69ºF

Click2Daily: Exotic animals at home at Westside Tennis Club

HOUSTON – You’ve heard it before.

A guy or a gal gets really serious about working out and says, “This is it. I’m going to work hard. I’m going to live at the gym.”

Well, at the Westside Tennis And Fitness Club a whole slew of exotic animals, more than 40 of them to be exact, are living at the gym.

No, they don’t prowl through the workout center or lounge around on the tennis courts or walk through the sauna, but they are living and thriving and are a valued addition to this multifaceted fitness facility.

“We have approximately 40 animals that we care for here at the club and our members love them. We offer the experience of letting people get up close to these beautiful animals. It helps our adults and children better understand the importance of protecting these magnificent creatures,” general manager Elliott McCullough said.

[PHOTOS: Exotic animals at tennis center]

Among the animals who are on display are eight Capuchin monkeys, 1 white-handed gibbon, a member of the ape family, one African sulcata tortoise, 14 pink flamingos, two giraffes and a whole host of exotic birds.

Take the Capuchin monkeys, for example. Every day they are taken on walks through the facility in the company of their specially trained handlers.

“Our monkeys are very special and the children get so excited when they see them. The monkeys are incredibly smart and clever. The other day, one of our monkeys found a toy key and was smart enough to try and use it to open a real lock. Just amazing,” curator Christa Blagdon said.

For the white-handed gibbon, a beautiful ape with an angelic face, there are plenty of places for the animal to do what it likes best, to swing and hang and jump from branch to branch.

[WATCH: Bill Spencer's close encounter with a monkey]

The ape has a very large glass enclosure outfitted with several large trees, as well as netting and even gymnastic-like rings to swing and hang from.

Six of Westside’s monkeys are being donated to the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas, in a few weeks and will be leaving the club.

Several months ago, the owners of this club hosted two playful baby tiger cubs at the club.

The cubs spent a few weeks right out in the lobby of the club where everyone could watch and enjoy their amazing personalities and playful games.

The newest members of the animal kingdom at Westside are two gorgeous, young giraffes. Ten-month-old Thuhlo is the male and 6-month-old Twiga is the female.

I'm checking out the exotic animals, including giraffes, today at the Westside Tennis Club.

Posted by KPRC2 Bill Spencer on Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Together, they live in a very large enclosure right outside and separated from the indoor tennis facility.

When the club opens its Lazy River Waterpark, currently under construction, the two giraffes will live in a much larger enclosure there.

The club, which is owned by Jim and Linda McIngvale, has hosted professional tennis tournaments featuring some of the biggest names in the sport and was even the practice facility for the Houston Rockets at one time.

As for the animals who live here, like Tank, a 20-year-old tortoise, who by the way is constantly moving and never seems to want to lie around, they are meant to offer a living lesson to all who come here.

“These animals are very, very special. They need to be respected and protected and cherished. Because, if not, one day some of these species could disappear,” Elliott said.