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Conservation projects


The San Antonio Zoological Gardens and Aquarium participates in a wide variety of conservation efforts around the world.  On average, the Zoo contributes over $30,000 annually to projects for animal population censuses and research, habitat preservation, education and community initiatives, and breeding programs.  In addition, the Zoo is directly involved in the conservation of the many threatened and endangered species in its collection.  By participating in breeding programs like Species Survival Plans, providing refuge for species faced with habitat destruction in the wild, and increasing public awareness of conservation issues, the Zoo plays an active role in the preservation of these animals and their habitats. Below are a few projects summary:

Whooping Crane Recovery Program

The San Antonio Zoo has been contributing to the recovery of the whooping crane since 1956, at which time there were only 16 cranes known to be alive.  Since then, staff have successfully costume-reared seven chicks, of which three have been released into the wild to date.  In recent years, chicks bred at the San Antonio Zoo have also been sent to Patuxent Wildlife Research Center for participation in the Ultralight migration program (1 egg in 2003, 2 eggs in 2004).  Captive propagation forms an integral part of the Whooping Crane Recovery Program by preserving the gene pool and providing an opportunity to educate the public about the plight of this species.  Through the program’s efforts, the population of whooping cranes has increased to over 549 birds in the wild.    

Attwater’s Prairie Chicken Recovery Program

The San Antonio Zoo has been a participant of the Attwater's Prairie Chicken Recovery Program since 1996.  This program's primary objective is to restore and maintain a genetically viable, self-sustaining population of at least 5,000 individuals in three different areas of Texas.  The long-term goal is to annually raise a total of 600 birds from all the breeding centers for placement in the wild.  The current recovery efforts are focused on five major areas: habitat management, public outreach, population management, coordination and research.

Endangered Texas Salamanders

The San Antonio Zoo has been designated as a captive refugium for two species of endangered salamanders from Comal Springs and San Marcos Springs.  These species are both found in springs fed by the Edwards Aquifer, and drought situations that greatly diminished the flow of these springs are threatening the existence of these amphibians.  The Zoo is involved with the salvage, exhibition, and husbandry of Edwards Aquifer endemics in concert with respective U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Recovery Plans.  Participating institutions include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Edwards Aquifer Research and Data Center in San Marcos, Texas.    

California Condor Project

The San Antonio Zoo has contributed four Andean condor eggs to this project since 1988.  The project places Andean condor eggs with inexperienced California condors for fostering, enabling them to learn how to incubate, hatch, and rear young without risking chicks of their own highly endangered species.  After foster rearing, the Andean condors utilized in this project are released into the wild in their native habitat in South America.  The California Condor Project has enjoyed remarkable success, and the population of California condors has increased from a low of 22 individuals to approximately 200 birds in the span of 25 years.
The current breeding pair of Andean condors produced a female chick that hatched in May 2005 and was sent to Cincinnati Zoo in April 2006 for eventual release to the wild.

Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon-Facultad de Ciencias Biologicas

The Zoo collaborates with the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León to conduct herpetofaunal field surveys and specimen collection of endemic reptile and amphibian species throughout Mexico. These surveys and natural history studies help establish appropriate habitat for species survival.  Species collected are used to create husbandry procedures and captive breeding programs.  Summaries of two projects appear below:  

  • Life History Traits of Crotalus polystictus; a Long-Term, Mark-Recapture Study

The San Antonio Zoo, in conjunction with the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León and the University of Granada, Spain, is participating in a multi-year, mark-recapture study of the Mexican Lance-headed rattlesnake, Crotalus polystictus.  The study area is located in the southern highlands of central Mexico.  The research site encompasses roughly 30 hectares of actively used farmland in a disturbed, densely populated agricultural area.  Data collected over the next six years will help determine population density, reproductive strategies, growth, and mortality rates of this poorly known species.  The summer of 2006 saw the capture and PIT tag of 770 individual snakes.  All specimens captured were weighed, measured, and released at site of capture.  All gravid females were held until parturition; offspring were weighed, measured, PIT tagged, and released with their dam back to the original point of capture.  Lance-headed rattlesnake life history information gathered from this project will help provide insight into future conservation efforts of other at-risk Mexican endemic rattlesnakes. 

  • Social Organization, Reproductive Patterns, and Captive Management Protocols of Endemic Mexican Herpetofauna (2003, 2006-2007)

The San Antonio Zoo’s department of herpetology, in collaboration with staff from the Natural History department of UANL, has been working towards developing captive management and reproductive protocols for endemic Mexican herpetofauna.  This is an ongoing, long-term project spanning over twenty years.  Social interactions among species, photoperiod manipulations, environmental changes, and diet are some of the reproductive cues the two institutions are studying for the overall positive management of endemic Mexican herpetofauna.  Staff from the Zoo and UANL also collaborate in field survey work and in situ life history studies throughout Mexico.

