Houston Zoo Conservation Partner Visits the United States-Part II

This blog was written by Valerie Akuredusenge, the Program Director of Conservation Heritage-Turambe (CHT). CHT is a conservation partner of the Houston Zoo. Valerie visited us in March to build her capacity and skills to further educate local communities living alongside Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. This is one blog in a series about Valerie’s experience in the United States.

Hi there. This is Valerie Akuredusenge, the Program Director of Conservation Heritage – Turambe with more news about my visit at Houston Zoo.

Martha Parker, the Houston Zoo staff member took me to the Zoo as I continued to enjoy my visit. I was very excited to see how big the Zoo is and what kinds of animals are calling the Zoo their home. To be honest with you, I couldn’t visit all animals in the Zoo but it was my goal. The Houston Zoo is huge!! I was only able to see about half of the animals in the Zoo.  Regarding the animals I saw, some were familiar to me, others I had no idea they have ever existed on this Planet Earth!  I was so impressed by seeing the coral reef. I went back home to Rwanda and shared my experiences, but even so, my colleagues back in Rwanda do not get the idea about what is the coral reef. I will try to keep explaining it to them.

I learned a lot from my visit with the Houston Zoo and still cannot finish telling the story about it.

I learned about the cell phone recycling system that is helping save gorillas in wild.

Valerie posing with the Zoo's recycled cell phone statue.
Valerie posing with the Zoo’s recycled cell phone statue.

I learned about the recycling and reusing methods at Houston Zoo.

Palm oil tree created by our primate staff to showcase the everyday items that contain palm oil, and which companies to buy from who are making palm oil in a way friendly to wildlife.
Palm oil tree created by our primate staff to showcase the everyday items that contain palm oil, and which companies to buy from who are making palm oil in a way friendly to wildlife.

They are growing a vegetable garden at Houston Zoo. And guess what – we are doing the same thing at CHT too!

Children's Zoo vegetable garden-complete with a rain barrel to harvest and catch rain water.
Children’s Zoo vegetable garden-complete with a rain barrel to harvest and catch rain water.

Once again, thank you very much Houston Zoo for hosting me. I learned a lot during my visit which I have started applying and sharing at Conservation Heritage – Turambe (CHT). More to come soon!

Recycle Electronics with the NCAA Final Four, Save Gorillas, Get Tickets to Fan Fest!

Recycle your electronics with the NCAA Final Four on Sunday, March 13, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Discovery Green, and help save gorillas! Recycling your electronics helps save wildlife like gorillas and chimpanzees who live in habitats where electronic materials are mined. By reusing our materials, we ensure their habitat is protected.

Mountain-gorilla-PRiger-2015-Rwanda

There are more than 250 million cell phone users in the United States alone and the average lifespan of a cell phone is 18 months. That means there are A LOT of cell phones being produced to meet our demand. Each cell phone requires specific metals to be manufactured. One material used in cell phones, tantalum, is found in Central Africa — a rain forest home to animals like chimpanzees, gorillas, okapis and mandrills. If we recycle cell phones and other electronics like cameras and laptops, the materials taken from wildlife habitats can be reused, allowing those habitats to be protected.

Coltan-Tantalum-Cell-Phone-Recycling-Apes

Everyone who recycles items at this event will be entered into a chance to win a gorilla tour at the Houston Zoo! The tour is good for 5 people over the age of 12. Tour must be redeemed by September 30th, 2016. Tour available T/TH/SA/SU.

In cooperation with NCAA Corporate Partner LG Electronics USA and EPC (Executive Personal Computers), a FREEElectronics Recycling Event will be held on Sunday, March 13, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Discovery Green in conjunction with the Selection Sunday Celebration. Those who bring their electronics for responsible will receive a FREE ticket to Final Four Fan Fest presented by Capital One.Take-Action_Small_Tile

Items accepted: computers, computer components, home electronics, small home and office electronics, and gaming equipment.

Items not accepted: manifested hazardous, radioactive and bio-hazardous waste, devices that contain mercury or freon, large appliances such as refrigerators, washing machines, and dishwashers, as well as light bulbs and microwaves.

