Category: Animals (page 1 of 3)

MOODY GARDENS HONORED WITH AZA QUARTER CENTURY AWARD

The Association of Zoos & Aquariums Recognized Moody Gardens with an Esteemed Award as Staff is Credited for 25 Years of Service and Standards

 

The Rainforest and Aquarium Pyramids at Moody Gardens were recognized with the Quarter Century Award by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums at the AZA Annual 2021 Conference on September 24. Moody Gardens has been AZA accredited continuously since 1996.

 

AZA serves as an accrediting body for zoos and aquariums and ensures that accredited facilities meet the exceptional standards of animal care that exceeds those required by law. The Quarter Century Award is an outstanding and rare achievement only given to facilities that have been AZA-accredited for 25 consecutive years. AZA accreditation is the highest standard of excellence in animal care attainable in the zoo and aquarium industry.

 

Every 5 years, the accreditation process requires participating zoos and aquariums to undergo a rigorous inspection and review to ensure it meets ever-rising industry standards in animal management and care, that includes living environments, social groupings, heath and nutrition. The AZA Accreditation Commission also evaluates an institution’s veterinary program, involvement in conservation and research, education programs, safety procedures, security, physical facilities, guest services and the quality of staff. Fewer than 10 percent of the approximate 2,800 animal exhibitors licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture are AZA-accredited. Only 142 zoos and aquariums in the U.S. have received the AZA Quarter Century Award.

 

“We are honored by this award. Moody Gardens has an outstanding team without whom this achievement would not be possible,” said John Zendt, Moody Gardens President and CEO, who added how fortunate the facility is to have such a seasoned staff of professionals. “Their knowledge, passion and standard for excellence is what has created such a great workplace, home for our animals and a fantastic venue for our visitors for the past 25 years.”

 

A total of 39 employees from numerous departments ranging from Curatorial and Maintenance to Education and more have been employed by Moody Gardens for over 20 years and contributed to this achievement through their areas of expertise.

MOODY GARDENS WELCOMES DUKE TO THE NORTH PACIFIC EXHIBIT

Duke, the California Sea Lion, came to Moody Gardens from the Denver Zoo on May 20th.

 

Moody Gardens welcomes their latest addition to the North Pacific exhibit as Duke the California sea lion settles into his new home with his new aquatic friends. Duke came to Moody Gardens from the Denver Zoo as a result of that facility having to undergo construction on their sea lion exhibit. Moody Gardens was able to provide accommodations with a solution that was mutually beneficial inside of the North Pacific exhibit in the Aquarium Pyramid.

The North Pacific exhibit is approximately 20 feet deep and is currently home to four Harbor seals and one other California sea lion named Sam. California sea lions are typically herd animals by nature and Duke is the perfect size and age to make a great companion for Sam. Introductions have begun in the exhibit between the Harbor seals, Sam and Duke. Although it will take some time for him to get acclimated to his new environment, the Harbor seals and Sam are quite intrigued with their new friend. The aquarium biologists are monitoring them closely to see how their chemistry builds in the coming weeks.

 

Duke recently turned seven years old on June 15th and he is expected to be a social and active addition for the other seals and sea lion in the exhibit. He has proven to perform his animal husbandry behaviors with ease and has been a joy to work with. Blowing raspberries and people watching are a couple of his favorite ways to pass the time, as well as trailing along with his new friends. “Duke will make the perfect companion for Sam, our other California sea lion, and having him here has been a great addition to the North Pacific exhibit,” said Aquarium Curator Diane Olsen.

 

California sea lions are usually found on islands off of Southern California and Baja California in Mexico, up the U.S. West Coast to Vancouver Island, Canada. Their diets consist of primarily fish and squid and they can remain underwater for an average of 20 minutes at a time. Although their population is increasing in the wild and they are currently listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List, having California sea lions on exhibit allows Moody Gardens to educate the public about the issues that these marine mammals face in the wild. California sea lions are impacted greatly by human activity including pollution, boat propellers and attacks by domestic animals while pupping along the beaches.
Visit Duke and his exhibit mates inside the North Pacific exhibit inside the Aquarium Pyramid. The Moody Gardens Aquarium Pyramid is one of the largest and most diverse aquariums in the United States. With over 1.5 million gallons of water, the Aquarium Pyramid houses marine life from five distinct environments. Not only does the collection include seals and sea lions, but they also have penguins, sting rays, sharks and over 200 different species of fish.

