What is Browse and Why Do Our Primates Like It?

will blog browse canWhat is browse? Is it looking at a magazine while you’re at the doctor’s office? Or trying to find something on the internet? Well, no, when we talk about browse in the zoo we’re talking about plants and vegetation.  The definition of browse at the zoo is: fresh plants that are given to an animal for food and enrichment as a replacement for some of their wild food sources.

There is a wide range of browse that we can use here in Houston. Due to our semi-tropical climate we are able to grow all kinds of browse. Even some that may grow amongst our animal’s natural homes in Africa, Asia, or South America!

There are some great advantages and a few disadvantages in giving primates browse. But with proper inspection, and dedicated keepers to make sure their animals are safe, the disadvantages basically disappear. Browse is used mainly to promote behavioral enrichment. This just means that the animal is exhibiting behavior that they would in the wild. It can also add to the animals’ nutrition, providing fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. Sometimes you may even see some of our young primates just playing with leftover browse that mom and dad have left behind.

will blog orangutan browse

 

Some disadvantages may be potential toxins that are in the plant. This is where zookeepers and horticulturists work hand in hand. Our horticulture staff will bring zookeepers browse that they know is non-toxic. They know what part of the plants the animals can and cannot have. Some of our browse has to be cut a certain way to make sure the animals don’t get part of the plants that they shouldn’t. It is very important not to feed animals’ random plants because unless you are an expert like out horticulture staff, as it may be deadly for our animals.  Zookeepers always check with them before we feed it to our animals.

There are thousands upon thousands of plants out there in this world. Some are edible and some are not. Some are sweet and some are bitter. Our animals all have their favorite types of browse, and of course least favorite. For instance, our gorillas love to eat willow branches. Our mandrills do not like to eat ginger, but occasionally one will tear into it. Our sifaka love to eat rose petals.

Sifaka and rose petals
Sifaka and rose petals

Overall, browse is an important part of an animal’s life at the zoo. It has so many uses, and there are so many types for our animals to choose from. None of this would go as smoothly as it does if it weren’t for the horticulture team here. So, whenever you see one of them out and about planting more browse for our animals, give them a big thank you!

Penny the cat discovers Gorillas

Hello all. Penny the Swap Shop cat here. There is something new going on at the zoo.

I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. I kept hearing about these new animals at the

Penny contemplating gorillas
Penny contemplating gorillas

zoo…..gorillas. So, I did some research.

It seems the Houston Zoo has added 7 new gorillas. A bachelor group and a family group. I didn’t think they would be so impressive until I saw pictures of them.   They are actually amazing!

There are three males in the bachelor group – Ajari (14 yrs. old), Chaka (30 yrs. old) and Mike (23 yrs. old). The family group consists of one male, Zuri (31 yrs. old), with Holli (25 yrs. old), Sufi (13 yrs. old) and Benti (40 yrs. old).   Their exhibit is beautiful and took a long time

The gorilla family in their new exhibit

to build.   They have a much bigger house than I have in the Swap Shop.   But then, they are a lot bigger than me so I suppose that is fair – even if they aren’t cats.  I guess that also explains why they get to be outside without a leash when I don’t.

I learned that gorillas are disappearing in the wild. It is due to habitat loss and illegal hunting. That made me pretty sad. But, the Houston Zoo is working with organizations in the field to help save the gorillas. They work with the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP) and the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center (GRACE) to help the wild gorillas. Every time you come to the zoo to see our gorillas, you are helping wild gorillas.

Come and see me at the Naturally Wild Swap Shop.  I will be here carefully contemplating gorillas.

Don’t know about the Swap Shop?  Click here for more information.

Eat Pizza. Save Gorillas!

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Birthday Willie!!!

The Houston Zoo is wishing chimpanzee Willie a very Happy Birthday! Over the past five years, since the opening of the chimpanzee exhibit in 2010, we have watched as Willie has grown from a playful juvenile chimpanzee to a mature adult chimpanzee. During this past year, he has risen in rank to become the dominant male in the group.

10 - year old Willie the Boss
10 – year old Willie the ‘Boss’

When Willie first came to the Houston Zoo, he was the smallest member of the group and at six years old still spent the majority of his time with Lulu and Lucy, the mothers of the group. He continued to rely on them for protection during group conflicts and his primary goal in life and in interactions with the group was to just have fun and play. He played an important part in getting the original chimpanzee group comfortable living together in their new home as his solution to any tension or nervousness was to encourage everyone to play!

