Save Amphibians by Recycling Your Batteries!

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Batteries, Wildlife, and How You Can Take Action

The Houston Zoo cares about animals in the wild, and is taking steps to ensure that everything we do on Zoo grounds is done with the environment and wildlife in mind. If you have a surplus of used batteries, be them alkaline or rechargeable, you can take them to your local recycling center to ensure that the remaining chemicals and substances don’t harshly affect the wildlife that’s directly outside your doors!

Any battery that is disposed of in a landfill (like if you toss them in your normal trash), or that finds its way into the environment, has the potential to leak its old chemicals into the soils and waters that wildlife like amphibians call home.

Because amphibians like frogs, toads, even salamanders, have skin that can easily absorb liquids found in damp soils or the waters and streams they frequent, they can get sick from things like leaking batteries. Often, harsh or foreign chemical interactions can affect populations long-term by changing the behavior of animals, affecting female or male reproductive abilities or even influencing the development of eggs.

The Zoo works to help our local amphibians by recycling our alkaline and rechargeable batteries with a company that specializes in battery disposal. You can do the same by finding your local recycling center; if you’re in Houston you can go to the Westpark Consumer Recycling Center and they will take most options besides alkaline. You can also recycle more than the typical AA, AAA, C, and D batteries – items like power tools, cars, small electronics like tablets or smart phones, hearing aids, watches, and all manner of things take a variety of batteries.

By using rechargeable batteries you can also ensure that the materials that were mined to make your batteries last for a much longer time period than with single-use alkaline batteries. Rechargeable batteries will go dull over time, but you can get multiple uses out of them and lessen the stress on the environment by finding products and items that you can use over and over before recycling!

How Our Staff Recycles Batteries at the Zoo

 

Battery Sign Zoo Events

On Zoo grounds we will often offer recycling information that you can see when you visit. We recommend you take your batteries to a local recycling center to ensure they don’t end up in landfills that can encroach on the space of wildlife as well as affect the soils and waters amphibians and other animals call home.

Houston Toad Battery 1.0

Behind the scenes, our staff utilize a special battery drop-off for spent batteries. By encouraging staff to recycle these items the Zoo is able to see how many batteries we use as an organization, and how many we use that are rechargeable! Alkaline batteries are not rechargeable, so taking a look at our staff battery needs shows us where we could potentially get more rechargeable batteries rather than single-use alkaline batteries. We can also weigh our battery recycling over time and see how much space we have saved in landfills and how many batteries have been prevented from harshly affecting our wildlife habitats.Houston Toad Battery 1.3

Be Safe When Collecting Batteries for Recycling

 

Houston Toad Battery 1.1

Alkaline: these are more often the common batteries like AA, AAA, C, or D as well as 9-Volt. Do not store any of these batteries together without packaging. Once they have been used there is still potential for them to ‘pop’ open as there are residual chemicals that can be discharged and react with other batteries they are near. This could cause injury if someone is nearby. The 9-Volt batteries are commonly used in your fire alarms and are properly prepared for the recycling center by putting duct-tape over the positive and negative transistors (basically, the top two prongs need to be covered so they don’t come into contact with other batteries). Note that some centers do not accept alkaline batteries for recycling.

Rechargeable: these batteries are widely used in items like power-tools, phone batteries, laptop batteries, or even your more common AA, AAA, C, D, and 9-Volt options. There are no alkaline battery options that cannot be replaced with rechargeable options. You will find rechargeable batteries in forms of Nickel Cadmium (NiCd), Lithium-ion (Li-ion), and Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH). All of these batteries have the potential to get hot and should be packaged separately from each other in preparation for recycling; Li-ion should be particularly tended to in ensuring there is no other metal or battery contact once discharged.

This is a sustainability reference document. 

11,000 Trees Planted for the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker!

The Houston Zoo is proud to protect wildlife both locally and globally. This past Saturday, Houston Zoo staff as well as Dallas Zoo staff and volunteers, in partnership with the National Park Service, planted long-leaf pine seedlings to reforest an area in the Big Thicket National Preserve. In just one day, we planted 11,000 trees! This is a new one-day planting record, and we’re proud to participate in such an important activity!

