RAINFOREST PYRAMID® UPDATE: African Palm Civet

Don’t call her a weasel!  Come meet Zinga, our African Palm Civet who lives in the nocturnal animal exhibit at the Moody Gardens® Rainforest Pyramid®. The African Palm Civet (Nandinia binotata) is a small cat-like relative of weasels and mongooses and is one of the many mammals you’ll meet on your adventure when the Rainforest Pyramid® reopens on May 28th.

African Palm Civets are found in the forests of eastern and central Africa and are threatened due to loss of habitat. They will usually weigh between 3.7 to 4.6 pounds and are brown to light tan in color with a mottled series of darker brown spots. The fur is darker on the top half of the body to help the Civet stay camouflaged in the trees. The Civet also has bare pink pads on its feet to help provide cushioning and friction while they move and hunt. It also has a thick, muscular tail which helps with balance.  These omnivores (both meat and plant eating) will use its back feet and tail to grip and balance on branches while using its front feet to grab and manipulate prey. It will then finish off its prey with a series of fast bites. If the prey is small enough, it may swallow it whole.

Civets are arboreal (tree dwelling), solitary and crepuscular, meaning only active at dawn and dusk. Females will usually give birth to up to four young after two months of gestation. Also, the female’s mammary glands secrete an orange-yellow liquid that turns the mother’s belly and the offspring’s fur orange-yellow. It is thought this is a deterrent for males wanting to mate and to protect the young from attacks. An adult male African Palm Civet may occupy a territory of over 250 acres with up to three females occupying the same territory. Each female will have her own patch of land and will only share it with their offspring. Adult male and female civets hardly socialize, but they will keep track of each other using siren-like calls.

Smell something? Civets have scent glands on their feet and tail that secrete a fruit-like smell. These scents are used for a variety of purposes.

Watch the following video to meet Zinga and come see her and her friends on May 28th at the Rainforest Pyramid®!

(Click here if the following video is not functioning)

RAINFOREST PYRAMID® UPDATE: Giant Otters

You “otter” see this! Come meet the newest residents of Moody Gardens® when life emerges on May 28th at the Rainforest Pyramid®. On your adventure you’ll meet Dru, Ella and Yzma, three Giant Otters (Pteronura brasiliensis) who came to Moody Gardens® on December 17 of last year.

Giant Otters are a carnivorous mammal native to South America and found mostly in the Amazon River and the Pantanal, which is an area of tropical wetland in Brazil. Otters are members of the weasel family (Mustelidae) and have the longest body length in the species. In some cases, males have reached reported lengths of over seven feet. Males in general will be about 4.9 to 5.9 feet, while females will reach lengths of about 4.9 to 5.6 feet.

These noisy mammals have the shortest fur of all otter species and it’s usually chocolate-brown, reddish or fawn in coloration. This fur is extremely dense so much so that water cannot penetrate to the skin. Guard hairs trap water and keep the inner fur dry. These hairs are about one third of an inch long and are twice as long as the fur of the inner coat. Giant Otters also have unique markings of white or cream colored fur on the throat and under the chin, which allows individuals to be identified from birth. It is believed that these markings are used by the otter to identify each other. When meeting each other for the first time, otters will engage in a behavior known as “periscoping”. When “periscoping”, otters will pop their heads and chests out of the water to display their markings to the other. They are also characterized by their small, rounded ears and their short and stubby legs that end in large webbed feet equipped with very sharp claws that help them catch prey.  Giant Otters also have highly sensitive whiskers (vibrissae) that track changes in water pressure and currents, which aids in detecting prey.

Giant Otters are diurnal, which means they are active exclusively during daylight hours. They are excellent hunters and have extremely keen senses of smell and sight. They are apex predators, meaning they have no serious natural enemies. A Giant Otter’s diet usually consists of fish, but they have also been known to eat crabs, snakes and even small Caimans. These natives of South America like to talk too.  They are the noisiest of any otter species and they have vocalizations that indicate alarm, aggressiveness and reassurance just to name a few.

This species of otter is unusually social for a member of the weasel family. In Spanish, they are known as Lobos Del Rio(Wolves of River) and Perro de Agua (Water Dog) because they live and hunt in packs like canines. They can live in groups of anywhere from two to twenty, but the average group size is three to eight. These groups are strongly cohesive. Members will sleep, play, travel and feed together. Group members will share roles, structured around a dominant breeding pair. This species is highly territorial and they will mark their territory with latrines, gland secretions and vocalizations. Dens are built into the riverbanks and are usually equipped with multiple entrances and chambers. After a 65-70 day gestation period, females will give birth to around one to five pups. After two years the young otters reach full maturity and will leave the family group permanently.

Giant Otters have been categorized as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) since 1999 as a result from poaching and loss of habitat. Moody Gardens® is one of six zoos and aquariums in North America that feature Giant Otters.

