We have invited Carolyn Jess back to help us out as guest blogger in 2013 with a focus on native wildlife. Jess is a 12 year old student who has agreed to be our special guest blogger about wildlife conservation. We first met Carolyn in October 2011 when she came out to the Zoo to meet our special guest Jack Hannah. If you would like to contact Carolyn or have comments, you may send them to conservation@houstonzoo.org.

Happy Birthday Novia!  Novia, the ocelot, just celebrated her 5th birthday at the Houston Zoo.  She had a really nice party with delicious presents and lots of people to help her celebrate.  Novia’s birthday is definitely worth celebrating since she was not expected to live past two years old. Novia – which means girlfriend in Spanish- was brought to the zoo to breed with the ocelot that was already there.  The keepers discovered that Novia had some health problems and she had to be spayed.  Her boyfriend was brought to another zoo and was able to have babies there, but Novia was not expected to survive much longer.  Her health issues were pretty bad.  The zoo staff did not give up on her though.  The carnivore keepers gave her lots of love and attention along with antibiotics and vitamins to make her stronger.  Through the care of the keepers and their support, Novia pulled through.  She is truly a survivor, so turning five years old was a big reason to celebrate!

I was able to help get Novia’s party prepared.     I went in with her keeper to Novia’s enclosure.  Novia was waiting quietly and watching as we walked through her home.  I helped stuff some of her favorite things in the colorful boxes and bags that she would soon open.  Some of the items were: fish, a bone,  dead mice, squid, shrimp and a lobster.   While the keepers and I stuffed the bags and boxes with treats, a crowd was starting to gather to help this girl celebrate her birthday.  Novia was curious to see what was going on. As soon as she walked in, she went straight for her presents.  I am glad to say she went to my present first and quickly devoured the dead mouse I set out for her.  She dug further in to get the rest of the treats.  After a while, she found her biggest present, the lobster, and disappeared in the bushes with it.  We could not see her, but we could hear the crunch as she enjoyed her birthday gift.   The celebration was enjoyed by everyone who came to see it – especially Novia.

There were other events going on Saturday as well.  The Houston Zoo held an Enrichment Day which was a great way to see how animals have fun in their habitats.  Throughout the enclosures were lots of decorations and enrichment toys that the animals love to play with, smell, or even eat.    Animal enrichment happens daily here at the zoo.  Enrichment helps strengthen the animals physically and mentally.  It keeps their minds sharp and keeps their bodies healthy.  The zoo staff was very busy teaching guests about the importance of enrichment.  Enrichment Day was a great way to see up close what happens every day behind the scenes.  To the animals that live here, it was just another fun day, but to the parents and kids who came out, it was a great way to see what really happens here at the zoo.