Give the Gift of the Photo Ark this Holiday Season

If you’re searching for the perfect holiday gift to give this season, kids and adults of all ages will fall in love with The Photo Ark: One Man’s Quest to Document the World’s Animals by National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore. Not only is this book a stunning collection of over 6,000 species marking the halfway point for Joel’s project, but it also includes animals from right here at the Houston Zoo!

In addition, Chris Holmes, Houston Zoo Assistant Curator of Birds, is featured in this book as a conservation hero for his work with critically endangered blue-billed curassows. Unique to Colombia, there are only a few hundred of these birds left in the wild due to habitat destruction and hunting. One way to make sure blue-billed curassows don’t go extinct is to make sure this species and its’ genetic diversity is represented in zoos. This ensures that if there are any major decreases in the wild, there is a genetically diverse population that could possibly be released to boost wild populations. Chris, using his unique skills developed with the Houston Zoo’s blue-billed curassows, partnered with the Colombian Zoo Association to save these birds in the wild through sharing knowledge gained from successful breeding efforts, providing the resources needed for a successful breeding program in-country, and collaborating in the creation of a five-year conservation plan. In January 2014, the National Aviary of Colombia became the first Colombian zoo to breed the blue-billed curassow in its native Colombia.

The Photo Ark project adds a creative twist to the world of wildlife conservation, using striking studio portraits of animals as a way connect people to wildlife and, in turn, inspire them to take action to save the animals we share the planet with. By using black and white backgrounds, all species – big and small, become equals, reminding us that each of these creatures have a voice, and a vital role to play in keeping our planet healthy for future generations.

Joel Sartore, the creator of the Photo Ark, is a longtime friend of the Houston Zoo, having photographed here many times in the past, and speaking at the zoo’s conservation gala back in 2016. We are proud to partner with Joel, and the feeling is mutual –

“Having friends in the world of zoos is critical in building the Photo Ark, and Chris Holmes is a perfect example of this. He’s worked for years with birds, especially in Columbia. People trust him, and his expertise, honed over years of hard work. With his recommendation, this allows me to work literally anywhere that he has established relationships. It’s remarkable and so appreciated. Indeed, without good references from folks like Chris, the Ark simply would not be able to proceed.” – Joel Sartore

Stop by the gift shop on your next visit to the zoo to pick up your copy! To explore the Ark and learn more about this incredible 25-year project, click here.

Featured Members: The Anello Family

We love our Members. Their incredible support allows us to make a difference to animals both locally and all over the world. This month, we’re spotlighting a family that deserves recognition. We’re thrilled to introduce you to our Featured Members for October: The Anello Family.


We asked the Anello’s to tell us about their experience at the Zoo and why they are Members. Here’s what they had to say:

“We live in the Old Sixth Ward, so we’re a quick ten minute drive from the Zoo. We became members when our son Phineas was less than a year old. Back then, the Zoo was one of our primary outing destinations. We were at the Zoo easily once a month and attended all the special member events: Zoobilee, the African Forest preview, Member Mornings, you name it. As he got older, we found that we weren’t able to get to the Zoo as much but we kept our membership because we wanted to support the Zoo and love having the flexibility to visit whenever we can. We also have really come to enjoy the magazine and annual calendar.

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Finally, we were able to visit in late August to celebrate the last day of summer vacation and we had a fantastic experience. Phineas loves learning about animals and has become quite the walking encyclopedia of animal knowledge gathered from books and TV. He walked into the Zoo with a mental list of all the animals he wanted to see because he’d read about them but hadn’t seen them up close: the albino alligator and the black mamba snake topped his list. He quickly grabbed a map and – thanks to the new letter labeling on the map and within the Zoo – he was able to navigate and – bonus! –  we were able to practice his map skills.  For the rest of the visit, it felt like our lucky day.

featured members anello2 We had the good fortune to catch a keeper talk with Victoria about the Indigo Snake, then we made it in time to feed a giraffe, then we sat down for lunch and got a great member meal deal on a Texas Patty Melt! Best. Zoo Meal. EVER. It was also great to see the focus our Zoo has on protecting animals and their habitats around the globe. We’ve always felt so lucky to live so close to a world class Zoo. It feels even better to be members of a Zoo that is far, far more than a park with animals available for viewing.

