Moody Gardens Recognizes Six Outstanding Animal Care Professionals

Zookeeper WEEK.Logo 2006 VThis week is National Zookeeper Week and Moody Garden’s Life Science and Exhibit Operations department has taken this opportunity to recognize the dedication and hard work that goes into this challenging career path. Moody Gardens would like to thank each and every person on our team for providing the highest level of animal care and well-being while creating personal connections between our guests and our conservation, education and research efforts. The LSEO management team recognized 6 individuals with outstanding animal professional awards. These employees have had a significant impact on Moody Gardens through outstanding dedication, competence, conscientious performance, excellence in engaging guests and ingenuity.

The 2015 Outstanding Animal Care Professionals are: Dave Brossette, T’Noya Gonzales, Karen Holcroft, Marci Kurtz, Maggie Reynolds and Sean Salinger. As evidenced by their dedication to their job, only 3 recipients were present at the awards lunch on Tuesday, 21 July as duty called the others away.

Marci Kurtz, Sean Salinger and T’Noya Gonzales receive their recognition.
Marci Kurtz, Sean Salinger and T’Noya Gonzales receive their recognition.

Shark Finning Banned in Texas!

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After years of campaigns to bring awareness and promote change, the trading of shark fins has finally been outlawed in Texas.

Texas became the 10th state, and the first Gulf coast state to prohibit the sale of shark fins after Governor Greg Abbott signed a new bill on June 20. The new law is a win for shark conservation groups across the globe, since Texas had become a major location in the shark fin trading business.

Finning is federally banned in U.S. waters, but import and export of them is still allowed in a lot of places stateside. That is no longer the case in the country’s second largest state.

Moody Gardens Animal Husbandry Manager Greg Whittaker helped organize a unified letter of support amongst the 17 Association of Zoos and Aquariums accredited facilities across the state to bring awareness to this growing issue. Whittaker says:

“The International trade in shark fins is convoluted and difficult to track and Texas was being used as a major exporter to Asia with a reported 50% of the US total shark fins transiting through our state.  This legislation effectively closes the trans-shipping loophole and protects the well managed, sustainable Texas fisheries.  It is an important step in closing down the supply lines in a wasteful exploitation of wildlife.  This is a good thing for sharks and we are proud to work with the Humane Society of the US in achieving this victory.”

What exactly is shark finning? It’s a brutal act against one of the ocean’s most iconic animals.

Fishermen capture sharks in the ocean and slice off their fins. The sharks are then thrown back into the water where they either drown or bleed to death.

The process is essentially the ocean’s version of killing an elephant or a rhino for its tusk or horn.

The shark fin is so special because it can make a lot of money. A pound of shark fin can go for as high as $880 dollars. The main use of the fins is shark fin soup, a delicacy in China. The soup normally sells for around $100.

An estimated 100 million sharks are killed each year, with 73 million of those being used to create shark fin. Around 98 percent of the animal is wasted when it is only harvested for its fin.

Shark finning is largely responsible for a major decrease in shark populations. Some species have seen their numbers decrease by 99 percent. Overall, around 32 percent of open-ocean sharks are threatened with extinction.

The new Texas law certainly will help reduce the trade in shark fins globally , but there is still a long way to go. If you want to find out how you can help end shark finning, visit wildaid.org.

Have questions on this? Join us tomorrow for our #MGSharkTalk and our shark experts will answer them for you. CLICK HERE for more info.

#JurassicZooKeepers: Moody Gardens Edition!

It’s not always easy being a zoo keeper! Good thing we’ve got our very own set of #JurassicZooKeepers to keep everything under control. Our keepers tamed the most ferocious Moody Gardens animals using the Chris Pratt’s Jurassic World training tactic. Okay, they might not be the most ferocious animals but they are still pretty cool:

Snake Jurassic

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komodo jurrassic

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Do you want to be a #JurassicZooKeeper too? You’re in luck because we also have dinosaurs! Visit our Dinos Alive exhibit and join in on the fun! Share your best #JurassicZooKeeper photo on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram using the hashtags #DinosAlive and #JurassicZooKeeper. Ready, set…rawr! 

