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.

Green sea turtle rehabilitating in Kipp Aquarium

A green sea turtle has taken up temporary residence at the Houston Zoo! You can find the green sea turtle in the Kipp Aquarium.

Come visit the Kipp Aquarium to see a wild green sea turtle being rehabilitated!
Come visit the Kipp Aquarium to see a wild green sea turtle being rehabilitated!

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.

When a sea turtle is reported and picked up by NOAA biologists, information is taken on the individual so staff can keep track of when it came in, when it is released, its' size, etc.
When a sea turtle is reported and picked up by NOAA biologists, information is taken on the individual so staff can keep track of when it came in, when it is released, its’ size, etc.

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 usTake Action_Logo_FullColor_webe 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.

Penny checks out the building

Penny looks around the Animal Ambassador Building

Well.  This looks pretty nice in here.  I wonder who will be living in this room?  I have heard it is called the Ambassador Animal Building.

Look! Some of  the animals have started moving in!  Ernie the North American Porcupine is here.  So is Fiona the  Flemish Giant rabbit.  These guys are getting some really nice spaces to live in.  The building has room for all the Ambassador mammals and a whole separate room for the Ambassador reptiles.  There are going to be some amazing birds in here too.  A Kookaburra, some parrots and even a roadrunner.  Staff and volunteers can take these animals to classrooms, presentations and special events.

pennyaab2
Checking out the corner room

Just look at this corner room.  No one has moved in yet.  I could totally live here.  I could turn that space into a kitty paradise.  Oh, I am envisioning cat trees, toys, my own furniture.  Yes, I can see it now.

And look outside!  Is that our own exercise yard?  With a pool?  This building is amazing!

The Exercise Yard
The Exercise Yard

That settles it!  I am finding a way to move in.

9 Sea Turtles Visit the Houston Zoo for Medical Care

Over the past 2 days, our conservation partners at NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)-Galveston brought 9 sea turtles to the Zoo’s vet clinic to receive medical care.

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.

Kemp's ridley sea turtle visiting the Zoo's vet clinic to get x-rays to make sure there were no additional internal hooks.
Kemp’s ridley sea turtle visiting the Zoo’s vet clinic to get x-rays to make sure there were no additional internal hooks.
Kemp's ridley sea turtle getting x-rays at the Houston Zoo's vet clinic
Kemp’s ridley sea turtle getting x-rays at the Houston Zoo’s vet clinic.
Kemp's ridley sea turtle caught by accident on hook and line. This turtle is being prepped to have the hook removed.
Kemp’s ridley sea turtle caught by accident on hook and line. This turtle is being prepped to have the hook removed.
Hook removal in progress at the Houston Zoo's vet clinic.
Hook removal in progress at the Houston Zoo’s vet clinic.
Large hook successfully removed! This sea turtle will now be rehabilitated by the team of biologists at NOAA-Galveston.
Large hook successfully removed! This sea turtle will now be rehabilitated by the team of biologists at NOAA-Galveston.

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.

Green sea turtle found in rocks on upper Texas coast. If you see a sea turtle please report it by calling 1-866-TURTLE-5.
Green sea turtle found in rocks on upper Texas coast. If you see a sea turtle please report it by calling 1-866-TURTLE-5.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
    1. Apple Store
    2. Google Play

For more ways to help save wildlife, visit our Take Action page!

Yellowstone Family Adventure with the Houston Zoo

The Houston Zoo just returned from leading our annual Yellowstone Family Adventure program, in partnership with Teton Science Schools. This program, started in 2015, is an opportunity for families to experience wildlife together and learn ways they can help protect wildlife in their daily lives.

During the 5-day program, we experienced lots of incredible things! This year we began the program by collecting data on a bird found in the Grand Tetons, the Clark’s Nutcracker. This birds’ population is decreasing because it is losing its’ main source of food-a nut from the whitebark pine tree. The whitebark pine tree is decreasing in this area because of many threats including the mountain pine beetle and white pine blister rust. So, both the bird and the pine tree need one another and it is important to scientists to collect data on both to help improve their populations.

Coming from the aerial tram on Rendezvous Peak and ready to collect data on birds!
We rode the aerial tram to arrive on Rendezvous Peak and collect data on birds!
A sample of our data collection on Clark's nutcrackers in the Grand Tetons.
A sample of our data collection on Clark’s nutcrackers in the Grand Tetons.

