Meet Tapir Researcher Dr. Pati Medici at the Houston Zoo

The Houston Zoo supports researchers saving adult and baby tapirs in the wild. We provide funding and resources for Dr. Pati Medici, and her team at the Lowland Tapir Conservation Initiative to protect tapirs in Brazil by following them with tracking devices. Finding tapirs and processing data on individuals before they are released back into the wild helps conservationists understand more about them, which then helps to create protection plans for them. This project continues to build the most extensive database of tapir information in the world and has been successfully applying their results for the conservation of tapirs in Brazil and internationally! Pati will be visiting us here in Houston at the end of April to celebrate Dia del Nino, and participate in the Tapir Spotlight on Species event! Pati will be out on zoo grounds from 10:30am to 2:30pm on the 28th and 29th of April. Hear from the keepers at 11am and 2pm each day to learn how they care for our tapirs, and see the tapirs get some special enrichment. You will get to hear from Pati on how you are helping to save tapirs in the wild and have the opportunity to take photos with this wildlife superstar! Throughout each event you’ll be able to participate in games and activities as well as purchase tapir-related souvenirs – proceeds will be donated to help save tapirs in the wild. Want to get in on the fun? Both events are free with your paid Zoo admission and are free for Zoo members – all you have to do is show up.

Tapirs were big news here at the Houston Zoo last year with the birth of Antonio, a Baird’s tapir, and a visit by the Tapir Specialist Group which is comprised of researchers from all over the globe working to save this species in the wild. That being said, with tapirs being about as unique as the mythical unicorn, it can be hard to remember just what they are or what they look like. Tapirs are the largest land mammal in South America and can be easily recognized by their unique noses – resembling a shortened trunk, it can be used to grab leaves when foraging for a snack and even acts as a snorkle when swimming! There are four species of tapir in the world, with three of the four species found in Latin America – Baird’s, lowland, and mountain. The fourth species, the Malayan tapir, is found in Southeast Asia. Here at the Houston Zoo, we have a family of Baird’s tapir. We hope to see you at the zoo celebrating this amazing species with us – thanks for helping to save species like the tapir in the wild!

 

 

Take Action for Our Oceans

It’s a well-known fact that the ocean makes up a very large part of the planet we live on. In fact, the ocean covers more than 70 percent of Earth’s surface! Though it may seem a daunting task to keep ALL that ocean healthy, we can all take small actions that have a big impact in protecting the ocean and the animals living there.

First things first. Why should you want to protect the ocean? Our ocean actually make oxygen, and that’s pretty neat (and also life-saving)! Phytoplankton living near the surface of the water absorb carbon dioxide during photosynthesis just like plants do on land. They cover a lot more surface area of the planet and, therefore, produce half of the Earth’s oxygen supply. We can thank the ocean for helping us be able to breathe!

In addition to oxygen, the ocean also provides food! The diversity of life in the ocean makes for some interesting meals, but some species are being overfished and upsetting the delicate balance of life in the big blue. The good news is we can protect these overfished species! When you’re eating seafood at a restaurant or purchasing it at the grocery store, make sure to choose ocean-friendly, sustainable seafood. Ocean-friendly seafood is seafood that has been caught or farmed in a way that protects animals like sharks and rays and ensures fish populations thrive over time.

Being ocean-friendly can be simple, too! Download the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch app to learn which seafood options are best choices or good alternatives. Use the app when making your ocean-friendly seafood purchases at grocery stores or ordering at restaurants.

The Houston Zoo is also ocean-friendly! All the animals at the zoo that eat seafood eat only sustainable seafood. In fact, the sea lions ate 23,850 pounds of ocean-friendly, sustainably-caught fish last year. The zoo also ensures seafood served at any on-site restaurant or special event is always sustainably-sourced.

You can learn this and so much more at World Oceans Day Presented by Whole Foods Market this Saturday, June 10 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visit booths and enjoy activities as you learn how you can keep our oceans healthy and protect the animals living there, sign up for our annual beach clean-up, and enjoy themed Meet the Keeper Talks presented by Phillips 66. This event is included in your zoo admission and is free for Zoo Members. Click here to learn more about World Oceans Day Presented by Whole Foods Market and how to protect the ocean.

World Oceans Day Presented by Whole Foods Market is generously sponsored by Whole Foods Market and JUST Water.

Houston-Area Schools Are Saving Wildlife!

What an incredible time we had at Party for the Planet Presented by CenterPoint Energy on Saturday, April 22nd!

At the Houston Texans Enrichment Zone, students from KIPP Academy Middle School put on a “Trashion” show with fashion they made from recycled products.  The students turned trash into art and had an amazing wildlife-saving message behind each beautiful creation.  Below is a picture of Susannah modeling her dashiki made from plastic bags, straws and cardboard.

We also had a grand performance of songs from The Lion King, sung by 2nd through 5th grade students from Lyons Elementary.  Lyons made all of their costumes and backdrop from recycled materials.  Their backdrop, a beautiful African sunset, was made from over 400 milk cartons that the students collected!

