Tag Archives: kingdom zoo wildlife center

Sea Turtle Release Touches Hearts (Video)

Port Aransas, TX—The smiles were even bigger than the waves.

As the white foam of breakers hit the beach, Lauren Scott and Reannah Hollaway were beaming.

The two recent high school graduates are best friends and share an equal love of sea turtles.

Reannah participated in our Wild Wishes® program last April getting to meet an injured Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle and giant river otters at Moody Gardens in Galveston, TX. That facility rolled out the red carpet for her.

Wild Wishes® grants exotic animal encounters for children with terminal illness or loss of parent or sibling.

After her wish, Reannah informed me that her friend Lauren also loved sea turtles and had a dream of releasing one that had been rehabilitated.

As I began working on that project a series of events unfolded that I can only describe as divinely inspired.

The Amos Research Keep (ARK) at Port Aransas offered an opportunity for the girls to tour their facility and release two green sea turtles back into the Gulf. So, on Aug. 10 we paid them a visit.

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ARK’s Alicia Walker who hosted the visit shows the girls an injured baby hawksbill turtle.
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This big turtle was covered with barnacles and getting back a healthy appetite.
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Lauren was happy feeding green sea turtles fresh romaine. Unlike other sea turtles, greens are vegetarians which is they love the seagrass-thick habitat of South Texas.

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After learning much about the ARK’s inspiring work and seeing many sea turtles, the highlight of the day had arrived. It was time for the turtle release.

As I watched the girls put on their latex gloves and move the turtles out toward the water, I saw worries melt away. I saw that hint of anxiety that I have learned to pick up working with children facing loss and serious illnesses disappear. I saw two young girls being young girls and living that rare, surreal dream come true moment.

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You think those girls are happy or what?

When Lauren and Reannah lowered the turtles into the surf and watched them quickly swim away, a tangible feeling of freedom filled the air. It’s the kind of freedom ARK provides many sea turtles and injured shore birds but there was something else.

This event inspired two young ladies facing challenges in life to see that great things can happen-even the very biggest dreams coming true.

I want to thank Alicia and everyone with ARK who went far out of their way to accommodate this wish. And I want to thank everyone who supports the Wild Wishes® program.

You are helping young people in more ways than you know.

Lauren and Reannah will never forget the day they stepped into the blue-green waters of the Gulf of Mexico and set free their favorite animals. And neither will I.

Those two young ladies will for the rest of their lives wonder where those turtles ended up and how their lives turned out. Those are the kind of thoughts that not only bring smiles but inspiration.

There are no guarantees but the turtles got a fighting chance and they got it because people cared.

Listen to the podcast inspired by this story below.

Chester Moore, Jr.

(To subscribe to this blog enter your email address in the box on the top right of this page. To contact Chester Moore e-mail chester@chestermoore.com.)

Wild Wish Awakens Conservation Calling

Sea turtles have always been her favorite animal.

Their life in the ocean, beauty and even their awkwardness put them at the top of the animal kingdom for high school senior Reannah.

So when Kingdom Zoo Wildlife Center® founder Chester Moore overheard a conversation at Texas Children’s Hospital about this young lady wanting to meet a sea turtle, he went into action.

One of the organization’s outreaches is called Wild Wishes and it grants exotic animal encounters to children with critical illness or loss of parent or sibling. In the past, Moody Gardens in Galveston, TX had granted penguin encounters to children in the program.

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Reannah is all smiles after meeting a giant river otter.

He knew they had a Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle named “Chloe” so he contacted the facility to see what was possible.

On April 29, Reannah got to meet this special turtle in a behind the scenes setting, almost getting to hand it food via a special device. Chloe was a tad too shy for that but swam up and gave Reannah a close look that put a Texas-sized smile on her face.

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Chloe the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle.

She also got to do an encounter with giant river otters which included feeding the endangered mustelids rainbow trout and posing for a kiss photo. On top of that she got to go to go behind the scenes at the Caribbean aquarium and feed the fish.

The smiles got even bigger as Reannah realized she was not only feeding tarpon, Atlantic spadefish and jack crevalle but also sharks.

“This is awesome!,” she said.

“I can’t thank Moody Gardens enough for rolling out the red carpet for a very sweet and caring young girl. Everyone from the PR department to the animal care crew were gracious and gave not only their time but love. I’ll never forget that,” Moore said.

And he will never forget Reannah’s desire to meet sea turtles.

“The Lord had really been working on me about getting deeper into wildlife conservation with our program. I have been involved with endangered wildlife my entire professional life at many levels but not until we met this young lady did I put the dots together how Wild Wishes would connect to conservation.”