MOODY GARDENS INTRODUCES THE GOLDEN GIRLS OF TEXAS

Starring a Chinstrap Penguin Named Fox and a Few Other Gals – the Oldest in North America.

 

In honor of Penguin Awareness Day, Moody Gardens introduces their Texas Golden Girls, a few of the oldest Chinstrap penguins in captivity in North America. The star of the show being Fox, the second oldest Chinstrap penguin. Fox hatched one day after the first oldest, who resides at SeaWorld San Antonio. Chinstrap penguins in the wild have an average lifespan of about 15 to 20 years, while the oldest penguin at Moody Gardens turned 37 last month.

 

Fox resides in a smaller extension of the South Atlantic exhibit behind the scenes at the Moody Gardens Aquarium Pyramid, along with a few other geriatric penguins that aren’t able to get around as well as they used to. Another Golden Girl is Gandalf, she is also a 37 year old Chinstrap penguin at Moody Gardens and she hatched about a week after Fox. There are three other Chinstrap penguins that are 34 years old in their little community, as well as three more that are still on exhibit and can be seen inside of the South Atlantic exhibit or from home on the live penguin webcam at MoodyGardens.org. Most of the penguins inside of the retirement community at Moody Gardens are female and being recognized as the Golden Girls of Texas.

 

Fox was collected as an egg by SeaWorld in 1983 and hatched at SeaWorld San Diego. She was moved to Moody Gardens in 2003 and has been thriving ever since. The biologists who care for her liken her to the local mall walkers as she makes her daily laps around the pool to stay active in her senior years. She does have minor arthritis and a degenerated eye due to a detached retina, but she sure doesn’t let those things keep her from having a good time.

 

Wagner was previously the oldest Chinstrap penguin according to Association of Zoos and Aquariums records and the North American Studbook. He passed away at 34 years old, and called Moody Gardens home; though Fox and the other 37 year old Chinstrap penguins have now surpassed that. This demonstrates the excellent quality of care that the biologists at Moody Gardens take when it comes to their animals. The biologists provide enrichment for the penguins and other animals on a daily basis, enrichment is anything that changes up their environment and makes their life a little different every day.

 

“We tailor animal enrichment to each individual, for the penguins in our retirement home that may not have the best vision or be able to get around like they used to, we typically use auditory or textile enrichment like jingle bells and windchimes or felt and towels for them to hang out on, “ noted Senior Biologist Maggie Reynolds.

 

Having these Chinstrap penguins on exhibit allows Moody Gardens to educate the public about the issues that these birds face in the wild. Chinstrap penguins, which are native to the Sub-Antarctic region of the world, are listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List. However, wild colonies are slowly decreasing in population due to climate change and overfishing. Limited food resources causes these birds to have to travel further from shore to hunt for fish, and therefore renders them more vulnerable to predation and other natural elements.

 

The Moody Gardens Aquarium Pyramid is one of the largest and most diverse aquariums in the United States. In addition to the Chinstrap penguins, five other species including Gentoo, King, Macaroni, and Rockhopper penguins also call the South Atlantic Exhibit home. The warm-climate Humboldt penguins live in an exhibit right next door to their chilly-aired friends. With over 1.5 million gallons of water, the Aquarium Pyramid houses marine life from five distinct environments. Not only does the collection include penguins, but they also have sting rays, sharks, seals, sea lions and over 200 different species of fish.

 

Louie, The Country’s Oldest Jumping Rat Passes Away at Age 12

Moody Gardens was sad to recently announce the passing of Louie, the oldest jumping rat in the collective U.S. population.

Giant jumping rats are a nocturnal, endangered species native to Madagascar who face challenges in the wild including habitat loss, slow reproduction and limited range. Within the ecosystem they occupy a niche rabbits would normally fill in other areas of the world. They are monogamous and breed during the rainy season giving birth to one or two offspring. Their lifespan in the wild can be about six years while they can live to be around 10 in facilities like Moody Gardens.

Louie’s favorite foods were banana and peanut butter and he loved to train with his keepers as well as forage for bugs that were fed by our biologists to the Pygmy Slow Lorises but dropped by them onto the floor of the exhibit they shared in the Rainforest Pyramid.

Louie will be greatly missed by the Moody Gardens staff and his keepers, as any animal loss is considered a loss of family. We know that many of our guests will miss him as well. Do you have a photo or favorite memory of Louie? Share it with us on social media!

