August’s Featured Members – The Riley 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 Zoo Members that deserve recognition. We’re thrilled to introduce you to August’s Featured Members: the Riley family.


We asked the Riley’s to share a little bit about what being Zoo Members meant to her family. Here’s what she had to say.

“We have been members of the Houston Zoo for the past three years.  We have two sons, Cormac, 5, and Kellan, 3, and the zoo is one of our regular attractions.  Since the boys were walking, we have enjoyed planning weekend adventures where we explore areas of Houston such as walks along the railroad tracks, hiking trails in Memorial Park, museums, Hermann Park and the Houston Zoo.  We visit the zoo a few times each month and both our boys are animal fans and have their favorites, Kellan the elephants and Cormac the cheetahs.  Kellan enjoys looking through the fence and watching all of the construction equipment building out the new elephant facility and is excited for it to open.

Our family lives inside the loop and it’s a great way to get outside and learn about the animals around the world.

There is a great range of animals to see.  We recently visited Animal Kingdom at Disneyworld and the boys were excited that they had seen okapis and Egyptian longhorns in Houston when we came across these animals on the safari. The boys also love trains so we can make a fun day of it by riding the Metro light rail from downtown and walk through Hermann Park to the zoo entrance.

Our regular zoo stops include the tunnel through the piranhas, the elephants, the cheetah statue, the carousel and the gorilla exhibit, since they like high platforms and the watching the gorillas up close through the glass in the air conditioned areas.  Feeding lettuce to the giraffes is another favorite along with eating lunch on the patios next to the giraffes or rhinoceros.   Some of our favorite times to visit are days where the weather isn’t always cooperative.  There were a few of these rainy mornings where it felt like we were the only ones there.  The animals are often out and we enjoyed the gorilla exhibit as if it were a private event.

One of the best features of being a zoo member is that you can go as many times as you like and even visit for short periods of time on weekend mornings, especially with the boys at their young ages, since birthday parties are a regular event later in the day.  Birthday parties at the zoo make it even better.  The early morning membership Saturdays are another favorite.  Both kids are early risers, so we can get up and out to the zoo at 8am.   We were able to hear talks on the elephants, see the piranhas being fed and the zoo staff is ready to visit and answer questions.  Five year-olds have a lot of questions.

The different special events at the zoo are great for the boys and the Zoo Membership News keeps us current on what is in store so we can plan for it.  The boys were excited to meet Spiderman and Iron Man last Fall, enjoyed the dinosaur animatronics and Zoo Lights and Zoo Boo are annual traditions for the Riley boys and our extended family.

We will continue making the zoo a regular weekend activity for years to come.  We thank all of the Houston Zoo staff for keeping it fun, clean and always scheduling interesting events.” – The Riley family

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

 

Campers Championing Conservation!

Every summer, the Houston Zoo welcomes over 2,000 campers into our summer camp program: Camp Zoofari.  These children spend a week learning about the Houston Zoo, its amazing animals, and all the ways we are working to save animals in the wild.  We wanted to increase our emphasis on conservation actions and engage our campers to feel empowered that THEY can truly make a difference, no matter how old they are! Thus the Water Bottle Pledge and the Trash Audit Program came into being.

It is no secret that summers in Houston can be brutally hot.  Staying hydrated is a must, especially for our campers.   Starting on Monday, the first day of the camp week, we start highlighting the importance of reducing plastic use.  One of the easiest ways we can do this is by using a reusable water bottle.  This helps marine life, like sea turtles.  On Wednesday, the middle of the camp week, we give the campers the opportunity to make a personal pledge:   to use a reusable water bottle through the rest of the summer to help save sea turtles in the wild.  If they chose to take the pledge, they are able to decorate a water droplet and then place it on the pledge banner.  This has been a huge hit with our campers so far this summer!  Each week, we get well over 100 pledges.  Campers point out the pledge banners to their parents and even ask to have their picture taken next to their pledge sign.

Another way campers are helping to save animals is through our lunch Trash Audit Program. Campers are quick to point out that recycling is important in helping to save wildlife and natural spaces. Toward this end, our campers are challenged each day to bring reusable lunch items when able, and to properly recycle when they cannot. Each day after lunch, the camper waste is weighed versus the weight of recyclable materials brought. So far, each camp week has increased their percentage of recyclable materials and on average are recycling 16% of what they bring for lunch. To assist in this effort, signs have been posted on the trash bins and recycle bins at lunch showing pictures of items that can and cannot be recycled. Campers enjoy matching their items to the pictures each week as they explore what can and cannot be tossed into the recycle bins!

