Category: Animals (Page 1 of 3)

Joining Forces for Conservation: Moody Gardens Partners with Ecology Project International and Pacuare Reserve

Advancing Wildlife Protection and Environmental Education Through Global Collaboration

Ecology Project International and Pacuare Rserve enters into conservation partnership with Moody Gardens.
Moody Gardens is proud to be official partners with Ecology Project International (EPI) and Pacuare Reserve.

Moody Gardens is excited to announce a new partnership in conservation and education with Ecology Project International (EPI) and Pacuare Reserve. This collaboration underscores our shared commitment to protecting wildlife and promoting environmental awareness.

The Agami Heron at its breeding grounds in Costa Rica at Pacuare Reserve.
Agami Heron perched on a decaying log in the Costa Rican tropical forest at Pacuare Reserve.

Our partnership with Pacuare Reserve includes funding assistance for conservation projects, staffing, and research. This support is vital for expanding the conservation efforts focused on the rare and magnificent Agami Heron, among other species.

This multi-year endeavor aligns with our mission of advancing conservation and education through successful international collaborations. One of our initial joint projects involves contributing to the construction of an observation blind for the majestic Agami Heron and hatcheries that protect sea turtle nests. We look forward to achieving great things together through joint research initiatives, educational programs, and impactful conservation projects.

Ecology Project International is a non-profit organization that fosters
place-based education partnerships among educators, experts, and students.
The work of EPI helps promotes scientific and community-based conservation, which addresses human and environmental threats.

Pacuare Reserve, managed by EPI, is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including three species of monkeys, 252 bird species, sea turtles, jaguars, and ocelots to name a few. The reserve, accessible only by boat, welcomes eco-tourists, students, and researchers to its dense jungle outpost.

Visitors can look forward to observing the flora and fauna first hand which can give them a real sense of the world in its natural environment. They can also participate in census collection and field research where they can observe and study species such as sea turtles, monkeys, felines and birds.

Additionally, they can learn about the diverse species and natural wonders of the reserve, with field assistants who explain scientific terms in simple, easy-to-understand language. For those unable to visit, donations are welcomed to support ecosystem protection, research, and education in the fight against climate change and biodiversity loss.

Two Spider Monkeys look down through the branches of the rainforest at Pacuare Reserve.
Curious Spider Monkeys looking down through the branches of the dense rainforest.

The Agami Heron, known for its vibrant breeding colors, is classified as Vulnerable due to habitat loss and other threats. Its small, scattered population makes it especially vulnerable. The research project at Pacuare Reserve is vital for protecting this species by studying its behavior, migration, and habitat needs, and sharing the findings with the international Agami Heron Working Group.

Research and conservation programs for the Agami Herons faces challenges, including the need for advanced technology like satellite transmitters and high-quality optical instruments. Moody Gardens is supporting Pacuare Reserve by helping design and place a blind to enhance the observation site. This will allow researchers, and participants to gather more accurate data and improve existing conservation strategies.

Together, Moody Gardens and EPI are confident that our joint efforts will lead to significant advancements in conservation and education for the Agami Heron and other species that can be found at Pacuare Reserve.

World Migratory Bird Day on May 11

Protect Insects, Protect Birds

Participate in celebrating the importance of migratory birds this Saturday, May 11th. Insects play a hugely important role in the life cycle of birds and within the varied ecosystems of Planet Earth.

In conjunction with the Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council, there are three events planned to occur at Moody Gardens and one event that takes place offsite on Galveston Island:

Houston Audubon Urban Survey
Moody Gardens Golf Course
1700 Sydnor Lane, Galveston TX
Travel by golf cart across the greens to take a survey of all the birds on the course. Must RSVP, with a limit of six people per party to (409) 370-4585
7:00 AM – 8:30 AM

Moody Gardens Learning Place
Listen to knowledgeable staff as they discuss native plant gardens and actions that can be taken to help bird populations. This is a FREE to the public event.
9:00 AM – 11:00 AM

Moody Gardens Colonel Paddlewheel Tour
This boat tour will focus on bird migration throughout Galveston.
Tickets must be purchased for this event here.
1:00 PM – 3:00 PM

The theme, ‘Protect Birds, Protect Insects’ which forms the focus for this year’s ‘Migratory Bird Day,’ are important for several reasons.