In addition to data collection to help with wildlife-saving efforts, we visited the Teton Raptor Center to learn about birds of prey in the area. That evening we took a float trip down the Snake River where we learned about otters, beavers, bald eagles, osprey, moose and more!

After a full day spent in the Grand Tetons, we drove to Yellowstone National Park where we spent 3 full days. There, we monitored water quality to see how the health of aquatic areas influences the health of wildlife.

Water quality testing near Yellowstone National Park.
Water quality testing near Yellowstone National Park.
Water quality testing near Yellowstone National Park.
Water quality testing near Yellowstone National Park.

We went on several hikes in the Park-viewing wildlife all along the way!

Trout Lake, Yellowstone National Park
Trout Lake, Yellowstone National Park
Here we watched a black bear near a stream, followed by a grizzly bear who appeared shortly after!
Here we watched a black bear near a stream, followed by a grizzly bear who appeared shortly after!
Kids on the program brought interactive workbooks to fill out as they spotted wildlife.
Kids on the program brought interactive workbooks to fill out as they spotted wildlife.
Yellowstone Family Adventure participants enjoying time in nature!
Yellowstone Family Adventure participants enjoying time in nature!

During our program we saw a variety of species. The program was uniquely special this year as the National Parks Service celebrated its’ 100 year anniversary, and Yellowstone National Park was the first national park in the U.S.!

One of the highlights of our program included a morning watching a wolf pack. The pack included 8 pups, which is quite amazing! Through a scope we watched the pups play with their older siblings and parents. Wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone in 1995 after being gone for more than 60 years. While watching the wolves, we had the opportunity to discuss the history of Yellowstone’s wolves with Rick McIntyre, a wildlife biologist who has worked with wolves for more than 20 years in the Park.

Observing wolves in the wild and discussing wolf history in Yellowstone with biologist, Rick McIntyre.
Observing wolves in the wild and discussing wolf history in Yellowstone with biologist, Rick McIntyre.
Observing Yellowstone's wolves through a scope.
Observing Yellowstone’s wolves through a scope.

In addition to plenty of wildlife viewing, we also learned about the unique geological history of Yellowstone, including the hydrothermal features (geysers, hot springs, fumaroles, travertine terraces and mudpots!). More than 10,000 hydrothermal features are found in Yellowstone alone-an astounding number!

Visiting Old Faithful-one of the most iconic geysers in the world!
Visiting Old Faithful-one of the most iconic geysers in the world!

We had a wonderful time in nature, learning about and experiencing wildlife in one of our most famous national parks. In addition to participating in citizen science, we also discussed some of the actions we could take to help the wildlife we were so fortunate to see. Two of the main actions include:

  • Switch from plastic bags to reusable bags at the grocery store to decrease the plastic that ends up in our rivers/streams/oceans. Animals like otters can become entangled in plastics or ingest them thinking they are food. Help save otters by using less plastic bags!
  • Purchase toilet paper and paper towels from companies that use 100% recycled content. Animals like black bears and grizzly bears depend on trees, and trees provide us with paper! By purchasing paper products made with recycled content, we can help protect the homes of bears.

Of course, you don’t have to visit Yellowstone to save wildlife. Making small changes in your daily life to help protect wildlife is possible at anytime, anywhere! If you are interested in Taking Action to save wildlife, find out more here. If you’d like to travel with the Houston Zoo, please visit our travel page here.

Houston Zoo Family Adventure in Yellowstone!
Houston Zoo Family Adventure in Yellowstone!
*All photos courtesy of Teton Science Schools.

Houston Zoo Conservation Partner Visits the United States-Part II

This blog was written by Valerie Akuredusenge, the Program Director of Conservation Heritage-Turambe (CHT). CHT is a conservation partner of the Houston Zoo. Valerie visited us in March to build her capacity and skills to further educate local communities living alongside Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. This is one blog in a series about Valerie’s experience in the United States.

Hi there. This is Valerie Akuredusenge, the Program Director of Conservation Heritage – Turambe with more news about my visit at Houston Zoo.

Martha Parker, the Houston Zoo staff member took me to the Zoo as I continued to enjoy my visit. I was very excited to see how big the Zoo is and what kinds of animals are calling the Zoo their home. To be honest with you, I couldn’t visit all animals in the Zoo but it was my goal. The Houston Zoo is huge!! I was only able to see about half of the animals in the Zoo.  Regarding the animals I saw, some were familiar to me, others I had no idea they have ever existed on this Planet Earth!  I was so impressed by seeing the coral reef. I went back home to Rwanda and shared my experiences, but even so, my colleagues back in Rwanda do not get the idea about what is the coral reef. I will try to keep explaining it to them.