Through these two programs, campers are making a difference for wildlife and demonstrating how everyone can make a difference! We encourage you to take on these challenges within your own home!

 

Four Sea Turtles Treated at the Houston Zoo

The Houston Zoo provided veterinary care for four sea turtles on July 7. The four turtles were rescued by our partners at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administraion (NOAA) in Galveston and brought to our Animals Hospital for care. All four have all gone back to Galveston where they will be rehabilitated by NOAA until they are strong enough to be released back into the Gulf of Mexico. 

We are so fortunate to have sea turtles in our Texas waters, and it is easy for us to all be sea turtle conservation heroes! A few simple actions taken by our community can help protect sea turtles in the wild:

1) If you accidentally catch a sea turtle while fishing, please call 1-866-TURTLE-5 so a biologist can come out and respond to the turtle-giving it adequate care and attention.

2) Switch from plastic grocery bags to reusable grocery bags-our plastic bags are light and fly away easily. They can end up in our bayous and float to the ocean. Sea turtles mistake them for jellyfish, and when ingested can make them sick.

3) If you eat seafood, choose ocean-friendly seafood! Download the FREE Seafood Watch app to use on your phone. It will help tell you what seafood is best to eat because it is caught or farmed in an ocean-friendly way that protects wildlife like sea turtles, dolphins, and sharks.

 

July’s Featured Members – The Bowles 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 Zoo Members that deserve recognition. We’re thrilled to introduce you to July’s Featured Members: the Bowles family.


We asked Mrs. Bowles to share a little bit about what being Zoo Members meant to her family. Here’s what she had to say.

Bowles family feeding giraffes at San Diego Zoo

“Our unintentional journey to become Houston Zoo members began about 2 years ago.  We decided to take our granddaughter to San Diego for spring break and visit their famous zoo.  Little did we know that visit would profoundly affect us and change our way of thinking.  We took a couple of tours at the zoo and were very impressed by the incredible work being done to protect animals and educate the public.  On one of the stops, we were treated to the sight of a herd of rhinoceroses including one of the last surviving white rhinos.  Hearing the story of the near destruction of this species caused a deep sense of sadness and despair in our hearts.  I realized then that my granddaughter’s children and grandchildren would probably only be able to see many animals because of the research, dedication and work of zoos both nationally and internationally.  I vowed then to do something to help these efforts.

Arriving home, I began to research zoos close to me in Texas.  I found that the Houston Zoo is one of the highest rated zoos not only in Texas, but also in the nation.  My husband and I decided to become members.  We then visited the zoo and took one of the Encounter Tours.  We had such a wonderful time, we returned and went on a Behind the Scenes tour.  Both times, we were in awe of how much we learned from the guides and the keepers and also the deep care and concern they have for the animals.  Walking around the zoo was such a pleasant and happy experience that we are determined to go as often as possible and enjoy all of the Animal Encounter and Behind the Scenes tours available.  We also decided to become Asante members and have included the Houston Zoo in our legacy giving.  Now we feel hope rather than despair knowing we are part of the Houston Zoo team’s efforts to keep so many magnificent animals both close by and throughout the world surviving and thriving for future generations.” -J. Bowles

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

Houston Zoo Affiliates Honored for Saving Animals in the Wild

This past week, Houston Zoo conservation affiliates were awarded the 2017 National Geographic Society/Buffett Awards for Leadership in Conservation. This award was established by the Society and The Howard G. Buffett Foundation to recognize and celebrate unsung heroes working in the field. Two recipients are chosen each year – this year Dr. Olivier Nsengimana received the award for Leadership in African Conservation and Rosamira Guillen received the award for Leadership in Latin American Conservation.

Dr. Olivier with the Houston Zoo bird team

Dr. Olivier worked as a field veterinarian with Gorilla Doctors before founding his own project, the Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association, working to protect the endangered grey crowned cranes from illegal wildlife trade. The Houston Zoo has been supporting Olivier’s project for the past two years. Through community engagement and education, Olivier works to rehabilitate and reintroduce cranes into the wild. So far, the project has reintroduced 127 grey crowned cranes back into the wild.

