Madagascar Giant Jumping Rats

Meet the newest members of our Rainforest Pyramid: Madagascar Giant Jumping Rats

Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Zoo

These guys are the largest endemic rodents in Madagascar. They find food by foraging the forest floor for fallen fruits. These nocturnal animals live in dry and deciduous coastal forests. Jumping rats often communicate in trills and barks, and are extremely active and curious creatures.  Despite the name, they don’t really jump unless they’re startled or frightened. Both of our new additions are male.

Moody Gardens is fortunate enough to provide a home for the Jumping Rats, as we are only one of six North American zoos and aquariums to have these species. These endangered species are threatened by habitat loss and hunted by feral cats and dogs.

With these newest family members, we are now a part of the large European Endangered Species Program (EEP), equivalent to the North American’s AZA Species Survival Plan.

Porcupine Baby Born at Moody Gardens

Porcupine Baby!

From brightly colored macaws to lounging lizards, more than 200 animal species have made a home in the Rainforest Pyramid at Moody Gardens. And as of yesterday, Moody Gardens has the second prehensile tailed porcupine born onsite since the Rainforest Pyramid’s grand re-opening.

The reddish orange baby was born on the same exact date as its older sibling last year. A quill was sent for DNA testing to determine the gender and after, a name will be chosen. Weighing at 480 grams, the newborn is on exhibit inside the nocturnal gallery of the Rainforest Pyramid.

Here is the mother, Bobby-Sue!

Although the newborn looks as soft as a puppy, the quills will harden within a few weeks. Sharing an exhibit with the mother, Bobby-Sue, the new baby is climbing the trees and exploring the area. Bobby-Sue and the father, Bono, have been together since 2007 and this is their second baby since their introduction into the newly enhanced pyramid.

Prehensile Tailed porcupines are found in the wild in Central and South America. These vegetarian, tree-dwelling rodents usually weigh between four and eleven pounds and their tails are almost as long as their whole body. They are covered in short, thick spines and their body color runs from yellowish to orange to brown. One of their defining characteristics is a small head with a round, bulbous nose which is covered by short and fine hair. They also have whiskers on the face and feet that help in maneuvering around at night.This species is named for their unique tail, which is used a fifth hand to help hold onto branches as they climb throughout the canopy. The last 1/3 of the tail is spineless, enabling the animal to get a better grip on the tree branches. The front and hind feet are modified for grasping, which makes them excellent climbers. One thing they cannot do however is jump.Porcupines have a built-in defense. While most of their body is covered in sharp quills, they are incapable of throwing them, which is a common misconception. These quills will detach easily when touched and imbed into the skin of an enemy. They have also been known to hit and bite their attackers and curl up into a ball when caught. When provoked, they will stomp their hind feet, sit on their haunches, shake their quills and emit deep growls and high pitched cries. These defenses are so formidable that Prehensile Tailed porcupines have the luxury of a longer lifespan and slower reproductive rate than most rodents.

WORLD’S LARGEST FLOWERING PLANT IN FULL BLOOM AT MOODY GARDENS

 

Corpse Flower, “Morticia” Intrigues Guests with Two-Day Bloom and Powerful Stench.

Galveston Island, TX (June 14, 2012) — The odor of rotting flesh has never smelled so sweet as “Morticia,” the Giant Corpse Flower officially started to bloom in the evening June 13 at the Moody Gardens Rainforest Pyramid. With a short blooming period of 2 to 4 days, visitors have the rare opportunity to see and smell the Amorphophallus titanum. Native only to Sumatra, Indonesia, it is not only rare in its native habitat, it is extremely rare in cultivation. Fewer than 85 Corpse Flowers have ever bloomed in the United States. Measuring in at 56 inches tall and 40 inches in circumference, this bloom is only the fourth in the state of Texas. Visitors can expect to have their breath taken away in more ways than one.

“The stench and beauty of this plant are equally amazing,” said Donnita Brannon, horticulture exhibit manager at Moody Gardens; who added the staff has been anxiously waiting for the big blooming event to occur since the plant first broke dormancy May 1. “She is even more beautiful than I expected. We are celebrating and invite guests to hurry out to the Rainforest Pyramid to share this experience with us.”

The common name, Corpse Flower, originates from the unpleasant odor the plant emits during flowering. The strong smell that is similar to rotting flesh attracts its pollinators, carrion beetles and sweat flies. It is considered the largest flowering plant in the world, often reaching heights of over 10 feet tall. Technically, it is the largest unbranched inflorescence, containing both male & female flowers.

