Unusual Pollinators and the Plants They Love

We are all familiar with bees and butterflies as pollinators.  But, did you know there are some very unexpected and unusual pollinators?  Read on to learn about a few of them.

The largest of the pollinators is a mammal!  The Black and White Ruffed Lemur from Madagascar pollinates the Travelers Palm also known as the Travelers Tree.   Compared to the most common pollinators, these guys are huge.  They have a body length of 10-22 inches and a tail length of 24-26”.  Quite a bit bigger than say a monarch butterfly with a 4-inch wingspan.  They primarily eat fruit but seeds, leaves and nectar are also part of their diet.

How about lizards and skinks and geckos?  Oh my!  The Noronha Skink pollinates the Mulungu tree in Brazil.  The Mulungu is used by the indigenous peoples in Brazil as a medicine.  Then there is the Blue Tailed gecko from the Island of Mauritius who pollinates the Trochetia flower.  The Trochetia is the national flower of Mauritius.  In New Zealand, more than 50 geckos along with birds and bees pollinate the metrosideas excelsa tree.  This tree blooms around December and has vibrantly colored blooms earning it the nickname “Christmas Tree”.   AND, in Tasmania a native snow skink visits the Richea scoparia plant. The Richea scoparia blooms in the summer with flowers that make the plant look like it is covered in candles and are a food source for wallabies.

Have you ever heard of a rodent pollinator?  Spiny Mice in Africa pollinate the Protea or sugarbush plant. The Protea got its name from Proteus, the son of Poseidon and the King protea is the national flower of South Africa.    Africa is also home to the Bush baby.  These animals get their name from the childlike wailing vocalization they make, and they pollinate the iconic Baobab Tree.

Australia has some interesting pollinators too.  The Sugar Gliders pollinate the Banksia species and the adorable Honey Possum pollinates several plants.  Honey Possum don’t actually eat honey and live on nectar and pollen.  They feed on Banksia, Bottlebrushes, Heaths and the Kangaroo Paw Plant among others.

Why are all pollinators important?  Without them we would lose 1/3 of the world’s agriculture crops along with essentials like coffee, tequila and chocolate.  What can you do to help?  Plant a pollinator garden!  You can also bring in pictures of your pollinator garden to the Houston Zoo’s Swap Shop.  You will be registered as a Pollinator Pal and earn points to spend in the shop.  That is a win-win!

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

Snakes Aren’t the Enemy

Written by Judith Bryja


Throughout much of human history, snakes have been among the most maligned and persecuted groups of animals.  The unreasonable fear of snakes is quite prevalent in our society and myths and misconceptions abound whenever snakes are brought up in conversation. The general public conception is that snakes are the “enemy” and should be killed on sight

The news media also plays a role in shaping this attitude.  Most publicity concerning snakes is of a negative nature.  Venomous snakebites often receive extensive local media coverage far beyond the actual threat to human life.  Rarely is it pointed out that the chances of death from a venomous snakebite are considerably less than the chances of dying from a lightning strike or from an insect bite or sting (Bureau of Vital Statistics, Texas Department of Health).

These fears persist despite overwhelming evidence, both scientific and anecdotal, on the important roles that snakes play in a healthy ecosystem.  Many scientific articles point to the value of snake species in food chains in temperate and tropical ecosystems.  Areas where snakes are removed often display a population explosion of rodents, usually to the detriment of nearby agricultural enterprises.

Out of all snakes, the rattlesnakes probably have received more unjust notoriety and have been persecuted needlessly more than any other group, especially in the United States.  It is doubtful that any other animal group is more feared or less understood by the general public.  This persecution has reached such a point that, in some states (seven, to be exact), “Rattlesnake Roundups” are a popular fund-raising event for organizations such as the local Chamber of Commerce or the Jaycees.  The largest of these roundups is held each March in Sweetwater, Texas and shows no sign of diminishing in spite of recent criticism by many private herpetological organizations, various nature and conservation societies, and many animal welfare groups. Roundups are cruel affairs.

