Jungle Love

Finding Mr. or Mrs. Right in today’s day and age isn’t an easy task.  With the success of the Internet, dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble have taken the place of matchmaking services for purposes of convenience.  The skilled biologists at Moody Gardens have recently added matchmaker to their resumes as they successfully paired up and introduced two fuzzy Cotton-top Tamarins in the Rainforest Pyramid.  This is a difficult feat as this process requires information to be sorted through an extensive database to find the ideal match.  Both Victor and Gracie immediately took a liking to one another; so much so that he sweetly observed and presented his new lady’s favorite flower to her. Gracie willingly accepted the gift as her afternoon snack.

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The Moody Gardens curatorial staff is very hopeful that the two will breed in the future.  Tamarins thrive on companionship and usually live in large groups, with sometimes as many as fifteen members.  Typically, female Tamarins give birth to non-identical twins and the father will take part in caring for the infant by carrying it on its back.  Infant Tamarins are about 15-20% of the weight of an adult Tamarin so it will certainly be an endearing sight to see as you can imagine!

Native to the South American country of Colombia these petite primates spend most of their time in treetops feasting on fruit, bugs and flowers. Approximately 9 inches in height, they are among the smallest of the primates that are easily identified by their white flowing head of hair.  Although small, these primates can produce close to 40 different vocalizations when communicating with family or other fellow Tamarins. The Cotton-top Tamarins reside in the Moody Gardens Rainforest Pyramid. This exhibit is home to various birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles native to the rainforests around the world. Offering canopy and ground level views this immersive environment gives guests a one-of-a-kind experience.

Happy Birthday, Wagner, the Oldest Chinstrap Penguin in North America!

Some people think that age is just a number but at Moody Gardens it is something to celebrate, especially when one of our animals has a milestone birthday!

Wagner is one of 15 chinstrap penguins that we have in our Aquarium Pyramid® and she is the oldest of her species in all of North America! Wagner is turning 32 today which is big deal not only because she is the oldest penguin on this continent but because the general lifespan of her species is only in the mid-twenties.

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While living in our South Atlantic Exhibit Wagner generally enjoys spending her time swimming but on her birthday we planned a little something extra. Wagner was presented with a special ice sculpture modeled after the Aquarium Pyramid® that she lives in and she seems to know that it was all about her today. She is typically more aloof. Today, she was frolicking in the water and interacting more and seemed to enjoy her birthday party. The children outside the exhibit also enjoyed her party, as they sang Happy Birthday to Wagner. Please join us in wishing Wagner a very happy 32nd birthday and send her a congratulatory message on being the oldest chinstrap penguin in North America!

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Also be sure to see Wagner in person before the penguin exhibit temporarily closes from January 11-March 11 as part of the aquarium renovations. (Don’t worry though; the rest of the aquarium exhibits will still be open during this time.) Before the penguins go on hiatus there is still time to come visit our South Atlantic friends! You can get up close to our penguins as part of the Moody Gardens Public Penguin Encounter. The encounter lasts for 45-minutes and allows you to get up close to one of our penguins like Wagner. During your experience you are led by a Moody Gardens biologist from the front of the exhibit to behind the scenes of the penguin food preparation kitchen and then to the back of the chilly penguin exhibit. This is all while discussing penguin biology, conservation, training, enrichment and care with your Moody Gardens biologist.

Come experience the cool climate and sounds of the exhibit and witness a penguin create a work of art with a penguin painting as part of an enrichment activity for the animal! More information on the Moody Gardens Public Penguin Encounter can be found here. You can even purchase a penguin painting in our Aquarium Gift Shop. Proceeds from the painting go toward animal conservation projects. It’s a very unique gift for the animal lover in your life!

For more information, click here.

Moody Gardens Grieves Loss of Presley the Harbor Seal

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It is with great sadness that we share the news of the death of Presley the Harbor Seal. She died overnight this past week from an Upper Gastric Torsion. This condition can informally be described as the twisting of the stomach that was likely caused by movement or something the animal unknowingly did to itself. As was the case with Presley, it can occur suddenly and without symptoms. At home, some of us may be familiar with the condition as it is fairly common with dogs. Some animals can endure chronic, long-term battles with Gastric Torsion without relief. In Presley case, she had no symptoms and her behavior and appetite were normal throughout the day.

Presley was born in 2005 at the Memphis Zoo. In 2006, we opened our doors and hearts to her as the ideal companion for our Harbor Seal named Porter. Porter is a rescue animal found off the coast of Maine and ineligible for release to the wild. Although Porter had Fur Seals and Sea Lions in his North Pacific Exhibit, the addition of Presley provided better companionship from another seal of the same species for a more natural situation.

Together, the two Harbor Seals bonded and were active and playful in their exhibit. In 2011, the pair had a seal pup named Riley. Riley currently lives at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas. Presley and Porter have been a favorite among guests who have come to visit them at the Aquarium Pyramid for nine years. As the staff mourns the loss of this beautiful animal, we know she will be greatly missed by our guests as well. She will be remembered for her gregarious nature and the joy that she brought to so many of us.

Although the Aquarium Pyramid is currently closed for the first phase of renovation, you can watch the seals on our Webcam. You can visit the seals in person when the aquarium temporarily reopens starting November 14, 2015.

Most certainly Presley cannot ever be replaced, but biologists will closely monitor Porter’s behavior and well-being as animals grieve the loss of a companion too. They will work with AZA and the National Marine Fisheries Service to identify a suitable companion.

MG Sweetheart Scavenger Hunt!