Houston Zoo and Dallas Zoo at the long-leaf pine planting in the Big Thicket!
Houston Zoo and Dallas Zoo at the long-leaf pine planting in the Big Thicket!
2 stages of long-leaf pine growth.
2 stages of long-leaf pine growth.
Taking a lunch break before continuing to plant!
Taking a lunch break before continuing to plant!

Long-leaf pine trees are a critical habitat for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. This woodpecker prefers the long-leaf pine trees because the trees often suffer from red heart disease, a fungus which attacks the center of the trunk and causes the inside of the tree to be very soft. This allows the red-cockaded woodpecker to easily create cavities inside the tree to use as shelter!

Red-cockaded woodpecker. Photo courtesy of Audubon.
Red-cockaded woodpecker. Photo courtesy of Audubon.

We spent the majority of the day working in teams of 2. One person held a bag of long-leaf pine seedlings, while the other person used a tool called a dibbler which digs a hole the exact size of the seedling. So, as one person used the dibbler to make holes in the ground, the other teammate followed along behind planting the seedlings in the holes. It was a very effective method, which allowed us to get to the new one-day planting record in the area of 11,000 trees!

Houston Zoo staff member, Alex, using a dibbler to make holes.
Houston Zoo staff member, Alex, using a dibbler to make holes.
Zoo staff member, Andrea, places long-leaf pine seedlings in the ground.
Zoo staff member, Andrea, places long-leaf pine seedlings in the ground.

These trees will take nearly 80 years to grow before the red-cockaded woodpecker will use them for shelter. They are slow growing trees which can live more than 300 years! The decline in long-leaf pine trees occurred because of human development, agriculture, and timber production. It is critical that we protect this important habitat for our local species. You can take action by participating in a local planting effort-keep an eye out on the Zoo website and blog for the next event!

Zoo staff member, John, next to a growing long-leaf pine tree.
Zoo staff member, John, next to a growing long-leaf pine tree.
Our conservation partners in Madagascar do similar planting activities to save lemurs!
In 2015, the Houston Zoo’s conservation partners in Madagascar conducted similar tree-planting activities to save lemurs!

Houston Zoo Chief Veterinarian Helps Restore Giant Tortoise Population in Galapagos

Written by Dr. Joe Flanagan, Chief Veterinarian at the Houston Zoo


 

The Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative is a long-term plan to restore giant tortoises in Galapagos to their original populations and densities.  In November 2015, I participated in one of the most ambitious projects yet to recover species.  In an accident of human history, giant tortoises originally intended to be food on long ocean voyages, landed on the west coast of Isabela Island where they established a small colony, adjacent to the “native” tortoises of Wolf Volcano, the northernmost volcano of Isabela Island.

Genetics done by Yale University scientists show that these unique animals are remnants of 2 populations of tortoises now thought to be extinct.  The Pinta Island tortoise went officially extinct in 2012 with the passing of “Lonesome George”, but the population was depleted nearly 100 years ago.  The Floreana Island tortoise went extinct in about 1850, shortly after the island was visited by Charles Darwin.

32 Animals were brought into captivity to form the breeding nucleus that will hopefully restore giant tortoises where none have roamed for as much as 200 years!  I was invited to treat the tortoises for ectoparasites (ticks) and endoparasites (worms) to prevent these from becoming problems for the breeding population at the rearing center on Santa Cruz Island.

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As a zoo veterinarian for over 30 years, I know that moving an animal to a new home is one of the most stressful things that can happen to it. Moves from zoo to zoo can bring out disease symptoms from otherwise unapparent bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Moves from the wild to captivity are even more likely to create problems — with a change in diet, a new social environment, and a need to learn to navigate new habitat, which includes people. To help animals in this transition, we treat them for both internal and external parasites — such as ticks — to reduce the load.

Ticks. Nasty, skin-crawling, blood-sucking, head-burying, disease-transmitting ticks. I hate them. Wild giant tortoises in Galapagos are frequently infested with dozens or even hundreds of ticks attached to their skin and even to their shells! I was fortunate to participate in the 2008 tortoise census on Wolf Volcano, and on that trip we encountered ticks on most of the hundreds of tortoises observed, as well as along tortoise trails. For the 2015 expedition, it was my job to get rid of as many of these nasty creatures as I could from the tortoises headed to the Tortoise Center on Santa Cruz.

