Keeper Profile: Kelly Pardy – National Zoo Keeper Week Series

From July 20-26, zoos all over the U.S. are celebrating National Zoo Keeper Week. Here at the Houston Zoo, we are honored and privileged to have such amazing professionals on our team. We got a chance to sit down with a few of our keepers and get the inside scoop on what it’s like to be an animal keeper. Be sure to follow along with our keeper profile series during this great week celebrating zookeepers!

Keeper Profile: Kelly Pardy
Kelly picture

Hey Kelly. Tell us a little about yourself. Since we’re always asked what it takes to be a zookeeper, can you give us some details about your journey to the Houston Zoo?

No problem. I work in the bird department, and I’ve been at the Zoo for almost a year. Before the Houston Zoo, I spent some time at the Minnesota Zoo, Northeastern Wisconsin Zoo, and the International Crane Foundation.

 

What does a typical day look like for you?

We start off with feeding all of the birds and cleaning all of the exhibits. After our morning routine, we have “rounds,” which involves the whole bird department getting together to talk about what’s happening in each separate bird section (e.g. eggs laid, medical notes, general observations).  After rounds and lunch – human lunch, that is – we feed out the rest of the food – bird food, that is – to the birds.  The rest of the day is pretty variable.  We generally work on projects (re-perching, extra cleaning, records, etc.), and we do keeper chats.  Red-crowned cranes, laughing kookaburras, and king vultures are the particular chats that I present.  At the end of the day, we pull all the food, clean the dishes, and lock up until the next day when we start all over again.

Whats the most enjoyable part of your job?

I love working with a wide variety of species because it facilitates a great learning environment.  I’m always observing new behaviors, different interactions, or even just researching general life histories about the birds which may be currently unfamiliar to me.

And the hardest part of your job?

Being from Wisconsin, which has more defined seasonal changes, the Texas heat has been a huge adjustment for me.  I’m getting used to it, but I still have a long ways to go!

What is one thing that you would like visitors to know about being a zookeeper?

Working so closely with animals is an amazing experience, but there’s a lot more to the job than that.  It’s a lot of hard work and most people do it because they are incredibly passionate about the animals with which they work.

Any good stories that you can share?

One thing that I’m really excited about is our golden-breasted starlings.  We haven’t had any golden-breasted starling eggs hatch at the Houston Zoo for nearly 30 years.  This summer, we’ve had 3 chicks hatch and all have fledged from the nest!  They can all be found together in Birds of the World.  Stop by and check them out!

 

Keeper Profile: Jeff Bocek – National Zoo Keeper Week Series

From July 20-26, zoos all over the U.S. are celebrating National Zoo Keeper Week. Here at the Houston Zoo, we are honored and privileged to have such amazing professionals on our team. We got a chance to sit down with a few of our keepers and get the inside scoop on what it’s like to be an animal keeper. Be sure to follow along with our keeper profile series during this great week celebrating zookeepers!

 

anegadaKeeper Profile: Jeff Bocek
Hi Jeff. Tell us a little about yourself. We’re always asked what it takes to be a zookeeper, so can you give us some details about your journey to the Houston Zoo?
I’ve been a part of the Houston Zoo team for about one year and eight months. I currently work in the herpetology department, and my favorite animal is the crocodile monitor. Before the Houston Zoo, I worked at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago.

What does a typical day entail for someone working in herpetology?
My mornings are spent cleaning, feeding, and performing general husbandry duties. Afternoons are usually spent maintaining equipment and completing ongoing projects.

What’s your favorite part of your job?
The favorite part of my job is designing new exhibits and training our lizards for husbandry tasks.

What’s the hardest part of your job?
The most challenging (and also most interesting) part of my job is staying on top of the knowledge one needs to have about animal natural history and staying meticulous when it comes to venomous snake handling.