Rescued Seals Make a Splash at Aquarium Pyramid

The journey began 11 months ago for two harbor seals in peril named Tomato and Ravioli in Crescent City, California. They now have settled into a splendid forever home in Galveston, Texas at Moody Gardens Aquarium Pyramid. Both harbor seal pups were rescued and cared for last year by the Northcoast Marine Mammal Center in Crescent City. Due to health issues both pups were deemed non-releasable to the wild.  Both arrived to Moody Gardens at the end of February and have made great progress since arriving. Tomato and Ravioli officially went on exhibit and made their public debut on July 11, 2018.

Following their arrival both Tomato and Ravioli needed additional exercise and training to prepare for their exhibit. Originally upon release they would have hunted on their own, so the great people at the stranding center made sure they had some reserves to get by on until they started catching fish on their own. Since they have a new home at Moody Gardens there’s no need for that extra weight, so they have slimmed down to a healthier weight. “Now that they are both at normal weights for their age and species, we are able to take better care of them and provide for all of their needs,” said Maggie Reynolds, Moody Gardens biologist.

Both seals have had their share of personal health struggles. Tomato had severe injuries due to a suspected dog attack. His injuries healed, but did leave him blind in one eye. This attack led to Tomato not being able to forage for himself in the wild deeming him non-releasable.

Ravioli suffers from a vestibular disorder causing her to suffer from neurologic and balance difficulties. She suffered from seizures as well. All of these problems made her unable to hunt successfully in the wild.

Both seals have had an interesting journey, but it hasn’t slowed down their progress one bit since arriving. “Our focus is healthy, interactive animals who will build trusting relationships with us through positive reinforcement training and enrichment. Both are excited for their training sessions and are learning new things as fast as we can figure out how best to teach them,” said Allison Folsom, Moody Gardens biologist.

Both Tomato and Ravioli are now on exhibit inside the Aquarium Pyramid and enjoying seeing guests who are anxious to meet them. Fellow seals and sea lions at Moody Gardens have joined them in the exhibit to create one big happy family. Tomato and Ravioli are right at home at Moody Gardens, which is the perfect happy ending to their enduring and heartfelt journey.

Guests can see Tomato and Ravioli in their new habitat at the Aquarium Pyramid daily, but also on the live seal cam at www.moodygardens.org/sealwebcam which is available 24 hours a day seven days a week.

The Birds of Moody Gardens – Spring Migration Summary

Yesterday I found myself taking a deep breath.  The spring migration seemingly came to an abrupt end as I flipped my calendar from April to May.  The combination of southeast winds and calm weather purged our coastal habitat of all those colorful Passerines that took a brief rest stop here on our Island.  Last night as I completed my eBird lists for the weekend and transcribed all the species tallies into the excel file I’ve been using to track sightings, the magnitude of what happened through the month of April was striking.  I offer my sincerest apologies to my family, friends and colleagues that weren’t as obsessed with birds this past month as I clearly was.  I realize looking at the number of species encountered, and moreover, the time spent looking for them, that April is by far the birdiest month of the year for us here in Galveston and for this project here on the Moody Gardens property and Golf Course.

During April the property species list jumped from 111 to 179 and the Golf Course list saw a similar jump from 73 to 114.  There continue to be 11 species seen at the Golf Course that were not encountered here on our main property, yielding an overall species total of 190 for this year-long project as we enter only the 5th month.  There will continue to be spring migrants working through this area as we move through May and early June, but the main influx of birds moving north is mostly complete.  I’ll be looking for a handful of shorebirds and perhaps another 2 or 3 Warblers over the next month.  After that, the birds that can be seen from property should stabilize until we start to see the dribble of the fall migration moving more slowly through the area in late August or early September.  Looking at the list of possibilities that might be tallied through the summer, I’d only anticipate adding perhaps another dozen species to the overall count before the cooler weather near the end of 2018.

The property map above is a good depiction of the various habitats here on Moody Gardens that have been the best locations for seeing resident and migratory species.  I’ve inserted numbers that loosely follow the order that I typically survey when I drive on property in the morning.  In early April I started doing a slow drive down the east side of the hedge running down the east side of Hope Blvd.  This area proved to be a great location to see a variety of the more cryptically patterned thrushes and small ground warblers using the shady cover as they foraged through leaves for insects.  The water treatment plant is a good reference building with a large mulberry tree and cluster of bottlebrush plants in the east hedge along Hope Blvd.  There is also a water slough that runs under Hope Blvd from Schlitterbahn and out to the Lake Madeline channel that borders our east side of property.  Incidentally, I have been surveying this shoreline starting at the Jones Drive bridge in the top right corner of the map by driving out the gravel roads by Galveston Rentals and around the south fence line of the Municipal Sewage Plant.