Rosamira and Chris Holmes, Assistant Curator of Birds, at the 2016 Saving Wildlife Expo at the Houston Zoo

Rosamira has worked tirelessly to protect Cotton-top tamarins, an endangered species of primate found only in Colombia. Rosamira cofounded Fundación Proyecto Tití to study cotton-top tamarins and educate the local community about the need to protect them. An important part of the project are the innovative strategies used to empower local people to get involved in protecting cotton-top tamarins. One strategy is the creation of Tití Posts – fence posts made from recycled plastic. These posts last longer and are more durable than wooden posts.

 

 

A huge congratulation to Dr. Olivier Nsengimana and Rosamira Guillen! You are supporting their work every time you visit the Houston Zoo, as a portion of all tickets and memberships goes toward saving these animals in the wild!

 

Cotton-top Tamarin
Grey Crowned Crane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learn more about their amazing work by friending the Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association and Fundación Proyecto Tití on Facebook

Houston Zoo Bird Staff Saving Wildlife Part 4

This blog was written by Kasey Clarke, a member of the Houston Zoo’s Bird Department. Kasey received a Staff Conservation Fund grant from her coworkers at the Houston Zoo to carry out a wildlife-saving project for birds in the Mariana Islands (a chain of islands in the western North Pacific Ocean). We will be posting a series of blogs as Kasey documents her work overseas.  

The process described below is part of the Mariana Conservation Program to relocate local bird species to neighboring islands that do not have the invasive brown tree snake, an introduced species that preys upon native birds. 

When the bird room is full of Rufous fantails and Mariana fruit doves the veterinarians do a medical exam on every single bird. We had two vets, one vet tech, and four bird keepers helping with the exams. It was great having this many people on hand to complete this enormous task as efficiently as possible.

During this process a small amount of blood is taken from the underside of the wing with a capillary tube, just like when a person is checking their blood sugar levels. The blood is put onto a slide; this is called a blood smear. The slides are looked at under a microscope to see if the blood cells are normal and to make sure the white blood cell count is normal. If the white blood count is high that could mean the bird is fighting an infection.

Medical exam performed on a bird as it prepares to be translocated for conservation purposes
Blood from each bird is looked at carefully to ensure the blood cells are normal and the bird is healthy

After the blood is collected the bird is given a physical. The vet checks the body condition, sound of its heart and breathing, and checks its eyes to make sure it has no issues with vision. If the bird seems less than the pinnacle of health, the bird is released and not translocated. We want to make sure every bird has the best chance of surviving in its new home.

Each bird is looked at carefully by wildlife professionals

The last thing done during the exam is a feather collection. The feathers are collected so that the gender of the bird can be determined. This is not determined while we are there, but it takes about a week or two for an outside lab to do the work. This information is recorded for future data analysis.

All these things are noted for each individual bird’s records. Note cards are kept with the birds while they are in our care and we write down everything that happens. The birds’ weight, where it was found, diet consumption, bands (identification), and medical notes are all written on these cards.

Records are kept for each individual bird

Next time the birds will be prepped for departure and we will watch them sail away towards their new home!

Jaguar Matchmaking

Written by Katie Buckley-Jones


If you frequent the Zoo, you may have noticed our jaguar exhibit has been the hot spot for our new jaguar couple.

Here at the Houston Zoo, we have three jaguars.  Our oldest male, Kan Balam, has been at the zoo for 11 years and is 20 years old, significantly older than jaguars in the wild, and even considered old for a jaguar in a zoological setting. When his previous girlfriend passed away in 2015 at the age of 20, we noticed Kan Balam seemed to long for another friend. Jaguars are naturally solitary animals, but based on the personality of Kan Balam and his history of living with another jaguar, we wanted him to have a female friend.  We contacted the jaguar SSP, or Species Survival Plan, to see what they had in mind for Kan Balam. Kan Balam is a great-grandfather and his genetics are very well represented within the zoo community, so we wanted to pair him with a female for companionship rather than breeding.

Species Survival Plans are very important for endangered and threatened animals in the zoological setting.  There is a group of people who are dedicated to each specific species, whether it is something big like a lion or giraffe, to the Louisiana pine snake.  The group keeps track of all the individuals in all AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) accredited facilities in the US and some zoos around the world. They match animals up based on genetic variability, institutional needs, and personalities of animals. This way, zoos can create a sort of zoo “ark,” using science to make sure the animals in our care are as healthy as possible throughout their bloodlines.

