Presenting Rose, Our Brand New Speke’s Gazelle Calf!

This post was written by Mary Fields


The Houston Zoo is proud to announce the birth of Rose, our brand new Speke’s gazelle! Rose was born on April 15th to her mother Prim. This is Prim’s first calf and the Houston Zoo’s first successful Speke’s gazelle calf! Rose was given her name for two reasons:

  1. To name her after her mother, Prim, so we could complete “Primrose”.
  2. Some of the keepers wanted a royal name for her since her mother is “Prim and proper”. We chose Rose for Briar Rose, which is another name for Sleeping Beauty/Aurora.

The most notable part of a Speke’s gazelle would be their nose! They have some extra skin on their nose that they inflate to create a honking sound. This “honk” is used to alert others about nearby predators. Even Rose will inflate her nose if she feels startled; you just have to listen a little closer since she has such a tiny nose.

Speke's Gazelle

Speke’s gazelles are endangered in the wild, mostly due to habitat loss. They have lost much of their grazing land in Somalia to livestock and currently have no protected areas.

Rose is currently off exhibit, but should be living with our okapi soon. So make sure to stop by the Houston Zoo to see one of our tiniest additions!

Featured Member: The Lebig Family

We love our Members. Their incredible support allows us to make a difference to animals both locally and all over the world. This month, we’re spotlighting a family that deserves recognition. We’re thrilled to introduce you to June’s Featured Members: The Lebig Family.

IMG_8080Featured Member: The Lebig Family

We reached out to The Lebig Family (Andrew, Sally and Pierre) to share a few words about being Zoo Members for their first year.

Sally Lebig says, “We value time together as a family and there is no better way to spend it than at the Houston Zoo. This is our first year as parents and our first year as Members. The look on our son’s face when we feed the giraffes is absolutely priceless. The staff is always so kind to our son and make sure he is entertained. Our son is learning new words and learned how to say “bubbles” when he saw bubbles being blown from a Zoo Staff Member. We go to the Zoo as a family and live in Katy. When we ‘come to town’ we always try to invite friends and family with our Family Premium Membership as the Houston Zoo is always a great place to catch up – that is a great benefit.”

The Lebig Family has enjoyed their first year of Membership so much that they renewed early for the coming year. As their son grows older, the Zoo will be a great opportunity for them to explore new areas of the Zoo as a family. From feeding the giraffes to seeing the new gorilla exhibit, it has been a great learning experience and they look forward to continuing to support the Zoo efforts.

From all of us here at the Houston Zoo, we want to say thank you to The Lebig Family and all of our Zoo Members. As a Houston Zoo Member, your support truly makes an impact on the growth of our zoo and our conservation efforts. THANKS!

There’s a New Member of the Gerenuk Herd

On April 30 the Hoofstock team at the Houston Zoo welcomed its newest member to our Gerenuk herd. Josie (a first time mom) delivered a healthy baby boy around mid-day. Forty-five minutes later, the calf was already on his feet and nursing. “Julius” is already showing his personality as a strong, spunky little calf who loves running.

Josie Gerenuk

Gerenuk are other worldly looking gazelles, known for their long skinny necks and legs. Actually, the term Gerenuk means “giraffe-necked” in the Somali language. Not only do they look different, they have a unique ability that sets them apart from any other antelope or gazelle species. Gerenuk gazelles are able to stand and balance themselves on their hind legs to reach the higher leaves that many other animals cannot reach. Gerenuk have been known to stand on their hind legs like this at only 2 weeks old. It shouldn’t be long until we will be seeing Julius do the same.

Josie with mom 2

Next time you come to the Houston Zoo, make sure you stop by to visit our Gerenuk family. And keep your eyes wide open. Julius often likes to nap in the grass when he isn’t playing.


Houstonians are Saving Rhinos in the Wild

Standing SophiephotoA young Houstonian is doing all she can to save her favorite animals in the wild.  Sophie held a bake sale in her local Houston neighborhood and this was the invitation that was sent out last month.