The plant has a very unpredictable blooming schedule. There is no bloom season and flowers can be produced at any time of year. The Corpse Flower grows from an underground tuber which can weigh up to 200 pounds. A single large leaf that resembles a small tree emerges from this tuber that can grow to more than 20 feet tall. During this vegetative state, the tuber gains energy to produce the massive bloom. The plant then goes into a dormant period for approximately three months. The tuber will then either produce another leaf or a flower as it has at Moody Gardens. Once the tuber breaks dormancy and begins to send up a flower spike, the plant will usually bloom within four to six weeks as it did at Moody Gardens. There are six other Corpse Flower tubers in the Rainforest Pyramid. Brannon hopes to see some of these plants bloom in the future.

The Corpse Flower was first discovered in 1878 by an Italian plant explorer Odoardo Beccari. Upon initial discovery, the plant struck fear into Beccari’s team due to the plant’s tremendous size and smell. It was believed to be a man-eating plant. Beccari took seeds back to the botanical gardens in Florence, Italy and later sent seedlings to The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in London, England. The first recorded bloom of the Corpse Flower took place at Kew in 1889. Police had to be called in to control the crowds of people who came to see it.

The first bloom ever recorded in the United States took place at New York Botanic Garden in 1937 where it created a similar response. The same plant bloomed again in 1939. In May 1998, the University of Missouri at St. Louis had a bloom and was the first in this country in nearly 60 years. Due to the plant’s peculiarity, popularity and incredible appeal to growers and collectors in the botanical community, the Corpse Flower began to gain attention in again the 1990s and early 2000s. Since May 1998, there have been 84 recorded blooms in the U.S. at arboretums, botanic gardens, zoos and universities.


Rainforest Pyramid®: Special Hours of Operation

Thursday, June 14: 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Friday, June 15: 9 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Saturday, June 16: 9 a.m. – 10p.m.

Click here for more information

“Who ‘nose’ when the Corpse Flower will bloom?” Contest

UPDATE—WINNERS: Lucky 13…today has been declared official bloom date! Only guesses submitted by 2:00pm today June 13, 2012 will be taken in consideration. Email us at communications@moodygardens.com  if we reply to your comment with “WINNER” to claim your prize. Thank you all for your guesses!

Morticia, the Corpse Flower, looks like she’s ready for her bloom! But without a set blooming season, it’s hard to predict when the Corpse Flower will bloom. So who “nose” when the Corpse Flower will bloom and begin its silent and smelly flowering? The first 20 people to guess correctly will win a free ticket to the Rainforest Pyramid to see Morticia!

A Corpse Flower bloom occurs when the spadix, the long, French bread-like stem, emerges from the bud. At that point, the flower will grow four to six inches a day and the strong smell will start to roll in. The strong smell that is similar to rotting flesh attracts its pollinators, carrion beetles and sweat flies. It is considered the largest flowering plant in the world, often reaching heights of over 10 feet tall. Technically, it is the largest unbranched inflorescence, containing both male & female flowers.

The Corpse Flower grows from an underground tuber which can weigh up to 200 pounds. From this tuber, a large single leaf emerges resembling a small tree that can grow to more than 20 feet tall. During this vegetative state, the tuber gains its energy to produce the massive bloom.  The plant then goes into a dormant period for approximately three months. The tuber will then either produce another leaf or a flower as it has at Moody Gardens.

Once fully unfurled, the flower will only last for a day or two. Then the flower collapses upon itself and withers away. The tuber will then go into a dormant period, resting and gaining energy, eventually sending up another tree trunk-like stalk, beginning the incredible process all over again!

The Corpse Flower is under threat of extinction in the wild due to illegal logging and the clearing of rain forest land for cultivation of oil palm plantations. It is our hope that interest in and appreciation of our Earth’s amazing plants and animals will lead to increased efforts at conserving the habitats of these and other rare species.

CONTEST RULES:

Use the information we’ve provided above as well as Morticia’s growth progress, which we update frequently on our Facebook  & Twitter, to guess the exact date that she will bloom. Our horticultural exhibit manager, Donita Brannon, will declare the official bloom date. Here are the rules:

  • Leave your guess in the comments section of this post or tweet us your guess @Moody_Gardens with hashtag #MorticiaContest
  • Only one guess per person.
  • Contest open until flower starts to bloom
  • First 20 people to guess correctly will win two (2) tickets to the Rainforest Pyramid®
  • Only people who guess the EXACT date determined by our horticultural exhibit manager will win

While you’re at it, why not go ahead and like us on Facebook and/or follow us on Twitter.

This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook, Inc. Any comments that are inappropriate, offensive, spam or commercial in nature can be deleted by the page admin. Must be 18 years or older to win.