Any good stories? 
I’m pretty proud that through training one of our Anegada Island iguanas, I was able to use a target pole to get her onto a scale. A target pole is simply a stick with a little red ball at the end. Without lots of training sessions and dedication, it remains just a stick. But, by working a little bit each day, I taught her to recognize that the target pole was an invitation to move where I wanted her to go, and I would reinforce the good behavior with treats. This makes getting weight measurements much easier!

Keeper Profile: Lucy Dee Sheppard – National Zoo Keeper Week Series

From July 20-26, zoos all over the U.S. are celebrating National Zoo Keeper Week. Here at the Houston Zoo, we are honored and privileged to have such amazing professionals on our team. We got a chance to sit down with a few of our keepers and get the inside scoop on what it’s like to be an animal keeper. Be sure to follow along with our keeper profile series during this great week celebrating zookeepers!

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Keeper Profile: Lucy Dee Sheppard

Hey Lucy! Tell us a little about yourself. We’re always asked what it takes to be a zookeeper, so can you give us some details about your journey to the Houston Zoo?
Absolutely! I work with primates here and I’ve been at the Zoo for the past 6 years. Actually, the Houston Zoo was my first job and I even interned here before I was hired as a keeper.

What can a primate keeper expect to experience in a typical day?
The answer… a lot? You ready for this? Here we go.

Each keeper is assigned to one of our 7 animal sections every day, or as our dietitian. Starting at 7 a.m., we meet with the whole department to discuss what’s going on that day and share news from across the sections. From 7:30 a.m. to 8 a.m., we prepare diets and make the rounds. During the 8-9 a.m. hour, we clean our exhibits, put out enrichment items(objects or certain types of food to stimulate minds and encourage natural behaviors) and deliver breakfast outside. Then, it’s time to shift the animals onto their exhibits. From 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., we clean the indoor night-house areas and put additional enrichment inside for when the animals come in at night. During lunchtime, we feed our animals – some examples of food could be plant material browse (leafy branches), primate biscuits, or ice treats. After all the primates have had their lunch, the primate keeper team eats – usually between 1 and 2 p.m. The late afternoons are spent providing more food to our animals and working on some animal training sessions. We may also work on projects like exhibit maintenance or making complex enrichment.  Afternoons are also a great time for meetings due to the busy mornings!

What’s the part of your job that you enjoy the most?

I love to work with animals on training behaviors.  Primates are very intelligent and they can be taught a number of different behaviors.  The behaviors we teach them help us with husbandry.  A good example of this would be teaching our chimpanzees to present specific body parts to us. This allows us to check legs, arms, and hands for any scrapes or notable marks so we can be sure everyone stays healthy and happy.

What’s the hardest part of your job?

The hardest part of my job is when an animal passes away.  We work with our animals every day, often spending more time with them than we do our own families. Because of that hard work, along with our access to amazing veterinary resources,  most of our animals live long and happy lives into an old age. However,  that doesn’t make it any easier when it is time for them to go.

Any good stories you can share with us?

I think one of my fondest memories from my time here so far was an interaction I had with Solaris, the Bornean Orangutan.  Orangutans are very intelligent and know individual keepers and have a different relationship with each of us.  Once, when Solaris was outside on exhibit, there was a huge crowd of people at the orangutan viewing window.  I passed by and Solaris caught my eye.  I went up to the window and put my hand on the glass.  He ran right up and put his hand exactly on the same spot on the opposite side.  This showed me not only how smart they are, but that we were friends!

 

Zoo Keepers Celebrated During Honorary Week

cheetah walkThe Houston Zoo employs more than 150 Zoo keepers who passionately care for the animals at the Zoo. This week, we’re celebrating National Zoo Keeper Week and we’ll be posting daily keeper spotlights right here on the Zoo Blog. From designing enrichment programs and overseeing medical care to cleaning exhibits and implementing positive reinforcement training, our keepers do everything it takes 365 days a year to care for our animals.