Cosimo, our youngest son who is now five months old, benefited nicely from the shady stroll and long nap.”

From all of us here at the Houston Zoo, we want to say thank you to the Anello’s and all of our Zoo Members. As a Houston Zoo Member, your support truly makes an impact on the growth of our Zoo and conservation efforts. THANKS!

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

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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

 

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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.

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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.

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Thank you for protecting wildlife with us!

Recognizing the Dedication of the Houston Zoo Volunteer Team

heidi blog imageGreat zoos require great ambition across multiple departments, however, it is the community support which contributes to so many grand accomplishments. The enthusiasm of over 400 year-round adult volunteers and approximately 1,400 other seasonal volunteers help make it happen. While a dedicated staff is essential, our volunteers bridge the gap daily in making conservation efforts possible by educating over two million guests each year and by helping our staff meet countless demands. We are proud to know so many individuals willing to donate their time and their talents. Many of these volunteers are people with full time jobs, many are retired. All of them have other activities they could choose to do, yet they choose to be here at the Houston Zoo. Whether rain or shine, hot or cold, complex or simple tasks, our volunteer team rises to every request for help.

The Volunteer Programs staff is pleased to welcome our newest adult volunteers that joined us in May. Already, these volunteers have donated well over 285 hours of their time to the Zoo. This outstanding group of individuals brings a variety of backgrounds and interests to our team but all come ready to enrich the lives of both animals and guests, making your visit more enjoyable.  Volunteers may assist with filing paperwork behind the scenes, directing guests on grounds, designing enrichment for our animals, or aiding in exhibit upkeep. Whatever the challenge, we are grateful to know we have the support of a team motivated by ambition rather than a paycheck. Their efforts allow us to maximize our conservation efforts around the world.

“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude” (author Cynthia Ozick). Next time you visit the Houston Zoo, take notice of our blue-shirt Volunteers. May we all draw inspiration from their hearts and minds in making our community and our planet a better place! Our thanks could never be enough to credit these folks for all they do.

For more information, please visit www.houstonzoo.org/volunteer.

Houstonians are Saving Rhinos in the Wild

Standing SophiephotoA young Houstonian is doing all she can to save her favorite animals in the wild.  Sophie held a bake sale in her local Houston neighborhood and this was the invitation that was sent out last month.

Well, I love rhinos (among other zoo animals)! And I just discovered that I love baking! Combine those two, and what do you get? A bake sale for rhinos (and other zoo animals)!
Come over to my house to enjoy Sophie’s Cookie Bar, featuring my favorite recipes, including:
Chocolate Mint, Peanut Butter Chunk, and my special Leslie Chip cookies (milk chocolate, white chocolate, butterscotch, and chocolate filled with caramel chips).  All proceeds will benefit the Houston Zoo’s conservation efforts!”

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Sophie’s Bake Sale was a huge success and she raised $1,033 to save animals in the wild! She also sold the Zoo’s conservation bracelets along with her delicious cookies.

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Sophie has been raising funds and awareness for rhinos for the past few years. She designed her own special rhino shirt and continues to recruit everyone she can to join her in her quest to protect rhinos from extinction.

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Thank you, Sophie and supporters of the bake sale! thThanks to Houston Zoo friends like Sophie, last year we funded a major conservation effort to reintroduce 20 black rhinos into the wild. Remember, just coming through the gates of the Zoo is saving animals in the wild. A portion of every Zoo admission ticket goes straight to helping animals in the wild!

 

Eat Pizza. Save Gorillas!

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

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

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

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

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

Looking Back with Mary Ann Chambers

From the small fence to the now size of 55-acres, the Houston Zoo has grown exponentially not just in size but in the number of species that call the zoo home. Starting out with a small collection of a few species to 6,000 animals of 900 different species, Houstonians like 75-year-old Mary Ann Chambers can recall a time when the zoo was only a fraction of the size of what it is now.

