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!

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.

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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

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Birding at the Rainforest Pyramid

As you explore the Rainforest Pyramid, be on the lookout for some of these birds:

Visit moodygardens.org for tickets & hours

Rainforest Birthdays: Cooper & Davita

It was a day for celebration at the Rainforest Pyramid today as we celebrated not one but two very special birthdays!

COOPER THE OCELOT TURNS 6 YEARS OLD

Cooper joined Moody Gardens when he was just 18 months old! Ocelot’s are carnivores and in the wild, they eat small mammals, birds and fish. Ocelots are 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.

DAVITA THE GREEN ANACONDA TURNS 30 YEARS OLD

Davita is a very special resident of the Rainforest Pyramid. She first lived at the Bronx Zoo then the Indianapolis Zoo before she ended up here at Moody Gardens. She’s about 14 feet long and weight anywhere between 90-115 lbs. Anacondas are slow on land but in the water, they are swift and stealthy hunters. They eat birds, mammals or other reptiles.

Fun Fact: Davita enjoys swimming through wheat grass! So much so that MG staff ordered her some specially for her birthday.

The Birthday Bash

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.

Here’s Your 2014 Holiday Itinerary:

PLAN YOUR GETAWAY AT THE COOLEST HOLIDAY DESTINATION IN THE SOUTHWEST

With the opening of ICE LAND: Ice Sculptures with SpongeBob SquarePants and the return of the annual Festival of Lights, Moody Gardens has officially become the coolest holiday destination in the Southwest.

With so many attractions to enjoy, the Moody Gardens Value Passes have been a popular choice among guests. For just $59.95, visitors get entry into ICE LAND, Festival of Lights, Aquarium Pyramid, Rainforest Pyramid, Discovery Museum, MG 3D Theater, 4D Special FX Theater and Colonel Paddlewheel Boat. Those wanting to make a weekend visit can also purchase a Two-Day Value Pass for $79.95 and get unlimited entry to everything Moody Gardens has to offer.

So what’s the best schedule if you are planning a vacation to Moody Gardens? Here is a sample itinerary to make sure you don’t miss a thing:

DAY 1

» 9-9:45 a.m. Breakfast at Moody Brews
Located in the main lobby of the hotel, Moody Brews offers a full line of Starbucks beverages, grab-and-go menu items, retail products, free WiFi, laptop work stations and comfortable seating.

» 10-11 a.m. Rainforest Pyramid
Take a tour of the 10-story glass pyramid that is home to more than 1,000 species of plants and animals. You will experience rainforest life from around the world and encounter free-roaming animals, like the cotton-top tamarins and saki monkeys.

» 11:05-11:35 a.m. Discover the Ice Age
Travel back in time to discover a frigid world, covered in ice and occupied by mammoths, saber-toothed cats, cave people and more. The exhibit features life-sized animatronic animals and real fossils within the Discovery Pyramid.

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» 11:45 a.m.-1 p.m. Lunch at Café in the Park at the Moody Gardens Hotel

» 1:30-2 p.m. ICE LAND: Ice Sculptures with SpongeBob SquarePants
Enjoy the coolest new attraction to date when you visit ICE LAND: Ice Sculptures with SpongeBob SquarePants. Being the only holiday ice exhibition on the Gulf Coast, this is a vast and amazing display of 900 tons of towering SpongeBob SquarePants-themed ice creations.

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» 2:15-4:30 p.m. Deep Tissue Massage at the Spa and 9 Holes at the Moody Gardens Golf Course
Send the little ones to a Kid’s Crew activity provided throughout the weekend by the Moody Gardens Hotel and relax at The Spa or play a round of golf at the Moody Gardens Golf Course.

» 5-6 p.m. Festival of Lights Buffet at the Garden Restaurant for Dinner

» 6-6:15 p.m. Pictures with Santa
Be sure to stop by Santa’s Village in the Visitor’s Center lobby and get your picture with Santa Claus!

» 6:15-6:45 p.m. Gingerbread Gardens
Build your own Gingerbread House with the family inside the Visitor’s Center lobby.

» 7-8 p.m. Festival of Lights
Enjoy the mile-long trail of over one million lights and 100 animated displays that winds through the beautiful Moody Gardens property. This is a holiday tradition you won’t want to miss!

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» 8-8:30 p.m. Ice Rink
Grab some rental skates and enjoy the area’s only outdoor ice skating rink.

Day 2

» 8:45-9:45 a.m. Breakfast at Café in the Park

» 10-10:50 a.m. Aquarium Pyramid
Visit four distinct ocean environments in the largest Moody Gardens Pyramid that includes seals, sea lions, sharks, thousands of fish and more than 90 penguins.

» 11-11:45 a.m. Penguin Encounter
Get up close and personal with a penguin during this 45-minute program that takes guests behind the scenes.

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» 12-12:45 p.m. Lunch at the Aquarium Pyramid Food Court

» 1-2 p.m. Colonel Paddlewheel Boat
Take a cruise around Offatts Bayou on this 1800s-style paddlewheel boat.

» 2:30-3 p.m. 4D Special FX Theater
Engage your senses in this theater as you encounter a 20-minute adaptation of Rio 4D or Polar Express 4D.

» 3:15-3:45 p.m. Arctic Ice Slide
Take a slide down this Texas-sized ice slide located outside the Visitor’s Center.

» 4-4:45 p.m. Sky Trail® Explorer Ropes Course
Challenge your agility, balance and strength as you encounter the new five-tier Ropes Course. Children 48 inches and under can also take on an adventure of a smaller scale on the Sky Tykes™ Ropes Course.

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» 4:45-5 p.m. Moody Gardens Zip Line
Snap into the harness, step to the edge of the zip line platform and glide over Palm Beach and the Lazy River 60 feet in the air for a bird’s eye view of the Moody Gardens Pyramids and tropical gardens.

» 5:15-6:15 p.m. Dinner at Shearn’s Seafood and Prime Steaks

» 6:40-8 p.m. MG 3D Theater
Finish out the day watching some holiday favorites, such as Light Before Christmas 3D and Santa vs. Snowman 3D, in the newly enhanced MG 3D Theater featuring the world’s first giant screen 6p laser projector and the largest screen in Texas.

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!

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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.

Moody Madness: CHAMPIONSHIP

There’s still a champion left to be crowned! The real battle is here as we have the Amazon River Otter representing the Rainforest Pyramid face off against the California Sea Lion representing the Aquarium Pyramid. Who will come out on top? That’s all up to you.

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CLICK HERE to vote or vote below for your favorite

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Moody Madness: Final 4

Stunning.

That’s the best word to describe the voting results for the Moody Madness Elite Eight.

Both top seeds, the Saki Monkey and the King Penguin, saw their chances of being named Moody Gardens’ favorite animal end in shocking results. The loss was especially tough for the King Penguin, which was defeated by just three votes.

Here were the final Elite Eight results:

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So we are down to the Final Four. Who will be the champion of the Rainforest and Aquarium Pyramids? That’s for you to determine!

CLICK HERE to vote or vote below for your favorites!

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