Sabinga's Updates: The Houston Zoo Staff Conservation Fund

Sabinga-Profile-Resize
Sabinga collecting marine debris in Galveston

The Houston Zoo is excited to welcome a new intern who comes to us all the way from Kenya, in East Africa. Sabinga is in the United States participating in the Community College Initiative Program (CCIP). The Community College Initiative Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State, administered by Northern Virginia Community College onbehalf of the Community College Consortium (CCC) in partnership with Houston Community College. While participating in this program, he will join us at the zoo as an intern to learn all about what a modern-day zoo is like! Sabinga is already part of the conservation community as he has been working with Save the Elephants in Kenya for over 8 years. He will be documenting his experiences at the Zoo and we will share his thoughts with you here on our blog! Stay tuned for more! I joined the Houston Zoo as an intern in November 2014 in the conservation department, precisely under Renee Bumpus – Conservation Programs Manager. I understood the work of the Houston Zoo from Renee Bumpus with other accommodating and professional employees (Martha – Conservation Education Coordinator, Elyse – Conservation Coordinator, Ryan – Interactive Marketing coordinator and many more). They assisted me in everything I know, and Renee is fortunately not tired of me. She is my mega star on this matter I must say! She is constantly providing information according to Houston Zoo policy that an intern needs to know, to do and to learn. It’s a timely internship according to my school major and makes me feel on cloud nine (extreme happiness). On my internship I attend many meetings and workshops, join teams in the field, assist several departments according to schedule given. I extremely enjoy all of them, but I became tongue-tied by Houston Zoo Staff Conservation Fund.

SCF_with_tagline Staff Conservation Fund is a program where Zoo employees donate a portion of their hard-earned wages to conserve wildlife. The program provides funds for Houston Zoo staff to use to carry out programs to save wildlife. The program seeks to provide opportunities and resources for any Zoo staff member to become involved in conservation efforts and increase and strengthen the connections between Houston Zoo staff and conservation projects that help conservation, education, research, community outreach and allow staff to implement conservation initiatives on or off the Zoo ground, targeting those species, places and issues that need critical attention, or where the effects of the Staff Conservation Fund can have the greatest, widest impact. The Houston Zoo’s staff are pioneers on this Staff Conservation Fund Program that began in 2004 as a mechanism for staff involvement in conservation and saving wildlife. No other zoo in the United States operates such a successful program; it’s mind-blowing and heart opening in conservation.   This flourishing Staff Conservation Fund is well structured with a committee comprised of 11 staff members.  4 permanent positions on the committee are the conservation department; remaining 7 positions are from both animal and non-animal departments and rotate after 2 years terms. There are some successful projects that were funded by Staff Conservation Fund like Barton Spring Salamanders, Houston Toad Research, Marianas Islands Project, Painted Dog Rehabilitation Center Training and 22 other projects funded since the start of the program. To mention one, Lisa Marie – Veterinary Hospital and Animal Nutrition Manager at the Houston Zoo, applied for the Staff Conservation Fund and was awarded. She traveled across borders all the way to Africa to save painted dogs in the wild-an endangered species. She has done a marvelous job on assisting Painted Dog Conservation in Zimbabwe to set up the new research laboratory, expand the project and use acquired parasitology skills to collect data on painted dogs by sampling scat for DNA, stress and reproductive hormones, prey hair analysis and now working together with the Houston Zoo Veterinary Clinic on basic parasitology. This entire project was funded by the Staff Conservation Fund. It’s unique in its conservation mission and yields unquestionable positive results and sheds light on conservation projects like Painted Dog Conservation.

