This post was written by Meredith Ross and Ashley Kramer.
Did you know that doing something as simple as recycling your cellphone here at the zoo can help save chimpanzees and gorillas in the wild? Join us on the weekend of July 18th and 19th from 10 AM – 3 PM to celebrate “Spotlight on Species: African Apes” to learn more about our great apes here at the zoo and how to help their wild counterparts. During the event, you can exchange three cell phones or small electronic devices for a magnet painted by one of our great apes. Just turn them in to the primate staff working the event at the Great Ape Gallery in our African Forest and receive your prize.
On Saturday we will be wishing our chimpanzees Abe and Charlie a happy 42nd and 44th birthday with a Christmas in July themed party. On Sunday we will be throwing a 31st birthday extravaganza for one of our silverback gorillas, Chaka.There will be tons of fun activities for the whole family where you can learn how chimpanzees use tools, how to tell the difference between a monkey and an ape, and more! We will also have special feedings for our chimpanzees and gorillas all throughout the day.
Great zoos require great ambition across multiple departments, however, it is the community support which contributes to so many grand accomplishments. The enthusiasm of over 400 year-round adult volunteers and approximately 1,400 other seasonal volunteers help make it happen. While a dedicated staff is essential, our volunteers bridge the gap daily in making conservation efforts possible by educating over two million guests each year and by helping our staff meet countless demands. We are proud to know so many individuals willing to donate their time and their talents. Many of these volunteers are people with full time jobs, many are retired. All of them have other activities they could choose to do, yet they choose to be here at the Houston Zoo. Whether rain or shine, hot or cold, complex or simple tasks, our volunteer team rises to every request for help.
The Volunteer Programs staff is pleased to welcome our newest adult volunteers that joined us in May. Already, these volunteers have donated well over 285 hours of their time to the Zoo. This outstanding group of individuals brings a variety of backgrounds and interests to our team but all come ready to enrich the lives of both animals and guests, making your visit more enjoyable. Volunteers may assist with filing paperwork behind the scenes, directing guests on grounds, designing enrichment for our animals, or aiding in exhibit upkeep. Whatever the challenge, we are grateful to know we have the support of a team motivated by ambition rather than a paycheck. Their efforts allow us to maximize our conservation efforts around the world.
“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude” (author Cynthia Ozick). Next time you visit the Houston Zoo, take notice of our blue-shirt Volunteers. May we all draw inspiration from their hearts and minds in making our community and our planet a better place! Our thanks could never be enough to credit these folks for all they do.
Boomer, one of the Houston Zoo’s two elderly grizzly bears, was humanely euthanized today after a long life. The decision was made by the bear’s keepers and veterinary team after the nearly 40-year-old bear began to become uninterested in food, less active, and less responsive to his pain medications. After reviewing all options, our veterinary and bear experts decided that the most humane option was to peacefully euthanize him.
The geriatric bear came to the zoo with another grizzly bear, Bailey, in 2007 from the Houston SPCA where they had lived for a year after the organization confiscated them from a private individual who was not taking good care of them. The pair had lived in tiny cages and were found to be in very poor health, with severe dental disease, and obesity from lack of exercise. Since moving to the Houston Zoo, Boomer underwent extensive dental care including five root canals and seven tooth extractions performed by veterinary dental specialist Dr. Bob Boyd. Boomer was diagnosed with lymphoma in both eyes in 2010 by a veterinary ophthalmologist Dr. Nick Millichamp and underwent oral chemotherapy later that year. His right eye was removed 2012 when it became ulcerated and painful. The lymphoma in the left eye caused complete blindness but Boomer was able to navigate his enclosure well. In recent years, Boomer began receiving treatment for chronic arthritis and a non-resolving infection that unfortunately had become debilitating, regardless of medication and care. Boomer was beloved by the zoo staff, who have fond memories of his love for his pool.