Each young person coming through the program will have an opportunity to choose from a list of endangered species they would like to help. Moore and his team have vetted numerous organizations who work with them and they will make a small donation in the child’s name to that cause.

“A few months ago I was speaking with legendary marine artist and conservationist Dr. Guy Harvey and he said that if everyone would just do a little, then a lot would be accomplished. With that said, I find it amazing that Reannah wanted to help the ocean and we will be making a small donation in her name to the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation,” Moore said.

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Moore will be making a personal donation in Reannah’s name to giant river otter conservation in support of a group called Save the Giants he and his crew learned about at Moody Gardens.

Who better to help wildlife facing immense challenges than children facing challenges themselves?

“I can’t tell you how impactful learning of Reannah’s desire to meet a sea turtle was and then meeting her and seeing how much she really does care about animals and the ocean. Moving forward many endangered animals will be helped because this young lady wanted to get close to sea turtles. She inspired us,” Moore said.

Not only will children in the program on top of their wish encounter get a donation to an endangered species cause in their name but they will also have an opportunity to be part of a special mentoring program.

“The young people who come through Wild Wishes will have a chance to become our conservation ambassadors,” Moore said.

That means they will have the chance to get hands-on training with animal ambassadors from Kingdom Zoo Wildlife Center®, learn wildlife photography, go through an endangered species information course and appear at events with animals to help raise awareness to endangered species conservation.

“As far as we know this has never been done. We’re very excited and inspired. We love the Lord, children and wildlife and this is a way to bring it altogether,” said Lisa Moore who will be working heavily on the photography part of the mentoring program.

Reannah’s encounter was the 60th wish the program has granted and while doing a Bible  study recently, Moore noticed something unique about the number 60.

Moore said Hebrew numbers have meanings beyond their numerical value and the meaning for 60 in that ancient language is “to support”.

“We will not only continue supporting children facing challenges through Wild Wishes but also help those children support endangered wildlife. I think it’s a match made in Heaven.”

To donate to make Wild Wishes come true or learn how to enroll a child in the program click here.

Sea World, Jack Hanna Make “Wild Wishes” Come True

Dream Come True

Sea World San Antonio—The kids were a bit starstruck. Actually I think the adult chaperones were as well.

As “Jungle” Jack Hanna, iconic television wildlife host and conservationist walked into the Nautilus Amphitheater, he greeted his fans warmly.

“I’m so glad to see you here. Thank you for coming to Sea World today,” Hanna said.

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The kids were part of the Wild Wishes program operated by our Kingdom Zoo Wildlife Center®. Wild Wishes grants exotic animal encounters to children who have a terminal illness or have lost a parent or a sibling.

The kids that came along were either recipients of a wish or young people who have been trained to help grant wishes for other children.

Inspiring Wild Wish Kid

Facilitated by Sea World San Antonio this special, private experience was a dream come true for 10-year-old wish kid Jaxon who told Hanna he wants to host his own wildlife television program one day.

“So you want to do wildlife TV?” Hanna asked.

“That would be cool sir,” Jaxon replied as his hero patted him on the back.

Having watched Hanna many times on syndicated television, Jaxon has visions of traveling the world and encountering the animals of his dreams.

Fourteen-year-old Lauren who has helped by chaperoning and showing animals to more than two dozens kids at wish events over the last four years was excited to hear Hanna tell them how to be better ambassadors for wildlife.

“Allowing kids to safely see wildlife in an amazing park like this or a modern zoo or at a facility like yours is important. You have to touch the heart to move the mind and I know you all will be great at that,” he said.

The kids were allowed to hold a baby red kangaroo in a pouch and get an up close look at a Geoffrey’s cat, a gorgeous and tiny spotted feline from South America.

After watching Hanna’s fun and highly educational program that included a beautiful cheetah, the kids were fired up about wildlife conservation and helping other kids that come into the wish program know they can help wildlife as well.

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One of the wish kids, Madison Belden, is fighting cystic fibrosis but she is partnering with us to use her art to raise awareness to endangered species and raise funds to help various projects.

“Mr. Chester, I bet we can get more of these wish kids to do things like Madison is doing. It would be great to have kids who are facing challenges know they can be a part of helping wildlife that is also facing great challenges,” she said.

Those are wise words from an eighth grader and came after inspiration from one of the world’s top voices for wildlife in a park that has saved untold numbers of endangered sea turtles on the Texas coast.

Most recently they took in a baby endangered Cook’s Inlet beluga whale that was abandoned in the wild.

Wild Wishes came true because people cared for kids who care for wildlife.

It was a beautiful thing to see and it inspired us all to be better stewards of what the Lord put on this planet.

To support or learn more about the Wild Wishes program click here.

Chester Moore, Jr.