Gorillas Explore Their Habitat

Four of the seven western lowland gorillas making their home at the Houston Zoo had access to explore the main habitat yard for the first time today, April 8. The family group spent time closely examining the entire area, from climbing a specially-designed felled cement tree to collecting all the treats the keepers spread throughout. Favorite treats included carrots, tomatoes, and romaine lettuce.


The intricately designed space holds both groups of western lowland gorillas who will spend their days alternating between an outdoor habitat filled with lush landscape that mimics an African forest and a multi-tiered night house that includes private bedrooms, an artistic 23-foot-tall climbing tree, and a behind-the-scenes outdoor yard.

These magnificent animal ambassadors offer the opportunity to increase awareness and inspire conservation action to protect their wild counterparts. The Houston Zoo’s conservation efforts for these species will also be communicated through interpretive messages and interactive experiences that reinforce compelling education programs.

Once open to the public on Memorial Day weekend, guests will be able to see the gorillas through many different areas of the habitat. From an arrival building with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the dry river bed, to an open boardwalk alongside the gorilla’s naturalistic forest, guests will also see the gorillas inside their state-of-the-art night house.

The gorillas calling Houston home are two distinct troops of western lowland gorillas: a troop of male gorillas from Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in Columbia, SC. Chaka (30), Mike (23) and Ajari (14). This bachelor troop has been busy getting to know the day room and the outside backyard. They will begin to have access to the main habitat in the coming weeks. The bachelor trio will alternate spaces at the Houston Zoo with the family group.

Zuri (31), Holli (25) and their daughter Sufi (13) arrived in Houston from the Bronx Zoo after a nine month stay at the Louisville Zoo. Binti (40) from Audubon Zoo was chosen to join the family troop as a part of the Species Survival Plan, a cooperation between Association of Zoos and Aquarium (AZA) accredited zoos and aquariums to properly manage specific, and typically threatened or endangered, species population.

The endangered western lowland gorilla faces many threats.  Their native habitat in central and west Africa is shrinking largely due to the expansion of mining and agriculture in the area. The already dwindling population faces the added threat from illegal hunting. As one of man’s closest relatives in the animal kingdom, their highly social nature and intelligence make them prime ambassadors to educate our community about the threats faced by all gorillas and the conservation work currently undertaken by the Houston Zoo. Staff works in tandem with the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP) to improve the health of remaining gorilla populations through improved human health for veterinarians and conservation workers as well as rural communities. Active health programs and education are fostering a better understanding of an appreciation for the natural world for those living near these endangered apes. The zoo staff also works with the Art of Conservation project, and the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education(GRACE) Center.

Gorillas Explore Their Habitat

Four of the seven western lowland gorillas making their home at the Houston Zoo had access to explore the main habitat yard for the first time today, April 8. The family group spent time closely examining the entire area, from climbing a specially-designed felled cement tree to collecting all the treats the keepers spread throughout. Favorite treats included carrots, tomatoes, and romaine lettuce.


The intricately designed space holds both groups of western lowland gorillas who will spend their days alternating between an outdoor habitat filled with lush landscape that mimics an African forest and a multi-tiered night house that includes private bedrooms, an artistic 23-foot-tall climbing tree, and a behind-the-scenes outdoor yard.

These magnificent animal ambassadors offer the opportunity to increase awareness and inspire conservation action to protect their wild counterparts. The Houston Zoo’s conservation efforts for these species will also be communicated through interpretive messages and interactive experiences that reinforce compelling education programs.

Once open to the public on Memorial Day weekend, guests will be able to see the gorillas through many different areas of the habitat. From an arrival building with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the dry river bed, to an open boardwalk alongside the gorilla’s naturalistic forest, guests will also see the gorillas inside their state-of-the-art night house.

The gorillas calling Houston home are two distinct troops of western lowland gorillas: a troop of male gorillas from Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in Columbia, SC. Chaka (30), Mike (23) and Ajari (14). This bachelor troop has been busy getting to know the day room and the outside backyard. They will begin to have access to the main habitat in the coming weeks. The bachelor trio will alternate spaces at the Houston Zoo with the family group.

Zuri (31), Holli (25) and their daughter Sufi (13) arrived in Houston from the Bronx Zoo after a nine month stay at the Louisville Zoo. Binti (40) from Audubon Zoo was chosen to join the family troop as a part of the Species Survival Plan, a cooperation between Association of Zoos and Aquarium (AZA) accredited zoos and aquariums to properly manage specific, and typically threatened or endangered, species population.