The SSP informed us there was a lovely six year old lady jaguar named Maya from the Turtleback Zoo, who would be a good match for Kan Balam. Maya is young and genetically important to the population.  The SSP, or “eHarmony for jaguars”, wanted to pair Maya up with a male for breeding as well. So the SSP decided to not only send us Maya, but a young male named Tesoro from the Living Desert Zoo to be her mate in the future.

As you can imagine, this has led to quite the soap opera when it comes to love triangles. Kan Balam, the older experienced male, was first introduced to Maya. Both cats got along very well and enjoy each other’s company! The carnivore keepers thought it best to wait until Tesoro got a bit older to meet Maya since both he and Maya had only ever been with their siblings.  When he first came to Houston, Tesoro was only 1.5 years old.  Jaguars do not become sexually mature until age 2.5 – 3 years old.  So this March, right around Tesoro’s third birthday, we decided to introduce him to Maya.

We waited until Maya was in estrus, the period at which female jaguars are cycling and most receptive to males, and began to do introductions. Maya was very interested in the younger, very attractive male and introductions went…let’s just say very well. We believe the success we have had with introducing Maya to Tesoro is in part thanks to Kan Balam. Being older and experienced, he taught Maya proper jaguar courtship and how to interact with male jaguars.

Maya is now the lucky leading lady of both Kan Balam and Tesoro’s lives and will be sharing her habitat with one or the other on a daily rotation.

 

Houston’s Second Baby Giraffe Gets a Name and Makes Her Debut

The Houston Zoo’s second baby giraffe born in the month of April made her public debut today, Thursday, May 4. The giraffe team also selected the name Mara for the newest arrival. Early this morning, Mara and her mother, Asali, were given access to the main yard at the McGovern Giraffe Habitat, accompanied by one-month-old, Zindzhi and her mother Tyra. After Mara got acquainted with her surroundings, the team introduced the calf to the rest of the giraffe herd. Baby and mama will continue to spend time in guest-view for parts of each day in good weather.

Quick Birth Facts

Born: Monday, April 24 at 8:30 a.m.

Height: 6’6”

Weight: 148 (now 167!) pounds

How does the Houston Zoo help save giraffes in the wild?

Just by visiting the Houston Zoo, guests are helping save giraffes in the wild. Admission tickets and memberships help fund important work that protect giraffes in the wild.

The Houston Zoo provides funds and training for local people in Africa to protect wild giraffes from poaching and harm. They walk long distances in areas of Africa where giraffe live to arrest illegal hunters and collect harmful wire traps set for wildlife in the trees and bushes.

The Houston Zoo provided training and funds for Enock Zulu, an Anti-Poaching Unit Manager leading a local community anti-poaching unit in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. In his six years of leadership, Zulu’s teams have collected over 12,784 wire traps, rescuing 14 animals from snares, and have arrested nearly 90 poachers. He and his team risk their lives to protect giraffe and other wildlife every day.

Houston Zoo Bird Staff Saving Wildlife

This blog was written by Kasey Clarke, a member of the Houston Zoo’s Bird Department. Kasey received a Staff Conservation Fund grant from her coworkers at the Houston Zoo to carry out a wildlife-saving project for birds in the Mariana Islands (a chain of islands in the western North Pacific Ocean). We will be posting a series of blogs as Kasey documents her work overseas.  

Houston Zoo bird staff is currently assisting the MAC (Mariana Avifauna Conservation) plan. This year I am helping out in Saipan where we will be focusing on two species, the Mariana fruit dove and the rufous fantail.

Mariana fruit dove at the Houston Zoo. The Zoo works to protect all the wild counterparts of the species we have here. Houston Zoo bird staff are currently overseas, ensuring this species is protected in its’ natural habitat.

For those who don’t know, the MAC plan’s goal is to establish self-sustaining populations of Mariana forest bird species on uninhabited northern islands. Due to the invasive brown tree snake damaging the local bird population, it is important to create other healthy populations of local birds where brown tree snakes are not a threat. The work done here is an insurance policy for local birds.

After 3 flights and 24 hours of travel I made it to Saipan. They didn’t waste any time putting me to work either. I spent half of my first day in the field finding fruit doves, more on that later. The second half of the day I helped with community outreach by manning a booth at the Flame Tree Festival.

The Flame Tree Festival is a celebration of the Saipan community and culture of the Chamorro people. The local children perform their musical talents on stage. Local dances are also performed. There are art booths and food stands. The festival seems is very popular and we had a successful night discussing bird conservation.