I learned a lot from my visit with the Houston Zoo and still cannot finish telling the story about it.

I learned about the cell phone recycling system that is helping save gorillas in wild.

Valerie posing with the Zoo's recycled cell phone statue.
Valerie posing with the Zoo’s recycled cell phone statue.

I learned about the recycling and reusing methods at Houston Zoo.

Palm oil tree created by our primate staff to showcase the everyday items that contain palm oil, and which companies to buy from who are making palm oil in a way friendly to wildlife.
Palm oil tree created by our primate staff to showcase the everyday items that contain palm oil, and which companies to buy from who are making palm oil in a way friendly to wildlife.

They are growing a vegetable garden at Houston Zoo. And guess what – we are doing the same thing at CHT too!

Children's Zoo vegetable garden-complete with a rain barrel to harvest and catch rain water.
Children’s Zoo vegetable garden-complete with a rain barrel to harvest and catch rain water.

Once again, thank you very much Houston Zoo for hosting me. I learned a lot during my visit which I have started applying and sharing at Conservation Heritage – Turambe (CHT). More to come soon!

Houston Zoo Conservation Partner Visits the United States!

This blog was written by Valerie Akuredusenge, the Program Director of Conservation Heritage-Turambe (CHT). CHT is a conservation partner of the Houston Zoo. Valerie visited us in March to build her capacity and skills to further educate local communities living alongside Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. This is one blog in a series about Valerie’s experience in the United States.

Hi there. My name is Valerie Akuredusenge, the Program Director of Conservation Heritage – Turambe (CHT). CHT works with local communities bordering Volcanoes National Park, home to the critically endangered mountain gorillas in Musanze District, Rwanda. The work focuses on teaching schoolchildren about how to maintain healthy lives through staying healthy messages such as covering your mouth when they cough and sneeze, brushing their teeth, washing their hands, eat a healthy diet, keep a clean home and getting a regular exercise. The next part focuses on conservation of wildlife with an emphasis on mountain gorillas. All our lessons on conservation of mountain gorillas turn around the theme of “One – Health Approach”. Children get to realize themselves how their everyday activities can affect the environment so they decide to get involved.

Our mission is educating local communities living near Volcanoes National Park to ensure they live in harmony with mountain gorillas and their habitat.

I am very happy to report on my very recent trip to USA specifically my visit with Houston Zoo now. The aim of my visit was to see and learn about the Zoo. In addition, I got chance to meet the staff, volunteers, partners and friends.  I was very fortunate they all wanted to learn about CHT’s work too! This become an exchange of ideas and it was what I really wanted.

Upon my arrival in Houston Texas, I met Martha Parker who came to pick me up at the Houston Airport. She warmly welcomed me and took me to her house. My first question to her was to know where the Houston Zoo was and is located. She told me it was close! I was so excited to see the Zoo, how big it is and what kind of animals live there!

I went to bed thinking of what I had to see the next day. Early morning, Martha Parker called me and said:” Let us go see the sea turtles”. I became so excited! Every time we moved, I was asking questions to her. What is that? How about that? And so on.  I was so fortunate because it was Ocean Discovery Day, the day on which many people from the community go to Galveston to learn about how to save sea turtles and ocean life and I met many people who came to visit and learn about saving the sea turtles.

Ocean Discovery Day at NOAA, Galveston
Many people came to learn about saving sea turtles and I was there too.

I learned about the type of nets they developed to be able to catch shrimp and release the sea turtles.

Valerie with a shrimp net and the turtle excluder device.
Valerie with a shrimp net and the turtle excluder device.
Process of excluding sea turtles from a shrimp net.
Process of excluding sea turtles from a shrimp net.
Visiting the sea turtles at NOAA, Galveston
Visiting the sea turtles at NOAA, Galveston

Thank you so much Martha Parker for taking me there because I learned about sea turtles which I had never seen in my life!! What a great opportunity for me to learn about new things!

Valerie visiting the Waugh Drive bat colony with zoo education staff member, DeAndra
Valerie visiting the Waugh Drive bat colony with zoo education staff member, DeAndra
Valerie enjoying herself learning about Texas sea turtles!
Valerie enjoying herself learning about Texas sea turtles!

