World Penguin Day 2016

IMG_4710

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!

So Much to Love

From adventuring in the Rainforest Pyramid to the taking a sunset cruise on The Colonel Paddlewheel Boat, there is something for you to make this Valentine’s Day memorable for those that you love.

On February 13 you can make plans with your sweetheart to set sail on a romantic sunset dinner cruise complete with a dinner buffet, DJ, and dancing. This cruise package includes your choice of a bottle of champagne or wine, a rose for your sweetheart, and a souvenir photo. Get a table for two for $200 or a table for four for $380. Seating is limited and reservations are required so be sure to make your reservations now by calling 1-800-582-4673 ext. 4368. For more details and table options, visit our website.

ColonelPhoto evening

We also have our popular Aquarium Valentine’s Day Dinner on February 14. Dive into an underwater dining experience at the Moody Gardens Aquarium Pyramid. The evening includes a chef’s three-course dinner, your choice of a bottle of champagne or wine, a rose for your sweetheart, a souvenir photo, and Aquarium Pyramid admission with our biologists on hand to answer your questions about the Moody Gardens marine animals. Enjoy your romantic dinner while sharks and other beautiful sea creatures swim overhead. There is also the Sealed With A Kiss seating area that treats guests to a table by the seals and sea lions of the North Pacific Exhibit. These playful animals will add a splash of fun to your dining experience. Another option for you and your sweetheart are our Fishin’ For Love tables that have the colorful fish inhabitants provide the perfect backdrop for your romantic evening. The Tunnel of Love section is already sold out. Grab a peak at the seating chart here and make your reservations by calling 1-800-582-4673 ext. 4368.

IMG_1584_SMALL

Love is in the air in the animal kingdom, too! For $29.95 you can join us on February 13 or 14 and see the plants and animals you love as you travel around the world in the Rainforest and Aquarium Pyramids with our Rainforest and Aquarium Combo ticket. Visit the seals, sharks, birds, and even Moody Gardens’ sweet new couple, our Cotton-top Tamarins Victor and Gracie. This is a great option if you are looking to involve the whole family in a Valentine’s Day activity.

IMG_9605_edited_SMALL

For the entire month of February you can also enjoy the Moody Gardens Hotel Valentine’s Room Special. Be sure to book early because this deal is subject to hotel availability. The price is $229 for hotel room, chocolate covered strawberries and champagne, breakfast, and valet service.

You can also enjoy a wonderful Valentine’s Day meal at Shearn’s Seafood and Prime Steaks located in the Moody Gardens Hotel. The menu for the mouthwatering and carefully selected meal can be found here.

Happy Birthday, Wagner, the Oldest Chinstrap Penguin in North America!

Some people think that age is just a number but at Moody Gardens it is something to celebrate, especially when one of our animals has a milestone birthday!

Wagner is one of 15 chinstrap penguins that we have in our Aquarium Pyramid® and she is the oldest of her species in all of North America! Wagner is turning 32 today which is big deal not only because she is the oldest penguin on this continent but because the general lifespan of her species is only in the mid-twenties.

IMG_8786 - Copy_SMALL

While living in our South Atlantic Exhibit Wagner generally enjoys spending her time swimming but on her birthday we planned a little something extra. Wagner was presented with a special ice sculpture modeled after the Aquarium Pyramid® that she lives in and she seems to know that it was all about her today. She is typically more aloof. Today, she was frolicking in the water and interacting more and seemed to enjoy her birthday party. The children outside the exhibit also enjoyed her party, as they sang Happy Birthday to Wagner. Please join us in wishing Wagner a very happy 32nd birthday and send her a congratulatory message on being the oldest chinstrap penguin in North America!

IMG_8828 - Copy_SMALL

Also be sure to see Wagner in person before the penguin exhibit temporarily closes from January 11-March 11 as part of the aquarium renovations. (Don’t worry though; the rest of the aquarium exhibits will still be open during this time.) Before the penguins go on hiatus there is still time to come visit our South Atlantic friends! You can get up close to our penguins as part of the Moody Gardens Public Penguin Encounter. The encounter lasts for 45-minutes and allows you to get up close to one of our penguins like Wagner. During your experience you are led by a Moody Gardens biologist from the front of the exhibit to behind the scenes of the penguin food preparation kitchen and then to the back of the chilly penguin exhibit. This is all while discussing penguin biology, conservation, training, enrichment and care with your Moody Gardens biologist.

Come experience the cool climate and sounds of the exhibit and witness a penguin create a work of art with a penguin painting as part of an enrichment activity for the animal! More information on the Moody Gardens Public Penguin Encounter can be found here. You can even purchase a penguin painting in our Aquarium Gift Shop. Proceeds from the painting go toward animal conservation projects. It’s a very unique gift for the animal lover in your life!

For more information, click here.

