Double Points in the Naturally Wild Swap Shop

 How can you get DOUBLE points in the Swap Shop?  Any time an animal section has a Spotlight on the Species or other program focused on an animal or plant – bring in a Nature Journal on that topic! 

Komodo Dragon

Nature Journals can be as simple as information on sheets of notebook paper.  They can be as detailed and elaborate as you like – your only limit is your imagination. But remember, the more work you do, the more points you get!   So do some research and get ready for double points!

Need more information on the Naturally Wild Swap Shop and how it works?  Click here

Some of the species that will be in the Spotlight the remainder of 2012 include:


Red Panda

September 22 Spotlight on the Species – Rhinos

October 6 Spotlight on the Species – Komodo Dragon

November 7 Climbing for Cloudeds (Clouded Leopards)

November 10 Spotlight on the Species – Vultures

December 1 Spotlight on the Species – Red Panda

World Rhino Day Celebration at the Houston Zoo

This post written by Ashley Roth

The Houston Zoo is home to three White Rhinos. Rhinos are a magnificent species that have survived for more than 50 million years. There are five species that exist today; two African species – White and Black rhinos, three Asian species – Greater One-horned (Indian), Sumatran, and Javan Rhinos. There are less than 25,000 rhinos remaining in the world today. The White Rhinos are most numerous of the five species with a population of 18,000-20,000.

Unfortunately, the other species combined make up less than 5,000-7,000 rhinos, leaving each on the verge of extinction.

Rhinos are heavily poached for their horns. The horn is believed to have medicinal properties in traditional Asian medicines. Rhino horn is comprised of keratin, the same material found in our own fingernails. Although it has been proven that consuming rhino horn would have the same benefits as chewing on your own fingernails; many people in China and Vietnam continue its use. Due to an increase in the Vietnam middle class population, demand for rhino horn has been on the rise in recent years. More rhinos are being poached today for Southeast Asian consumption than ever before.

Through conservation we can work to ensure that rhinos will continue to exist for generations to come. Groups like the International Rhino Foundation work diligently to protect all species of rhinos. The Houston Zoo helps to support the IRF with their conservation efforts. For more information click here.

Join the Houston Zoo on September 22 and 23 for a special Spotlight on Species event celebrating World Rhino Day (September 22nd). The event will take place at the White Rhinoceros exhibit in The African Forest from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Keeper’s will be presenting rhino conservation efforts and the highlighting the myths surrounding the medicinal properties believed to be found in rhino horn. Special keeper chats focusing on Rhinos will be scheduled throughout the day. Children can take part in making rhino-themed crafts and face painting. Guests to the Houston Zoo will have the chance to see a rhino skull, a model of a rhino horn and other special items. Items and merchandise will be available for purchase with proceeds going to conservation efforts led by the International Rhino Foundation.

Follow us on the countdown to World Rhino Day for more blogs about Houston Zoo’s rhinos; including, a sneak peek into “a day of a rhino keeper,” and a highlight of the International Rhino Foundation.

Wildlife Heroes Profiles: Rhinos

Join us on May 19th and 20th for wildlife Heroes weekend.  On May 20th we welcome Jeff Flocken, co-author of Wildlife Heroes: 40 Leading Conservationists and the Animals they are Committed to Saving for a book-signing and presentations by zoo staff on the focus species of the book. Wildlife Heroes will be available for sale at the zoo on May 20th, quantities are limited!  Books are also available for  pre-order on the Houston Zoo website at: a dicounted price until May 17th.

To give you an idea of the projects covered in the book, we thought we would highlight a few of the projects the Houston Zoo supports throughout the week:


Raoul Du Toit: African Rhinoceros

Raoul Du Toit truly is a Rhino Hero. Raoul is the International Rhino Foundations African Rhino Program Advisor and the Director of the Lowveld Rhino Trust in Zimbabwe. He has worked for over 25 years to protect the Black Rhino and White Rhinos of Africa, two species whose populations sturggle due to habitat loss and immense poaching pressures.

The Rhinoceros has survived on our planet for millions of years and once occurred not only in Africa and Asia but in Europe andNorth Americaas well. But today, only five species of rhino survive. Four of these five species sit on the verge of extinction and the fifth, the White rhino, holds a population of less than 18,000 individuals across the African continent.

The Rhino is truly a species on the edge. Zoos, conservation organizations, and field researchers have worked together for many years to help fight for their survival. It is difficult to protect a species whose numbers have plummeted so quickly but when you consider the 25,000 rhinos worldwide are spilt between 5 species, it makes the challenge of recovery all that more daunting.