Locations 3 and 4 are the areas where I survey the Lake Madeline channel and old marina near the apartments to the northeast of Moody Gardens.  The heavily vegetated areas around the west and north sides of the Learning Place education building proved to be excellent locations for the migratory birds as well as a nesting aggregation of Yellow-crowned Night Herons and Green Herons.  The mulberry tree along the southeast corner of this complex as well as the bottlebrush in the south courtyard of the Learning Place were hotspots for warblers, tanagers and vireos while the low, dense shrubs to the west of the entry door were excellent places to look for thrushes, ovenbirds, waterthrushes and an elusive Swainson’s Warbler.

The entire shoreline between the Marina Dock and Colonel Dock were viewable along the tram road running south of Palm Beach and north of the Visitor Center, Rainforest, Discovery Museum and large white tent.  During the peak of the migration onslaught, I added a stop to look through the large oaks and shrubs on the south side of the Visitor Center with a few late migration additions showing up in that canopy area.

The mulch pile, experimental tree farm and north marsh are a large area that didn’t receive as much attention as it probably should have.  Access to these areas requires walking and the prairie and marsh habitat tends to be a bit soggy at times and harbors hungry mosquitos, so be forewarned that it’s not an easy stroll down sidewalks or tram trails like the other areas on property.

Finally, the retention ditch on the west side of the Aquarium continues to be a great showcase for shorebirds and wading birds as well as a few warblers and buntings.  This feature is primarily a freshwater runoff retention area with some saltwater influence from Aquarium operations.  The sediment and nutrient inflows create a prolific vegetation community that then provides habitat (shelter) and a dynamic food web that attracts and supports the birds that seem to thrive in there.

 

 

 

Written by Greg Whitaker

Cold-stunned Green Sea Turtles released after being cared for at Moody Gardens

More than 90 Green Sea Turtles that were rescued last week after suffering from cold-stun were safely released to warmer waters off North Padre Island Wednesday afternoon.

These beautiful turtles, ranging in size from 6 pounds to a whopping 70 pounds, called Moody Gardens home since last week following a dramatic drop in temperatures that left the turtles stranded in East Matagorda Bay, about 100 miles southwest of Galveston. 

In all, nearly 300 Green Sea Turtles were rescued along a five-mile stretch of the bay. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) led the rehabilitation mission. With an animal holding facility, complete with large holding tanks, Moody Gardens was happy to partner with NOAA to offer a home, and rehabilitation, for the turtles until it was time for their release.

NOAA released about 75 turtles off North Padre Island Tuesday with another 200 released Wednesday. Some turtles will remain at NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Lab here on Galveston Island until they are well enough to be released back into the wild.

Officials chose North Padre Island, just south of Corpus Christi, as the release site so that the turtles will enter warmer waters. Another cold front is expected to hit the Galveston area this Friday, and the goal is to release the turtles into warmer waters before that happens. The cold front shouldn’t impact North Padre Island and the surrounding area.

Green Sea Turtles feed on sea grasses found in the shallow bay waters. They were in the East Matagorda Bay area last week when temperatures dropped to freezing, leaving them cold-stunned and unable to retreat to warmer waters. Cold-stun can happen when water temperatures drop to 50 degrees. When that happens, the turtle’s metabolism shuts down and they respond by expanding their lungs and floating to the top of the water. Doing so can further expose them as they let cooler air into their lungs. Unable to swim, many are pushed up to the shoreline.

Turtles were triaged as they were rescued. They were measured, weighed and checked for any abnormalities and wounds. Those deemed healthy were sent to Moody Gardens while those who were wounded were cared for NOAA’s fisheries lab.

Staff and volunteers cleaned turtles, scrubbing off algae, debris, grime, barnacles, and in some cases even oysters. Tags were attached to the turtles’ front flippers. Internal tags were also placed so that the animals can be tracked in the future, if needed.

Moody Gardens’ mission has always focused on conserving natural spaces and resources. Looking at the natural habitat around Moody Gardens, sea turtles are probably one of the highest profile species that live in our native waters and are in need of our help.

Meet our new Friends in the Forest!

