It’s Just One Piece: Surfside Jetty Clean-up and Sea Turtle Rescue

This blog post was written by Taylor Rhoades, Conservation Impact Intern at the Houston Zoo. 

It’s just one piece. Surely someone else will come along and pick it up, right? If it’s still there after my meeting I’ll come back and throw it away when I’m not in such a hurry.

How many of us have muttered those phrases to ourselves as we walk by trash on the street or drop something as we are rushing about our day? As easy as it is for us to pick up just one piece of trash and help clean up the areas around us, it is equally as easy, in the hustle and bustle of a huge metropolitan area, for us to disconnect from our surroundings and not think twice about where our litter ends up.

Some of our trash can make its way into our waterways, which lead to larger bodies of water like lakes or oceans. Here in Houston, we often find that trash ends up in the Gulf of Mexico. This body of water that we flock to each summer to escape the Texas heat is also home to hundreds of marine species that may find their homes polluted by debris.

It is because of this understanding that trash in our waterways can negatively impact local animals like sea turtles and pelicans that our Houston Zoo staff began assisting partners at NOAA who initiated a fishing line recycling program at the Surfside Jetty. The sea lion team that has taken the lead on this collaborative effort became deeply invested in this project because of Astro, a former Houston Zoo sea lion who came to us from California with a neck injury that is suspected to have been caused by trash in the ocean. Here at the Houston Zoo our animals serve as ambassadors for their wild counterparts, so whether we are working with sea turtles or sea lions we want our actions both on and off zoo grounds to reflect our mission of connecting communities to animals and inspiring action to save wildlife. As the zoo’s conservation impact intern, I was given the opportunity to join one of these jetty clean-ups on Halloween weekend.

Astro the sea lion was an ambassador for his species-bringing awareness to the problem of marine debris.
Astro the sea lion was an ambassador for his species-bringing awareness to the problem of marine debris.

I will be first to admit that participating in a jetty clean-up can be daunting – the jetty stretches out as far as the eye can see, and trash is abundant. Down on the rocks, with waves crashing against me, I found myself determined to reach every piece of trash I could see yet frustrated by how much surrounded me and how difficult it could be to pry bottles and fishing line free. But then, something incredible happened – we saved a sea turtle.

Green sea turtle entangled in fishing line off the Surfside Jetty, Texas.
Green sea turtle entangled in fishing line off the Surfside Jetty, Texas.

A visitor to the jetty spotted the turtle about 20 feet out from the jetty wall, and recognizing that it was struggling to swim, reported the sighting to zoo volunteers. We immediately notified the sea turtle hotline (1-866-TURTLE-5). Soon, we received instruction to monitor the turtle and have someone stay with it and report any changes. From the shore, it appeared that the green sea turtle was entangled in fishing line and was struggling to free itself. As we awaited, the turtle appeared to becoming more stressed and more entangled. As it fought to get free, it only exacerbated the problem. After thoughtful deliberation and safety planning, it was decided that if this turtle was to survive, it would be absolutely necessary to enter the water and extract the turtle. It is never recommended for members of the public to enter the water to extract a turtle due to the in-water dangers that exist. However, given the circumstances, Heather (the leader of our group) and I waded out to it without hesitation, cut it free, and brought it back to shore where we could monitor it. Shortly thereafter, biologists from NOAA arrived and provided the care the sea turtle needed, bringing it back to their facility in Galveston for rehabilitation. When the fate of another living being is resting quite literally in your hands, the importance of such clean-up efforts hits you on an entirely different level. It is no longer just about picking up trash – it is about how even the smallest of actions can help to prevent a potential life or death situation.

