How can you get DOUBLE points in the Swap Shop? We are again offering double points for Nature Journals on the animals in the spotlight at the Houston Zoo.
Nature Journals can be as simple as information on sheets of notebook paper. They can be as detailed and elaborate as you like – the only limit is your imagination. But remember, the more work you put into your journal, the more points you will get. So, do some research and get ready for double points! Please note that in order to get double points, the journal must be on the animal or animals in the spotlight and brought in the day of the event.
The upcoming Spotlight on the Species are as follows:
April 20 – Bear Awareness Day
May 17 – Endangered Species Day
May 25 – Chimpanzee Spotlight on the Species
August 31 – Lemur Spotlight on the Species
Need more information on the Naturally Wild Swap Shop? Click here.
Our new baby Ring-tailed lemur (recently christened “Howie”) is now 8 weeks old and growing up fast! He began life as a tiny replica of his mother Cairrean, clinging tightly to her belly, and has transformed into a pint-sized rodeo rider who sticks to his mama’s back like a pro as she navigates the exhibit. In the past couple of weeks, he has been getting off mom and delighting guests and keepers alike with his antics: bounding across vertical vines and branches and hopping into tree limbs, with the occasional fall into the grass as he misjudges his landing spot. He will pop back up unhurt and bounce back onto the safety of his mother’s fur, or occasionally, his papa’s back.
As you observe our lemur family, look for grooming behavior. Grooming is a bonding technique that all primates engage in, and it is quite pleasurable for the groomer and the “groomee”. Little Howie grooms his mother’s furry ears with gusto, and she will reciprocate by combing him thoroughly with her grooming teeth.
Little Howie seems curious about everything: from the wild grackles and doves that light on branches near him, to the Hottentot teals and Madagascar big-headed turtles who inhabit the exhibit with him. Travis the Crowned lemur and Beet the Red-fronted lemur also share their home with the Ring-tails, and they have surveyed each other with great interest. Howie’s father Tango is extremely protective of his new son, and has been seen scent-marking vigorously when Travis or Beet come too near.
Howie is starting to sample solid foods, although is still nursing. Come to the zoo to watch him grow and develop over the next few months!
Did you know that Coquerel’s sifaka can leap over 20 feet from tree to tree?
Gaius: Male Coquerel’s Sifaka
These amazing animals are endangered and found only in the northwestern forests of Madagascar. They have strong legs that not only help them make these incredible long leaps but also assist in their typical locomotion style called vertical clinging and leaping. It is called this because they maintain an upright posture when moving. On the ground, they move in a distinct sideways hop. High up in the trees, they leap from branch to branch or tree trunk to tree trunk, swivel in mid-air, and then cling to whatever they land on.
Zenobia: Female Coquerel’s Sifaka
Interested in learning more about these leaping lemurs? Join the primate zookeepers on September 1, 2 & 3 from 9am-3pm in the Wortham World of Primates at the Houston Zoo for a Spotlight on Species event highlighting the Coquerel’s Sifaka as well as many other Madagascar species. In addition to speaking with zookeepers, visitors will have a chance to take part in several fun ‘lemur’ activities as well as support lemur conservation through the purchase of unique item from Madagascar and Houston Zoo animal paintings. Then see how your leaping skills measure up by visiting Sky Zone Sports (www.houston.skyzonesports.com) indoor trampoline park for “Leaping for Lemurs” on September 5th & 6th. They will donate 25% of the proceeds on these two days to lemur conservation in Madagascar. So come out and leap into action to help save these rare and beautiful animals!
Lemurs are an amazing group of primates that are only found in Madagascar, an island off the east coast of Africa. There are a wide variety of lemur species with a great deal of diversity in appearance and behavior, from the tiny mouse lemur to the elusive nocturnal aye-aye. Different species consume a vast array of diets such as the bamboo lemurs that survive mainly on bamboo or the fruit-eating ruffed lemurs. Some lemurs, like the ring-tailed lemur, live in large troupes led by a dominant female, others, like the red-fronted lemur, have no noticeable hierarchy within their smaller groups. Despite all their differences, one thing that all lemurs have in common is that they are all affected by habitat loss, poaching and the pet trade, and need our help.
Travis, a crowned lemur, and Beet, a red-fronted lemur. Photo by Tina Carpenter.
