Penny Makes Her Move

Well, my plan worked! I have moved into a beautiful new room in the Ambassador Animal Building!   I have directed

Look at this awesome cat tree!
Look at this awesome cat tree!

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.

Perhaps I will wear my tiara
Perhaps I will wear 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!

The beautiful Penny in her new room.
The beautiful Penny in her new room.

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.

Galapagos Conservation Partner Furthers his Education in Belize!

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.

Juan Sebastian Torres, one of the Zoo's conservation partners from the Galapagos Islands, visits Belize to further his education!
Juan Sebastian Torres, one of the Zoo’s conservation partners from the Galapagos Islands, visits Belize to further his education!

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.

JuanSe visiting the Belize Zoo!
JuanSe visiting the Belize Zoo!

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.

The field course participants at the baboon sanctuary-a location dedicated to conserving howler monkeys.
The field course participants at the baboon sanctuary-a location dedicated to conserving howler monkeys.

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.

Tobacco Caye, Belize
Tobacco Caye, Belize
Juan Sebastian conducting marine transects to find out more about fish behavior in Belize.
Juan Sebastian conducting marine transects to find out more about fish behavior in Belize.

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.

Jamal-a Belizean committed to saving local manatees!
Jamal-a Belizean committed to saving local manatees!
Signs in the waters of Belize telling boaters to slow down to protect this species.
Signs in the waters of Belize telling boaters to slow down to protect this species.

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!

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.

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!

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.

 

Staff Saving Wildlife in the Mariana Islands (Part 5)!

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.

Scale bar
Scale bar

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!

Dirty dishes
Dirty dishes
Clean dishes!
Clean dishes!

 

Steve Howard (Houston Zoo Bird Department) preparing food for the birds
Steve Howard (Houston Zoo Bird Department) preparing food for the birds

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.

Houston Zoo Staff Saving Wildlife in the Mariana Islands (Part 4)!

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. 

Greetings again from Tinian!

Things have been going fast – we’ve already trapped 40 of the 54 Tinian Monarchs that are to be translocated to Guguan. Along with the birds moved last year, this should assure that there is a “safe harbor” population of birds from Tinian (the Tinian Monarch is found nowhere else in the world). So, should disaster strike in the form of the Brown Tree Snake invading the island, there will be birds safe in another place. The picture below is of a Rufous Fantail just extracted from the net. They are beautiful and curious birds, and will often fly to a nearby branch to investigate what you’re doing.

Ken timo
Rufous Fantail

There are other species of birds here that are not being moved at this time. These are birds that live on multiple islands and are not endangered. These “non-target species” are released when caught. This is me holding a collared kingfisher that I had removed from the net.

steve king
Collared kingfisher

Today there are more people coming in to work on the project. There is a start-up crew, which I’m on, and a close-down crew, the ones coming in tomorrow, and they overlap by about a week. Since we’re doing so well with the trapping, we’ll take a day off tomorrow and spend some time meeting and getting to know each other. Then we’ll head out to the field again and continue trapping. We have most of the Tinian Monarchs, now it’s time to start collecting the Bridled White-eyes. These birds are beautiful, and so tiny! They weigh in at around 7 grams.

So that means the bird room, where the birds are held and maintained until release, is about to get busy! I’ll be working there now, so I’ll write more about that next.

One last thing for today – I took a walk down to the beach this afternoon and wanted to share this picture. It really is a beautiful place!

image1

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

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