A green sea turtle has taken up temporary residence at the Houston Zoo! You can find the green sea turtle in the Kipp Aquarium.
This sea turtle was accidentally caught by a fisherman. The turtle was reported and biologists from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) responded and brought the turtle to the Houston Zoo to be rehabilitated until it is ready to be released into the wild.
The turtle may be ready to be released by the end of the summer, so there is a possibility it will only be at the Zoo for a short time. NOAA staff will determine when the sea turtle is ready to be released. Thanks to NOAA, Houston Zoo clinic, and aquarium staff for ensuring this turtle’s recovery and future release back into the ocean!
We hope you can visit our temporary sea turtle resident soon. You can help save sea turtles in the wild by:
Reducing your use of plastic. Switch from plastic grocery bags to reusable bags. Plastic grocery bags are lightweight and can blow into our waterways/bayous, ending up in the ocean. Animals like sea turtles mistake these bags for food like jellyfish. When plastic is ingested, sea turtles can become quite sick. By reducing your plastic use, you are helping to save marine animals like sea turtles.
Choose only ocean-friendly seafood in restaurants and the grocery store. The way our seafood is caught or farmed can be harmful to wildlife like sea turtles. Download the FREE Seafood Watch App on your phone, which will help tell you the best choice seafood to buy and eat.
2 of the 9 sea turtles were loggerheads. These juvenile loggerheads were looked over by vet staff and given medications. They will be treated back to health at NOAA’s facility in Galveston.
6 of the 9 turtles were kemp’s ridleys. All 6 of these turtles were reported to NOAA because they were accidentally caught on recreational fishing hooks. Sea turtles will often eat bait from fishermen because it is an easy meal, however they can get caught and injured on the hooks and line. If reported by the public, like these turtles, the hooks can be removed and the turtles can be rehabilitated and released to the wild. NOAA was able to remove 3 of the hooks before arriving at the Zoo, 2 hooks were removed by Houston Zoo vet staff, and one turtle showed no signs of having an internal hook. Additionally, one of the hook and line turtles had small lesions on its’ flipper that were treated by the vet staff.
The final turtle to be seen by medical staff today was a small green sea turtle that was found wedged between rocks on the beach. It appeared very tired and in need of medical care. Houston Zoo vet staff prescribed medication and the turtle will be rehabilitated by NOAA staff in Galveston until healthy enough to be released.
We are so fortunate to have sea turtles in our Texas waters, and it is easy for us to all be sea turtle conservation heroes! A few simple actions taken by our community can help protect sea turtles in the wild:
If you accidentally catch a sea turtle while fishing, please call 1-866-TURTLE-5 so a biologist can come out and respond to the turtle-giving it adequate care and attention.
Switch from plastic grocery bags to reusable grocery bags-our plastic bags are light and fly away easily. They can end up in our bayous and float to the ocean. Sea turtles mistake them for jellyfish, and when ingested can make them sick.
If you eat seafood, choose ocean-friendly seafood! Download the FREE Seafood Watch app to use on your phone. It will help tell you what seafood is best to eat because it is caught or farmed in an ocean-friendly way that protects wildlife like sea turtles, dolphins, and sharks.
The Houston Zoo is currently in Argentina participating in a marine debris/wildlife protection workshop with friends from UC Davis Veterinary Medicine and the Buenos Aires Zoo. Before the workshop began, we visited a new recycling center that is committed to increasing recycling in a small town on the coast of Argentina. Recycling is not standard in every town,and this company is doing amazing things to decrease waste! This company currently has a landfill but they are hoping to move more materials into recycling. Since the community is not used to recycling yet,the company sorts all of the materials (separating trash, organic materials and recycling) by hand! They have even started their own compost pole. They hope that in the near future they will be able to get the community to sort their trash and recycling themselves. We were very fortunate to meet with the owner of this company, who also attended both days of the marine debris workshop.
After visiting the recycling center we had one more day to prepare for the workshop before the nearly 50 attendees arrived. The workshop was held at Mundo Marino, which is a zoological facility that is committed to rehabilitating local wildlife in need such as penguins, fur seals and sea turtles! We were given a tour of the area where wild animals are rehabilitated before they could be released into the wild. This is a photo of a green sea turtle (a species that comes to our Texas waters!) who was hit by a boat most likely and is undergoing treatment before it can be released. We also saw penguins being cared for because of an interaction with oil, and fur seals who were orphaned and needing care as they cannot survive in the wild at this age without parental care.
On Thursday May 26, NOAA Fisheries and the Houston Zoo released nine sea turtles at Stewart Beach in Galveston, Texas surrounded by hundreds of onlookers.