With so much diversity and with so many fascinating facts, we can’t help but love lemurs and that is why we are having almost a whole week dedicated to promoting lemur conservation!
It all starts on September 1st with a three day Spotlight on Species highlighting the Coquerel’s sifaka. This event will occur from 9am-3pm in the Wortham World of Primates at the Houston Zoo every day through September 3rd. Visitors to the zoo will be able to learn all about lemurs and other animals native to Madagascar from the zookeepers that care for these species here at the zoo. They will be able to see a wide variety of Madagascar species including our very own Coquerel’s sifaka pair, “Zenobia” and “Gaius”, as well as the newest addition to the primate department, a baby ring-tailed lemur! There will also be face-painting and fun ‘lemur’ activities for the whole family. While learning about lemurs, you can also support lemur conservation as zookeepers will be selling a wide variety of unique items from Madagascar as well as paintings completed by animals here at the zoo with the profits going to support conservation efforts in Madagascar.
Ring-tailed Lemur Family. Photo by Stephanie Adams.
On September 5th & 6th, show off your lemur leaping skills by visiting Sky Zone Sports indoor trampoline park (www.houston.skyzonesports.com) for “Leaping for Lemurs”. They will donate 25% of the proceeds on these two days to lemur conservation in Madagascar. So come out and leap into action to help save these amazing animals!
How do we decide which apps to introduce to the chimpanzees and the orangutans?
When trying to develop new enrichment activities, a good starting point is to look at the natural history of the animal. What would they be doing in the wild? How do we encourage these natural behaviors with our enrichment activities?
Orangutans are semi-solitary, meaning they spend most of their time alone, though offspring stay with their mothers for 8-9 years. They also live high in the canopy of forests, which generally has dense foliage making it easier to stay out of sight.
Aurora & Cheyenne (Photo by Stephanie Adams)
On the other hand, chimpanzees live in large groups called communities. They are very social and spend a majority of their time interacting with other chimpanzees. Chimpanzees are very expressive having many vocalizations and facial expressions in order to communicate with each other. They also are known for their loud and impressive displays.
The major portion of the diet of both chimpanzees and orangutans consists of brightly colored fruit. Both species also use tools to help them obtain their food. Chimpanzees, particularly younger individuals, can become easily distracted when faced with a new challenging task. In contrast, orangutans can spend hours completely focused on the same task.
Now we have some background on orangutans and chimpanzees, but how does that help us pick out apps for them? And how is the iPad encouraging natural behaviors? Obviously, apes in the wild are not using iPads.
While apes in the wild may not be using iPads, a natural behavior for them is to observe their environment and investigate when something is different or unusual. The iPad can be used to continuously provide the apes with new apps to study. Another natural behavior for apes is problem-solving, which specific apps can be used to encourage.
We know that both chimpanzees and orangutans are curious as well as liking brightly colored objects as these often signal delicious food. So we want to look for apps that have lots of bright colors. Since chimpanzees are easily distracted, they will probably do better with apps that have lots of movement to keep their attention. Orangutans may be interested in apps that have lots of movement but as they are more focused they may also use apps that are not so busy. We started out by looking at apps that were aimed at young children. These tend to be bright and aimed at keeping the user’s attention.
Indah, an orangutan, looking at pictures on the iPad
Apps include: Zoo Sounds and Various interactive storybooks
Both the orangutans and chimpanzees at the Houston Zoo already enjoy painting, so painting apps were a good option.
Apps include: Doodle Buddy, Paint Sparkles, and Finger Paint
Chimpanzees, especially males, who often produce noisy displays, may appreciate apps that are very noisy.
Apps include: Music Sparkles, Tap Drums, and Monsters
Orangutans are very goal-oriented so apps that involve completing a task may pique their interest.
Apps include: Cat Fishing, Tap Tap Ants and Match Animals
Since both species are naturally curious about the world around them, apps that include videos, pictures, and audio of nature as well as other animals were also introduced.
Apps include: Sound Touch Lite, Go to the Zoo, and Discover Uganda
The basic camera and video app for the iPad can be useful in capturing exciting behaviors and playing it back to them. Most of the apes become particularly excited when they are viewing themselves on the iPad.