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Moody Gardens Assists Texas State Aquarium with Restocking Efforts

Following a tragedy at the Texas State Aquarium last month, the AZA aquarium community stepped up in support of our colleagues with offers of replacement exhibit specimens from our own collections.  Moody Gardens was able to contribute 18 exhibit fish to this effort.  Donated specimens included 8 Pompano, 3 Rock Beauty Angelfish, 3 Porcupine Puffers, 1 Red Drum, 1 Red Snapper, 1 Crevalle Jack, and 1 Tripletail.

We were also able to transport these fish as well as 8 adult cownose stingrays from the Houston Downtown Aquarium to Corpus Christi and assist in getting them put directly on display.  This effort is one small part of the larger AZA community response that emphasizes the collaborative collection management that makes our industry so strong.

For more information on how you can help, visit texasstateaquarium.org/support-us/recovery-fund/

Taveta Golden Weavers

Taveta Golden Weavers – Rainforest Pyramid

A group of 22 Taveta Golden Weavers are the newest addition to the Rainforest Pyramid! This small, yellow bird is an African (Kenya and Tanzania) species of songbird that weaves oval shaped nests. The males are the nest builders and they usually are colonial nesters. Females pick a mate based on the male’s skill at weaving. The males are already making themselves at home and are working on more than 3 different nests at the moment. Make sure to look up and see if you can spot them next time you visit the Rainforest Pyramid!

SPONGEBOB SUBPANTS ADVENTURE OPENS MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND IN GRAND STYLE!

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Moody Gardens invites you to come help us celebrate the debut of the SpongeBob SubPants Adventure as it opens its doors to the public on May 23. Moody Gardens has planned a Memorial Day weekend full of fun and festive entertainment for the whole family to enjoy!

The free public activities are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on May 23 and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on May 24 and 25 in the Discovery Pyramid Plaza and Herb Garden.

Activities include:

  • Meet and Greet with SpongeBob SquarePants, Patrick Star and Sandy Cheeks (*Sandy only on Sunday)
  • Watch Nickelodeon illustrators create original SpongeBob SquarePants artwork. Those who visit the SpongeBob SubPants Adventure on May 23 will have the chance to win some of these one-of-a-kind drawings.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants-themed arts-and-crafts
  • Hourly performances from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on May 23 by Houston’s Sweft Dance Troupe as they show guests and Sandy Cheeks how to line dance to songs themed around Sandy’s home state of Texas.

The SpongeBob SubPants Adventure is a one-of-a-kind interactive experience that guests on a submarine voyage to explore the world of Bikini Bottom with the help of their captain, Patrick Star. Guests are able to have real-time conversations with Patrick and will help choose their path through the wild and silly deep-sea adventure for the whole family to enjoy only at Moody Gardens. Admission is $18.95 for adults and $16.95 for seniors and children. It is also included in a Moody Gardens Value Pass.

For more information, call (800) 582-4673 or visit www.moodygardens.org.

Celebrate Mother’s Day Weekend at Moody Gardens!

We’ve got a fun-filled Mother’s Day weekend ahead of us! Join us for any of the following events and activities:

FRIDAY – SUNDAY | Red Cat Jazz Festival:

Red Cat Jazz Festival 2015Red Cat Jazz Preservation Society, Inc. presents the 5th annual Red Cat Jazz Festival at the Moody Gardens Hotel! There will be four days of non-stop live jazz concerts featuring a variety of local and international jazz artists. Invited guests include Grammy winner Kirk Whalum, Ronnie Laws, Rick Braun, Norman Brown, Mindi Abair, Peter White, Hiroshima, Jazz in Pink, Mike Phillips and a host of others.

The 2015 festival will feature the following:

  • Friday, May 8: Celebrity Golf Classic hosted by Mike Phillips at the Moody Gardens Golf Course, Veteran’s Luncheon, VIP All-White Attire Poolside Party and After Party
  • Saturday, May 9: Red Cat for Pink, Women Empowerment Conference, T.E.A.M. Scholarship Workshop and Live Jazz Concerts
  • Sunday, May 10: Red Cat Jazz Legends Awards Breakfast and Live Jazz Concerts

CLICK HERE for more information

SATURDAY | 9 A.M. | Birding 101
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Presented by Moody Gardens® and Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council, Birding 101 is a series of free classes designed to educate and excite people about the tremendous variety of bird life routinely seen around Galveston Island. Classes are from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and meet at the Aquarium Pyramid lobby.