Six of the turtles are Kemp’s ridleys, the other three are loggerheads. All but one of the turtles suffered injuries related to fishing interactions when they were accidentally caught and swallowed fishing hooks.
The degree of rehabilitation and length of stay at the NOAA sea turtle facility in Galveston varied, ranging from one week to nine months. Call 1-866-TURTLE-5 to report an injured sea turtle.
Shark conservationist, Alerick Pacay, Program Coordinator at Fundación Mundo Azul, a non-profit conservation organization, based in Guatemala, received conservation and education training at the Houston Zoo. Alerick had participated in a video conservation messaging workshop Houston Zoo staff held in Belize last year for marine conservation organizations. He and his organization, reached out to Houston Zoo staff when he learned more about the Houston Zoo’s conservation and education programming.
Fundación Mundo Azul main goal is to protect the ocean. Alerick works with local fishermen to monitor the 30 species of sharks in Guatemala and spends much of his time inspiring visitors to the Guatemala Zoo and local communities about the importance of protecting sharks. He educates his audiences about the importance of sharks and other wildlife in the ocean and how they can save this wildlife by reducing their plastic use. Plastic and other trash in the oceans is one of the biggest threats to marine life.
The training he received provided him with the knowledge to increase his impact with his audiences. Our staff also learned a tremendous amount from Fundación Mundo Azul’s programs.
Along with training at the Zoo, he also got to accompany our staff and our partners at NOAA in some sea turtle protection work in the wild. He assisted with rescuing a very big loggerhead sea turtle in Galveston.
Endangered Species Day is an opportunity for people of all ages to learn about the importance of protecting endangered species as well as everyday actions they can take to help protect them. The Houston Zoo, and other AZA-accredited institutions around the world, have united to bring awareness to the global conservation effort to save endangered species and their habitats in the wild.
What makes a species endangered? According to the International Union for Conservation in Nature (IUCN)
An Endangered species is a species which has been categorized by the IUCN Red List as likely to become extinct. “Endangered” is the second most severe conservation status for wild populations in the IUCN’s schema after Critically Endangered.
We have a number of endangered species at the Houston Zoo and some of them might be your favorite animals! Did you know Asian elephants, orangutans, and gorillas are all endangered? The Zoo’s Conservation team works with 30 conservation partners in 16 different countries to help these animals and others including the Grevy’s zebra, shark and ray species, cheetahs, and more! Global partners use our conservation resources for funding, business development, and even event planning to connect their local cultures to the animals they’re trying to save.
In addition to our global conservation efforts, the Houston Zoo works diligently to help three local species and increase their chances of long-term survival.
Local conservation projects happen behind-the-scenes at the Houston Zoo where dedicated keepers work with these animals daily to increase their numbers in the wild. One such animal is the Attwater’s prairie chicken. This dynamic bird used to call the plains of Texas home, but now only about 100 exist in the wild. The good news is, 362 eggs are currently being incubated to raise and release back into the wild thanks to the amazing bird department here at the Zoo!
A mature, male Attwater’s prairie chicken at the Attwater’s Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge.
The juvenile birds are released at the Attwater’s Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge to grow to maturity and repopulate the area. Last year 176 chickens were released!
Similarly, the Houston toad is no longer in Houston, but its numbers are growing thanks to the work of the Herpetology department and volunteers at the Zoo. The Herpetology department at the Houston Zoo currently has 700,000 eggs ready to be released in the Bastrop area. In 2015 they released 600,000 eggs in cases that protect the fragile eggs until they become tadpoles.
So far, 2016 has been a successful year thanks to those 600,000 eggs. In past years, mating calls of Houston Toads have been scarce, but were more prominent this year. A very good sign for long-term sustainability!
Finally, the Zoo partners with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to help save sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico. Our veterinarians provided medical care for 124 turtles in 2015 and 17 in 2016 to-date.
A common green sea turtle rehabs in the Houston Zoo Kipp Aquarium.
All five species of sea turtle – Kemp’s ridley, green, loggerhead, leatherback, and hawksbill – found in the Gulf are endangered.
What can you do to help?
Attwater’s prairie chicken
Come to the Zoo! Each time you visit, a portion of your ticket goes towards our conservation programs – including the Attwater’s prairie chicken!
Recycle your old batteries. Batteries leak harmful chemicals into waterways when they aren’t disposed of properly. Since amphibians, like the Houston toad, have sensitive skin that absorbs the environment around them, recycling batteries will help keep them healthy!
Use a reusable bag when you go shopping. Single-use plastic bags are often confused by sea turtles as sea jellies – one of their favorite foods! Using a reusable bag when you go to the store will keep these single-use bags out of the environment and keep sea turtles out of harm’s way.