Insects are an importance food source for many creatures, they recycle nutrients by eating decaying plants and animals, they are also pollinators to 85% of all flowering plants including crops, and they are herbivores that promote biodiversity. Habitat degradation, pesticides, invasive species and more all threaten this balance in nature.

A Black-necked Stilt feeds in the retention ditch at Moody Gardens West Lot.

When it comes to humans, there are several actions that we can take to protect insects and the birds that rely on them for survival.
Leave the Leaves: leaves provide nutrients and shelter for many insects
Plant Native: native insects do better with native plants
Reduce Chemical Use: have a natural lawn instead of a manicured lawn
that uses pesticides
Dim Your Lights: both insects and birds are affected by artificial light at
night. Turn off unnecessary lights and make sure any outdoor lighting is
Dark Spy approved.

Happy World Migratory Bird Day!

Explore the Spring 2024 “Sustainable Tourism” Edition of the ‘Island Soul Visitor Guide’

Cover page of Galveston's Island Soul focused on Sustainable Tourism: Help keep our Island clean, green and pristine
The Spring 2024 Island Soul Visitor’s Guide featuring “Sustainable Tourism.”

Find out more about the Moody Gardens Conservation Fund, Coral Reef Lab, Animal Encounters and ongoing conservation efforts

In this Spring “Sustainable Tourism” issue of Galveston’s ‘Island Soul’ magazine produced by Visit Galveston, the tourist guide takes a deeper look at the ongoing environmental and conservation efforts taking place on the island. In this edition, you’ll discover special coverage spotlighting Moody Gardens’ role in sustainable environmental practices.

At Moody Gardens, conservation and research form a cornerstone of our mission, driving our efforts to educate the public about nature, wildlife, and the environment while serving as a focal point for all our activities. These efforts include the establishment of the Conservation Fund[PDF] which is maintained through Penguin & Otter Encounters; the Penguin, and Seal Experience; along with selling prints of penguin art.

To learn more, download a free PDF copy of ‘Island Soul’ via the link below:

This issue of ‘Island Soul’ written by Crai S. Bower (Instagram: @travelcrais & X / Twitter: @craisbower) and provided by VisitGalveston.com

The Lone Wanderer: Cattle Tyrant’s Texas Tale

“Reflections on Isolation and Resilience in Nature”

North American Cattle Tyrant small bird with brown features and a yellow chest. Photo by Greg Whittaker

The North American Cattle Tyrant in downtown Corpus Christi
Photo credit: Greg Whittaker

It was a strange rare bird chase as I walked a 6-block area in downtown Corpus Christi with binoculars and camera last Friday.  Circling back towards the corner of North Chaparral and Lawrence, I saw it!  A medium sized bird, gray on top, yellow below, catching bugs off the windows of a building and hopping on the sidewalk just as most previous eBird pictures and reports reflected. 

I took several pictures and walked back to the pizza joint to meet the other three non-birdnerds visiting the coastal bend on this long weekend camping trip.  I was beaming as I showed the grainy pictures on my cell phone and announced this as my species number 401 for Texas. 

I mention that not because it’s a particularly grand achievement amongst birders, but mainly to emphasize the relative unimportance of assigning a number.  My thoughtful wife pondered why birders flock to see a single, wayward individual bird and celebrate an encounter.  No one seems to care that this lost bird is destined to die alone in an unfamiliar place.  The focus on animal well-being is core to both of our professional lives, and her questions prompted my own curiosity.