At the Houston Zoo, our keepers have a variety of backgrounds and interests and we hope you’ll enjoy getting to know a few of them all-week-long. You’ll also learn a little about their daily routine, including some tasks you might not know a keeper does. For instance, did you know that every day the elephant keepers use a giant tractor called a skid steer to help them scoop 2,000 pounds of poop out of the elephant yard? And that’s just from overnight! Also, the Zoo employs seven keepers whose sole job is preparing all the food for our animals. Each day this crew arrives at 4 a.m. to chop, bake and wash all the food for the Zoo. They even chop 25 pounds of salad mix every day just to satisfy the growing appetites of the endangered Attwater’s prairie chicks.

Our keepers even provide round-the-clock care for the animals in extreme circumstances. If a hurricane is barreling toward Houston, keepers are an essential part of the Zoo’s ride-out team who ‘ride out’ the storm at the Zoo to keep the animals safe. Keepers also stay close-by 24/7 waiting to assist in the delivery when a giraffe is preparing to give birth. And if keepers have to hand-raise an animal, they share overnight duty to make sure the newborns are fed and monitored.

It takes a lot of hard work and an equal amount of passion to be a Zoo keeper. Next time you’re at the Houston Zoo, help us say “thank you” for all that they do.

National Zoo Keeper Week is celebrated each year beginning on the third Sunday in July. During the week, zoos nationwide honor animal care professionals and the work they do in animal care, conservation, and education. There are approximately 6,000 animal care professionals in the United States.

 

 

Keeper Profile: Stephanie Mantilla – National Zoo Keeper Week Series

From July 20-26, zoos all over the U.S. are celebrating National Zoo Keeper Week. Here at the Houston Zoo, we are honored and privileged to have such amazing professionals on our team. We got a chance to sit down with a few of our keepers and get the inside scoop on what it’s like to be an animal keeper. Be sure to follow along with our keeper profile series during this great week celebrating zookeepers!

 

Keeper Profile: Stephanie Mantilla
Steph-Bug-Resize

Hi Stephanie! Tell us a little about yourself. Since we’re always asked what it takes to be a zookeeper, can you give us some details about your journey to the Houston Zoo?

Sure! I have actually been at the Houston Zoo for three years now and I work with our carnivores. I hold a B.S. in Biology and Environmental Science and I have lots of experience working with animals. Before I came to Houston, I worked at the Brookfield Zoo for three years, Virginia Aquarium for two years, and held internships at the Cosley Zoo, Racine Zoo, and The Wildcat Sanctuary in Sandstone, Minnesota.

 

So what does a typical day look like for you in the carnivore department?

I come in at 6 a.m. and our entire department has a morning meeting to plan out the day. After that, I’ll go to my section and we begin to work on training sessions with the animals that I care for (Willow the black bear cub, Mattie the lion, Tarak the clouded leopard, and Haley the cougar). This helps us maintain the relationships that all keepers have with their animals. It takes a lot of hard work to establish trust with an animal. Our next task it to shift our animals around so we can monitor diets and at this time we’ll also administer any medications if necessary. Next, it’s cleaning the exhibit areas, then more shifting to get the group on exhibit and even more cleaning the inside areas that the animals just left. Enrichment is an important part of the day so I’m always sure to spend some time working in various enrichment to the routine. We’ll do keeper chats and/or lion and tiger window tours depending on the day. And guess what…. all of this happens before lunch! The afternoons tend to be a little quieter, and we typically work on things like developing future enrichment ideas, training exercises, and finishing projects.

What would you say is your favorite part of working at the Zoo?

For me, it’s seeing animals up-close every day. It’s also very rewarding to watch our animals develop behaviors after working tirelessly on our training sessions.

What would you say is the hardest part of your job?

It has to be the weather! From freezing winters in Chicago, to the humid heat of Houston, we’re out there all the time, all day long.

What is one thing you want visitors to know about being a zookeeper?

Being a zookeeper isn’t just playing with animals. Nearly all zookeepers have at least a bachelor’s degree, some master’s degrees. If you’re interested in becoming a zookeeper, it’s important to pay attention in school and get good grades.

