Moody Gardens Recognizes Six Outstanding Animal Care Professionals

Zookeeper WEEK.Logo 2006 VThis week is National Zookeeper Week and Moody Garden’s Life Science and Exhibit Operations department has taken this opportunity to recognize the dedication and hard work that goes into this challenging career path. Moody Gardens would like to thank each and every person on our team for providing the highest level of animal care and well-being while creating personal connections between our guests and our conservation, education and research efforts. The LSEO management team recognized 6 individuals with outstanding animal professional awards. These employees have had a significant impact on Moody Gardens through outstanding dedication, competence, conscientious performance, excellence in engaging guests and ingenuity.

The 2015 Outstanding Animal Care Professionals are: Dave Brossette, T’Noya Gonzales, Karen Holcroft, Marci Kurtz, Maggie Reynolds and Sean Salinger. As evidenced by their dedication to their job, only 3 recipients were present at the awards lunch on Tuesday, 21 July as duty called the others away.

Marci Kurtz, Sean Salinger and T’Noya Gonzales receive their recognition.
Marci Kurtz, Sean Salinger and T’Noya Gonzales receive their recognition.

Moody Madness: Final 4


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:


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:



CLICK HERE to vote or vote below for your favorites!

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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!


Watt – The Tough Penguin at Moody Gardens

The toughest penguin at Moody Gardens is growing into a big guy just like his namesake.

Watt, a King Penguin named after Houston Texans star J.J. Watt, has already grown to around 3-feet tall and 30 pounds in just 2 ½ months.

Watt absolutely loves fish, which has helped him grow so big in such a short about of time. He is a curious little guy, but his dad still watches over him. He’s definitely not ready for his son to be exploring on his own.

Watt suffered a cut on his back shortly after breaking out of his shell. Under the care of Moody Gardens biologists, Watt proved he was one tough chick and made a quick recovery. Now he is on exhibit joining the nearly 100 penguins housed in the Aquarium Pyramid

J.J. Watt is the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year and one of the most popular athletes in Houston.

Come see Watt and the other penguins at the Moody Gardens Aquarium Pyramid. The Aquarium is currently open from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.

Earth Day Weekend Schedule & Savings



Start your Earth Day in our Herb Garden with the Galveston County Master Gardeners, as they teach easy gardening tips on Texas butterfly gardens. Children can also enjoy plenty of activities including make-and-take recycled pots and other crafts.

  • 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Oleander Festival in the Visitor Center
  • 10:30 a.m. Seal Presentations at Aquarium Pyramid*
  • 11 a.m. Penguin Feedings at Aquarium Pyramid*
  • 11 a.m. Butterfly Release at Rainforest Pyramid*
  • 11 a.m. Free Master Gardener Presentations at Discovery Pyramid (Saturday only)
  • 11:30 a.m. Sky King Falconry Bird Presentation at Herb Garden (Saturday only)
  • 11:30 a.m. South Pacific Exhibit Dive at Aquarium Pyramid*
  • 12 p.m. – 3 p.m. Arts and Crafts by the Discovery Pyramid
  • 1 p.m. Ocelot Presentation at Rainforest Pyramid*
  • 1 p.m. Free Master Gardener Presentations at Discovery Pyramid
  • 1:30 p.m. Sky King Falconry Bird Presentation at Herb Garden (Saturday only)
  • 2 p.m. Caribbean Tank Dive at Aquarium Pyramid*
  • 2:15 p.m. Seal Presentations at Aquarium Pyramid*
  • 3 p.m. Penguin Feedings at Aquarium Pyramid*
  • 3 p.m. Butterfly Release at Rainforest Pyramid*
  • 3 p.m. Free Master Gardener Presentations at Discovery Pyramid
  • 3:00 p.m. Sky King Falconry Bird Presentation at Herb Garden (Saturday only)

*Pyramid admission not included


Save big this Earth Day weekend with our Special Combo Pass to the Aquarium and Rainforest Pyramids for just $24.95 ($43.90 value). Click here to purchase online (valid only April 20-21).


