Houston Zoo Bird Staff Saving Wildlife Part 4

This blog was written by Kasey Clarke, a member of the Houston Zoo’s Bird Department. Kasey received a Staff Conservation Fund grant from her coworkers at the Houston Zoo to carry out a wildlife-saving project for birds in the Mariana Islands (a chain of islands in the western North Pacific Ocean). We will be posting a series of blogs as Kasey documents her work overseas.  

The process described below is part of the Mariana Conservation Program to relocate local bird species to neighboring islands that do not have the invasive brown tree snake, an introduced species that preys upon native birds. 

When the bird room is full of Rufous fantails and Mariana fruit doves the veterinarians do a medical exam on every single bird. We had two vets, one vet tech, and four bird keepers helping with the exams. It was great having this many people on hand to complete this enormous task as efficiently as possible.

During this process a small amount of blood is taken from the underside of the wing with a capillary tube, just like when a person is checking their blood sugar levels. The blood is put onto a slide; this is called a blood smear. The slides are looked at under a microscope to see if the blood cells are normal and to make sure the white blood cell count is normal. If the white blood count is high that could mean the bird is fighting an infection.

Medical exam performed on a bird as it prepares to be translocated for conservation purposes
Blood from each bird is looked at carefully to ensure the blood cells are normal and the bird is healthy

After the blood is collected the bird is given a physical. The vet checks the body condition, sound of its heart and breathing, and checks its eyes to make sure it has no issues with vision. If the bird seems less than the pinnacle of health, the bird is released and not translocated. We want to make sure every bird has the best chance of surviving in its new home.

Each bird is looked at carefully by wildlife professionals

The last thing done during the exam is a feather collection. The feathers are collected so that the gender of the bird can be determined. This is not determined while we are there, but it takes about a week or two for an outside lab to do the work. This information is recorded for future data analysis.

All these things are noted for each individual bird’s records. Note cards are kept with the birds while they are in our care and we write down everything that happens. The birds’ weight, where it was found, diet consumption, bands (identification), and medical notes are all written on these cards.

Records are kept for each individual bird

Next time the birds will be prepped for departure and we will watch them sail away towards their new home!

Houston Zoo Bird Staff Saving Wildlife

This blog was written by Kasey Clarke, a member of the Houston Zoo’s Bird Department. Kasey received a Staff Conservation Fund grant from her coworkers at the Houston Zoo to carry out a wildlife-saving project for birds in the Mariana Islands (a chain of islands in the western North Pacific Ocean). We will be posting a series of blogs as Kasey documents her work overseas.  

Houston Zoo bird staff is currently assisting the MAC (Mariana Avifauna Conservation) plan. This year I am helping out in Saipan where we will be focusing on two species, the Mariana fruit dove and the rufous fantail.

Mariana fruit dove at the Houston Zoo. The Zoo works to protect all the wild counterparts of the species we have here. Houston Zoo bird staff are currently overseas, ensuring this species is protected in its’ natural habitat.

For those who don’t know, the MAC plan’s goal is to establish self-sustaining populations of Mariana forest bird species on uninhabited northern islands. Due to the invasive brown tree snake damaging the local bird population, it is important to create other healthy populations of local birds where brown tree snakes are not a threat. The work done here is an insurance policy for local birds.

After 3 flights and 24 hours of travel I made it to Saipan. They didn’t waste any time putting me to work either. I spent half of my first day in the field finding fruit doves, more on that later. The second half of the day I helped with community outreach by manning a booth at the Flame Tree Festival.

The Flame Tree Festival is a celebration of the Saipan community and culture of the Chamorro people. The local children perform their musical talents on stage. Local dances are also performed. There are art booths and food stands. The festival seems is very popular and we had a successful night discussing bird conservation.

The photo below is of the booth we had set up. The wheel on the right was popular with the kids. They could spin it and win a trading card with one of 15 local Mariana forest species on it. We had two little boys who kept coming back and spinning it for a new card. It was a lot of fun interacting and educating the public about bird conservation. It’s important to let them know that there are things they can do to participate and help!

Discussing local birds at the Flame Tree Festival.

Next blog l will talk about how a field day runs. In the coming entries we will follow a bird through the whole process of moving to another island!

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.

Staff Saving Wildlife in the Mariana Islands (Part 6)!

This blog was written by Steve Howard, a member of the Zoo’s Bird Department. Steve Howard received a Staff Conservation Fund grant from his coworkers at the Houston Zoo to carry out a wildlife-saving project for birds in the Mariana Islands (a chain of islands in the western North Pacific Ocean). We will be posting a series of blogs as Steve documents his work overseas. 

