Conservation Projects

Local Conservation

Oklahoma Department of Wildlife (ODWC) Partnership

The Zoo provides financial support and people power for ODWC projects. Zoo staff assist with annual surveys to monitor winter bird, bat, and lesser prairie chicken populations in Oklahoma. This partnership allows ODWC staff to survey larger areas than they could monitor without the help of Zoo staff. It also gives Zoo staff a great opportunity to have hands-on experience with the projects and to enjoy seeing native wildlife in many parts of the state. The Zoo is also proud to provide office space for some of the ODWC staff.



 Texas Horned Lizard Project

The Zoo partners with Tinker Air Force Base and the University of Oklahoma to study Texas horned lizards. The Zoo provides people power for this partnership. Zoo Staff use radio telemetry to locate the lizards and collect data for several studies, including translocation evaluation, habitat usage, and the effects of prairie restoration.




The Nature Conservancy of Oklahoma 

The Zoo Partners with The Nature Conservancy to create a future for Oklahoma where nature and people thrive together.



Global Conservation

Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, Rwanda


The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International (DFGFI) is dedicated to the conservation and protection of gorillas and their habitats in Africa. DFGFI proudly carries 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. This is the only population of wild gorillas that is increasing. DFGFI also provides assistance to local communities through education, health, training and development initiatives.

The Zoo provides financial support to DFGFI. This money has been used to support operation of the Karisoke Research Center which is the base for DFGFI’s field activities.


Turtle Survival Alliance

The Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) has one powerful goal: zero turtle extinctions. To achieve this goal, TSA works in turtle hotspots in Belize, Columbia, Madagascar, India, China, Bangladesh, and Myanmar. Efforts are specific to the area, the local issues, and the turtle species. For example, in Madagascar TSA spearheads enforcement of laws protecting turtles from poaching for food and export to pet markets. In Myanmar, TSA has reproduced two nearly extinct species, the Burmese star tortoise and Burmese roofed turtle, in breeding centers and has reintroduced captive bred individuals to the wild. Both species are now making strong comebacks. TSA also responds when law enforcement officials confiscate turtles from smugglers. The confiscated animals are usually weak and ill, because they have been deprived of food and water and packed together with many other turtles, allowing disease and parasites to spread. TSA works with its many partners to place these turtles in captive turtle facilities that can provide veterinary care and appropriate housing and food. The turtles are nursed back to health and then returned to the wild if suitable protected habitat is available or placed in breeding centers to form captive populations which are bred and maintained as a hedge against extinction. In 2015, TSA assisted in the rehabilitation of 569 radiated tortoises and 3800 Palawan forest turtles that were confiscated. Both species are critically endangered and their populations cannot withstand such huge losses. TSA has also established the Turtle Survival Center, a large captive breeding center in South Carolina. Turtles lend themselves well to being kept and reproduced in a relatively small amount of space. The Turtle Survival Center is home to 600 turtles representing 32 of the world’s most critically endangered species. The center manages healthy, self-sustaining captive populations that currently have little chance of survival in the wild.

Three species of critically endangered Vietnamese box turtles bred and maintained at TSA’s Turtle Survival Center.

The Zoo is helping TSA achieve its goal of zero turtle extinctions by providing financial support. This money has been used to support the Turtle Survival Center and to help fund the rescue and rehabilitation of confiscated turtles. TSA and the Zoo also have a special connection through, Executive Director, Dr. Dwight Lawson. Dwight is a founding member of TSA and serves on its board.


Foundation for the Conservation of Endangered Species of Guatemala 

The Zoo partners with the Foundation for the Conservation of Endangered Species of Guatemala (FUNDESGUA), an organization which uses science based-strategies embedded in local culture to guide everyday actions, as the ingredients to our successful conservation results. Their target species are the Guatemalan beaded lizard and the Campbell’s alligator lizard, animals with extremely limited natural habitats. In areas like Guatemala, where extreme poverty is common and access to amenities like electricity is rare, it is common to chop down old growth trees for wood used to cook or heat homes. To combat this and to protect the remaining old-growth forests, FUNDESGUA supplied saplings for community-managed forests with fast-growing, native Eucalyptus and Pine Oak tree species for easy access to firewood. The successful program has expanded to six forests, each with about 10,000 trees.

Now Accepting Applications for 2022

Conservation Action Now Grant

Our planet is changing at a perplexing rate. Wild animal populations and healthy habitats are declining rapidly. The Oklahoma City Zoo is actively supporting and helping to expand the conservation of these imperiled species, habitats and their surrounding communities. One small, but wide-ranging, way to fulfill this mission is through the Zoo’s annual Conservation Action Now (CAN) small grant program.

