Moody Gardens is thrilled to have these playful and interesting birds free-roaming inside the Rainforest Pyramid when Rainforests of the World opens in May 2011. Check out the video and read the fun facts to learn more about this amazing species!

Click here to watch the Lady Ross’ Turaco Video!

Lady Ross turaco

Fun Facts:

Turacos are a food source for many animals larger than themselves. They are so abundant in Africa that they are considered a pest. Their feeding habits are very destructive, which annoys most gardeners. However, they aid in seed dispersal by messily eating fruit. They also eat berries that are considered highly poisonous to humans.

Turacos are the only birds to possess true red and green color. When you look at most birds, the color you are seeing is a reflection produced by the feather structure. The turaco’s red and green pigment both contain copper. In fact, if you stirred a glass of water with a red turaco feather, the water would turn pink!

Both the male and female share time incubating their clutch. Both parents also feed the downy chicks by regurgitation. They keep the nest clean by eating the eggshells and the chick’s droppings. The chicks will not develop the full adult coloration until about one year

Lady Ross’s turacos are very social birds, moving in small noisy flocks. They spend their life among trees in search of fruit until evening when they nest solitary on a platform of twigs.

These birds have mobile outer toes, which they are able to rotate forward or backward!



Moody Gardens welcomes home a group of very special birds. The scarlet ibis have returned to Moody Gardens! This eye-catching species will be free roaming inside the Rainforest Pyramid when the newly enhanced Rainforests of the World Exhibit opens in May 2011.

ibisThe Scarlet Ibis is one of the most striking sights in the world of birds– flying, feeding and nesting in large groups. The unique bright red color of the Scarlet Ibis intensifies as the bird grows older. The long curved beak is used to probe for food in mud and shallow water.  It flies strongly with its neck extended, almost as if gliding.


Q: Where does the scarlet ibis get its vibrant color?

AWatch our newest video to find out!

Blog Post by:
Whitney O’Grady
Rainforest Public Relations Coordinator



Moody Gardens takes you behind the scenes with Cooper, the Moody Gardens ocelot.

Cooper is one of the newest members of the Moody Gardens family. He will be joining his rainforest friends when Rainforests of the World opens in May 2011. Moody Garden’s biologists work closely with Cooper to teach him behaviors that are vital to his care.

Check out the video to learn more about Cooper, the coolest ocelot!

Did you know that Ocelots are endangered?ocelot
The ocelot is listed as endangered by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services (USFWS). Once abundant in many areas throughout the southwest United States and Mexico, today the animal has almost disappeared. It is estimated that as few as 120 ocelots survive in Texas alone. In Central and South America, the ocelot is still hunted for its fur and captured for the pet trade.

Fun Fact:

Cooper LOVES cinnamon and peppermint! Trainers use these spices as a form of enrichment when working with this amazing animal.

Blog Post by:
Whitney O’Grady
Rainforest Public Relations Coordinator


Rodrigues Fruit Bats have made their way to Moody Gardens! This fun and interesting species will be on exhibit in the Bat Habitat inside the newly enhanced Rainforest Pyramid, which opens in May 2011.

The multi-level Bat Habitat will offer viewing opportunities, from the new Rainforest Canopy Walkway down into a subterranean cave environment.

CLICK HERE to watch the video

Interesting Fact:

The species currently numbers just a few hundred in the wild and is classified as critically endangered!


Moody Gardens recently welcomed two-toed sloths to our island paradise!!

Carlton and friends will be free roaming in the newly enhanced Rainforest Pyramid opening in May 2011. Paula Kolvig, assistant curator at the Moody Gardens’ Rainforest Pyramid, takes you into the sloths’ habitat for an up close encounter.



Click here to watch the video!

Fun Fact:

Two-toed sloths spend almost their entire lives hanging upside-down, including eating, sleeping, mating, and giving birth. In fact, they spend so much time hanging upside-down that their fur actually grows from their belly to their back so that rainwater can runoff easily. They are also one of the few species of mammals that can turn their heads 180 degrees in both directions!