The endangered western lowland gorilla faces many threats.  Their native habitat in central and west Africa is shrinking largely due to the expansion of mining and agriculture in the area. The already dwindling population faces the added threat from illegal hunting. As one of man’s closest relatives in the animal kingdom, their highly social nature and intelligence make them prime ambassadors to educate our community about the threats faced by all gorillas and the conservation work currently undertaken by the Houston Zoo. Staff works in tandem with the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP) to improve the health of remaining gorilla populations through improved human health for veterinarians and conservation workers as well as rural communities. Active health programs and education are fostering a better understanding of an appreciation for the natural world for those living near these endangered apes. The zoo staff also works with the Art of Conservation project, and the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education(GRACE) Center.

From the Wild: A Close Partnership All the Way From Rwanda

Written by: Valerie Akuredusenge

Hi! My name is Valerie Akuredusenge, the Program Director of Conservation Heritage – Turambe, (CHT). I grew up in Gakenke District in the Northern Province of Rwanda. I began my journey in wildlife conservation as a tour guide, leading others through the dense rainforests of central Africa. I facilitated influential conservation experiences for tourists by bringing them up close and personal with some of the world’s most amazing wildlife.

As my love and appreciation of this wildlife grew through those experiences, I knew I needed to share this excitement with the local communities living alongside animals like mountain gorillas.  I joined Art of Conservation in 2006 and became a leader in conservation education. I have taught over 2,800 children in communities bordering Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park about how to maintain healthy lives for the continued prosperity of the local communities and gorilla populations as well. Additionally, I am creating the next generation of Rwanda’s wildlife conservationists by inspiring local students to care about their natural resources, and act on behalf of wildlife and habitats.

CHT Staff, Left to Right: Innocent, Eric, Oliver and Valerie. Photo credit of CHT.
CHT Staff, Left to Right: Innocent, Eric, Oliver and Valerie. Photo credit of CHT.

In 2013, I became the Program Director of Conservation Heritage – Turambe, an off – shoot of the very successful international non–profit organization called Art of Conservation that worked in Rwanda for over 6 years conducting conservation and health awareness programs in Musanze District, Rwanda.

Conservation Heritage – Turambe is local non-profit organization based in Musanze District in the Northern Province of Rwanda. CHT works with local communities bordering Volcanoes Natinal Park home to the critically endangered mountain gorillas.

Since 2013, CHT has worked as a local non-profit organization in Rwanda. In Kinyarwanda, Turambe translates to “let us be sustainable”.   All 7 of the CHT staff members are Rwandan and committed to continuing the important and inspiring work that was done by AoC previously.

The goal of CHT is to educate local communities near Volcanoes National Park to ensure they live in harmony with mountain gorillas and their habitat. CHT believes that disease transmission between mountain gorilla populations and human populations is a major threat to gorillas. To make sure the lives of mountain gorillas and that of human populations next to the park is in balance, CHT conducts year – long after school conservation and health awareness classes in communities near the Volcanoes National Park, home to mountain gorillas.

Students living close to mountain gorillas learn about this critically endangered species. Photo credit of CHT.
Students living close to mountain gorillas learn about this critically endangered species. Photo credit of CHT.

To be able to do it, the CHT team and I utilize different methods to deliver conservation and health messages to local communities.  Art is a great tool we use to help spread our messages and also make our program more unique.

CHT Artist Eusebe teaches local kids about mountain gorillas using artistic methods. Photo credit of CHT.
CHT Artist Eusebe teaches local kids about mountain gorillas using artistic methods. Photo credit of CHT.

Through our classroom programming, CHT teaches over 200 local schoolchildren about conservation and health. These conservation lessons instill in students an understanding and compassion of nature and wildlife. Local community members are also encouraged to stay healthy because the health of wildlife is linked to that of people.

CHT students learn staying healthy messages like how to wash their hands and how to brush their teeth. Photo credit of CHT.
CHT students learn staying healthy messages like how to wash their hands and how to brush their teeth. Photo credit of CHT.

CHT’s work also improves local livelihoods through different initiatives. We conduct tree-planting activities to prevent soil erosion, provide animal habitat and create beautiful green space. We also donate water tanks to schools to ensure water availability.

