Earn Swap Shop Points with our New Reusable Bag Program!

We’re excited to announce a new way to earn points in the Naturally Wild Swap Shop! Traders in the Swap Shop now have the option to spend 25 points in exchange for a small reusable bag to transport treasures they have found in nature. Here’s the best part: Each time the bag is used to bring items into the Swap Shop for a trade, traders earn 5 points! This new program shows the importance of reusable bags in protecting wildlife and rewards the kiddos that want to make a difference.

swap shop bag

There is roughly 3.15 billion pounds of plastic in our oceans right now and the average American will add to this epidemic by throwing away approximately 185 pounds of plastic per year.

Sea_turtle_2Wildlife like endangered sea turtles and other marine creatures often mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, one of their favorite foods. Recently, we made plastic bags extinct in our gift shops, encouraging adults to also opt for reusable bags to protect marine life.

The Houston Zoo also has an expanding collection of canvas bags artistically designed with images depicting the animals that benefit from a reduction of plastic bags in the ocean. The series includes sea lions, sea turtles, pelicans and more on the way!

Canvas bag

Penny Always Has Something to Say

Hi everyone.  It’s Penny the Swap Shop cat.

Penny
Penny

I have been enjoying seeing so many guests lately!  There were lots of people here for Zoo Boo.  That was so much fun.  Now, it’s time for Zoo Lights and everyone likes that! We have had some rainy days, but the dry days were amazing.  Lots of people came out on the good weather days.  I like that weather too.   I especially like sitting in the windows in the sun.

There was a different kind of guest in the Shop recently.  I didn’t get to stay out and see him, but I knew he was out there.   I heard all about it (and smelled him too!).  It was a goat!  His name is Alvin, and he

Visitors meet Alvin in the Swap Shop
Visitors meet Alvin in the Swap Shop

is a Nubian goat.  I heard that he is really tall – much taller than me.  He came in with his trainer, Amber.  I already knew Amber; she is one of the Zookeepers in the Children’s Zoo.  I found out that Nubian goats are dairy goats and originally came from Africa.  They like really hot climates – so they must really love Houston.  They also have some really awesome long ears.    You can meet Alvin and lots of other goats in the Contact Area of the Children’s Zoo.

Of course, if you want to meet me, you will have to come to the Naturally Wild Swap Shop.

Alvin and his trainer Amber
Alvin and his trainer Amber

As an Ambassador for the zoo, I sometimes go out to classrooms or presentations. But, when I am not working, I live in the Swap Shop.  The Naturalists that work there seem to understand that I am the one really in charge.

Don’t know ab0ut the Naturally Wild Swap Shop?  Click here for more information.

The Houston Zoo Launches our First-Ever Comic Book!

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!

comic book coverLocally, 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!

emma comic book shot

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.

Pollination Station Arrives

Check out the new amazing Pollination Station in the Children’s Zoo!  What is a Pollination Station?  Just think of it as an insect hotel.

Before
Before

 

You will notice that many different materials were used in our Pollination Station’s making.  This allows many different insects to use the different shape openings to lay their eggs.

30% of all North American bees use some kind of tunnel in which to lay their eggs.  Providing a food source and houses for these bees is very important in the efforts to help our pollinators.

A huge percentage of our food crops rely on pollinators.  Without our pollinators, we could lose nuts, spices, many fruits and vegetables, cotton, alfalfa and even chocolate.  75% of flowering plants and over

Pollination Station in progress
Pollination Station in progress

30% of our food crops rely on pollinators.

What kinds of insects will be making this palace their home?  Wasps, dragonflies, bees, moths, and spiders.

The next time you are in the Children’s Zoo, check out the Pollination Station next to the Naturally Wild Swap Shop.  And, if you have planted pollinator plants in your own gardens, bring a report or pictures to the Swap Shop for points and you can be registered as a Pollinator Pal.

