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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shark U Week: Know Your Sharks

How well do you know your sharks? Odds are most people only know the sharks that have been portrayed as vicious killers in Hollywood thrillers, such as the mighty great white shark in the 1975 blockbuster hit “JAWS.” But the truth is there are over 400 different types of sharks in our oceans and aquariums all over the world and, despite all the horror stories, sharks do not eat people.

Sharks come in all sizes from the massive whale shark, reaching lengths of 30 feet, to the dwarf lanternfish that’s less than 10 inches. Being able to tell the hammerhead from the nurse shark is quite easy, but others can be difficult. Can you spot the difference between a leopard shark and tiger shark?

How can you tell one from the other?

IT’S ALL IN THE BITE:

IMG_5603Sharks’ teeth are adapted for what they eat. Sharks like the great white and tiger shark have triangular teeth with jagged edges. This keeps hold of larger fish and animals, tear chunks of meat or slice through a turtle’s shell. A sand tiger’s teeth, on the other hand, are long and narrow which make them look frightening, but in fact these types of sharks are not very aggressive. The shape of their teeth is ideal for grabbing a hold of prey. However, the whale shark has very small teeth and it’s not used for biting because they simply filter their food.

SHARK MARKS:

IMG_5627Coloration and patterns play an important role in identifying a shark. Their special marks allow them to camouflage perfectly into their environment. Mako sharks, for example, inhabit tropical and offshore water and are normally a bluish color. On the other hand, the nurse shark has a tan pigmentation ideal for hiding on the ocean’s floor. Tiger sharks can be identified by their stripes and leopard sharks for their spots.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!

Know the sharks that lurk in the water. Sharks can be found all over the world from the warm waters of the Caribbean to the freezing temperatures of the arctic. The Gulf of Mexico alone houses more than 50 different species of sharks including, on the rare occasions, the great white shark. The bull shark and blacktip shark are quite common off the shores of Galveston while the Caribbean reef shark is obviously in the Caribbean.

 

Shark U Week: The Secret World of Shark Finning

By Greg Whittaker
Moody Gardens Animal Husbandry Manager 

In early 1999 I found myself in Taiji, Japan working on a marine mammal acquisition for the Beijing Aquarium.  The conservation ethics surrounding “The Cove” are another story deserving its own chapter at another time. While we were working at a Dolphin encounter resort on the outskirts of Taiji, we were staying in a fishing community just to the north called Katsuura.  Every day we drove past the waterfront in Katsuura through the bustle of activity around the fishing markets.  On one of my few days off, I visited the market to see what was being caught and auctioned.  The sheer number of top level predator fishes that were laid out in organized stacks in the football-field-sized warehouse space was amazing.  Tuna, mackerel, billfish and ocean sunfish made up the bulk of the daily catch.  There were also several piles of shark fins stacked 4’ high and spreading over perhaps a 12’ diameter area.  I couldn’t locate any shark bodies in the entire market area, just three or four large heaps of fins.

The shark finning problem had not been as apparent back then, but the lack of carcasses hit me as a tremendous resource waste in a culture that had up to that point appeared contrary to such practice.  We were scrutinized by neighborhood mama-sans for not removing all recyclable materials from our trash.  The few occasions where we ventured through the Taiji waterfront were an incredible lesson in efficiency where the harvested dolphins and whales were carved up for consumption with nearly no waste evident.  How could a people so intimately linked with existing on the natural resources of the sea be so wasteful of their harvest?  It wasn’t until I later learned of the international demand for shark fin soup, that I fully understood what I had encountered in Japan.

Over the course of 3 months, we passed the Katsuura waterfront market daily and a subliminal counter was clicking in my mind.  Six days a week, thousands of tuna, dozens of billfish and those uncountable piles of shark fins every day, rain or shine.  Between the seemingly unscrupulous harvest of entire pods of cetaceans in Taiji and the daily take of finfish in Katsuura, the efficiency of removing these natural resources was mind numbing, and the ocean’s ability to sustain this level of take was something I struggled to understand.

What is Shark Finning?

On one spring morning shortly before our departure from Japan with our dolphins and whales, we had some free time to explore the area.  We happened upon a complex of houses a few streets behind our own that was a processing facility for shark fins.  The entire area was perhaps an acre with a large open space between 3 houses.  The central yard space was filled with 3 tiered clotheslines with two horizontal racks beneath them.  Shark fins were hung on the lines like laundry and all of the horizontal shelving was filled with trays containing drying fins 4 or 5 deep.  There were lines strung between the houses, both first and second stories with similar triangular, gray fins hanging in the sun to dry.  The entire roof surfaces of all 3 houses, including the shorter sheds attached to them, were completely covered with shark fins of all sizes, looking like roof tiles.  There were 2 vans parked in the driveway that were completely stuffed with baskets of dried shark fins inside, and completely covered with drying shark fins on top.  My Australian buddy Wayne and I took pictures and tried to count just a small portion of what we were seeing, but couldn’t even begin to estimate how many sharks were represented by what we saw.  There were likely 10,000 fins drying at that one complex the day we happened upon it.  The staggering thing is that we went back a few days later and there was a completely new batch of fins being processed.

Get schooled about SHARKS at #SharkUWeek at Moody Gardens!

 

Growing Green with Solar!

We’re happy to announce that the Moody Gardens grew a bit greener today with the addition of some new solar-powered donations from the Green Mountain Energy™ Sun Club™!

The Sun Club‘s dedication of solar-powered recycling stations, trash compactors, and a solar-powered maintenance cart to our grounds was funded in part by Galveston-area residents who are customers of Green Mountain Energy. With these new solar additions, we expect to reduce our landfill-bound waste production by 75% in the next two years. Our new solar items were dedicated in a special ceremony with Mayor Rosen and Mr. Doug McLeod, who spoke on the importance of conservation and environmental-consciousness in Galveston.

“This is a unique application of solar energy, and we’re thrilled to see it come to life at an organization as environmentally friendly as Moody Gardens,” said Tony Napolillo, Sun Club program manager, Green Mountain Energy Company. “We’re proud to help Moody Gardens in its quest to reduce its landfill-bound trash so dramatically. I also encourage our Houston/Galveston-area Sun Club members to visit the attractions to see how their contributions are helping a worthy organization reduce its environmental impact while promoting solar power.”

Applications are now open for other non-profits interested in working with the Sun Club to receive a solar donation in 2014. Apply online at greenmountainenergysunclub.com/apply-for-a-donation/ before the August 2nd deadline and see how solar can help enhance your mission!

Eagle Scout Project: Offatts Bayou Wetlands Improvement

Ever since Hurricane Ike, Moody Gardens and Galveston Island has been on a slow but successful recovery. But the wetlands by Offatts Bayou close to Moody Garden’s parking lot sustained much damage on the shoreline. Debris became stuck on the land and it was a long way from being a habitat for some of the Island’s animals.

On May 18, Neil Stegman launched an Eagle Scout project to change the area for better. He and a large group of volunteers worked closely with Danny Carson, Moody Gardens’ Horticultural Manager. Together, they installed an improved, raised pathway with two Osprey nesting platforms.

Moody Gardens hopes to eventually create a three-quarter mile long path with interpretive signs, resting benches, gazebos and more. As these features become complete, the habitat will thrive on its own and become one of Galveston’s birding hot spots.