More Info


More Info


Barn Cam
Platform Cam

More Info

Provide & Protect Web

Provide & Protect is a giving program supporting two important pursuits at the Houston Zoo:
Practicing exemplary animal care and taking action to save animals in the wild.

Provide for the care and feeding of the Houston Zoo’s animal ambassadors and help protect their most vulnerable wild counterparts! Provide & Protect gives individuals and organizations the opportunity to make a substantial philanthropic gift that has an enduring effect on the Zoo and critical conservation efforts around the world.

Animals at the Zoo live healthy, enriched lives thanks to the dedication of our friends and donors. In the wild, these species face tremendous adversity to their survival. Your generous contribution will be used where it’s needed most to care for animals at the Zoo while also supporting our conservation partners in the field.

Asian Elephant


Residing in the McNair Asian Elephant Habitat, the Houston Zoo’s eight Asian elephants – Thai, Methai, Shanti, Tess, Tucker, Tupelo, Baylor, and Duncan – amaze every guest with their size and intelligence. Our elephant care team has a combined 100 years of elephant experience to care for these precious pachyderms.

Each elephant receives a daily bath and their 80,000 gallon play pool gets plenty of use. Good thing, too, because they are fond of covering themselves in dirt and mud! We periodically add sand to their habitat to encourage this natural behavior and to keep the ground soft to maintain good foot health. Our keepers have developed close bonds with each elephant, allowing them to teach behaviors that help our veterinarian team conduct routine exams.

The Malaysian island of Borneo is one of the few places in the world that supports wild Asian elephant populations. Sadly, habitat loss due to the destruction of forests to build palm oil plantations has led to increased human-elephant conflicts. For this and other reasons such as poaching, Asian elephant numbers have declined by 50 percent or more over the last 75 years.

The Houston Zoo supports the Kinabatangan Elephant Conservation Unit which works with local communities in Borneo to raise awareness and give farmers tools to create elephant-friendly crop protection. We also provide funding for radio collars, camera traps, and graduate student scholarships for the Danau Girang Field Centre, which is conducting the first-ever population biology study of the Bornean elephant.

Galapagos Tortoise

The Houston Zoo cares for three Galapagos tortoises, one of the longest-living and largest reptile species in the world. These tortoises can live for well over 100 years and adult males can weigh up to 600 pounds and females up to 200 pounds!  Shackleton, Ernie, and Hannibal can be found in their habitat near Duck Lake munching on lettuce, carrots, yams, and browse gathered daily by our animal nutrition specialists.

Galapagos tortoises are thought to have numbered in the tens of thousands before pirates and whalers began hunting them for food on the Galapagos Islands. Today, 4 of the 14 subspecies of these giant tortoises are now extinct.  The remaining tortoises face a number of threats, including competition from non-native animals that have been introduced to the islands over the years. Houston Zoo veterinary team members travel to the Galapagos Islands to offer medical assistance and help with efforts to relocate non-native animals that compete with tortoises for limited resources.

To help ensure the long-term success of these efforts, the Houston Zoo also assists with implementing conservation and education programming to empower young conservation leaders. In 2014 alone we helped train 6 local educators in the Galapagos, provided conservation education programming to 146 local Ecuadorian students, and examined close to 1,300 tortoises.



In the Malay language, “orangutan” means “man of the forest,” an apt name given that these great apes spend much of their lives climbing through the thick jungle canopies of Borneo and Sumatra. The Zoo’s orangutan habitat is built so that male Rudi and females Cheyenne, Kelly, Indah, and Aurora have plenty of climbing and swinging opportunities.

We go to great lengths to ensure these highly intelligent beings receive excellent care. No story illustrates this dedication better than that of baby Aurora. Soon after she was born in March 2011, mother Kelly abandoned Aurora, refusing to care for her newborn. After the decision was made to temporarily hand-rear Aurora, 50 trained staff and volunteers began providing round-the-clock care over the next 302 days. Eventually, Cheyenne stepped into the role of surrogate mother and now provides the motherly attention that young Aurora needs.

Orangutans depend on healthy rainforests for their survival, therefore the loss of pristine habitat due to logging and palm oil agriculture has greatly accelerated the decline of orangutans in the wild. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, the number of orangutans living on Borneo has decreased more than 50% over the last 60 years.

To reverse this trend, the HUTAN-Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Program (KOCP) was established in 1998. KOCP is studying the effects that habitat fragmentation and destruction have on orangutans while using outreach to local communities to promote coexistence with orangutans. One of their most important findings has shown that there is an urgent need to re-connect forests that have been fragmented by palm oil plantations and logging. The more orangutans are isolated from each other, the less likely they are to survive as a species.