At a Houston Audubon event this week I took the opportunity to ask several avid world birders if they’d ever seen a Cattle Tyrant in its native range and habitat.  A couple commented that their numerous encounters in Panama and Brazil involved birds hopping around on sidewalks in downtown urban centers plucking flies off buildings and dumpsters.  To which I thought to myself, well at least this new Texan has located its essential habitat.  I commented that it would probably suffer from the cold temperatures this past week and it was pointed out that the natural range has similar conditions. 

Satisfied that this visitor could survive, and perhaps physically thrive in its new home, I was troubled by the species description listing it as a social species often found in flocks.  Isolation of a social species is the opposite of thriving when we look through the animal well-being lens.  The North American Cattle Tyrant saga will continue to play out, and this individual bird will attract thousands of avian gawkers before disappearing mysteriously, or even sadder, to obscurity when the newness wears off.

Stepping back to explore the odd concept of listing in the birdwatching realm, I’ll state up front, that I’m a lister.  It would take some analyzing to determine why its important for me to have a metric assigned to my time outside enjoying nature, but it’s there, it’s real and eBird is the enabler. 

Likely the same neurochemical explosions associated with the dinging sound of increasing “likes” on a tik-tok post (if that’s even a thing).  The inherent narcissism of making me and my sightings more important than the subject matter itself. 

I realized this morning as I listened to the territorial call of an American Robin establishing a nest in my neighborhood and seeing the head of a Red-shouldered Hawk peering over the edge of last year’s nest that everyday encounters with the wildlife around us should be more important than a “first”.  Listing is important, and the valuable data that researchers access through the aggregate of all of our eBird lists is critical to understanding species population trends, range shifts, migration timing and many other questions that we haven’t even asked yet. 

While you’re out there chasing those rare birds, take time to notice everything else.  Collectively we may start talking a little more loudly about the reduced numbers of common species, or the seemingly smaller numbers of species we’re seeing throughout the year, or the lack of a species during a migration, or two, or a decade.  Since we all care about the birds we see, hopefully we’ll care as much about the ones we don’t.

Whooping Cranes at Goose Island State Park
Photo credit: Greg Whittaker

If you want to see the first ever North American record of the Cattle Tyrant, go to the corner of North Chaparral Street and Schatzell Street in downtown Corpus Christi and watch for the pretty yellow-bellied bird hopping along the sidewalk catching flies off the side of a building. 

On the way down, treat yourself to a drive by the Big Tree at Goose Island State Park to see some of the 536 living Whooping Crane that continue to visit Texas every November through February.

Photo of Greg Whittaker, Animal Husbandry Manager at Moody Gardens

Greg Whittaker is Moody Gardens’ General Curator and a birding enthusiast. He chairs the Galveston County Audubon Group and serves on the Houston Audubon Board of Directors.

Audubon Christmas Bird Count – Joyful Citizen Science!

On Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank Chapman, an early officer in the newly formed Audubon Society, proposed a new holiday tradition – a “Christmas Bird Census” that would count birds during the holidays rather than hunt them.  In the 123 years since, the annual CBC as we now call it, has grown from 27 birders tallying a mere 90 species, to just under 80,000 participants across Canada, the United States, Latin America, the Caribbean and Pacific Islands surveying more than 2600 fifteen-mile diameter circles to record 2244 species, plus 432 hybrids.  The citizen science data produced from these collective efforts helps inform conservation strategies around avian population trends.

Galveston boasts 2 circles monitoring our Island; TXGA and TXWG.  The older TXGA circle is centered just off the northwest edge of Pelican Island and encompasses habitats from just east of Rettilon Road on Bolivar Peninsula to the west end of Sportsman’s Road (Bay) and Beach Pocket Park #2 (Gulf) here on the Island.  The circle extends approximately 3 miles off the seawall and wraps around to include most of Texas City, Bayou Vista, and Tiki Island.  This circle was established in 1978 by Dick and Dwight Peake, and we just completed its 46th count on Tuesday, 19 December.  It was a resurrection of an earlier CBC circle (TX1W) that was centered about 2 miles west and collected data from 1946 through 1970.  TXGA has more water than land and a limited amount of wooded area, but still produces species diversity in the top 20 of all US circles.  The picture above was taken at sunrise from the observation platform overlooking Galveston Bay Foundation’s Sweetwater Nature Preserve where our visiting Sandhill Cranes spend their nights.  We were there to count them as they woke up to start their day.

