RAINFOREST PYRAMID® UPDATE: Pygmy Slow Loris

My, what big eyes you have! While you won’t find Little Red Riding Hood in the Rainforest Pyramid, you will find the Pygmy Slow Loris (Nycticebus pygmaeus). This prosimian (before the monkeys- or primitive primate) is just one type of the many primates you will encounter when life emerges at the Rainforest Pyramid on May 28th.

Pygmy Slow Lorises are found in the rainforests of Cambodia, China, Laos and Vietnam. They are extremely endangered in Vietnam, where decades of military activity have damaged their habitat. (as well as more recent habitat destruction)  These nocturnal, tree dwelling primates survive on a diet of insects, fruit, slugs and snails. During the day you might see one curled into a tight ball clinging to a branch high up in the rainforest canopy.

These small creatures (18-21 cm long) are characterized by their round head, large eyes, small ears, stumpy tail and their short and wooly fur. The Pygmy  Slow Loris also has front teeth that are arranged to provide a comb like structure called a “tooth comb” that is used to scrape resin from a tree and to clean its fur.  In addition to the tooth comb, they also have an under tongue that contains hardened points of horn. This second fleshy comb is used to clean the tooth comb.

Lorises are mainly solitary animals, only coming together to mate. The female will usually give birth to one or two babies every 12 to 18 months after a gestation period of 190 days. For the first seven months, the youngling will cling to its mother and it will nurse for six weeks. Young lorises may call to their mother using a series of clicks and squeaks when in d istress. For the most part, vocal exchanges are limited to remain inconspicuous and communication is mainly carried out by scent marking.

People say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The Pygmy Slow Loris must be out to flatter reptiles. When threatened, they will imitate an angry cobra by hissing, whistling and moving in the deliberate manner of a serpent. If the threat continues, they will deliver a toxic bite to its aggressor. The bite is toxic due to glands inside of the elbow that secrete a toxin. The loris will lift its arms up and lick up the toxin before delivering the painful bite.

Another interesting fact is that lorises have specially adapted blood vessels in their hands and feet that allow them to hold onto branches tightly for many hours at a time, even when sleeping.  They will walk slowly (thus the name) but surely on the branches, carefully putting one foot in front of the other. As sluggish as they appear, they are excellent climbers and very quick and accurate when hunting prey.

The name “loris” is believed to be derived from the Dutch word “loeris”, which means clown because their eyes and facial markings resemble a clown’s makeup.

Check out our video featuring the Pygmy Slow Loris!

RAINFOREST PYRAMID® UPDATE: Birds

Has the rainforest gone to the birds? You might think so after you meet some of our winged friends who will call the pyramid home when it re-opens May 28th.

First, let’s forage the forest floor with the Victoria Crowned Pigeon (Goura victoria). This relative of the now extinct Dodo makes its home in the Asian rainforests in Indonesia and Papau New Guinea. It is the largest living pigeon and can be just as tall as a turkey!  This bluish bird has a large crest of feathers on its head that can be raised, that’s where “crowned” comes from in its name. To find food, they forage the rainforest floor for fruit, seeds and snails. Victoria Crowned Pigeons are monogamous and mate for life. They lay one single white egg each year and it’s incubated by both mom and dad. This pigeon, along with flamingos produce crop milk to feed their young.

Now, let’s soar the canopy with Crested Oropendola (Psarcolius decumannaus). These birds are native to South America and are quite small compared to the Victoria Crowned Pigeon. They will usually about 13 to 17 inches long when fully grown. The Crested Oropendola will nest in large colonies of about 100 or more to stay protected from predators. Their main food sources include: grain, seeds, fruit and nectar. In order to protect their babies, these birds weave a spherical nest made of grass and palm that can be three to six feet long!

Next, we’ll listen to the call of the Blue Bellied Roller (Coracias cyanogaster). These small, agile flyers dwell in western and central Africa, from Senegal to the southern Sudan. These social birds live in small groups of three to seven and hunt their prey by dive bombing them from about 30 feet up in the trees. You can spot the Blue Bellied Roller by its distinctive blue, black, pinkish cream and teal coloration. They get their name from the rolling pattern of flight used during courtship.