Houston Zoo staff and intern rescue a green sea turtle entangled in discarded fishing line.
Houston Zoo staff and intern rescue a green sea turtle entangled in discarded fishing line.
Green sea turtle flipper entangled in discarded fishing line.
Green sea turtle flipper entangled in discarded fishing line.
Ball of fishing line mixed with seaweed. Discarded fishing line is a major threat to animals like sea turtles who can become entangled in it, making it difficult for them to swim and find food.
Ball of fishing line mixed with seaweed. Discarded fishing line is a major threat to animals like sea turtles who can become entangled in it, making it difficult for them to swim and find food.

Tired from the endeavor, we began our trek back to the picnic benches to sort through the waste we had collected. We couldn’t help but scan the jetty walls as we walked. After saving that turtle, could we really call it a day when there was more trash to be collected? It was like an itch that had to be scratched – we immediately jumped back into action, picking up pieces as we went. By the end nine of us had collected 70 lbs of recycling, 89 lbs of trash, and 15 lbs of fishing line.

If nine of us could collect almost 200 lbs of waste in a day, imagine the difference we could all make if everyone picked up a piece of trash each day and disposed of it properly. Just one simple action could mean the difference between seeing a sea turtle in distress and seeing it swim freely. With only one percent of sea turtle hatchlings reaching adulthood the turtles in our Texas waters have overcome incredible odds – let’s do our part to keep them healthy!

Successful rescue of a green sea turtle on the Surfside Jetty! If you see a sea turtle on the beach or in need of help, please report it by calling 1-866-TURTLE-5.
Successful rescue of a green sea turtle on the Surfside Jetty! If you see a sea turtle on the beach or in need of help, please report it by calling 1-866-TURTLE-5.

You can help save sea turtles and other ocean animals by:

  • Using re-usable bags and water bottles instead of plastic, which can end up in the ocean causing harm to animals!
  • If you fish, dispose of your used line at home, or in monofilament bins located along the coast at popular fishing spots – this will help to ensure that fishing line does not make its way back into the water
  • Pick up trash on daily walks or trips to the beach to help reduce the amount of debris that could make its way into our oceans!
  • Report any sea turtles on the beach to NOAA biologists at 1-866-TURTLE-5

 

 

Epic 12-hour Facebook LIVE Journey through Zoo

facebookliveEvery four years, elephants and donkeys battle it out for power, and this year might be the most contentious clash in modern history. Election coverage has been relentless and this Tuesday will be no different. But this year, the Houston Zoo is offering a break from the madness with a 12-hour Facebook Live interactive video event where people can see what it takes to give an Asian elephant a bath, or find out what a donkey’s genetic cousin, the zebra, eats for lunch. The Houston Zoo is inviting people to take a few minutes away from the stress and watch a sea lion play with her pup, see a giraffe up-close, or ask a zoo keeper a question about western lowland gorillas.

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On Tuesday, Nov. 8 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. the Houston Zoo will take viewers on a journey throughout the zoo, getting close to the animals and talking to the experts who care for the incredible animals every day. Watchers will be able to ask questions live, and hear answers straight from the source.

To follow along, “like” the Houston Zoo’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HoustonZoo.

Sea Lion Keepers Save Sea Turtle While Picking Up Trash

This week, our sea lion team went above and beyond for wildlife. For two years, this group of Houston Zoo keepers has made regular trips to the Surfside jetty, picking up trash and recyclables. The team also spends time speaking with fisherman and visitors on the jetty about the dangers that discarded monofilament fishing line poses to marine life like sea lions and sea turtles. This self-started program has included Houston Zoo staff from 14 departments and resulted in the collection of 729 pounds of trash, 529 pounds of recycling, and 114 pounds of discarded fishing line.

sea-turtle-rescueWhile working on the jetty this Wednesday, our sea lion team rescued a sea turtle that had been entangled in fishing line. Houston Zoo sea lion keeper, Heather Crane, was on the jetty and helped free the turtle. We asked Heather to share her experience and here’s what she had to say.