Galveston’s West End CBC will be conducted on Tuesday, 2 January, 2024.  This newly formed effort is in it’s 5th year under the watchful eyes of Kyle O’Haver and Cynthia Hughes.  This circle is centered just northwest of Jamaica Beach in West Galveston Bay.  The eastern edge captures Laffite’s Cove Nature Preserve and the western edge is just offshore of the westernmost point of San Luis Pass.  A full third of the circle is within the Gulf waters off Galveston Island, and the northern arc of the circle captures a generous swath of mainland agricultural land, marsh and coastal prairie habitat split between Galveston and Brazoria Counties.  The circle encompasses most of West Galveston Bay, the mouth of Greens Lake, much of Hall’s Bayou and Chocolate Bayou.

You don’t need to be an expert birder to participate, and all eyes are valued in seeing, counting and tallying what we encounter.  It’s a great way to meet folks, see some new and interesting places you might want to bird, and learn a little about identification tips and tricks, photography, compare birding equipment, or who knows where the conversations lead.  If you’re interested in spending time enjoying nature while identifying, counting and recording local birds with teams of volunteer citizen scientists, don’t hesitate to send an email to gwhittaker@moodygardens.org.  I’ll gladly send you information on these, or other local CBC circles where you might find interest.  The Christmas Bird Count season runs from 14 December through 5 January, and there are 26 of them in our local region.  Most CBCs wrap up the day with a countdown event where count compilers, area leaders and participants share stories of the day’s adventures, best birds and generally just catch up with fellow birders to celebrate the season.  I’ll leave you with our sunset over the same marsh where the Cranes were returning to roost after their day enjoying our Island.

Celebrating Our Dedicated Team During National Zookeeper Week!

Last week, we had the pleasure of celebrating National Zookeeper Week, a time dedicated to honoring the unsung heroes of our sanctuary – the hardworking and passionate individuals who dedicate their lives to caring for our beloved animals. As we reflect back on this special week, we cannot help but be overwhelmed with gratitude for our incredible team of zookeepers who make Moody Gardens a truly magical place.

One of our cherished team members, Janie, the talented Penguin & Seal Biologist, beautifully summed up her experience with the following heartfelt quote: “Over the last 2+ years, I have learned so much, made wonderful memories, and gotten to work with some amazing people and animals! The 14-year-old me that started volunteering at Moody Gardens could only dream of having this career, and I’m so happy to have achieved that dream. Hug your local zookeeper and enjoy the photos!”

Janie’s story exemplifies the journey of passion and dedication that our zookeepers embark upon. Many of them begin as bright-eyed volunteers, motivated by their love for wildlife and the desire to contribute positively to conservation efforts. Over time, they grow and learn, gaining valuable knowledge and hands-on experience through countless hours of hard work and determination.

These remarkable individuals play an integral role in our mission to utilize nature in the advancement of rehabilitation, conservation, recreation, and research. Through their care, expertise, and commitment, our animals thrive in a safe and nurturing environment, allowing visitors to witness their natural behaviors up close and personal.

National Zookeeper Week gives us the opportunity to recognize the challenges our team faces daily. From meticulously preparing diets tailored to each animal’s needs to creating stimulating environments that encourage physical and mental well-being, their dedication knows no bounds. Their efforts extend beyond the well-being of the animals, as they also serve as invaluable educators, teaching the public about the importance of conservation and the need to protect these incredible species.

