To add to the fun of Halloweekend, the different departments at Moody Gardens had a Pumpkin Contest and a Bat House Decorating Contest. Visitors this weekend voted and helped us choose the best of the best. Before we reveal the winners, we wanted to give you a chance to guess which pumpkin and which bat house won.
BAT HOUSE CONTEST:
Leave a comment below with your guesses and we’ll reveal the winners tomorrow.
UPDATE: The winners were Pumpkin #8 created by staff at the Moody Gardens Golf Course and Bat House #2 decorated by our Education department.
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:
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.
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’GradyRainforest Public Relations Coordinator
A Moody Gardens animal curator, who led a national effort to find homes for birds displaced by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, was recently honored for her work by the national Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
Diane Olsen, assistant curator at Moody Gardens’ Aquarium Pyramid, received the AZA’s “Outstanding Service Award” Sept. 15 in recognition of her leadership in coordinating an AZA bird rescue initiative in response to the oil spill this summer as well as working to place non-releasable birds in zoos and aquariums across the country. Olsen received the award during the organization’s 2010 national conference, which was held in Houston.
“AZA facilities have experts in the field, and we are the perfect group to be assisting with these efforts,” said Olsen, a Galveston resident. “It was important for us to coordinate it. To be recognized for that is just a bonus.”
Olsen’s efforts included rallying more than 150 volunteers from more than 75 AZA-accredited institutions to help with oil spill disaster relief along the coasts of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Although access was limited in some areas, Olsen said, the organization was able to rescue and find homes for nearly 30 birds.
“We are extremely proud of Diane’s conservation drive and commitment to doing the right thing,” said John Zendt, president and CEO of Moody Gardens. “She is very deserving of this award.”
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in conservation, education, science and recreation. Moody Gardens is an AZA accredited institution.
There are many things 8-year-old Reaghan Velasquez is unable to do being paralyzed from the calves down. This weekend, she found out water skiing isn’t one of them.
The Manvel third-grader was all smiles Saturday afternoon in Galveston as she traded her walker for water-skis for the first time. With excitement, she took off on Offatts Bayou, experiencing a moment of freedom she’ll likely never forget.
“It’s nice to see her happy and able to do things independently,” said Renae Velasquez, Reaghan’s mother. “She’s limited in so many activities, but not today.”
Reaghan was one of about 100 participants in the 20th annual Moody Gardens Adaptive Sports Festival. The event provides people with disabilities free water sports opportunities through the use of adaptive equipment.
Along with water skiing, participants were able to kayak, sail, hand paddle and ride pontoon boats along the Moody Gardens property. The event was sponsored by Moody Gardens and staffed almost entirely by volunteers.
“People with traumatic brain disorders or whatever disability they are here for don’t always get an opportunity to do something like this,” said volunteer Shelby Dill of Bayou Vista. “I’m really glad Moody Gardens does this.”
Sail and pontoon boats were provided by private donors in the Kemah area. The adaptive water-skis were provided by Texas Adaptive Aquatics in Huffman.
Roger Randall, president of Texas Adaptive Aquatics, said his equipment comes with different parts, such as seats, beginner boards and safety rails, which allow him to adapt water-skis to each person’s abilities.
“I’ve been doing this since 1985,” Randall said. “It’s the excitement of seeing the smiles on their faces. I took out a guy today who has severe mental retardation – water skiing was something he never thought he’d be able to do.”
Changing the perception of what people with disabilities can do is exactly what Moody Gardens had in mind when starting Adaptive Sports Festival 20 years ago. Moody Gardens Marketing Director Jerri Hamachek said the event originated as part of the Moody Gardens Hope Therapy program, which for many years offered rehabilitative horseback-riding to mentally and physically disable individuals.
Today’s Hope Therapy is centered on horticultural therapy – although the program has not been active since Hurricane Ike – and offering special events, such as Adaptive Sports Festival.
Hamachek said the festival Saturday was just one way Moody Gardens works to give back to the community.
“This event is truly meaningful for us,” Hamachek said. “I think it’s just as important to us as it is to the participants.”
Moody Gardens is proud to introduce pygmy slow loris twins born on March 22. Breeding of this species is often challenging and largely rare in captivity. In fact, this is only one of five pygmy slow loris births in captivity in North America over the past year.
“This is such an exciting event,” said Paula Kolvig, assistant curator at Moody Gardens. “We have been keeping a very close eye on these babies, and we are very pleased to see steady growth so far.”
