Seventh International Tapir Symposium Comes to Houston

Like most of us after reading that headline, you’re probably saying what in the world is a tapir, and why are they having a meeting? Tapirs are the largest land mammal in South America with females weighing up to 700 pounds! There are four species of tapir in the world, with three of the four species found in Latin America – Baird’s, lowland, and mountain. The fourth species, the Malayan tapir, is found in Southeast Asia. Here at the Houston Zoo, we have a family of Baird’s tapir.

While the tapirs may not have come to town, the specialists from all over the world that work with them did, and we enjoyed every moment of their visit. The symposium was made up of members from the Tapir Specialist Group (TSG) – a team we partner with to help save tapirs in the wild! The TSG is a global group of biologists, zoo professionals, researchers, and advocates dedicated to conserving tapirs and their habitat. The Houston Zoo works closely with this group’s Chair, Patricia Medici, to support a Lowland Tapir Project in Brazil. Every 2-3 years, the TSG will meet, giving these experts the opportunity to share their successes, struggles, thoughts, and ideas in order to work together and plan for the future of tapir conservation. The first part of the conference usually features paper and poster presentations, as well as keynote speakers, while the second part is devoted to workshops and round-tables addressing topics relevant to tapir conservation worldwide. Topics can range from veterinary and genetic issues, to husbandry and captive management, to environmental education and the involvement of local communities. It sounds like a lot of hard work packed into just five days, but don’t worry! Everyone at the symposium had the opportunity to get out and explore the city, and they even made a trip to visit all of us here at the zoo!

This year, we were proud to have our very own hoofed stock keepers John Scaramucci and Mary Fields present for the TSG about the Tapir SOS event we host here on zoo grounds each year. This event gives our zoo guests the opportunity to learn more about tapirs, to connect with field researchers, and learn fun and easy ways to help save these animals in the wild.

Gatherings such as this one have proven to be critical to the success of global conservation efforts. At first glance you may think that projects in Brazil and Malaysia have very little in common, or that field researchers and zookeepers play very different roles. However, when a meeting of the minds occurs, you find out just how much they all have in common, and how vital the exchange of ideas can be to the survival of a species like the tapir. We are honored to be a part of such a collaborative effort, and wish our extended family at the TSG luck as they return to their field sites!

To learn about what you can do to help save tapirs in the wild, click here.

Penny checks out the building

Penny looks around the Animal Ambassador Building

Well.  This looks pretty nice in here.  I wonder who will be living in this room?  I have heard it is called the Ambassador Animal Building.

Look! Some of  the animals have started moving in!  Ernie the North American Porcupine is here.  So is Fiona the  Flemish Giant rabbit.  These guys are getting some really nice spaces to live in.  The building has room for all the Ambassador mammals and a whole separate room for the Ambassador reptiles.  There are going to be some amazing birds in here too.  A Kookaburra, some parrots and even a roadrunner.  Staff and volunteers can take these animals to classrooms, presentations and special events.

pennyaab2
Checking out the corner room

Just look at this corner room.  No one has moved in yet.  I could totally live here.  I could turn that space into a kitty paradise.  Oh, I am envisioning cat trees, toys, my own furniture.  Yes, I can see it now.

And look outside!  Is that our own exercise yard?  With a pool?  This building is amazing!

The Exercise Yard
The Exercise Yard

That settles it!  I am finding a way to move in.

Spotlight on Species – Otters!

On July 16th, from 10AM – 3PM, the Houston Zoo will be celebrating a Spotlight on Species (SOS) all about otters!

Did you know that there are 13 different species of otters and that several of the species are endangered?

Did you know we have otters right here in Texas?

Come and learn about Texas otters and otters around the world.  Meet our North American River Otter and

Asian Small-clawed Otter
Asian Small-clawed Otter

Asian Small Clawed Otters that call the Houston Zoo home.

The SOS will take place in both the John P. McGovern Children’s Zoo and the Natural Encounters building.  There will be lots to learn along with activities and fun for the whole family.    There will be tables with information and education materials along with special Meet

the Keeper chats at both locations.  It is also going to be Snow Day at the Zoo, and our North American River Otter, Belle, will be

North American River Otter

getting snow to play in!

The Naturally Wild Swap Shop will be participating too!  Any nature reports or nature journals on otters brought in on the day of the SOS will receive DOUBLE points!  Also, if you take the electronic pledge that day to go plastic bag free and come tell us in the Swap Shop, you will earn you 25 points.  If you take the pledge you will also be entered in to a drawing for one of two special otter experiences.

Don’t know about the Naturally Wild Swap Shop?  Click here to learn more.

Penny Cat sees something new

Hi everyone.  Penny the cat here.

Something big is happening behind the scenes in the George P. McGovern Children’s Zoo!  I can hear a lot of noise and see a little movement behind the fence, but I can’t quite figure it out.

I really wanted to go check it out, so I got one of my handlers to take me over to see what is going on.