To learn more about the Houston Zoo’s work with Rhino Conservation or to support our efforts, follow the link.

How Bowling Helps Rhinos

This post written by Kim Siegl 

Bowling for Rhinos (BFR) is a family friendly event that is organized by your local zookeepers . The event associated with the Houston Zoo is designed every year by the Greater Houston Chapter of American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK). Bowling for Rhinos was initially started by zookeepers in 1990. Houston has been Bowling for Rhinos since 1991. There are currently over 60 AAZK chapters nation-wide that host a BFR event. This year, our chapter hopes to reach a huge milestone of $100,000 raised by Houston over the last 21 years. Come on out to help us reach our goal!

All of the proceeds raised from BFR support several conservation organizations including: Lewa Wildlife Conservation, International Rhino Foundation, and Action for Cheetahs. These organizations facilitate sanctuaries that are home to White and Black rhinos of Africa, as well as the Javan, Greater One-horned, and Sumatran rhinos of Asia. These projects help to save many other animals too. The funds raised by BFR events help to fence in the parks, purchase planes and off road vehicles to curtail poaching, move rhinos into the sanctuaries, purchase motion sensing cameras for censuring, and pay salaries for anti-poaching security guards. For more information on the history of BFR, please click here  or watch the 2012 BFR video

There are less than 30,000 rhinos left in the world. The greatest threat they face is from poachers, who kill the rhinos for their horns. Rhino horn is believed to have almost-magical curative powers; the belief is that eating it can cure everything from the common cold to cancer. Unfortunately, that belief is wrong. There is actually no stronger benefit from eating rhino horn than if you were to eat your own fingernails. Hundreds of rhinos are killed by poachers every year, some even inside the sanctuaries, which is why money to support anti-poaching is so necessary to the rhinos survival.

By attending BFR, you do not just get the good-feeling from supporting a worthy conservation effort, but also a fun-filled night of bowling with family and friends, as well as zoo staff. The event also includes food (first come, first served), and a raffle all night long. Every year we host a silent auction comprised of a variety of one-of-the-kind items, including paintings created by zoo animals specifically for BFR. No two events are the exact same.

Friday, June 22, 2012
6:00 pm to 10:00 pm

Please visit our 2012 BFR website to purchase event tickets online now.



Wildlife Heroes is an awesome book, and we have the author coming to the Zoo!

Join us on May 19th and 20th for Wildlife Heroes weekend at the Houston Zoo.  On May 20th we welcome Jeff Flocken, co-author of Wildlife Heroes: 40 Leading Conservationists and the Animals they are Committed to Saving for a book-signing and presentations by zoo staff on the focus species of the book. Wildlife Heroes will be available for sale at the zoo on May 20th, quantities are limited!  Books are also available for  pre-order on the Houston Zoo website at: a dicounted price until May 17th.

My first heroes were animal people.  When I went to zoos my heroes were the zoo keepers and when I watched animal documentaries the researchers were my heroes.  We all need amazing people to inspire us and that is why the new book Wildlife Heroes is so wonderful. 

The book includes 40 people overcoming impossible odds to save endangered species all over the world.  If you are looking for real heroes for your children to look up to look now further! 

The unique stories in this book of local communities becoming involved in anti-poaching, education and research efforts for wildlife in their own back yard are immeasurably inspiring!  In one story a young boy, Thia grew up in Northern Vietnam watching his village hunt the very species he fights to save today.  His passion to help a unique species called the pangolin will warm your heart!
I have had the honor of meeting many of the heroes in this book (including the authors) over the years and they inspire me to move forward in my own wildlife conservation work.  These are real people making a real difference! 

This book introduces readers to pollinator and amphibian decline and other environment issues that continue to threaten our world.  But it also offers great messages of hope.  In the last chapter Jack Hannah suggests ways the reader can help, and the good news is that by purchasing the Wildlife Heroes book you are already helping- 100 % of the proceeds go to the projects featured in the book.  A win for everyone!

Hope to see you at the Houston Zoo for our Wildlife Heroes weekend May 19th and 20th!

Borneo's Sumatran Rhinoceros. One step away from extinction

Borneo’s Sumatran Rhinoceros is literally one step away from extinction. There are an estimated 200 Sumatran rhinos surviving.  Between 12 and 25 animals remain on the island of Borneo, Sabah, Malaysia. The remainder of the population lives in three Indonesian National Parks in Sumatra: Gunung Leuser, Way Kambas, and Bukit Barisan Selatan.

Sumatran Rhinoceros "Tam". Borneo Rhino Sanctuary, Tabin Wildlife Reserve. Photo by Paul Swen.

