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.

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/

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.

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!

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.

Musical Enrichment Event

GREEN MUSIC ENRICHMENTJam out with the animals of the Rainforest Pyramid at our Music Enrichment Event this Saturday and Sunday October 11-12 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

What is Enrichment?

Animal enrichment is something that stimulates the senses or changes the environment. Several categories of enrichment are then used to enhance that species’ behavioral, physical, social, cognitive, and psychological well being.

This event, focuses on the auditory and vocal abilities of animals in the Rainforest Pyramid. Using music is just one of the many auditory ways that we can stimulate the animals. To them, it is simply a different sound. This replicates the various sounds they might encounter in the wild.

Stop by to enjoy the music with some of our most popular animals. Send us your pictures on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ using the hashtag #MGEnrichment so we can see it and share them too.

Here’s the schedule:

SATURDAY

  • 10:30 a.m. Saki Monkeys: Guitar
  • 11:00 a.m. Amazon Pond: Guest Jam Session
  • 12:00 p.m. Otter Training Platform: Violin
  • 1:30 p.m. Croc Monitor Exhibit: Piano
  • 2:00 p.m. Rod Bat/Egyptian Bat: Harmonica/Guest Jam Session
  • 3:30 p.m. Ocelot Exhibit: Guest Jam Session
  • 4:00 p.m. Canopy: Flute

SUNDAY

  •  10:30 a.m. Saki Monkeys: Violin
  •  11:00 a.m. Otter Overlook: Guitar
  • 12:00 p.m. Amazon Pond: Drum
  • 1:30 p.m. Komodo Exhibit: Guitar/Piano
  • 2:00 p.m. Rod Bat/Egyptian Bat: Harmonica/Guest Jam Session
  • 3:30 p.m. Ocelot Exhibit: Guest Jam Session
  • 4:00 p.m. Canopy: Flute

It was a SLOW week…

It’s a slow week around the world. A Slow Loris week that is!

Moody Gardens Pygmy Slow Loris
Pygmy Slow Loris at the Rainforest Pyramid

Now in its fourth year, Slow Loris Outreach Week (S.L.O.W.) is aimed to bring awareness to the rapid decline of one of the world’s most endangered group of primates. SLOW lasts until Sunday, Sept. 14.

The week was started by “The Little Fireface Project,” the world’s longest running Loris conservation project. The Project started in 1993 under the supervision of the Nocturnal Primate Research Group of Oxford Brookes University.

So what exactly are Slow Lorises? Here are some facts about these unique primates.

• There are five types of Lorises – Sunda, Bengal, Pygmy, Javan, and Bornean.

• The name Little Fireface comes from the Sundanese name for Slow Loris – muka geni. In other languages, Loris means thin one, wind monkey (both in Sumatra and Thailand), forest baby, and the shy one.

• Slow Lorises are actually venomous, making them the only poisonous primate in the world. They produce their venom by combining saliva with oil from a gland on the upper arm. This poison can cause anaphylactic shock, and even death, to humans.

• Each Slow Loris species is recognized as either vulnerable or endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Threats to the Slow Loris include illegal pet trade, hunting for traditional medicinal purposes, and habitat loss/destruction.

You can see two Pygmy Slow Loris girls, Blackwell and Cai, at the Moody Gardens Rainforest Pyramid. Moody Gardens is a part of the AZA Species Survival Program, which is responsible for developing a comprehensive population Studbook and a Breeding and Transfer Plan which identifies population management goals and recommendations to ensure the sustainability of a healthy, genetically diverse, and demographically varied AZA population. Blackwell and Cai were both born at Moody Gardens.

To learn more about SLOW and what you can do to help, visit www.nocturama.org.

Earth Day Celebration on April 19

Learn how you can make a difference as Moody Gardens® welcomes several guest speakers for a special Earth Day event on Saturday.

Join fellow nature enthusiasts from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Herb Garden at Moody Gardens. The event features three presentations on ways you can help the environment.

There will also be special arts and crafts for kids from 10 a.m. to noon. All of the presentations and activities are free to the public.

