Tag Archives: moody gardens

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.

Moody Gardens upgrades aquarium pyramid

“People protect what they love.”

Those words were originally spoken by legendary ocean explorer Jacques Yves Cousteau, a man who spent much of life beneath the surface of the world’s oceans encountering its diverse inhabitants.

Most of us do not have that opportunity but we still seek an understanding of the ocean and Moody Gardens in Galveston is giving the public a chance to gain that knowledge in an up close and personal setting.

Sat. May 27 the facility will debut $37 million in upgrades that have turned the Moody Gardens Aquarium Pyramid into a true word-class educational experience.

I got a sneak peek and here is what stood out.

Gulf of Mexico Rig Exhibit: See the balance of technology and nature through this impressive 30,000 gallon, two-story, 23-foot scale model oil production platform aquarium. These manmade islands provide valuable attachment surfaces for a variety of encrusting organisms to create an entire reef ecosystem found throughout the Gulf of Mexico.  This new exhibit includes diver communication for presentations and interaction, further engaging guests in their underwater experience.

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Ever wonder what the part of an oil rig beneath the surface looks like? Now you know thanks to the new display at Moody Gardens (Photo by Chester Moore, Jr.)

Flower Gardens Tribute: With help from the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, guests experience the East Flower Garden Bank, West Flower Garden Bank and Stetson Bank up close and personal. The exhibit includes examples of Brain, Star and Elkhorn coral, to name a few, all of which can be seen on the banks. The Flower Garden Banks reef system is one of the healthiest in the Gulf and Caribbean regions.

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For the first time a specific exhibit explaining the Flower Gardens will be part of the facility. (Photo by Chester Moore, Jr.)

Caribbean Display Upgrades: New to the exhibit is The Pride, a 19th century rum-runner shipwreck replica, loosely based on the vessel sailed by famed Galveston pirate Jean Lafitte. Divers spent a total of 68.5 hours underwater putting together the ship, which arrived in about 75 individual pieces. A new mangrove lagoon greets visitors at the Caribbean entrance where they get to touch cownose rays and see southern stingrays and spiny lobsters.

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Visitors can touch cow nose rays in a beautiful, realistic mangrove swamp setting. (Photo by Chester Moore, Jr.)

Humboldt Penguins: These unique warm-climate penguins hail from Southern Hemisphere waters from the Antarctic to the Equator. This is the second penguin exhibit at Moody Gardens and the Humboldts are right next door to the South Atlantic Penguin Habitat, home to the King, Gentoo, Chinstrap, Rockhopper and Macaroni penguins. As part of the recent renovations, the South Atlantic Penguin Habitat is newly enhanced to better benefit guests and the health and livelihood of the penguins within.

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Humboldt Penguins are a warm climate species that will be used as outreach animals at both the park and as ambassadors on the outside. (Photo courtesy Moody Gardens)

Jellyfish Gallery: The room wasn’t quite finished when I visited but what I saw of the jellyfish gallery was stunning. See some of the most beautifully designed creatures in nature in a perfectly lit environment. The highlight for visitors will no doubt be the touch tank-the world’s first opportunity to touch jellyfish in an aquarium-a non stinging variety of course.

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Jellyfish are the subject of a natural art gallery at Moody Gardens. (Photo by Chester Moore, Jr.)

There is much more including improvements to virtually every display, numerous new educational display and an impressive computer table display that shows full-scale giant squid size, explains ocean depth and other interesting facts.

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See a full-scale giant squid along with other mysterious ocean dwellers. (Photo by ChesterMoore, Jr.)

If someone already loves the ocean a visit here will help build that into a full-blown passion but any kid (or kid at heart) who pays a visit will walk away with enough information and inspiration to want to help conserve our ocean resources.

Jacques Cousteau would be proud.

Chester Moore, Jr.

To visit Moody Garden’s website click here.

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