SATURDAY | 10 A.M. | Demo Day at the Moody Gardens Golf Course

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Representatives from Titleist, Callaway and Ping will be at the Driving Range with all the latest technologies for you to try out! If you have been thinking about getting new clubs, or just curious about the new products available, this day is for you! For more information, contact PGA Professional, Rick Christ, at (409) 683-1201 or rchrist@moodygardens.org.

SUNDAY | 11 A.M. | Mother’s Day Buffets

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Treat mom to one of our special Mother’s Day Buffets this Sunday.

The Garden Restaurant will be serving a wide array of fruits, fresh greens, and scrumptious entrées like carved prime rib and hand-sliced Texas rope sausage from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. A special dessert spread of cakes, cookies and pies will also be included. Buffet prices are $35.95 for adults, $25.95 for seniors, $15.95 for children ages 5-12 and free for children 4 and under. For the full menu, CLICK HERE.

The Moody Gardens Hotel is also hosting their decadent Mother’s Day Buffet! Enjoy complimentary Bloody Marys and Mimosas as well as smoked prime rib, carved yucatan grouper, herb roasted chicken and more! Prices for the Mother’s Day Buffet are $52.95 for adults, $42.95 for seniors, $24.95 for children 4-12, and children three and under are free. Seating times for the Mother’s Day Buffet are available every half hour from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. For Buffet reservations call 409-683-4466. For the full menu, CLICK HERE.

SUNDAY | Mother’s Day Special at the Moody Garden’s Golf Course

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Moms play FREE at the Moody Gardens Golf Course on Mother’s Day (Sunday, May 10) with a paid accompanying round! Limit one free green/cart fee round per paid green/cart fee. Call 409-683-4653 and mention this post to make a tee time.

SUNDAY | Last Day to Discover the Ice Age

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Be sure to visit Discover the Ice Age in the Discovery Pyramid before it closes its doors on May 10! This is an exciting and educational exhibition that invites you to travel back in time to discover a frigid world, covered in ice and occupied by mammoths, saber-toothed cats, bears, gigantic birds, cave people and more. The exhibit features life-sized animatronic animals, real fossils, some of which can be touched by our guests, and cast skeletons set within elaborate Ice Age scenery.

NEW SPONGEBOB SUBPANTS ADVENTURE FEATURES NEVER-BEFORE-SEEN TECHNOLOGY

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Always among the leaders in use of state-of-the-art technology, Moody Gardens is showcasing another first in entertainment with the opening of its new attraction, the SpongeBob SubPants Adventure.

Moody Gardens has partnered with Nickelodeon, Super 78 and SimEx-Iwerks Entertainment to create this innovative attraction opening in the Discovery Pyramid on May 23. Harnessing the power of modern computer technology and classic artistic techniques, a group of designers, engineers, fabricators and  animators who are responsible for many of the world’s leading theme park attractions have come together to create the SpongeBob SubPants Adventure.

Guests will experience a whole new kind of submarine adventure as they take the “Le Plunger” into the hyper-real, life-sized world of Bikini Bottom which is viewed through a 30-foot wide observation window. Patrick Star and the rest of his animated underwater pals are seen on screen through 3D technology, as guests are able to have real-time conversations with him and help choose their path through the underwater adventure. To further immerse guests, four large viewing portholes bring the experience of the entire submarine to life.

To make this all possible, Super 78, an attraction design and production company, has provided their newest custom software and hardware for the SpongeBob SubPants Adventure named the Gepettoo. This Animation Control System allows a performer behind the scenes to control all aspects of the full-sensory experience on screen in front of audiences. The performer’s voice becomes an on-screen character, and he has an unlimited palette of animation options which brings the character to life. The performer also runs the lights, sounds, bubbles, and scents with the push of a button.

SimEx-Iwerks Entertainment created custom seats, designed and installed all theater systems and programmed special effects in new ways to enhance the adventure. They worked closely with Super 78 to integrate the virtual actor system into the overall attraction.

“This collaboration creates an emotionally engaging experience with innovative technology and definitely takes 4D storytelling to the next level,” said Mike Frueh, Senior Vice President, Licensing & Distribution at SimEx-Iwerks.