“On October 30th, a group of dedicated volunteers and I went to the Surfside Jetty for a scheduled sea lion monofilament team collection. As we made our way out to the end of the jetty to begin our work, we passed by a number of fishermen, surfers, and people enjoying taking in the sights. Our monofilament cart and team seemed to generate a lot of attention by the jetty-goers and we were able to share our story of why we were there to clean the jetty. Not long after, civilians jumped in and joined the efforts to collect trash and fishing line from the jetty sidewalks. It has been a few months since I have visited the jetty myself and I was so impressed by the difference in the vibe I received from the fishermen. After 2 years, I notice a definite difference in the attitudes and perspectives of the people who frequent the jetty the most. Originally, it seemed people were unsure of why we were there and what our intentions may be. But yesterday, I received an overwhelmingly wonderful and warm welcome and acts of gratitude from the jetty-goers. Several fishermen stopped to thank us as we emptied the monofilament bins placed on the jetty for recycling fishing line.

As we collected fishing line, trash, and recyclables, a civilian reported to one of our volunteers that there was a turtle that was possibly entangled. We immediately notified the sea turtle hotline (1-866-TURTLE-5). Soon, we received instruction to monitor the turtle and have someone stay with it and report any changes. From the shore, it appeared that the green sea turtle was entangled in fishing line and was struggling to free itself. As we awaited the arrival of NOAA scientists, the turtle appeared to becoming more stressed and more entangled. As it fought to get free, it only exacerbated the problem. After thoughtful deliberation and safety planning, it was decided that if this turtle was to survive, it would be absolutely necessary to enter the water and extract the turtle. NOAA never recommends or requests members of the public to enter the water to extract a turtle due to the in-water dangers that exist. When I reached the turtle, I found it to be anchored in two spots to the bottom. Fishing line wrapped around the hindflipper, the neck, and tightly around the front left flipper. We removed the loose line around the neck and hind-flippers, but awaited help from the NOAA scientists to remove the front flipper entanglement to prevent further damage of the flipper that probably resulted from an initial entanglement.

sea-turtle-rescue2

NOAA biologist, Lyndsey Howell, works to remove fishing line from sea turtle.
NOAA biologist, Lyndsey Howell, works to remove fishing line from sea turtle.

We waited for help to arrive and continued monitoring the turtle. During this time, we were able to educate onlookers about the importance of recycling fishing line and how to contact the turtle hotline to report injured turtles. It was a great teachable moment and seemed to captivate and inspire this audience the turtle invited. When NOAA scientist, Lyndsey arrived, the remaining fishing line was removed and he was taken to the sea turtle facility in Galveston for further evaluation and treatment. It was a special day and I could not be more proud of the team that collaborated to make the rescue successful. For me, this is a testament and reminder to the importance of the work we do to keep our waterways clean for animals in the wild, and it makes me proud to work for the Houston Zoo.”

sea-turtle-rescue-with-lyndsey

Great work Heather and sea lion team! We want to take a quick moment to reiterate that if you see an injured sea turtle, please immediately dial NOAA at 1-866- TURTLE-5. NOAA’s expert biologists are on-call 24/7 to respond and advise to reports of hurt or nesting sea turtles. Thanks to our friends and conservation partners at NOAA for helping this turtle get ready for another chance in the wild.

What is a Volunteer Enrichment Committee?

Last weekend, we hosted our annual Enrichment Day. In addition to the hard work of our keepers, a special group of Houston Zoo Volunteers focuses on creating enrichment for the animals at the Zoo. Hear from Heather Simm, one of our great Volunteers, as she discusses the Houston Zoo Volunteer Enrichment Committee and why enrichment is so important.


Written by Heather Simm
enrichment3The Volunteer Enrichment Committee is an adult volunteer-led committee comprised of creative, handy, and crafty Houston Zoo Volunteers. The committee meets throughout the year to build an array of exciting new enrichment items for the animals at the Houston Zoo.

