Houston Zoo

Plush-Crested Jay Chick Gets Special Care at Houston Zoo

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Bird keepers at the Houston Zoo have been busy lately as they have been providing care for their newest resident, a Plush-Crested Jay chick. The chick, who was the lone hatchling from its clutch, is being closely monitored by keepers. Caretakers in the zoo's bird department have been feeding the chick daily and closely monitoring its weight to make sure that it's growing at an acceptable rate.

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Photo credits: Houston Zoo

Plush-Crested Jays are a type of Corvid native to the central regions of southern South America in Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. These medium sized birds have dark coloration with a whitish cream colored chest. Plush-Crested Jay chicks, like most birds, are very dependent on their parents after hatching, and don't even open their eyes until they are a week old.

Houston Zoo Welcomes Baby Nyala


On Wednesday April 3, at 3:55 pm, the Houston Zoo's four and a half year old Nyala antelope named Ginger went into labor.  By 4:02, the healthy baby boy had already kicked his way out of his mom and onto the ground, making this one of the fastest deliveries seen by staff.  The baby was very quick to get on his feet and to begin nursing and even to start exploring his new world.

The new baby has yet to be named, but he is now spending afternoons in the newly constructed west hoof run exhibit at the Houston Zoo with the entire Nyala antelope family.  Please stop by the new west hoof run exhibit to see our newest addition to the family.

A word of caution though, Nyala antelope like to “stash” their babies so that predators in the wild would not find them.  So if you don’t see him running around chasing his bigger brother, then you may have to look deep into some of the foliage we have in the exhibit for a glimpse of him.

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Photo Credit: Stephanie Bledsoe-Adams/Houston Zoo

This is the second birth for mom Ginger and for dad Niles.  Their first offspring, a boy named Cashew, was born July 14th 2012






Coming Soon to the Houston Zoo: Baby Big-headed Turtles!

Houston Zoo MBHT Egg X-ray

Lurking in the murky waters of the Houston Zoo’s Lemur exhibit moat are seven critically endangered Madagascar Big-headed Turtles.  When the Turtles received their annual veterinary checkup, radiographs and ultrasounds revealed that two of the females had eggs. 

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Photo Credits:  Houston Zoo

The females would normally lay their eggs in nests excavated near the water’s edge, but the Houston Zoo staff determined that ground temperatures were too cold for the eggs to develop successfully.  Instead, the zoo veterinarian induced the females to lay their eggs in the safety of the clinic.  The two females laid a total of 33 eggs! 

The eggs were collected and placed in two separate incubators in the reptile house, with temperatures set at 28.5° Celsius (83.3°F) and 30.5° Celsius (86.9°F).  The Houston Zoo is the first in North America to incubate eggs from Madagascar Big-headed Turtles, and little data exists.  The staff expects the first hatchlings to emerge sometime in May.

Madagascar Big-headed Turtles are found only on the island of Madagascar, where they inhabit slow-moving streams.  Though they are among the world’s most endangered turtle species, they are still eaten for food and illegally shipped to Asia, where they are used for traditional Asian medicine. 

Houston Zoo's Baby Masai Giraffe Named After Yao Ming

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The newest and tallest addition to the Houston Zoo is a male Masai Giraffe, born to 5-year-old mom Neema and 6-year old dad Mtembei early on February 25, after a 14-month gestation. The calf weighs 139 pounds (62 kilos), and stands 74 inches tall (1.87 m). “The calf was standing on his own a little over an hour after he was born and was nursing about 4 hours later,” said Hoofed Stock Supervisor John Register. 

The calf has been named Yao by the keepers who cared for Neema through her pregnancy, in honor of former Houston Rockets player Yao Ming. Working with the conservation organization WildAid, Yao Ming has led the world’s largest conservation awareness program spotlighting illegal elephant and rhino poaching in Africa and the shark fin trade in Asia. Yao toured the Zoo’s Giraffe, Rhino and Elephant exhibits on February 14. You can read more about that and his efforts for conservation on the Houston Zoo’s website.