Well, I love rhinos (among other zoo animals)! And I just discovered that I love baking! Combine those two, and what do you get? A bake sale for rhinos (and other zoo animals)!
Come over to my house to enjoy Sophie’s Cookie Bar, featuring my favorite recipes, including:
Chocolate Mint, Peanut Butter Chunk, and my special Leslie Chip cookies (milk chocolate, white chocolate, butterscotch, and chocolate filled with caramel chips).  All proceeds will benefit the Houston Zoo’s conservation efforts!”


Sophie’s Bake Sale was a huge success and she raised $1,033 to save animals in the wild! She also sold the Zoo’s conservation bracelets along with her delicious cookies.

Sophie moneyphoto
Sophie has been raising funds and awareness for rhinos for the past few years. She designed her own special rhino shirt and continues to recruit everyone she can to join her in her quest to protect rhinos from extinction.

Standing sophiebackphoto


Thank you, Sophie and supporters of the bake sale! thThanks to Houston Zoo friends like Sophie, last year we funded a major conservation effort to reintroduce 20 black rhinos into the wild. Remember, just coming through the gates of the Zoo is saving animals in the wild. A portion of every Zoo admission ticket goes straight to helping animals in the wild!


Saving the World's Most Critically Endangered Antelope

Houston Zoo partner, Hirola Conservation Program, is working hard to save a beautiful and unique antelope called a hirola. This species is endemic (only found in a small area) to northeastern Kenya and southwest Somalia, and they are critically endangered. The latest aerial survey in 2011 estimated that only 300-500 hirola are left! Read on to learn about hirola and what the Hirola Conservation Program is doing to protect these animals.

hirola editHirola At A Glance:

  • Slender, medium sized antelope that eats short grasses
  • Distinctive glands below each eye giving the appearance of four eyes
  • Now found only in the Kenya- Somali border region,
  • 40 years ago they numbered close to 10,000 but only 300-500 remain today
  • There are no hirola living in captivity

hirola pictureThreats to Hirola:

  • Habitat loss
  • Drought & disease
  • Poaching

About the Hirola Conservation Program:
Director and founder of the Hirola Conservation Program, Abdullah H. Ali, is a native Kenyan working to save wildlife in Kenya, Ijara District. A PhD candidate at the University of Wyoming and EDGE Fellow at ZSL, “Ali” has a long-term conservation plan to save hirola in Kenya through scientific research, habitat restoration, and strengthening community-based conservation and education efforts.

How You Can Make A Difference:
Just by learning about hirola, you are helping to spread awareness about this endangered species. You can also view this page to view updates on Hirola Conservation Program’s progress and donate to their efforts.

More than 50 Endangered Sea Turtles Set for Release

On Wednesday May 27, NOAA Fisheries, the Houston Zoo and Moody Gardens will release 51 sea turtles at Stewart Beach in Galveston, Texas. Forty-nine of the turtles are Kemp’s ridleys and were part of a group brought in last December after suffering from the cold in Cape Cod, New England. The Boston Aquarium sent the sick turtles to NOAA’s Galveston Sea Turtle Facility as well as 17 other sea turtle rehabilitation centers, zoos, and aquariums throughout the country. The other two turtles, one Kemp’s ridley and one loggerhead were already at the NOAA facility for treatment and rehabilitation.

120519-Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle Releases
© Houston Zoo/Stephanie Adams

The turtles were part of a record setting cold stunning event which included a total of 1,200 turtles. They were dehydrated and emaciated due to the cold. Symptoms of cold stunning include a decreased heart rate, decreased circulation, lethargy, followed by shock, pneumonia and eventually death if not rescued.

© Houston Zoo/Stephanie Adams
© Houston Zoo/Stephanie Adams

Now, after months of rehabilitation and warmer temperatures, the turtles are ready to be returned to the wild. The release will take place promptly at 8am, Stewart Beach Park, 201 Seawall Blvd. in Galveston. The public is invited to come out and witness this exciting release. The normal parking fee for Stewart Beach will be waived for those who arrive before 9 am to attend the release.

