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Staff Saving Animals in the Wild

Houston Zoo employees across numerous departments are involved in efforts that directly save wildlife. In addition to providing critical funding to wildlife conservation projects worldwide, we encourage our staff to use their diverse skillsets to assist field projects with their work. Take a look at some of the activities our staff has been involved in recently!

Saving Attwater’s Prairie Chickens in Texas

Staff Involved: Dr. Maryanne Tocidlowski, Veterinary Clinic

Overview of effort: The Attwater’s Prairie Chicken is a critically endangered species of grouse found on the coastal prairies of Texas. The Houston Zoo breeds Attwater’s prairie chicken for release in the wild. Dr. Maryanne is doing research on the best practices with antibiotic use in Attwater’s prairie chickens before their release.

Saving reptiles and amphibians in India

Photo by Chris Bednarski

Staff Involved: Chris Bednarski, Herpetology Department

Overview of effort: Chris is conducting population surveys of reptiles and amphibians in the North Western Ghats of India. By determining what wildlife is in this area, communities can better strategize how to protect species.

Saving dolphins in Texas

Staff Involved: Kate Unger, Education Department

Overview of effort: Kate is partnering with the Galveston Bay Dolphin Research and Conservation Program to form a connection between Galveston Bay communities and their local dolphins to encourage participation in protecting these animals in the wild. Through her project, she is creating educational classroom trunks, interactive displays, implementing these tools in schools and the community, and evaluating their success.

Saving Birds in the Northern Mariana Islands

Staff Involved: Kasey Lilly, Steve Howard, Hannah Bailey, and Jessica Clark, Bird Department

Overview of effort: Kasey is helping the Marianas Avifauna Conservation team with the collection, housing, and re-location of threatened bird species like the Mariana fruit dove and Rufous fantail. The brown tree snake, an invasive species, is posing a threat to many native bird species. By moving birds to snake free islands this project will help to ensure that these threatened bird species will not become extinct.

Saving the Texas Horned Lizard in Texas

Staff Involved: Monty Criswell and Chris Valdez, Herpetology Department

Overview of effort: The state reptile of Texas, the Texas Horned Lizard, was once common throughout most of the state, but has disappeared from many parts of its former range. Monty and Chris are conducting population and habitat surveys for the Texas Horned Lizard on the Katy Prairie Conservancy for possible reintroduction in the future.

Saving Elephants in Laos


Staff Involved: Kim Klein, Kristin Windle, and Aaron Halling, Elephant Department

Overview of effort: The Houston Zoo’s partnership with the Elephant Conservation Center (ECC) can greatly impact both the wild and captive elephant populations of Laos. Kim, Kristin, and Aaron have helped ECC staff develop an elephant enrichment program, written birthing protocols, and assisted in enhancing the ECC’s education program. Aiding these elephants in developing natural behaviors and relationship building, as well as creating more awareness around this species in Laos will be vital to restoring Asian elephant populations in the region.

Check back for more updates from these projects and to see how Houston Zoo employees are saving animals in the wild!