Thank you so much Houston Zoo and St. Lawrence University for arranging my visit in USA in March 2016. More on my visit with Houston Zoo to come soon…

From Plastic Bottles to Protecting Tamarins: News from our friends in Colombia

Blog written by our friends at Proyecto Titi in Colombia.

Cotton-top tamarin, which Proyecto Titi works to protect in the wild in Colombia
Cotton-top tamarin, which Proyecto Titi works to protect in the wild in Colombia

From Plastic Bottles to Protecting Tamarins: First Tití Posts Installed at Tití’s Biological Reserve

With a turn of a shovel and a pound of a hammer, members of Proyecto Tití installed 100 Tití Posts this month to build a fence around Tití’s Biological Reserve in San Juan. Tití Posts have a huge impact on cotton-top tamarins as they protect a reserve designed especially for our fluffy haired friends and also reduce the need to harvest wood for traditional fence posts. However, their impact doesn’t end there! Tití Posts are made from recycled plastic collected by local community members. This reduces contamination of land and waterways and allows families to earn a small income from collecting plastic. We are so thankful to all of you that have donated to our “Save a Tree, Save a Tamarin” campaign to help us make and install these new posts. We still have more forest to protect and more cotton-top tamarins to conserve, so visit the project here to support the Tití Post campaign. A donation of $15 can help both cotton-top tamarins and local community members in Colombia.

Cleaning up plastic trash to make the Titi posts.
Cleaning up plastic trash to make the Titi posts.
The Titi posts, made from recycled plastic, ready to be used!
The Titi posts, made from recycled plastic, ready to be used!
The final product!
The final product!

Save Water, Save Wildlife, and Save Money-May 21st Rain Barrel Workshop!

Save water, save money, and save wildlife at the Houston Zoo on May 21st! The Zoo is partnering with the Galveston Bay Foundation to hold a rain barrel workshop from 9:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m. at the Zoo’s Brown Education Center. Your workshop registration includes 1 rain barrel and 1 kit, at a low price of $35! Interested participants can sign up by here.

Rain barrels are a great addition to your home-they can help reduce your water bill by capturing rain water that you can reuse for your lawn and plants all-year long. Reusing rain water helps ensure there is enough water in the future for wildlife (like Houston toads) and people.

Local wildlife like the critically endangered Houston toad can benefit when we reuse water.
Local wildlife like the critically endangered Houston toad can benefit when we reuse water.

The Houston Zoo has several rain barrels to help ensure we reuse water. If you have been to our produce garden in the Children’s Zoo, you may have seen one of our rain barrels.

Children's Zoo rain barrel in the produce garden. Water collected here is reused on nearby plants.
Children’s Zoo rain barrel in the produce garden. Water collected here is reused on nearby plants.

In addition to the rain barrel in the Children’s Zoo, we have 2 rain barrels behind-the-scenes. One is located at our commissary-where all of the diets are prepared daily for our animals. It is located next to another produce garden and collects water to be reused on a variety of plants. Finally, we have a very large, 5,000 gallon rain barrel by our rhino barn. In 2015, this rain barrel alone collected and used nearly 35,000 gallons of water! In Texas, that is the equivalent (by 2013 data) of 1 above-average Texas household’s annual water needs.

You can take action and reuse water in your own backyard by participating in our rain barrel workshop at the Zoo on May 21st from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Reusing rain water is a simple action to take that not only helps wildlife, but helps you to save on your water bill! After our workshop, participants will have a chance to paint their rain barrels and enter it into an art contest! Check out some of the decorated rain barrels from previous workshops (photos courtesy of Galveston Bay Foundation rain barrel workshop participants):

imagesimages (1)images (2)

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We Are All Conservationists

Recently, a local Houston student asked us for an email interview to help her complete an English essay. We thought we’d share her questions and our thoughts on the answers.

Why is it important to conserve our wildlife? Conserving wildlife is important for many reasons, and may depend on one’s culture, background, region, experiences, etc. Overall, conserving wildlife helps ensure our planet has biodiversity (the variety of life in a particular ecosystem). When biodiversity loss occurs, we upset the delicate balance of food chains and natural relationships and processes, which ultimately will impact humans. Humans depend on wildlife and natural habitats for so many of our resources (water, food, medicine, etc.) and by losing wildlife and the habitats they live in, we can lose some of the most important resources we need to survive. Additionally, in some locations protecting wildlife helps to protect critical habitats, which is also important for the survival of all species on our planet. Further, many people would argue that living things like animals deserve to be protected because they are part of our planet, part of our ecosystems, and are living, breathing beings that deserve respect. Many cultures and traditions believe animals to be sacred, and that they serve a purpose beyond what we can see.