Blog Post by:
Whitney O’Grady
Rainforest Public Relations Coordinator



By Leah Boyd
Moody Gardens News

Diane Olsen with Chilly Willy King Penguin
Diane Olsen with Chilly Willy King Penguin. (Photo by Nancy Thompson)

A Moody Gardens animal curator, who led a national effort to find homes for birds displaced by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, was recently honored for her work by the national Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

Diane Olsen, assistant curator at Moody Gardens’ Aquarium Pyramid, received the AZA’s “Outstanding Service Award” Sept. 15 in recognition of her leadership in coordinating an AZA bird rescue initiative in response to the oil spill this summer as well as working to place non-releasable birds in zoos and aquariums across the country. Olsen received the award during the organization’s 2010 national conference, which was held in Houston.

 “AZA facilities have experts in the field, and we are the perfect group to be assisting with these efforts,” said Olsen, a Galveston resident.  “It was important for us to coordinate it. To be recognized for that is just a bonus.”

Olsen’s efforts included rallying more than 150 volunteers from more than 75 AZA-accredited institutions to help with oil spill disaster relief along the coasts of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Although access was limited in some areas, Olsen said, the organization was able to rescue and find homes for nearly 30 birds.

 “We are extremely proud of Diane’s conservation drive and commitment to doing the right thing,” said John Zendt, president and CEO of Moody Gardens. “She is very deserving of this award.”

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in conservation, education, science and recreation. Moody Gardens is an AZA accredited institution.

Moody Gardens event Sept. 11 provides day of freedom on the water for people with disabilities

By Leah Boyd
Moody Gardens News

There are many things 8-year-old Reaghan Velasquez is unable to do being paralyzed from the calves down. This weekend, she found out water skiing isn’t one of them.

The Manvel third-grader was all smiles Saturday afternoon in Galveston as she traded her walker for water-skis for the first time. With excitement, she took off on Offatts Bayou, experiencing a moment of freedom she’ll likely never forget.

“It’s nice to see her happy and able to do things independently,” said Renae Velasquez, Reaghan’s mother. “She’s limited in so many activities, but not today.”

Reaghan Velasquez (right) of Manvel enjoys waterskiing for the first time Sept. 11 alongside volunteer Tim Thelen of Houston at the 20th annual Moody Gardens Adaptive Sports Festival. Reaghan, 8, is paralyzed from the calves down.
Reaghan Velasquez (right) of Manvel enjoys waterskiing for the first time Sept. 11 alongside volunteer Tim Thelen of Houston at the 20th annual Moody Gardens Adaptive Sports Festival. Reaghan, 8, is paralyzed from the calves down.

Reaghan was one of about 100 participants in the 20th annual Moody Gardens Adaptive Sports Festival. The event provides people with disabilities free water sports opportunities through the use of adaptive equipment.

Along with water skiing, participants were able to kayak, sail, hand paddle and ride pontoon boats along the Moody Gardens property. The event was sponsored by Moody Gardens and staffed almost entirely by volunteers.

“People with traumatic brain disorders or whatever disability they are here for don’t always get an opportunity to do something like this,” said volunteer Shelby Dill of Bayou Vista. “I’m really glad Moody Gardens does this.”

Sail and pontoon boats were provided by private donors in the Kemah area. The adaptive water-skis were provided by Texas Adaptive Aquatics in Huffman.

Roger Randall, president of Texas Adaptive Aquatics, said his equipment comes with different parts, such as seats, beginner boards and safety rails, which allow him to adapt water-skis to each person’s abilities.

Felipe Ortez of Galveston (right) was one of about 100 participants in the 2010 Moody Gardens Adaptive Sports Festival.
Felipe Ortez of Galveston (right) was one of about 100 participants in the 2010 Moody Gardens Adaptive Sports Festival.

“I’ve been doing this since 1985,” Randall said. “It’s the excitement of seeing the smiles on their faces. I took out a guy today who has severe mental retardation – water skiing was something he never thought he’d be able to do.”