Bat Facts: What’s with the hanging?

Q: WHY DO BATS HANG UPSIDE DOWN?

A: Unlike the bodies of other animals, a bat’s body is best adapted for hanging upside down. Its hind limbs have rotated 180 degrees so that its knees face backwards. This rotation aids in the bat’s ability to navigate in flight and to hang by its feet. Bats actually have specialized tendons that hold their toes in place so that they are able to cling to their roosts without expending any energy. In fact, bats must flex their muscles in order to let go of the roosting surface. These adaptations are quite helpful for a flying mammal since bats only need to let go of the roost in order to drop into flight. Hanging upside down also provides bats with roosting space away from predators in safe places on the ceilings of caves, in trees, and buildings that few other animals can use because they have not evolved to hang upside down by their feet.

Visit Bat Conservation International to learn more about bats!

Save the Date: Bats Are Doin’ It


Throughout 2012 Moody Gardens® will bring attention to an often overlooked, but important animal: the bat. The United Nations has declared 2012 as International Year of the Bat and Bat Conservation International (BCI) as an International Year of the Bat founding partner. Moody Gardens® will be participating throughout 2012 with opportunities for the public to get involved in the conservation mission. The International Year of the Bat campaign aims to raise global awareness about bats, bat conservation and the unique roles bats play in our environment.

The “Bat’s Are Doin’ It” fundraiser will bring attention to the ecological importance of bats such as eating their weight in harmful insects and pollinating many economically valuable crops including bananas and mangoes. Guests will leave with a new appreciation for this misunderstood animal species; which will assist BCI in their efforts to protect bats.

Enjoy a special evening celebrating the mysterious creatures with a tasty bat- themed food and drink menu. The night will include a cocktail party, special guest speaker James Eggers from Bat Conservation International and a tour of the Rainforest Pyramid®. This event will give you the chance to help save an often overlooked animal species while celebrating the special holiday.

SAVE THE DATE: Bats Are Doin’ It: A Fundraiser for Animal Lovers

When: February 11th from 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.

Where: Moody Gardens Visitors Center

Price: $50 for a single ticket, $90 for two
CLICK HERE TO BUY TICKETS

• Included in the price: Heavy hors’ doeuvres and 2 drink tickets for specialty bat- themed drinks. Each attendee also receives a free “Bats Are Doin’ It” goody bag.

• Other Information: Raffle tickets can be purchased upon arrival to the event. Prices are $5 for 1 ticket or $10 for 3 tickets.Prizes will include various fabulous bat themed packages.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD EVENT FLYER

Proceeds raised for the event will be donated to the organization Bat Conservation International. This event is open to individuals who are 21 and above only.

 

Don’t Worry, There Are No Count Dracula’s Here

With Halloween fast approaching, Moody Gardens® is here to celebrate one of the holiday’s most recognizable creatures- the bat. In the newly renovated Rainforest Pyramid® there are three different exhibits that allow you to get a little closer to these mythical mammals and learn the truth about bats.

The first type of bat you will encounter at Moody Gardens® is the Rodrigues fruit bats. This species of bat are located in the treetops of the African section of the Rainforest Pyramid® for public viewing. The way these bats navigate and find food is different from the other species of bats in the pyramid. Instead of using echolocation, the rodrigues species use their large eyes and hearing to find their way. They also have a keen sense of smell that allows them to find their food.

As you continue through the Rainforest, you will come across another type of fruit bat, the Egyptian fruit bat. Just as the name states these bats survive on a daily balance of fruits prepared by our biologists. These fruit bats originate in areas of Africa and can live up to 22 years while in captivity.

Finally, you’ll be able to watch our smallest and most notorious species of bat–the Vampire bat. Unlike the stereotype that Halloween places on these mammals, the vampire bat does not want to turn you into a vampire. These nocturnal bats sleep throughout the day and come out at night to feed upon the blood of horses, pigs and cows otherwise known as bovine blood. These types of bats are the only known mammals that can survive exclusively on blood. The reverse habitual pattern can be seen when visiting the exhibit and also a new exciting surprise. Recently, two of our older vampire bats have added a baby to our vampire bat family!

If you want to get yourself in the Halloween spirit then come to Moody Gardens® to see all of the different species of bats. Also, celebrate our Ghostly Gardens on October 30, 2011. The property will offer free trick-or-treating, creepy crafts, face painting and other fun activities for children and their families. The event will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and will also include a kid’s costume contest for children 12 years old and younger with prizes for the participant with the best costume. The costume contest will kickoff at 3 p.m. in the Garden Lobby of the visitor’s center. All other activities will be held in various locations throughout the Moody Gardens® complex. Guests of all ages are encouraged to dress up in their favorite Halloween costume the day of the event to receive $5 admission to each Moody Gardens® attraction.