Please join the Houston Zoo, NCAA Final Four, LG Electronics USA and EPC in this important recycling effort. By recycling your electronics, you are ensuring wildlife like gorillas and chimpanzees are protected in the wild!

And don’t forget, you can always recycle your small electronics at the Zoo’s main entrance! Take Action_Logo_FullColor_web

Save Amphibians by Recycling Your Batteries!

Houston Toad 2

Batteries, Wildlife, and How You Can Take Action

The Houston Zoo cares about animals in the wild, and is taking steps to ensure that everything we do on Zoo grounds is done with the environment and wildlife in mind. If you have a surplus of used batteries, be them alkaline or rechargeable, you can take them to your local recycling center to ensure that the remaining chemicals and substances don’t harshly affect the wildlife that’s directly outside your doors!

Any battery that is disposed of in a landfill (like if you toss them in your normal trash), or that finds its way into the environment, has the potential to leak its old chemicals into the soils and waters that wildlife like amphibians call home.

Because amphibians like frogs, toads, even salamanders, have skin that can easily absorb liquids found in damp soils or the waters and streams they frequent, they can get sick from things like leaking batteries. Often, harsh or foreign chemical interactions can affect populations long-term by changing the behavior of animals, affecting female or male reproductive abilities or even influencing the development of eggs.

The Zoo works to help our local amphibians by recycling our alkaline and rechargeable batteries with a company that specializes in battery disposal. You can do the same by finding your local recycling center; if you’re in Houston you can go to the Westpark Consumer Recycling Center and they will take most options besides alkaline. You can also recycle more than the typical AA, AAA, C, and D batteries – items like power tools, cars, small electronics like tablets or smart phones, hearing aids, watches, and all manner of things take a variety of batteries.

By using rechargeable batteries you can also ensure that the materials that were mined to make your batteries last for a much longer time period than with single-use alkaline batteries. Rechargeable batteries will go dull over time, but you can get multiple uses out of them and lessen the stress on the environment by finding products and items that you can use over and over before recycling!

How Our Staff Recycles Batteries at the Zoo

 

Battery Sign Zoo Events

On Zoo grounds we will often offer recycling information that you can see when you visit. We recommend you take your batteries to a local recycling center to ensure they don’t end up in landfills that can encroach on the space of wildlife as well as affect the soils and waters amphibians and other animals call home.

Houston Toad Battery 1.0

Behind the scenes, our staff utilize a special battery drop-off for spent batteries. By encouraging staff to recycle these items the Zoo is able to see how many batteries we use as an organization, and how many we use that are rechargeable! Alkaline batteries are not rechargeable, so taking a look at our staff battery needs shows us where we could potentially get more rechargeable batteries rather than single-use alkaline batteries. We can also weigh our battery recycling over time and see how much space we have saved in landfills and how many batteries have been prevented from harshly affecting our wildlife habitats.Houston Toad Battery 1.3

Be Safe When Collecting Batteries for Recycling

 

Houston Toad Battery 1.1

Alkaline: these are more often the common batteries like AA, AAA, C, or D as well as 9-Volt. Do not store any of these batteries together without packaging. Once they have been used there is still potential for them to ‘pop’ open as there are residual chemicals that can be discharged and react with other batteries they are near. This could cause injury if someone is nearby. The 9-Volt batteries are commonly used in your fire alarms and are properly prepared for the recycling center by putting duct-tape over the positive and negative transistors (basically, the top two prongs need to be covered so they don’t come into contact with other batteries). Note that some centers do not accept alkaline batteries for recycling.

Rechargeable: these batteries are widely used in items like power-tools, phone batteries, laptop batteries, or even your more common AA, AAA, C, D, and 9-Volt options. There are no alkaline battery options that cannot be replaced with rechargeable options. You will find rechargeable batteries in forms of Nickel Cadmium (NiCd), Lithium-ion (Li-ion), and Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH). All of these batteries have the potential to get hot and should be packaged separately from each other in preparation for recycling; Li-ion should be particularly tended to in ensuring there is no other metal or battery contact once discharged.

