Pyramids of Love: Rainforest (Part 1)

Join us this week as we take a closer look at the Pyramids of Love at Moody Gardens! Learn about the intricate relationships and courtships that take place in the animal kingdom throughout the week on our blog and look for our trivia questions on Facebook & Twitter for chance to win Aquarium and Rainforest tickets. Make sure to stop by February 14-16 for Valentine’s Day themed animal enrichment and presentations at the Aquarium and Rainforest Pyramids.

LOVE IS IN THE AIR…LAND AND WATER

As you enter the Rainforest Pyramid, you not only enter a living and breathing Rainforest, but you also get a glimpse of the relationships taking place between the many different species of animals and plants. Whether it’s an animal in the water or the air, take the time to observe how they interact with each other and you’ll see that there’s plenty of love going around. Here’s a few to lookout for during your next visit:

Pygmy LorisPygmy Slow Loris

We all have lovers that are crabby at some point

Female lorises tend to be a bit crabby and aggressive during mating season, usually lunging and vocalizing at males who are trying to court. Love is love, no matter if you’re happy or sad.

 

 

Rainforest 116Poison dart frogs

Talk about a ‘match’ made in heaven

Both males and females are territorial and will wrestle other individuals and possible love interests for the title.

 

 

 

Jacksons Chameleons

Do you have the right moves?

When the male has found a love interest and wants to court her, he simple just dances. This isn’t just any type of dancing – you have to have the right moves! Head bobs and pop-locking is what really peaks the females interest. If you don’t have the right moves, the male will be met with a disapproving color change and an unreceptive female. Talk about getting shut down!

 

Emperor Scorpions

Dancing the night away

How do these suave males win the hearts of the female companions? The dance floor of course. The “promenade à deux,” is a dance in which the male grabs the female’s pincers and then proceeds to dance around seeking the approval of his spicy dance partner. Once approve has been met, they then continue their salsa to find a suitable area in which to copulate.

 

Damaraland mole rats

Ants and bees don’t have anything on this queen.

Lots of men refer to their mates as queens, mostly as a term of endearment, but for Damaraland mole rats, it’s the truth! This species of mole rat resemble the social structure of that of bees and ants.  Females are not born queens though; they have to fight for the title from other females. Like ants and bees, all mole rats have a certain job in the colony. You have your lovers, your fighters, your gatherers, and your builders.  All our partners deserve the royal treatment every once and a while.

 

EgyptFruitBat2Egyptian Fruit Bats

The apple never falls far from the tree

After a mother gives birth to her young, they carry them around on their underside until the pup is able to roost on its own. Although this isn’t the time that the parents kick the kids out of the house. Usually the offspring stay in the same bat colony in which the parents already live in. Love isn’t always about finding your one and only – sometimes its family!

 

Vampire batVampire Bats

Dinner time love

Vampire bats have a bad rap about being filthy blood suckers, but actually, they are some of the sweetest animals around. When it comes to helping your mate, friend, or neighbor in the colony, these bats win! If one bat in the colony isn’t able to find food at feeding time, no worries, they’ll just head back to the colony and snuggle up to a friend for dinner. Vampire bats provide an altruistic behavior (you do something for me and I’ll do something for you) to their neighbor; they regurgitate blood so that they can live on to the next feed. Without this behavior many individuals would die off very fast in the colony. Fewer mates means less offspring. No doggy bag needed. Check Please!

 

Malagasy Jumping Rats

The best parents EVER!

What makes this species such a great family household to grow up in? These mothers and fathers are among the few monogamous rodent species in existence today. Both parents raise their young together, and if one mate dies, the other will find love again. Usually waiting until another caller comes investigating the home burrow.

 

Piranha

Love isn’t always colorful

When two individuals find themselves in love, they don’t go through glorious color changes like other fish species, they turn almost completely black. This isn’t so much as a warning, but is theorized to be a mode of discouraging other individuals from courting. Think of it as a clear sign of “Hey, I’m taken.”

Festival of Lights Grand Opening Day!

See Santa Parachute in, Plus Dance and Musical Performances and a Special Sister City Celebration. 

FOLSantaParachuting2As the largest holiday lighting events on the Gulf Coast flips the switch on Saturday, Moody Gardens will also kick off the 50th anniversary celebration of Galveston-Niigata Sister City relationship. Festivities begin with Santa parachuting in for this free event, the Festival of Lights packs the night with over 100 sound-enhanced animated light displays, live entertainment and more.

As a special treat, students across Galveston Independent School District will illuminate the Festival of Lights with 25 hand-made Japanese folk art known as the Taiguruma, pull-cart paper lanterns in the shape of a Bream fish, and perform songs to go along with the Japanese celebration. Through Jan. 4, you can enjoy more than one million lights, a Texas-sized Arctic Ice Slide, and the area’s only outdoor ice skating rink. Tickets are $6.95. Additional tickets to any of the other Moody Gardens Attractions are just $6.00 each with your festival ticket.