Additionally we do community outreach through our local schools by conducting conservation and health awareness classes to remote schools.  We host annual events including the 3k Gorilla Fun Run to increase gorilla awareness with communities and partners and we host annual tennis tournaments to raise awareness of CHT and mountain gorillas, and how to stay healthy.

At the very end of our year long after school programming, we host a very big event – Parents As Partners’ Open House – to share with our partners, local authorities, parents of kids and participants of our program what we have achieved during the year and celebrate!

To achieve our goal, we also partners with different conservation organizations including the Houston Zoo. One of the Houston Zoo missions in the protection of mountain gorillas is to make sure they are safe in wild and partner with conservation organizations.  In this context, CHT is really honored to be have Houston Zoo staff here for a one-month visit.  Houston Zoo staff is incredibly helping my staff and me in capacity building where she has been assisting, coaching, teaching and training and inspiring us on how best we can improve our way of planning and improving our documents.

Together with her expertise, the CHT team including me have gained a lot of experience in strategic planning, evaluation, writing documents, and many more.  In addition to capacity building, Houston Zoo has been a very close partner of CHT. They have been sponsoring CHT’s staff salaries, project development, raising funds for CHT and marketing the project. We are very fortunate to be with their staff member, Martha, who is really making us strong readers in conservation to be able to reach our goal.  My staff and I cannot wait to use what we learnt from the Houston Zoo.

From the Wild: Visiting Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda

With the arrival of our gorillas and a brand new exhibit opening in May 2015, we are committed to ensuring gorillas are protected in the wild. Houston Zoo staff is currently visiting our gorilla conservation partners in Rwanda to see how we can continue to grow our partnerships to ensure mountain gorillas are protected. The Houston Zoo partners with Gorilla Doctors, GRACE, and Conservation Heritage-Turambe, all of which are based in Central Africa near gorilla habitat.

The Houston Zoo is in Rwanda for 3 weeks working with our conservation partners, Gorilla Doctors and Conservation Heritage-Turambe (CHT). In between workdays at CHT’s office, I had the opportunity to visit mountain gorillas in the wild. We gathered at Volcanoes National Park headquarters early in the morning to get our assignment of which habituated gorilla troop we would visit. We soon found out we would see Agashya group, made up of 23 individuals including 1 silverback and 2 babies! Depending on what group you visit and where they’ve moved since the morning, your trek could be 1 hour, 2 hours, 4 hours or maybe even 7 hours! I would have never imagined the length of our trek until…after 15 minutes of walking through agricultural fields, we found Agashya group…and we never even set foot in Volcanoes National Park.

1

There, just past the potato fields, we saw 23 mountain gorillas, feasting on eucalyptus trees, which are non-native trees often planted here because they provide good timber for making furniture and charcoal. The only trouble is, gorillas seem to love eucalyptus and will come out of the park to eat it, which was exactly what happened that day.

2

Seeing gorillas in the wild is something indescribable. Their grace, strength, calm nature and beauty are unparalleled. What made the experience even more eye-opening was the proximity in which these wild animals live to humans, and I experienced it firsthand. Because humans are so closely related to apes we can share respiratory illnesses, a cough, the flu, a runny nose-you name it! If we hope to conserve these amazing animals, it is imperative the people living and working alongside gorilla habitat have the resources and knowledge necessary to care for themselves and their families.

3This opportunity reinforced the critical work the Zoo’s partners, Gorilla Doctors and Conservation Heritage-Turambe do to keep both humans and gorillas healthy, so that we can both continue to live peacefully alongside one another.

Next up we will hear from one of our partners, Valerie, the Program Director of Conservation Heritage-Turambe. Stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

 

Science Made Simple: How Recycling Phones Helps Animals

My name is Ryan and I love science. Join me as I try to make tough science a little less confusing.

Follow along as I research the issues, untangle the mess, and figure out what you really need to know to help animals and the environment.

 


Today’s Topic: How Recycling Cell Phones Helps Animals

Short Version: “Ingredients” used to make your cell phone are destructively mined from sensitive wildlife areas. Recycling your old cell phone and other electronics like cameras and laptops can help reduce the harmful mining, allowing the materials to be reused in newer devices. You can drop your old cell phone off at the zoo!

This week, I’m taking a look at what’s inside your cell phone. Don’t worry, I’ll be focusing on the hardware, not all the selfies. I’ve found a few great articles on our topic that have been published in scientific journals that should help us get a better look at what is going on. Let’s make science simple! 