The photo below is of the booth we had set up. The wheel on the right was popular with the kids. They could spin it and win a trading card with one of 15 local Mariana forest species on it. We had two little boys who kept coming back and spinning it for a new card. It was a lot of fun interacting and educating the public about bird conservation. It’s important to let them know that there are things they can do to participate and help!

Discussing local birds at the Flame Tree Festival.

Next blog l will talk about how a field day runs. In the coming entries we will follow a bird through the whole process of moving to another island!

Second Giraffe Born in Two Weeks!

Monday morning brought the welcome arrival of a second baby giraffe in two weeks for the Houston Zoo herd. The female Masai giraffe was born at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, April 24 to second-time mom, Asali in the McGovern Giraffe Barn at the African Forest. As with her first-born, Gigi, Asali has been a cautious mother and the keeper and veterinary teams are closely watching over the pair to ensure the calf is nursing well and the mother-calf bond is strong. After a few days behind-the-scenes with her mother, along with Tyra and two-week-old Zindzhi, the new calf will make her public debut.

 

On average, giraffe pregnancies last from 14 to 15 months. A newborn Masai giraffe calf typically weighs between 125 and 150 pounds at birth and measures approximately six feet tall.  Giraffes are the tallest living terrestrial animals, with the average male standing at 17 feet tall and weighing 2,500 pounds. Females average more than 14 feet tall. The new calf weighs 148 pounds and is estimated to be 6 feet 6 inches tall.

Over the last decade, the number of giraffes in the wild has dropped by 40%, with less than 80,000 giraffes remaining. The Houston Zoo is now home to seven Masai giraffes, one of the nine subspecies of giraffes.

Proceeds from every zoo admission ticket and membership help protect giraffes in the wild. The Houston Zoo provides funds and training for local people in Africa to protect wild giraffes from poaching and harm. These dedicated locals walk long distances in areas of Africa where giraffes live to arrest illegal hunters and collect harmful wire traps set for wildlife in the trees and bushes. For the past six years, the Houston Zoo has provided training and funds for Enock Zulu, an anti-poaching unit manager leading a local community anti-poaching unit in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. In his years of leadership, Zulu’s teams have collected more than 12,784 wire traps, rescuing 14 animals from snares, and have arrested nearly 90 poachers.

 

 

 

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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!

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

More snow for TJ and Max ❤️ lucky them!

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 😂

Mike DePope

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We've heard of stalagmites but is stalagmice a thing? ... See MoreSee Less

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Weve heard of stalagmites but is stalagmice a thing?

 

Comment on Facebook

Ok, it took me a minute to get this. I was literally zooming in to try to find the mouse. 🤦🏻‍♀️🙄😂

Cindy Christina Angela Ramirez see I told y’all! Lol

I fell for the mouse thing too..

“Baby it’s cold outside!”

That's nothing! Talk to keepers from the northern states or Canada!

i was honestly looking for a mouse lol

Johnnie R. Summerlin, cool, see the "stalagm ice"?

Wow,that is so neat!

Annecia Wesley but where is the ice bacon? Lol

Two words. Pipe insulation.

That’s awesome!

Ana Rivers Smith cool!

Cortez

Pauline Ervin

Denise Daigre

Ashley Nguyen

Vicente Gonzalez

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Brrrr. It’s cold out there! We have made the decision to close the Houston Zoo tomorrow, Wednesday, Jan. 17. Don’t worry, the animals are safe and warm in their night houses!

A limited number of staff from departments like Animal Programs, Safety and Security and Operations/Facilities will be onsite to perform essential services and have the Zoo ready for us to reopen Thursday morning.

A big ol' high-five to our awesome team members who braved this icy cold to come in and care for our animals and zoo facilities.
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Comment on Facebook

Safety and welfare of the animals first! Thanks guys for all you do.

Yes thank you for everything yall do to keep the animals safe .. y'all keep safe and warm

Thank you for taking good care of our animals!

Thank u for keeping those Babies safe and warm!❤️

Thank you for all you do!

Thank you for ZOO LIGHTS. it was amazing this year!

Thank you, zoo team. Stay safe!

Mandy Rinker— really? Too cold? You’re from the Midwest girl

💙

thank you for all you do and keep the furry babies warm

Ty

Thank you for taking care of our precious animals that we love to come see!

Thank you for keeping those beautiful animals safe. 💕

Thank you for making sure the animals are safe and warm.

Thank you for all you do for these amazing animals!!

Go, Erika!!!

Thank you 💕

💖

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