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What We Do

Conservation Projects

Template_1600x900_0005_penguinSouth African Penguin Conservation – (SAFE) Initiative
The Tulsa Zoo has been a long time supporter of South African penguin conservation. South African penguins are highly endangered African penguins, the only penguin species endemic to the African continent. Since its establishment almost 50 years ago in 1968, The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) a nonprofit organization, has treated more than 95,000 oiled, ill, injured and abandoned African penguins and other seabirds. SANCCOB has been able to have this success through dedicated and sustained support from numerous zoos and other organizations.
Project location: Cape Town, South Africa
Project focus: Species Recovery, Medical Treatment, New Facility
The Tulsa Zoo is currently supporting the construction of a new seabird hospital which SANCCOB hopes to complete in Cape Town by the end of the year. Construction started in March of 2017 and will continue through to November 2017. The new hospital will include two new Intensive Care Units, a three-part oiled seabird wash bay area, surgery, x-ray room, upgraded pens, aviary, pools and laboratory. The Tulsa Zoo also participates in field conservation and research projects that often focus on providing rescue/rehabilitation and veterinary services to African penguins and other seabirds, as well as raising awareness about endangered seabirds through conservation education programs and field research. We have several staff members who contribute directly to the conservation and management of these species held in zoos and aquariums throughout North America and have traveled to South Africa to work closely with the conservation of the species in the wild.

If you would like to help support this and other South African penguin conservation projects or find out more about the Association of Zoos and Aquariums South African penguin Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE) Initiative go to AZA SAFE- African penguin.


Vaquita Conservation – (SAFE) Initiative
The vaquita is highlighted as one of ten signature species by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) as part of the Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE) Initiative. The Tulsa Zoo is now helping support the urgent crisis facing the world’s smallest cetacean, and the most endangered marine mammal in the world today the vaquita porpoise. It is estimated that there are fewer than 30 remain. The vaquita is found only in the northernmost regions of the Gulf of California, Mexico also known as the Sea of Cortez, which is barely 50 miles from the Arizona border.
Project location: Gulf of California, Mexico
Project focus: Species Recovery, Saving from possible extinction
An international conservation action plan has been developed by a team of experts to temporarily remove some of the remaining animals from their threatening environment and create a safe haven for them in the northern Gulf of California. Under the plan, animals will be located, rescued, housed, and cared for by animal specialists and veterinarians from Mexico and the United States. Implementation of this ambitious conservation plan is estimated to cost more than $3.7 million in 2017 alone and could take several years. There is an urgent need for immediate funding and recently $1 million dollars has been secured to keep the project timeline on track. The AZA community is also helping with the development of a program that promotes the establishment and enforcement of a permanent gillnet ban and implements the testing of alternative fishing gear. Once some type of legislation can go into effect, the hope is that the vaquita will be released back to their habitat that is free of gillnets.

To find out more about this project go to AZA SAFE-vaquita.


11222885_10207200704677310_4594043762785724647_nThe Snow Leopard Trust – Natural Partnerships Program  
The Snow Leopard Trust’s Natural Partnerships Program connects zoos around the world with the unique opportunity to protect endangered snow leopards. Through the program, zoos get directly involved and make powerful contributions to the highest priority conservation and research programs. It provides support to develop and maintain community-based conservation for local animal herders and allows for studies and field research year-round to gain insight about snow leopard habitat, wild prey species, and the cats themselves.
Project location: Mongolia
Project focus: Long Term Ecological Study
The aim is to study all aspects of snow leopard ecology using a variety of methods including motion sensor cameras, GPS radio-collaring and socio-economic surveys. The results are providing an unprecedented amount of data on snow leopard movement and habitat use, which is being used to estimate home range sizes and habitat requirements. The information on home range sizes is helping the trust work with communities to establish conservation programs that ensure the cat’s long-term well-being.

Find out more about  snow leopard conservation.


