Yesterday, our partners at NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) brought 6 sea turtles to the Zoo’s veterinary clinic for medical care. 3 of the 6 sea turtles were loggerheads. 2 sea turtles were Kemp’s ridleys, and 1 sea turtle was a green. All turtles were radiographed and checked by Zoo veterinary staff.
One of the Kemp’s ridley sea turtles was accidentally caught on a fishing hook. Dr. Joe Flanagan removed the hook and the turtle will be rehabbed at NOAA’s facility in Galveston, and then released back into the wild. Unfortunately, this was the second time this summer that this turtle was caught by accident by a fishermen and reported to NOAA biologists! For this reason, it is important that all turtles are reported by calling 1-866-TURTLE-5, in the event that the turtle may have ingested several hooks, or have other medical issues that can’t be easily seen.
The second Kemp’s ridley that visited the Zoo was a post-hatchling, meaning it hatched from its egg just this summer! As you can see, at this age, sea turtles are tiny and can become prey to many different species living in or near the ocean. This Kemp’s ridley has a flipper injury and will be rehabilitated by NOAA biologists until it is healthy enough for release.
The green sea turtle who visited the Zoo was also accidentally caught, but did not require a hook removal. It was given x-rays and will be moved to NOAA Galveston for further care.
You can help our local sea turtle population by reporting injured, stranded, dead,or nesting sea turtles by calling 1-866-TURTLE-5. Another way to help is by reducing your use of plastic-bottles, bags, balloons, you name it! These items often end up in our ocean and sea turtles mistake them for food, like jellyfish. When ingested, sea turtles can become sick. If we replace plastic items with reusable items (bags and bottles) and avoid releasing balloons, we can protect sea turtles in their natural habitat! In addition, you can help by placing your discarded fishing line in recycling bins, rather than leaving it on the ground or in the water. This will help prevent animals like sea turtles and birds from becoming entangled in the line.
Well, my plan worked! I have moved into a beautiful new room in the Ambassador Animal Building! I have directed
my staff…..I mean the zookeepers, on what to put in my room and how to arrange it.
I have cat trees, boxes, kennels, and lots of toys. So many things to keep me happy and busy. And, the keepers talk to me and keep me company all the time. I feel so regal in this new spot that I am considering wearing my tiara.
My next door neighbor is Peanut, the Aardvark. She is a very pleasant neighbor. In fact, she sleeps most of the day so she is no bother at all. Denver the Macaw gets a little loud sometimes, but that’s ok too. I can handle it – even though I might have to have a talk with him at some point. There are chinchillas, rabbits, birds, and reptiles here too. I have some amazing neighbors.
I still get to go out in the zoo. My handlers bring me out on my leash to visit and see zoo guests. I also get to go to presentations and classrooms. I still go to the Naturally Wild Swap Shop from time to time too.
I will miss getting to say hello to the regular traders at the Swap Shop, but this new room is amazing!
Don’t forget about me. I sure won’t forget about you. I still love all my pals that come to the Swap Shop. When you are at the zoo, keep your eyes open. You never know where or when you will see me.
Don’t know about the Naturally Wild Swap Shop? Click here for more information.
The Houston Zoo works to save animals around the world, and we are able to do that because of our nearly 2.5 million annual guests who visit us. One of the biggest aspects of our conservation work is to support communities around the world that live next to wildlife. By providing them training, tools, and the ability to develop their skills-they can then protect the animals that are native to their area. The Houston Zoo partners with Ecology Project International (EPI) in Galapagos-a conservation education program that takes youth from the Galapagos Islands out into nature to conduct field research, and learn about the incredible species that call the Galapagos Islands home. Because of your ticket purchases to enter the Zoo, we have been able to provide funding to one of the EPI staff to further his education and receive a Master’s degree from Miami University of Ohio through the Project Dragonfly/Global Field Program. Read below to hear in his own words, about his experience in his first field course in Belize.
My name is Juan Sebastián Torres, I’m an Ecuadorian guy that lives in the Galápagos Islands and just a few months ago I was able to start a Master´s Program with Miami University as part of a Fellowship between the Houston Zoo and Miami´s graduate program called Project Dragonfly-the Global Field Program.
