Houston Zoo

2 Oct

Okay just to serve as a warning for y’all…be prepared for a picture overload.  My mom and I love animals so between the two of us we took over 600 pictures.  I won’t share them all with you but it was difficult deciding which ones to put on here so I chose a bunch!

When we were buying our tickets to enter, the ticket lady asked if we wanted to donate $2 for a bracelet.  There were a bunch of different colored bracelets each with an animal on them.  I quickly spotted the one I wanted and asked if the money went to the animals on the bracelet we picked.  She said yes so guess which one I got?

ELEPHANT! Shocker. I know.

Because the sea lions are right there in front, that is always my first stop.  We walked up right as the handlers were getting them to do tricks but I couldn’t get my camera out of my backpack quick enough to get a picture of the sea lion jumping about 15 feet out of the water to touch a ball that was hanging above the pool…sorry.  But I did get these cute shots:

I think sea lions are just like mermaid dogs.

That picture in the middle was so funny.  They would swim over to that rushing water from the pipe and open their mouth so it would shoot to the roof of their mouth.  Another one came over and they were fighting over who got to play in the water.  It was pretty cute.

Then of course my next stop is always to see the elephants!  They would be first on my list but the sea lions are on the way so it’s not like I had to make a detour from my path to see the phants. (I sometimes call elephants, phants. Don’t ask me why. I just do.  I guess it’s my own abbreviation or something.)

Anyways, the elephants get baths at 10:00 am so we got there early to make sure I had a good view.

This was how close we were. Ignore my glistening skin…it was about 90 degrees and super humid from the bath water…That’s Me-Thai behind me.

There are seven elephants at the Houston Zoo, all of which are Asian. Me-Thai is the oldest female (44) and matriarch of the herd. Shanti is 22 and is the mother of Baylor, the baby boy who is 2.5 years old.  Tess is 29 and is the mother of Tucker (male already old enough to be separated from the females) and Tupelo, the baby girl who will turn 2 tomorrow!   Thai is the big male and the daddy of both Baylor and Tupelo.

All of them are SO smart!  Did you know that these elephants know about 50-60 different commands??  The keepers do a routine with each elephant every morning and we got to see some of their tricks during bath time.  Most of their tricks are practical things like to lift each foot one at a time.  This is so the handlers can check the pads of their feet.  They also have them open their mouths to check the inside and their teeth.  They back up, turn around, kneel down, etc.  Some of their tricks are just for fun and are the “crowd-pleasers.”  They wave with their trunks, shake their heads to where their ears flop all around, speak, and blow kisses!  Gosh I just LOVE elephants!!

Bath Time

It was awesome seeing their morning routine.  As we were watching the trainers bathe the phants, I looked over and noticed one of the trainers was one of my directors for Fish Camp, Kim!  (That’s Kim in the top right picture bathing Shanti with the brush!) It took me a little bit to notice it was her because I was so distracted by the elephants.  I couldn’t believe it!  I talked to her for a while once she was free and I can tell you that I am SO jealous of her job!  Kim told me that I could volunteer with the zoo for a little while then volunteer with just the elephants so guess what I will be doing when I have free time?  You betcha!  Sure it will probably be scooping tons of elephant poop but who cares if I get to be close to the elephants?!  I LOVE THEM!  (Have you caught on that I have a slight obsession with elephants yet?)

After spending a little over an hour at the elephant exhibit, mom pried me away from them with the promise that we would come back by before we left so I could see them again.  So then we made our way over to the giraffes because at 11:00am you can feed them for $5!  Umm, yes please!  We had to rush over there because they are not near the elephants and it was already 11:00.  After finally making it to the back of the zoo grounds where the giraffes are housed, we paid our $5 each and got in line to feed them.

The line was along the exhibit and I could have reached out an touched one but apparently that is frowned upon. If I was younger and could get away with it, I totally would be able to say that I pet a giraffe.

We waited about 10 minutes because the line was pretty long.  They give you 3 big pieces of lettuce to feed them. There was a list of rules to follow when feeding the giraffes:

1) No reaching out to pet the giraffes.  (This was definitely my plan so I was bummed to read this rule.)
2) Do not feed the giraffes anything other than the lettuce leaves provided.
3) Don’t tease the giraffes with the lettuce leaves.
4) No ripping the lettuce into smaller pieces. (Definitely wanted to do that so I would have more time feeding them.)
5) No turning your back to the giraffes.  (Will they attack you or something?)