Slowly, however, the bad reputation that snakes have had is changing, even when rattlesnakes are involved.  Several traditional roundups are now educational festivals where snakes are not killed and people can learn about them and see them up close.  One fairly new event that the Houston Zoo supports is Lone Star Rattlesnake Days.  LSRD will be held this October 12-14 at Texas Discovery Gardens in Fair Park, Dallas in conjunction with the Texas State Fair.  There will be lots of snakes to see up close, venom extractions done by professionals, activities for the kids, and zookeepers to talk to.  Please visit www.rattlesnakepreservationtrust.org and the Lone Star Rattlesnake Days Facebook page for more information.

October’s Featured Members: The Phillips 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  Zoo Member that deserves recognition. We’re thrilled to introduce you to October’s Featured Members: The Phillips Family

We asked the Phillips family to tell us a little about what being Zoo Members meant to them.


The Phillips family is comprised of parents Jennifer and William, as well as their adult daughter Catherine and teenage son Andrew who are both volunteers in addition to being members of the Houston Zoo.

Jennifer and William: We have been members of the Houston Zoo for so long that I can’t remember not being a member!  We have experienced the tremendous amount of growth and change the Zoo has gone through and eagerly anticipate the newest additions to Bears and Texas Wetlands. One of the reasons we continue to enjoy visiting year after year remains in the fact that nothing remains the same from visit to visit.  Each time we visit a different animal or feature catches our eye and attention!  On recent visits I have particularly enjoyed the Red River Hogs, the Mole Rats, and the growth of last summer’s babies – Pepper and Joy.  We also appreciate that the Zoo has extended its outreach to aid endangered species in other countries and promote ways that we can help the environment just by changing a few habits. My car is now stocked with reusable shopping bags.  My children also shamed me into forgoing plastic straws for plastic free July!

I love the flexibility our membership brings so that we can just drop in for a quick visit or for a special event. When my kids are volunteering, I frequently arrive an hour early and make it a point to visit a different area. The Zoo Cool Nights in particular have been a lot of fun the past few summers.  It is so pleasant and magical to be in the Zoo as it gets to be evening and many of the animals are more active.  Our original membership was a gift from my parents and it has definitely been the gift that keeps on giving!

Catherine: Being a member of the Houston Zoo from a very young age introduced me to many causes that I remain passionate about to this day. I loved volunteering at the Zoo as a teen, so I decided to continue my journey as an adult volunteer! I now attend college in San Antonio, but I always make it a point to come volunteer during school holidays and breaks. I have volunteered for about 8 years now and have been a member of the Zoo for a much longer period of time! What keeps me coming back to the Houston Zoo is its authenticity and demonstrated passion for both conservation and guest service. I feel so honored to be even a small part of an organization that does so much for our community and natural world. I’m sure many volunteers and members alike feel the same. If you have any interest in being an adult volunteer I highly recommend applying!

Andrew: I was so lucky to be a Zoo member throughout my childhood. Some of my favorite memories have involved the Houston Zoo, including being part of Zoo Crew. Being involved in this educational program for Teenagers 13 to 17 years old has taught me how to conserve and protect animals in a world dominated by single-use packaging, negative attitudes, and uninformed people! My volunteer engagement this summer has been as member of the Teen Leadership Council/Lead Naturalist. This position allowed me to mentor the Zoo Crew Explorers as they underwent two weeks of educating Zoo visitors about our six unique Take Action Initiatives (Plastic Recycling and Reduction, Sustainable Seafood, Paper Reduction and Recycling, Electronic Device Recycling and Reduction, Pollinator Awareness, Sustainable Palm Oil). I’m already looking forward to next summer’s adventure!

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

September’s Featured Members: The Woolard 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  Zoo Member that deserves recognition. We’re thrilled to introduce you to September’s Featured Members: The Woolard Family.


We asked the Woolard family to tell us a little about what being Zoo Members meant to them. Here’s what they had to say.