The Houston Zoo started working with Lyons Elementary through our Mascot Program.  The students raise money through their “Love Your Lions” initiative and all the funds go directly to Niassa Lion Project.  DeAndra Ramsey, School Program Coordinator in the  Houston Zoo’s Conservation Education Department, was able to attend the opening night of The Lion King at Lyons Elementary that was held at their school on April 20, 2017.  She opened the show by speaking on how the Houston Zoo works to save wildlife, the importance of practicing sustainable behaviors like recycling, and highlighting how the students at Lyons Elementary were becoming wildlife warriors! She was blown away by the wonderful efforts of the entire school! 

Both schools did an amazing job inspiring our guests to help save wildlife during Party for the Planet Presented by CenterPoint Energy by simply getting creative and reusing everyday items instead of throwing away.

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

tupelo-tess-elephant-slider

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 Friday, August 12 in celebrating World Elephant Day! Guests that wear gray to the zoo will have a chance to win fun door prizes.

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.

Here 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, such as our Elephant Open House that will be held September 17, 2016 from 8 am – 10:30 am, where registration fees are also donated to conservation efforts.

elephants-outside-playing

A great time to visit the Houston Zoo is World Elephant Day on Friday, August 12, 2016.

World Elephant Day Activities Include:

11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Find out more about the Houston Zoo’s Asian elephant herd: Thai, Methai, Shanti, Tess, Tucker, Tupelo, Baylor & Duncan

Help keepers decorate enrichment items to give to the elephants throughout the day.

See and have a chance to purchase artwork done by our Pachyderm Picassos!

Learn all about elephant conservation and what YOU can do to help save them in the wild.

Wear gray on your Zoo visit to show your support plus talk with our Zookeepers, while the elephants are outside playing in the yard.

Save Water, Save Wildlife, and Save Money-May 21st Rain Barrel Workshop!

Save water, save money, and save wildlife at the Houston Zoo on May 21st! The Zoo is partnering with the Galveston Bay Foundation to hold a rain barrel workshop from 9:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m. at the Zoo’s Brown Education Center. Your workshop registration includes 1 rain barrel and 1 kit, at a low price of $35! Interested participants can sign up by here.

Rain barrels are a great addition to your home-they can help reduce your water bill by capturing rain water that you can reuse for your lawn and plants all-year long. Reusing rain water helps ensure there is enough water in the future for wildlife (like Houston toads) and people.

Local wildlife like the critically endangered Houston toad can benefit when we reuse water.
Local wildlife like the critically endangered Houston toad can benefit when we reuse water.

The Houston Zoo has several rain barrels to help ensure we reuse water. If you have been to our produce garden in the Children’s Zoo, you may have seen one of our rain barrels.

Children's Zoo rain barrel in the produce garden. Water collected here is reused on nearby plants.
Children’s Zoo rain barrel in the produce garden. Water collected here is reused on nearby plants.

In addition to the rain barrel in the Children’s Zoo, we have 2 rain barrels behind-the-scenes. One is located at our commissary-where all of the diets are prepared daily for our animals. It is located next to another produce garden and collects water to be reused on a variety of plants. Finally, we have a very large, 5,000 gallon rain barrel by our rhino barn. In 2015, this rain barrel alone collected and used nearly 35,000 gallons of water! In Texas, that is the equivalent (by 2013 data) of 1 above-average Texas household’s annual water needs.

You can take action and reuse water in your own backyard by participating in our rain barrel workshop at the Zoo on May 21st from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Reusing rain water is a simple action to take that not only helps wildlife, but helps you to save on your water bill! After our workshop, participants will have a chance to paint their rain barrels and enter it into an art contest! Check out some of the decorated rain barrels from previous workshops (photos courtesy of Galveston Bay Foundation rain barrel workshop participants):

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Howler Monkeys and Howlerween

Written by Kaitlyn Spross & Willam Weeks 

If you’ve been to the Houston Zoo primate section, you may have visited our awesome black howler monkeys:  Vida, Garcia and Ramone. And chances are they’ve either been asleep, resting in the sun or munching on leaves with what could be described as a ‘frowny’ look on their faces. Zoo guests often comment on our howlers’ pouty appearance. “Why does that howler monkey look that way? It looks so sad! Is that howler monkey judging me!?” The truth is, our howler monkeys aren’t sad at all! They just have on their resting howler face.

Howler 1.1When it comes to their diet, howler monkeys are mainly folivores, which means they eat lots of leaves and plant material. Because leaves are difficult to digest and don’t provide much energy, a howler monkey’s favorite pastime is taking a nice long nap to digest all that greenery. Along with their usual leafy foods, they do enjoy a nice fruit here and there as well. And, they even chow down on an egg once a week.