Some say cats and dogs can’t get along, but don’t tell that to the Houston Zoo’s cheetah brothers. Since they arrived at the Zoo in 2007, Kito and Kiburi have lived with Taji, a female Anatolian shepherd dog whose presence helps enrich the lives of our cheetahs. She regularly accompanies Kito and Kiburi on morning walks. Because there’s always interesting smells, sounds, and things to see at the Zoo, these walks help stimulate Kito and Kiburi’s keen senses.

Cheetahs are most well-known for their speed, so to really stretch their legs Kito and Kiburi are taken to the Houston Dynamo’s practice field where they chase a lure pulled by a high-speed winch. They’ve been clocked going as fast as 42 miles per hour, and even Taji gets in on the action!

Cheetahs once ranged widely from South Africa to India. Today, Southern and Eastern Africa remain the only strongholds for this species and even these regions are seeing the decline of cheetah populations. One of the most significant threats facing cheetahs in the wild is conflict with farmers who retaliate against cheetahs who prey on livestock.

The Houston Zoo works side-by-side with the Ruaha Carnivore Project in Tanzania’s Ruaha National Park to protect cheetahs in the wild. To that end, the Ruaha Carnivore Project is reducing human-carnivore conflict by providing farmers with guard dogs similar to Taji, our Anatolian shepherd, to protect their livestock. So far, this organization has placed 4 Anatolian shepherds with local farmers and by 2018 aims to place 50 guard dogs of varying breeds.

Southern White Rhinoceros


Our three young and rambunctious rhino boys – George, Indy, and Mumbles – came to the Houston Zoo in 2013. Since then, they’ve taken well to their new role as ambassadors for a species that faces dwindling numbers in the wild. Each morning the rhinos are brought inside for breakfast and receive a quick visual check-up from their keepers. These rhinos love to roughhouse, which can occasionally cause superficial scrapes, so our keepers make sure to apply topical treatments as needed.

A few showers each week helps their keepers get a better look at their hooves and skin. But the rhino boys aren’t clean for too long once they start playing in their mud wallow! For rhinos, mud makes an ideal sunblock and bug repellant. Having multiple species in a habitat is enriching for both guests and animals, so George, Indy, and Mumbles share their space with kudu antelope.

It’s difficult to imagine iconic animals like rhinos disappearing from the wild, but all five rhino species (black, white, Indian, Javan, and Sumatran) face threats to their future existence. As tough as rhinos are, they are no match for the insatiable demand for their horns, which in some cultures are mistakenly believed to have medicinal benefits. One need only look at the western black rhino, declared extinct in 2011, to see that the consequences of poaching are terrible and permanent.

The Houston Zoo partners with the International Rhino Foundation (IRF) to support urgently needed conservation efforts. IRF is working to save the remaining species of rhino and their habitats. While there is still much work to be done, IRF’s work has helped stabilize black and white rhino populations in Africa.

Sea Turtle

If you’ve ever had the opportunity to observe a sea turtle in the Kipp Aquarium, you were witnessing our sea turtle rehabilitation program in action! The Houston Zoo is equipped to house rescued sea turtles who are in need of care for a variety of health issues. Our veterinary team treats wild sea turtles when they’re sick, injured, or “cold stunned” due to rapid temperature drops during winter months. Thanks to our skilled aquarists and veterinarians we are able to care for sea turtles while guests learn more about these unique marine reptiles.

Five different species of endangered sea turtles live just off the Texas Gulf Coast – Kemp’s ridley, green, leatherback, Atlantic hawksbill, and loggerhead. Unfortunately, the future existence of sea turtles in the wild is increasingly challenged. Serious and sometimes fatal injuries are caused by the ingestion of plastic pollution and hooks, entanglement in fishing nets, and propeller strikes from boats. On beaches, light pollution emanating from housing and hotel developments can disorient newly hatched sea turtles who rely on moonlight to find their way to the ocean.

The Houston Zoo partners with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Galveston to treat an average of 75 sea turtles each year before preparing them for reintroduction to the wild. We further assist local sea turtle conservation efforts by participating in beach surveys, providing educational signage for beaches, and hosting events at the Zoo to show guests how they can help save sea turtles.

African Lion


Jonathan and three lionesses Uzima, Nimue and Matungulu (Mattie) make up the Houston Zoo’s African lion pride. On your next trip to the Zoo, stop by the training window at the lion habitat to watch our carnivore keepers care for these big cats. While entertaining for guests, the training window allows keepers to teach behaviors such as placing a paw on the wire mesh for inspection.

Providing mental stimulation is an important part of caring for our lions, so we use enrichment to encourage their natural hunting instincts. For instance, sometimes our keepers will dangle a tempting chunk meat from a zip-line for the pride to pounce. New odors added to their habitat engage their strong sense of smell – Jonathan in particular loves to roll around in feces from our Ankole cattle!