Tanzania, Africa
Tanzania, Africa. Elephants are highly regarded in many cultures and are known to maintain savannas and open woodlands by knocking down trees, allowing other important plants to grow.

What are the long-term benefits of conserving wildlife? As described above, long-term benefits of conserving wildlife include preserving our rich biodiversity for generations to come, ensuring protection and future use of important natural resources, and preserving important traditions and cultures that are deeply tied to wildlife and natural places.

What are the costs of conserving wildlife? If you mean financial costs, certainly they are high. Supporting field conservation efforts around the world is not cheap, however at the Houston Zoo we like to promote simple actions that don’t cost a lot of money that everyone can do to protect wildlife.

Take Action with the Houston Zoo! You can make small changes that make a big impact for wildlife.
Take Action with the Houston Zoo! You can make small changes that make a big impact for wildlife.

Do the benefits of conservation outweigh the costs? I may be a bit biased, but I believe so, or I wouldn’t be dedicating my career to this effort.

Should conservation be funded by a charity, the government, or some other source? I think it’s important to ensure every entity-whether it is charitable organizations, the government, NGO’s, etc. understands how wildlife and wild places relates to them so that they can see themselves as an important part of the solution, and will want to participate in conservation.

Is it important to educate kids and young adults on conservation? Why or why not? Absolutely! It’s important to bring everyone, no matter their age or background, into the conversation about saving wildlife. Making sure our natural places are protected is not solely up to younger generations, it’s a role we should all see ourselves in.

A Houston toad-a native Texas species, only found in tiny pockets of land in our state. Amphibians are critical bio-indicators, they alert us of potential issues in an ecosystem far earlier than other species.
A Houston toad-a native Texas species, only found in tiny pockets of land in our state. Amphibians (like toads) are critical bio-indicators, they alert us of potential issues in an ecosystem far earlier than other species.

How should we educate the younger generation about conservation? We are finding out through current research that providing information doesn’t necessarily lead to people becoming better stewards for our environment. That is not to say providing information isn’t important, but it might be more effective if traditional education is paired with time spent outdoors in natural places, observing, playing and interacting. I think it’s also important that people learn about conservation through doing-being participants in conservation efforts rather than simply learning about them in a book.

One of our Alternative Teen Break participants enjoying time in the Big Thicket planting long-leaf pine trees to save wildlife!
One of our Alternative Teen Break participants enjoying time in the Big Thicket planting long-leaf pine trees to save wildlife!

Why are zoos so important to wildlife conservation? Zoos are critical in wildlife conservation for many reasons. First, we have the capacity and skills to breed animals and maintain healthy genetic pools, which (depending on the species) may be needed for the wild population. Also, we breed and release animals that are critically endangered to help ensure specific species do not go extinct (in Houston we do this with Houston toads and Attwater’s prairie chickens). Further, we use a portion of all the money made at the Zoo to support more than 30 conservation projects in 16 countries around the world. We also provide our staff skills to these projects to help them with everything from website design to animal husbandry. Finally, we support wildlife conservation by ensuring as many of our 2.5 million annual guests as possible understand how animals are impacted in the wild, while giving them specific actions they can take to help preserve wildlife in their daily lives.

Our Zoo guests are saving wildlife!
Our Zoo guests are saving wildlife!

How will conserving wildlife and habitats benefit the ecosystem? By ensuring we have as much species diversity as possible, we can ensure that habitats and the animals in them are thriving. A healthy ecosystem, full of diversity, creates a healthy planet for all of us.

Is this a good career field to enter into? Why or why not? Absolutely! However, we would like to emphasize that no matter what career you go into, you can be a conservationist. So, you could be a graphic designer, a public relations employee, or a teacher (anything!) and still incorporate conservation into your work and personal life. You certainly do not have to have a title like “conservation biologist” to help save wildlife. It’s up to all of us, no matter our career.

Our Zoo graphics team is critical in our efforts to save wildlife. They assist with projects both locally and globally to provide important conservation information in a visually appealing way.
Our Zoo graphics team is critical in our efforts to save wildlife. They assist with projects both locally and globally to provide important conservation information in a visually appealing way.

What is some advice you would give to someone interested in entering this field? My advice would be to get as much experience as possible-volunteer, intern, meet as many people in the field as possible and keep up with your network. Show your passion and hard work and you will be placed in positions that are right for you.

 

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