ResizeConfusing Science: “At the core of eastern Congo’s regional violence are the country’s rich mineral resources. Specifically, DRC contains substantial deposits of what are commonly known as the “3 Ts”: tungsten, tantalum, and tin, as well as gold (Enough Project, 2009).” (Veale, 2013)

What That Really Means: You might have heard the term “Congo”, which is often the used to talk about The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC),  a country in Central Africa. These beautiful rainforests are  home to animals like chimpanzees, gorillas, okapis and mandrills. This area also holds lots of minerals underground which are very valuable all over the world.

Confusing Science: “More than 60% of tantalum is consumed by the electronics industry for use in electrical capacitors (Bauchman, 2010) and tin replaced lead for use in the circuitry of most electronics (Montgomery, 2011).” (Veale, 2013)

What That Really Means: Tantalum is an element that is used in all sorts of electronics, including your cell phone! Because cell phones and electronics are so popular, there is a high demand for tantalum in order to make new phones and electronics. Unfortunately, getting tantalum out of the ground isn’t easy or environmentally-friendly. Huge amounts of rainforest are cut down to make room for mining operations that are destructive to wildlife. The animals near the mines are forced out because their habitat has been destroyed and the area is stripped of nearly all wildlife.

SMS-Gorilla

Confusing Science: “Further, as roads cut into previously inaccessible forests, they will pave the way for an influx of commercial bushmeat hunting to supply major urban centers and foreign labor (Wilkie & Carpenter 1999; Cowlishaw et al. 2005; van Vliet et al. 2012), and wildlife traders, who supply the international trade in pets, ivory, or medicinal products (Stiles 2011; Luiselli et al. 2012; Maisels et al. 2013). These are major extinction threats to many large bodied mammals and traded species (Barnes 2002; Fa et al. 2005).” (Edwards et al., 2014)

cell phone recycle boxWhat That Really Means: To get deep into the rainforest where the materials like tantalum are, new roads have to be made. More trees have to be cut down, and less habitat is available for the animals. The sudden growth of people in these areas causes a rise in bushmeat hunting. Bushmeat hunting is when animals like chimpanzees, gorillas, and other rare or endangered animals are hunted for food. Even more troubling is that animals near the mining are trapped or killed so that they can be sold illegally around the world.

What Can YOU Do?: It’s simple! Recycling your old cell phone and other electronics like cameras and laptops can help protect the animals in these sensitive areas, because the materials from old electronics can be reused in newer devices, reducing the amount of mining needed. You can even drop your phone in our special cell phone recycling box at the zoo!


That’s all for now. Stay tuned for more as I try to make science easier to understand. Never stop learning,

-Ryan 

 Have a topic you’d like me to explore? Post it in the comments!


References:

A Comprehensive Approach to Congo’s Conflict Minerals – Strategy Paper | Enough Project. (2009). Retrieved March 13, 2015, from http://www.enoughproject.org/publications/comprehensive-approach-conflict-minerals-strategy-paper

Barnes, R.F.W. (2002) The bushmeat boom and bust in West and Central Africa. Oryx 36, 236-242.

Bauchman, M. (2010, December 1). Tantalum Capacitor Market Update. Retrieved March 13, 2015, from http://www.ttiinc.com/object/me-tti-20101201.html

Cowlishaw, G., Mendelson, S. & Rowcliffe, J.M. (2005). Structure and operation of a bushmeat commodity chain in southwestern Ghana. Conserv. Biol. 19, 139-149.

Edwards, D. P., Sloan, S., Weng, L., Dirks, P., Sayer, J., & Laurance, W. F. (2014). Mining and the African Environment. Conservation Letters7(3), 302-311. doi:10.1111/conl.12076

Fa, J.E., Ryan, S.F. & Bell, D.J. (2005). Hunting vulnerability, ecological characteristics and harvest rates of bushmeat species in afrotropical forests. Biol. Conserv. 121, 167-176.

Montgomery, M. (2011, January 25). Tantalum. Retrieved March 13, 2015, from http://tantaluminvestingnews.com/1146/rising-tantalum-prices-wodgina-mine-back-into-production/

Roots of the Crisis – Congo. (n.d.). Retrieved March 13, 2015, from http://www.enoughproject.org/conflict_areas/eastern_congo/roots-crisis

van Vliet, N., Nebesse, C., Gambalemoke, S., Akaibe, D. & Nasi, R. (2012). The bushmeat market in Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo: implications for  conservation and food security. Oryx 46, 196-203.