Want to know more about what you can do to help save animals in the wild? TAKE ACTION
On February 26th Houston Zoo wildlife partners at NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) brought in several wild sea turtles for medical care.
These sea turtles were looked over by the Houston Zoo’s vet team and will be rehabilitated at NOAA’s sea turtle barn in Galveston until they are ready to be released into the wild.
On March 23rd, an additional green sea turtle visited the Zoo’s vet clinic. This turtle had obvious boat wounds and will need plenty of care before it can return to the wild. As the turtle was receiving care, the Zoo’s vet staff noticed that not only did it have a boat wound, but the turtle also had parts of a fishing hook in the front left flipper. Dr. Joe at the Zoo’s clinic removed the hook and provided care to the carapace (shell) before the turtle returned to Galveston for rehabilitation by NOAA staff.
We are just beginning the sea turtle nesting season in Texas. If you happen to see sea turtle tracks, a nesting sea turtle, or an injured/sick/stranded turtle on the beach, please report it to 1-866-TURTLE-5. In addition, if you are fishing and accidentally catch a sea turtle, please also report it to this number!
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 wild animals in mind. A simple effort like being aware of what types of paints we use has a surprisingly large impact on wildlife because it impacts their natural environment.
Paints can have harsh chemicals that affect the air we all breathe, or if you dispose of leftover paint improperly, it can get into the streams and waters wildlife like sea turtles call home.
Paint and the Houston Zoo
Recently the Zoo used environmentally friendly paint to label the storm drains behind the scenes as a reminder that the cleaner we keep our waters, the healthier our wildlife. Storm water drains are a part of all cities, helping alleviate flood waters that build up during storms and are meant only to have rainwater since Houston storm drains lead right back out to our bayous, and eventually flow to the Gulf of Mexico.
For our storm drain project we were able to visit New Living to source paint that is water-based and contains no volatile organic compounds in both the paint and paint pigments. These compounds, called VOCs, are immediately noticed as the intense “paint smell” that can give you a fast headache. This smell is from chemicals that people should not breathe, and animals should not have in their water supply. The paint that New Living offers allows us to be sure that when we‘re using paint for projects, we have the option to choose a product that is made in a more environmentally friendly way, contains less harsh chemicals, and if ever exposed to the environment would not impact it harshly like with traditional paints.
As a Zoo-Based Conservation organization, we have chosen to include no-VOC paint whenever possible to ensure all operations of the Zoo are done in a way that is friendly for wildlife. The Houston Zoo aims to be a leader in being a part of these new and innovative practices that are conscious of our wildlife and our interactions with the natural world we all live in.
You can help save wildlife too!
If you are using paint that contains VOCs, be sure to wear safety masks and take any remainder paint to a hazardous waste facility. In Houston, you can take this kind of paint (like oil-based paint) to the West Park Consumer Recycling Center located in Houston. If you have-water based paint, you can let the paint dry (often people will mix it with cat litter for a faster drying process) and toss the dry paint in the trash for regular pick-up.
Next time you buy paint, ask for no-VOC paint to ensure the products you are using are safe for wildlife. Visit stores like New Living to ensure you are purchasing wildlife-friendly products.
The Houston Zoo cares about animals in the wild and is working within our global community to help wildlife. There are many ways to affect wildlife, and we work with all types of groups that are using innovative and effective ways to keep our world healthy for all of its inhabitants.
Something that all of our friends, groups, partners, and even visitors have in common is trash, plastics in particular…but what does that have to do with saving wildlife? Our wild animals come into contact with a lot of our trash; our friends in Africa have seen giant elephants grab plastic bags that are tangled in grasses thinking that it’s food, and our local friends in Galveston have seen our Texas sea turtles eat plastic bags floating in the ocean because they look like a tasty jellyfish.
This league is connecting two areas that don’t seem like they’d work together, robotics and waste, to make a beautiful solution to help save wildlife! There are some innovative ways that robots can help us to protect wildlife, from using drones to gauge poaching areas to creating robotic fish that measure ocean health, and this league is a group of students that is putting their brains together to come up with more ways that robotics can help our animals and our Earth. This is the first installation of a blog series that will track what the league is doing, why they are doing it, and how you can help out too!
Please welcome our guest bloggers for this series, the Jersey Voltage Purple FIRST Lego League Robotics Team:
Hi there! We are the Jersey Voltage Purple FIRST Lego League (FLL) robotics team. We are a team of 10 students who live in Jersey Village, Texas and we are here to not only talk about trash (plastics in particular); but we are here to clean it up or at the least create excitement and awareness of the world’s plastics. We’re working on a project now, so photos are to come, but below you can check out why we chose to focus on plastics and see some great pictures of us while in the brainstorming stage!