“I can remember as a young child going to the zoo either with my mother or great uncle, and it was always such a treat to see what I thought then was a large variety of animals,” Chambers said, who is a resident at St. Dominic Village and was born in Roscoe, TX. “Of course, I know now from the early ‘40s is that it was probably much smaller than what it was now, but it’s been a while since I’ve been out there.”

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Mary Ann Chambers. Photo courtesy of St. Dominic Village.

In January of 1989, after being accredited by the then-known-as American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums (AAZPA), the zoo initiated a public admission fee of $2.50 for adults and 50 cents for children. In 2000 the zoo opened the John P. McGovern Children’s Zoo and continued to improve throughout the years with the addition of various species such as the komodo dragons and jaguars. And in July 2002, the Houston Zoo became a private non-profit organization with a 50-year lease and operating agreement from the city.

“What impressed me most was how much it grew,” Chambers said. “When I was a little girl, I would go to the zoo and it would seem big and yet we’ve had such wonderful additions to it so to me that’s always been important.”

The 1990s also saw the $1.2 million renovation of the Janice Seuber McNair Asian Elephant facility, as well as extensive renovations of the Aquarium and Tropical Bird House. Many of these improvements were financed through the popular Zoo Ball parties.

“What was significant to me were the elephants because they’re such large animals and yet they move with so much grace,” Chambers said. “My great uncle loved animals and going to the zoo as a child was such a treat, so I think that’s where I got my love for animals. True, animals are not like humans, but we all age similarly.”

Click here to read about what other residents had to say.

Looking Back with Annette Reynolds

Vosswood Nursing Home resident Annette Reynolds is not an average Houstonian. 94-year-old Reynolds was born in 1920, and her father even read George H. Hermann’s will; if the name sounds familiar it’s because he was responsible for presenting a very famous piece of land to the City of Houston – Hermann Park!

Reynolds remembers visiting the zoo in its early days during the 1920s. For her family, going to the zoo was a Sunday treat.

“The first time I went, that I can recall, would be when I was seven years old in 1927,” Reynolds said. “My mother used to say, ‘Now, we’re gonna get dressed because we’re going to the zoo tomorrow!’ Oh, my brother and I would be so excited. It’s helpful to a city to have a beautiful zoo, and I know many people who visit Houston and they make it a point to visit the zoo.”

Formerly referred to as the Hermann Park Zoo, it was a city-operated zoo and free to all visitors until 1989. The first staff member was a German zookeeper named Hans Nagel, who quickly built up the collection and became the first zoo manager/director.

Conveniently located in Hermann Park, the Houston Zoo brings fond memories for residents who would also hold special events at both the zoo and the park, such as Reynolds.

“As a child, my birthday parties were held in the front part of Hermann Park,” Reynolds said. “I remember my son’s birthdays at the park, and we’d have them at the zoo too. I know that we couldn’t live without Hermann Park.”

(From left to eight) Annette Reynolds pictured with her friend, Jean Whitaker.
(From left to right) Annette Reynolds pictured with her friend, Jean Whitaker.

The Houston Zoo has come a long way since its early days and has even more ambitious plans for the next decade. None of this would have been possible without an incredible staff, board and volunteers to implement all these changes and renovations.

“Of course, back then it wasn’t nearly the size as it is now,” Reynolds said. “But I saw a lot of improvement at the zoo growing up; it was very small but the zoo has been done up really nicely. The whole appearance of the zoo has improved tremendously, and I think they [the staff] have done wonders with the zoo.”

We think so too, Mrs. Reynolds!

Click here to read about what other residents wanted to share.

Looking Back with Lynn Gillespie

One common memory that residents can recall is the change in size of the Houston Zoo – the zoo has vastly grown from that first bison and continues to develop new changes and exhibits such as such as the Gorillas of the African Forest (opening Memorial Day weekend). Born and raised in Houston, 72-year-old Lynn Gillespie grew up not too far from the zoo and her childhood love for the zoo continues to this day.

“Our zoo is spectacular,” Gillespie said, who is the administrator for independent & assisted living at St. Dominic Village. “I take my kids to the zoo all the time. In fact the last time I went was Zoo Lights in 2013 with my daughter, and it was fabulous.”