Veale, E. (2013). Is There Blood on Your Hands-Free Device?: Examining Legislative Approaches to the Conflict Minerals Problem in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Cardozo Journal Of International & Comparative Law21(2), 503-544.

Wilkie, D.S. & Carpenter, J.F. (1999). Bushmeat hunting in the Congo Basin: an assessment of impacts and options for mitigation. Biodiv. Conserv. 8, 927-955.

From the Wild: Working with Like-Minded Organizations to Protect Gorillas

With the arrival of our gorillas and a brand new exhibit opening in May 2015, we are committed to ensuring gorillas are protected in the wild. Houston Zoo staff is currently visiting our gorilla conservation partners in Rwanda to see how we can continue to grow our partnerships to ensure mountain gorillas are protected. The Houston Zoo partners with Gorilla Doctors, GRACE, and Conservation Heritage-Turambe, all of which are based in Central Africa near mountain gorilla habitat.


After a quick 22-hour trip from Houston, I arrived in Musanze District, in the North Province of Rwanda. Rwanda is a very small country in Africa (about the size of Maryland), with a population of nearly 11 million people! The small land mass and high population causes humans to live very close to mountain gorillas located in Volcanoes National Park. Because humans and gorillas are so closely related, we can share diseases with one another. To alleviate this problem and ensure mountain gorillas are safe in the wild, the Houston Zoo partners with Gorilla Doctors and Conservation Heritage-Turambe, both Rwandan-based organizations dedicated to ensuring both humans and gorillas are healthy and thriving.

1
Photo credit: Conservation Heritage-Turambe

I am in Rwanda to assist Conservation Heritage-Turambe (CHT) through capacity building. This is a local NGO, run entirely by Rwandan staff. Their goal is to ensure mountain gorillas, their habitat, and the communities nearby live peacefully together. This is done through a variety of educational programs they conduct.

Photo credit: Conservation Heritage-Turambe

The first 3 days of my time with CHT involved going with them to their classroom programs. Every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday CHT staff visit classes at schools bordering Volcanoes National Park. Each week, a new lesson is taught. These programs span the school year from January-October and children learn for the first half of the year the importance of leading healthy lives, and the second half of the year is spent learning about wildlife and conservation. Through all their lessons, kids utilize art, song and dance to make learning fun! The CHT team even let me teach a portion of their lessons, helping to translate my English into their local language, Kinyarwanda. The lesson I participated in focused on washing your hands to stay healthy and prevent the spread of germs to others, including gorillas.

2
Photo credit: Conservation Heritage-Turambe

After classes concluded for the week, I attended a staff meeting and we planned what the CHT team would like to accomplish while I am here. We assigned a task to each day, and by the end of March we will have completed a lot! Some of the projects we are working on include:

  • Strategic planning
  • Outlining goals and objectives for the future of the program
  • Planning evaluations of their classroom programs to measure success
  • Creating codes of conduct and employee expectations for anyone affiliated with CHT, including interns and volunteers
  • Creating a brochure to market the program locally and abroad
  • Practice writing grants

And I am sure there will be more! We will check back in soon (when the electricity is working!) to give you more updates from the field.

 

Sneak Peak at Gorillas – We Just Launched A New Gorilla Microsite

Web surfers are getting a first look inside the new gorilla habitat at the Houston Zoo with a just-launched microsite on the zoo’s homepage, HoustonZoo.org.  The site opens with a countdown clock marking time until the official grand opening on Memorial Day Weekend and then leads visitors on an area-by-area tour of the exhibit, and an introduction to the seven western lowland gorillas. The site is designed to give guests a sense of what’s to come.
Gorilla-screen-shot

Powerful gorilla eyes welcome visitors to the vibrant microsite, imaginatively designed by the Zoo’s in-house graphics team and web developers from New Orleans-based Apptitude. Created to introduce Houstonians to the mystery and wonder of the powerful apes, the website takes visitors on a journey from western Africa to the Houston Zoo.

On the site, visitors can also get a pictorial walk-through of the intricately designed space. From the outdoor habitat filled with lush landscape that mimics an African forest to a multi-tiered night house that includes private bedrooms, an artistic 23-foot-tall climbing tree, and a private event space. Guests can even learn about the seven western lowland gorillas who call the new space home.