Do you have any good stories you can share with us?

Sometimes, Shasta the cougar likes to play a game before he will shift to our inside areas. Cougars enjoy stalking their prey, so if Shasta can see us inside our building, we’ll turn our backs to him. When we turn back around to face him, he will be closer but frozen in a different position as he stalks closer to us. It is like a more intense version of “red light, green light.” Don’t worry though, we’re not in Shasta’s area. We’re in a safe spot so Shasta can enjoy the chase, and we can enjoy providing some enrichment that mimics natural behaviors.

Stay tuned for more interviews with our fantastic keepers!

Bear Awareness Day

Come and join the Houston Zoo in celebrating our annual Bear Awareness Day on Saturday, March 8 . Also help us in welcoming the newest additions to our collection.  Belle and Willow, 12-month old Black bear cubs, arrived at the Zoo in December of last year.  They were both found orphaned in Maricopa, CA.  Black bears are found in almost all of North America including East Texas.  That’s right!!  East Texas was once home to the Louisiana black bear but by the 1950’s the last native black bear had been killed in Polk County.  In 1992 the Louisiana black bear, (Ursus americanus luteolus), was listed as threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife.  Today, populations are finding their way back to East Texas.

baby bears

In 2005 the East Texas Black Bear Task Force was formed as a subcommittee of the Black Bear Conservation Coalition www.bbcc.org .  The task force promotes the restoration of the black bear in its historic range of East Texas through education, research, and habitat management by bringing together individuals, organizations, and state and federal government representatives to support the recovery.

Meet our Carnivore Keepers when they demonstrate the safe way of camping and hiking in bear country.  We will help you determine the difference between black and brown bears as well as show you what to do if you encounter a bear.  Come and join us for Bear Awareness Day on Saturday March 8th from 10 to 3 and learn how bears play an integral role in nature and how we can help support their return to East Texas.

Activites:

11:00 a.m. – Grizzly Bear Exhibit Keeper Skit- Hiking in bear country

2:00p.m. – Black Bear enrichment and keeper chat

Kids can experience how to forage for food like a bear and color a bear mask

Displays:

Big Thicket National Preserve

Texas A&M Forest Service

Bio Facts Table- skulls and furs

Campsite displaying the safe way to camp in bear country

The Houston Zoo Commissary- displaying a variety of food that bears eat.

Save A Turtle Saturday!

Save a Turtle Saturday
March 1, 2014 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Big headed turtle 3

On Saturday, March 1,  the  Zoo will host a special event called Save a Turtle Saturday. Guests will be able to learn how the Houston Zoo works to save turtles around the world, and find out how people can make a difference to their own local turtles. This event begins at 8 a.m. during Member Morning, as the Zoo opens an hour early for members. This Member Morning features the Aquarium which will showcase its green sea turtle. Members will be able to enjoy a special visit from Dr. Joe Flanagan as he answers questions and discusses his extensive experience working with sea turtles.

© Houston Zoo/Stephanie AdamsSave a Turtle Saturday focuses on the threats and dangers facing marine and land-based turtles around the world. During Save a Turtle Saturday, guests and children can participate in a variety of games, enjoy turtle story time, and visit the Swap Shop which will offer double points on all turtle-related items.

Talk turtles with Zoo staff from our herpetology, aquarium, and primate departments, all areas that host these incredible creatures. All activities are free with Zoo admission.

 

What's It Like to Be a Zoo Photographer?

Being a Zoo photographer may be a dream job for some, but for Stephanie Adams, the Houston Zoo’s photographer extraordinaire, it wasn’t even on the radar when she grew up. She wanted to be a marine biologist. But math and science wasn’t her strongest suit, so after talking to a friend that worked at a camera shop, she figured a career as an underwater photographer might be the next best thing.

Me-&-Miles-FB
Stephanie and her buddy Miles, the giraffe. Stephanie has been photographing Miles since he was born, and she was the one that noticed he had a heart-shaped marking on his neck. Now, we all identify him using that mark!