Want like to lower your carbon footprint on this Earth and be a helper to Mother Nature? Learn 75 ways to live a “Greener N Leaner Life” at 10 a.m.

Got butterflies? Don’t have butterflies, but want them? At 11 a.m., learn the best practices for cultivating a habitat that will attract the beautiful and beneficial insects to your garden.

At noon, learn about collecting rainwater to help water your plants. Water can be costly and often rationed during a Texas drought, so having an additional, free source of that essential liquid is appealing.

EVENT DETAILS:

When: Saturday, April 19

Where: Herb Garden (outside of Discovery Pyramid)

Schedule:

  • 10:00 a.m. Tish Reustle
  • 10:30 a.m  Q & A
  • 11:00 a.m. Ken Steblein
  • 11:45 a.m. Q & A
  • 12:00 p.m. Tim Jahnke
  • 12:45 p.m. Q & A
  • 10:00 a.m. – 12 p.m. : Arts & Crafts

Topics of Discussion:

  • Rainwater Harvesting (Tim Jahnke): Water is expensive, especially on an island without fresh rivers, lakes and streams. So having an additional, free source of that essential liquid is appealing. Tim speaks on the topic of collecting rainwater to help us water our plants. Free of the usual chemicals that must be put into our drinking water to keep it safe for us, rainwater is perfect for our flowers, trees and shrubs.
  • 75 Ways to Live a Greener N Leaner Life (Ken Steblein): Would you like to lower your carbon footprint on this Earth? Could you be a helper to Mother Nature and live in harmony with Earth’s living things? Learn to become part of the solutions to the problems we are facing today.
  • Butterfly Gardening for the Gulf Coast (Tish Reustle): Got Butterflies? Don’t have them, but want them? Learn the best practices for cultivating a habitat that will attract the beautiful insects to your garden. You will have caterpillars galore in no time.

Pyramid of Love: Aquarium

Join us this week as we take a closer look at the Pyramids of Love at Moody Gardens! Learn about the intricate relationships and courtships that take place in the animal kingdom throughout the week on our blog and look for our trivia questions on Facebook & Twitter for chance to win Aquarium and Rainforest tickets. Make sure to stop by February 14-16 for Valentine’s Day themed animal enrichment and presentations at the Aquarium and Rainforest Pyramids.

Enjoy several keeper presentations inside the Aquarium Pyramid including South Pacific exhibit dives at 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. penguin feedings at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. and seal feedings at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., as part of the weekend extravaganza. 

Let’s take a closer look at the relationships among the beloved penguins, seals & sea lions of the Aquarium Pyramid:

PENGUIN LOVE:

King Penguin twoFun Facts :

  • All of Moody Gardens’ penguins have an annual breeding season.
  • Most penguin species are monogamous (one male breeds with one female during a mating season), but may not mate for life.
  • Both the male and female take turns incubating the egg(s), except for Emperor Penguins, in which only the male incubates it.
  • Incubating time varies from one month to 62 days.
  • All of our smaller species build nests out of rocks and usually lay 2 eggs.
  • King penguins carry their 1 egg on their feet.

IMG_2023Look for these penguin courtship behaviors:

  • Ecstatic Displays- vocalizations, head swinging, stretching head and neck upward with flippers held outstretched.
  • Bowing-  One or both of the penguins dips its head and points its bill at the    nest or at the other bird’s feet.

 

SEALED WITH A KISS:

PorterHarbor Seal Courtship:

  • Harbor seals usually return to the same breeding grounds every year.
  • Males and females exhibit pre-mating activity such as rolling, bubble-blowing, and mouthing each other’s necks.
  • During the mating season, male harbor seals exhibit underwater vocal displays.
  • After the pupping season, males initiate true mating behavior by chasing, neck- and flipper-biting, and embracing.
  • Females respond by growling, head-thrusting, and flipper-waving.

IMG_1246Sea Lion Courtship:

  • California sea lions tend to breed on the same section of beach year after year.
  • Successful mating has been observed in males as young as two years.
  • A male with an established territory breeds with an average of 16 females in one season.