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While ticks are “normal” on giant tortoises in Galapagos — part of the process of natural selection, as are the diseases they might carry — they are problematic for captive animals and the people who care for them.

As for internal parasites, the primary ones affecting tortoises are worms. Like their external counterparts, there is a balance between the worm load and the tortoise, with wild tortoises regularly exposed to low levels. Some think the presence of intestinal parasites may help tortoise digestion. When a tortoise is stressed, however, a heavy population of worms can further weaken it. Although it is nearly impossible to eliminate all worms from the tortoises, by reducing the burden, the tortoises have a better chance of adapting to captivity.

During the planning phase of the 2015 Wolf Expedition, I worked closely with GC’s Wacho Tapia to develop a treatment protocol for tortoises moving to the Tortoise Center on Santa Cruz and to ensure we had all the necessary supplies. After each tortoise was carefully delivered onto the deck of theSierra Negra and freed from the net, we did a brief physical examination, took standard measurements, made sure each animal had a microchip for identification, collected a blood sample to verify genetics, and — in some animals — to look for tick-born disease.

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Before placing the tortoise into the ship’s hold, it was sprayed with a tortoise-safe insecticide and treated orally with a de-wormer, effective against the most-probable worms. Our goal was to improve the health of each tortoise, prevent “seeding” the corrals at the Tortoise Center with ticks and tortoise parasites, and, in consideration for the crew of the Sierra Negra, make sure the ship didn’t get infested with ticks!

As described in previous blogs in this series, locating tortoises on Wolf was slow until it rained on the third day. Rain brings tortoises “out of the bush.” The dispersed teams started to find tortoises, sometimes in very high numbers! Native Wolf tortoises are a large, dome-shaped species, which still occurs in high numbers due to the inaccessibility of their habitat precluding much harvest by whalers and other seafarers in centuries past. Although majestic and fascinating, these tortoises were not the objective of our mission so they were only counted and measured, then left to live their lives in one of the most unspoiled habitats in the world.

But when a few of the teams started encountering tortoises “of interest” — animals previously identified by the Yale team as genetically significant or with the characteristic saddleback shape of those animals — we found ourselves scrambling, with tortoises arriving two or three at a time; sometimes with up to six giants wandering the deck before we could examine them.

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Near the end of the expedition, we worried we’d run out of space to house all the animals that were coming in! The ship’s hold was full. We started lining the gunnels with larger animals that were “misbehaving” in the ship’s hold — climbing over their brethren, and knocking over what we thought was safely stowed gear. We ultimately collected 32 animals to form the breeding nucleus to resurrect two species of tortoises and to restore ecological balance to Floreana and Pinta Islands.

While my main “job” on this expedition concerned tortoise health and prophylactic treatment for potential disease organisms, I also joined the team that searched a patch of Wolf Volcano’s lower slopes for tortoises, going ashore each morning. Our zone was a patchwork of a’a lava, broken plates of pahoehoe lava, and fine soil, with vegetation ranging from completely barren to thick, impenetrable stands of woody vegetation. At this low elevation, we encountered few adult tortoises; most animals we found measured 6-18 inches in length. It is hard to believe that tortoises could survive in such a harsh environment, without anything green to eat and no source of water to drink. We humans left bits of skin and blood as we walked over the rough terrain and through thick and thorny vegetation.

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Each afternoon, we returned to the ship to receive and process tortoises. After the call-ins from the field teams, the helicopter made several trips to collect the tortoises. We’d watch its return against the backdrop of Wolf’s green slopes, trailing a net full of tortoises.

It’s hard to describe the feeling of being part of a conservation effort of this magnitude. For more than 20 years I’ve been lucky to visit these remote islands and work with their unique species, volunteering on numerous projects with myriad organizations. Over the years, I have witnessed many positive changes: invasive species have been eliminated on some islands; populations of some native and endemic species are recovering; and every year more of Galapagos is protected and restored to its primordial condition.

Joe-blog_Wolf-landscape

But these projects are costly. Funding for this expedition came from the government of Ecuador, Galapagos Conservancy, and Yale University, as well as out of the pockets of the expedition’s participants (many who donated their time). This high level of collaboration allowed funding from Galapagos Conservancy to be leveraged, resulting in a project many times larger than could be done by any one organization.