Sabinga 5 blog
Lisa Marie training staff at Painted Dog Conservation in Zimbabwe

The Save the Elephants organization in Kenya where I work has an almost matching program developed by field team and adopted by organization, called the Community Outreach Program. We have the Community Outreach Program because Save the Elephants is trying any way possible to win the battle against poaching of elephants. One example of an effort under the Community Outreach Program is reforming some of the notorious poachers to be conservationists and protectors of the wildlife. The battle is by no means won, but through Save the Elephants ever-growing Community Outreach Program, we see less elephants being poached. The Community Outreach Program is the project that Save the Elephants staff is doing outside of their normal daily activities; outside of our normal work to ensure animals are safe in the wild. This is very similar to the Staff Conservation Fund at the Houston Zoo, where employees take on work outside of their daily activities to make sure animals are safe in the wild. This is very encouraging program and big thumbs up to Houston Zoo staff, we need to follow their steps, it’s true time to set things right, enough for ourselves, for the wild we must fight, protect their kind, we have taken enough, now it is time to give and remember extinction is forever, we must act now, time is running out.

Sabinga 5 blog 1
Sabinga at an ivory burning in Kenya

Sabinga's Updates: How Saving Elephants is Like Saving Sea Turtles

Sabinga-Profile-ResizeThe Houston Zoo is excited to welcome a new intern who comes to us all the way from Kenya, in East Africa. Sabinga is in the United States participating in the Community College Initiative Program (CCIP). The Community College Initiative Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State, administered by Northern Virginia Community College on behalf of the Community College Consortium (CCC) in partnership with Houston Community College. While participating in this program, he will join us at the zoo as an intern to learn all about what a modern-day zoo is like! Sabinga is already part of the conservation community as he has been working with Save the Elephants in Kenya for over 8 years. He will be documenting his experiences at the Zoo and we will share his thoughts with you here on our blog! Stay tuned for more!

It was Friday morning, I just reported back after Christmas and New Year break from my internship in the Houston Zoo, was the second day of January 2015. This day was planned last year for me to join Martha Parker (Conservation Education Coordinator) and Marketing team (Christine – Marketing Director, Shayla – Promotions Coordinator, Lauren – Marketing Coordinator, and Mary Kate– Marketing Coordinator) to travel to Galveston to visit NOAA’s sea turtle barn, the clock was ticking 11:01 am it’s time to go. We quickly get the big group ready to go. Christmas and New year stories occupied the air, each individual sharing their Christmas exciting memories, from beautiful Christmas trees full of sparkling, glittery ornament, sounds of giggling, toys blurring through the house and many more stunning detailed stories. Abruptly the stories were cut short because we had to go, six of us left “Oohing” and “Aaahing” Christmas season stories never stop, six of us continue chatting and laughing with joy! While Martha was driving and concentrating on the road, she kept contributing to the stories too, in about 30 minutes on the road, silence took control. I knew I didn’t contribute or tell my stories of my Christmas season, I knew it was my time! I didn’t know how to start my story of Christmas, so I asked Martha if I had told her about watching an NBA basketball game. Her exciting response it gave me energy to narrate was a nice story too, and I added more sweetness by showing pictures on my phone! By that time we were close to our destination.

44

It was noon and one of us suggested if we can eat lunch before visiting the barn. It was the best suggestion and went unopposed, so we went to a restaurant, very nice and clean, looked like a museum with drawings and sculptures around the walls. We sat on one table, everyone served his or her favorite, and we enjoy our lunch like family in every aroma and every bite!  After lunch we headed to NOAA’s (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) sea turtle facility.

11NOAA is an agency that enriches life through science. Compound was not big, I might be wrong to estimate, but no matter the size it has much in it, it’s home for more than 400 turtles. It has big storage tanks you might think it’s for Oil storage and vessel but no-it’s just for circulation of water from the sea to more than 400 turtle pools so they feel they are in the sea!