Curiosity is the Fuel for discovery, inquiry and learning! What better way to learn, explore, question and foster a love for animals and our world than at our Houston Zoo!  Each year my daughters are gifted with a Houston Zoo Membership by their Gran.  My mom brought me to the zoo when I was younger, and she wanted to make sure her grandkids had the same opportunity to enjoy and explore nature by being surrounded by animals from all over the world.

We have been zoo members for over 4 years and could not imagine not having our zoo membership. During the summer we spend at least one day a week, if not more at the zoo. Our membership allows us time to slow down and explore every animal and learning opportunity the zoo has! We love going early in the morning to watch the elephants get their bath and attend as many meet the keeper talks as possible. Members only mornings give us a more intimate setting and allows us to feel like it is “our” zoo.

The girls each have favorite animals that we must see each time. Lillian loves the Tortoise’s and aquarium, Lola loves the lions, tigers and cougar, while Lyzabeth enjoys the fish, otters and Gorilla’s.  We all love the otters and elephants! One of our favorite parts of the zoo is the splash pad and carousel. They are typically the last thing or the “icing on the cake” of our trip! The girls know that will be the last place we go no matter where we start.

We enter the zoo and each time we chose a different path. Each path is familiar yet different. No matter how many times we go to the zoo each time is unique and different. Our zoo is every changing, yet they manage to hold on to things from the past that make our zoo so special. One of these is the Lion water fountain. I remember using that water fountain when I was young and seeing it brings back memories from my childhood. My girls think it is the neatest thing in the world and it is a staple for our trips.

I recently learned (last September) That Shasta the UH mascot and I share the same birthday month, I could be wrong, but I think we also share the same birthday (September 28).

Two events we look forward to each year are Zoo Boo and Zoobilee. My kids love Halloween and the zoo goes above and beyond to make it special, fun and exciting. We dress up and spend the entire day at the zoo. We dance, trick or treat and enjoy all the fun activities such as mazes, pumpkin patch and bounce houses. Zoo Boo is a great activity for kids of all ages and there is no shortage of things to do during this event.

Zoobilee has become a must do in our household and this year we took the day off from school to spend at the zoo. My best friends and their children went with us.  We had a total of 11 people in our group (3 adults and 8 kids)! Thanks to my membership we didn’t have to buy any extra tickets. We spent 8 hours at the zoo that day and not one kid cried! Why you ask? The zoo made sure that everywhere you went you felt like a VIP! The kids were overwhelmed with the amount of “extras” offered to them including ice cream, spray tattoos, leather stamp bracelets and games. So many animals were out, and we had the opportunity to pet them. We had a blast playing the Texans football throw, sack races and Dynamo games. Zoobilee is an amazing event we do not miss!

Something new we did this year was Zoolights. We had not had the opportunity to go and I am so glad we made time to go this year. The lights were so beautiful, and it made for a different atmosphere walking through the zoo after dark.

Our zoo membership not only allows us to create memories for our family but also to bring our extended family with us when they come to visit. My nephew spends the summer with us and we can take him for no charge because of our package. That also means when his mom, dad and my niece come we can all go together.

The Houston Zoo is family friendly and educational. We go to the zoo so often, yet I have never left without learning something new. I am a teacher and the zoo helps me foster a love of learning in my girls. My oldest daughter has decided to be a marine biologist specializing in sea turtles and wants to one day be an oceanic advisor to the president. The Houston Zoo brings the ocean close and she can learn about animals right here in her own back yard. It keeps the love of learning alive and growing.

I could talk about all the wonderful things the Houston Zoo has to offer but honestly, one trip and you will know. A membership to the Houston Zoo is the perfect gift. My girls know when their membership runs out and they start bugging my mom about a month ahead just to make sure she doesn’t forget.

The Houston Zoo is a staple of Houston. Our summers would be so boring without the zoo not to mention our Halloween and Christmas.