One of the greatest rewards of working in Galapagos is the great mix of people. The 2015 Wolf Expedition included participants from four continents — biologists, botanists, veterinarians, geneticists, technicians, park rangers, geologists, mariners, and pilots. Getting to know each other as we focused on our mission — talking, dining, traveling, and working together — a synergy occurred. New questions formed; some were captured for further consideration for future research projects; others were resolved or discounted. All resulted in friendships and collaborations that will last a lifetime. The conservation of one of the world’s greatest treasures is a unifying force. Galapagos is a magic place.

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To read more about this historical expedition, please visit the Galapagos Conservancy blog here. You can also visit the Zoo’s Galapagos tortoises near Duck Lake. Every time you visit the Houston Zoo, you help save animals (like giant tortoises) in the wild!

Terrifically Tiny Turtles Hatch at the Zoo

Houston Zoo is experiencing a baby boom. A very small baby boom of critically endangered,terrifically tiny turtles. In late August, eight Madagascar big-headed turtle babies were found swimming in their parents’ home in the lemur moat at the zoo’s Wortham World of Primates. Also discovered was a pregnant mama turtle full of 20 eggs that she has since laid, which are expected to hatch in the next few months. The babies and eggs are currently being cared for behind-the-scenes.

 

The Madagascar big-headed turtle was once widely distributed throughout the rivers and lakes of western Madagascar.  However, overexploitation from a growing human population has drastically reduced and fragmented its range.  One of the most endangered turtles in the world, this species is included on the Turtle Conservation Fund’s top 25 endangered turtles list and is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN.

Madagascar Big-headed Turtle Babies 2015-0002-9042

In December, 2005, two male and five juvenile female big-headed turtles were confiscated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and donated to the Houston Zoo.  In 2008, these turtles were transferred to the moat surrounding the lemur habitat at the zoo’s Wortham World of Primates.  In order to keep the turtles outside year-round, a swimming pool heater was installed to keep the moat warm during the winter months.  Since these turtles can be aggressive towards each other, underwater boxes fashioned from roofing tiles and bricks were added to the moat so that the turtles could hide in them when needed.

Madagascar Big-headed Turtle Babies 2015-0009-9079Hatchlings have an average weight of less than .02 pounds.  The average shell measurements are 1.3 inches long and 1 inch wide (that’s a tiny turtle!).  The young turtles began feeding immediately on a diet of aquatic turtle pellets and romaine lettuce.

Saving One of the Rarest Animals in the World

The Houston Zoo partners with the Hirola Conservation Program in Africa to save the hirola, one of the rarest mammals in the world from extinction. Hirola can only be seen in the wild in Africa, they are not in any zoos. They live around many of the animal species we have here at the Zoo like painted dogs and gerenuk, by protecting this extremely rare animal we are also protecting the other wildlife in the area.

Here is an exciting report from our partners at the Hirola Conservation Program:

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A herd of hirola inside Ishaqbini Conservancy, Kenya

The Hirola Conservation Program:works in Ishaqbini Conservancy, Hirola sanctuary and in Arawale National reserve and works with local communities to save hirola. We are in the middle of the dry season and only four herds of hirola have remained in Ishaiqbini conservancy. Other herds have moved out in search of pasture and water resources outside the conservancy. Within the conservancy, two poachers have killed one common zebra but our scouts have later arrested these poachers and taken them to court in collaboration with the local police. No Hirola mortality recorded in the conservancy this month which is a great news.
Six hirola groups exist in the sanctuary and two hirola females have given birth this month—July 2015. We recorded seven carcasses inside the sanctuary this month (one zebra, three male giraffes, one lesser kudu and two gerenuks. Regarding our collared females over two years ago only 3 out of 9 are currently on animals and most of the animals have been killed by predators.

 

Our field team in collaboration with the Kenya Wildlife Service Rangers went out for anti-poaching exercise. During this patrol exercise, we recorded two poaching incidences along the river. We found remains of a buffalo killed but transported and unfortuantely no one was arrested. However, during the same day, we caught a poacher with kill of a dikdik (dwarf antelope common in eastern Kenya) and the poacher was arraigned in court.