IMG_7358Save The Wild Chinchillas Inc.
The Tulsa Zoo supports the conservation of wild chinchillas through habitat restoration in central Chile. Excessive hunting greatly reduced the number of wild chinchillas. Today, hunting is forbidden and the animals are protected by the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Animals. Although these animals are protected, their habitat continues to be destroyed. Grazing animals, collection of wood and mining harm this endangered animal’s last known habitat. About half of the wild population is located within a fenced reserve. The rest of the population which contains around 5,000 individuals is located on private unprotected land.
Project location: North Central Chile
Project focus: Research Field Station and Habitat Restoration
The goal of this field station and project is to restore essential habitat for endangered chinchillas while deterring habitat degradation in this ecosystem. Specifically, we will focus on ecosystem restoration in Quebradas Cuyano, Zapallar, Los Lioneras y Curico utilizing native vegetal species, many of which are endemic and of grave conservation concern. Our purpose is to reinstate habitat not only for wild chinchillas but also for native insect, amphibian, reptile, bird, and other mammalian species, with help from the local populace. In these areas we will create exclusive livestock grazing areas, thus curbing grazing of native vegetal communities that support local fauna, including chinchillas.

Find out more  about  chinchilla conservation.


IMG_5253International Rhino Foundation
The Tulsa zoo is very committed to rhino conservation and is a zoo partner with the International Rhino Foundation. We are on the front line of support for rhino protection efforts, reintroduction projects and community programs. Through IRF, we help support a very crucial campaign to stop poaching of rhinos in Africa. The Operation: Stop Poaching Now campaign is in direct response to the increasing demand for rhino horn in China, Vietnam, and other Asian countries. Poaching rates in southern Africa have soared and in 2013 it was reported that more than 1,000 rhinos had been killed in South Africa alone.
Project location: South Africa and in Zimbabwe
Project focus: Anti-Poaching
The goals of this project are to create awareness about the poaching crisis and its recent alarming increase, and to implement change by approaching the crisis from multiple angles such as the source, end user and governments. The Tulsa Zoo support IRF in working closely with the other organizations such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. We directly support the development of wildlife rangers with advanced training in hand-to-hand combat, firearms safety, investigative techniques, intelligence gathering, evidence collection, communications, rhino identification and monitoring. We also support training programs for Belgian Malinois dogs that are trained to sniff out snares, track poachers and find orphaned rhinos.

Find out more  about  rhino conservation.


AsianElephant2_TulsaZoo_HeaderAsian Elephant Conservation
The Tulsa Zoo participates in various elephant conservation programs, both in human care and in the wild and are very important to our institution. The Tulsa Zoo has taken the lead on an Asian elephant conservation project in partnership with the Berdiri Foundation with the help of representatives who work closely with the International Elephant Foundation.
Project location: North Bengkulu Province, Sumatra
Project focus: Anti-Poaching-Conservation Camera Trap Project
The tropical forest environment of Sumatra is dense and direct sightings of wildlife can be difficult. This project will provide the Conservation Response Units with a better understanding of the locations of wildlife such as elephants, tigers, sun bears, and clouded leopards in relation to local communities surrounding protected forests. This will help the CRU patrol units plot realistic courses to prevent human/wildlife conflicts in a more precise manner, and with a better understanding of the movement of the wildlife. Understanding wildlife movement will assist and police the area for poaching by the local villagers. The data will be invaluable in recording numbers of critically endangered elephants and other endangered wildlife still living in the various protected areas. Accurate data about the biodiversity of the Sumatran forests is very important for the government agencies to justify and maintain these forests’ legal protection status in order to better protect them for the long term from exploitation for mining and plantations.

Find out more about the  Berdiri Foundation.


12-27-15 edited (37 of 48)Malaysia Tiger Conservation
The Tulsa Zoo supports the Tiger Conservation Campaign and anti-poaching efforts through the tiger species survival plan and the Wildlife Conservation Network (WCS). The campaigns purpose is to raise awareness about wild tigers and focus conservation efforts in areas of the world where wild tigers are found. Endau-Rompin Malaysia is one of the last remaining areas where Malayan tigers are found. There is immense pressure on the species survival due to illegal poaching.
Project location: Southern Peninsular Malaysia
Project focus: Tiger Conservation Campaign and Anti-Poaching
The Tulsa Zoo participates in catalyzing and supporting on-the-ground ranger patrolling across the Endau-Rompin landscape and by equipping robust ranger patrol teams to have the ability to check on hunting infringements, to seize guns and dismantle illegal snares. We support the deployment of movable roadblocks and static checkpoints as further means of deterring the high number of relatively less-committed, minor poachers and capturing a smaller number of more committed, high-value poachers. Most importantly, we help strengthen as much as possible the laws that impact poaching in Endau-Rompin. In a recent survey conducted by wildlife biologists, data shows that there are far fewer tigers than hoped for within three known Malayan tiger habitats. It is estimated that only 250-340 Malayan tigers remain (potentially a halving of the previous estimate of 500 individuals in 2013), and that the population is losing 35-50 animals per year to poaching (illegal medicinal markets) and habitat loss (due to palm oil production). The birth of three cubs at the Tulsa Zoo in 2014 is even that much more significant given these recent findings.