From all of us here at the Houston Zoo, we want to say thank you to the Woolards 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 Goers are Saving Marine Wildlife in Argentina

Join the sea lion team at their SOS event June 9th from 10am-3pm

Just a short drive from Galveston, the Houston Zoo has strong ties to the Texas coast. Regular participation by staff in sea turtle surveys and beach cleanups help to keep our local marine wildlife safe, as do efforts to reduce our plastic intake by going plastic bag and bottle free on Zoo grounds.  However, with animal ambassadors from all over the world in our care, our goal is to not just protect local marine life, but to help our ocean dwelling friends like sea turtles, sea lions, and sea birds all around the globe! This Saturday, June 9th from 10am to 3pm the Houston Zoo’s sea lion team will be hosting a spotlight on species (SOS) event in celebration of World Oceans Day, where you can learn more about these efforts and support projects like the one run by our partner Dr. Marcela Uhart in Argentina.

A veterinarian and long-time conservationist, Dr. Uhart works with the University of California Davis as the Regional Director of the Latin American Program at the Wildlife Health Center. For over 20 years, Dr. Uhart has focused on the health of marine species, and works to protect a variety of animals such as sea turtles, sea lions, sea birds, and whales. Much like the work we are doing here, Dr. Uhart and her team are able to best protect marine species through efforts to reduce marine debris. In 2017, these efforts were carried out in a variety of ways:

  • With the help of over 300 volunteers, the team completed their 2nd marine debris census and beach cleanup. The cleanup covered 13 coastal towns near Buenos Aires, and resulted in the collection of 40,000 debris items – 82% of the items recovered were plastics.
    Results of the 2nd marine debris census
  • During April and May 2017 the team performed weekly beach surveys, covering over 100 miles (that’s similar to the distance from the Zoo to Texas A&M University) of Buenos Aires province coastline. These surveys resulted in the discovery of 30 deceased sea turtles, an improvement over the numbers found in 2016. Determining the cause of death can help to influence policy and the promotion of better commercial fishing practices.
  • Additionally, the team also hosted a workshop on a method called Community Based Social Marketing (CBSM), a method of creating changes in behavior by identifying and addressing barriers and benefits individuals or communities may face as a result of a change. An introduction to CBSM was presented to 24 local participants, providing them with tools to improve their impact on public policies in their communities as well as help them more effectively drive cultural and behavioral changes in citizens, with the common goal of reducing pollution of the coastal environment.
    Volunteers helping with a beach clean up in Argentina

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are extremely proud of all of the hard work Dr. Uhart and her team are putting in to save marine species, and we can’t wait to see what they are able to accomplish in the coming months. By attending the sea lion team’s SOS event this Saturday, you will be helping to support Dr. Uhart’s efforts to host a second behavior change workshop for the local communities. In addition to providing training, funding will assist in being able track results from data collected this year, all in an effort to reduce marine debris on the beaches of Argentina.

Behind the Scenes with the SPARK Team

Written by Celina Burgueño


The wide brim of my hat is slipping down over my eyebrows. I push it back, reaching my other hand around to check the switch of my microphone. It’s pushed to the left: on, just like it has been the last fourteen times I repeated this routine. The audience is pouring into the space, filling the room all the way to my toes, but is oblivious to my presence, focused on the stage at the front. I take a few steps backwards, stand in the corner and calm myself, shaking out one limb at a time until the hat slips forward again. I push it back one last time and take a deep breath as the opening announcement is made and the crowd goes silent for the start of the SPARK World Tour.

Of course, to call it a “World Tour” is a bit of an exaggeration. It was one stop, 15 minutes down the road. What is not an exaggeration is how much it thrilled our SPARK Team trio. If you’re a reader of these blogs, you’ll have seen the post a few months back about what it is that our SPARK Team does for the zoo. If you haven’t, I can summarize it in this: we are a three-person team focused on guest engagement on zoo grounds. And as much as our trio loves that role, we always talk about our biggest dream: to take our work beyond the zoo gates. This was especially true for our favorite project, The Conservation League of Heroes, the SPARK team’s fifteen-minute play of antics focused on how recycling plastic saves sea turtles.