The committee works with Zoo staff to make items that encourage natural behaviors, such as foraging for food. To be eco-conscious, many of our projects also involve reusing materials in a new way. For example, we have used old fire hoses to weave a floating hammock for the sea lions and a daybed for the Zoo’s dingos. Newspaper is reused to make papier mache items that can be filled with various treats for all sorts of different animals. We have also constructed bird toys out of egg cartons, playing cards, paper towel tubes, and cardboard boxes.

enrichment2

Whether a task requires crocheting, power tools, or an array of crafting skills, the dedicated volunteers on the Zoo’s Volunteer Enrichment Committee attack each project with a passion. enrichment1You may have seen items the committee built for Enrichment Day this year: a large paper and cardboard “tiger” that was filled with treats for the orangutans, two 5-foot tall papier mache “termite mounds” that feature tunnels where keepers can hide all sorts of bugs and treats for the anteaters, and cardboard and feather “birds” which will be introduced to some of the Zoo’s resident carnivores.

Interested in being a part of this talented group? Visit https://www.houstonzoo.org/volunteer/  for more information.

Sea Lion Staff Make a Wild Impact

You may have heard the news of our adorable female sea lion pup that was recently born at the Houston Zoo. What you may not know is that in between caring for our sea lions, training them, conducting keeper chats, and engaging zoo guests, our sea lion staff is also working additional hours to create a healthier ocean for wildlife right here in Texas.

The Sea Lion Staff assists an ongoing fishing line recycling program which aims to reduce the fishing line on the Surfside Jetty in Surfside, Texas while providing an opportunity for other Zoo staff and volunteers to get involved in work outside our Zoo gates. This program was created through NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the Sea Grant at Texas A&M University’s Monofilament Recovery & Recycling Program. Fishing line is a hazard to wildlife such as sea turtles, fish, rays, dolphins, and shore birds because it can entangle animals, making it hard for them to swim or fly and find food. The Sea Lion Staff conducts monthly cleanups on the Surfside Jetty, removing and recycling fishing line from the monofilament bins, as well as collecting line that is caught in between the rocks. In addition to the fishing line, they also recover trash and recyclables.

Zoo staff cleaning up the Surfside Jetty.
Zoo staff cleaning up the Surfside Jetty.

Here are their accomplishments so far:

• Began program in August 2014 
• Pounds of fishing line recycled to date – 94 lbs
• Pounds of other trash and recycled items collected to date – trash: 592 lbs, recycling: 429 lbs
• Number of staff and volunteers involved to date – 22 staff, 3 interns, 20 volunteers
• Number of different departments involved to date – 14 Zoo departments

Zoo staff removing discarded fishing line and debris from the Surfside Jetty so it does not end up entangling/harming ocean animals.
Zoo staff removing discarded fishing line and debris from the Surfside Jetty so it does not end up entangling/harming ocean animals.

The Sea Lion Staff became extremely passionate about the issue of marine debris after working with one of our previous sea lions, Astro. Astro was a California sea lion that came to us with a wound on his neck, possibly from becoming entangled in marine debris, possibly a carelessly discarded fishing net or fishing line. After working alongside Astro, the Sea Lion team dedicated their time off, weekends, and work time to reduce the threat of marine debris and entanglement on ocean animals.

Astro the sea lion was an ambassador for his species-bringing awareness to the problem of marine debris.
Astro the sea lion was an ambassador for his species-bringing awareness to the problem of marine debris.

If you visit the sea lions at the Houston Zoo, you may get a chance to see a replica fishing line recycling bin and hear about how you can help save ocean animals here in Texas. Our sea lions are not only ambassadors for our ocean-friendly seafood initiative, but they also help us tell the story of marine debris and the dangers of discarded fishing line in our oceans. You can help protect ocean animals by making sure your fishing line doesn’t end up in the water-instead, place it in a monofilament recycling bin! These bins can be found all along the Upper Texas Coast.