The finished Pollination Station
The finished Pollination Station

 

Don’t know about the Naturally Wild Swap Shop? Click here for more information on how it works.

Big News in the Naturally Wild Swap Shop

 

Our staff is growing! Meet Sara Riger, our newest Naturalist. Sara has been a part of the Houston Zoo for 11 years and has a vast range of experience and knowledge. She has worked with animals in Natural Encounters, Primates and Carnivores during her time with the zoo.

Sara Riger Naturalist
Sara Riger Naturalist

But her experience goes even further back than that! During her career, she has also worked at the Bronx Zoo in New York City, Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, New York, and the Nashville Zoo. She is a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, The Clouded Leopard Management Committee, and is Co-chair for the Houston Zoo’s Enrichment Committee.

Originally from New York State, Sara and her husband, Peter, (who she met at the Bronx Zoo and who now also works for the Houston Zoo) have made a happy home in the Houston area along with their four legged kids – Peanut, Shaemus, Fluffy, Sebastian and Mateo.

Sara is a wonderful addition to the Swap Shop with her knowledge, experience and enthusiasm for working with people of all ages. The next time you are at the Houston Zoo, come by and say hi to Sara and welcome her to the team. (It might even earn you 5 points in the shop!)

Don’t know about the Naturally Wild Swap Shop?  Click here for more information.

 

 

Penny the cat discovers Gorillas

Hello all. Penny the Swap Shop cat here. There is something new going on at the zoo.

I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. I kept hearing about these new animals at the

Penny contemplating gorillas
Penny contemplating gorillas

zoo…..gorillas. So, I did some research.

It seems the Houston Zoo has added 7 new gorillas. A bachelor group and a family group. I didn’t think they would be so impressive until I saw pictures of them.   They are actually amazing!

There are three males in the bachelor group – Ajari (14 yrs. old), Chaka (30 yrs. old) and Mike (23 yrs. old). The family group consists of one male, Zuri (31 yrs. old), with Holli (25 yrs. old), Sufi (13 yrs. old) and Benti (40 yrs. old).   Their exhibit is beautiful and took a long time

The gorilla family in their new exhibit

to build.   They have a much bigger house than I have in the Swap Shop.   But then, they are a lot bigger than me so I suppose that is fair – even if they aren’t cats.  I guess that also explains why they get to be outside without a leash when I don’t.

I learned that gorillas are disappearing in the wild. It is due to habitat loss and illegal hunting. That made me pretty sad. But, the Houston Zoo is working with organizations in the field to help save the gorillas. They work with the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP) and the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center (GRACE) to help the wild gorillas. Every time you come to the zoo to see our gorillas, you are helping wild gorillas.

Come and see me at the Naturally Wild Swap Shop.  I will be here carefully contemplating gorillas.

Don’t know about the Swap Shop?  Click here for more information.

Pollinator Pals in the Naturally Wild Swap Shop

Meet the first of the Houston Zoo’s Pollinator Pals!

 Ollie, Drake and Ginger are regular traders in the Naturally Wild Swap Shop, and now they are also Pollinator Pals! They each picked out the plant they wanted to grow and what pollinators they wanted to attract. Ollie planted hyacinth bean to attract hummingbirds, Drake planted passion flower vine to attract gulf fritillary butterflies, and Ginger planted milkweed to attract monarch butterflies.

Drake planting passion flower
Drake planting passion flower

Pollinators are extremely important to us, and they are declining. Our lives would be severely impacted by the loss of any of our pollinators. Many of the foods we eat rely on pollinators.  Fruits, vegetables, nuts, spices, cotton, alfalfa (for the cattle we rely on), honey, coffee, agave, chocolate and more!