At Moody Gardens, we take immense pride in our diverse and talented team of zookeepers who work tirelessly to ensure the happiness and well-being of our animals. Each member brings their unique skills, experience, and passion to the table, resulting in a vibrant and harmonious atmosphere that permeates throughout our sanctuary.

As we honored our zookeepers during this special week, we also wanted to extend our heartfelt appreciation to you, our dear visitors, and supporters. Your continued love and support make it possible for us to maintain our high standards of care and carry out crucial conservation efforts.

We encourage you to take a moment to express your gratitude to the zookeepers at your local wildlife sanctuaries and zoos, no matter the week. Their dedication often goes unnoticed, but their impact on the lives of both animals and humans is immeasurable.

So, from all of us here at Moody Gardens, a big shoutout to our amazing team of zookeepers! Your hard work, passion, and unwavering commitment inspire us daily, and we are incredibly fortunate to have you as part of our family.

Let us continue to cherish and protect the fascinating creatures that share our planet, and as Janie said, don’t forget to give your local zookeeper a warm hug of appreciation!

With heartfelt thanks and warm wishes,
Jaree Hefner
Moody Gardens Blogger

Start Your Day Right at Moody Gardens: An Insider Tip From Our Family to Yours!

Hey there, fellow adventurers! Welcome to Moody Gardens, where nature meets fun and excitement! Today, we’re going to let you in on a little secret that will take your experience to the next level. So, grab your hats, sunglasses, and a large coffee cup of enthusiasm as we embark on a journey to discover the best time to explore the Rainforest Pyramid and Aquarium Pyramid.

Picture this: It’s a bright and beautiful morning, the sun is shining, and the chirping birds are heralding a new day. You step into the lush oasis of Moody Gardens and feel an instant surge of anticipation. But wait, there’s a strategy here, my friend! If you want to witness the animal kingdom in all its glory, you must set your alarm clock to be here as the clock strikes 10 am.

Why, you ask? Well, let us spill the beans. When the gates open, and the first rays of sunlight pierce through the trees, our animal friends are wide awake, fresh, and brimming with energy. Just like us humans, they’ve had a good night’s sleep and are ready to tackle the day ahead. No groggy morning faces or sleepy yawns for these lively creatures!

If you head straight to the Rainforest Pyramid, you’ll find yourself in awe of the vibrant ecosystem buzzing with life all around you. As you venture deeper into the dense foliage, you’ll spot colorful birds showing off their plumage, playful monkeys swinging from tree to tree, and mischievous sloths peeking out from their leafy hideouts. It’s a symphony of sights and sounds that will leave you singing a happy little tune.

But hold your seahorses, because we’re not done yet! Next up, make your way to the Aquarium Pyramid. Trust us; the underwater wonders are best experienced when our aquatic friends are feeling chipper and sociable. From majestic sharks to graceful stingrays, you’ll witness an underwater oasis that will make your heart skip a beat.

At 10 am, it’s the perfect time to catch the sharks and sting rays setting out on their morning swim, witness the curious penguins waddling about, and marvel at the mesmerizing dance of the jellyfish. You might even catch a glimpse of our resident sea lion, performing his daily showmanship with a cheeky twinkle in his eye.

By visiting the Rainforest Pyramid and Aquarium Pyramid in the morning, you’ll enjoy a double dose of energy, excitement, and sociability. Our animal friends are more likely to interact, play, and show off their unique personalities during these vibrant morning hours. It’s like having a backstage pass to witness the animal kingdom at its best! Whether you’re an early bird or need a few cups of coffee to wake up, we guarantee this magical experience will be worth it.

So, what are you waiting for? Dust off your explorer’s hat, grab your camera (no flash!), and get ready to be amazed at Moody Gardens. The rainforest and the ocean await, filled with charismatic creatures eager to make your day an unforgettable one!

See you bright and early at 10 am, fellow adventurers! Let the wild and wonderful journey begin!