Look for fishing line recycling bins like this one when you are out fishing in the Galveston area! You can discard your fishing line here.
Look for fishing line recycling bins like this one when you are out fishing in the Galveston area! You can discard your fishing line here.

Flippered and Furred Bundle of Joy Born at the Zoo

We are pleased to announce the birth of a California sea lion! The pup was born to first-time mother, Kamia, on Tuesday, June 28 after a short labor. The pup and Kamia began to bond immediately, and nursing was spotted within hours. The sex of the pup has not yet been determined. The mother and pup will spend a while behind the scenes strengthening their bond before they are ready to make their first public appearance.

Sea Lion Baby 2016 Houston Zoo-0001-3488

“The bonding between Kamia and her pup is going extremely well and the pup is healthy, very active and very curious,” says Sophia Darling, supervisor of sea lions. “The pup loves exploring around the area!”

This birth is the first sea lion pup to be born at the Houston Zoo since 1994, and is the first offspring for both Kamia, and father Jonah.

The sea lions at the Houston Zoo play a major part in the zoo’s Take Action conservation initiatives. As ambassadors for the sustainable seafood program, the sea lions help guests understand that the simple choices they make can have a big impact on animals. The zoo’s sea lions eat 23,850 pounds of responsibly-caught, sustainable fish each year. Sustainable seafood is defined as seafood that is either responsibly wild-caught or farm-raised that not only keeps current populations of marine wildlife at balanced numbers, but ensures they thrive over the long term. The methods by which the seafood is harvested or raised must not cause undue harm to the ocean. The Houston Zoo strongly believes that embracing the use of sustainable seafood is one of the best ways we can all protect our oceans’ health. Learn how you can Take Action!

Sea Lion Enrichment

Sea Lion-0317-4805Animals in the wild have to work for a living to ensure that they can find food and shelter. At the zoo our animals’ daily lives are more predictable than in nature, which is why our zookeepers provide a variety of enriching activities that will challenge the animals physically and mentally. The sea lion keepers are no exception as they provide some of the coolest enrichment activities for our favorite marine mammals here at the zoo.

The lives of our sea lions are constantly being filled with enrichment. Just about everything the sea lions do on a daily basis involves a form of enrichment. Sea lion keeper, Anastasia Kotara, said that the keepers cannot force anything upon the sea lions because they want them to voluntarily choose to play on their own. Due to this, the keepers are constantly shaking things up in terms of enrichment so they can keep the sea lions guessing, remaining curious about their daily schedule. A constant change of schedule sets the sea lions apart from most animal areas at the zoo and a large reason behind this is due to the different personalities and natural behavior of our sea lions; requiring the keepers to remain diligent in preparing activities. Keepers use many of their enrichment tools to encourage the sea lions to work for their food and show off natural instincts. Enrichment devices such as containers, balls, and hoops to swim through all serve a purpose in enriching our sea lions. Typically, fish are put in the containers or in the middle of toy balls where sea lions can work on cognitive skills as well as playing to bring out characteristics they would naturally have in the wild.sea lion blog

Training is a huge part of our sea lions’ lives. Considering that the keepers train them throughout the day, training is a form of enrichment. Every keeper has their own enrichment device that they have chosen to train with, making every training session unique and positive for the sea lions. A sea lion’s level of training solely depends on how long they have been training for. Some of the sea lions, such as Rocky, are new to the style of enrichment that our keepers provide, requiring the keepers to take a different approach. Anastasia said training Rocky is a refreshing experience because he is willing to participate in all enrichment activities. Some of the sea lions can be stubborn and lose interest in an activity if it becomes familiar. The female sea lions have been at the zoo since they were ten months old, requiring a form of training and conditioning that keeps them seeing new and exciting activities. A big part of their change in enrichment is through the sea lion show for the guests. Demonstrations such as having the sea lions distinguish between objects are just one of the many activities our guests can see and the show is constantly switching routines to not only keep the sea lions playful but to keep the guests guessing; enriching the experience for both.