Did you know that in spite of its name, the Speckled Pigeon (Columba guinea) also called a “rock pigeon” does not need cliffs for nesting? This African pigeon is bluish-gray in coloration with cinnamon-brown on some parts of its neck, mantle and wing coverts. It gets its name from the white speckles on its wings. They breed all year long and often live in pairs, but they are also known to flock together with more than 100 others when not breeding.

Finally, we’ll take a look at the striking red patch on the chest of the Bleeding Heart Dove (Gallicolumbia luzonia). This shy bird is native to the forests of the Philippines and it spends most of its time searching the forest floor for seeds, berries, insects and other invertebrates. This dove builds its nest about three to five feet above the ground and both the male and female spend time incubating the eggs. Did you know pigeons and doves drink differently than most birds? They submerge their beak in water, suck up the water and swallow, without the need to raise their head between sips.

Check out our video featuring some of the birds you just read about!

RAINFOREST PYRAMID® UPDATE: Northern Tree Shrew

The Northern Tree Shrew (Tupaia belangeri) is believed to be the closest relative of some of the earliest mammals. These cute little guys are just one of the many species of animals you will encounter when you “Experience Life” in the Moody Gardens® Rainforest Pyramid®.

This type of shrew is found in the forests of Southeast Asia, from India and southwestern China through Malaysia, Borneo and the Philippines. These omnivores (both meat and plant eating) will usually live about two to three years in the wild, but some have been known to live 12 years. The female shrew will usually give birth to two to four youngsters and they will actually build a nest for them in addition to their own! This animal is rare because the mother doesn’t spend a lot of time with the babies. She will not groom them, clean the nest or retrieve them if they are in distress. In fact, experts say she only spends about 90 seconds with her babies every two days!

They are constantly active and must eat often due to their very simple digestive system and because of the amount of energy used throughout the day.  These little creatures (5.5 inches from nose to tail) have an extremely keen sense of sight, smell and hearing and they use these to avoid predators. They are one of the few small mammals who have all highly evolved senses.

Looks aren’t everything; these small mammals have brains too! The Northern Tree Shrew has the highest brain to body ratio of any mammal. Talk about smart! They also have eight different sounds in their vocal repertoire which alarm sounds, defense sounds, etc. Scent marking is also very important to the shrew. They use this to communicate social standing and to mark their territory.

Check this video featuring the Northern Tree Shrew

RAINFOREST PYRAMID® UPDATE: Brazilian Agouti

The Brazilian Agouti (Dasyprocta leporina aguti), is one of the free roaming creatures that you will catch a glimpse of when Moody Gardens’ Rainforest Pyramid® exhibit reopens in May 2011!

This relative of the guinea pig is found in the rainforests of Brazil and it is the only mammal that is known to crack a Brazil nut with its teeth. Brazil nuts, fruits, vegetables and greens are the typical food staples for the Agouti.

The Agouti is a member of the rodent family, but unlike most rodents it walks on its toes and not flat footed. It can also jump up to six feet in the air from a standing position. Talk about air time!

Brazilian AgoutiIn the Amazon rainforest the Agouti is the only species responsible for reseeding the forest with Brazil nuts, which ensures the growth of a whole new generation of trees. They do this by hiding seeds in various locations around their territory.

In the wild, Agoutis are very shy and nervous animals that often live in burrows or hollowed out tree trunks to avoid predators. They survive through their keen sense of hearing and it’s said they can even hear fruit hitting the rainforest floor!

The Agouti is fairly social within their species. They often live and travel in small family groups and even pairs during mating season.

Check out our video featuring our new Agouti here!

RAINFOREST PYRAMID UPDATE: Lady Ross’ Turaco

Moody Gardens is thrilled to have these playful and interesting birds free-roaming inside the Rainforest Pyramid when Rainforests of the World opens in May 2011. Check out the video and read the fun facts to learn more about this amazing species!