CLICK HERE for schedule and tickets

OPENING DAY CEREMONIES 4PM – 6PM: 

  • 4:00 – 4:05 PM: Steve Smith and KPRC hosts take the stage
  • 4:05 – 4:30 PM: Galveston Ballet performs
  • 4:30 – 4:40 PM: Master Illusionist Curt Miller musical performance
  • 4:40 – 4:55 PM: Army Band performs
  • 4:55 PM: Countdown to Parachuting Santa begins
  • 5:00 – 5:10 PM: Santa Parachutes in from the North Pole
  • 5:10 – 5:25 PM: Amy Blake’s Dance Academy performs
  • 5:25 – 5:40 PM: Vibe Dance Company performs
  • 5:40 – 5:59 PM: GISD Choir Performs as the Taigurama Japanese Lantern Parade begins
  • 6:00 PM: Santa flips the giant light switch to turn on over 1 million lights. The Festival of Lights gates officially open for the season.

FolEblastBannerThe Festival will continue to shine throughout the holiday season Thursdays through Saturdays from Nov. 22 to Dec. 7, before open nightly from Dec. 12 to Jan. 4, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Hours run from 6 to 10 p.m.

Admission to the Festival of Lights is $6.95. With the purchase of a Festival of Lights ticket, tickets to the Aquarium Pyramid, Rainforest Pyramid, Discovery Pyramid, holiday MG 3D film, holiday 4D Film, Ridefilm and Colonel Paddlewheel Boat can be purchased for only $6 each.  Guests can also enjoy the Texas-sized Arctic slide and the classic outdoor skating rink. Ice skates are available for rent or guests can bring their own.

Moody Gardens recognizes Houston Area Cadillac Dealers, KPRC TV 2, Houston Community Newspapers, Houston Family Magazine, Pepsi, Gilbane Builders, Morris Architects, Broome Welding & Machine Co., Forman Equipment and Contracting, Chuoke Plumbing, Kelso Concrete, KenMor Electric, American Marble, Baker Concrete, CHP and Associates, WORKtm and Schindler Elevator Corp., Glazier Foods and Forward Energy Group as sponsors of the 2013 Festival of Lights.

 

Shark U Week: Know Your Sharks

How well do you know your sharks? Odds are most people only know the sharks that have been portrayed as vicious killers in Hollywood thrillers, such as the mighty great white shark in the 1975 blockbuster hit “JAWS.” But the truth is there are over 400 different types of sharks in our oceans and aquariums all over the world and, despite all the horror stories, sharks do not eat people.

Sharks come in all sizes from the massive whale shark, reaching lengths of 30 feet, to the dwarf lanternfish that’s less than 10 inches. Being able to tell the hammerhead from the nurse shark is quite easy, but others can be difficult. Can you spot the difference between a leopard shark and tiger shark?

How can you tell one from the other?

IT’S ALL IN THE BITE:

IMG_5603Sharks’ teeth are adapted for what they eat. Sharks like the great white and tiger shark have triangular teeth with jagged edges. This keeps hold of larger fish and animals, tear chunks of meat or slice through a turtle’s shell. A sand tiger’s teeth, on the other hand, are long and narrow which make them look frightening, but in fact these types of sharks are not very aggressive. The shape of their teeth is ideal for grabbing a hold of prey. However, the whale shark has very small teeth and it’s not used for biting because they simply filter their food.

SHARK MARKS:

IMG_5627Coloration and patterns play an important role in identifying a shark. Their special marks allow them to camouflage perfectly into their environment. Mako sharks, for example, inhabit tropical and offshore water and are normally a bluish color. On the other hand, the nurse shark has a tan pigmentation ideal for hiding on the ocean’s floor. Tiger sharks can be identified by their stripes and leopard sharks for their spots.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!

Know the sharks that lurk in the water. Sharks can be found all over the world from the warm waters of the Caribbean to the freezing temperatures of the arctic. The Gulf of Mexico alone houses more than 50 different species of sharks including, on the rare occasions, the great white shark. The bull shark and blacktip shark are quite common off the shores of Galveston while the Caribbean reef shark is obviously in the Caribbean.

 

Shark U Week: The Secret World of Shark Finning

By Greg Whittaker
Moody Gardens Animal Husbandry Manager 

In early 1999 I found myself in Taiji, Japan working on a marine mammal acquisition for the Beijing Aquarium.  The conservation ethics surrounding “The Cove” are another story deserving its own chapter at another time. While we were working at a Dolphin encounter resort on the outskirts of Taiji, we were staying in a fishing community just to the north called Katsuura.  Every day we drove past the waterfront in Katsuura through the bustle of activity around the fishing markets.  On one of my few days off, I visited the market to see what was being caught and auctioned.  The sheer number of top level predator fishes that were laid out in organized stacks in the football-field-sized warehouse space was amazing.  Tuna, mackerel, billfish and ocean sunfish made up the bulk of the daily catch.  There were also several piles of shark fins stacked 4’ high and spreading over perhaps a 12’ diameter area.  I couldn’t locate any shark bodies in the entire market area, just three or four large heaps of fins.