This is a sustainability reference document. 

Students Saving Wildlife!

Each year, the Houston Zoo hosts our Action for Apes cell phone recycling contest. From January-April, local schools and other community organizations collect cell phones and other small electronics to be recycled and reused. Small electronics contain a material called tantalum, which is mined in Central Africa where animals like gorillas, okapis and mandrills live. By recycling electronics we can reduce the demand for tantalum, helping to protect wildlife habitat.

Tantalum_diagram_2014

This year, the winner of Action for Apes was Incarnate Word Academy in Corpus Christi. In addition to recycling more than 530 electronic devices to save wildlife, one of the 6th grade classes did a special English unit on the book, “The One and Only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate. This book is inspired by a true story of a gorilla that lived most of its’ life alone in a circus-themed mall. Students at Incarnate Word Academy read the book and researched wildlife conservation. They focused on gorillas and elephants and created reports about what they learned. Here are a few of the reports from these young conservation heroes!

AFA-gorilla-2

This project was created by James Edge, Charlie Flood, and Alex Alonso-Bauer:

“We have all learned a lot about the importance of gorillas, a now endangered species.  During the course of this project, we had fun learning and even learned the importance of teamwork. This project taught us to be mindful and not to just look out for ourselves in this world.  Gorillas need our help.  We need to raise awareness about poaching, animal cruelty, and the decline of gorillas, elephants, rhinos, and other critically endangered species. In the future, we will help by raising awareness and donating to organizations that will help gorillas and other animals alike. We have to stop the abuse and the decline of these innocent animals.”

This project was created by Adriana Wilde, Amanda Montgomery, and Andrea Reyes:

“This project has been an amazing experience to learn from.  We learned that gorillas are magnificent, interesting, and fascinating creatures.  However, there are people that kill animals for profit and do not think twice about it.  We also learned that working as a group is very important because you tend to look at things differently.  It taught us that by taking even the smallest of steps, you can still change the world. This project impacted us in a unique way, especially Ivan’s inspiring story.  He inspired many people across the country with this story.  It never stops amazing us how all that’s needed to save gorillas is to start a simple conversation about them.  We hope other students all over the world could learn the same lessons we have learned in the course of this project.  There is no doubt they will become inspired and want to make a change as well. In the future, we will really do our best to raise awareness about poaching elephants for their ivory.  We will also tell everyone, from our friends to our next door neighbors, about gorillas and their crisis.  Gorillas are very important to our ecosystem, so please, let’s work together to help get these animals  off the endangered species list.”

This project was created by Patrick Ficenec and Demitri Lopez:

“From this project, we’ve learned many things about gorillas, such as their habitat, diet, socialization, behavior, and many other interesting facts.  It was really cool to research and see how gorillas behave, and how similar they are to humans. We didn’t’ realize how close gorillas are to extinction until we started this project.  There are only about 100,000 gorillas left in the world.  The mountain gorillas are critically endangered, with less than 900 left in the world. From this point, and in the future, we will continue to educate people about the plight of gorillas and other apes. We want to work to save these animals before they are extinct.”

The Houston Zoo would like to thank the students and teachers at Incarnate Word Academy in Corpus Christi for their tremendous work to save gorillas and other animals in the wild. You too can take action to save wildlife by recycling your small electronics at the front entrance of the Zoo and holding off on buying new electronics until it is absolutely necessary!

recycle-cell-phones-do-your-part

Over 1,500 Cell Phones Recycled During Action for Apes Challenge!

Recycled-Phones-Resize
This is just a handful of the cell phones recycled!

We have just concluded our 2015 Action for Apes Challenge, during which 1,562 cell phones and other handheld electronic devices were recycled! Over 30 schools, businesses and community groups around Texas competed to see who could recycle the most cell phones by April 30th, 2015. Each cell phone that was recycled is an action taken to save gorillas, chimpanzees and mandrills in the wild!