Willie (2)
6 – year old Willie the ‘Kid’

In the wild, chimpanzees spend the first seven years of their lives with their mothers. These juvenile chimpanzees are characterized by tan faces and a white tuft of hair above their rear ends. Between the ages of 6-9, adolescent chimpanzees will start interacting more socially with other members of the group. They lose their white tuft of hair and their faces start to change from a light tan color to black. During this time, males will spend less and less time with their family and more time interacting with adult males in the group. It is during this time that young males start participating in boundary patrols and begin to try to figure out their place in the male hierarchy. These young ‘teenage’ chimpanzees often find themselves involved more in conflicts as they try pushing boundaries and establishing themselves in the hierarchy.

At eight years old, Willie started spending less time with Lucy and Lulu and more time with Mac, the dominant male at the time. Keepers called him “Mac’s Shadow” as he would never be very far from Mac’s side. He always seemed to be looking to Mac for guidance on how to behave. During this time, Willie also started challenging the females and lower ranking males. Anytime a conflict occurred, you could find Willie right in the middle of it. His favorite tactic was to throw dirt and then run away before anyone could catch him. The only chimpanzee that could discipline ‘teenage’ Willie successfully was Mac. Willie gained rank quickly.

Willie 1
8 – year old Willie the ‘Teenager’

Over the last two years, the original chimpanzee group has been integrated with a new chimpanzee group of six chimpanzees. Willie initially was very friendly but shy about meeting his new friends. His initial interactions with the new chimpanzees were submissive and friendly. Due to his friendly initial interactions and his playful nature, Willie quickly made friends with the new chimpanzees. As the groups were combined and Willie became more confident in the new group, keepers started noticing him intervening in conflicts instead of causing them. Keepers also noticed that many of the chimpanzees started to look to Willie for reassurance and support during conflicts. One of a dominant male chimpanzee’s main roles is to manage conflict within the group. Willie seemed to be fulfilling this role in the new group.

Willie can often be found at the center of grooming and play sessions within the newly combined chimpanzee group. Besides being strong enough to maintain order, another important trait for a high ranking chimpanzee is the ability to gain and maintain allies. Bullies usually don’t last long as dominant males as the other chimpanzees in a group often band together and overthrow them. Willie’s friendly nature has gained him lots of allies. Even though he is now in charge, his favorite strategy to maintaining order is to encourage everyone to play. The one thing that has not changed about Willie in the past five years is that his primary goal in life is to just have fun and play!
Chimpanzees in zoos can live into their sixties. We look forward to celebrating many more birthdays with Willie and watching him as he continues to learn and grow into an impressive adult male chimpanzee!

What is Coltan? What is Tantalum? How You Can Help!

Written by Joshua Cano

willie chimpDid you know that you can help tens of thousands of animals in the wild with one simple action? In today’s world almost everyone has some type of electronic device. You are most likely reading this blog on your personal computer, tablet or cell phone. These and most other electronic devices share one thing in common, an element called tantalum. Tantalum is used in your microprocessors, cameras, and circuit boards. This important component is mined throughout the world, but it is destroying national parks in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Materials used to manufacture cell phones are taken from places where animals like chimpanzees and gorillas live.
Materials used to manufacture cell phones are taken from places where animals like chimpanzees and gorillas live.

Tantalum is often mistaken for coltan, which stands for the 2 ores, columbite and tantalite, which are found together. When refined, the ore tantalite becomes metallic tantalum. These ores are being illegally mined from land’s that belong to the DRC’s national parks. Large chunks of lush forests are cleared away in order to mine for tantalum. With the increase in the bush meat market, due to the increase of the human population in the area, many animal populations have dropped by as much as 50% in those areas.

willie

So, how can you help save these beautiful animals? What is the simple action you can take? The tantalum in your electronics can be reused, thus reducing the need to mine for more. Last year, the United States was able to supplement 30% of its tantalum needs from recycled electronics.  7000+ Houstonians helped supplement that 30% by bringing in their old electronics to the Houston Zoo to be properly recycled. Next time you are at the Houston Zoo look for our electronics deposit boxes located at both entrances.

Will you be part of that 7000+ people?

The Life and Times of Opie the Goeldi’s Monkey

Written by Amy Berting & Nathan Fox

Opie-and-Peach-edited
Opie and Peach pose for a picture!

Once upon a time at the Houston Zoo, there was a boy Goeldi’s monkey named Andy, and he met this beautiful girl Goeldi’s monkey named Peach. They quickly became inseparable, and through hard times and good times they were the ideal couple. They had so many adventures at the zoo and met so many other primates, but decided it was finally time to settle down. Their love brought them the greatest joy of their lives, their son Opie.