So, at best guess, no more than 25 animals are living on Borneo in a completely fragmented habitat and it is believed that none of these have reproduced for nearly four years. A recent editorial in Malaysia’s New Strait Times paper by John Payne, a world renowned conservationist who has lived in Sabah, Borneo since the 1970’s notes that open discussions need to take place with both government and non-government organizations or we will be witness to the disappearance of yet another iconic mammal.

Too many species disappear not only from habitat loss and poaching but from the failure of organizations, with apparently the best interest of the animal in mind, to not be able to cooperate with each other. Hopefully, the Sabah Wildlife Department and partners will be able to make a difference for this species.

Sumatran Rhino, Borneo 2008

A last-ditch effort to save the species, the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary programme, is under way in Sabah, a government programme implemented by the Sabah Wildlife Department with support from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Borneo Rhino Alliance and Yayasan Sime Darby and World Wildlife Fund.

Read more: Last ditch bid to save the rhinos – Columnist – New Straits Times

Western Black Rhino of Africa extinct

Did I just post two articles that two subspecies of Rhino have gone extinct within months of each other?

Yes, welcome to our reality, according to this article, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) noted in a recent reassessment of this species and the Javan species we talked about yesterday, are potentially extinct in th wild. They also note the Northern Black Rhino of central Africa is possibly extinct.

These may all be subspecies of the Black Rhino, but the more of these populations that disappear, and the more fragmented the habitat becomes, the more likely the complete Black Rhino population as a whole will become extinct in the future if conservation efforts cannot slow the decline.

“A lack of political support and willpower for conservation efforts in many rhino habitats, international organized crime groups targeting rhinos and increasing illegal demand for rhino horns and commercial poaching are the main threats faced by rhinos.”

Javan Rhino declared Extinct in Vietnam

I recently read an article excerpt which noted:

We are sad to report that a recent analysis has confirmed the extinction of the Javan rhino in Vietnam.  Data from a genetic analysis of 22 dung samples, collected by the Park and a WWF survey team from 2009 – 2010, confirmed that all of the samples belonged to one individual rhinoceros.  That same individual that was found dead in the park in April 2010, with a bullet in its leg and the horn removed – a clear case of poaching.

This was the last remaining population of Rhinoceros sondaicus on the Asian mainland and its demise is particularly sad.

The Vietnam population of Javan rhinos was only discovered in 1988.  From the mid-1990s, a number of organizations were heavily involved in efforts to conserve the rhinos in Cat Tien National Park, but ultimately, ineffective protection – a problem in most protected areas in Vietnam – caused the species’ extinction.  

The Javan rhinoceros now numbers less than 44 animals, all living in Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park.  We believe that there are only three to five breeding females in that population.  Four Rhino Protection Units, funded by the International Rhino Foundation and operated through our partner, Yayasan Badak Indonesia (YABI) have prevented poaching for more than 16 years.




Happy World Rhino Day!!!! By Ashley Roth, Hoofstock Keeper

Happy World Rhino Day!

Today, September 22, we are celebrating all five Rhinoceros species and creating awareness about the use of rhino horn to help save these magnificent animals. The Houston Zoo is home to three White Rhinoceroses; two females and one male. Our trio of rhinos have called Houston home since October 2010. Previously they lived in Kruger National Park, which has a carrying capacity of 12,000 rhinos. When Kruger has more rhinos that they can sustain, they send younger rhinos off to institutions such as the Houston Zoo. This way we can build up a diversity of genes in captivity and also insure the safety of these animals. Several months prior to our rhinos coming to Houston, they were brought to a smaller game reserve about an hour outside of Kruger National Park. There, our rhinos had guards watching over them 24/7 in order to protect them against any possible poachers. During that time they were also trained to comfortably go into a crate that was specially designed to hold each individual rhino on their 54 hour trip from South Africa to Houston.

Our rhinos settled into their new home here at the Houston Zoo quickly, which has allowed the keepers to build strong relationships with the rhinos. Having a good relationship with your animals greatly benefits any training program. The animals will respond better to the trainer and quickly learn the behaviors asked of them. Our work with our rhinos have demonstrated their docile and playful manner, which contradicts shows and movies that have them portrayed as scary monsters that will charge at anything that moves. Since rhinos are so large and tough, they have no natural predators in the wild and will only charge when threatened. Though they have no natural predators, rhinos are facing a dilemma due to dwindling numbers caused by poaching for their horn.