As the busy summer crowds at the Zoo were winding down with the start of school, it seemed our beloved show was heading towards a winter hiatus. Then came MacGregor Elementary School. With the support of the Zoo, the students at MacGregor held a loose change fundraiser, raising over $1500 for the Tiger Conservation Campaign in honor of their school mascot, and we wanted to congratulate that work. But how? It had to be something that could go to the students instead of bringing 550 of them to us. It had to be something that would engage children spanning in age from pre-k to fifth grade. And it had to be something that would remind them they could continue to save animals in the wild, long after their fundraiser had ended. It had to be The Conservation League of Heroes.

The long road to the tour is running on looped montage in my mind as I stand behind the crowd, ready to make my entrance: the first performance for Camp Zoofari, the trims and additions to the script, building the pop-art style “Conservation Wall of Fame”, the slips and falls every time we practice the chase scene. 20 minutes later there’s a new clip for the montage: the way it looked from the stage when every hand in the auditorium filled the air, curled into the shape of a C, as the students recited our Conservation Pledge, those last few, monumental minutes of the play:

I pledge to be a hero, take action big and small.
To help protect our planet, for once and for all.

No matter how many stops our World Tour makes, I think that moment will always be my favorite.

Meet Wesley

If you are a regular here at the Houston Zoo, you might have noticed an unfamiliar animal face in the John P. McGovern’s Children Zoo. It is a very interesting and unique face, and one that most guests might not recognize immediately. While we are in the midst of some rearranging and exhibit construction, one of our very special Ambassador Animals has been taking a daily vacation out on exhibit. Wesley has been enjoying his time in the public eye, but he has left many guests scratching their heads trying to figure out just exactly what type of animal he is.

Keepers have gotten many different guesses from guests over the past few weeks, but we will just go ahead and tell you that Wesley is a Patagonian cavy or mara. While he may look similar to a rabbit, he is not actually closely related to rabbits. Wesley is a type of rodent, and you could think of him as a giant version of a guinea pig, or a smaller version of a capybara.

Rodents are one of the most diverse groups of mammals on the planet, and they comprise over 40% of all mammal species!* Rodents can look very different, but the one thing they have in common is their teeth. All rodents have two pairs of incisors, their front teeth, that continue growing for their entire lives. Rodents use their teeth in many different ways: beavers gnaw down trees to build dams and lodges, porcupines eat bark and twigs from trees and mole rats use their teeth to excavate their burrows.

Cavies/maras, like Wesley, can be found on the pampas grass plains of Argentina. Maras are grazing animals. They feed on grasses and live in communal burrows, which they dig themselves. Maras use their long legs to evade predators, and can reach speeds of 20 – 25 mph. Maras are considered “threatened” in the wild. The major threats they face are habitat loss and competition from invasive species, such as European hares.

By visiting the Houston Zoo and recycling your paper products, you can help save animals like Wesley in the wild.

*Animal Diversity Web – University of Michigan Museum of Zoology

Sea Turtle Rescues in Christmas Bay, Part 2

Many of you may remember a post from a few weeks back about Justin, a local community member, and sea turtle superhero. Justin has a passion for sea turtles, and while he works full-time in the city, you can find him during his down time saving sea turtles all along the Texas Coast. The last time we caught up with Justin, he and his son Trenton had come to the aid of almost a dozen sea turtles that had been cold-stunned in early December. Since sea turtles are cold-blooded reptiles, they have to use the environment and sun to regulate their body temperature. If the water temperature drops too quickly and the turtles can’t get to warmer waters, their bodies shut down and need help. With the recent cold front, Justin and his three children Cheyenne, Trenton, and Emma, headed back out to Christmas Bay in search of turtles in need of rescue.