Ginger gives a thumbs up for her milkweed seeds
Ginger gives a thumbs up for her milkweed seeds

How does one become a Pollinator Pal? Plant a pollinator garden! It can be as small as a potted plant or as large as a full scale garden. Once your garden is planted, take some pictures and bring a report about it to the Swap Shop to earn points. Then as

Check out Ollie's hyacinth bean seeds
Check out Ollie’s hyacinth bean seeds

your garden grows and attracts pollinators, bring in reports on what you have seen and how the garden is doing. Your points can then be spent in the Swap Shop for some amazing natural items.

Learn more about the Naturally Wild Swap Shop!

The Importance of Pollinators

Pollinating insects are a crucial part of the health and well-being of our planet. They enable plants to set seed and reproduce,

Pollinators - source USDA Forest Service
Pollinators – source USDA Forest Service

driving the Earth’s terrestrial ecosystems and providing us with fresh fruits, vegetables, greens, spices, coffee and fiber for clothing (to name a few items we can’t live without).   But did you know that pollinator insect populations are steadily declining year after year due to habitat loss, crop monoculture and pesticide use? Even if you are a hardcore carnivore, the animals you eat depend on a variety of insect pollinated plants for food, so their plight affects you, too. In short, if insect populations suffer, the human population will quickly follow suit. The relationships between organisms on our planet is beautifully complex. To illustrate how intertwined these relationships can be, I’d like to tell you the story of a sweet smelling orchid, a love-struck metallic green bee and the Brazil nut tree.

As most people are aware, the deforestation of our planet is rampant, especially in tropical areas. In the Amazon rainforest, areas are sometimes selectively logged and the understory plants are bulldozed or burned, leaving only certain trees standing that might continue to provide income. Since Brazilian nuts are of economical importance, Brazil nut trees are often left alone. Unfortunately, the trees stop producing nuts after the surrounding forest is cleared… but why?

To solve the mystery, we must turn to a very cool group of insects – the orchid bees. Orchid bees (also known as Euglossine

Orchid Bee  - source www.whatsthatbug.com
Orchid Bee – source www.whatsthatbug.com

bees) are the main pollinators of orchids that are familiar to orchid enthusiasts: Gongora, Stanhopea, and their relatives. The orchids in this group have perfumed flowers that smell strongly of vanilla, clove, wintergreen and even root beer! The flowers offer no nectar, so female bees collecting food for their young have no interest in them. It turns out that these flowers are pollinated only by male bees, and each species of bee prefers a single species of orchid. So what are the male bees getting out of this? In order to attract a female bee, the male has to smell nice… so he collects perfumed wax from his preferred orchid flower and transfers it to specialized “pockets” on his hind legs. He then flies to a spot attractive to females (such as a big Brazil nut tree with lots of nectar-bearing flowers) and performs a scented mating display with his orchid perfume. This sparks the female bee’s interest and mating occurs, ensuring future generations of orchid bees. And while they’re around, the female bees pollinate the Brazil nut tree so that it may produce seeds (this is the part we eat).

So why doesn’t pollination occur when we leave a Brazil nut tree standing in an otherwise cleared forest? The orchid perfume that the male orchid bees need to successfully mate is nowhere to be found – the orchid plants only live in the shaded understory. No orchid, no bees, no pollination, no Brazilian nuts. This is but one example of countless stories in nature; most of

Brazil Nut Tree - source www.stdf-safenutproject.com
Brazil nut tree – source www.stdf-safenutproject.com

these intricate relationships are not fully understood and many more have not even been documented.

The same types of relationships occur here in the U.S., and the less plant variety we have, the more our beneficial insect numbers decline. This affects the entire ecosystem (think of how many other animals depend on insects for food; not to mention the plants they pollinate). But never fear – you can do your part to help save this fascinating group of animals! Plant a pollinator friendly garden at home, at school, at the office… no plot of land is too small and every little bit helps. If we spread the word, we can create diverse urban and suburban habitats for all kinds of wildlife. We can reverse the damage we have done and bring the pollinators back! Learn more at: http://www.xerces.org/pollinator-conservation/gardens/.

What's New In The Naturally Wild Swap Shop?