Goeldi’s monkeys (Callimico goeldii) are small primates found in the forests of northern South America. They live in small family groups, mostly consisting of a breeding pair and their offspring. After a gestation period of approximately 5 months, the female will give birth to a single offspring. Our breeding pair, Peach and Andy, arrived here at the zoo in April of 2012. After 2 unsuccessful pregnancies, Peach finally gave birth to a healthy male named Opie on November 10, 2014! Due to Peach being a first time mother, keepers kept a close eye on the new family to make sure that Opie was nursing and clinging well to Peach’s back. An infant Goeldi’s will typically ride on its mother’s back for one month, and  after that, the father will take turns carrying the baby. Andy was first seen showing interest in Opie when he was about 6 days old. Keepers saw Andy grooming Peach and then grooming Opie’s face.

Opie-Edited

When Opie was one month old, keepers saw him get off Peach’s back for the first time and then a few days later, Opie was seen riding on Andy’s back for the first time. These days, Opie is very independent and only occasionally clings to his parents. He can typically be seen running around and exploring the exhibit on his own. During feeding times, he likes to run over to his parents and steal food out of their hands. However, they normally don’t mind sharing. As with most monkeys, Opie’s favorite foods include bananas, grapes, figs, and currants.  He has also started coming up to his zookeepers for treats, handed over carefully through the mesh. He is even mastering the vocalizations his parents have taught him and can be heard all over the Wortham World of Primates.

Opie is a wonderful addition to the primate family of the Houston Zoo and he continues to grow and discover his world.  Every day is new with  obstacles that he crashes through bravely. He brings joy to keepers and guests alike …. and they all continue to live happily ever after.

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.

Our Little Jumping Bean!

Written By Joshua Cano

Louise and AnnabelleIf you have been to the zoo recently and gone to the mandrill exhibit, you have probably seen our little bundle of joy hopping around the exhibit next to mom.  Annabelle is now 5 months old! She is the first offspring of Louise (mom) and Ushindi (dad).  Annabelle’s birth here at the Houston Zoo was a very important birth for not only our zoo, but for every zoo in the United States with mandrills. And, she is the very first mandrill ever born at the Houston Zoo!

When Annabelle was first born she did not have the typical mandrill coloration, but she is just starting to get her color. She now looks like a miniature adult. Annabelle is very curious, playing with browse, playing with her mom’s enrichment items, and walking further and further away from mom exploring her home. While inside, she is a very vocal little girl! She lets her keepers and her mom know exactly what she wants. It is not uncommon to hear her screaming at mom for not paying enough attention to her. And, she has just started to do the “crow” vocalization that is typical of this species.

 

Mandrills are considered vulnerable in the wild according to the IUCN Red List. Mandrills in the wild are hunted for bush meat and affected by the mining of tantalum, used for cell phones and computers. You can help save mandrills in the wild by recycling your old electronics at the zoo by joining our Action for Apes Challenge.

What is the best time to see Annabelle and her family? She and her family are out every day that the weather is good, and in spring, that is most of the time. If you haven’t seen Annabelle yet, next time you stop by the zoo, be sure to stop by mandrills and say hi to our sweet little girl, Annabelle.

Mandrill Baby Dec 2014-0038-4599

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.

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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!

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

More snow for TJ and Max ❤️ lucky them!

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

“Baby it’s cold outside!”

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

i was honestly looking for a mouse lol

Annecia Wesley but where is the ice bacon? Lol

Wow,that is so neat!

Two words. Pipe insulation.

That’s awesome!

Ana Rivers Smith cool!

Cortez

Pauline Ervin

Denise Daigre

Ashley Nguyen

Vicente Gonzalez

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Brrrr. It’s cold out there! We have made the decision to close the Houston Zoo tomorrow, Wednesday, Jan. 17. Don’t worry, the animals are safe and warm in their night houses!

A limited number of staff from departments like Animal Programs, Safety and Security and Operations/Facilities will be onsite to perform essential services and have the Zoo ready for us to reopen Thursday morning.

A big ol' high-five to our awesome team members who braved this icy cold to come in and care for our animals and zoo facilities.
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Comment on Facebook

Safety and welfare of the animals first! Thanks guys for all you do.

Yes thank you for everything yall do to keep the animals safe .. y'all keep safe and warm

Thank you for taking good care of our animals!

Thank u for keeping those Babies safe and warm!❤️

Thank you for all you do!

Thank you for ZOO LIGHTS. it was amazing this year!

Thank you, zoo team. Stay safe!

Mandy Rinker— really? Too cold? You’re from the Midwest girl

💙

thank you for all you do and keep the furry babies warm

Ty

Thank you for taking care of our precious animals that we love to come see!

Thank you for keeping those beautiful animals safe. 💕

Thank you for making sure the animals are safe and warm.

Thank you for all you do for these amazing animals!!

Go, Erika!!!

Thank you 💕

💖

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