Additionally, visitors will have the opportunity to sign up for email notifications, become zoo members and learn about the partnerships the zoo has in Africa with gorilla conservation organizations. Zoo members will have the chance to get one of the first looks at the gorillas in their new habitat during private preview days in May.

Houston Zoo Prepares to Welcome New Gorillas

gorilla-blog
Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © Wildlife Conservation Society

Seven western lowland gorillas will soon arrive in Houston in preparation for the grand opening of the new gorilla habitat at the Houston Zoo, opening Memorial Day weekend.  The intricately designed space will hold two groups of western lowland gorillas who will spend their days alternating between an outdoor habitat filled with lush landscape that mimics an African forestand a multi-tiered night house that includes private bedrooms, an artistic 23-foot-tall climbing tree, and a behind-the-scenes outdoor yard.

These magnificent animal ambassadors offer the opportunity to increase awareness and inspire conservation action to protect their wild counterparts. The Houston Zoo’s conservation efforts for these species will also be communicated through interpretive messages and interactive experiences that reinforce compelling education programs.

Once open to the public, guests will be able to see the gorillas through many different areas of the habitat. From an arrival building with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the dry river bed, to an open boardwalk alongside the gorilla’s naturalistic forest, guests will also see the gorillas inside their state-of-the-art night house.

gorilla-blog-2
Photo Credit: Richard Rokes

The first to arrive in the Bayou City will be a troop of male gorillas from Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in Columbia, SC. Chaka (30), Mike (23) and Ajari (14) are scheduled to arrive this week. Chaka and Mike lived at the Riverbanks Zoo since July 2004 when the pair arrived from Philadelphia Zoo in Pennsylvania. Ajari joined them in January 2013 from Knoxville Zoo in Tennessee. Mike, one of the three gorillas making the move, has a cardiac condition that will require attention throughout his trip and upon arrival. The Houston Zoo and Riverbanks Zoo and Garden have worked closely to create a travel and health monitoring plan to ensure all three gorillas will arrive safely in Houston.  The group is also working closely with the Great Ape Heart Project based at Zoo Atlanta to develop a long-term medical plan which may include medication and possibly an implanted monitoring device.

The bachelor trio will alternate spaces at the Houston Zoo with a family troop of three gorillas who will arrive in March from Louisville, KY and a single female who will join the family troop from Audubon Zoo in New Orleans.

gorilla-blog-3
Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © Wildlife Conservation Society

Zuri (31), Holli (25) and their daughter Sufi (13) are arriving in Houston from the Bronx Zoo after a nine month stay at the Louisville Zoo. Binti (40) from Audubon Zoo has been chosen to join the family troop as a part of the Species Survival Plan, a cooperation between Association of Zoos and Aquarium (AZA) accredited zoos and aquariums to properly manage specific, and typically threatened or endangered, species population.

The endangered western lowland gorilla faces many threats.  Their native habitat in central and west Africa is shrinking largely due to the expansion of mining and agriculture in the area. The already dwindling population faces the added threat from hunting. As one of man’s closest relatives in the animal kingdom, their highly social nature and intelligence make them prime ambassadors to educate our community about the threats faced by all gorillas and the conservation work currently undertaken by the Houston Zoo. Staff works in tandem with the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP) to improve the health of remaining gorilla populations through improved human health for veterinarians and conservation workers as well as rural communities. Active health programs and education are fostering a better understanding of an appreciation for the natural world for those living near these endangered apes. The zoo staff also works with the Conservation Heritage-Turambe project and the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation (GRACE) Center.

Monkey Business… aka "Love"

By Marjorie Pepin

It’s February, and love is in the air at the Houston Zoo. But can love withstand the test of time? That question not only applies to humans, but to animals, too!

One of the beautiful De Brazza babies.
One of the beautiful De Brazza babies.

A few of our monkey couples have managed to last longer than most human marriages, and that’s a big deal!  We have some primates in our collection who, through thick and thin, have been together for seemingly forever. Holding the record for being our longest lasting couple are a pair of Colobus monkeys named Caesar and Bibi. Together for twenty one years, this old couple has been through it all. Each of them has battled multiple illnesses and age (Caesar is the oldest colobus monkey in captivity at the ripe old age of 32) with their companion right by their side. Despite their old ages, they will still slap fight each other on occasion, but most often they are seen hugging and wrestling on the comfortable blankets placed for them to rest on. Other monkeys who have been long-time mates include a pair of De Brazza’s guenons who have been together for nine years and have produced two offspring. We also have a pair of lemurs, a Red-fronted lemur and a Crowned lemur who have been companions for six years.

