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.
Blog entry. 5:30 AM Thursday 4/21
Hello from the Mariana Islands!
I’m returning to the Marianas to continue working with Pacific Bird Conservation on the MAC Plan (Mariana Avifauna Conservation). Once again we’ll be trapping birds of two different species – the Tinian Monarch and the Bridled White-eye to translocate to another island and release. These birds are moved from one island to another due to the threat of predation by an introduced species, the brown tree snake. The islands where these birds are being moved do not currently have brown tree snakes, and this translocation will help ensure the birds’ survival.
So, 20 hours of flights later, I’m here on Tinian! We started out on Saipan, getting all the equipment out of storage. The pictures show us in the process of removing all the crates and boxes from the storage unit and loading it in the truck to take it to the port. It’s then stacked on pallets and put on the barge for Tinian. Yesterday we unloaded the bird boxes that we’ll need to keep the collected birds, and supplies maintain the bird room. Setting up the bird room is a lot of work. There are 85 bird boxes to assemble and a load of stuff to unpack and organize, so it took 9 of us about 6 hours to get it done. So glad we have a team!
Today we’ll take all the field supplies to the field and set up out there! This part is a little tedious, but it’s still conservation work! Every little thing we do these first days will lay the groundwork for what comes next – the fun part.
Still to come – why do we do this?
To find out more about our Houston Zoo staff saving wildlife, click here.
On February 26th Houston Zoo wildlife partners at NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) brought in several wild sea turtles for medical care.
These sea turtles were looked over by the Houston Zoo’s vet team and will be rehabilitated at NOAA’s sea turtle barn in Galveston until they are ready to be released into the wild.
On March 23rd, an additional green sea turtle visited the Zoo’s vet clinic. This turtle had obvious boat wounds and will need plenty of care before it can return to the wild. As the turtle was receiving care, the Zoo’s vet staff noticed that not only did it have a boat wound, but the turtle also had parts of a fishing hook in the front left flipper. Dr. Joe at the Zoo’s clinic removed the hook and provided care to the carapace (shell) before the turtle returned to Galveston for rehabilitation by NOAA staff.
We are just beginning the sea turtle nesting season in Texas. If you happen to see sea turtle tracks, a nesting sea turtle, or an injured/sick/stranded turtle on the beach, please report it to 1-866-TURTLE-5. In addition, if you are fishing and accidentally catch a sea turtle, please also report it to this number!
The Houston Zoo has partnered with Wildtracks in Belize since 2010. The Wildtracks wildlife rehabilitation center is located in the north east corner of Belize outside Sarteneja on the shore of the Corozal Bay. Originally a Manatee rescue/ rehabilitation and release center in Belize, Wildtracks added the endangered Yucatan Black Howler Monkey in 2010 to their wildlife rehabilitation program and have a successful release program. Primate keepers from the Houston Zoo began the relationship with Wildtracks by going down to the facility in Belize and sharing their expertise in howler monkey husbandry and aiding Wildtracks staff in releasing rehabilitated animals into the wild. With the Wildtracks’ animal husbandry techniques excelling, the decision was made to focus our efforts on enhancing the public outreach component of the Wildtracks mission.
Through the Houston Zoo’s Staff Conservation Fund, which consists of donations from Houston Zoo staff designated for Houston Zoo staff conservation efforts, we were granted the opportunity to travel down to Belize and aid our partners in their community outreach, public education, and national conservation messaging endeavors.
After many months (almost three years!) of planning and preparing, the time for our trip finally arrived. On January 26th, we left from the fancy, new international terminal at Houston Hobby Airport. The flight from Houston to Belize City, Belize was a bit over two hours in length. We were both surprised by how easy it was to travel from Houston to Belize. Honestly, it is more of a challenge to get to other cities in the U.S. than it is to travel internationally to Belize.
DeAndra Ramsey and Elizabeth Fries – Ready for take-off!
After our very easy flight, Paul and Zoe Walker picked us up from the Belize International Airport. Paul and Zoe Walker run the Wildtracks facility. We had roughly a 5 hour journey via their SUV to get from Belize City to the Wildtracks facility. Along the way, we stopped at various shops for supplies as well as our first meal in Belize.
We finally reached the Wildtracks facility around 9:00 pm on January 26th. We helped unload the vehicle, set up our sleeping quarters in the produce room, and called it a day. We had a very interesting night of being woken up every two to three hours by various creatures being very loud in the jungle. Since the room we were sleeping in was a screened in porch, we could hear every little sound that was being made. It definitely made for a memorable first night in Belize.
Be sure to catch our next installment where we will cover our exciting Day 2 at the Wildtracks facility.
In the Chinese Zodiac calendar, the ‘Year of the Goat’ is also known as the ‘Year of the Ram.’ A male sheep is also called a ram, so July’s “goat” of the month is actually a sheep! Levi is our only resident sheep here in the Children’s Zoo, so we get a lot of guest questions about him.