22Question is why Houston zoo involved? Because the sad fact of the matter is that sea turtle populations around the world are plummeting. So they are getting to the heart of the matter to protect these vulnerable creatures. To involve protecting the adult and baby turtle is not just an important thing to do, it is also a step in the right direction to preserve this species for generations to come and protecting sea turtle is not only an act of compassion, it reinforces a necessary link in the fragile chain of our earth ecosystem. When humankind is in harmony with the wildlife on the land and in the sea the benefits are far reaching – we are all connected, that is why Houston zoo assists sea turtle efforts on the Texas Coast by partnering with organizations like NOAA, Moody Gardens, Sea Turtle Restoration Project, Texas A&M Galveston, among many others. The zoo provides staff expertise and resources to assist sea turtle efforts. These include staff to assist in weekly beach surveys, graphics assistance in designing sea turtle awareness signage for local beaches, and medical care and rehabilitation for injured sea turtles by our veterinary and aquarium staff. Experience the thrill of helping to save endangered sea turtles, when you go on a turtle tour, we saw four species of the sea turtles include Kemp’s Ridley, Hawksbill, Green and Loggerhead.  We learned a lot and I found many things related to work of Save the Elephants in Kenya.

33Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) is an amazing technology where it allows sea turtles to escape the back of the fishing trawl, while still capturing small animals like fish and shrimp. This is where zoo and government work with the community on saving sea creatures, where members of the community are part of conservation. The same idea where Save the Elephants works closely with the community by making them involved with conservation and be proud of their wildlife. An example is our beehive fence, where farmers use beehive fences around their farms, where bee sounds and stings scare elephants away before they can destroy crops. Also farmers harvest honey, thus reducing the conflicts between elephants and farmers.

Also Save the Elephants’ text message technique was best to bring community to conservation where farmers receive a text message from collared elephants telling them which way the elephants are coming including the time and date when elephants about 500 meters from the farm. This also makes the community to feel involved and part of conservation.

After the tour in turtle burn we head back, this time the stories in the car are different, all of us processing and remembering what we learned, some asking questions not because they failed to ask them at the barn but because it helped remind us what we learned. It reminded me of school where we always discuss what we learn, this is showing that everyone has the heart of conservation, besides their normal work.

What’s near and dear to our heart is cooperative conservation, and knowledge sharing can make the difference between survival and extinction, that’s why we inspire others to remain motivated and work together towards building and maintaining a winning team!

Let’s join hands to work together, so we can win this battle against extinction!

Guest Blogger Carolyn Jess Talks About Houston Zoo Crew

Carolyn-Jess-2014-ResizeWe have invited Carolyn Jess back to help us out as guest blogger in 2015 with a focus on native wildlife. Jess is a 13 year old student who has agreed to be our special guest blogger about wildlife conservation. Carolyn was awarded the Alban Heiser Conservation Award in 2014, presented to her by Jack Hanna. If you would like to contact Carolyn or have comments, you may send them to conservation@houstonzoo.org.

 




If you are between the ages of 13 to 17 and have a passion for animals, then the Houston  Zoo’s teen volunteer program, Zoo Crew, might be the perfect  opportunity for you!  Zoo Crew is a volunteer program where you get a chance to learn more about animals, how to protect them, and the day-to-day operation of the Houston Zoo.  You first have to apply for a position and go through an interview process.  It is great experience and helps to guide you in the right direction for your future career.

When you apply, there are three different areas you can choose from, which are:  theater, education and Camp Zoofari.  After you turn in your paperwork by the due date and go through the interview process, you will get emailed whether you were accepted and which position you got.  You then choose the three weeks you can work.  Zoo Crew starts June 1st and ends August 7th.  It is very important to show up for your assigned weeks because lots of people, and animals, are depending on you.

Emma-Zoo-Crew

When you work Zoo Crew, everyday is always different!  Whether you are working with the younger campers, teaching the public about animal facts, or performing skits for Zoo guests to teach about conservation, every day is something new.  I worked in Theatrical Interpretation and had a lot of fun.  No matter the job, there is so much information to learn and to pass on to everyone you come in contact with.  I would love to tell you a typical day at Zoo Crew, but there really is no typical day.