The Zoo awards these competitive small grants each December in amounts up to $2,500 each. The selected projects span the globe and are based on their proposed ability to address the following conservation ideals:

  • Conservation Education – building an awareness of a conservation program that can effect change.  

  • Scientific Research – research projects that have a direct impact on conservation of an imperiled species or habitat in its native location.

  • Species Preservation – direct care or work with an imperiled species which results in an improved capability to preserve that species in its native habitat.

Congratulations and thank you CAN grant awardees! Your passion for, research of and dedication to these endangered species will have a lasting effect on the earth’s wildlife and wild places. The Zoo is proud to partner with you in these endeavors. Together, we CAN make a difference! 




2021 Small Grant Awardees

Organization: Red Panda Network
Project Title: Community based red panda conservation in Solukhumba District Nepal
Species: Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens)
Species Status: Endangered
Location: Nepal
Amount Awarded: $2500
Principle Investigator: Sonam Lama


Red pandas are an endangered, flagship and indicator species of the temperate broadleaved forest in eastern Himalaya and are legally protected in all its five range countries. However, the animal is under immense threats due to habitat loss, fragmentation, degradation, poaching and other anthropogenic disturbances and the population is decreasing. The Nepal National Red Panda Survey 2016 recorded the presence of red panda with 144 potential habitat in the proposed project area with most suitable red panda habitat in Mahakulung Rural Municipality of Solukhumbu district. Though having high biodiversity value, the proposed area lies outside designated protected areas and has unprotected status. Extensive harvesting and consumption of forest resources and illegal poaching and trade of red pandas are emerging as major threats to red panda survival in the area. This project aims to educate and sensitize local communities and stakeholders on red panda conservation, associated poaching and illicit trade and enhance their capacity to sustainably monitor and protect forest habitats. Through this project baseline information on red panda distribution, habitats, threats and conservation hotspots will be generated and initiate long-term red panda and habitat monitoring.

Photo: Red Panda Network

Organization: Fuverde Foundation
Project Title: Ethno-program for the conservation of the mountain tapir (Tapirus pinchaque) in the Colombian Amazon Andes
Species: Mountain Tapir (Tapirus pinchaque)
Species Status: Endangered
Location: Colombia
Amount Awarded: $2500
Principle Investigator: Leydi Camargo


The purpose of this project is the sustainable and community conservation of the populations of the Mountain Tapir (Tapirus pinchaque) in the Colombian Amazonian Andes. This mammal, a living fossil, listed as Endangered (EN) by the IUCN Global Redlist, is critically threatened in Colombia due to poaching and illegal trafficking, habitat destruction and climate change. Through this project, we propose 3 sustainable conservation strategies:

(i) Educational: Strengthening the conservation capacities of the Kamsá indigenous community (cohabiting with the target tapir) through the training of 150 young Kamsá indigenous people in biodiversity conservation.

(ii) Conservation: Mitigate at least 80% the threats of anthropogenic origin of the mountain tapir, through the creation of a 25Km2 security area in prioritized habitats, with ecological corridors of the target species.

(iii) Communication: Stimulate conservation actions in the Kamsá indigenous territory by communicating with at least 10,000 people about the results and activities of the project.

Photo: Armando Castellanos

Organization: National University of Tierra del Fuego
Project Title: Socio-ecological approach to understand and manage the puma (Puma concolor) in Southern Patagonia: its conservation related to society
Species: Puma (Puma concolor)
Species Status: Least concern (population decreasing)
Location: Santa Cruz, Argentina
Amount Awarded: $2500
Principle Investigator: Alejandro Valenzuela


The conflict around the carnivore-human dynamics represents a problem for the conservation of carnivores because its main component is persecution and hunting in productive areas and is part of a situation that has occurred throughout the world since the beginning of the sheep farming. The puma (Puma concolor), also named mountain lion or cougar, is a carnivore species with a wide distribution in the western hemisphere whose presence in the province of Santa Cruz, Argentina, encompasses its two ecoregions: Andean Patagonian Forest and Patagonian Steppe. In Patagonia in general and in Santa Cruz in particular, the activities of this carnivore generate conflicts and persecutions by different actors, mainly related to livestock. This context requires scientists and managers to look for ways to reconcile the carnivore-human relationship, especially in productive areas for livestock or for tourism use. The general objective of this project is to evaluate the socio-ecological situation of the puma in the Province of Santa Cruz under three contexts of land use: livestock ranch, strict conservation areas and tourism use areas, to propose conservation measures that contribute to the conservation of this species. The data from the ecological dimension will be used to identify areas of importance for the conservation of the puma and those obtained from the social dimension will be used to determine appropriate communication strategies for each actor, or in general, to promote involvement in socio-political processes of its conservation. Together, all the results will be used to generate recommendations for planning human activities and public use in the region.

Photo: Diego Araya

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