MOODY GARDENS HONORED WITH AZA QUARTER CENTURY AWARD

The Association of Zoos & Aquariums Recognized Moody Gardens with an Esteemed Award as Staff is Credited for 25 Years of Service and Standards

 

The Rainforest and Aquarium Pyramids at Moody Gardens were recognized with the Quarter Century Award by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums at the AZA Annual 2021 Conference on September 24. Moody Gardens has been AZA accredited continuously since 1996.

 

AZA serves as an accrediting body for zoos and aquariums and ensures that accredited facilities meet the exceptional standards of animal care that exceeds those required by law. The Quarter Century Award is an outstanding and rare achievement only given to facilities that have been AZA-accredited for 25 consecutive years. AZA accreditation is the highest standard of excellence in animal care attainable in the zoo and aquarium industry.

 

Every 5 years, the accreditation process requires participating zoos and aquariums to undergo a rigorous inspection and review to ensure it meets ever-rising industry standards in animal management and care, that includes living environments, social groupings, heath and nutrition. The AZA Accreditation Commission also evaluates an institution’s veterinary program, involvement in conservation and research, education programs, safety procedures, security, physical facilities, guest services and the quality of staff. Fewer than 10 percent of the approximate 2,800 animal exhibitors licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture are AZA-accredited. Only 142 zoos and aquariums in the U.S. have received the AZA Quarter Century Award.

 

“We are honored by this award. Moody Gardens has an outstanding team without whom this achievement would not be possible,” said John Zendt, Moody Gardens President and CEO, who added how fortunate the facility is to have such a seasoned staff of professionals. “Their knowledge, passion and standard for excellence is what has created such a great workplace, home for our animals and a fantastic venue for our visitors for the past 25 years.”

 

A total of 39 employees from numerous departments ranging from Curatorial and Maintenance to Education and more have been employed by Moody Gardens for over 20 years and contributed to this achievement through their areas of expertise.

MOODY GARDENS WELCOMES DUKE TO THE NORTH PACIFIC EXHIBIT

Duke, the California Sea Lion, came to Moody Gardens from the Denver Zoo on May 20th.

 

Moody Gardens welcomes their latest addition to the North Pacific exhibit as Duke the California sea lion settles into his new home with his new aquatic friends. Duke came to Moody Gardens from the Denver Zoo as a result of that facility having to undergo construction on their sea lion exhibit. Moody Gardens was able to provide accommodations with a solution that was mutually beneficial inside of the North Pacific exhibit in the Aquarium Pyramid.

The North Pacific exhibit is approximately 20 feet deep and is currently home to four Harbor seals and one other California sea lion named Sam. California sea lions are typically herd animals by nature and Duke is the perfect size and age to make a great companion for Sam. Introductions have begun in the exhibit between the Harbor seals, Sam and Duke. Although it will take some time for him to get acclimated to his new environment, the Harbor seals and Sam are quite intrigued with their new friend. The aquarium biologists are monitoring them closely to see how their chemistry builds in the coming weeks.

 

Duke recently turned seven years old on June 15th and he is expected to be a social and active addition for the other seals and sea lion in the exhibit. He has proven to perform his animal husbandry behaviors with ease and has been a joy to work with. Blowing raspberries and people watching are a couple of his favorite ways to pass the time, as well as trailing along with his new friends. “Duke will make the perfect companion for Sam, our other California sea lion, and having him here has been a great addition to the North Pacific exhibit,” said Aquarium Curator Diane Olsen.