Every year the sea lion keepers have an intern to whom they ask to come up with an enrichment project that will benefit the sea lions and other endeavors in animal enrichment.  This is one of the many ways the zoo keeps things fresh for our sea lions. This year Daniel Magid, sea lion intern, came up with a project involving the construction of a fire hose raft for our sea lions. Partnering with the Volunteer Enrichment Committee, Daniel oversaw the completion of the raft which is made up entirely of fire hose material and PVC pipe. No hardware was involved in making the raft which is important for the safety of the sea lions and the salt water environment. The PVC forms the outer rim of the raft while the fire hose material fits together through slits to make up the body of the raft. Daniel said that through the completion of the raft, they realized that there were potential safety hazards for the sea lions so the team went back and added weaving to tighten up the material. The raft is currently entered in a competition known as Hose2Habitat where it will go up against other enrichment building tools made from fire hose and other types of material. The winner receives a fire hose cutter which would be utilized for all the animal departments in the zoo. Regardless of what happens in the competition Daniel and his team are incredibly proud of the raft as it will not only provide the sea lions new and exciting enrichment building but also showcase an idea that others can use as well.

The point of enrichment building is to change up the animal’s environment with the hope of bringing out their natural characteristics. Through the constant creation of fresh ideas provided by our keepers, enrichment building has never been more exciting and successful for our sea lions.

Our Sea Lion Team is Saving Marine Wildlife & You Can Too!

Sea_lions_Small_Tile

Next time you visit the Zoo make sure you catch our sea lion presentations to hear how the sea lion team is organizing efforts to save marine animals in the wild! All of our animal care specialists love the animals they provide care for and feel a devotion to protecting their wild counterparts.

 

In the past year, the sea lion team has organized 11 trips with Zoo staff to Galveston and collected:

  • 140 lbs of fishing line from specially-designed bins placed along the jetties. These bins were built by the Zoo!
  • 140 lbs of recycling from the beach
  • 250 lbs of trash from the beach

 

sohie and bins
On the left is a monofilament bin and the right is a member of the sea lion team digging fishing line out of the rocks!

During these animal saving expeditions, they have talked to beach goers and fisherman about the importance of properly discarding fishing line in the designated containers along Galveston jetties so that the line does not blow into the ocean or onto the beaches. The Houston Zoo assists with the rehabilitation of approximately 85 stranded or injured wild sea turtles a year, with some of them showing injuries resulting from becoming entangled in the fishing line and other garbage.

IMG_0879

Please help us save wildlife by spreading the word. 

If you like to fish, know local fishermen, or like to spend time at the beach, make sure you tell everyone you can about how to save wildlife by:

  • Properly disposing of all fishing line in the designated bins
  • Properly sorting the recycling and garbage you find or bring to the beach
  • Calling 1-866-Turtle-5 (1-866-887-8535) if you happen to catch a sea turtle while fishing, or see an injured or stranded turtle.

Turtle

Thank you for protecting wildlife with us!

Houston Zoo Sea Lion Team Works to Remove Marine Debris

This post was written by Sophia Darling

A few Sundays ago, on March 29th, Houston Zoo sea lion team members Sophia Darling and Heather Crane, along with zoo volunteer Dale Martin, traveled down to the Surfside Jetty for the sea lion team’s monthly jetty cleanup. The Surfside jetty is a high volume fishing area, and especially now that the weather is warming up, you can find lots of people enjoying a beautiful day fishing off of the jetty and beach. Unfortunately, this comes with a cost. More often than not, the people visiting leave a trail at the jetty: aluminum cans, bait leftovers and containers, cigarette butts, and a lot of excess monofilament, more commonly known as fishing line. All of these items are described as marine debris – any man made item that ends up in the marine ecosystem, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

This is a monofilament bin located on the Surfside jetty.
This is a monofilament bin located on the Surfside jetty.