I was a little bummed by the rules but it was still pretty awesome!

The first picture you can’t tell but she had just licked my hand with her foot-long tongue!

After the giraffes we went to see the big cats!

The cheetahs were first.  There are two cheetahs at the Houston Zoo: a male and a female.  Each morning their keepers take them on walks with a leash around the zoo!!! How awesome is that!  I would love to take these massive kitty cats on a walk!

Then we went over to see the lions.

All I could think of the whole time was that these cats are just big versions of Hemi.  Then I thought, sometimes Hemi has temper tantrums and will swat at someone for no reason and it hurts…Imagine how it would feel if it was from one of those massive paws!

Lions are gorgeous!  Those gigantic feet belong to the male, Jonathan, but his back was turned to us so I couldn’t get a good picture of him.

After seeing the big kitties, we went to the primate habitats.  There were so many types of monkeys.

Baboons have always kind of creeped me out with their colorful back sides but now Chimpanzees have taken over the weird factor for me.  This sign was actually posted next to them.  Several of the chimps were “Pink Ladies” on Friday.

I think my favorite primates were the Orangutans.  I swear they were staring at me and posing for the pictures.  Check it out.

That one in the middle cracked us up!  First he picked off a leaf from the stick with his nose then he stuck the end of the stick between his upper lip and nose and held it there for us to take a picture.  It seemed like he laughed about it afterwards too.  Animals are so weird.

We did a quick pass through the birds but my camera kept focusing on the cage wires rather than the birds behind them so I couldn’t get very good pictures.

That one on the bottom right is a fake bird but we took a picture of it because that lizard was just sun bathing on its head.

My favorite bird, and one we always have to be sure to visit, is Liberty.  She is in the children’s zoo but totally worth going through just to see her.  Liberty is a bald eagle that was rescued.

Absolutely stunning to see a bald eagle this close.

She joined the Houston Zoo in 2000.  She was found in the wild resting on the ground by a Texas Parks & Wildlife Officer who realized she was unable to fly.  When the veterinarians x-rayed her, they found a gunshot pellet in her left knee and a partially healed broken bone in her left wing.  They removed the gun pellet and she was taken to the Houston Zoo to heal.  Liberty’s injuries are permanent so she can never return to the wild because she couldn’t survive since she cannot fly.  How someone could shoot such a beautiful creature blows my mind…not to mention, it is illegal.  It is a happy ending to a sad story.  It’s sad she cannot return to the wild but I’m glad she survived.  If you go to the Houston Zoo, you have to go to the children’s section to check her out.  These pictures just do not do justice to her beauty.

Liberty was our final animal left to visit so of course we had to go back to the elephants as my mom promised.

When we walked up, this is what we saw…

The baby phants were wrestling in the pool!

OMG I almost died from an overdose of cuteness!  They were spraying each other with water from their trunks, tackling and pinning each other under water (they can hold their breath for around 2-3 minutes), and that bottom picture is Baylor biting Tupelo on the rear because she was trying to get out of the pool and he still wanted to play.

One of my favorite things about the elephant habitat (other than obvious) is Max.

Max, named after the scientific elephant name Elephas maximus, was a rescue brought to the Houston Zoo as a puppy.  Max serves as a companion animal to the elephants.

He lives and plays with the phants and will bark at them if they are doing something they shouldn’t be doing.  Max is so cute and loves attention.  I squatted down next to the fence and he came up to me and let me pet him for a while.  I hear about elephants being compassionate to all other animals, and especially working well with dogs, but it’s something else to actually see it in person.

You can find out more from the Houston Zoo website.

That was basically my trip to the zoo.  I know this post was super lengthy but this was me limiting what I put on here.  There was just so much to choose from!

With that, I leave you with this face…

Baby elephants crack me up because their eyes always look worried or shocked!

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One Response to “Houston Zoo”

  1. Melissa Meeks October 2, 2012 at 1:41 PM #

    I didn’t think their was anyone else that loved Elephants as much as I do! I stand corrected 🙂 Now I am aching to go to the Zoo! Great Post!!

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