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.

The CAN Grant is currently closed. Please check back in August 2023.

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! 

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