Marine debris is a huge threat to marine life all over the globe. It poses many different hazards to local wildlife, most commonly ingestion and entanglement. The sea lion team decided it was time for action to be taken!! By partnering with NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) the sea lion team has had specially designed bins installed along the Surfside jetty, providing an easy and accessible location to properly dispose of fishing line. Once a month we go down to the jetty and spend a day emptying the monofilament bins and cleaning up the debris left over among the rocks.  This last Sunday we collected 15.4 pounds of recycling, 20.5 pounds of trash, and 1 pound of monofilament fishing line!

This is why it's so important to remove and recycle fishing line.
This is why it’s so important to remove and recycle fishing line.

And we really get into the cracks and crevices to get as much as we can!! Very often plastic bottles, aluminum cans, and large wads of monofilament will get trapped in the cracks between the rocks, and it takes a little extra effort to get it out.

Supervisor Sophia Darling does a handstand between the rocks to try and reach debris among a beautiful bed of anemones!
Supervisor Sophia Darling does a handstand between the rocks to try and reach debris among a beautiful bed of anemones!

Unfortunately, we cannot get to all the inhabitants of this marine environment in time. While climbing among the rocks, we found a local ray (we’re unsure of the species) that had been caught and hooked by someone’s fishing line, most likely un-intentionally. Unfortunately, the method taken to cut the ray loose did not do anything to help it. The line was cut about 10 feet from the hook lodged in the ray’s mouth, which was not removed.

RayBycatch

There are so many things that we can do to help prevent debris from entering the marine environment, and prevention is our greatest ally! Avoid one-time use plastic and paper bags when going to the store, and bring your own thermos or cup when you visit your favorite local coffee shop. If you are going to visit the jetty, our beaches, or even a park, please, PLEASE, clean up after yourself. Make a goal for yourself, that for every visit you take to the coast, you will spend 20 minutes cleaning up a small area of the beach! Here in the city many of our storm drains and bayous lead to the gulf, so be aware of what enters our environment here! Even by overfilling your trash cans while they wait to be collected may lead to debris getting caught up in the wind. Always recycle. Every small thing that we can do can, and WILL, make a difference.

Since August 2014, the Houston Zoo sea lion team has collected 18 pounds of monofilament, 58.5 pounds of recycling and 82.5 pounds of trash from the Surfside jetty. We continue to get this message out in our shows here at the zoo, and we encourage anyone to come talk to us about marine conservation and what we can all do to help!!

How Does Your Bracket Compare to a Sea Lion's?

UPDATE:

Here are Jonah’s picks! How does your bracket compare?
JONAH-PICKS

Yes, you read that correctly. This year, Jonah the sea lion is creating his own bracket. He’s been practicing in our own Houston Zoo basketball camp just for sea lions (Not actually a real thing and totally just for fun) and we feel pretty confident that he will have some pretty strong picks.

Take a look at some basketball camp highlights to see how Jonah has become familiar with the game.

So here’s how it will work: Two different color basketballs will be placed in the sea lion pool, with each ball representing one team in a matchup. Jonah will select a ball and put it through the hoop to indicate who he believes will win that game. He will repeat this for his entire bracket. We’ll post his picks on our blog so you can follow along with how he’s doing and compare brackets.

So now the big question: Why are we doing this?
If you take it at face value, the whole thing might just appear to be a sea lion playing with a basketball. However, if you look a little closer, you can see an incredible relationship between  Jonah and our sea lion keepers. Actually, you can see these types of relationships all over the Houston Zoo. Our keepers work very hard to develop connections with the animals and to make their lives as enriching as possible. Learning new behaviors such as Jonah making baskets provides the opportunity to develop the keeper & animal relationship further and enriches the lives of not only the animals, but the keepers as well!

Stay tuned to see Jonah’s picks!

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Awesome work as usual Houston Zoo!

Wonderful!

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Love the name!!

What a cutie pie!

Love the name!

very cute 😊

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