Yao Ming with giraffes

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Photo Credit: Stephanie Bledsoe-Adams/Houston Zoo

While Masai Giraffes are not threatened or endangered in their native habitat, there are only about 100 of the species living in 24 North American zoos. Giraffes are the tallest living terrestrial animal.  Males average 17 feet in height and can weigh up to 2,500 pounds.  Female Masai giraffes typically reach a height of 14 feet.  At birth, Masai giraffes weigh between 125 and 150 pounds and stand approximately 6 feet tall.

See more pictures of baby Yao after the fold:

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Critically Endangered Turtles Hatch at the Houston Zoo

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This week the Houston Zoo announced that five baby Madagascar Big-Headed Turtles hatched in their Madagascar Lemur exhibit. The hatchlings are small – approximately 6.8 g each, just a little larger than an US Quarter, and averaging only 28.7mm wide and 32.3 mm long.

This is the first hatching at a zoo in the United States – and Houston is one of the only zoos in the world that is currently breeding them. Ranked at number 16 on the worlds’ most endangered turtle and tortoise list, these turtles are facing extinction due to drastic deforestation and illegal hunting. This species can only be found in seven protected areas in western Madagascar. 

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Photo Credit: Stephanie Adams/Houston Zoo

Read more about these endangered Turtles after the jump:

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What's New at the Houston Zoo? This Masai Giraffe Calf!


The Houston Zoo is proud to announce the birth of a ­­male Masai Giraffe. Mom Tyra delivered the healthy baby shortly before 8 p.m. on July 14 following a 14 month pregnancy. This is 14-year-old Tyra’s seventh calf. The proud first time father, Mtembei is 5 years old. 

“Tyra went into labor at approximately 4:50 p.m. on July 14 and delivered her baby boy at 7:48 p.m.,” said Houston Zoo Hoofed Stock Supervisor John Register. The calf was standing on his own and nursing by 8:27 p.m. John added, “The calf weighs about 160 pounds (73 kilos), and is over 6 feet (1.8 meters) tall. He’s a strong healthy baby."  

While Masai Giraffes are not threatened or endangered in their native habitat, there are 92 Masai Giraffes living in 24 North American zoos. Giraffes are the tallest living terrestrial animal. The average male is about 17 feet tall and can weigh 3,000 pounds, while an average female is over 14 feet tall.  With this new arrival, the Houston Zoo’s herd of Masai Giraffe has grown to 8, including 5 males and 3 females.

The Houston Zoo is holding an online naming contest for the newest addition to the giraffe herd.  Visit the Zoo online at http://www.houstonzoo.org/babygiraffe/ to cast your vote for your favorite choice from the list of names chosen by the Zoo’s giraffe keepers.



Mom and dad

Photo Credits: Stephanie Adams/Houston Zoo

Aurora, Houston Zoo's Orphaned Baby Orangutan, Gets a Mom


After months of tender loving care and sleepless nights, a team of 50 trained Houston Zoo care givers who have been hand-raising baby orangutan Aurora, achieved its ultimate goal – Aurora’s ‘adoption’ by the Zoo’s experienced surrogate orangutan mom Cheyenne.

Aurora was born on March 2 of 2011. After the first 12 hours, birth mom Kelly abandoned the infant and refused repeated attempts by zoo staff to return the baby to her. Concerned for Aurora’s welfare, the primate care team made the decision to hand rear the baby.

For 9 months, always in view of the Zoo’s other orangutans, a total 50 different volunteers assisted the Houston Zoo’s primate care team in that process. Aurora clung to her care givers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can see a remarkable video about that process in our ZooBorns article published last April. When Aurora was thriving and ready to move on, the care team closely monitored Kelly and Cheyenne to gauge their interest in the baby.

“As Aurora became more independent of her care givers, we taught her to go through what’s called a ‘creep door’, a very small opening in doors between rooms in the off-exhibit night house,” said Killam.