Despite their fearsome reputation as the “King of Beasts,” lion populations are declining rapidly with less than 30,000 remaining in Africa. The Houston Zoo has been a long-time partner of the Niassa Lion Project (NLP), which works to save large carnivores in Mozambique’s Niassa National Reserve.

This vast expanse of wilderness is home to one third of Mozambique’s lion population, but such concentrations lead to conflict with human communities. We support NLP’s efforts to promote co-existence with lions through their long-term approach that focuses on the well-being of people as well as animals. For example, NLP is currently testing the viability of “living fences” made of thorny native plants that are easy to maintain and naturally separate lions and villagers’ livestock.



After years of planning and construction, Gorillas of the African Forest opened to the public Memorial Day weekend 2015. This latest expansion of the Houston Zoo immerses our guests in the world of these incredibly intelligent and powerful primates.

We took great care when designing our gorillas’ home to ensure it provides everything they need to live healthy and enriched lives. The naturalistic setting and its residents connect guests to our conservation partners. As with all of our animals, our keepers and veterinarians will work diligently to ensure gorillas thrive in their new habitat through expert care.

With all four gorilla species and subspecies classified as endangered or critically endangered, there is an urgent need to save gorillas in the wild. Gorillas are threatened by habitat loss, war, and the illegal pet and bushmeat trades. The Houston Zoo works with three conservation partners in Africa to protect gorillas: the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center (GRACE), Gorilla Doctors, and Conservation Heritage-Turambe.

The first facility of its kind in east central Africa, GRACE can house up to 15 orphaned gorillas in 350 acres of natural habitat. Gorilla Doctors works in Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda and is the only international team of veterinarians providing direct, hands-on care to gorillas in the wild. Conservation Heritage-Turambe uses after-school programming and community outreach in Rwanda to promote gorilla conservation. In addition to funding, the Houston Zoo provides staff training, technical assistance, and awareness-building for these organizations that have dedicated themselves to creating a brighter future for gorillas.

Blue-Billed Curassow

The Houston Zoo is home to 11 critically endangered blue-billed curassows. With 5 males and 6 females aged from 8 months to 30 years, we’ve been able to share the knowledge gained from our successful efforts to breed this species, thus helping conservationists working in the field.  These curious and playful birds receive a steady diet of pellet feed, chopped fruits, and vegetables. For treats, they especially enjoy avocados and peanuts!

Due to their shy disposition, very little is known about wild blue-billed curassows. In fact, a lack of sightings between 1978 and 1988 led some experts to believe this species to be extinct. While wild blue-billed curassows still exist, only a few hundred remain in the wild. Native to South America, threats to this critically endangered bird include hunting, habitat loss, and capture for the local pet trade.

The Houston Zoo partners with the Colombian Zoo Association for the conservation of these birds. Our efforts have focused on assisting Colombian breeding programs to increase the number of birds available for reintroduction to the wild. In January 2014 we celebrated the first-ever hatching of a captive blue-billed curassow in Colombia. Since then, 10 more chicks have been hatched and successfully raised and will eventually help restore the wild population.



The Houston Zoo is home to crowned, red-fronted, ring-tailed, and Coquerel’s sifaka (pronounced “she-fahk”) lemurs. Having a variety of lemur species allows us to show how diverse lemur populations are in the wild; by some estimates, there are over 100 different species of lemur that can be found on the island of Madagascar!

The births of sifaka and ring-tailed lemur babies in 2013 and 2014 kept our primate keepers busy making sure each one grows healthy and strong. The first three days of life for a lemur baby are critical, so they are weighed daily to make sure they are gaining weight. To feed our growing family, our Horticulture team collects browse grown on Zoo grounds and brings it to our animal nutrition specialists for inspection and cleaning. This browse makes up about half of the daily diet for our sifakas.

Lemurs count among the many species of plants and animals that are endemic to Madagascar, an island nation just slightly smaller than Texas in terms of square miles. It is one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth, yet ongoing environmental problems could spell the end for numerous native animals, including lemurs. Most species of lemur are endangered or vulnerable, primarily due to habitat destruction and hunting. Forests are cleared to make way for subsistence farming and pastures for grazing cattle. Illegal logging for rare hardwoods also takes its toll.

The Houston Zoo partners with GERP, whose name, translated from French, is the Primates of Madagascar Research and Study Group. Our support of GERP since November 2013 has resulted in several successes, including the reforestation of 12,000 trees and the translocation of a crowned sifaka group to a better habitat.


Questions about Provide & Protect?
Call 713-533-6705 or e-mail