Find out more about  Malayan tiger conservation campaign.


601487_625902314093391_2065968022_nWest African Primate Conservation Action
The Tulsa Zoo is working in partnership with West African Primate Conservation Action. The roloway guenon (Cercopithecus diana roloway) is in eminent danger of extinction. The species has been completely extirpated from all protected areas throughout its former range and is now believed to exist in only two community-owned rainforests (the Kwabre rainforest in western Ghana and the Tanoe forest in Cote d’Ivoire). The Tulsa Zoo is supporting projects in both countries to help preserve this last remaining roloway habitat.
Project location: West Africa, Ghana
Project focus: The creation of a community-managed rainforest conservation area
The goals of this project are to help support the monitoring of endangered primate populations in the Kwabre rainforest and to provide equipment and on-going training programs for community forest patrol team members. These patrol teams are made up citizens of the local community and they play a vital role in identifying and halting illegal hunting, logging and mining in the Kwabre Forest. The Tulsa Zoo provides the supplies used in training members of the community to assist with primate and biological surveys. We also support in educating the rural communities surrounding the rainforest to sustainably manage their land for the benefit of the people and the endangered primates through the transformation of the Kwabre Rainforest into a federated Community Resource Management Area

Find out more about  West African Primate Conservation Action.


10641013_932154333468186_1915014012384190540_nMonarch Butterfly Watch Program
The Tulsa Zoo participates in the National Monarch Watch Program developed by the University of Kansas. The Tulsa Zoo is a registered and certified waystation for Monarch Butterflies. Without certain plant species throughout their spring and summer breeding areas in North America, monarchs would not be able to produce the successive generations that culminate in the migration each fall. Similarly, without nectar from flowers these fall migratory monarch butterflies would be unable to make their long journey to overwintering grounds in Mexico
Project location: Tulsa Zoo, throughout the Tulsa community and nationwide
Project focus: Monarch Conservation and Habitat Restoration
The goals of this project are to promote the planting of milkweed and native Oklahoma flowers which provide the resources necessary for monarch butterflies. To maintain specific monarch habitats on Zoo grounds that will assist and sustain their migration periods. The Tulsa Zoo also works in partnership with the Monarch Initiative of Tulsa, a special project of the Tulsa Garden Center, to facilitate awareness about the Monarch Waystation program and to share knowledge on how to become a registered and certified habitat for monarchs at your home or business.

Find out more about  Monarch Conservation.


10404488_965234510160168_6821021317332617493_nMonarch Initiative of Tulsa
The Tulsa Zoo is part of the Monarch Initiative of Tulsa, which works to provide information promoting the creation of habitats to increase the Monarch population during migration through the Tulsa area. The Monarch Initiative of Tulsa consists of a group of local conservationist and gardeners that have formed a conservation initiative that is focused on Monarch Butterfly conservation within the City of Tulsa and the State of Oklahoma. The group is made up of representatives from the Tulsa Garden Center, The Nature Conservancy – Oklahoma Chapter, Oxley Nature Center, Tulsa Botanic Garden, Riverfield Country Day School and the Tulsa Zoo. These organizations work to develop one consistent message and voice that encourages people within our community to create and plant Monarch Watch Waystations at their local business and homes that will make Tulsa a Monarch city.

Find out more about making Tulsa a Monarch City.