Click here to watch the Lady Ross’ Turaco Video!

Lady Ross turaco

Fun Facts:

Turacos are a food source for many animals larger than themselves. They are so abundant in Africa that they are considered a pest. Their feeding habits are very destructive, which annoys most gardeners. However, they aid in seed dispersal by messily eating fruit. They also eat berries that are considered highly poisonous to humans.

Turacos are the only birds to possess true red and green color. When you look at most birds, the color you are seeing is a reflection produced by the feather structure. The turaco’s red and green pigment both contain copper. In fact, if you stirred a glass of water with a red turaco feather, the water would turn pink!

Both the male and female share time incubating their clutch. Both parents also feed the downy chicks by regurgitation. They keep the nest clean by eating the eggshells and the chick’s droppings. The chicks will not develop the full adult coloration until about one year

Lady Ross’s turacos are very social birds, moving in small noisy flocks. They spend their life among trees in search of fruit until evening when they nest solitary on a platform of twigs.

These birds have mobile outer toes, which they are able to rotate forward or backward!

 

RAINFOREST PYRAMID VIDEO UPDATE: Welcome home Scarlet Ibis!

Moody Gardens welcomes home a group of very special birds. The scarlet ibis have returned to Moody Gardens! This eye-catching species will be free roaming inside the Rainforest Pyramid when the newly enhanced Rainforests of the World Exhibit opens in May 2011.

ibisThe Scarlet Ibis is one of the most striking sights in the world of birds– flying, feeding and nesting in large groups. The unique bright red color of the Scarlet Ibis intensifies as the bird grows older. The long curved beak is used to probe for food in mud and shallow water.  It flies strongly with its neck extended, almost as if gliding.

Trivia:

Q: Where does the scarlet ibis get its vibrant color?

AWatch our newest video to find out!

Blog Post by:
Whitney O’Grady
Rainforest Public Relations Coordinator

 

RAINFOREST PYRAMID UPDATE: Cooper the ocelot

Moody Gardens takes you behind the scenes with Cooper, the Moody Gardens ocelot.

Cooper is one of the newest members of the Moody Gardens family. He will be joining his rainforest friends when Rainforests of the World opens in May 2011. Moody Garden’s biologists work closely with Cooper to teach him behaviors that are vital to his care.

Check out the video to learn more about Cooper, the coolest ocelot!

Did you know that Ocelots are endangered?ocelot
The ocelot is 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.

Blog Post by:
Whitney O’Grady
Rainforest Public Relations Coordinator

RAINFORST PYRAMID UPDATE:Rodrigues Fruit Bats

Rodrigues Fruit Bats have made their way to Moody Gardens! This fun and interesting species will be on exhibit in the Bat Habitat inside the newly enhanced Rainforest Pyramid, which opens in May 2011.

The multi-level Bat Habitat will offer viewing opportunities, from the new Rainforest Canopy Walkway down into a subterranean cave environment.

CLICK HERE to watch the video

Interesting Fact:

The species currently numbers just a few hundred in the wild and is classified as critically endangered!

SLOTHS ARRIVE AT MOODY GARDENS

Moody Gardens recently welcomed two-toed sloths to our island paradise!!

Carlton and friends will be free roaming in the newly enhanced Rainforest Pyramid opening in May 2011. Paula Kolvig, assistant curator at the Moody Gardens’ Rainforest Pyramid, takes you into the sloths’ habitat for an up close encounter.

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Click here to watch the video!

Fun Fact:

Two-toed sloths spend almost their entire lives hanging upside-down, including eating, sleeping, mating, and giving birth. In fact, they spend so much time hanging upside-down that their fur actually grows from their belly to their back so that rainwater can runoff easily. They are also one of the few species of mammals that can turn their heads 180 degrees in both directions!

Blog Post by:
Whitney O’Grady
Rainforest Public Relations Coordinator