Lynn Gillespie. Photo courtesy of St. Dominic Village.
Lynn Gillespie. Photo courtesy of St. Dominic Village.

Gillespie said when she was a child there was not an aquarium or a bird house, but that all changed when our third and longest tenured director John Werler joined the Houston Zoo in the late ‘50s. During Werler’s time the zoo added a small mammal house (later expanded to become Natural Encounters), a tropical bird house, Children’s Zoo, rhino exhibit, large cat exhibits, vet clinic, and aquarium. The Brown Education Center was dedicated in 1988, a gift from the former Zoological Society of Houston.

“During my time, I want to say the most significant things happening at the zoo were the opening of the bird house and the bear exhibits,” Gillespie said. “Just things opening at the zoo is what made a splash on the papers since it was so small at the time more so than now.”

In December 2010 the zoo opened the first phase of the African Forest immersion habitat. This six-acre, $40 million project includes chimpanzees, white rhinos, giraffe, and kudu antelope as well as a large African-themed restaurant, gift shop and trading post.

“What I remembered most as a child were the monkeys,” Gillespie said. “As a child I think I remember there only being one or two different species of monkeys. I think the zoo has done such a great job on the educating the public of what area and what region of the country each animal comes from.”

In 2000 the zoo opened the $6.5 million John P. McGovern Children’s Zoo and continued to improve with the addition of several other species such as the okapi and spectacled bear.

“I remember when the zoo brought in the petting zoo, and that must’ve come when my children were little because we used to have birthday parties out there,” Gillespie said. “That was the most significant thing to my children, but I do remember spending a lot of time at the seal pool and looking at elephants and hippos with them too. It was just always a lot of fun going to the zoo.”

Click here to see what other residents wanted to share.

Looking Back with JoAnne Driscoll

Very few people can say that they were a member of three important zoo organizations. Born in Pittsburgh, 79-year-old JoAnne Driscoll, a resident at Treemont Retirement Community, was an active member on the docent council, raised funds as a Zoo Friend, and served on the Zoological Society of Houston. It is easy to say that Driscoll holds a special place in her heart for the Houston Zoo.

“My kids grew up at the zoo,” Driscoll said. “I had grown up with the zoo in Pennsylvania, and been out of a zoo for several years now. It was great to be in a city to take my daughter to the zoo, and it was always a favorite place of mine. I’ve got a long history with the zoo, and it’s always been one of my favorite things.”

Driscoll recalled that as a member of the docent council for 11 years, one of her favorite activities was to visit the contact yard located in the Children’s Zoo. She was a Zoo Friend for 15 years and a member of the Zoological Society for 11 years.

“I really do think that the time and days I spent associated with the zoo was really some of the happiest times I’ve had in Houston,” Driscoll said.

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JoAnne Driscoll. Photo courtesy of Treemont Retirement Community.

From the small fence to the now size of 55-acres, from city-operated to privatization, and from small collections of a few species to 6,000 animals of 900 different species, it is easy to say that the Houston Zoo has come a long way since that first bison. Over the years these changes are what Houston residents recall the most, which is one of many things the zoo has to celebrate for its 100th year anniversary in 2022.

“The zoo was very different from when I was taking my kids there,” Driscoll said. “I was there when the zoo went from a city zoo to a private zoo, and the best change is that there are more animals because I love that we’re getting a group of gorillas, but there is also more money to feed and take care of all these animals.”

In July 2002, the Houston Zoo became a private non-profit organization with a 50-year lease and operating agreement from the City of Houston. This public/private partnership has proven to be mutually beneficial for everyone and allowed the zoo to undertake the most ambitious scope of improvements in its entire history.

“One of the biggest changes from the transition was when the zoo was focusing primarily on education and conservation, and Rick Barongi from Disney was brought in as the director and reintroduced the element of entertainment,” Driscoll said. “I think in this world we live in, it’s important to educate people but to also make it entertaining to stick with them, so that they can come back and remember everything. I think that it’s been a good thing.”

Click here to check out what other residents wanted to share.

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