12238368_696399683833155_965133475519425429_oThe Wild Nature Institute

The Tulsa Zoo is working with The Wild Nature Institute to support the expansion of a unique giraffe demography study used in identifying and tracking wild giraffes by utilizing their unique spot patterns to understand individual movements and survival. With this special tool they are monitoring 2,100 individual giraffe in an area over 4,000 sq. km within a fragmented ecosystem. They are using non-invasive photographic mark-recapture methods, with the goals of first, understanding population dynamics of giraffe in a fragmented landscape in order to successfully conserve the species and its savanna habitat; and second,  to raise awareness of population declines and threats to the national animal of Tanzania. This is the largest giraffe demography project and one of the biggest large-mammal demography studies in history.
Project location: North Tanzania
Project focus:  Field Research and Community Education
The Wild Nature Institute is a very progressive, but grass roots organization who have helped commence land-use planning in part of their study area, and have collected wildlife data in a collaborative effort with several NGOs, wildlife authorities, and village leaders to create comprehensive, connected protected areas among adjacent villages to allow for movement of wildlife and Masai pastoralists. Our partnership will support the expansion of the demographic research and will be used for fieldwork expenses, to conduct statistical analyses, for education outreach activities to provide critical data, and maps to decision makers for land-use plans.
Giraffe populations throughout Africa are in trouble from habitat loss and overhunting. This conservation work examines the effects of humans, natural predation, and disease on giraffe populations. The Tulsa Zoo is excited to be supporting this organization and their conservation projects.

Find out more about  The Wild Nature Institute.


IMG_4984Mabula Ground Hornbill Project
The Tulsa Zoo Conservation Program has begun a new partnership with a project called the Mabula Ground Hornbill Project. This important conservation project focuses on studying ground hornbill’s genetics, behavior and other important unanswered questions necessary for successful re-establishment of ground hornbills throughout South Africa.
Project Location: South Africa
Project Focus:  Our partnership will provide support for the Mabula Ground Hornbill Projects Awareness Campaigns that educate the local public and communities about the threats facing this important species and to reinstate the bird into areas where it has become locally extinct. The Tulsa Zoo we will also be providing support to purchase VHF and satellite transmitters that are essential for the reintroduction project and will be the only organization providing for this specific aspect of the project.   The transmitters are attached to the hornbills when the birds undergo their final health check prior to release into the wild. The transmitters help monitor the birds after release and are a tremendous help when the birds are not able to be visually checked. Usually this monitoring is done by members of the local community to ensure that they are involved in the conservation efforts, it creates jobs in the areas where the releases take place and provides valuable information that contributes to the overall understanding and conservation of the species in the wild.

Find out  more about  Mabula Ground Hornbill Project.


IMG_2431The Scarlet Macaw Population Recovery Program
The Tulsa Zoo has a partnership with The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to support The Scarlet Macaw Population Recovery Program. Since 2002, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) – Guatemala Program has implemented conservation interventions to ensure the survival of Guatemala’s extremely threatened scarlet macaw population. Current estimates suggest that there are fewer than 1000 individuals of the northern subspecies that currently survive in isolated populations across southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Only 250 wild scarlet macaws exist in the Maya Biosphere Reserve of Guatemala.
Project location: Guatemala
Project focus:  Veterinarian Field Station and Anti-poaching
The goal of the program is focused on developing aviculture and husbandry applications for wild species recovery, which will subsequently propel the restoration of parrot populations across Latin America. This will be accomplished  by reducing the frequency of macaw poaching through SMART (Spatial Monitoring and Reporting) patrols. This program will also work to protect nesting sites from deforestation, fire and Africanized bee infestations. The Tulsa Zoo will be directly involved with supporting the project’s veterinarian field station with new macaw flight cages, laboratory equipment, and other health management essentials.


ABB-smallThe American Burying Beetle Project
The Tulsa Zoo Conservation Program has a new partnership with Oklahoma State University (OSU) and American burying beetle (ABB) conservation. The American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) is a member of the carrion beetle family Silphidae, an important group of detritivores that recycle decaying materials into the ecosystem. The American burying beetle is the largest carrion-feeding insect in North America. Although it has historically been recorded from at least 150 counties in 35 states in the eastern and central United States, it declined from the 1920s to the 1960s and is currently only found at the peripheries of its former range. In 1983, the American burying beetle was included as an endangered species in the Invertebrate Red Book published by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. In the United States, it was placed on the state and federal endangered species lists in August 1989.
The Tulsa Zoo will be partnering with OSU and Dr. Wyatt Hoback, who is an assistant professor in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology.
Project location: Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma
Project focus: The Tulsa Zoo will be supporting Dr. Hoback by establishing and maintaining a laboratory colony of ABB’s at the University to develop best practices for rearing and maintaining burying beetles. Our goal is to develop education outreach, while eventually becoming a captive breeding program for the reintroduction of ABB’s within the United States.

Find out more about  American burying beetle conservation.