Local scouts patrolling and protecting hirola from poachers
Local scouts patrolling and protecting hirola from poachers

In collaboration with international partners particularly the Houston Zoo, we initiated a world’s first Hirola Day to be marked in August every year.  As a starting point of this long-term event, we focused this year on awareness creation, with meeting of local youths culminating in a football match between locals clubs. In the coming years we will continue to mark this event.

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Local youths marking the first ever world’s hirola Day!

Help Save Elephants in the Wild and Go Gray for World Elephant Day!

Calling all elephant enthusiasts! Did you know elephant population numbers are rapidly declining in the wild? Do you know there are ways YOU can help protect these magnificent animals in the wild? You can start by joining the more than one hundred zoos and thousands of individuals across the country on Wednesday, August 12 in celebrating World Elephant Day!

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Elephants are the largest land mammals in the world and among the most intelligent animals on earth. Unfortunately, Asian elephants are also among the world’s most endangered species. At the turn of the 20th century, more than 100,000 Asian elephants roamed their native habitat. Today, approximately 40,000 Asian elephants remain in the wild. And this number continues to decline due to habitat loss, human-elephant conflict and poaching for their ivory tusks.

elephants-outside-playingHere at the Houston Zoo, we are committed to protecting animals outside of our Zoo gates, and elephants are in serious need of our support. In the past five years, the Houston Zoo has worked closely with partners in both Africa and Asia, funding over $500,000 in field conservation programs.

YOU can help, too! Simply by visiting the Houston Zoo, you help protect animals in the wild – a portion of your admission ticket goes directly to conservation efforts around the world. You can also attend special events throughout the year where registration fees are also donated to conservation efforts.

Check out the Houston Zoo website to learn more of how we and YOU can help elephants.

 

A great time to visit the Houston Zoo is World Elephant Day on Wednesday, August 12, 2015.

World Elephant Day Activities Include:

10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

  • See and touch an elephant tooth
  • Find out more about the Houston Zoo’s Asian elephant herd: Thai, Methai, Shanti, Tess, Tucker, Tupelo, Baylor, & Duncan

10 a.m.

  • Daily Elephant Bath at The McNair Asian Elephant Barn

11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

  • Walking tour of the Asian elephant barn for those who Go Gray for World Elephant Day!

Wear gray on your Zoo visit and get an inside look at our state-of-the-art elephant barn, plus talk with our Zookeepers, while the elephants are outside playing in the yard.

Malaysian Giant Pond Turtle Babies!

Baby Malayan Giant Black Pond Turtle-0005-6434The Malaysian giant pond turtle, Orlitia borneensis, is a large turtle found in the rivers and lakes of the Malay Peninsula, Borneo, and Sumatra.  Adults can reach almost three feet in length and can weigh over 100 pounds. Its diet consists mostly of fish, vegetation, and fruits. Listed as Endangered by the IUCN, the Giant pond turtle has been heavily exploited for its meat, and populations are in decline throughout the native habitat.

 

Because of the large size and nature of giant pond turtles, this species is rarely seen in zoos. Captive reproduction is very rare. The Houston Zoo was fortunate to acquire a group of these animals as juveniles and has been displaying them since 2002. The turtles have now reached maturity and we are proud to report that this summer, the Houston Zoo successfully hatched four adorable babies! Getting out of a shell can be tough work. Baby turtles have something called an egg tooth. The egg tooth or caruncle is a temporary structure that is used to cut through the egg membrane and break through the shell.  Once there is a hole in the egg, the turtle can break out. Although the hatchlings are currently not on display, you can see the adults in the orangutan moat; though you may have to be patient as they are a very secretive species!

Baby Malayan Giant Black Pond Turtle-0012-6886

Saving Sea Turtles in the Gulf – Part 1

Greetings from Panama City! The Houston Zoo recently visited Florida with our partners at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to test turtle excluder devices (TEDs) for fisheries across the globe to incorporate into their shrimp nets. These TEDs are critical – and required by federal law – to ensure the safety of sea turtles while fishermen work to provide some of our favorite seafood, like shrimp!

Turtle excluder devices help protect sea turtles, like this guy, from shrimp nets!
Turtle excluder devices help protect sea turtles, like this guy, from shrimp nets!