Now that you have learned how we go about picking iPad apps to introduce to the Houston Zoo chimpanzees and orangutans, perhaps you can suggest a few apps that may capture their interest.
On the 20th of July, the Houston zoo primate staff celebrated the birth of twin infant Ring-tailed lemurs, after observing the mother giving birth on exhibit in the middle of the day. This is fairly unusual, for most primate babies are born overnight and found first thing in the morning by the keepers. Zoo guests were also privileged to witness this event, and an intrepid photographer captured the moment on film, as proud papa “Tango” looked on. One of the infants was robust and began nursing right away, but one sadly looked weak and seemed unable to suckle. Mother “Cairrean” made valiant efforts to get the infant in the right spot to nurse, but once we got them inside, it was evident that the baby was in real trouble. We intervened immediately: vets gave fluids and warmed the infant, and after trying to get it to latch onto mom and nurse to no avail, we had staff members stay overnight, feeding it every hour and a half. Unfortunately, this time, the hard work did not pay off, for the infant lost its battle the next morning.
Cairrean after giving birth on the lemur exhibit. Photo by Kathryn Hughes
Dad Tango watches as mama cares for newborn infants. Photo by Kathryn Hughes
What we know about lemurs in the wild is that twins and even triplets are not uncommon, but mortality is high, sometimes over 50%. In a zoo setting, we can use veterinary and keeper staff intervention to try to save a failing infant, but even then we occasionally do not succeed, despite best efforts.
The happy part of this tale is that the surviving infant is thriving: healthy and clinging from the moment of birth; it has been a trouper. With bright, wide-open eyes gleaming, the baby has been grasping mom with all the strength and tenacity of a tiny octopus as she leaps through the branches and trees on exhibit. Cairrean has been extensively grooming the baby: licking its head, washing its face and stretching out a wayward hand or foot to delicately clean each tiny finger or toe with her grooming teeth (also known as a dental comb.)
Cairrean and 4 day old infant. Photo by Stephanie Adams
On the island of Madagascar, each lemur birth is important because all lemurs are suffering the consequences of human interference from logging for rosewood and other illegal hardwoods to slash and burn agriculture, poaching for bushmeat and the pet trade. As conservationists work to teach the value of the lemurs to the forest ecosystem, time is ticking away and the lemurs are disappearing. We are hopeful that our new little ring-tailed baby can help to be an ambassador for his species and teach Houstonians more about our prosimian relatives!
Cairrean grooms sire Tango as infant watches. Photo by Stephanie Adams
Guess who is on exhibit? That’s right, Peach & Andy! They came out of quarantine on Tuesday. After a day getting used to their inside holding and new neighbors, we let them out on exhibit to explore.
Andy is already displaying to protect his girl & his territory.
The exhibit looks fantastic, thanks to our contest winner Susan Draper and her husband, Mickey. And Also special thanks to our fantastic Horticulture Team who planted the exhibit after all the props were in place.
We have seen some really cool behaviors that we haven’t seen from other callitrichid species, such as scenting and then flicking their tails. Come visit Peach & Andy and let us know what cool behaviors you observe!
Peach & Andy checking out the howler monkeys next door.
We are still working with the titi monkey SSP to identify a pair to introduce to Peach & Andy, so stay tuned for more on your exhibit!
First of all, I would like to congratulate Susan Draper on winning our contest posted in the last blog. Susan will be at the zoo this Saturday to help prepare the exhibit for our new Goeldi’s monkeys, Peach and Andy. Susan’s husband, Mickey, will be joining us as her chosen guest. We have plenty of work to keep them busy. It’s important to change out the climbing structures in our exhibits in between previous residents moving out and new residents moving in. We have lots of grape vine and branches that need to be put into the exhibit so Peach and Andy have plenty of arboreal pathways and can easily get in and out of their night house. Hope Susan and Mickey are ready to get dirty!
The second piece of news is that Peach and Andy were both given clean bills of health by our veterinarians and after a few days of visiting through a mesh barrier they were able to meet face to face. Everything went exactly as we had hoped and it does indeed seem to be love at first sight! Now we just have to wait for them to clear their required quarantine period and then we can move them to their new home. Are they not the cutest couple?
There seems to be no question that they are going to be a great couple! Photo credit: Jennifer Stevenson