There have been two amazing new additions to the Naturally Wild Swap Shop!

Thanks to the generous funding of the Junior League of Houston, we now have replicas of a flying fox bat skeleton and of a pygmy sperm whale skeleton!

Flying Fox Bat Skeleton Replica
Flying Fox Bat Skeleton Replica

Flying fox bats belong to the megabat suborder and are the largest bats in the world.  They live in the tropics and subtropics of Asia, India, Australia, East Africa and a number of remote oceanic islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.  At least 60 species are in this genus.  These bats feed on fruit and nectar.  They do not use ecolocation as the smaller microbats use.  The microbats use ecolocation to locate and catch flying insects in mid air.

The pygmy sperm whale is a small member of the toothed whale group.  They can reach up to 11.5 feet in length and range from

Pygmy Sperm Whale Skeleton Replica
Pygmy Sperm Whale Skeleton Replica

700 to 1,000 pounds in weight.  These whales are indeed dwarfed by the full size sperm whale which can reach 49-59 feet.  They can be found in temperate and tropical seas worldwide.  Their diet consists of items such as squid, octopus, crabs, shrimp and fish.  They have an unusual ability referred to as the “squid tactic”.  They can eject over 3 gallons of a viscous dark liquid when they feel threatened or when trying to evade predators.

Be sure to stop by the shop the next time you are at the zoo and check out these newest additions.

Don’t know about the Naturally Wild Swap Shop?  Click here for more information.

 

Plastic Recycling and the Naturally Wild Swap Shop

As a leader in conservation, the Houston Zoo has decided to focus our efforts on 6 new initiatives.  They are as follows:

  • Cell Phone Recycling
  • Paper Recycling
  • Plastic Recycling
  • Seafood Watch
  • Palm Oil
  • Pollinators

You will be seeing information on all of these topics, but today we will focus on plastics.

According to the EPA, in 2012, 32 million tons of plastic were generated, but only 9% of that was recovered for recycling.

These floating bags look like edible jellyfish to wildlife.
These floating bags look like edible jellyfish to wildlife.

Every year, billions of pounds of plastic end up in the world’s ocean sas pollution.   Plastics that are not recycled end up in our  landfills and may take up to 1,000 years to decompose.  Thousands of fish, birds, marine mammals and turtles ingest or become entangled in plastic items resulting in injury or even death.

How can you help?

Recycle!  Most community recycling programs accept at least some types of plastics.  The number on the bottom of the plastic container will help you determine if it is accepted by your local

Reusable bags are a great way to reduce plastic waste.
Reusable bags are a great way to reduce plastic waste.

program.  Cut or break the rings from beverage cans.  That way animals will not become entangled.

How is the Swap Shop involved?  We will be giving points to anyone 18 and under who brings in a

single use plastic shopping bag or beverage ring along with a report on recycling those items.  And we have two special days coming up where traders

Wildlife can become entrapped in 6 pack rings.
Wildlife can become entrapped in 6 pack rings.

can earn double points.  On April 19th we will be celebrating Earth Day with Party for the Planet.  And, on June 7th, we will celebrate World Ocean Day.  On both of those days, any trader bringing in a plastic bag or ring with a report will receive double points!

Don’t know about The Naturally Wild Swap Shop?  Click here for more information.

 

Search Blog & Website
[jetpack_subscription_form title="Subscribe to the Blog" subscribe_text="Enter your email address to subscribe and receive new blog posts by email."]
Houston Zoo Facebook Page

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.

Read more about Kan B, and the love his keepers had for him on our blog: www.houstonzoo.org/blog/mourning-loss-geriatric-jaguar-kan-balam/
... See MoreSee Less

3

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.

Read more about Kan B, and the love his keepers had for him on our blog: https://www.houstonzoo.org/blog/mourning-loss-geriatric-jaguar-kan-balam/

 

Comment on Facebook

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.