Every summer NOAA staff spends three weeks in Panama City testing newly-constructed or tweaked TED designs that will, if approved, later be used by fishermen. Turtle excluder devices are used to allow fishermen to catch animals like shrimp, while excluding animals like sea turtles that may accidentally be caught in their nets.

Each year, about 200 sea turtles are driven to Florida from Galveston to test each TED, and about 25 turtles will attempt to swim through each TED. That’s a lot of turtles and swim time! The sea turtles are then released back into the wild after the weeks of TED testing.

Our partners at NOAA Galveston spend all year getting the sea turtles in their care ready for this critical work! This year, they allowed Houston Zoo staff to come along and observe the process of ensuring shrimp nets around the world are safe for sea turtles.

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The Zoo’s vet team provides veterinary care to sea turtles brought in from Galveston.

In addition to field work assistance in Panama City this summer, the Houston Zoo helps save sea turtles in a number of ways. One way the Zoo helps is by providing veterinary care to sea turtles brought in from Galveston, sometimes also housing rehabilitating sea turtles at the Zoo in the Kipp Aquarium. The Zoo also hosts sea turtle events at the Zoo to increase awareness, participates in weekly beach surveys to look for stranded or nesting sea turtles, and serves only ocean-friendly seafood to Zoo animals and guests!

Be sure to check back soon for more information on TED testing in Panama City!

Saving Sea Turtles on our Local Piers

An exciting program called the Responsible Pier Initiative has come to Galveston! This program is managed by the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Florida. Our friends at Turtle Island Restoration Network, NOAA, the Galveston Parks Board, Texas Parks and Wildlife, US Fish and Wildlife and Texas A & M Galveston all played a role in the installation of the signs yesterday and making this program happen.

The program aims to protect sea turtles by increasing awareness of those people fishing on piers of what to do in the event they accidentally catch a turtle. This is done through training programs with pier managers and sea turtle biologists as well as installing informational signage on participating piers.

Pier Signs in Galveston detailing how to help sea turtles
Pier Signs in Galveston detailing how to help sea turtles

Yesterday, 3 piers in Galveston joined the effort and new signage was installed to alert people fishing what to do if they catch a turtle. The piers include Seawolf Park, 61st Street Pier and Galveston Island Fishing Pier.

More signage detailing how to help sea turtles if they are accidentally caught on your fishing line
More signage detailing how to help sea turtles if they are accidentally caught on your fishing line

The signs were printed in English and Spanish and can now be seen the next time you visit one of these piers!

A hoop net is included for piers participating in this effort so sea turtles can safely be brought onto the shore if accidentally caught
A hoop net is included for piers participating in this effort so sea turtles can safely be brought onto the shore if accidentally caught
Partners from various local organizations who helped make this signage possible posed for a picture at Seawolf Park!
Partners from various local organizations who helped make this signage possible posed for a picture at Seawolf Park!

Saving the World's Most Critically Endangered Antelope

Houston Zoo partner, Hirola Conservation Program, is working hard to save a beautiful and unique antelope called a hirola. This species is endemic (only found in a small area) to northeastern Kenya and southwest Somalia, and they are critically endangered. The latest aerial survey in 2011 estimated that only 300-500 hirola are left! Read on to learn about hirola and what the Hirola Conservation Program is doing to protect these animals.

hirola editHirola At A Glance:

  • Slender, medium sized antelope that eats short grasses
  • Distinctive glands below each eye giving the appearance of four eyes
  • Now found only in the Kenya- Somali border region,
  • 40 years ago they numbered close to 10,000 but only 300-500 remain today
  • There are no hirola living in captivity

hirola pictureThreats to Hirola:

  • Habitat loss
  • Drought & disease
  • Poaching

About the Hirola Conservation Program:
Director and founder of the Hirola Conservation Program, Abdullah H. Ali, is a native Kenyan working to save wildlife in Kenya, Ijara District. A PhD candidate at the University of Wyoming and EDGE Fellow at ZSL, “Ali” has a long-term conservation plan to save hirola in Kenya through scientific research, habitat restoration, and strengthening community-based conservation and education efforts.

How You Can Make A Difference:
Just by learning about hirola, you are helping to spread awareness about this endangered species. You can also view this page to view updates on Hirola Conservation Program’s progress and donate to their efforts.

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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?

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. 😔

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.

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.

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 ..

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

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.

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?

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

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!!

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.

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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