Did you know that the very first plastic was developed in Britain way back in 1862, and plastics were exhibited at the Great Exhibition in London?! Plastics are used in many important ways that help humans and animals stay healthy, like in the medical field, and use of plastics exploded in the first decade after World War II. Just in the past 30 years, the plastic industry has gotten huge and includes many plastic products that could potentially be replaced by reusable items, like reusable water bottles or plastic bags.
This explosion of the use of plastics greatly impacts our eco-system and affects our wildlife. All of us have used many water bottles in our lifetime, but how many of those bottles have been made of plastic? Last year, the average American used 167 disposable plastic water bottles, but only recycled 38. Do you know how many get into our eco-system? Of the millions of water bottles used every day, most of them will eventually end up in an animal’s environment. So we’re here to help. Many people are trying to limit the amount of plastic they use, and some have come up with some pretty creative solutions to this somewhat overwhelming problem!
Take Action Now: You can save wildlife today by using a reusable tote for your groceries instead of single-use plastic bags. You can also exchange your single-use plastic bottles for a long-term refillable bottle. Visit the Houston Zoo’s Take Action page and find out what else you can do!
In our next blog we will tell you about a few ideas that we uncovered in our research and what we’ve been working on with our robotics to help save wildlife! So stay tuned, more to come and plenty to do!
Founded in 1989 and based in Manchester, NH, FIRST is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit public charity designed to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology, and to motivate them to pursue education and career opportunities in STEM fields.
At the Houston Zoo we are passionate about the animals in our care, the animals they represent in the wild, and the challenges they face in their native homes. One of the biggest responsibilities we have at the Zoo is to tell the stories of wildlife around the globe, connect them to our animals at the Zoo, and encourage our community to take action to help!
Locally, the Houston Zoo is very proud of our partnership with numerous organizations to save sea turtles. To celebrate the achievements of our local community in saving sea turtles, the Houston Zoo designed a comic book to tell this important conservation story in a fun and interesting way! The comic book, “Saving Wildlife: Sea Turtle Edition” focuses on a family visiting Galveston who happens to find an injured sea turtle that needs help. You’ll have to pick up your very own copy of the comic book in the Zoo’s Naturally Wild Swap Shop to find out the rest of the story, but you will not be disappointed! Simply visit the Zoo’s Swap Shop (in the Children’s Zoo) and say this secret code (tortuga power!) to receive your copy of this limited edition comic book!
Make sure to check out the back inside cover page where you can learn how to take action to help save sea turtles locally. By filling out this page and bringing it back to the Zoo’s Naturally Wild Swap Shop (open daily 9:00 – 11:45 a.m. and 1:00 – 3:45 p.m.) you can earn points to be used to swap for cool items like rocks, fossils and bones!
What’s happening again?
What: Limited edition “Saving Wildlife: Sea Turtle Edition” comic book
Where: Houston Zoo’s Naturally Wild Swap Shop
Why: Learn about our local sea turtles, the challenges they face in the wild, what the Zoo and other partners are doing to help, and how you can help! Plus, you can earn points to use in the Swap Shop just by reading and learning from a comic book!
How: Visit the Swap Shop and say the secret code (tortuga power!) to Houston Zoo staff to receive your comic book.
When: Comic books available starting today! The Swap Shop is open daily 9:00am-11:45 am and 1:00pm-3:45pm.
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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.
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.
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?
So sorry for the loss of this beautiful creature. Kan Balam.
Is this the one that had the limp?
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.
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.
So sorry for your loss. He was a brilliant cat and he is at peace now and free.
So sorry they had to go through this, a decision that is emotional and difficult, and necessary.
Thank you to you and your staff for the years of quality care given this magnificant creature.
Sending my love to Kan Balam's keepers ❤️ This is the hardest part of our jobs 💔
We just saw Kan Balam on Monday😔.... he will be missed❤️
I am so sorry for your loss, each of these animals are precious ....
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. 😔
Hugs to all of you keepers that took special care of Kan Balam.
Awe, I’m so sad to hear his quality of life was declining. But, I’m happy to know he had a long and wonderful life thanks to the wonderful teams at the Houston Zoo. He was a beautiful cat.
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
Heartfelt condolences to the veterinary and keeper staff. Thank you for taking care of him
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
The Houston Zoo staff has lost several animals this year and I am sure each one is so hard to go through.
Thank you for providing him with a caring and enriched life. So sorry for your loss!
My thoughts of sympathy are with you all. I can't even imagine the sadness you feel today.
So sorry to read this. It is always a hard decision. RIP and run free sweet boy.
I’m so sorry for your loss. He was a beautiful cat.
So sad. Native Houstonian. He was one of my favorites.