With its peaceful foliage in the Rainforest Pyramid and beautiful marine life in the Aquarium Pyramid, Moody Gardens is a great place to spend this Valentine’s Day with your sweetheart or family.

VDAY_ScavengerHunt_2015While you are at Moody Gardens, you can participate in the Sweetheart Scavenger Hunt. Learn about the intricate relationships and courtships that take place in the animal kingdom with this scavenger hunt. And best of all, you could earn a family 4-pack of Moody Gardens tickets by participating.

Here are some of the facts you will learn while participating in the scavenger hunt:

  • Humans aren’t the only ones that give presents when they are wooing a lady. Male penguins give their potential love interests a pebble. They search for the smoothest rock, and if the female accepts, she puts it in her nest and parenthood soon follows.
  • When piranhas find themselves in love, they turn almost completely black to discourage others from courting. Think of it as a clear sign of “Hey, I’m taken.”
  • Some women wish men would experience the ups and downs of pregnancy. In the seahorse kingdom that’s exactly what happens, as the male delivers the babies. Scientists aren’t 100 percent sure why it occurs – maybe it is to help make more babies or just share some of the load from females – but it certainly is one of the most unique relationships under the sea.
  • A scarlet ibis believes in true love. When a male successful woes a female, they will remain partners for life.
  • Harbor seals flirt by rolling and bubble-blowing. You can read about our Moody Gardens harbor seal couple, Porter and Presley, here.

Learn about these and the other animals at Moody Gardens when you visit on Valentine’s Day weekend. Be sure to download the Sweetheart Scavenger Hunt and get your cameras ready to win a great prize!

And don’t forget to dive into a romantic underwater dining experience at the Aquarium Pyramid with the Sea of Love Valentine’s Dinner on Feb. 13 or 14.

Enjoy a special menu created exclusively for the Sea of Love Dinner. You can reserve a table with a view of one of the unique locations throughout the Aquarium Pyramid.

Dinner for two is $140 on Friday and $180 on Saturday. It also includes rose for her, souvenir photo and Aquarium Pyramid admission. Saturday’s dinner also includes a bottle of wine or champagne. Biologists will also be in attendance to answer any questions you may have about the spectacular residents of the Aquarium Pyramid.

To reserve your spot, please call 1-800-582-4673 ext. 4368. Reservations are on a first-come, first-serve basis. Calls will be answered and returned daily. RSVP by February 11. Click here for menus.

Sweethearts of the North Pacific: Presley and Porter

Porter-&-Presley

One of the Moody Gardens Aquarium Pyramid’s most famous couples is Porter and Presley. These harbor seals met in 2006 and immediately became inseparable.

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Porter, male Harbor Seal

Porter, who was rescued as a pup off the coast of Maine after being abandoned by his mother, made his home at Moody Gardens in 2001. He had excellent care by the staff at Marine Animal Lifeline Rehabilitation Center, where unfortunately an infection caused him to lose his eye.

Porter would not hunt the live fish that he was offered, and biologists decided Porter would not be able to survive in the wild. Since he was unable to be released, a search for a new home for him began and Moody Gardens created a home for him at the Aquarium Pyramid.

Young Presley in 2006
Young Presley in 2006

Five years later, Presley joined the Moody Gardens family. After her companion at the Memphis Zoo passed away, caretakers knew the young harbor seal needed a companion. Even though Porter had fur seals and sea lions in his North Pacific Exhibit, the addition of Presley provided better companionship. Two habor seals together provided a more natural situation and made future breeding an option.

In 2011, Porter and Presley had a pup named Riley, after the former President of Moody Gardens Mike Riley. The couple had conceived in the past, but that was their first successful birth.

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Presley and pup Riley

The newborn seal and first-time mother Presley spent their time together bonding through activities like nursing and exploring their exhibit. Riley has since moved to the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, where she has two young males to hang out with and possibly have pups of her own.

You can visit Presley and Porter at the Sea of Love Valentine’s Day dinner on Feb. 13 and 14. This romantic dinner includes a three-course meal, rose for her, souvenir photo and Aquarium Pyramid admission. The Feb. 14 dinner also includes a bottle of wine or champagne.

For prices, visit www.moodygardens.com/calendar/aqvalentines.

To reserve your spot, please call 1-800-582-4673 ext. 4368. Reservations are on a first-come, first-serve basis. Calls will be answered and returned daily between 3-4 p.m. RSVP by February 11, 2015.

Moody Madness: Final 4

Stunning.

That’s the best word to describe the voting results for the Moody Madness Elite Eight.

Both top seeds, the Saki Monkey and the King Penguin, saw their chances of being named Moody Gardens’ favorite animal end in shocking results. The loss was especially tough for the King Penguin, which was defeated by just three votes.

Here were the final Elite Eight results:

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So we are down to the Final Four. Who will be the champion of the Rainforest and Aquarium Pyramids? That’s for you to determine!

CLICK HERE to vote or vote below for your favorites!

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Moody Madness: Elite 8

The Sweet Sixteen of the Moody Madness tournament saw most of the top seeds move on, with the exception of two upsets.

The Cinderella story of the tournament to determine the most popular animal at Moody Gardens continues to be the Two-Toed Sloth. After a surprise win over the Cotton-Top Tamarin, the Sloth pulled out a stunning victory over the Komodo Dragon.

Can the Sloth continue its improbably run against the Giant River Otter? Can the top-seeded White-faced Saki Monkey and King Penguin continue their march to the Final Four? That’s up to you to decide.

Click the image below to see the results from the Sweet 16 round:

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CLICK HERE to vote or vote below for your favorites!

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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.

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.