Is this the one that had the limp?

I saw him limping about 2 weekends ago. The first time we walked by he was fine. When we walked by on the way out he was limping and moaning pretty loudly. I wondered what happened but I figured his keeper already knew or would find out shortly. Super Sad. He was always a lively one.

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. 😔

Jaguar habitat is in the Zoo or Jungle's? ??or is only entertainments for person's? ??$$$$$$$!.Sorry animals the person's don't love you ..

Dunno if the Zoo staff considered him a pet but he was certainly a family member, and because of that i offer this: RainbowBridge Author Unknown Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable. All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind. They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster. You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart. Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

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?

Sending love to the keepers that are broken hearted right now. And thank you for all the care you’ve given.

Sorry to hear about your loss. We also lost a jaguar(melanistic variety) at Reid Park Zoo about a year ago. Nikita was 21 years old and was euthanized due to health-related issues. Sad, but they have a GOOD life at the zoo! No predators, a steady food supply, medical attention, loving kindness from her keeper(s) and admiration by the public. Geriatric animals have unique problems and we are blessed to get to know them as long as we do.

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.

Beautiful jaguar ....so grateful for the Houston Zoo keepers and veterinary team that gave their time and efforts to share this awesome jaguar with us for so many years.

He was well-cared for and most of all well-loved. My heartfelt condolences to those missing Kan B as well as me. What an amazing ambassador for his kind. What a beautiful old gentleman. Thank you for loving him into old age and giving him peace.

What a great long life he lived because of his excellent care at the zoo Thoughts go out to his keepers and the entire Houston Zoo staff

Thank you for doing what was right and kind for Kan Balam even though it was hard and painful for you. That’s true love for an animal. ❤️

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.

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

Jaguars are one of my favorite and he seems like a sweet boy. I'm so sad but I'm happy he can be painless and be free now. RIP❤️

The Houston Zoo staff has lost several animals this year and I am sure each one is so hard to go through.

Aww I’m so sorry for the loss, I’ve seen him many times, he was absolutely gorgeous! I’m glad that you guys were able to make him comfortable, sometimes the best thing we can do is let them be at peace. Will miss this handsome guy; play hard at the Rainbow Bridge friend, day hi to my cat, Junior for me!! Much love to the HZI staff!!

I am soo sorry for the loss of this handsome fella Kan Balam. May he rest in peace and run free or any pain over the rainbow bridge.. My heart and prayers go out to each and every one of the staff at the Zoo.

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

So sorry to the keeping staff for your loss i cant imagine how youre feeling :( his old age is a testimony to the amazing care he received

I will miss him. The last time I saw him he looked tired, and it appeared his foot was bothering him.

Sad to hear of this. Thanks for taking such good and compassionate care for him and the other animals.

+ View more comments

Social Media Guy to Sea Lion Keeper: Can you send me a pic of you working with the sea lions in this chilly weather?

Sea Lion Keeper: Sure... (sends picture next to sea lion statue)

SMG: I'm still using this.
... See MoreSee Less

4

Social Media Guy to Sea Lion Keeper: Can you send me a pic of you working with the sea lions in this chilly weather?

Sea Lion Keeper: Sure... (sends picture next to sea lion statue)

SMG: Im still using this.

 

Comment on Facebook

Are there some zoo animals that enjoy this weather?

SMG is another reason why Houston Zoo is the best Zoo!

Happy New Year “sea lion keeper “ 💖💖

More snow for TJ and Max ❤️ lucky them!

Are we positive that’s the statue rather than it really just being that cold? 😛

That’s my best friend Sophie for ya! 😂

Brrrrr

Omg the Zoo is so awesome 😂😂😂 Alana Berry

Omg be warm sweetoe

Haha!! Good one!

Sweetie 💞

Ashley Jucker 😂

Lauren Gonzales

Mike DePope

+ View more comments

Animals In Action

Recent Videos

Oops, something went wrong.