Watch the following video to learn about Dru, Ella and Yzma’s journey and see how they are adapting to their new home here at Moody Gardens. (Click here if the video below is not working.)

Easter in the Gardens Returns!

Are you still on the hunt for Easter plans? We’ve got you covered! Join us for our annual Easter in the Gardens this Easter Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Moody Gardens. We are also hosting not one, but two delicious Easter buffets that the entire family can enjoy!

Easter in the Gardens:

We have lots of exciting activities for the kiddos to enjoy! Starting with our very own petting zoo where children can get up close and personal with some cute and cuddly animals such as chicks, bunnies and miniature ponies. The fun doesn’t stop there, there will also be arts & crafts, music, face painting and games & prizes.

Whatever you do, just make sure you don’t miss one of our two Easter Egg Hunts where children 12 and under can enjoy the pursuit of brightly colored, candy-filled happiness (otherwise known as eggs!). Egg hunts will take place at noon and 2 p.m. in the Oleander Bowl. Participants are invited to have their picture taken with the Easter Bunny inside the Moody Gardens Hotel so make sure to bring your camera!

Easter Buffets:

In addition to all of the activity outdoors, guests can enjoy a first-class meal at the Easter Sunday buffet in both the Garden Restaurant and at the Moody Gardens Hotel. While walk-ins are welcome at the Garden Restaurant, reservations are required for the Hotel buffet and can be made by calling 409-741-8484, ext. 4465.

The Garden Restaurant buffet will feature shrimp Victoria, pecan-crusted mahi-mahi and chicken le garde on a bed of creamy marsala with an assortment of sides, breads and desserts for only $21.95 for adults, $17.95 for seniors, and $11.95 for children (children 4 and under are free with complimentary adult purchase). Click here for a full menu and more information or call 1-800-582-4673 extension 4238.

The Moody Gardens Hotel will serve chilled shrimp and crab claws, roasted leg of lamb, prime rib of pork, carved roast sirloin and herb and parmigiano tilapia – all with an assortment of sides, salads and desserts for $38.95 for adults, $29.95 for seniors and $17.95 for children ages 4-12 (children under 4 are free). Click here for a full menu and more information or call 409-741-8484, extension 4465.

We wish everyone a happy and safe Easter and we hope you can all join us! If you have questions, comments, concerns, fun Easter stories/plans/traditions you want to share, then don’t hesitate to leave us a comment below!

Dora & Diego’s 4-D Adventure: Catch that Robot Butterfly!

Dora & Diego’s 4-D Adventure will be opening March 12, 2011 in our 4D Special FX Theater, just in time for Spring Break!

Dora, Diego and Boots need your help to protect the animals of the rainforest from Swiper’s out-of-control Robot Butterfly! ¡Vámonos! The Robot Butterfly is swiping the water and plants that the animals need. Join your adventurous amigos on Nickelodeon’s high-speed, eye-popping chase from the tropical rainforest to the icy Arctic! Let’s catch that Robot Butterfly and protect the rainforest!

Visit www.moodygardens.org for more information or to purchase tickets.

Showtimes:
Starting March 12, 2011
Daily: 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m.

Watch a sneak peek here:

© 2011 Viacom International Inc. All rights reserved. Nickelodeon and all related titles, logos and characters are trademarks of Viacom International Inc

RAINFOREST PYRAMID® UPDATE: Northern Tree Shrew

The Northern Tree Shrew (Tupaia belangeri) is believed to be the closest relative of some of the earliest mammals. These cute little guys are just one of the many species of animals you will encounter when you “Experience Life” in the Moody Gardens® Rainforest Pyramid®.

This type of shrew is found in the forests of Southeast Asia, from India and southwestern China through Malaysia, Borneo and the Philippines. These omnivores (both meat and plant eating) will usually live about two to three years in the wild, but some have been known to live 12 years. The female shrew will usually give birth to two to four youngsters and they will actually build a nest for them in addition to their own! This animal is rare because the mother doesn’t spend a lot of time with the babies. She will not groom them, clean the nest or retrieve them if they are in distress. In fact, experts say she only spends about 90 seconds with her babies every two days!

They are constantly active and must eat often due to their very simple digestive system and because of the amount of energy used throughout the day.  These little creatures (5.5 inches from nose to tail) have an extremely keen sense of sight, smell and hearing and they use these to avoid predators. They are one of the few small mammals who have all highly evolved senses.

Looks aren’t everything; these small mammals have brains too! The Northern Tree Shrew has the highest brain to body ratio of any mammal. Talk about smart! They also have eight different sounds in their vocal repertoire which alarm sounds, defense sounds, etc. Scent marking is also very important to the shrew. They use this to communicate social standing and to mark their territory.

Check this video featuring the Northern Tree Shrew

RAINFORST PYRAMID UPDATE:Rodrigues Fruit Bats

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!