The White Rhinoceros has been the only rhino success story. Their population was as low as fifty to two hundred individuals at the beginning of the 20th century. They were saved from extinction due to the help of conservation work. Their population is now between seventeen thousand and eighteen thousand individuals. The White Rhinos individual population is greater than all other four rhino species combined. However, with a growing demand for rhino horn, poaching has increased to a rate of about one rhino being poached every day.

Rhinoceros are poached only for their horns. Their horns are made of keratin; compressed hair, which is the exact same material as our own finger nails. However, many Asian cultures use rhino horn as a traditional form of medicine, even though it has been scientifically proven that there are no medicinal properties in rhino horn. It would be the equivalent to chewing on your own finger nails. Additionally, some Middle Eastern countries use rhino horn for ornamental use such as a dagger handle which is a status symbol in their countries.

Unfortunately, poachers are using very high tech equipment and also poaching at night, making it more difficult for parks and reserves to protect the rhinoceros. A large majority of the poaching occurs in South Africa, which alone is home to about ninety-three percent of the White Rhinoceros population. The poaching is now been determined to not be a crime of poverty. Criminal syndicates control the poaching of rhinos, which also makes it more difficult to fend against as they are highly organized and intelligent gangs. Recently, studies have a correlation between the increased number of Asian businesses in Africa and poaching being at a sixteen year high. The Houston Zoo’s trio of rhinos are animal ambassadors for their counter parts in the wild. They not only represent White Rhinoceros, but all five species of rhinos as a whole. With our help, we can save these animals and pull them back from the brink of extinction. Every individual makes a difference. Conservation cannot be effective if done alone. The sharing of knowledge, raising awareness and the spread of compassion for these spectacular creatures is what will make the difference. Rhinos have existed for over fifty million years. It would be a shame to loss such a big part of the ecosystem due to the selfish measures of several groups of people. The Houston Zoo assists and supports an organization that fights you to save rhinos in the wild called the Iternational Rhino Foundation.  To Find out what we are doing and how you can help click HERE.

Written by Ashley Roth, Houston Zoo Hoofstock keeper

FOTO Friday Winner of the Week!

Welcome to the Houston Zoo’s FOTO FRIDAY Caption Challenge results post from Friday, September 2 !

Last Friday, we posted a photo on Facebook and asked you to leave your best caption in the comment section. Then readers could “like” each caption comment to vote for their favorites. Their votes, combined with those of our own panel, determined the caption to appear under the picture right here on the Official Houston Zoo Blog this week. We hope you’ll come back for the fun EVERY FRIDAY.


Here is the picture that was posted on Facebook last Friday, with the top voted caption by GUPPY MAN !!!

(He knows how to rollllll!)

Why is it that every time I get comfortable, someone has to go and ring the doorbell?!?


Eric Mele:  ROTFLOL!


Janet Denton: Mac and Willie discover ‘Rhino Tipping.’

Lisa Osborn: ‎”I finally found some liquid makeup in MY skin tone!”

Tie for THIRD RUNNER UP too!
Mike Finch: And people pay hundreds of dollars for a mud bath? Mine are free…

Lori Schumacher:  ‎1-2-3-4…Whew, these sit-ups are tough but wait until you see my six-pack abs!

 There were SO MANY funny captions again! Here are just a few as Honorable Mentions:

Marco Lopez: Little help!

Christine Forisha: Aw, nuts, I left my wine in the kitchen…
Oliver Patricia: Houston, We have a problem!
Mike McDermott: ‎…hahaha! That was the best elephant joke I’ve heard in years!

Lorraine Dennis Saiz: Mud, mud glorious mud. Nothing quite like it for for cooling the blood. So follow me follow down to the hollow and there let us wallow in glorious mud!



Want to know more about Southern White Rhinos?  CLICK HERE to read the story of how they got to the Houston Zoo (and see video too)! You can come see our trio of  rhinos actually roll around in their mud wallow by visiting them in The African Forest. Or, by tuning in anytime to the LIVE Rhino Cam!



Thanks for joining in the fun!

And please come on back for next Friday!

TXU Energy Presents Chill Out at the Houston Zoo:

Houston summers are hot, but the Houston Zoo is cool. Click here for all our chill activities and tips.


Check out our Facebook page to see the rest of the entries. We hope this brought a smile to your face. And stay tuned for next Friday’s photo! Tell your friends, share this on Facebook, Twitter or your own blogs, and start your office pools to see who can come up with the best lines. (To show the picture and link on your social media, just click the little icons under the title SHARE THIS on the lower left of this post).To find us on Facebook, type in Houston Zoo Inc. in the search field or go to and become a fan.


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