Also used in the design of this breakthrough attraction is Mushroom VR, a proprietary attraction design tool that utilizes the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset to pre-visualize the experience. It provides an accurate guest-experience assessment of all the attraction content, including 3D environments, media, scenic and show elements, making it seem as if you are submerged within Bikini Bottom.

“For the first time ever, the SpongeBob SubPants Adventure will allow guests to interact ‘live and in person’ with a 3D digital character, a major breakthrough in digital puppetry,” said Michael “Oz” Smith, Super 78’s Technical Director. “And because guests also help navigate the sub, choosing which direction the adventure takes, every voyage will be truly one-of-a-kind.”

This world-class technology immerses guests in a non-stop whirlwind of surprises with fun for the whole family to enjoy.

For more information, visit moodygardens.org/subpants

SpongeBob SquarePants Adventure Lets Guests Choose Their Own Submarine Adventure

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Moody Gardens guests can visit iconic destinations and meet their favorite underwater characters from Nickelodeon’s global phenomenon SpongeBob SquarePants when the SpongeBob SubPants Adventure debuts in the Discovery Pyramid this Memorial Day weekend. Guests will experience all the stages of a submarine voyage, complete with live animals and a visit from the hapless captain, Patrick Star, who takes you on a wild and silly deep-sea adventure:

  • The doors open to a pier-themed pre-show area filled with hands-on activities and tanks full of remarkable sea life. Guests will be transported back in time through L’Oceanauts Submarine Explorations’ vintage “mission briefing” film that explores the beauty of coral reefs.
  • The audience will encounter real sea stars, jellyfish, sea sponges and squids while also learning about the importance of sea-life conservation.
  • Then, step aboard “Le Plunger” submarine and take your 3D glasses before you depart from the dock for open water. The SUB then descends to a familiar underwater town as SpongeBob SquarePants and your tour guide, Patrick Star, appear through the front window of the SUB.
  • Have improvised, real-time interaction with Patrick while he takes you to destinations of your choosing through Bikini Bottom.
  • They can have their fortune read by Patrick in Goo Lagoon, try the jellyfish dating call in Jellyfish Fields or learn a special dance from Sandy Cheeks. Guests will also try to stop Plankton from taking over the SUB in his evil plan to steal the Krabby Patty secret formula.
  • Smell the sunscreen, pop bubbles above your head and hit around a beach ball when the 3D images on the screen transform from digital to real time through exciting 4D sensory elements and live narration.

The SpongeBob SubPants Adventure is a non-stop whirlwind of surprises that is fun for the whole family only at Moody Gardens!

For more information, call (800) 582-4673 or visit www.moodygardens.org.

©2015 Viacom International Inc. All Rights Reserved. Nickelodeon, SpongeBob SquarePants and all related titles, logos and characters are
trademarks of Viacom International Inc. Created by Stephen Hillenburg.

MG SPOTLIGHT: Wild Almond Tree

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Spring is finally in the air, which means many of Moody Gardens’ 20,000 plants and trees will soon be blooming.

One of the trees currently in bloom is the Sterculia foetida, also known as the Wild Almond tree.

Native to East Africa, the Wild Almond’s genus is taken from Sterculius of Roman mythology, the god of manure. The name is in reference to the unpleasant aroma of the Wild Almond flowers.

While its flower’s smell isn’t the best, the tree’s wood is so durable that it is used as masts for ships. It also produces large nuts that are dark, smooth, woody and boat shaped. The nuts burst open to reveal many filbert-sized black seeds which are roasted and eaten like chestnuts.

Sound like a good ingredient for your next trail mix? Well there is a downside to these nuts. If eaten raw and in excess, it can cause nausea and vertigo.

The Wild Almond’s leaves and bark have considerable medicinal value thanks to an extract called Gum karaya. The extract is used as a thickener and emulsifier in foods, as a laxative, and as a denture adhesive. The oil from its seeds is also given internally for itching and skin diseases.

The Wild Almond doesn’t bloom for very long. In fact, as you can see from the photos, the Moody Gardens Wild Almond is almost done, with small, reddish flowers that are borne in clusters.

It doesn’t bloom for very long, in fact, it’s about done….flowers are small, reddish & borne in clusters. And yes…they do stink. Thanks Sterculius!