On December 28, the creep door between Cheyenne and Aurora was opened for the first time. “Aurora chose not to go completely through it, instead touching and playing with Cheyenne, who reached her arm through,” said Killam. The next day, Cheyenne chose not to play with Aurora through the creep door, but instead sat just outside it. She waited patiently until Aurora came through the on her own and then Cheyenne picked Aurora up and carried her across the room.  

Cheyenne carried Aurora around for the next 7 hours, even allowing Aurora to ride on her head. The two shared produce and cereal and fruit juice together; the primate care team was able to give Aurora her bottles right next to Cheyenne. Several times Cheyenne would do somersaults around Aurora as the little orangutan watched in amazement. “It was a wonderful day,” said Killam. 

The two can now be seen in the outdoor habitat together and all is well.



Photo Credits: Stephanie Adams/Houston Zoo

Brody the Baby Bongo, Born at the Houston Zoo


There's a new baby Bongo at the Houston Zoo in Texas, and his name is Brody. Born on December 6, Brody weighed just over 40 pounds (18.3 kg). He’s a big healthy boy with a good appetite as evidenced by his current weight 5 weeks later - 92+ pounds (42 kg). He can be seen every day (weather permitting) on exhibit with his 3 year old mom Penelope. His favorite spot for resting and naps is in the front right hand corner of the exhibit.

To the casual observer, all bongo calves look alike. But the zoo's keepers found a perfect way to tell them apart – they count the white stripes on their side. Bongo can have 10 to 14 white stripes on each side and each side can present a different configuration. For instance, Penelope has 11 stripes on each side. 

A bongo is a type of antelope native to the lowlands and mountain forests of Kenya and western Africa and are among the largest of the African forest antelope. In the wild, bongos are shy and elusive but very social. In fact, they are the only forest antelope to form herds.

The Western or lowland bongo is classified as near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the IUCN. The Eastern or mountain bongo is classified as endangered. 



Mom and baby


Photo Credit: Stephanie Adams/Houston Zoo

Three's Company For Houston Zoo's Fossa Troupe!


On June 25, 2011, three Fossa pups were born to the Houston Zoo's female, Riana. Although Riana was only with her own mom for a few days before keeper’s had to intervene due to maternal aggression, she has proven to be an excellent and laid back mother. Houston Zoo carnivore keepers set up cameras in Riana’s nest box and because they were already raising an orangutan infant, the monitor was set up in the primate area. The overnight caregivers pulled double duty, monitoring Riana and her pups remotely while caring for baby Aurora, their hand-raised orangutan.

The litter turned out to be three girls, named Ingrid, Heidi and Gretchen in honor of their father, Hansel. True to their agile fossa nature, the girls are extremely active, tumbling around their enclosure while using their long tails for balance. One of their favorite activities is trying to run all together on their giant “hamster wheel”, built by Keeper Josh Young. Usually one of them wants to run the opposite direction from her sisters, which makes for some really great entertainment for our keeper staff!



Photo Credit: Stephanie Adams/Houston Zoo

More pics and info below the fold!

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Houston Zoo Welcomes Greater Kudu Baby

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This big eared baby kudu was born on Agust 31 in The African Forest at the Houston Zoo. She weighed approximately 15.9 kilos ( 35 pounds) at birth. Her keepers say, "She is bright eyed and quite curious - she's always looking around."

Gestation for Greater kudu is about 9 mo. Her mother, Clementine, has proven to be very good with her baby. "The birth was easy. It started in the afternoon and was all of two hours. And the baby nursed right away," the keeper continued. "The calf is doing well and being slowly introduced to the rest of her herd - dad Alfonzo and female Charlotte and her offspring Apollo".

She has yet to be named. The kudu share the habitat with a trio of Southern White rhinos in The African Forest. The newest member of the kudu family will be out in the exhibit after introductions to the rhinos occur.

Just born

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Photo Credit: Stephanie Adams/Houston Zoo

You can view a full photo album on the Houston Zoo's website.

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