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


Group Volunteer Opportunities

group volunteerVolunteering is a great way to boost morale and promote team building for your company, organization, or student group. Corporate and group volunteers at Moody Gardens have an opportunity to get involved with ground work and special events, such as the Festival of Lights.


At Moody Gardens, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do without the help of our incredible volunteers. We depend on them for assistance in many areas of operation.


The Corporate and Group Volunteer Program allows participants to provide hands-on assistance in many areas, including but not limited to:

  • Gardens and grounds keeping (mulching, planting, and weeding)
  • Painting
  • Exhibit upkeep
  • Event preparation
  • Cleaning attractions, such as the lazy river and playground structures, and surfaces
  • Paint and change bulbs for the Festival of Lights
  • Special events, such as Ghostly Gardens, Easter in the Gardens, and Festival of Lights


Corporate and Group Volunteer Program details:

  • Weather permitting, groups may volunteer year round
  • Highest need for volunteers is between September and May
  • A maximum of 50 volunteers will be accepted
  • Groups are taken on a first-come, first-served basis
  • There is a 4-hour minimum requirement
  • Must be 16 years or older
  • Children may not accompany adults while volunteering
  • Each participant must sign a liability waiver


Volunteering with a group gives you the opportunity to become part of the conservation and education efforts that are a major aspect of Moody Gardens. You also have the chance to give back to your community and meet new people.


When you aren’t spending your time helping us out, be sure to check out the popular attractions, such as the Rainforest Pyramid and Aquarium Pyramid. For overnight stays, check out one of the best places to stay in Galveston—the Moody Gardens Hotel. We are so appreciative of our volunteers, and look forward to working with you soon!


Sea of Love: Valentine’s Dinner at Moody Gardens

valentinesSpend your Valentine’s Day on a unique date in Moody Gardens Aquarium Pyramid. Celebrate the romance by diving into an underwater dining experience! Seating is limited, so book now!


Choose from four different Aquarium Pyramid dining experiences:


Tunnel of Love: Feel as though you’re underwater in our Caribbean Exhibit tunnel. Enjoy your romantic dinner while sharks and other beautiful sea creatures swim overhead.


Sealed with a Kiss: First- and second-level seating is available by the seals and sea lions of the North Pacific Exhibit. These playful animals will add a splash of fun to your dining experience.


Fishin’ for Love: First and second level seating is available in the South Pacific Exhibit. The colorful fish inhabitants provide the perfect backdrop for your romantic evening.


Lovable Penguins: You’ll have to be careful around the penguins of the South Atlantic Exhibit! They’re so cute they may just steal your heart this Valentine’s Day!


Our Lover’s Menu is packed full of delicious options to make the dining experience one to remember!


Soup and Salad (choice of one):

  • Asparagus Bisque topped with Roasted Pear
  • Seven Leaf Salad with Fresh Berries and tossed with Raspberry Vinaigrette


Entrée Selection (choice of one):

  • Colonel’s Rib Eye Steak with Garlic Herb Shrimp served with Red Potatoes
  • Red Snapped topped with Lump Crab Meat Cream Sauce served with Sauteed Julianne Vegetables
  • Pan Grilled Chicken Breast topped with Grape Tomato and Porcini Mushroom Sauce served with Char-Grilled Asparagus


Dessert (YUM!):

  • Chocolate Heart Shaped Tiramisu for two: three-layer sponge cake with mascarpone cheese, cream cheese, whipped cream, coffee liqueur, chocolate shavings, and topped with cocoa. Served with Bailey’s whipped cream.


This special Sea of Love Valentine’s Dinner is $80 per couple (does not include tax and gratuity).  The event is from 6-8 p.m. on February 14, 2013.


Go ahead and turn the evening into an overnight romantic rendezvous with our special Valentine’s Hotel Package. For only $255, the package includes:

  • Valentine’s dinner
  • Chocolate covered strawberries
  • Breakfast for two
  • Behind the scenes tour of the Aquarium Pyramid on Friday morning


Discover why Moody Gardens Hotel is one of the best places to stay in Galveston.

Make your reservations TODAY! Call 1-800-582-4673 ext. 4200.