Levi is a Jacob sheep, and he has not just two, but FOUR horns. In fact, this breed of sheep can have up to SIX horns! Jacob sheep are a piebald breed of sheep. They are a popular breed in England, although their country of origin is thought to be Syria. In the Book of Genesis, Jacob took every spotted or speckled sheep from his father-in-law’s flock and bred them. Thus the Jacob sheep may be the earliest documented case of selective breeding, and their name is in honor of their original shepherd.
Like all sheep, Levi has wool instead of fur and does not shed his coat in the summer. The keepers here shear Levi every summer to make him more comfortable in the warm Houston weather. This year Levi lost nearly 4 lbs. of wool at his shearing! Though many clothes can be made from wool, the keepers here use the wool as enrichment for the other animals around the zoo. Our mongoose, kookaburra and skunk all enjoyed tossing the wool around or rolling in it. Sometimes the Carnivore keepers will come over and get some of the wool to give to their animals to enjoy as well!
Not only is Levi a provider of entertainment for guests and other animals, he is also a part of our internship program at the Houston Zoo! Levi knows several different behaviors such as turning in a circle, walking around a trainer, and even walking through weave poles! Interns have the opportunity to learn his behaviors from the zookeepers so that they can work with Levi in their spare time. In fact, Levi’s weave pole behavior was taught to him by a former intern! Come visit Levi in the Children’s Zoo, and you may be able to see him working with one of our interns or part-time staff members to keep his skills sharp.
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This morning, we humanely euthanized our male, 20-year-old jaguar, Kan Balam. Due to the tremendous care provided to him by his keepers and our veterinary team, Kan Balam lived well beyond his expected lifespan. Jaguars expected lifespan in the wild is between 12-15 years.
The carnivore staff and veterinary team made the decision after his quality of life began to decline. Quality care and continuous advances in veterinary medicine extends animals’ lives longer than ever, with most felines in human care living well beyond previous generations. Because of this, all cats, including domestic house cats and jaguars, often spend a significant phase of their lives as older animals, and are at a higher risk for geriatric complications.
Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur; happy kitty, sleepy kitty, purr purr purr #RIP #bigbangtheory
I know he lived a lot longer due to the excellent care he got at the Zoo.
Aww. When interning in the carnivore dept he was one of my faves. So smart! Ashley remember when Angie was teaching him to do the moonwalk after Michael Jackson passed?
So sorry for the loss of this beautiful creature. Kan Balam.
Is this the one that had the limp?
Thank you Houston Zoo for taking such good care of him and all the animals! I've been going to this zoo since I was little bitty. I always enjoy it.
RIP Kan Balam. You have given the visitors so much pleasure just watching you over these years. You were taken care of by top notch professional handlers, etc.
So sorry for your loss. He was a brilliant cat and he is at peace now and free.
So sorry they had to go through this, a decision that is emotional and difficult, and necessary.
Thank you to you and your staff for the years of quality care given this magnificant creature.
Sending my love to Kan Balam's keepers ❤️ This is the hardest part of our jobs 💔
We just saw Kan Balam on Monday😔.... he will be missed❤️
I am so sorry for your loss, each of these animals are precious ....
This was my daughters favorite critter at the Zoo. We always went to say hello to him before anyone else whenever we went. When she was 7 years old we sent a post out to out neighborhood on Halloween saying Paisley was asking for pocket change donations in lieu of candy for Halloween and all amounts would be donated to Kan thru the zoo. She raised over $40 in coins! I still have the letter from the zoo thanking her for her donation. He was a sweet boy and will be missed. 😔
Hugs to all of you keepers that took special care of Kan Balam.
Awe, I’m so sad to hear his quality of life was declining. But, I’m happy to know he had a long and wonderful life thanks to the wonderful teams at the Houston Zoo. He was a beautiful cat.
I'm so sorry for your loss. Thanks for taking such great care of him so he was able to live a long life. My thoughts are with his keepers and all who adored him. <3
Heartfelt condolences to the veterinary and keeper staff. Thank you for taking care of him
Katie Rose Buckley-Jones I won’t ever forget the time you asked him to bring something and he ripped off a piece of cardboard and tried to hand it to you ❤️ thank you for introducing me to him. Sending you guys many hugs
The Houston Zoo staff has lost several animals this year and I am sure each one is so hard to go through.
Thank you for providing him with a caring and enriched life. So sorry for your loss!
My thoughts of sympathy are with you all. I can't even imagine the sadness you feel today.
So sorry to read this. It is always a hard decision. RIP and run free sweet boy.
I’m so sorry for your loss. He was a beautiful cat.
So sad. Native Houstonian. He was one of my favorites.