Ben Higgins, who runs the NOAA Galveston Laboratory’s sea turtle program and Dr. Joe Flanagan, head veterinarian at The Houston Zoo, will be on hand to answer questions after the release. Dr. Flanagan is the attending veterinarian for all sea turtles rescued and rehabilitated by the NOAA Galveston Laboratory. A special thanks also to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for their help in getting the turtles to Galveston from Boston.

The Kemp’s ridley is the smallest and most endangered sea turtle in the world. For more on the Kemp’s ridley, please visit NOAA Fisheries fact page about the species.

Turtle Logos

Magnificent Madagascar Turtles!

This post was written by Bailey Cheney.

mad close upIf you’ve stopped by the ring-tailed lemur exhibit at Wortham World of Primates recently, you might have seen some turtles basking in the sun. Often, while keepers feed the lemurs, they get asked if they’re real turtles. This is because the turtles sit perfectly still as they enjoy the heat from the sun. The answer is yes; they are real turtles. In fact, they’re Madagascar big-headed turtles (Erymnochelys madagascariensis). These turtles can be found in the western lowland river basins of Madagascar. In the wild, they spend most of their time basking on logs, rocks, and river banks, pretty much exactly what they enjoy doing in our lemur exhibit.

Erymnochelys madagascariensis are fresh water turtles. They eat plant matter as well as fish and small invertebrates. Madagascar big-headed turtles are critically endangered turtles. This decline in wild populations is because of  habitat fragmentation and destruction in Madagascar. Oftentimes, they are forced to move from their habitat because of the agricultural industry in the country. Much of this agriculture and habitat destruction occurs on their nesting grounds as well. This, coupled with the fact that females lay eggs only every other year, does not bode well for the Madagascar big-headed turtle. They are, unfortunately, also caught and killed for their meat and for the traditional medicine trade in Asia. Surprisingly, this is a common plight that many turtle species face.

Mad babies

Because of their critical state, several conservation efforts are being undertaken to make sure that they continue their survival. Collaborations with local Malagasy fishermen and local people is the most important current conservation effort. Locals are being taught how vital these turtles are to the ecosystem and how to avoid damaging them and their nest sites. A conservation program is only as strong as the community who supports it; hence, it is always essential to have the support of the local people. Captive breeding is another conservation effort being undertaken. The Houston Zoo is an active participant in this breeding program. Our Madagascar big-headed turtles have produced several clutches of eggs and will hopefully continue to do so. If you’re interested in seeing their offspring, then you should head over to the Reptile House (they’re pretty cute)! And, of course, you must visit the magnificent adults who share their exhibit with our lemurs!

Houston Zoo Saddened by Passing of Beloved Giraffe, Neema

NeemaWe are heartbroken to share the news that eight-year-old Masai giraffe, Neema, passed away overnight in the giraffe barn. Neema began showing signs of illness on May 14. The entire hoofed stock team and our veterinary staff began an immediate intensive course of medical care to identify and treat her symptoms. The group discovered that she was suffering from intestinal disease and was treated to relieve pain and resolve infection while maintaining her hydration with intravenous fluids. Unfortunately, last night, her condition became worse and she passed away around 9 p.m. from the short, but aggressive illness.

Neema was a beloved part of the ten-member herd and a regular attendee at the popular giraffe feedings that so many of our guests and Members have enjoyed over the years. Her light coloring made her easy to identify, and her participation in giraffe feedings made her especially memorable and loved.

Neema was also a terrific mother to our most recently born calf, Kamili, who was born August 2014.

We are all grieving and devastated by the loss of Neema. She remains a treasured member of our family and she will be missed by everyone.

Working with Conservation Partners in the Galapagos Islands

The Houston Zoo is proud to partner with organizations around the world that actively save wildlife. We have been working in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador for many years, providing expertise in veterinary medicine as well as environmental education.