An educational opportunity in Tinian.

With just a few more days to go here on the island of Tinian, we had an opportunity to talk to the students (ALL of them!) in the local elementary school. They came in two groups, k-3 and 4-6, of about 140 students each.

Two members of our group, Fields Falcone from Memphis Zoo and Ellen Gorrell from the Toledo Zoo put together a great PowerPoint program covering the birds of the island, why they were endangered and what we were doing, as well as what the kids could do to help.

Fields Falcone discussing native birds with local school kids.
Fields Falcone discussing native birds with local school kids.

We had a demonstration net to show how we trap the birds, as well as transport boxes so we could explain the process of moving them to their new home. Josh Minor, a member of the education team at the Toledo Zoo, did a great job talking to the kids and getting the concepts across to them. The children were interested in the birds from their home, some of which they never see if they don’t go into the forest. The older children especially were interested in the process, and wanted to know why we would come from so far to do this. It was a chance to share my love of birds and my concern and fear that we may lose these wonderful animals.

Josh Minor highlighting the need to conserve these birds, found nowhere else on the planet!
Josh Minor highlighting the need to conserve these birds, found nowhere else on the planet!

It was also a chance to raise awareness of the fact that these birds are from nowhere else on the planet, and that it is possible that we could lose them. Josh actually ran into one of the kids in the grocery store the next day, and he said “I’m not going to eat birds any more”! So the information did get across!

Conservation work isn’t just something that’s done directly with the animals. Raising awareness of the problem and the threat to the animals, encouraging children to learn what they can about the birds and what they can do to help (like plant a tree), is just as much a part of the work as the translocation of the birds. It was good this year to have a part in both.

Audience at the local school.
Audience at the local school.

To find out more about our Houston Zoo staff saving wildlife, click here.

Houston Zoo Staff Saving Wildlife in the Mariana Islands (Part III)!

This blog was written by Steve Howard, a member of the Zoo’s Bird Department. Steve Howard received a Staff Conservation Fund grant from his coworkers at the Houston Zoo to carry out a wildlife-saving project for birds in the Mariana Islands (a chain of islands in the western North Pacific Ocean). We will be posting a series of blogs as Steve documents his work overseas. 

Friday April 22, 2016

Hello again from Tinian! This was a looong, hot day, but we wound up with 21 mist nets set up! The spots for the nets are cleared using saws, machetes and muscle, and are linked by trails cut the same way. Some are easy, some require some branches to be removed to make way. We cut as little as possible, so our impact on the forest is minimal, but it’s still a lot of work! I’ve included a picture of a cleared trail, and a net all set up. This net is stretched between two telescoping plastic poles. It’s very hard to see the net because it’s made from such fine nylon thread, but that’s the point! The birds miss it too.

martha blog 3
Left-a trail cleared by biologists working to save native birds. Right-a mist net setup to catch birds to move them to another island.

Tomorrow we’ll open the nets and start catching birds. We would have begun today, but we didn’t have enough flies. Yes, flies. We set up a flytrap with tuna (that’s a WHOLE tuna) as bait, and collect them to feed to the birds that we catch. Tinian Monarchs, one of the target species this year, are fly-eaters. They will eventually start eating meal-worms, but for the first few days we feed them live flies. I’ll tell you later how we get them into the bird box without letting them go! I’ll describe the bird boxes in future posts as well, the boxes are ingenious and allow us to keep the bird healthy until it’s released.

One last thing – I was walking through the woods today listening to Mariana Fruit Doves call. This island was blasted flat in World War II, defoliated and some even paved over. There are 5,000 people presently living here. Still, after all that, there are native birds left to sing to us. Lets hope we can keep that going!

A beautiful Mariana Fruit Dove. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Adams, Houston Zoo.
A beautiful Mariana Fruit Dove. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Adams, Houston Zoo.

To find out more about our Houston Zoo staff saving wildlife, click here.

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
Houston Zoo added 4 new photos.
Houston Zoo

Today, we are working with BBVA Compass Stadium to plant a new pollinator garden at the stadium! This beautiful new pollinator garden supports local pollinators like bees, butterflies, and more, and is located at the North entrance to BBVA Compass Stadium. Great partnership for an even greater good. ... See MoreSee Less

2

 

Comment on Facebook

I know you meant to say bees 🤣

Korey Nuchia

Animals In Action

Recent Videos

[youtube_channel]