I will be honest, the first day I was very nervous.  I applied for Theatrical Interpretation because I have experience in theater.  Despite my experience, I was still was not quite sure what to expect.  But, the group leaders were there to help with the daily schedule and expectations.  My three weeks that I worked were lots of fun and went by way too fast for me.  I was able to learn lots about the animals and I also made some really good friends those weeks.  Most importantly, my group was able to teach a lot of people about animal conservation.

Zoo Crew is an experience that any teen wanting to help animals should try.  It helps you to learn not only about animals and what it takes to operate a zoo, but you learn more about yourself too.  You get more confidence in your abilities, make new  friends, and Zoo Crew helps you learn more about a zoological career.

Applications for Zoo Crew are online now! You can find the Zoo Crew Application here.  Good luck and I hope to see you at Zoo Crew.

Sabinga's Updates: Wildlife Protection Efforts Near the Ocean

Sabinga-Profile-ResizeThe Houston Zoo is excited to welcome a new intern who comes to us all the way from Kenya, in East Africa. Sabinga is in the United States participating in the Community College Initiative Program (CCIP). The Community College Initiative Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State, administered by Northern Virginia Community College on behalf of the Community College Consortium (CCC) in partnership with Houston Community College. While participating in this program, he will join us at the zoo as an intern to learn all about what a modern-day zoo is like! Sabinga is already part of the conservation community as he has been working with Save the Elephants in Kenya for over 8 years. He will be documenting his experiences at the Zoo and we will share his thoughts with you here on our blog! Stay tuned for more!

Sabinga writes:
Do you know that Houston Zoo also doing their part to bolster dwindling populations of animals still living free in the wild? The sea turtle is an example. The green sea turtle gets its name not from the color of its shell but from the greenish shade of its fat. A saw-like beak helps these herbivores tear through vegetation. Their shells, which are lighter and more hydrodynamic than those of terrestrial turtles, allow them to glide easily through the water, while flippers enable them to swim long distances. Male sea turtles spend their entire lives at sea, but females return to the same beaches they were born on, once every two years or so, to lay eggs. It’s a unique creature!!

turtle-banner

Just a few days ago I was busy working on my computer when I heard a voice behind me asking me if I wanted to go into the field with Martha (Conservation Education Coordinator) and sea lion staff on the following Tuesday. I quickly realized the voice was Renee! (Conservation Programs Manager) But it took me lot of thinking to manage and organized my thoughts about word “field” in the zoo as I turn my chair to face her slowly buying time for my thoughts, the only thing running in my head is back in Kenya, in Save the Elephants where we go to the field on daily monitoring, community outreach and anti-poaching campaigns for wildlife. I turn to face her and still have no clue what she meant. My thoughts fail me. I repeated the same statement to her. “Field?” Maybe she though I repeated a word to her for confirmation, not knowing there was so much going in my head. And that was where my new lesson started about what field work with the Houston Zoo meant.

The 16th of December, 2014 Tuesday morning was our mission day of Surfside beach clean-up to protect animals like sea turtles, it took us approximately one hour, was a long drive but was a journey with lot of fun, lots of laugh and a great way to get a word out about the sea Turtles! Aiming to talk to beach residents in an effort to monitor, preserve and protect sea turtle and their vicinity as well as to educate the local residents on the plight of sea turtles and other marine animals, it is the same way Save the Elephants approaches the community on elephant poaching.

Martha had lot of responsibility; she was our team leader, driver and main spokesperson to the community although Sophie Darling and Heather Crane contributed too to the effort. I was keen to learn about how they approach the community! From my heroes (Martha, Sophie and Heather), my first impression was the sea turtle sign at the entry of the beach, this sign was made by the Houston Zoo graphics team in collaboration with  NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric administration) which is also the same way that Save the Elephants collaborates with the Kenyan Government -Kenya Wildlife Service.
1&2

NOAA & Houston Zoo staff put fishing line recycling bins on a long jetty for fishermen to put their broken fishing line that is dangerous for the sea turtles and other marine animals.  We started cleaned the jetty from the far end coming where we began by collecting common marine debris items including things like cigarette butts, cans, plastic bags and bottles, styrofoam, balloons, lighters, discarded or lost fishing gear such as lines, nets and anything else dangerous to sea life. This is hard work but there is still a lot to be done.  We still need to do a lot of collecting and messaging to win this, we cannot give up!!!!