Zenobia-blog
Zenobia watches over her baby.

For some it’s instant attraction, but others take time to build their relationships. In some cases they can also lose interest in their partner after a period of time.  Just ask Zenobia. She’s our female Coquerel’s sifaka who was introduced to a male named Dean a few years back. Sifakas are a type of lemur found on the island of Madagascar.  These two got along really well for a few years and raised two boys together. After their second infant was a year old, Zenobia started snapping at Dean, and their continued tension led us to separate the pair. Even though we made efforts to reintroduce them, it seemed there was no way to rekindle the lost bond.

Shortly after, Zenobia took new arrival Gaius as her mate. After three years and two babies together, Zenobia and Gaius have found comfort and balance with each other. It also helps that Gaius respects Zenobia as the “boss” (females are dominant over males in the lemur species). It just goes to show you that even in the animal kingdom, it takes a little trial and error before you find “The One”.

Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © Wildlife Conservation Society
Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © Wildlife Conservation Society

We will be welcoming a new family to our Zoo very soon. A family of gorillas which consists of Zuri, Holli and their daughter Sufi. Zuri and Holli have been together for sixteen years, and Zuri has always preferred Holli over any other females that were in their group over the years. Their daughter, Sufi, was born in 2001.  They will be the newest addition to our groups of long lasting primate relationships.

So this Valentine’s Day, the monkey business we call love continues to flourish here at the Houston Zoo.

Street Art & Conservation Collide

Conservationists are everywhere! Just like Houston based, self-taught artist Anat Ronen. Ronen uses recycled or “off-tint” paint when painting her enormous murals, including the gorilla-inspired mural she’s painting this week at Richard’s Antiques on 3701 Main St.

© Houston Zoo/Stephanie Adams

Not only is recycled paint cheaper than purchasing virgin, brand-name paint, but buying recycled paint saves on disposal – in most cases, leftover or unused paint can still be used and causes unnecessary landfill waste when tossing in the trash. By purchasing or recycling unwanted paint, consumers can help save the environment. You should also donate your left-over water-based latex paint to your local civic or community group, or take your oil-based paint to the appropriate facilities like the City of Houston’s Westpark Consumer Recycling Center.

© Houston Zoo/Stephanie Adams

Anat Ronen is one of five of Houston’s most talented street artists participating in covering local walls with murals inspired by the new gorillas coming to the Houston Zoo. The seven western lowland gorillas will inhabit an all-new, state-of-the-art exhibit which will open Memorial Day weekend.

© Houston Zoo/Stephanie Adams

We encourage art lovers and animal enthusiasts to visit one of these sites! Click here to learn more about each artist.

Artists and mural locations;

Mr. D

Artist at Large Industries, 2119 Washington Ave.  

Anat Ronen

Richard’s Antiques, 3701 Main St  

GONZO247

Downtown Food Park, 1311 Leeland (corner of Leeland & Austin Streets)

Michael C. Rodriguez

Jenni’s Noodle House – The Heights, 602 East 20th Street

Nicky Davis

3100 Smith St.

 

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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.

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.

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....

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.

Is this the one that had the limp?

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❤️

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.

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. ❤️

Run free in the heavens, your limp is no more. Prayers for all his caretakers at the Houston Zoo

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

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

Thinking of you all. What an amazing life he had thanks to the dedication of the zoo staff! ❤️

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.

Thank you to you and your staff for the years of quality care given this magnificant creature.

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

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.

Aww, so very sorry for your loss, Houston. Condolences to his keepers and all who loved him. ((((Lorie Fortner)))) He surely lived a long life with the great care he received at Houston.

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

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.

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 😂

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

Andrew Kaufmann Look its Richard Jr! 😂

“Baby it’s cold outside!”

Wow ... good photo shot ... show the world that you need to protect your pipe ... if not, freezing water will expand the pipe and crack the pipe !!!

I fell for the mouse thing too..

My gutters had glaciers in them!

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

i was honestly looking for a mouse lol

Wow,that is so neat!

Annecia Wesley but where is the ice bacon? Lol

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

Two words. Pipe insulation.

That’s awesome!

Ana Rivers Smith cool!

Cortez

Ashley Nguyen

Pauline Ervin

Denise Daigre

Vicente Gonzalez

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