Justin was able to make it out to Christmas Bay four days during the first week of January, braving the worst of the cold weather. Over the course of the week, Justin and his kids picked up a total of 20 sea turtles! Unfortunately, 3 of these turtles had already passed away, but the 17 remaining turtles are receiving care from our partners at NOAA Fisheries in Galveston. The NOAA Fisheries Galveston Laboratory operates a sea turtle research and wild sea turtle rehabilitation center. This facility is the only one of its kind in the world, raising hundreds of turtles each year for fisheries and biological research while also serving as a sea turtle hospital for the upper Texas Gulf coast. The Houston Zoo assists NOAA with weekly sea turtle surveys along the Texas coast, and the veterinary team provides care for any sick or injured sea turtles that NOAA brings in. When speaking of NOAA, Justin said: “I will never be able to thank Lyndsey and the team in Galveston at NOAA enough for the work they do on a daily basis to rescue, rehabilitate, and ultimately release these beautiful animals back into the wild.” As for Justin, he’ll be out there for as long as the turtles need his help – after rescuing his first turtle entangled in line 6 or 7 years ago, he was hooked on what he refers to as both his passion, and obsession. While his wife dedicates her time to pet rescue efforts, Justin says there’s nothing he would rather do with his time than rescue sea turtles and make sure they are able to return safely back into the wild.

If temperatures drop quickly in our area, please be on the lookout for cold-stunned turtles in the bay. If you find one, please report it immediately by calling 1-866-TURTLE-5.

Zoo Crew Alumna Reflects on Experiences

Written by Maya Kanani
Five years ago, I first stepped foot into the Brown Education Center at the Houston Zoo. I had visited the zoo as a child, but never been inside that building in particular. Visiting for orientation for Zoo Crew, I knew very few people, and was embarking on a journey unlike anything I had ever tried before. But, I am so glad I did because it led to some of the best experiences of my life.

Zoo Crew is a program which allows teenagers to learn about the inner workings of the zoo. There are numerous avenues down which they can go, including being a camp mentor, theatrical performer, a naturalist who teaches guests about specific animals, or even a junior zookeeper. Each of these paths teaches Zoo Crew members about the zoo, animals, and guest interactions.

I began the program as a Camp Mentor. As a 13 year old, I was generally placed in camps with younger kids, but through my three years of working with Camp Zoofari, I gradually had the opportunity to work with a wide array of age groups and campers. My fourth year, I was selected to be a Junior Zookeeper in Kipp Aquarium. I continued in this position this past, my final, summer. The experiences taught me so much, but in addition to that, were incredibly memorable and unique.

Though I have had many, many unforgettable moments working at the zoo, the one that stands out to me most was from my last day. As I mentioned before, I worked in the aquarium, which houses the giant Pacific octopus. As a part of her enrichment, one of the things the octopus does is paint, a task which involves PVC pipe, lots of paint, and even more shrimp. As a last day gift, the keepers in the aquarium had her paint for me, and that painting, though abstract in subject matter, has so much meaning to me.

There is so much I could discuss in regards to my experiences as a part of Zoo Crew, but more than anything, I am just thankful for all of the opportunities I was given. When I found out that I was one of the recipients of the Zoo Crew scholarship, my first thought was how grateful I was that my hard work and dedication to the program had allowed me this opportunity. Everything I experienced through Zoo Crew, and now accepting this scholarship, has been nothing short of remarkable.

Through Zoo Crew, I learned, not only about conservation of habitats and animals, but also about the people who are so dedicated to protecting them. It truly opened my eyes to the impact people can play on the world when they make the effort to protect the earth, a lesson I will keep with me in all my future endeavors.

-Maya Kanani, 2017 Zoo Crew Scholarship Recipient

 


2017 Zoo Crew Scholarship Recipients

Every year, the Houston Zoo Teen Programs honors several exceptional teens from our Zoo Crew program with a $1,000 scholarship. Recipients are chosen based on their dedication and outstanding performance in the Zoo Crew program. These are teens who have dedicated countless hours of their time to educating our guests, mentoring our campers, and caring for our animals. The scholarships are funded by The Houston Zoo, Don and Diane Kendall, Karen Hinson, Bobbi Samuels, Barbara Goldfield, and generous donations from Houston Zoo Volunteers. This year we awarded five scholarships to five bright, passionate, and motivated teens. Meet the 2017 Zoo Crew scholarship recipients!