2&3

Sophie and Heather’s comments on their experience, “It feels so good to be out and actively participating in such an important mission, I just wish that I could get every piece of monofilament out there! That was the hardest part, like you said, was having to come to terms with the fact that I couldn’t get everything.  I cannot wait to spread this to the community here at the Zoo and all over Houston! I feel extremely proud to be a part of all of this.”

The total amount or marine debris the sea lion team has collect this fall is:

  • 34.1 lbs of rope
  • 11 lbs of recycling
  • 26.4 lbs of trash
  • 2 lbs of monofilament (fishing line)

Why should we care about sea turtles? Just like other species, sea turtles are also important to the economy. Some fishermen depend on fishing for their jobs and if sea turtle go extinct, the underwater ecosystem would be unbalanced. Why? Sea turtles are one of the only animals that eat sea grass, and sea grasses need to be kept short. Why? So it can grow across the ocean floor. Why? Without the sea grass the species of fish that live there will be lost, the people that fish for them couldn’t anymore. What if that was YOU?  Some just think,  “oh well other people will care for them”; others may say, “I am busy with my business”  – yeah well many other people may be thinking other things – that is why we have this problem. So do your part. Please join us to save sea turtles by reducing the use of plastic bags so that they don’t end up in the ocean and cleaning the beach. It is of great value to our community and the world. We need to take action together, and spread the news! Your actions today affect tomorrow’s outcomes!

Discover What Makes the Houston Toad So Unique

IMG_9112The Houston Zoo is excited to welcome a new intern who comes to us all the way from Kenya, in East Africa. Gilbert Sabinga is in the United States as participating in the Community College Initiative Program (CCIP). The Community College Initiative Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State, administered by Northern Virginia Community College on behalf of the Community College Consortium (CCC) in partnership with Houston Community College. While participating in this program, he will join us at the zoo as an intern to learn all about what a modern-day zoo is like! Sabinga is already part of the conservation community as he has been working with Save the Elephants in Kenya for over 8 years. He will be documenting his experiences at the Zoo and we will share his thoughts with you here on our blog!

Sabinga writes:

Sabinga blogHouston Zoo is the nature in it’s wildest. Every day coming to the zoo it offers me a new chance to get up close from wildlife around the world, and learn close facts about the animals. This time I was introduced to toads!!!! The little I knew about the toads is valuable part of our outdoor heritage. Most of people probably don’t give them much thought, and rarely credit what we consider lesser life not with emotions big as ours; but we need these amphibians to control destructive insects and to offer their voices to the sounds of spring and summer nights. Just hearing or seeing them adds to our enjoyment of outdoor joy and makes our environment beautiful. I visited and got to help in the toad department under the instruction of Tyler Parker, who never get tired of me asking questions about toads. He really taught me much on toads and expanded my knowledge about the toads especially Houston toads.

Sabinga blog2Today, with species threatened and habitats disappearing worldwide, the Houston Zoo  is playing a new role in conservation: the Zoo is expanding their efforts far beyond keeping animals alive in captivity. An example of this is the toad quarantine facility that serves as a location for captive breeding and head- starting of Houston toads eggs stand for release in to the wild, and this facility is managed full-time by Houston toad specialists who care for the toads and work closely. I never thought of how great this is wow! Credit to toad keepers.

The best part is that we would all love to think that wild animals in reality are at least a little bit like they are in National Geographic movies – cute, cuddly and happy to be in human company. Certainly toads can get used to human caretakers. Dr. Lauren Howard held one told and I was surprised that the toad did not struggle and even closed its eyes! I was wondering is it love? Or, the warmth of Lauren’s hand, or cues from the toad that it enjoys the care.  We all need to care for these magnificent local Texas creatures.