Look at that new building!
Look at that new building!

You won’t believe it!  The building that houses the animals that go to events, presentations and classrooms is being re-done!  So much construction!  The building is being expanded and there will be lots of room for the ambassador animals to live.

I am a little jealous.  Those guys are going to have so much space and such a nice new building.  Being the Princess Kitten that I am, I think I deserve a new spot too, don’t you?  A cat like me should be living in luxury.

 

I am going to have to start working on a plan…….

Year of the Monkey – Mandrills

Written by Dena Honeycutt


It wouldn’t be Year of the Monkey without discussing the largest monkey! Mandrills are the largest monkey and we have them at the Houston Zoo! When zoo folks talk about monkeys, we sometimes refer to where they are from; we either call them a new world monkey or an old world monkey. As the name suggests, new world refers to the “new world” of Central and South America and old world refers to Europe, Africa and Asia. Mandrills are an old world monkey from western Africa.

There is so much to say about mandrills, I thought I’d answer some common questions and comments that we get about our mandrills:

mandrill tailAre these apes? They don’t have a tail!

Mandrills do have a tail, it is very short. Since mandrills spend most of their time on the ground and not in trees, they don’t really need a long tail. Tails are used by monkeys to help them balance themselves while walking or running on branches.

And the male’s behind is very colorful!

And yes, male mandrills are very colorful on both ends and there is a good reason for that. In the wild mandrills live in dense forests and in very large groups with both males and females. As they travel, the males will lead and bring up the rear of the group. Predators such as leopards are more successful if they attack quickly from behind. The coloration of the male mandrills face and behind are the same pattern so as to confuse predators as to which end is facing them.  Pretty cool, right?

Mandril 2

Oh and the males have really big canine teeth…

mandrill canine

 

Endangered Wild Dogs Form New Pack

Painted Dog Intro-0007-9208For the Houston Zoo’s pair of elderly male African painted dogs, Tuesday, April 26 brought a whole lot of excitement as they were introduced to their new pack mates, three female dogs that recently moved to Houston from a zoo in the UK. The two- and three-year-old females spent the past 30 days in required quarantine and once they were given the all-clear from the staff veterinarians, moved to their new home where they will reside with Mikita (10) and Blaze (14). The new names of the females will be chosen by the keepers who care for them and will be announced soon. 

Painted Dog Intro-0005-8715

African painted dogs are also referred to as African wild dogs or African hunting dogs. As one of the most endangered species in Africa, with less than 5,000 left in the wild, the Houston Zoo works with conservationists at Painted Dog Conservation in Zimbabwe to help save this species from extinction. Some of the ways the Houston Zoo helps save these animals in the wild is by providing vital financial support and training to the conservation programs which enables community members to conduct anti-poaching education, rehabilitate injured dogs, reintroduce dogs into the wild, and monitor wild packs. The zoo’s facilities team has also assisted with creating special tracking collars for researchers to use on wild painted dogs. These collars collect valuable data about the painted dogs’ movement patterns, as well as help protect them from deadly snare wire traps set out by poachers.

New Tiger Joins Houston Zoo Family

The Houston Zoo is proud to welcome their newest resident, an adult male tiger named Berani. The three-year-old, 280lb Malayan tiger made his Texas debut Tuesday morning after making the long journey to Houston from Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma, WA in late January. The move was the result of a recommendation by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) to find Houston Zoo’s female Malayan tiger, Satu, a suitable companion.

© Stephanie Adams, Houston Zoo
© Stephanie Adams, Houston Zoo

Berani and Satu, will take turns in the tiger yard while they undergo a formal introduction process overseen by the zookeepers. They will spend increasingly longer periods of time together in the yard as they complete the formal introduction process.

Fewer than 3,500 tigers of all tiger subspecies remain in the wild today, according to the Tiger Conservation Campaign. Malayan tigers surviving on the Malay Peninsula are critically endangered with an estimated population of 300 remaining in the wild.

Penny Always Has Something to Say

Hi everyone.  It’s Penny the Swap Shop cat.

Penny
Penny

I have been enjoying seeing so many guests lately!  There were lots of people here for Zoo Boo.  That was so much fun.  Now, it’s time for Zoo Lights and everyone likes that! We have had some rainy days, but the dry days were amazing.  Lots of people came out on the good weather days.  I like that weather too.   I especially like sitting in the windows in the sun.

There was a different kind of guest in the Shop recently.  I didn’t get to stay out and see him, but I knew he was out there.   I heard all about it (and smelled him too!).  It was a goat!  His name is Alvin, and he

Visitors meet Alvin in the Swap Shop
Visitors meet Alvin in the Swap Shop

is a Nubian goat.  I heard that he is really tall – much taller than me.  He came in with his trainer, Amber.  I already knew Amber; she is one of the Zookeepers in the Children’s Zoo.  I found out that Nubian goats are dairy goats and originally came from Africa.  They like really hot climates – so they must really love Houston.  They also have some really awesome long ears.    You can meet Alvin and lots of other goats in the Contact Area of the Children’s Zoo.