That fateful conversation with a friend led her to Oklahoma State University, where she majored in Photography and happened upon an opportunity to do a photography internship at the Houston Zoo. Her aunt lived in Houston, so she had a place to live…why not try it? 10 years later, Stephanie’s iconic photographs have allowed millions of people to get a close-up perspective of some of the rarest animals on earth.

The fancy digital camera wasn’t always in Stephanie’s toolbox, though (her current camera of choice is a Nikon D800). Her very first digital camera at the Zoo was a Sony Mavica, which used floppy discs!

“You would push the button, and a couple of seconds later, it would take the photo,” Stephanie remarked. “You never knew exactly what you were going to get, but there were a couple times when a miracle happened and I got the perfect shot.”

One of the "miracle" photos Stephanie got from that Mavica camera - Patty the Lion in action, lapping up water.
One of the “miracle” photos Stephanie got from that Mavica camera – Patty the Lion in action, lapping up water.

A typical day for Stephanie is half inside, half outside. Say she needs to photograph an animal for an identification sign that is attached to their habitat. First, she works with the keepers to find a time of day that works for both the keepers and the animals (feeding, cleaning, and playtime schedules are all considerations), and then she organizes all her gear and gets ready to head over. While she’s photographing the animal, the best tool in her toolbox is patience.

“Animals don’t exactly do what you want them to do, so you have to be patient and wait for the right shot,” Stephanie says. “It could be a nervous bird that needs to calm down or a jaguar that just doesn’t want to turn around. You just never know what you’re going to get, but you have to be ready when they are.”

The meerkats also like to help Stephanie out when she photographs them. They want to assist her with her backpack (or really, just burrow inside it)!
The meerkats also like to help Stephanie out when she photographs them. They want to assist her with her backpack (or really, just burrow inside it)!

Editing is the next step, and that’s the inside part. Once you take the photo, the camera leaves it slightly flat, so it is important to make adjustments like saturation and contrast to make the photo similar to how the human eye sees it. And finding “the one” – just the right photo that shows the twinkle in an elephant’s eye, the slight grin on that mischievous tamarin – gives the viewer an insight into not just the animal species, but also the individual.

Stephanie says the most challenging part of her job is the barriers between her and the animals, all of which are necessary. Animals at the Zoo are still wild, and protective mesh on many habitats is necessary and important. It also often comes between Stephanie and her subjects. The light matters a lot, and so does the position of the animal in its habitat is also important, because it needs to be away from the mesh so Stephanie can focus on the animal without having the mesh visible.

Being a Zoo photographer also has its scary moments. You’d think the bigger animals might be the ones to fear, but often it’s the animal you’d least expect. In Stephanie’s case, it was a Pesquet’s parrot! This parrot only liked a specific keeper and definitely did not like Stephanie. When she opened the door to get the photo, the parrot flew right at her! A bird keeper had to put the parrot on their arm so it would be calm, and Stephanie later had to Photoshop that arm into a branch.

Pesquet's-Parrot-0002a
That Pesquet’s parrot just did not want to cooperate.

“My favorite photography shoot is really hard to choose, I love all the animals! There are only 2 exceptions: spiders and roaches! I’m not a fan of those. But one of the more rare encounters was when I got to go in the habitat with the clouded leopard cubs. That’s something I don’t get to do every day and it was a real treat!” The cubs were hand reared, so they were used to human interaction, lucky for Stephanie!

When asked what advice she would give someone wanting to be a Zoo photographer, Stephanie said that it’s very important to get a degree or some sort of training. Also, keep learning. Stephanie’s always improving every day, thinking about creative new ways to shoot a subject or trying another editing technique. Volunteering gets you in the door too – never underestimate the power of building relationships with an organization you’re passionate about. And keep your portfolio ready – you never know when you might need to show it to someone.

