Global Conservation Projects
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 Southern Illinois University 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.
Northern Rangelands Trust, Kenya
The Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) is an umbrella organization that aims to establish resilient community conservancies that transform lives, secure peace, and conserve natural resources. There are 33 NRT-member community conservancies across northern and coastal Kenya,home to over 300,000 people who are managing over 42,000 square kilometers of land and safeguarding a wide range of species and habitats. The conservancies manage land to reduce grazing pressure and competition between wildlife and livestock. Conservancy rangers also regularly patrol their respective conservancies to protect wildlife and prevent illegal activities, such as poaching. This is especially important to safe guard the African elephants living in this area. Elephants are being killed for their ivory tusks at a rate of 96 individuals per day.
The Zoo provides financial support to the Lekurruki Conservancy. The money has been used to pay and equip wildlife rangers and to build a security office and radio room. Many species benefit from this conservancy’s activities, including Grevy’s zebra, African elephant, and cheetah.
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.
Jatun Sacha Foundation, Ecuador
The Jatun Sacha Foundation is an Ecuadorian non-governmental and non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of ecosystems of Ecuador. For more than 25 years, the Foundation has been promoting and preserving Ecuador’s biodiversity and improving the quality of life of local communities through technical training, scientific research, environmental education at the national and international level, community development, and sustainable resource management. Conservation initiatives and action take place within the Foundation’s five ecological reserves in an array of habitats including tropical forest, montane forest, cloud forest, rainforest, mangroves and dry forest.
The Zoo provides financial support to the Jatun Sacha Foundation. The money has been used to develop the Management Center of Amazonian Fauna at Jatun Sacha Biological Station, located in the Amazon province of Napo, Ecuador. The Management Center conducts wildlife rescue and endangered species breeding. Ecuador is a biodiversity hotspot. Thus, the Jatun Sacha Foundation reserves protect a vast array of animal and plant species, including jaguar, giant anteater, Galapagos tortoise, and over 800 species of butterflies.
Photo credit: Thane Johnson