The shark finning problem had not been as apparent back then, but the lack of carcasses hit me as a tremendous resource waste in a culture that had up to that point appeared contrary to such practice.  We were scrutinized by neighborhood mama-sans for not removing all recyclable materials from our trash.  The few occasions where we ventured through the Taiji waterfront were an incredible lesson in efficiency where the harvested dolphins and whales were carved up for consumption with nearly no waste evident.  How could a people so intimately linked with existing on the natural resources of the sea be so wasteful of their harvest?  It wasn’t until I later learned of the international demand for shark fin soup, that I fully understood what I had encountered in Japan.

Over the course of 3 months, we passed the Katsuura waterfront market daily and a subliminal counter was clicking in my mind.  Six days a week, thousands of tuna, dozens of billfish and those uncountable piles of shark fins every day, rain or shine.  Between the seemingly unscrupulous harvest of entire pods of cetaceans in Taiji and the daily take of finfish in Katsuura, the efficiency of removing these natural resources was mind numbing, and the ocean’s ability to sustain this level of take was something I struggled to understand.

What is Shark Finning?

On one spring morning shortly before our departure from Japan with our dolphins and whales, we had some free time to explore the area.  We happened upon a complex of houses a few streets behind our own that was a processing facility for shark fins.  The entire area was perhaps an acre with a large open space between 3 houses.  The central yard space was filled with 3 tiered clotheslines with two horizontal racks beneath them.  Shark fins were hung on the lines like laundry and all of the horizontal shelving was filled with trays containing drying fins 4 or 5 deep.  There were lines strung between the houses, both first and second stories with similar triangular, gray fins hanging in the sun to dry.  The entire roof surfaces of all 3 houses, including the shorter sheds attached to them, were completely covered with shark fins of all sizes, looking like roof tiles.  There were 2 vans parked in the driveway that were completely stuffed with baskets of dried shark fins inside, and completely covered with drying shark fins on top.  My Australian buddy Wayne and I took pictures and tried to count just a small portion of what we were seeing, but couldn’t even begin to estimate how many sharks were represented by what we saw.  There were likely 10,000 fins drying at that one complex the day we happened upon it.  The staggering thing is that we went back a few days later and there was a completely new batch of fins being processed.

Get schooled about SHARKS at #SharkUWeek at Moody Gardens!

 

The Ibis Dream

IMG_5413

Let’s give a shout out to the newest addition of our Scarlet Ibis family. Hatched on June 30, this adorable little fuzzball has been one of many Scarlet Ibis hatched in the Moody Gardens’ Rainforest Pyramid.

Weighing in at 100 grams and standing several inches tall, this little cutie has dreams of flying. Months from being ready, the overly ambitious chick attempted flight, but sadly fell from its nest just days after hatching. Luckily, no major injuries occurred and it is now in the care of Moody Gardens’ finest biologists, awaiting its next voyage.

IMG_5388This endearing and very vocal chick loves its gruel, which is a liquid diet made up of fish, shrimp, pellets, water and vitamins which is hand fed five times a day. Biologists are hoping to introduce him to whole fish this week.

The gender of this hatchling is unknown and cannot be determined until much later in its life. While off exhibit, a feather will be collected and sent for lab work to determine its gender. Its bright red plume will not be visible until roughly eight months.

Full-grown Scarlet Ibis
Full-grown Scarlet Ibis

This little one will be hand raised and sent to our on-site learning place where it will become an educational ambassador.

Don’t forget to check out our other free roaming birds in our Rainforest Pyramid.

Visit moodygardens.org for more information or click here for tickets.

Moody Gardens® is a public, non-profit educational destination utilizing nature in the advancement of rehabilitation, conservation, recreation and research.

 

Growing Green with Solar!

We’re happy to announce that the Moody Gardens grew a bit greener today with the addition of some new solar-powered donations from the Green Mountain Energy™ Sun Club™!

The Sun Club‘s dedication of solar-powered recycling stations, trash compactors, and a solar-powered maintenance cart to our grounds was funded in part by Galveston-area residents who are customers of Green Mountain Energy. With these new solar additions, we expect to reduce our landfill-bound waste production by 75% in the next two years. Our new solar items were dedicated in a special ceremony with Mayor Rosen and Mr. Doug McLeod, who spoke on the importance of conservation and environmental-consciousness in Galveston.

“This is a unique application of solar energy, and we’re thrilled to see it come to life at an organization as environmentally friendly as Moody Gardens,” said Tony Napolillo, Sun Club program manager, Green Mountain Energy Company. “We’re proud to help Moody Gardens in its quest to reduce its landfill-bound trash so dramatically. I also encourage our Houston/Galveston-area Sun Club members to visit the attractions to see how their contributions are helping a worthy organization reduce its environmental impact while promoting solar power.”

Applications are now open for other non-profits interested in working with the Sun Club to receive a solar donation in 2014. Apply online at greenmountainenergysunclub.com/apply-for-a-donation/ before the August 2nd deadline and see how solar can help enhance your mission!