Changing the perception of what people with disabilities can do is exactly what Moody Gardens had in mind when starting Adaptive Sports Festival 20 years ago. Moody Gardens Marketing Director Jerri Hamachek said the event originated as part of the Moody Gardens Hope Therapy program, which for many years offered rehabilitative horseback-riding to mentally and physically disable individuals.

Today’s Hope Therapy is centered on horticultural therapy – although the program has not been active since Hurricane Ike – and offering special events, such as Adaptive Sports Festival.

Hamachek said the festival Saturday was just one way Moody Gardens works to give back to the community.

“This event is truly meaningful for us,” Hamachek said. “I think it’s just as important to us as it is to the participants.”

For more information on Moody Gardens, visit www.moodygardens.org. To learn more about Texas Adaptive Aquatics, visit www.taasports.org.

Rainforest Pyramid® Enhancement Underway!

By Whitney O’Grady
Moody Gardens News

Moody Gardens has entered the final phase of a $25 million enhancement project that will include a complete redesign of its popular Rainforest Pyramid, providing guest with a two-level experience to explore the rainforests of the world from both the ground and the sky.  The newly enhanced attraction, to be unveiled in May 2011, will also include exciting new exhibits as well as more than 1,000 exotic plants and animals.

Rendering of New Canopy Entrance in Rainforest Pyramid

One of the most dramatic transformations in the Rainforest Pyramid will be a new tree-top canopy entrance and trail that will take guests on a “bird’s eye” exploration of plant and animal life for an entirely new perspective of the attraction. Along the 300-feet-long canopy walkway guests will be greeted by a variety of new exhibits and animals, including butterflies, leafcutter ants and bats that will fly from the tree tops to a new cave exhibit visible on the ground.

A new Mayan exhibit will showcase the culture of the people who use the rainforest for survival. A new exhibit showcasing the endangered Chinese Alligator will be added along with a giant river otter pond that will allow guests to view these amazing animals from multiple vantage points.

Learn about more changes coming to the Rainforest Pyramid by watching an exciting video tour. Click Rainforest Enhancement Video Tour to watch!

Local Russian-American to Tell Stories of Galveston Immigration

Russian Cultural Center Our Texas board member Igor George Alexander will give a presentation focusing on the Russian immigration and settlement in Texas at 1 p.m. Saturday, June 5 at Moody Gardens. The event will be held as a part of the free bi-monthly Cultural Speaker Series featuring individual immigration stories of area residents.

Among the diverse population of Galveston immigrants and settlers, many Russians came to Texas. Russians were prominent particularly in the early 1900s wave of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe. Alexander will discuss why they left their homeland and how they adapted to living in the new world.

The Cultural Speaker Series is in conjunction with the traveling exhibit, Forgotten Gateway: Coming to America through Galveston Island. The exhibit chronicles the Port of Galveston’s largely forgotten history as a major gateway to American immigration from 1845 to 1924. The exhibit is the first of its kind to explore, on a national scale, Galveston’s legacy as a port of entry and its importance in shaping the Texas and U.S. history.

Moody Gardens continues to encourage Galveston immigrants and their descendants to share their stories and artifacts by contacting 409-683-4215. Forgotten Gateway will be on exhibit through Sept. 11, 2010, and admission to the exhibit is $8.95 for adults and $6.95 for children and seniors. For more information about the Cultural Speaker Series and the Forgotten Gateway exhibit, please visit moodygardens.org or call 800-582-4673.


Event: Forgotten Gateway Cultural Speaker Series: Russian Immigrants in Texas

Featured Group: Russian Cultural Center Our Texas, Igor George Alexander

Date/ Time: 1 p.m., Saturday, June 5

Location: Moody Gardens Discovery Pyramid, One Hope Blvd., Galveston

Admission: Free, open to the public

Information: 1-800-582-4673, moodygardens.org

Exhibit: Forgotten Gateway: Coming to America through Galveston Island

Admission: Adults $8.95, children (4-12) & seniors (65+) $6.95

About the Exhibit:

Galveston was a Southern equivalent of Ellis Island. With over 200 original artifacts, Forgotten Gateway chronicles the largely forgotten history of Galveston as a major immigration port between 1845 and 1924.