Sabinga blog3
Amphibian species are now on the verge of extinction. How do we save them?

– Toads like to take their time crossing the road…give them a brake! Roadkill is a significant cause of toad and frog mortality in many parts of the world. So drive slower on wet nights. Help a frog or toad cross the road (careful: don’t cause an accident or get squashed yourself).

– If you are building a pond, and want to support a healthy toad community, do not stock fish in it–even native species. Fishless ponds always tend to have a higher amphibian biodiversity than do ponds with fish.

– Most of the products we use in our daily life, and even the things we take for granted (food, water, electricity) have been removed from their natural place in the environment. We therefore offer the following suggestions on how you can reduce your ecological footprint: Turn off your air conditioning when it’s not in use. Take a shorter shower. Put a lid on that pot of boiling water. Turn off your lights. Print on both sides of the sheet of paper. Turn your jacuzzi off when it’s not in use. Going for a picnic? Don’t use styrofoam plates; most supermarkets sell biodegradable corn plates.

For more information visit; conservation@houstonzoo.org

Point to remember; Toads may be begging for their environmental freedom!!!

Guest Blogger Carolyn Jess Talks Giraffes

We have invited Carolyn Jess back to help us out as guest blogger in 2013 with a focus on native wildlife. Jess is a 13 year old student who has agreed to be our special guest blogger about wildlife conservation. We first met Carolyn in October 2011 when she came out to the Zoo to meet our special guest Jack Hannah. If you would like to contact Carolyn or have comments, you may send them to conservation@houstonzoo.org.

Have you heard of The Call of The Wild Speaker series at The Houston Zoo?  The Zoo has many important people who work directly with endangered or threatened animals and has them speak in the evenings at the Brown Education Center.  The speakers are people who have a passion about the wildlife they work to protect and share a lot of their knowledge with their audience.  The speaker series is open to anyone who wants to come. All you have to do is just sign up on the website.

I recently got to listen to Julian Fennessy at the Speaker Series talk last month.  He is the Executive Director of Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) and he is very passionate about giraffes.  He shared some information with us about giraffes that I was not aware of.

I always pictured there to be plenty of giraffes roaming the savannas of Africa, but I discovered that is not exactly true.  Giraffe populations are falling very fast and there are many reasons for that.  The first reason is poaching.  I never thought that someone would actually poach a giraffe, but they are actually another source of bush meat that is often sold illegally in markets.  Giraffes are actually easy to hunt because they  pretty much stand still and glare at the threat before they run away.  This makes them easy targets for poaching.  Some people believe that giraffe hair is lucky, so their tails are cut off to get the hair to make bracelets and jewelry.

Another threat to the giraffes is loss of their habitat.  Many times the land the giraffes live on is clear cut for agriculture and to harvest lumber, which causes the giraffe to have to move elsewhere, but they are running out of space to move.

giraffe

What Julian and his group do is study the giraffes and their movements.  This is not an easy task, so one way to do this is to attach a satellite tracking collar to the giraffe’s neck.  Julian explained that this is a tricky thing to do, but through hard work and taking some time, the tracking collars are placed on the giraffes.  The Giraffe Conservation group tracks the giraffes’ movements using GPS units.

The Giraffe Conservation Fund is working hard to protect the giraffes in Africa.  Through educating the public and the people who live and work around the giraffes in Africa, our giraffes will have a chance at survival.  You can help the giraffes too by telling others about the giraffe issue and donating your used GPS devices to the Houston Zoo.  Just drop them into the cell phone recycling box beside the entrance to the guest service office at the entrance of the Zoo.  They will send them to the GCF to help track the giraffes’ movements in the wild.  Every time you visit the Zoo you help save animals in the wild!