AZA Butterfly Conservation Initiative (BFCI)

This group of zoos and related institutions was established to consolidate and focus efforts to recover imperiled butterfly populations and involve the public in outreach, education, and community conservation activities.  The San Antonio Zoo was one of the founding members of BCFI. Visit www.butterflyrecovery.org for more information.

Epulu Project

This project by Gilman Conservation International is dedicated to protecting and preserving the Okapi Wildlife Reserve in the Ituri Forest of the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Funds assist with anti-poaching efforts, research, community outreach and training, and new facilities construction on the Reserve. Visit www.giconline.org for more information.

The Peregrine Fund

The Peregrine Fund was established in 1970 to restore the peregrine falcon in the United States, a recovery it accomplished in 1999 when the bird was removed from the Endangered Species List after the release of over 4,000 captive-raised falcons in 28 states.  Now the Peregrine Fund is working to save other endangered species, such as the California condor and Aplomado falcon, in the United States and around the world. Visit www.peregrinefund.org for more information.

Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG)

CBSG is part of IUCN – The World Conservation Union – and is one of the largest of over 110 Specialist Groups comprising the Species Survival Commission (SSC).  CBSG works to develop scientifically based tools for risk assessment and decision making for in situ and ex situ species management.  The group also conducts workshops that support the exchange of information across diverse stakeholder groups in order to reach agreement on the important issues facing both humans and wildlife. www.cbsg.org

Bushmeat Crisis Task Force (BCTF)

BCTF is dedicated to improving awareness of and finding means to eliminate the illegal, commercial trade of bushmeat in Africa.  To that end, BCTF is developing an action plan to create a global network that will inform the public, secure legislative support, and establish wildlife management guidelines and training programs. Visit
www.bushmeat.org for more information.

Marwell Zimbabwe Trust (MZT)

The initial focus of this organization was increasing knowledge of small antelope species and the nutrition of black rhinoceros.  More recently, however, its efforts have expanded to other conservation projects in Zimbabwe.  The San Antonio Zoo’s contributions assisted the MZT’s Cheetah Project, which studies cheetahs and their ability to compete with other predators on land outside the protected reserves.  An important part of this project is the development of wildlife management techniques to reduce livestock depredation by cheetahs and thereby lessen conflict between landowners and this protected species.  Visit
www.marwell.org.uk for more information.

Grevy’s Zebra Census Project

The goal of this project was to conduct a combined ground and aerial survey of the three populations of Grevy’s zebra in Ethiopia, which will supplement previous data collected on Kenyan populations and complete surveys of all wild populations of this species.  During this survey, the size and structure of and threats to these populations was determined so that viable conservation strategies can be developed. 

Tree Kangaroo Conservation Project (TKCP)

TKCP is part of the AZA’s Tree Kangaroo Species Survival Plan and focuses on researching the natural history of tree kangaroos, collaborating on conservation education programs, and establishing conservation areas in tree kangaroo habitat.  In addition to population censuses and research, TKCP performs extensive outreach to village landowners to facilitate sustainable development in conjunction with wildlife and forest protection.   

Madagascar Fauna Group (MFG)

The MFG was created by zoos and related organizations to consolidate conservation efforts in Madagascar.  MFG works towards protection of wildlife reserves and habitats; research on a variety of species; and education, training, and employment opportunities for local students, residents, and teachers.  Their flagship program is the release of captive-bred lemurs back into the wild, and the Betampona Reserve Ruffed Lemur Release & Conservation Program, of which the San Antonio Zoo is a participant, won the AZA International Conservation Significant Achievement Award in 2001. Visit www.savethelemur.org for more information.

International Snow Leopard Trust (ISLT)

The SLT works with rural communities in Central Asia to protect snow leopards and their mountain ecosystem by implementing conservation, education, and research programs in the field.  For example, the Snow Leopard Enterprises conservation model helps raise local peoples’ incomes while protecting snow leopards.  The San Antonio Zoo’s 2002 contribution helped sponsor SLT’s partnership with Peace Corps Mongolia to fund research and education efforts in that country, while the 2003-2009 contributions assist with the conservation education and program expansion in Kyrgyzstan.  The Zoo Gift Shop has also partnered with the Trust’s Snow Leopard Enterprises to sell the handmade crafts produced in Kyrgyzstan villages participating in the community conservation efforts. Visit
www.snowleopard.org for more information.

Zoo Conservation Outreach Group (ZCOG)

ZCOG is an organization designed to provide technical, material, and financial support to Latin American zoos and aquaria in their wildlife and habitat conservation efforts.  Examples of past projects assisted by ZCOG include the Bi-national Andean Condor Conservation Project, the Scarlet Macaw Reintroduction Initiative, and the Mexican Baird’s Tapir Research Project.  The Zoo’s latest contributions help fund Project Jaguar, a population monitoring and conservation program in Mexico.  ZCOG outreach committees also organize a variety of regional training workshops for Latin American zoo professionals. Visit www.zcog.org for more information. 

We are proud of the conservation successes at the San Antonio Zoo and around the world. We would like to thank our members and donors for making this possible.