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Stephanie photographing one of the many giraffes that have been born during her 10 year tenure as Zoo photographer

Visit the Zoo on Flickr or the Houston Zoo website to see more of Stephanie’s fantastic photography.

Chronicles of a Zoo Intern: Dealing with Diets

This post written by Marissa Talamantes.

 

Hello! My name is Marissa Talamantes and I have been given the lucky opportunity to be an Intern with the Carnivore Department at the Houston Zoo for the spring. My internship ranges from the gross to the awesome, and I would like to share what I have learned.

So far, I have been interning for two weeks, and I have found no two days are the same! Preparing the food (or “diets” as the keepers call them), is probably the only thing that stays the same. As an intern, one of my responsibilities is helping to prepare the diets for whichever section I am at for the day. In the Carnivore Department, there are four sections: Lions and Painted Dogs, Tiger Building, Wolves and Cheetahs (this includes Taji the Anatolian Shepherd), and Bears.

 

 

Here is the container full of meat for our cheetah Kito. If you look at the container lid, you can see his name written on it!

 

Since most of the animals in our department are carnivores, they do eat raw meat (with the exception of Taji, our Anatolian Shepherd). It can be pretty gross handling it, but you get used to it. There are many different types of animals, some of which are very small like our ocelot Novia, or very big like our male tiger Pandu. With each animal being different sizes, they all get different amounts of food to make sure they stay healthy and in good shape.

How do the keepers know how much to feed the animals? The cycle begins with the veterinarian. The animal doctor looks at an animal’s initial body condition to decide what its target weight should be. The target weight is an ideal range the vet prefers the animal to say within. For example Jonathan, our male lion, has a target range of 363-374lbs. That may seem like a lot to you and me, but for a big cat like him that is a decent size. Once the vet decides the target weight, they inform the keepers who then determine the amount of food to give them. Each morning the animals eat their specific breakfast. To make sure their meals do not get mixed up, we label containers with their name on it. After a month of eating their specific amount of raw meat, the keepers weigh them on a scale. Keepers will set up a scale in one of the indoor bedrooms the carnivores use, and then move the animal into that room once the door is secure. All of the carnivores are trained to step onto the scale, and the keeper will give them a reward while recording their weight.

The next step depends on how much the animal weighs. If the animal is below his/her target weight, we raise the amount of food up to 10%, and if the animal is above his/her target weight, we lower it up to 10%. For example, if Kito (one of the cheetahs) was above his target weight, we would lower his food amount from 1550g to about 1395g. If he was below the weight, we would raise it from 1550g to about 1705g. Since the vet cannot look at every animal in the zoo every single day, the keepers will observe the animal’s morphology (body shape and size) and behavior for changes that might indicate a weight change. If they appear sluggish (because they ate too much), or aggressive with food (because they want more), the keeper will notify the vet. With the communication between the keepers and the vets, they make sure the animal gets the right amount of food and nutrition.


Kevin is adding flaxseed oil to Seis’ diet of meat and vegetables. Seis is our Maned Wolf who gets the oil for his fur.

 

Even with this plan, we have to remember all of our animals are individuals, and each one is different. What may be a good target weight for Aries, may not be a good target weight for Mikita, even though they are both African Painted Dogs.

 

Throughout the course of my internship, I hope to share more of my experiences as I learn what it takes to work in the Carnivore Department. Be sure to keep an eye out for them!

Building the Zoo: One Exhibit at a Time

When you think of a Zoo, what comes to mind?  Probably animals, right? And animals are a huge part of what we do.  To make the lives of those animals comfortable, secure, and happy, there are many, many people that play a part. One very important part of Zoo life is building the habitats where the animals live, and then making sure they are safe, beautiful, and up-to-date.  And that’s the job of J.D. Devine, our Senior Project Manager at the Houston Zoo.