Guest Blogger Carolyn Jess Talks Bushmeat

We have invited Carolyn Jess back to continue to help us out as guest blogger in 2014 with a focus on native wildlife. Jess is a 13 year old student who has agreed to be our special guest blogger about wildlife conservation and is currently working on the Houston Zoo Crew. If you would like to contact Carolyn or have comments, you may send them to conservation@houstonzoo.org.

I never have heard of the Bushmeat Crisis until I visited the Houston Zoo this past weekend. I was on my lunch break for Zoo Crew training and was looking around at everything I could. I got to the primate area and read some of the signs, and that’s where I found out about the Bushmeat Crisis.

In Africa, the forests are also called “the bush”.  The animals that live in the bush, many of them endangered animals, are killed so that they can be eaten.  Chimpanzee, elephants and gorillas are just a few of the animals that are killed to eat.   It is a big industry now and people in Africa are making a lot of money from selling bushmeat, so much that when these people hunt, they are not thinking about just killing a few animals, but all that they can shoot.

That’s not all though.  Once the animal is shot, there is often a baby left behind without their parent.  These animals are taken as well and sold as pets or sold off to another place.  These animals usually die on their way to the market due to the containers they are shipped in.  The containers are often too small or don’t have holes for oxygen to get in.  Because of this, there has been a number of sanctuaries  opened to help take care of these orphaned babies and the workers help raise awareness of this problem.

These animals deserve better than this.  There are alternative food sources, but this meat is cheap and in big demand.  There are many things you can do to help stop this horrible crisis.  First of all, become aware of the problem and tell others.  You can visit the Bushmeat Crisis Task Force website to get information sent to you.  You can also get your senators to help.  Jane Goodall has a website for you to type in your name and address and a  letter will be sent to your senator.  The senators can support the African governments with making stricter laws for poaching and owning illegal animals.  You can also support a wildlife refuge or wildlife sanctuary in Africa. If people are aware of this problem, then we can all try to help.  If no one knows or reads about it, the problem will go on and our wildlife in Africa will disappear.

Guest Blogger Carolyn Jess Talks Recycling Cell Phones

We have invited Carolyn Jess back to help us out as guest blogger in 2014 with a focus on native wildlife. Jess is a 13 year old student who has agreed to be our special guest blogger about wildlife conservation. We first met Carolyn in October 2011 when she came out to the Zoo to meet our special guest Jack Hannah. If you would like to contact Carolyn or have comments, you may send them to conservation@houstonzoo.org.

For the second year, my school is participating in the Action For Apes cell phone recycling challenge.  Schools and businesses are invited to take action and enter this competition.  The goal of the program is to recycle as many old cell phones as you can.  The top prize is a really cool painting done by the chimps here at the Houston Zoo.  Rasco Middle School, where I went to school last year, won the painting and it is still hanging up in the hallway.  That is great for Rasco, but now I need a chimp painting for the hallway at Lake Jackson Intermediate.  I am hoping my school will step up and accept this challenge.
action for apes

Whether my school wins or loses, the real winners are the chimps and apes that live in the African Congo.   That is where the mineral coltan is mined.  Coltan is the material in electronics that holds electric charges.  The coltan is really being mined hard on the boundary of the Kahuzi  Biega National Park.  There, the gorilla population has been cut in half due to the mining of coltan.  The forest there that was once lush and green is being torn down and dug up.  The amount of coltan that is being exported every year is increasing largely.

Coltan is mined kind of like gold was mined back in the 1800s.  Large holes are dug, layers of dirt are put into screens, and then water is added to wash away the small pieces.  What’s left are the chunks of coltan.

We can help though.  If we reduce the need for coltan by recycling our old phones and electronics, we reduce the amount of mining that needs to be done.  You can help reduce the need for mining coltan by joining the Action for Apes challenge.  Encourage your school or business to take part.  You can also take your old phones to the Houston Zoo to recycle.  (Or you can give them to me!) Even if my school does not win the painting, we have won part of this battle for the Congo by teaching people about this problem.  Be a hero and recycle your electronics today.

