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!

Love is in the air at Moody Gardens!

It’s officially February and that means Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. If you are looking for a special way to spend Valentine’s Day weekend, look no further! Whether it’s a romantic dinner cruise, relaxing couple’s massage or a full-on wedding, Moody Gardens has some romantic and unique options that will make this Valentine’s Day truly memorable.

First on the list is the absolutely amazing Valentine’s Retreat package offered by the Moody Gardens Hotel. This package includes a spectacular guest room for two for one night, champagne and chocolate covered strawberries, a long-stem red rose, breakfast for two in room or at the Terrace Restaurant, late checkout and complimentary valet parking, and the unforgettable option of celebrating your love with a wedding ceremony!

As part of the exclusive Valentine’s Retreat package, couples can celebrate their love for one another by exchanging or renewing their vows on February 12. The complimentary ceremonies will be performed by an ordained minister and all couples exchanging vows can invite up to 50 guests to join them for a Grand Reception at 7 p.m. The Grand Reception will feature complimentary hors d’oeuvres, a giant wedding cake and a cash bar. Don’t miss out on this great opportunity to live your very own fairy-tale!

The Valentine’s package is $249+tax per night and is available for February 11 & 12. All ceremonies will be performed by appointment on February 12 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information or to book your Valentine’s Retreat, call 888-388-8484 or visit www.moodygardesnhotel.com.

Treat yourselves to a romantic four course dinner at Shearn’s, one of Galveston’s finest restaurants, located on the ninth floor of the Moody Gardens Hotel. To start off, the special Valentine’s Day menu will include the option of Grilled Diver Scallops or Pan Seared Quail and soup or salad. Entrée options include Prime Filet Mignon, Dry Mushroom Coated Red Snapper Fillet or Petit Prime Filets Mignon. Lastly, enjoy a decadent duet of Chocolate Cream Tart and White Chocolate-Raspberry Bread Pudding for dessert. Come savor this delicious meal with your loved one on February 12th and 14th. Prices are $80 per person. Click here for a more detailed menu or call 409-741-8484 for reservations.

The Spa at Moody Gardens can add romance and relaxation to your intimate Island getaway with indulgent Valentine’s specials. Relax with a Champagne & Roses Pedicure that includes an effervescent champagne foot soak with organic rose petals while enjoying complimentary champagne and gourmet chocolate truffles for only $55.00. You can also enjoy a delicious Chocolate Dipped Strawberry Massage that begins with a sensual 50-minute warm chocolate back treatment and soothing strawberry oil scalp massage. Chocolate truffles and champagne complete this sweet treat. To rekindle the romance, enjoy this divine service for two in our romantic private couples’ suite.  This massage package is priced at $150 for individuals and $275 for couples. For additional details or spa appointments, call 409-683-4440.

You can sail away on the romantic Colonel Paddlewheel Boat Dinner Cruise. This 1800-style Paddlewheeler provides the perfect setting for a romantic night with your valentine. Dance the night away and have a delicious dinner buffet while enjoying the beautiful views of Offatts Bayou. Dinner cruise is on February 12 and will include dinner buffet and cash bar. Boarding will be from 7 p.m.-8 p.m. Please make your reservations by Wednesday before the scheduled dinner cruise at 1-800-582-4673 extension 4419. Cost is $65.00 per person.

Click here for more information about the Valentine’s Retreat Package, Shearn’s Valentine’s Day Menu and Spa Valentine’s specials.

Click here for more information about the Colonel Paddlewheel Boat Dinner Cruise.

Don’t miss out on the chance to make this Valentine’s Day Weekend unforgettable!


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!



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.


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



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


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!


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.



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



By Leah Boyd
Moody Gardens News

Diane Olsen with Chilly Willy King Penguin
Diane Olsen with Chilly Willy King Penguin. (Photo by Nancy Thompson)

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.

Moody Gardens event Sept. 11 provides day of freedom on the water for people with disabilities

By Leah Boyd
Moody Gardens News

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 Velasquez (right) of Manvel enjoys waterskiing for the first time Sept. 11 alongside volunteer Tim Thelen of Houston at the 20th annual Moody Gardens Adaptive Sports Festival. Reaghan, 8, is paralyzed from the calves down.
Reaghan Velasquez (right) of Manvel enjoys waterskiing for the first time Sept. 11 alongside volunteer Tim Thelen of Houston at the 20th annual Moody Gardens Adaptive Sports Festival. Reaghan, 8, is paralyzed from the calves down.

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.

Felipe Ortez of Galveston (right) was one of about 100 participants in the 2010 Moody Gardens Adaptive Sports Festival.
Felipe Ortez of Galveston (right) was one of about 100 participants in the 2010 Moody Gardens Adaptive Sports Festival.

“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.”

For more information on Moody Gardens, visit www.moodygardens.org. To learn more about Texas Adaptive Aquatics, visit www.taasports.org.