The flamingo exhibit in the middle of its renovation

J.D. works with a skilled team of people in our Facilities Department. They do everything from maintaining existing buildings to building new exhibits to making sure the lights stay on for Zoo Lights! There are lots of scheduled projects – 72 were completed last year alone – but often there are things that come up at the last minute. Who fixes a water main break by the reptile house? They do!

J.D. loves his job because nothing is ever the same, just like no two animals are the same. He is also passionate about constantly learning – when talking about the recently-completed renovation of the cougar exhibit, he said, “Part of our job is understanding what we have done before and how we can do it better next time.” They try new materials and new types of construction to constantly improve.

The biggest job they’ve undertaken in the last 18 months is the $1.3 million renovation of the hoofed stock barn on the west side of the Zoo. More details are to come on that in a later blog – the barn will be complete by spring break, and the exhibit will be totally ready for animals by the summertime.

The new giraffe feeding ticket booth (left) will provide a better experience for guests and staff.

If you’ve been to the Zoo lately, you can see the fruits of their labor in other recently-completed projects like the sea lion habitat renovation. You’ll also see a whole new flamingo exhibit this spring, and the giraffe feeding ticket booth will be completely renovated just in time for Spring Break, making it much easier and more efficient for guests to get their tickets to feed the giraffes.

So next time you visit, take a moment as you enjoy the animals to also enjoy your surroundings. From waterfalls near the lion exhibit to spectacular shade structures over sea lions, you’ll see the labor of love from fantastic facilities crew that makes our Zoo a beautiful and safe place for guests and animals alike.

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This morning, we humanely euthanized our male, 20-year-old jaguar, Kan Balam. Due to the tremendous care provided to him by his keepers and our veterinary team, Kan Balam lived well beyond his expected lifespan. Jaguars expected lifespan in the wild is between 12-15 years.

The carnivore staff and veterinary team made the decision after his quality of life began to decline. Quality care and continuous advances in veterinary medicine extends animals’ lives longer than ever, with most felines in human care living well beyond previous generations. Because of this, all cats, including domestic house cats and jaguars, often spend a significant phase of their lives as older animals, and are at a higher risk for geriatric complications.

Read more about Kan B, and the love his keepers had for him on our blog: www.houstonzoo.org/blog/mourning-loss-geriatric-jaguar-kan-balam/
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This morning, we humanely euthanized our male, 20-year-old jaguar, Kan Balam.  Due to the tremendous care provided to him by his keepers and our veterinary team, Kan Balam lived well beyond his expected lifespan. Jaguars expected lifespan in the wild is between 12-15 years. 
 
The carnivore staff and veterinary team made the decision after his quality of life began to decline. Quality care and continuous advances in veterinary medicine extends animals’ lives longer than ever, with most felines in human care living well beyond previous generations. Because of this, all cats, including domestic house cats and jaguars, often spend a significant phase of their lives as older animals, and are at a higher risk for geriatric complications.

Read more about Kan B, and the love his keepers had for him on our blog: https://www.houstonzoo.org/blog/mourning-loss-geriatric-jaguar-kan-balam/

 

Comment on Facebook

Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur; happy kitty, sleepy kitty, purr purr purr #RIP #bigbangtheory

I know he lived a lot longer due to the excellent care he got at the Zoo.

Is this the one that had the limp?

This was my daughters favorite critter at the Zoo. We always went to say hello to him before anyone else whenever we went. When she was 7 years old we sent a post out to out neighborhood on Halloween saying Paisley was asking for pocket change donations in lieu of candy for Halloween and all amounts would be donated to Kan thru the zoo. She raised over $40 in coins! I still have the letter from the zoo thanking her for her donation. He was a sweet boy and will be missed. 😔

I saw him limping about 2 weekends ago. The first time we walked by he was fine. When we walked by on the way out he was limping and moaning pretty loudly. I wondered what happened but I figured his keeper already knew or would find out shortly. Super Sad. He was always a lively one.