Guest Blogger Carolyn Jess Spots Whooping Cranes

We have invited Carolyn Jess back to help us out as guest blogger in 2013 with a focus on native wildlife. Jess is a 12 year old student who has agreed to be our special guest blogger about wildlife conservation. We first met Carolyn in October 2011 when she came out to the Zoo to meet our special guest Jack Hannah. If you would like to contact Carolyn or have comments, you may send them to conservation@houstonzoo.org.

Recently,  I was able to participate in the Audubon Christmas Bird Count at the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge with my Junior Naturalist group.    We volunteer every year to help identify and check off the birds we see.  It was very cold that day, but we were all prepared and had lots of layers of clothes on along with our binoculars, scope, bird guides, and checklists.  We were able to find almost 30 different species of birds in our 15 mile radius.

The Audubon Society always needs volunteers to help with the bird counts.  It’s a fun family activity that you can take part in during the holidays.   Another fun family activity to do over the Christmas break is to go to Rockport to see the whooping cranes.  There are a lot of tour boats and charter boats that take families and groups out to go see the whooping cranes.

The whooping crane is the tallest North American bird and grows to be five feet tall and have a wingspan of seven and a half feet.  They are white with a red head and black wing tips.  They mate for life and produce one chick per year.    Whooping cranes breed in Canada and migrate down to the Texas Gulf Coast in the winter months.  The whooping crane is an endangered species – there are only about 300 of them left.  In the 1940s, there were only about 20 whooping cranes.  The 300 we have now are all descendants of those original 20.  Their population was being wiped out by hunting and loss of habitat.  Hopefully, with our conservation efforts, we will continue to increase their numbers.   If you would like to help out the whooping crane, you can visit the International Crane Foundation.  They list ways you can help this endangered species survive.

Guest Blogger Carolyn Jess Talks Recycling

We have invited Carolyn Jess back to help us out as guest blogger in 2013 with a focus on native wildlife. Jess is a 12 year old student who has agreed to be our special guest blogger about wildlife conservation. We first met Carolyn in October 2011 when she came out to the Zoo to meet our special guest Jack Hannah. If you would like to contact Carolyn or have comments, you may send them to conservation@houstonzoo.org.

Does your school recycle?  My school recycling program is going well and I hope that other schools have started their recycling programs.  November 15 is America Recycles Day, so this month is a great time to start a recycling program for your school, church or business.  Two years ago, when I was in middle school, we had recycling bins set up in every classroom and the green recycling dumpsters in the back of my school.  It looked like we had a good recycling program, until one afternoon,  I noticed that the custodians took the papers in the recycling bins and threw them in the regular trash.  I went to my school principal, told her what I saw, and asked if I could start a school recycling club.  She said yes and was very supportive.   During those two years, I had about 40 kids that helped recycle papers, boxes and plastic bottles once a week.  This year I moved on to the intermediate school.  I found out there had been programs to recycle in the past, but not this year.  In September, my student council and some of my old recycling club members got together here at my new school and got our recycling club started again and recycle once a week.

It is very easy to set up a program for recycling.  If you are a student and you are not sure if your school recycles,  ask your principal.  If you don’t have a program,  you should get permission to start a club – just taking out the accumulated papers once a week  makes a huge difference for our environment.  There are even recycling contests your school can enter and the top prize is $1000.   All you have to do is have your school register and keep up with how much you are recycling.

So many things depend on a clean environment.  Papers, boxes, and plastic bags can all be recycled, but  they always seem to be on the side of the road or in wetland areas.  If we recycle these things, we can Keep Texas Beautiful.

Search Blog & Website
[jetpack_subscription_form title="Subscribe to the Blog" subscribe_text="Enter your email address to subscribe and receive new blog posts by email."]
Houston Zoo Facebook Page
Animals In Action

Recent Videos

[youtube_channel]