For more information on the Rainforest Pyramid and other attractions visit www.moodygardens.org 

RAINFOREST PYRAMID AT MOODY GARDENS® TAKES ROOT

When the Moody Gardens Rainforest Pyramid opens May 28, both first-time guests and regular Rainforest Pyramid patrons will marvel at the $25 million in enhancements that have transformed the attraction into a tropical paradise unlike any other in the nation.  The bright green leaves, colossal trunks, multicolored flowers and fresh fruit of more than 1,000 species of exotic flora will flourish inside the pyramid.  Free-roaming mammals, colorful birds, insects and reptiles will help propagate the forest, assisting with pollination.  What was once a botanical garden is now a living, breathing rainforest.

As educational as it is entertaining, the Rainforest Pyramid is designed to inspire guests to join the ongoing race to save the rainforest.  This one-of-a-kind attraction is central to the Moody Gardens conservation and education mission, and it is an expression of gratitude to the disappearing rainforests of the world.

Despite their unique beauty and ecological importance, rainforests of the world are vanishing quickly.  More than 12 million acres are being stripped every year for cattle farming, logging, and other trade and development.  In a single century, 90 percent of West Africa’s coastal rainforests disappeared.  Without tree cover, the once-moist soil of the rainforest turned quickly into dry, loose sand.  This human-induced change in land cover converted countries like Nigeria and Ghana into desert, causing decades of drought, famine and death that persist today.

Nearly half of all prescription drugs in the United States have active ingredients derived from rainforest plants, treating maladies like gastrointestinal problems, arthritis, menopause, high blood pressure and even the common headache.  One rainforest plant from Madagascar yielded compounds for two important anti-cancer drugs that helped increase the 5-year survival rate of childhood leukemia from 10 percent to nearly 90 percent.

As one of the few authentic indoor rainforest replicas in the world, the Rainforest Pyramid at Moody Gardens hosts myriad plants and animals commonly found in African, Asian and American rainforests.

“Biodiversity is important in the rainforest, so we wanted to deliver an accurate representation of what would be found in these environments,” said Donita Brannon, Horticultural Exhibit Manager of the Rainforest Pyramid®.

Each plant within the Rainforest Pyramid has its own story to tell.  Here are a few:

  • The Brazilian Beauty Leaf (Calophyllum brasiliens) is identified by distinctive white flowers and leaves.  But humans have another reason to admire this tree—the latex in the leaves contains three potent HIV-1 inhibitors.
  • Ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata) is a tree treasured for its delicate scent.  The flowers contain essential oils that are commonly used in skincare and aromatherapy products and also serve as the top note in Chanel No. 5, one of the best-selling perfumes in the world.  Besides its unique fragrance, ylang-ylang is used to treat motion sickness, lower high blood pressure and calm anxiety.
  • The largest plant in the Rainforest Pyramid is a 30-foot Sacred Fig (Ficus religiosa). The tree weighed approximately two tons when it was delivered and took three days to plant inside the pyramid.  Hindus and Buddhists consider the plant sacred because Siddhartha Gautama is believed to have been sitting under a Ficus religiosa when he achieved enlightenment.
  • The carnivorous Pitcher Plant uses a deep, liquid-filled sac to capture prey.  Bright colors lure insects into the “pitfall traps,” where they are drowned and dissolved by enzymes, then absorbed by the plant for nutrition.  Some larger species of Pitcher Plants even feed on reptiles and small mammals.
  • Other plants like cocoa, the cola nut, tapioca, vanilla, cinnamon and allspice are indigenous to the rainforest but end up in pharmacies, refrigerators and spice cabinets across the United States.

“Seeing all these plants in person is a truly unique opportunity that we hope will encourage visitors to help protect our rainforests as much as possible,” Brannon said.

Here’s a sneak peek at some of the plants that live in the Rainforest Pyramid® or click here if video below is not functioning:

RAINFOREST PYRAMID® UPDATE: Prehensile Tailed Porcupine

On May 28th, come “hang out” with Bobby-Sue and Bono! These two Prehensile Tailed porcupines (Coendou prehensilis) are just a few of the critters you’ll encounter in the nocturnal gallery at the Rainforest Pyramid® at Moody Gardens®.

Prehensile Tailed porcupines are found in the wild in Central and South America. These vegetarian, tree-dwelling rodents usually weigh between four and eleven pounds and their tails are almost as long as their whole body! They are covered in short, thick spines and their body color runs from yellowish to orange to brown. One of their defining characteristics is a small head with a round, bulbous nose which is covered by short and fine hair. They also have whiskers on the face and feet that help in maneuvering around at night.

