand it to you ❤️ thank you for introducing me to him. Sending you guys many hugs

So sorry to the keeping staff for your loss i cant imagine how youre feeling :( his old age is a testimony to the amazing care he received

I will miss him. The last time I saw him he looked tired, and it appeared his foot was bothering him.

Sad to hear of this. Thanks for taking such good and compassionate care for him and the other animals.

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Social Media Guy to Sea Lion Keeper: Can you send me a pic of you working with the sea lions in this chilly weather?

Sea Lion Keeper: Sure... (sends picture next to sea lion statue)

SMG: I'm still using this.
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Social Media Guy to Sea Lion Keeper: Can you send me a pic of you working with the sea lions in this chilly weather?

Sea Lion Keeper: Sure... (sends picture next to sea lion statue)

SMG: Im still using this.

 

Comment on Facebook

Are there some zoo animals that enjoy this weather?

SMG is another reason why Houston Zoo is the best Zoo!

Happy New Year “sea lion keeper “ 💖💖

More snow for TJ and Max ❤️ lucky them!

Are we positive that’s the statue rather than it really just being that cold? 😛

That’s my best friend Sophie for ya! 😂

Brrrrr

Omg the Zoo is so awesome 😂😂😂 Alana Berry

Omg be warm sweetoe

Haha!! Good one!

Sweetie 💞

Ashley Jucker 😂

Lauren Gonzales

Mike DePope

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