The addition of the twins is a valuable boost to the population of this primitive primate species called prosimians that are found in tropical forests of Vietnam, China and Cambodia. Currently, there are only about 75 pygmy slow lorises in North American zoos and aquariums and fewer than 200 in captivity worldwide. Due to numerous environmental threats, the wild population is dwindling, and the species is listed as a threatened species by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services.
To bring this mammal back from the brink of extinction, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, of which Moody Gardens is an accredited member, created a Species Survival Plan program for the pygmy slow loris. The birth was a great success of this cooperative breeding and conservation program, which helps ensure the survival of the species in both wild and captivity.
The baby boy and girl were born between mother Luyen and father Icarus. The parents are ten and 14 years of age and have been members of the Moody Gardens animal collection since 2004.
“Luyen has been a very attentive and good mother to the twins,” said Kolvig. “The babies stay attached to their mom for the majority of the day, taking plenty of opportunities to nurse.”
Visitors will be able to see both the parents and the twins in the Rainforest Pyramid once the $25 million enhancement project is completed in May 2011. The mother normally nurses her young until they reach approximately nine-months-old. Until then, the attentive mother will continue to pamper her kids behind the scenes. For information, visit moodygardens.org or call 800-582-4673.
Moody Gardens® is a public, non-profit, educational destination utilizing nature in the advancement of rehabilitation, conservation, recreation, and research.
Galveston – Local Swedish descendants will bring their craft skills and their ancestors’ original immigrant trunk full of family history to Moody Gardens on Saturday, April 3. Jan Faubion and her son Rob of VASA Carl Widen Lodge will share stories of their family who came to the U.S. from Sweden, host children’s story time and demonstrate folk craft making during the free Cultural Speaker Series from 1 p.m. through 5 p.m.
Speaker Jan Faubion’s great-grandparents came from Sweden to Texas through Galveston in the late 1880s. Her ancestors settled the Palm Valley community in Texas and were vital participants in the construction and settlement of Texas. Today, she and her son, Rob, continue their Swedish heritage by demonstrating Swedish straw crafts at cultural events throughout the state, including the Texas Folklife Festival and Bob Bullock History Museum.
The Cultural Speaker Series is in conjunction with the traveling exhibit, Forgotten Gateway: Coming to America through Galveston Island.The exhibit chronicles the Port of Galveston’s largely forgotten history as a major gateway to American immigration from 1845 to 1924. The exhibit is the first of its kind to explore, on a national scale, Galveston’s legacy as a port of entry and its importance in shaping the Texas and U.S. history.
Moody Gardens continues to encourage Galveston immigrants and their descendants to share their stories and artifacts by contacting 409-683-4215. Forgotten Gateway will be on exhibit through Sept. 11, 2010, and admission to the exhibit is $8.95 for adults and $6.95 for children and seniors. For more information about the Cultural Speaker Series and the Forgotten Gateway exhibit, please visit moodygardens.org or call 800-582-4673.
AT A GLANCE
Event: Forgotten Gateway Cultural Speaker Series: Stories of Swedish Immigrants
Activities: Cultural Presentation, Kids’ Crafts and Story Time
Featured Group: Carl Widen VASA Club
Date/ Time: 1 p.m. – 5 p.m., Saturday, April 3
Location: Moody Gardens Discovery Pyramid, One Hope Blvd., Galveston
Admission: Free, open to the public
Information: 1-800-582-4673, moodygardens.org
Exhibit: Forgotten Gateway: Coming to America through Galveston Island
Admission: Adults $8.95, children (4-12) & seniors (65+) $6.95
About the Exhibit:
Galveston was a Southern equivalent of Ellis Island. With over 200 original artifacts, Forgotten Gateway chronicles the largely forgotten history of Galveston as a major immigration port between 1845 and 1924.
Golfers enjoyed the sport while helping make the holiday season bright for children in Galveston County Sunday, Dec. 20, during the Merry Kids’smas Scramble, a holiday golf tournament combined with a toy drive. This event was brought back to life as a tradition from the Galveston Municipal Golf Course. We collected over 75 new toys including bicycles, games, dolls and trucks for the children of the Resource and Crisis Center of Galveston County.
Players and community members generously donated new toys throughout the month of December, and the toy drive ended with the Merry Kids’smas Scramble Golf Tournament on Sunday. We thank all of you who made generous contributions to benefit the kids in our area.