Educators participate in an activity about their unique islands led by our partners at Ecology Project International
Educators participate in an activity about their unique islands led by our partners at Ecology Project International

This past week, Houston Zoo staff visited the Galapagos to help facilitate a 3-day workshop with local teachers who wanted to improve their skills and knowledge in environmental education. 8 educators from 3 different islands attended the workshop. Most of these teachers are not only in charge of their day-to-day classes, but also lead Eco-Clubs after school with children of various ages.

4In collaboration with our local partners, Ecology Project International (EPI) and Galapagos Tortoise Movement Ecology Program (GTMEP), as well as the Galapagos Conservation Trust and the St. Louis Zoo, we led various activities and trainings focused on conservation education and engaging students in hands-on science and research. Thanks to our partners, we even had the opportunity to bring these educators out into the field to track wild Galapagos tortoises and learn about radio telemetry!

Workshop participants practice using radio telemetry in the field!
Workshop participants practice using radio telemetry in the field!

In addition to tracking tortoises, a favorite activity from the workshop included hearing from several local teenage students about their experience participating in EPI’s successful after-school environmental club. In this club, students play a major role in determining club activities. Students in this program complete beach cleanups, work with the Galapagos National Park to count and monitor green sea turtle nests on local beaches and carry out plastic campaigns, visiting local schools to talk about the importance of not only recycling, but using less plastic in general. EPI’s environmental club was an incredible model to show to the participants of the workshop to help generate more ideas for activities they could take back and use on their respective islands.

In total, the workshop was a big success and the participants walked away with more knowledge and tools to engage their students in environmental education!


Houston Zoo Guests are Helping to Save Sharks in the Wild

Whitespotted Bamboo Shark Baby-0002-8227 (1)
Baby bamboo shark hatched at the Houston Zoo last year

When visiting the Zoo, you may see our sharks, rays and sea turtles. The ocean is close to Houston’s heart with the Gulf of Mexico just down the road. Keeping the ocean healthy is a high priority to the Houston Zoo and sharks do just that.  This misunderstood species works hard to keep a healthy balance in our oceans. The Houston Zoos and all of our guests support marine wildlife organization, Mar Alliance, based in Central America. Mar Alliance is doing great work for big fish like sharks and other wildlife in the sea. We know that local involvement and employment is critical for the
success of any long-term conservation effort. We require all of our conservation partners to be working towards local ownership and management of all the conservation and research programs.

Mar Alliance staff tagging shark

Mar Alliance hires local people to carry out monitoring and awareness efforts in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico. Houston Zoo staff recently visited the Mar Alliance in Belize and assisted with their marine wildlife protection efforts. We worked along side their local fisherman staff. The fishers have a vast understanding of the ocean and it greatly enhances the research and conservation efforts. All of the local fisherman have grown up by the sea and began free diving for conch and lobster to support their families at a very young age. They can free dive up to 100 feet!


In the past, local fishermen have been taught by previous generations to have a great fear and dislike of sharks. They spoke to us about seeing hammerheads and other species while free diving when they were young, and being very afraid. The fishermen that have joined the Mar Alliance team have had their perception of sharks transformed. The conservation and research activities have guided them to develop a great understanding of the sharks behavior and a deep respect their role in the health of the ocean. Mar Alliance protection efforts include swimming with sharks to monitor, capture and tag them. These fishermen have become the best advocates for sharks and are influencing a lot of change in their communities to protect them.

Local Mar Alliance staff with sharks

You can protect sharks in your everyday life by eating seafood that is responsibly caught. Even though they are not the target, countless sharks are killed when fishing is not done properly. Download Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch consumer guide to learn which seafood options are best choices or good alternatives. The app is available from the Apple Store or Google Play to help you identify shark and ocean-safe seafood.

Your visit to the Zoo helps save sharks in the wild. The Zoo supports over 25 wildlife conservation projects in 10 countries around the world and your admission ticket strengthens that support.

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