Whenever an animal dies, no matter what the reason, it is a tragic event and our staff morns the loss of a member of their family. The health and wellness of our animals is a great priority to our team and with four incredible veterinarians and a complete veterinary clinic and world-class animal keepers, our animals receive the best care possible. While it’s always exciting to celebrate births at the zoo, we also mourn heavily when one of our animals dies.
Greetings from Panama City! The Houston Zoo recently visited Florida with our partners at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to test turtle excluder devices (TEDs) for fisheries across the globe to incorporate into their shrimp nets. These TEDs are critical – and required by federal law – to ensure the safety of sea turtles while fishermen work to provide some of our favorite seafood, like shrimp!
Every summer NOAA staff spends three weeks in Panama City testing newly-constructed or tweaked TED designs that will, if approved, later be used by fishermen. Turtle excluder devices are used to allow fishermen to catch animals like shrimp, while excluding animals like sea turtles that may accidentally be caught in their nets.
Each year, about 200 sea turtles are driven to Florida from Galveston to test each TED, and about 25 turtles will attempt to swim through each TED. That’s a lot of turtles and swim time! The sea turtles are then released back into the wild after the weeks of TED testing.
Our partners at NOAA Galveston spend all year getting the sea turtles in their care ready for this critical work! This year, they allowed Houston Zoo staff to come along and observe the process of ensuring shrimp nets around the world are safe for sea turtles.
In addition to field work assistance in Panama City this summer, the Houston Zoo helps save sea turtles in a number of ways. One way the Zoo helps is by providing veterinary care to sea turtles brought in from Galveston, sometimes also housing rehabilitating sea turtles at the Zoo in the Kipp Aquarium. The Zoo also hosts sea turtle events at the Zoo to increase awareness, participates in weekly beach surveys to look for stranded or nesting sea turtles, and serves only ocean-friendly seafood to Zoo animals and guests!
Be sure to check back soon for more information on TED testing in Panama City!
Steve Howard is in the Northern Mariana Islands, working with Pacific Bird Conservation to protect birds and blogging about his experience.
This post was written by Steve Howard
Before I came to Tinian, I read about using mist nets to trap birds. I imagined a small net put in a quiet corner forest while we watched to see if birds went in. Not so much. It turns out there is a LOT of work involved.
The nets are large – 18 to 36 feet long and 8 feet high, and if the forest is at all dense, which this forest is, a space must be cleared for the net. First, you have to cut a path through the forest, all the time looking for a good spot to put up a net. The undergrowth has to be cleared and fallen braches removed in order to make a trail. When an open spot can be found where a net can be put up with a minimum of clearing, you cut a “lane” to make room for the net. Once the lane is cleared, the net is strung on two poles, usually fly fishing poles that telescope together, and the poles are secured with cord tied to tress or roots.
Then you continue to cut the path and look for another spot to make a lane. It’s hot and humid in the forest, and there is very little breeze. In there, hacking with a machete and cutting things out of the way with a saw is hot, hard and tiring work. I have blisters on my feet, and my arms and legs are scratched up and sore. And I love it!!!
The birds that we catch will start a new population on another island. This will help to protect a vulnerable animal from extinction. All my life I have been sad to think of the extinction an animal as beautiful as these birds. Now, I have the chance to do something about it, directly. So, for all the hard work and blisters, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything!!
Hello all. Penny the Swap Shop cat here. There is something new going on at the zoo.
I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. I kept hearing about these new animals at the
zoo…..gorillas. So, I did some research.
It seems the Houston Zoo has added 7 new gorillas. A bachelor group and a family group. I didn’t think they would be so impressive until I saw pictures of them. They are actually amazing!
There are three males in the bachelor group – Ajari (14 yrs. old), Chaka (30 yrs. old) and Mike (23 yrs. old). The family group consists of one male, Zuri (31 yrs. old), with Holli (25 yrs. old), Sufi (13 yrs. old) and Benti (40 yrs. old). Their exhibit is beautiful and took a long time
to build. They have a much bigger house than I have in the Swap Shop. But then, they are a lot bigger than me so I suppose that is fair – even if they aren’t cats. I guess that also explains why they get to be outside without a leash when I don’t.
