At the OKC Zoo, Go Wild!

Media Contacts

Candice Rennels | (405) 425-0298 |

OKC Zoo News Releases


The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is committed to creating a world where people, wildlife and wild places thrive. Conservation and education are central to that commitment. Each year, the OKC Zoo supports organizations that have “boots on the ground” on the front lines of global conservation work. These legacy partners receive significant financial support for multiple years. The funds, which also support local conservation efforts, total more than $300,000 for 2019 and are provided by the Oklahoma Zoological Society/ZOOfriends and by the Zoo’s Round Up for Conservation program. The OKC Zoo also recently awarded Conservation Action Now (CAN) grants to innovative thinkers studying new ways to protect species.


Global Conservation Legacy Partners


The Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) has one powerful goal: zero turtle extinctions. TSA established the Turtle Survival Center, a large breeding center in South Carolina, home to 600 turtles representing 32 of the world’s most critically endangered species. TSA also responds when law enforcement officials confiscate turtles from smugglers.

The OKC Zoo is supporting a complex study of Central American river turtles in Belize. In 2018, the TSA responded to a massive radiated tortoise smuggling crisis by sending staff and resources to Madagascar to help with the rescue. The Zoo’s support for radiated tortoises is ongoing, including funding a study to identify reintroduction sites for the rescued tortoises.

The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International (DFGFI) is dedicated to the conservation and protection of gorillas and their habitats in Africa, proudly carrying on the pioneering work Dian Fossey initiated 50 years ago to study and protect mountain gorillas. The mountain gorilla population has doubled thanks to daily patrols performed by DFGFI staff. The Zoo’s support is used to help finance operation of the Karisoke Research Center, the base for DFGFI’s field activities. This includes paying salaries for Karisoke staff who conduct daily anti-poaching patrols. During these patrols, staff locate the gorillas, remove snares, prevent other illegal activity in the forest (e.g., livestock encroachment, wood cutting), identify and report gorilla health issues, and collect data for ongoing research.  

Starting in 2017, the Oklahoma City Zoo partnered with the Painted Dog Research Trust (PDRT) to support their conservation mission to protect and study the African painted dog, an endangered species with a population of less than 7,000 left in the wild. Funds from the OKC Zoo are being used to purchase satellite collars to study and protect painted dogs and to provide training for PDRT’s conservation education staff. The Zoo also sends two employees to PDRT’s Zimbabwe headquarters for a two-week conservation mission each year.

The Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) is an umbrella organization that aims to establish resilient community conservancies that transform lives, secure peace and protect natural resources. There are 33 NRT-member community conservancies across northern and coastal Kenya, home to over 300,000 people who manage more than 42,000 square kilometers of land and safeguard a wide range of species and habitats. The conservancies manage land to reduce grazing pressure and competition between wildlife and livestock. The support provided by the OKC Zoo is used to pay and equip the security rangers who regularly patrol the Lekurruki Conservancy. These rangers mitigate conflict caused by livestock encroachment from neighboring areas, record wildlife sightings, and document and prevent poaching. Many species benefit from this conservancy’s activities, including Grevy’s zebra, African elephant and cheetah.

In 2018, the Foundation for the Conservation of Endangered Species of Guatemala became the Zoo’s newest conservation legacy partner. This partnership focuses on increasing habitat and protection for critically endangered Guatemalan beaded lizards and Campbell’s alligator lizards. OKC Zoo Curator of Herpetology Brad Lock directs these Guatemalan programs. Since the program started 13 years ago, more than 3,000 acres of habitat have been restored by planting more than 100,000 trees. Funds provided by the Zoo will be used for the Conservation Awareness Educational program, operation of the nursery that will germinate 18,000 seedlings per year for reforestation programs and the costs associated with planting the seedlings.


Local Conservation Partners


Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation – Zoo support is used to conduct wildlife surveys on winter birds, lesser prairie chickens and bats. Additionally, Zoo staff help conduct these annual surveys.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Oklahoma – Zoo support is used for the OKC Zoo Science and Research Fund which TNC uses to cover costs of scientific studies conducted on their preserves. The data from these studies is used to guide conservation efforts.

Oklahoma Monarch and Pollinator Collaborative – Zoo support is helping implement the statewide conservation plan educating Oklahomans about the importance of protecting and creating habitat for monarchs and other pollinators.


Conservation Action Now Grant Awardees


The Oklahoma City Zoo also supports conservation through its annual Conservation Action Now (CAN) grant program, awarding a total of $10,000 to grantees each year. The selection process is extremely competitive. This year, four grantees were chosen from a pool of 80 applicants. Winning projects span the globe and are based on their proposed ability to address conservation education, scientific research and species preservation. This year’s grantees and winning projects are:

Kerryn Carter - Connecting wildlife through Zambia’s transboundary wildlife movement corridors in the Kavango Zambezi Tranfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA)

Leonard Eo - Conserving Grauer’s gorilla in the Mwana Valley of Itombwe Natural Reserve, Democratic Republic of Congo

Louise Baldwin - The Kedestes Butterfly Conservation Project

Gregg Tully - Releasing great apes into the wild demonstrating reintroduction as an effective conservation strategy

More detailed descriptions of the winning projects are available at


About Round Up for Conservation


Round Up for Conservation is a grassroots effort funded entirely by guests rounding up their purchases to the next dollar amount when visiting the OKC Zoo. In 2018, Round Up had a record-breaking year, raising $127,713 for conservation projects. Since its inception in 2011, the program has generated more than $475,000.


About ZOOfriends


In 1954, the Oklahoma Zoological Society (OZS/ZOOfriends), a nonprofit organization, was created to help support the Oklahoma City Zoo in its mission to be Oklahoma’s premier destination connecting people and our world’s vanishing wildlife and wild places. OZS has been making an impact alongside the OKC Zoo in advancing the experience members and visitors enjoy and connecting guests to wildlife, nature and the environment. Zoo fans can support the OKC Zoo by becoming Oklahoma Zoological Society members at or in-person at the Zoo!


About the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden


Visit the OKC Zoo and witness conservation in action! The Zoo is a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the American Alliance of Museums, Oklahoma City’s Adventure District and an Adventure Road partner. Hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Regular admission is $11 for adults and $8 for children ages 3-11 and seniors ages 65 and over. Children two and under are admitted free. Stay up-to-date with the Zoo on FacebookTwitter and Instagram and by visiting Our Stories. To learn more about these and other happenings, call (405) 424-3344 or visit


For media related to this news release, click here.

Search the site