The Houston Zoo’s conservation purpose is to further the Houston Zoo’s mission of “fostering appreciation, knowledge, and care for the natural world” by connecting the public to our efforts to save species in the wild. Through our wildlife conservation projects and partnerships, which work to conserve the wild counterparts of our ambassador animals at the zoo, we will inspire all people to respect, value and conserve wildlife and wild places.
At the Houston Zoo, we proudly display some of the largest and longest living animals on earth-the Galapagos tortoises! Resting easily in the shade of the trees in an exhibit next to Duck Lake, you can see 3 of these amazing reptiles that are only found on a few small islands in the Galapagos, west of the South American country of Ecuador. Unfortunately, the wild population of Galapagos tortoises isn’t thriving at the moment, and the Houston Zoo wants to do everything we can to protect these unique reptiles in their natural habitat, as well as our resident tortoises at the Zoo!
The Houston Zoo has been assisting with conservation efforts on the Galapagos Islands for many years. Our head veterinarian, Dr. Joe Flanagan, has traveled to the islands nearly two dozen times since 1992, working with biologists and scientists from Galapagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Foundation in an effort to restore some of the wildlife biodiversity to the islands. He has worked on giant tortoise conservation and provided consultation to the captive rearing centers on Santa Cruz and Isabela Islands in the Galapagos. This continued work provides an excellent connection between our Galapagos tortoises at the Zoo and what is happening to them in the wild.
In an effort to build on the work done by our Veterinary Staff, the Houston Zoo’s Education Department established a relationship with a Galapagos conservation education program called Ecology Project International (EPI) to further the education of local Ecuadorian students of their amazing biodiversity.
Houston Zoo staff visited the Galapagos and the employees of the Ecology Project International just two weeks ago to further our existing partnership and evaluate how the Zoo can continue to help! Zoo staff spent time sitting on a scientific committee to evaluate scientific projects done by local EPI students which were later presented to the entire community of the city of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz island. Staff also met with EPI employees to evaluate their needs and assess how the Zoo can assist in their mission to provide opportunities for youth from local communities to assist in conservation to actively help protect threatened species and habitats.
More to come on this exciting partnership and the work being done with local students on the Galapagos Islands to help preserve some of the most unique and amazing wildlife and habitats in the world!