 

California sea lions are usually found on islands off of Southern California and Baja California in Mexico, up the U.S. West Coast to Vancouver Island, Canada. Their diets consist of primarily fish and squid and they can remain underwater for an average of 20 minutes at a time. Although their population is increasing in the wild and they are currently listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List, having California sea lions on exhibit allows Moody Gardens to educate the public about the issues that these marine mammals face in the wild. California sea lions are impacted greatly by human activity including pollution, boat propellers and attacks by domestic animals while pupping along the beaches.
Visit Duke and his exhibit mates inside the North Pacific exhibit inside the Aquarium Pyramid. The Moody Gardens Aquarium Pyramid is one of the largest and most diverse aquariums in the United States. With over 1.5 million gallons of water, the Aquarium Pyramid houses marine life from five distinct environments. Not only does the collection include seals and sea lions, but they also have penguins, sting rays, sharks and over 200 different species of fish.

MOODY GARDENS INTRODUCES THE GOLDEN GIRLS OF TEXAS

Starring a Chinstrap Penguin Named Fox and a Few Other Gals – the Oldest in North America.

 

In honor of Penguin Awareness Day, Moody Gardens introduces their Texas Golden Girls, a few of the oldest Chinstrap penguins in captivity in North America. The star of the show being Fox, the second oldest Chinstrap penguin. Fox hatched one day after the first oldest, who resides at SeaWorld San Antonio. Chinstrap penguins in the wild have an average lifespan of about 15 to 20 years, while the oldest penguin at Moody Gardens turned 37 last month.

 

Fox resides in a smaller extension of the South Atlantic exhibit behind the scenes at the Moody Gardens Aquarium Pyramid, along with a few other geriatric penguins that aren’t able to get around as well as they used to. Another Golden Girl is Gandalf, she is also a 37 year old Chinstrap penguin at Moody Gardens and she hatched about a week after Fox. There are three other Chinstrap penguins that are 34 years old in their little community, as well as three more that are still on exhibit and can be seen inside of the South Atlantic exhibit or from home on the live penguin webcam at MoodyGardens.org. Most of the penguins inside of the retirement community at Moody Gardens are female and being recognized as the Golden Girls of Texas.

 

Fox was collected as an egg by SeaWorld in 1983 and hatched at SeaWorld San Diego. She was moved to Moody Gardens in 2003 and has been thriving ever since. The biologists who care for her liken her to the local mall walkers as she makes her daily laps around the pool to stay active in her senior years. She does have minor arthritis and a degenerated eye due to a detached retina, but she sure doesn’t let those things keep her from having a good time.

 

Wagner was previously the oldest Chinstrap penguin according to Association of Zoos and Aquariums records and the North American Studbook. He passed away at 34 years old, and called Moody Gardens home; though Fox and the other 37 year old Chinstrap penguins have now surpassed that. This demonstrates the excellent quality of care that the biologists at Moody Gardens take when it comes to their animals. The biologists provide enrichment for the penguins and other animals on a daily basis, enrichment is anything that changes up their environment and makes their life a little different every day.

 

“We tailor animal enrichment to each individual, for the penguins in our retirement home that may not have the best vision or be able to get around like they used to, we typically use auditory or textile enrichment like jingle bells and windchimes or felt and towels for them to hang out on, “ noted Senior Biologist Maggie Reynolds.

 

Having these Chinstrap penguins on exhibit allows Moody Gardens to educate the public about the issues that these birds face in the wild. Chinstrap penguins, which are native to the Sub-Antarctic region of the world, are listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List. However, wild colonies are slowly decreasing in population due to climate change and overfishing. Limited food resources causes these birds to have to travel further from shore to hunt for fish, and therefore renders them more vulnerable to predation and other natural elements.

 

The Moody Gardens Aquarium Pyramid is one of the largest and most diverse aquariums in the United States. In addition to the Chinstrap penguins, five other species including Gentoo, King, Macaroni, and Rockhopper penguins also call the South Atlantic Exhibit home. The warm-climate Humboldt penguins live in an exhibit right next door to their chilly-aired friends. With over 1.5 million gallons of water, the Aquarium Pyramid houses marine life from five distinct environments. Not only does the collection include penguins, but they also have sting rays, sharks, seals, sea lions and over 200 different species of fish.

 

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