Sorry to hear about your loss. We also lost a jaguar(melanistic variety) at Reid Park Zoo about a year ago. Nikita was 21 years old and was euthanized due to health-related issues. Sad, but they have a GOOD life at the zoo! No predators, a steady food supply, medical attention, loving kindness from her keeper(s) and admiration by the public. Geriatric animals have unique problems and we are blessed to get to know them as long as we do.

Jaguar habitat is in the Zoo or Jungle's? ??or is only entertainments for person's? ??$$$$$$$!.Sorry animals the person's don't love you ..

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

Thank you Houston Zoo for taking such good care of him and all the animals! I've been going to this zoo since I was little bitty. I always enjoy it.

Dunno if the Zoo staff considered him a pet but he was certainly a family member, and because of that i offer this: RainbowBridge Author Unknown Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable. All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind. They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster. You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart. Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

Aww. When interning in the carnivore dept he was one of my faves. So smart! Ashley remember when Angie was teaching him to do the moonwalk after Michael Jackson passed?

Beautiful jaguar ....so grateful for the Houston Zoo keepers and veterinary team that gave their time and efforts to share this awesome jaguar with us for so many years.

He was well-cared for and most of all well-loved. My heartfelt condolences to those missing Kan B as well as me. What an amazing ambassador for his kind. What a beautiful old gentleman. Thank you for loving him into old age and giving him peace.

What a great long life he lived because of his excellent care at the zoo Thoughts go out to his keepers and the entire Houston Zoo staff

Thank you for doing what was right and kind for Kan Balam even though it was hard and painful for you. That’s true love for an animal. ❤️

RIP Kan Balam. You have given the visitors so much pleasure just watching you over these years. You were taken care of by top notch professional handlers, etc.

I'm so sorry for your loss. Thanks for taking such great care of him so he was able to live a long life. My thoughts are with his keepers and all who adored him. <3

Aww I’m so sorry for the loss, I’ve seen him many times, he was absolutely gorgeous! I’m glad that you guys were able to make him comfortable, sometimes the best thing we can do is let them be at peace. Will miss this handsome guy; play hard at the Rainbow Bridge friend, day hi to my cat, Junior for me!! Much love to the HZI staff!!

Jaguars are one of my favorite and he seems like a sweet boy. I'm so sad but I'm happy he can be painless and be free now. RIP❤️

The Houston Zoo staff has lost several animals this year and I am sure each one is so hard to go through.

I am soo sorry for the loss of this handsome fella Kan Balam. May he rest in peace and run free or any pain over the rainbow bridge.. My heart and prayers go out to each and every one of the staff at the Zoo.

Katie Rose Buckley-Jones I won’t ever forget the time you asked him to bring something and he ripped off a piece of cardboard and tried to hand it to you ❤️ thank you for introducing me to him. Sending you guys many hugs

So sorry to the keeping staff for your loss i cant imagine how youre feeling :( his old age is a testimony to the amazing care he received

I will miss him. The last time I saw him he looked tired, and it appeared his foot was bothering him.

Sad to hear of this. Thanks for taking such good and compassionate care for him and the other animals.

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Social Media Guy to Sea Lion Keeper: Can you send me a pic of you working with the sea lions in this chilly weather?

Sea Lion Keeper: Sure... (sends picture next to sea lion statue)

SMG: I'm still using this.
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Social Media Guy to Sea Lion Keeper: Can you send me a pic of you working with the sea lions in this chilly weather?

Sea Lion Keeper: Sure... (sends picture next to sea lion statue)

SMG: Im still using this.

 

Comment on Facebook

Are there some zoo animals that enjoy this weather?

SMG is another reason why Houston Zoo is the best Zoo!

Happy New Year “sea lion keeper “ 💖💖

More snow for TJ and Max ❤️ lucky them!

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

That’s my best friend Sophie for ya! 😂

Brrrrr

Omg the Zoo is so awesome 😂😂😂 Alana Berry

Omg be warm sweetoe

Haha!! Good one!

Sweetie 💞

Ashley Jucker 😂

Lauren Gonzales

Mike DePope

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