A material (tantalum) found in almost every cell phone and other handheld electronics is taken from the ground in Central Africa where these amazing animals live. Every time a device is recycled, we can reuse the materials and reduce the need to mine for new tantalum.
Willie bamboo termite eating

We are excited to announce that Incarnate Word Academy in Corpus Christi won 1st place in the challenge, recycling 536 phones! Incarnate Word Academy will win a painting to be hung in their school, specially created by primates at the Houston Zoo.

Coming in 2nd place was Birkes Elementary, who recycled 175, and 3rd place went to Jersey Village High School Science National Honor Society with 168 phones! 1,562 cell phones and other handheld electronic devices were recycled overall! That is 1,562 actions taken to save animals in the wild!

We are so thankful to have had so many wonderful groups participate in this year’s Action for Apes Challenge and look forward to 2016’s Challenge!

Thank you to all the groups that participated this year:
American Recyclers
Bay Colony Elementary
Berry Elementary
Birkes Elementary Student Council
Calder Road Elementary
Cathy Blum of Greenwood King Properties
Copeland Elementary
Cub Scout Pack 883
Cy Woods Student Leadership
East Early College High School
Environmental Action Club
George Brooks’ Office
Girl Scout Troop 16399
Go Green Club
Heritage of Towne Lake
HISD – Mandarin Chinese Language Immersion Magnet School (MCLIMS)
Holbrook Elementary
HW Grady Middle School
Incarnate Word Academy
Jersey Village High School Science National Honor Society
Keeter Family
KIPP Liberation College Preparatory
Lake Jackson Intermediate
Lantrip Elementary
No Label Brewing Co.
Noah Consulting
Pack 678 Den 4
Pennebaker
Smith, Seckman, & Reid
Sneed Elementary
T.H. Rogers School

And a special thank you to Eco-Cell for counting and recycling all the phones collected!

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 Action For Apes Challenge Has Begun!

Do you want to win a painting done by the gorillas (arriving soon!), chimpanzees and mandrills at the Houston Zoo and  help save these species in the wild?

If you answered yes, then the Action for Apes Challenge is for you!

The Action for Apes Challenge is a competition between Houston area schools, organizations, and businesses to see who can recycle the most cell phones. The group that recycles the most cell phones before April 30, 2015 wins a painting done by the gorillas(after they arrive, of course!), chimpanzees and mandrills at the Houston Zoo!
Chimpanzee painting

Want more information? See the neatly organized questions below!

Who can participate? Anyone who wants to save animals in the wild. Anyone who wants to win. Anyone who wants artwork painted by apes. Anyone with old cell phones and other electronics like GPS equipment, cameras and MP3 players.

How do I participate? First register online at https://www.houstonzoo.org/action-for-apes-challenge/. Then, start collecting cell phones! A box will be sent to you that you can use for the cell phones you collect, or you can decorate your own box. In order for your cell phones to be counted, they must be postmarked on or before April 30, 2015. Don’t worry, you don’t have to pay shipping; a mailing label will be sent to you.

Is anything other than cell phones accepted? Yes! This year we will accept cell phones, smart phones, MP3 players, iPads and other tablets, handheld gaming devices, GPS, wifi hot spots, and digital cameras. All of these will be counted in your total! We also accept electronic accessories such as chargers, blue tooth headsets, earbuds, etc., however these items will not be counted in your total. But you should still send them so they can be recycled instead of ending up in a landfill!

How will I find out if I win? We will announce the winner via email to all participants in mid-May. The winner will also be recognized on Facebook, Twitter, and the Action for Apes webpage.

How does recycling old cell phones help save animals in the wild? Materials found in cell phones and other handheld electronic devices are mined in areas such as the African Congo, which happens to be where animals like chimpanzees, gorillas, and okapis live. When the materials are taken from animal habitats to be used in electronics, the homes of chimps, gorillas, and okapis become disrupted and these animal populations decrease. If you recycle your old cell phone and other electronics, then the materials can be reused instead of getting new minerals from the ground and further endangering these animals.
Coltan_diagram

Want to get started? Just visit our Action for Apes website and fill out the registration form!

Questions? Contact conservation@houstonzoo.org.