As part of the program a field course in Belize – Central America took place at the end of June. In Belize, me and a group of 23 students from the US had the amazing opportunity to explore unique places in this little country. Belize’ s Zoo and its Tropical Education Center were our base homes, what a great place to begin this journey. At the Tropical Education Center the Savanna Forest was a new world to me and I was excited for all the wildlife nearby, lots of birds, iguanas, snakes and even small mammals like agoutis were wandering around. Among many of the activities we did in this site we had the opportunity to be a part of a research activity about Yellow headed Parrots and learn about the conservation challenges that these birds face.
The baboon sanctuary was another place I had the opportunity to explore. It was very interesting to see how this community manages itself to live in harmony with Howler Monkeys and at the same time do many economical activities that involved the conservation of this species, no doubt a great example of community-based conservation. This community gave me and the rest of my partners the opportunity of a local home stay experience; we all were located with different families and spent one night together. This shared time with a host family provided a great cultural immersion to learn more about Belize and its inhabitants and their culture. After the time spent at baboon community we headed to “Altun Ha”, an archeological Maya site that preserves pyramids and other ancient buildings built by this unique civilization.
Afterwards we went to Tobacco Key, a little island on the coast; part of the Great Caribbean barrier reef. At this place we explored the coral reef, what an extraordinary biodiversity; I was totally overwhelmed every time I got my head into the water. During the time on the Key we did research on different topics, my group studied the change of behavior that fish species have with human presence, very interesting and funny. We had the opportunity to visit the Smithsonian Research Station nearby, it was great to see their facilities and learn the research they do.
Many inquiry activities were part of this experience, the ones that were already mentioned above and others I was able to be part of; for example a very curious study about Spider Monkey behavior at Belize Zoo and Epiphytes abundance on palm trees at the Tropical Education Center.
We had the opportunity to learn about other research projects and the people behind them, for example we knew Jamal, a person better known as the Manatee Man and who provided us great information about manatees and the conservation efforts behind them. We went with Jamal to look for manatees near the coastal zone of Belize City, it was a unique experience to observe this incredible animal and even more rewarding to know how Jamal is struggling for their conservation. A similar example was another man called Celso, who showed us the work he is doing for the conservation of tapirs, the iconic animal of Belize.
All these inquiry activities came with the guidance of our incredible instructors Jill Korach and Joshua Meyer who did a terrific job surfing through all of our doubts and questions and providing vital knowledge and guidance with the topics assigned to study on this course.
No doubt I took a lot back home, I have many ideas in my mind that could be implemented not only in the Galápagos Islands but in Ecuador as well, I feel very passionate about community-based conservation and citizen science. I will probably do my Master´s Plan on this topic.
After this experience I only have a lot of gratitude with all the people that supported me to be part of such life experience. Thank you!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
I learned about the type of nets they developed to be able to catch shrimp and release the sea turtles.
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!
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: 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.
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.
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.
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):
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hello again From the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands!
Netting the birds is going well. We now have 54 Tinian Monarchs and 28 Bridled Whited Eyes in our bird holding room. We’ll collect another 25 White-eyes to reach our goal numbers. While we have the birds, they are maintained in small boxes, fed and monitored by zookeepers and veterinarians working on the project. Any bird not doing well, is overly stressed or appears to be going downhill is released where it was trapped.
While in holding, the birds are weighed daily to monitor how well they are eating. They are also given a full exam, including drawing blood for diagnostic blood work. The boxes have a perch attached to a bar on top of the box. The bar is lifted up and a scale put under it, so that when the bird sits on the perch it can be weighed. This allows us to monitor the weight and not stress the bird. This picture shows the perch and the bar on top that the scale goes under.
But my part is more simple; prepare diets, clean the boxes, feed the birds and do the dishes. While the boxes are cleaned, we prepare the diets and then feed the birds. It may not seem it, but this is still part of the overall conservation effort, and an important part of maintaining the bird. And there are a lot of dishes to clean and birds to feed!
So we’re getting closer to the day of release, when the birds we’ve collected will be moved to Guguan Island, north of the island of Tinian. In the meantime, I got to talk to some elementary school children about our project. More about that later!
To find out more about our Houston Zoo staff saving wildlife, click here.
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