A howler monkey is at their happiest right after they have eaten; all they do is rest and relax while they absorb all that food. The Houston Zoo howler monkeys certainly live the life of luxury! They get their food delivered every day, and all they have to worry about it is finding the perfect sunny spot to take a six hour siesta.

When the howlers aren’t napping, they can be seen climbing around using their super-cool prehensile tails. A prehensile tail means that their tails are muscular and can be used to grasp things, like branches, which makes them particularly good climbers. Having a prehensile tail is like having an extra limb!

Howler 1.2If you come to the zoo early in the morning, you might even get lucky enough to hear our howlers monkeys howl! Their vocalization sounds like a very low, loud, and rumbling call that can be heard up to 3 miles away! It is a territorial call and also one which encourages the group to bond together as they vocalize.

This October, plan a visit to Zoo Boo Presented by Bank of America and our Howlerween conservation event each weekend.  You can visit our wonderful howler monkeys and learn more about what the Houston Zoo is doing to save howler monkeys in their wild habitat in Belize!

Shasta Is Turning 4!

Written by Samantha Junker, Senior Keeper

Shasta

Turning 4 is a big deal and the Houston Zoo is throwing our cougar, Shasta, a birthday party to remember! We invite our guests to join us for fun, games, and of course singing happy birthday to Shasta as he receives his ice pop cake!

Shasta 2Shasta has dual roles here at the zoo; not only is he an ambassador for wild cougars, but he is also the official mascot of the University of Houston! Shasta VI (his official title) makes appearances at UH games via live webcam and also guards the UH senior rings before the class ring ceremony.

While his roles here keep him busy, Shasta had an uncertain beginning to his life.  Orphaned in the wild at a very young age, it took the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife several days to find him.  He was hiding so well, the searchers had to chirp like a cougar in order to locate him.  Shasta chirped back and was quickly found.  He was hungry and thirsty, but otherwise ok!  Since Shasta was still too young to fend for himself, a forever home was needed and that is where the Houston Zoo stepped in.

Shasta currently resides at the Houston Zoo with a female cougar named Haley, also orphaned in the wild.  Please join us at the cougar exhibit on Sunday, September 27 from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. to help celebrate everything Shasta!

 

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!

elephant fam

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.

Eat Pizza. Save Gorillas!

We have another fun (and tasty) way for you to help save gorillas!papa-johns-pizza-1

This Thursday, May 21, order Papa John’s online, use promo code GORILLA, and $1 of your purchase will be donated to the Houston Zoo’s gorilla conservation program. This offer is valid only on May 21. Order online at www.papajohns.com, and don’t forget to use the promo code GORILLA.

And be sure to visit the gorillas at the Zoo this summer! The new habitat opens this Friday, May 22, and you can experience what makes these animals so wonderful. Up close and incredible.Gorillas Explore Their Habitat

Want to learn how the Houston Zoo helps gorillas in the wild, and how you can, too? Visit houstonzoo.org/gorillas.

And remember, every time you visit the Houston Zoo, you help save animals in the wild!

Binturong Spotlight on Species – Saturday, May 9

This piece written by Sydney Fitzpatrick 


In the forests of southeast Asia there lives a shy animal that is vitally important to its rainforest ecosystem.  It is known by a name most people have heard of, but few people knew really existed.  Interested yet?

binturongThat animal is the binturong, also known as a bearcat, a popular school mascot, though it is neither a bear nor a cat.   It’s most recognized feature is its buttery popcorn scent and it’s very long, prehensile tail.  This grey and black animal spends most of its time in the trees, looking for their favorite foods.  Binturongs are omnivorous, which means that eat both meat and plants.  Binturongs especially love fruit!  And this makes them a very important rainforest animal.  Binturongs eat fruit and as the move through the forest, they poop out the seeds, which can then grow into trees.

But binturongs are in trouble.  They are considered a threatened species and their population is declining.  Their major threats are deforestation and the capturing of binturongs for both meat and as pets!  Throughout southeast Asia, much of the rainforest is being torn down to make room for palm oil plantations.  Palm oil is a vegetable oil that is used in almost 50% of all American processed foods, household products, and body products.  50%!  The amount of forest being cut down to make these plantations is unsustainable and is destroying the habitat of not only binturongs, but animals such as elephants, tigers, and orangutans.  So what can you do?

binturon2

On May 9, the Houston Zoo will be celebrating World Binturong Day!  From 10am – 2pm, guests can come to the grass field between Natural Encounters and the Reptile building to learn about binturongs and how we can help save their home.  We will have activities for the kids, temporary tattoos, stickers, and a variety of animal encounters, including appearances by our resident binturong Hannah!  We will also be welcoming Sammy the Bearkat, the mascot of Sam Houston State University, who will be making a guest appearance in Natural Encounters!

Schedule of events:

10:00 AM:  Hannah the Binturong (Front of Natural Encounters)

10:30 AM:  Sammy the Bearkat (Natural Encounters porch)

1:30 PM:  Hannah the Binturong (Front of Natural Encounters)

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