Maya Kanani

My name is Maya Kanani and I’m a senior at Bellaire High School this year. I joined Zoo Crew the summer before my eighth grade year, and have done it ever since. I began as a camp counsellor for Camp Zoofari, then transferred to working in Kipp Aquarium, which I have done for the past two years. I have loved everything about my experience as a part of the Zoo Crew team and have learned so much working with the staff there. Throughout my five years, I got to work with so many different people and animals, which opened my mind so much and led me to try new things. In college, I am looking into the liberal arts path, and possibly majoring in journalism. I have been a part of my school newspaper staff for three years, this year as both paper and online editor-in-chief, as well as been a photography student, and written for the Buzz Magazines for four years. I love both writing and photography and hope I can pursue both in college and my life after college.


Remi Pattyn

Hello, my name is Remi Pattyn and I am the first born outside of Europe in my family. I am currently entering my senior year of high school, and I plan on attending UNT or Texas State once I graduate. I’ve always had a passion for animals, and I’ve always been around zoos! As a member of Zoo Crew I have been given opportunities that very few people ever get in their lives, to follow and be a part of an organization and community that they want to spend so much of their time being a part of. Since starting my Zoo Crew career as a teen educator and just finishing this previous summer as a junior herpetology keeper, I have learned so much about myself and what I wanted to do with my future. It was getting to be around the zoo so much and getting to know some of the people that work here that has influenced my decision to get on the path towards becoming a keeper at the Houston Zoo. With the scholarship granted to me by the zoo I plan on studying ecology and/or wildlife biology in college. And with that education and my experience at the zoo I hope to return and get started on that career as a full time keeper at the Houston Zoo.


Julia Moacyr

Animals have always been my driving passion, as from a very young age I knew I had to work with all kinds of animals. The Zoo Crew program has solidified in my mind that after college I want to work at a zoo as a keeper in order to help take care of animals, and educate guests on the importance of conservation and wildlife. My plans are to go to Sam Houston State University and major in animal sciences, with a minor in wildlife management. I hope to intern at the Houston Zoo, while in college, and volunteer to get as much experience under my belt before graduating and applying for a job as a keeper. This program has given me some of the greatest memories I could ever have wished for, and I am very grateful to have been selected for this scholarship.


Emily Ostermaier

My name is Emily Ostermaier and I was honored to be a recipient of the 2017 Zoo Crew Scholarship! I am an art student at my high school and I also surf for fun! I play three instruments: piano, guitar, and clarinet. I have learned a lot while in Zoo Crew, including the need to conserve our environment and resources for the sake of the animals that share this planet with us. I also learned a lot about the care of various types of animals, ranging from the marine life in the aquarium to the primates, while being granted the opportunity to help keepers behind the scenes day-to-day. My experience here was one I will never forget. After 5 years of service, I decided that the best-fit field for me was one involving science. I am interested in pursuing a biological degree in Genetics as an undergraduate at Texas A&M University at College Station and then going onto Medical School to become a physician.


Sydney Han

I am a senior attending the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. There I love to play the flute, participate in STEM Club, and spend time with my friends. And although I am passionate about music, I plan to major in either Biology or Biochemistry in college (while continuing to play flute on the side). I have volunteered at the zoo for three years as a camp mentor and enjoy interacting with and teaching the kids all about the animals at the zoo. Volunteering has helped me gain a better understanding of habitat loss and the importance of conservation. It has also helped me see a future in working with kids. For the time being, I want to become a pediatrician, but I’m keeping my options open!

 

Elephant Population Increases on Island of Borneo

Our wildlife protection partners in Borneo have recently announced that the population of elephants has doubled over the past 10 years! 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.

Here at home we continue to promote these partnerships at our McNair Asian Elephant Habitat, giving our Houston community the opportunity to learn about our herd of elephants at the zoo, and their wild counterparts. To learn more about our partnerships and how you can help Bornean elephants on and off zoo grounds click here.

 

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