I learned that gorillas are disappearing in the wild. It is due to habitat loss and illegal hunting. That made me pretty sad. But, the Houston Zoo is working with organizations in the field to help save the gorillas. They work with the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP) and the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center (GRACE) to help the wild gorillas. Every time you come to the zoo to see our gorillas, you are helping wild gorillas.
Come and see me at the Naturally Wild Swap Shop. I will be here carefully contemplating gorillas.
Don’t know about the Swap Shop? Click here for more information.
Soon, The Houston Zoo will be celebrating World Giraffe Day with a Spotlight on Species for Giraffes. For just a moment, though, we’d like to shine the spotlight on one of our resident Masai giraffe, Tyra. Although her overall disposition is quite sweet and calm with her keepers, Tyra is wary of strangers and rarely seen eating at the Giraffe Feeding Platform, so many of our guests might not be as familiar with her as some of our other giraffe. At 16 years old, Tyra is the oldest member of our giraffe herd, and has been an excellent mother to eight calves, five of which still live at The Houston Zoo. Oftentimes, when in the late stages of her pregnancies, she becomes very reluctant to leave the barn in the summer. She prefers the quiet, coolness of the barn to the heat of the outside. She also enjoys grabbing hold of small sticks and twirling them around in her mouth with her tongue and many of her offspring have picked up on the same habit. One of her sons, Jack, in particular can be seen doing this frequently throughout the days. Tyra was also the model for the large giraffe statue located directly across from the giraffe yard here at The Houston Zoo. It’s about eight feet tall, and perfect for taking photos with!
Tyra and her family have a very important job to do here at The Houston Zoo. They are all ambassador animals for the wild giraffe populations in Africa. Worldwide, giraffe populations are plummeting. In just the past 17 years, the total number of giraffes on the planet has dropped over 40%. There are now less than 80,000 that remain. Habitat loss, poaching, and disease are claiming the lives of wild giraffe every day. We cannot sit back and let these giants of the savannah slip quietly into extinction. On June 21st, 2015 The Houston Zoo will be holding a giraffe SOS. With it, we hope to bring awareness to the plight of wild giraffe and to do that we will have several giraffe-themed activities for people of all ages. We will also have some special and unique items for sale and all the proceeds will go towards the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, the only conservation institution focused primarily on researching and protecting giraffe in the wild. Come join us at The Houston Zoo on Sunday, June 21st and help us save giraffe!
As many of you know, this Sunday is Father’s Day, but it’s also World Giraffe Day! The Houston Zoo would like to invite you, and your fathers, to come celebrate World Giraffe Day with our giraffe dad, Mtembei. Mtembei is a Masai giraffe and a proud father to our three youngest giraffes; three year old Ghubari, one year old Baridi, and ten month old Kamili. Mtmebei is our eight year old breeding bull for the herd of nine Masai giraffes. You may recognize Mtmebei from your last visit to the Houston Zoo due to his dark coloration. His coloration makes him easy to recognize from the herd and he is a regular at our public giraffe feedings that occur at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily.
This year is the second annual celebration of World Giraffe Day. World Giraffe Day began to bring awareness to the declining population and the lack of research on giraffes in the wild. Giraffe populations in the wild have declined 40% within the last 15 years and have already gone extinct in seven countries.
This year’s World Giraffe Day will include children’s crafts, giraffe bio facts, a giraffe-themed photo booth, opportunities to meet the giraffe keepers, giraffe paintings, and more! All donations will go to support the Giraffe Conservation Foundation. Festivities start at 10 am and end at 3 p.m. We hope to see you there!
Please join us in welcoming our next President and CEO, Lee Ehmke. He will begin this new role on September 8, 2015.