The stork was busy in July, visiting Moody Gardens twice in the Rainforest Pyramid with the birth of a Blue Duiker calf and just a week later with a Prehensile-Tailed porcupette.

Our female baby Blue Duiker was born July 22 at just 420 grams to proud parents Basi and Ruben. Soksi is Swahili for “socks”, which is fitting since her front feet are white, giving the appearance that she’s wearing a pair of socks. This is the first pregnancy for Basi and first breeding for Moody Gardens.

Blue Duikers are one of the smallest antelope. They are native to central, eastern and southern Africa and are actually longer than they are tall – reaching 22-35 inches in length and 13-16 inches tall. They can weigh 7-20 pounds and have short, spiky horns on their head.

The stork visited again on July 31, delivering a porcupine, born to mom Cora and dad Bono. This is the second birth for Cora, who delivered her first porcupette last summer. The baby was born with soft hair that will harden into quills with age. Once the quills come in, biologists will send one off to learn the gender of the porcupette.

Prehensile-Tailed Porcupines are native to Central and South America. They are tree-dwelling and typically weigh between 4-11 pounds and their tails are nearly as long as their entire body!

And, that’s not all.

 Our Giant River Otters Dru and Ella welcomed Maximo and Manuel to the exhibit this month, doubling the number of otters you can spot inside the Rainforest.

Maximo and Manuel, both 2 years old, came to Moody Gardens from the Los Angeles Zoo, where they were born.  The two new male otters will be companions for Dru and Ella.

Be sure to stop by and see all our friendly new faces!

Moody Gardens welcomes warm-climate Humboldt penguins to aquarium

There’s a new group of birds on the block at Moody Gardens and we’re thrilled to introduce them. Meet the Humboldts!

These unique warm-climate penguins hail from the coastal areas of Peru and Chile, but this group will now call the Aquarium Pyramid their new home and are settling in nicely in their new exhibit near the South Atlantic Penguin Habitat, home to the King, Gentoo, Chinstrap, Rockhopper and Macaroni penguins.

Contrary to belief, not all penguins love the cold. The majority of penguin species actually live in warm climates. The Humboldt’s natural habitat is more like a desert, and you’ll easily notice the difference between it and our South Atlantic Penguin Habitat.You’ll be able to see this threatened species above water and underwater, where they can swim up to 30 miles per hour!

The Humboldts are easily recognizable by the black band of feathers across their chest and the pink patches on their face, feet and the underside of their wings. You may think you’re seeing pink feathers, but it’s actually bare skin. Humboldts have to avoid overheating, so when they get too hot, they can shed extra body heat by sending blood to the bare parts of their bodies, thus making them pink.

We’re not only adding new penguins to the aquarium – we’re giving you a chance to see them up close when we bring the Humboldts outside of their exhibit for keeper chats and to interact with guests!

The addition of the Humboldt Penguin Exhibit is just part of the multi-phase $37 million renovation at the Aquarium Pyramid. You’ll get to meet the Humboldts, and their new friends, starting May 27 when Moody Gardens hosts a grand reveal at the aquarium.

World Penguin Day 2016

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Ever wondered what these tuxedo wearing birds enjoy eating? Where they’re from? Celebrated annually on April 25th World Penguin Day is a day that is meant to show appreciation to these cool birds and learn things such as biology, origin and more. In honor of this holiday we thought to include some cool information…enjoy!

  • Worldwide there are currently 17 species of penguin.
  • These flightless birds can be located mostly in the Southern Hemisphere from Antarctica to other places like South Africa and New Zealand.
  • Spending the majority of their time in the water their diet consists of seafood life such as fish, squid and krill.
  • The prominent black/white coat is used as a form of camouflage from predators in the water. From below their white chest blends in against the surface of the water and from above their black back appears like the dark depths of the ocean.
  • During breeding season most species of penguin will build nests of rocks in preparation of a chick.
  • Once a penguin has laid an egg most species share the incubation, while the other seeks food.
  • Once the egg has hatched the chick will begin calling the parents to get them to recognize its voice. As you can imagine this helps a lot when the chick is left with a huge group!

Be sure to stop by the Moody Gardens Aquarium Pyramid, the largest aquarium in Texas. With 1.5 million gallons of water, the building houses life from four distinct ocean environments including more than 80 penguins such as Gentoo, Rockhopper, Macaroni, Chinstrap and King Penguins. Recent upgrades were made to the penguin exhibit earlier this year showcasing a swankier, brighter living space for our little friends.

Click this link to see what our guys are up to!

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