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Houston Zoo Facebook Page

Take a look at our beautiful new elephant habitat that DOUBLES the existing elephant complex. It's open now, so come watch our elephants play, splash, and swim. You've gotta see this! ... See MoreSee Less

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Comment on Facebook

That is great! I can't wait to come see it. Are there any plans to expand the giraffe exhibit ever? I feel like it's very small compared to all of the other really awesome exhibits for the big animals.

I feel like I've never seen grass in a zoo elephant habitat before- I bet they're hard on it! The whole exhibit looks incredible- especially the deep water! Amazing design; hope I can get to Houston one day to see it!

I took some of my daycare kiddos yesterday specifically to see the new space. They had it blocked off and wouldn't let anyone pass through the elephant area through to the hoofed animals. We were really sad we didn't get to see it.

Keep wild animals captive for the human entertainment. - Are we not better then that yet?? Shameful😢😢😢 And don't try to use that word 'conservation' - critical thinkers are smarter than that.

Yes THANK YOU for providing a more natural. Habitat for the elephant's. They need SPACE to roam. N the water added is awesome....they really needed that!

Waiting for some stupid kid to jump in and ruin it for the elephants.

Why have so many elephants babies died at your zoo ? it is because they are not meant to live in Captivity. Please set them free and stop breeding elephants for monetary value.

Not fond of most zoos, but at least these elephants are safe from killers like the Trump sons.

Jenny Carlisle I see a great excuse for Kimber to come visit besides to see her cousins!!

John and JoAnn we need to take Grant again. He will be so excited to see this!

So happy to see the Zoos continued support of the amazing Elephant Program

Karl Schuhknecht Let's go again when you get home! We can never go too much, right?

Sergey!! We have to go!! Definitely bringing mama Nina too 🙂🐘

Thank you providing a beautiful setting for their physical and mental health!

Remember it was under construction when we were there Nicky Lichtl

Molly Pesl it's time for us to go on a rainy day.... 😎👍🏼

Eddie - we gotta go soon so Adrian can see his favorite animal splish-solash

Dang! That is awesome! Why didn't you tell me it was this pretty Kristin!? 😜

JoAnn, looks like we're taking Thomas to the zoo soon! 😍

Lesli Gietz James Gietz Grant going to love see this 💙 🐘

Nichole, I think a trip to the zoo is in our future!!

Does Tye get to play as well? Thought one of the elephants was in his on enclosure

Allison Jones I want to go see the elephants in the pool!

Awsome! Just in time for the hot summer ahead...#splish & #splash

Love elephants. Such quiet, gentle, strong and wise creatures.

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Houston Zoo was live.
Houston Zoo

We are live from our HUGE new elephant habitat expansion. This incredible new area opens tomorrow! ... See MoreSee Less

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Comment on Facebook

Do the Asian and African elephants coexist well?

how would you save a elephant if they had difficult swimming?

Is there opportunities for the public to get up close to see the elephants behind the scenes?

Do you offer any type of feeding or event like you have with the giraffes? Or sticking with the bath time?

Can they climb up on that ledge or is that just to keep them back from the fence

Will males and females be always separated now?

Do the elephants hug and let you get kisses?

When do the trainers talk this summer?

Will the females get to share the yard too?

How/where will males and females interact?

How much did this cost the taxpayers of Houston???

What is the depth of the pool?

About how long can they hold breath

Is there a web cam at the new yard?

How can you tell who is Tucker and who is Baylor

Are the elephants on display today?

How many elephants are there?

When is it open to public?

How deep is the pool

Still want to know why only the males are getting to use the new area.

I know they had said this habitat is for the males, does that mean the males and females will always be separated from now on

Gross question, but I'm curious... Do elephants defecate under water & is maintenance similar to a home pool?

@Cheree Neil It is to do with habits. Elephants when lacking enrichment complete stereotypical behaviours as they're known and swaying is one of them. It essentially is a display of boredom.

Kelsey Patterson - we are going to get to the zoo before you pop! Even if i have to push you around in one of those sea lion carts! LOL!

Ian, we love you and are so proud of you. Thank you for being our son.

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