This species is named for their unique tail, which is used a fifth hand to help hold onto branches as they climb throughout the canopy. The last 1/3 of the tail is spineless, enabling the animal to get a better grip on the tree branches. The front and hind feet are modified for grasping, which makes them excellent climbers. One thing they cannot do however is jump. While they will rarely descend to the ground, these porcupines will go to the forest floor if they need to cross a gap between trees.

A porcupine diet consists of twigs, leaves, fruits and vegetables. Like most rodents, their teeth will continue to grow throughout their lifetime so they will gnaw on hard things to file their teeth down. At night they will move around foraging for food and will spend most of the day sleeping.

These animals are not very well studied in the wild because they stay high in the trees and are slow moving and largely immobile during the day. It is known however, that these porcupines can be found in small social groups when sleeping, otherwise they are solitary or paired.

Porcupines have a built-in defense. While most of their body is covered in sharp quills, they are incapable of throwing them, which is a common misconception. These quills will detach easily when touched and imbed into the skin of an enemy. They have also been known to hit and bite their attackers and curl up into a ball when caught. When provoked, they will stomp their hind feet, sit on their haunches, shake their quills and emit deep growls and high pitched cries. These defenses are so formidable that Prehensile Tailed porcupines have the luxury of a longer lifespan and slower reproductive rate than most rodents.

After a 202 day gestation period, a female porcupine will usually give birth to a single offspring that will be covered in reddish-orange hair. This soft hair will eventually harden into quills. The baby will weigh around 14 ounces and can climb at birth.

Prehensile Tailed porcupines are not endangered, but face loss of habitat due to deforestation.

Watch the following video to learn more about Peter and Egon and come meet them in person May 28th at the Rainforest Pyramid®!

(Click here if the following video is not functioning)

RAINFOREST PYRAMID® UPDATE: Prevost’s Squirrel

On May 28th, Experience Life in a whole new way and meet Peter and Egon, two Prevost’s squirrels (Callosciurus prevostii) who will be free-roaming in the Rainforest Pyramid® at Moody Gardens®.

These two brilliantly colored squirrels are actually the offspring of squirrels who were evacuated out of the pyramid due to Hurricane Ike and were relocated to the San Antonio Zoo. The S.A. Zoo had success in breeding the squirrels, so Moody Gardens decided to not interfere with the program, but to take some of the offspring.

In the wild, Prevost’s squirrels are found in south-east Asia. They are the most colorful of all squirrels. Their back and tail are glossy black in color and their belly and legs are bright, chestnut red. They also have a white band that extends along the sides from the nose to the base of the tail. Prevost’s squirrels have short forelimbs with a small thumb and longer hind limbs. They have sharp claws for clinging to tree branches and soft pads on the soles of their feet.

These small creatures are active during the day and dwell in the tree-top canopies. A hollowed out tree or a nest of leaves high in the canopy is usually where the squirrel will make its home. They are excellent at jumping and climbing and can jump considerable gaps between the trees. Their long bushy tails help them balance when they run and climb and they also act a rudder when they jump. On the ground, Prevost’s squirrels move in a sequence of graceful leaps, often pausing to raise their heads and look around.

Their diet consists of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and sometimes bugs and small eggs. They have a single pair of chisel shaped incisors in each jaw and a large gap in front of the premolars due to the absence of canine teeth. These teeth will grow continuously throughout their lives, so the squirrels will gnaw on wood to file them down. When feeding, they will squat on their haunches while holding the food between their front paws. They will also carry fruit far from the tree of origin and drop seeds when they are finished with their meal. With the seeds far from the parent tree, there is a decreased likelihood of the seeds being eaten by other animals and a good opportunity for a new generation of trees to be produced.

Prevost’s squirrels are sexually mature at one year of age and females will give birth to a litter of two to three pups after a five week gestation period. Infants are born naked, toothless and helpless. At about six weeks of age the offspring will be fully furred and will start to venture out of the burrow.

While these squirrels are not endangered, they are threatened due to loss of habitat and pet trade. So, come meet Peter and Egon when the Rainforest Pyramid® at Moody Gardens® opens on May 28th!

Fun facts:

  • Unlike their ground squirrel cousins, Prevost’s squirrels do not hibernate.
  • Their generic name Callosciurus means “beautiful squirrel”.
  • Prevost’s squirrels use their tails to communicate.

Watch the following video to learn more about Peter and Egon and come meet them in person May 28th at the Rainforest Pyramid®!

(Click here if the following video is not functioning)