Moody Gardens Grieves Loss of Presley the Harbor Seal

Preseley2

It is with great sadness that we share the news of the death of Presley the Harbor Seal. She died overnight this past week from an Upper Gastric Torsion. This condition can informally be described as the twisting of the stomach that was likely caused by movement or something the animal unknowingly did to itself. As was the case with Presley, it can occur suddenly and without symptoms. At home, some of us may be familiar with the condition as it is fairly common with dogs. Some animals can endure chronic, long-term battles with Gastric Torsion without relief. In Presley case, she had no symptoms and her behavior and appetite were normal throughout the day.

Presley was born in 2005 at the Memphis Zoo. In 2006, we opened our doors and hearts to her as the ideal companion for our Harbor Seal named Porter. Porter is a rescue animal found off the coast of Maine and ineligible for release to the wild. Although Porter had Fur Seals and Sea Lions in his North Pacific Exhibit, the addition of Presley provided better companionship from another seal of the same species for a more natural situation.

Together, the two Harbor Seals bonded and were active and playful in their exhibit. In 2011, the pair had a seal pup named Riley. Riley currently lives at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas. Presley and Porter have been a favorite among guests who have come to visit them at the Aquarium Pyramid for nine years. As the staff mourns the loss of this beautiful animal, we know she will be greatly missed by our guests as well. She will be remembered for her gregarious nature and the joy that she brought to so many of us.

Although the Aquarium Pyramid is currently closed for the first phase of renovation, you can watch the seals on our Webcam. You can visit the seals in person when the aquarium temporarily reopens starting November 14, 2015.

Most certainly Presley cannot ever be replaced, but biologists will closely monitor Porter’s behavior and well-being as animals grieve the loss of a companion too. They will work with AZA and the National Marine Fisheries Service to identify a suitable companion.

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!

IMG_4330

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

IMG_2646

image

komodo jurrassic

IMG_2645

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! 

ydln1orxqd4neeasuboo

 

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/

MOODY MADNESS: Favorite MG Animal

The inaugural Moody Madness tournament produced plenty of drama and upsets last year. In the end, the California Sea Lion was voted by you as the favorite animal at Moody Gardens.

MoodyMadness-Horizontal-Final-Recovered

Can the Sea Lion repeat as champs? We’re about to find out with the second annual Moody Madness.

The most popular animals from the Aquarium and Rainforest Pyramids are squaring off in a bracket-style tournament this week. The animals were seeded based on last year’s results, but that doesn’t mean upsets aren’t possible.

Make sure your favorite animal makes it to the championship. Vote now: http://woobox.com/guw6iz 

UPDATE: Congratulations to the Saki Monkey, our 2015 Moody Madness Champion

2015MoodyMadness_SakiMonkey

MG Sweetheart Scavenger Hunt!

With its peaceful foliage in the Rainforest Pyramid and beautiful marine life in the Aquarium Pyramid, Moody Gardens is a great place to spend this Valentine’s Day with your sweetheart or family.

VDAY_ScavengerHunt_2015While you are at Moody Gardens, you can participate in the Sweetheart Scavenger Hunt. Learn about the intricate relationships and courtships that take place in the animal kingdom with this scavenger hunt. And best of all, you could earn a family 4-pack of Moody Gardens tickets by participating.

Here are some of the facts you will learn while participating in the scavenger hunt:

  • Humans aren’t the only ones that give presents when they are wooing a lady. Male penguins give their potential love interests a pebble. They search for the smoothest rock, and if the female accepts, she puts it in her nest and parenthood soon follows.
  • When piranhas find themselves in love, they turn almost completely black to discourage others from courting. Think of it as a clear sign of “Hey, I’m taken.”
  • Some women wish men would experience the ups and downs of pregnancy. In the seahorse kingdom that’s exactly what happens, as the male delivers the babies. Scientists aren’t 100 percent sure why it occurs – maybe it is to help make more babies or just share some of the load from females – but it certainly is one of the most unique relationships under the sea.
  • A scarlet ibis believes in true love. When a male successful woes a female, they will remain partners for life.
  • Harbor seals flirt by rolling and bubble-blowing. You can read about our Moody Gardens harbor seal couple, Porter and Presley, here.

Learn about these and the other animals at Moody Gardens when you visit on Valentine’s Day weekend. Be sure to download the Sweetheart Scavenger Hunt and get your cameras ready to win a great prize!

And don’t forget to dive into a romantic underwater dining experience at the Aquarium Pyramid with the Sea of Love Valentine’s Dinner on Feb. 13 or 14.

Enjoy a special menu created exclusively for the Sea of Love Dinner. You can reserve a table with a view of one of the unique locations throughout the Aquarium Pyramid.

Dinner for two is $140 on Friday and $180 on Saturday. It also includes rose for her, souvenir photo and Aquarium Pyramid admission. Saturday’s dinner also includes a bottle of wine or champagne. Biologists will also be in attendance to answer any questions you may have about the spectacular residents of the Aquarium Pyramid.

To reserve your spot, please call 1-800-582-4673 ext. 4368. Reservations are on a first-come, first-serve basis. Calls will be answered and returned daily. RSVP by February 11. Click here for menus.