Lee is the current Director/Chief Executive of the Minnesota Zoological Garden and President of the Minnesota Zoo Foundation. There he directs all aspects of the 485-acre zoological park and serves as its primary spokesperson and representative in governmental, community, media, and professional forums.
Lee serves as the elected President of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), a global association of more than 300 member institutions, which serves as a catalyst for their joint action on behalf of biodiversity and habitat conservation and sustainability. His two-year term as President of WAZA will end in October 2015, but he will remain active in national and international zoological and conservation initiatives, deepening the Houston Zoo’s leadership in these critical efforts.
Prior to joining the Minnesota Zoo, Ehmke was the director of Planning and Design at New York’s Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), headquartered at the Bronx Zoo. In his 12 years at WCS, Ehmke led the design and managed construction of numerous award winning Bronx Zoo projects, including its signature Congo Gorilla Forest exhibit. This acclaimed habitat was also home to three of the Houston Zoo’s new western lowland gorillas prior to their arrival in the Bayou City. Originally trained and practicing as a land use attorney, Ehmke received a masters degree in landscape architecture from the University of California at Berkeley.
We congratulate Deborah Cannon on her retirement after ten years at the helm of the Houston Zoo. Under her leadership, the Zoo entered an era of growth and financial stability. New and strengthened sources of revenue, enhanced guest services, creative programming, and new and revitalized habitats – including the recently opened gorilla habitat – have resulted in revenues and memberships more than doubling during Cannon’s tenure and investments of more than $120 million to enhance and upgrade the quality of the Zoo’s offerings and animal welfare. Deborah will be retiring effective August 3, 2015. David Brady, Houston Zoo’s Executive Vice President, has agreed to serve as interim CEO during the period between August 3, 2015 and September 8, 2015.
We know that you will provide a warm welcome to Lee as he prepares to lead the Houston Zoo toward its 100th anniversary and beyond.
In honor of the Chinese animal zodiac, we’re celebrating the Year of the Goat! We have over 20 different goats representing 5 different breeds. In addition to their different colors, shapes, and sizes, all of our goats also express individual preferences and personalities!
To highlight our goats individual ‘flair’, we’ve decided to feature a different goat each month and share what makes each one so unique and lovable!
Did you know that the astrological sign of Gemini presides over the majority of the month of June? The symbol for Gemini is a pair of twins, so we welcome the month of June with our first ever DOUBLE goat of the month! In past blogs it has been mentioned that goats very frequently give birth to twins so it was easy for keepers to find a pair of twins in the Contact Area; the challenge was choosing WHICH set of twins to highlight! Keepers finally decided that the twins Raisin Bran and Bailey deserved some time in the spotlight.
The first thing many guests may wonder is why is there a goat named Raisin Bran? Both Raisin Bran and Bailey were born on a farm and their former owner named them for us. Raisin Bran was originally named ‘Coffee’ because their owner used to enjoy her morning coffee while playing with the goat kids and he liked to jump in her lap. Coffee just didn’t seem to fit so she changed his name to Raisin Bran because his color reminded her of bran flakes. Bailey was given her name in honor of the owner’s sister’s horse.
As kids, both Raisin Bran and Bailey had very different personalities. Raisin Bran was the cuddly one and Bailey was a bit more shy and standoffish. When they first came to the Houston Zoo, the twins continued this trend. As time went on, Bailey began to hang out with our adult female Saanen goat Elsa. Elsa is a confident goat and some of her confidence seems to have rubbed off on Bailey. Bailey will now come up to be brushed and petted by children just like her brother Raisin Bran does. If you would like to see more photos of the twins as kids you can visit their former owner’s blog at: http://farmfreshforensics.com/farm_blog/?y=2013&m=4.
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Visit Moli, one of our resident Baird’s tapirs, in this special Spotlight on Species event, April 28 - 29! Often confused with hippos, pigs or anteaters, tapirs are a rare mammal from the forests and mountains of Central and South America and southeast Asia. Their closest living relatives are actually rhinos and horses! For times, visit our Events Calendar. ... See MoreSee Less