Of course, if you want to meet me, you will have to come to the Naturally Wild Swap Shop.

Alvin and his trainer Amber
Alvin and his trainer Amber

As an Ambassador for the zoo, I sometimes go out to classrooms or presentations. But, when I am not working, I live in the Swap Shop.  The Naturalists that work there seem to understand that I am the one really in charge.

Don’t know ab0ut the Naturally Wild Swap Shop?  Click here for more information.

Our Sea Lion Team is Saving Marine Wildlife & You Can Too!

Sea_lions_Small_Tile

Next time you visit the Zoo make sure you catch our sea lion presentations to hear how the sea lion team is organizing efforts to save marine animals in the wild! All of our animal care specialists love the animals they provide care for and feel a devotion to protecting their wild counterparts.

 

In the past year, the sea lion team has organized 11 trips with Zoo staff to Galveston and collected:

  • 140 lbs of fishing line from specially-designed bins placed along the jetties. These bins were built by the Zoo!
  • 140 lbs of recycling from the beach
  • 250 lbs of trash from the beach

 

sohie and bins
On the left is a monofilament bin and the right is a member of the sea lion team digging fishing line out of the rocks!

During these animal saving expeditions, they have talked to beach goers and fisherman about the importance of properly discarding fishing line in the designated containers along Galveston jetties so that the line does not blow into the ocean or onto the beaches. The Houston Zoo assists with the rehabilitation of approximately 85 stranded or injured wild sea turtles a year, with some of them showing injuries resulting from becoming entangled in the fishing line and other garbage.

IMG_0879

Please help us save wildlife by spreading the word. 

If you like to fish, know local fishermen, or like to spend time at the beach, make sure you tell everyone you can about how to save wildlife by:

  • Properly disposing of all fishing line in the designated bins
  • Properly sorting the recycling and garbage you find or bring to the beach
  • Calling 1-866-Turtle-5 (1-866-887-8535) if you happen to catch a sea turtle while fishing, or see an injured or stranded turtle.

Turtle

Thank you for protecting wildlife with us!

Zoo Grieves Geriatric Jaguar

Today, the Houston Zoo humanely euthanized its 19-year-old female jaguar, Cocoy.  The great-great-grandmother was born at the Guadalajara Zoo in Mexico and moved to Houston in 2006. She and her mate, Kan Balam (18), shared the habitat and even had several cubs together over the years. Due to the tremendous care provided to her by her keepers and the Houston Zoo veterinary team, Cocoy lived well beyond her expected lifespan. Jaguars expected lifespan in the wild is between 12-15 years.

Jaguar

The carnivore staff and veterinary team made the decision after it became evident that she was in kidney failure. At her advanced age, dialysis was not a viable option and further treatments would not have added to her quality of life.

jaguar portrait

Cocoy has always been one of the zoo’s most exuberant and fastest training animals. Guests have long been able to recognize her by her shorter-than-average tail, due to an injury sustained in Mexico.

“When caring for aging animals, we first do everything in our power to make sure they have a great quality of life,” said Sharon Joseph, vice president of animal operations at the Houston Zoo. “We manage their diet and exercise, as well as their medication if necessary. It is never an easy decision to euthanize an animal, but it is one we make with the animal’s well-being as the top priority. With world-class animal keepers, four incredible veterinarians, and a complete veterinary clinic, our animals receive the best care possible, and that includes end-of-life decisions.”

Jaguar’s range covers South and Central America, with some venturing north into Mexico and southwestern US. They are listed as near threatened by International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and their numbers continue to decline mostly due to habitat loss.

jaguar landscape

 

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At 8:00 p.m., KPRC2 / Click2Houston will air a one-hour special about saving elephants, orangutans, crocodiles and more in Borneo. Tune in or set your DVR, you don't want to miss this! Read about the special and why it is so important here: www.houstonzoo.org/elephant/tune-kprc-tomorrow-night-learn-saving-elephants-borneo/ ... See MoreSee Less

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At 8:00 p.m., KPRC2 / Click2Houston will air a one-hour special about saving elephants, orangutans, crocodiles and more in Borneo. Tune in or set your DVR, you dont want to miss this! Read about the special and why it is so important here: https://www.houstonzoo.org/elephant/tune-kprc-tomorrow-night-learn-saving-elephants-borneo/

 

Comment on Facebook

Very good special! We will be visiting the Zoo Saturday!

Sabrina Polk

Houston Zoo shared KPRC2 / Click2Houston's photo.
Houston Zoo

Tonight is the night! Don't miss this incredible one-hour special. Set those DVRs for 8:00 p.m.! ... See MoreSee Less

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Tonight is the night! Dont miss this incredible one-hour special. Set those DVRs for 8:00 p.m.!

 

Comment on Facebook

I can't wait to finish my degree and be a part of something like this someday! Hopefully with this wonderful facility!! 😍

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