Field Support
Global Conservation

Learn about our work in the field!

Support Conservation
Field Support

The Indianapolis Zoo is committed to conservation efforts across the globe.

One of the keystones of the Indianapolis Zoo’s commitment to conservation is to support efforts around the world to save wildlife and wild places that are in danger. The Zoo’s support reaches far and wide through its involvement and monetary assistance with many different organizations, researchers and scientists in the field whose hard work is helping to preserve unique animals and their habitats for future generations. Learn more about our global conservation initiatives by clicking on the links below.

2023 - 2024 Zoo-Supported Conservation Initiatives
  • Acension Island Government

    Ascension Island is located in the South Atlantic Ocean, about halfway between South America and Africa. It is home to several species of crickets, which are covered in iridescent scales. Scaly crickets live in sandy areas and on old lava flows. Nonnative plants and insects are putting scaly crickets at risk of extinction. The Indianapolis Zoo supports the Ascension Island Government in efforts to learn more about scaly crickets. Scientists can share what they learn about these crickets to help protect them on their oasis in the sea.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Scaly Crickets; Vulnerable

  • APPC — Panamerican Conservation Association

    The Pan American Conservation Association is a wildlife rescue center and sloth sanctuary in Panama.

    APPC helps orphaned, injured and sick sloths in Panama recover and educates communities about wildlife. The Indianapolis Zoo supports the APPC in the care and release of sloths to the wild.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Two-toed Sloths, Least Concern; Three-toed Sloths, Vulnerable 

  • Atelopus Survival Initiative

    Harlequin toads are found in forests and aquatic habitats in the neotropics of Central and South America and get their name from their many vibrant colors. They have important cultural significance in some countries and Indigenous communities. Many species of harlequin toads are endangered or threatened with extinction from different causes. The Indianapolis Zoo supports the Atelopus Survival Initiative in efforts to study the threats to harlequin frogs and work to protect them. They are bringing many groups of people together to save these iconic amphibians.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Harlequin Toad; Endangered to Critically Endangered

  • AZA SAFE Chimpanzee

    Chimpanzees live in forests across Central Africa. They rely on the resources of forests—especially fruits—to survive and thrive. Chimpanzees are an endangered species because of loss of forest habitat, hunting and disease. The Indianapolis Zoo supports the Association of Zoos & Aquariums Chimpanzee SAFE program to help save chimpanzees. They help people at zoos and in conservation groups work together to take action to protect chimpanzees, focusing on reducing poaching, habitat loss and disease in chimpanzee populations.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Chimpanzees; Endangered

  • Botanic Gardens Conservation International

    Colombia is home to thousands of different kinds of trees. Hundreds of tree species in Colombia are at risk of extinction because of deforestation, threatening local ecosystems. The Indianapolis Zoo supports Botanic Gardens Conservation International in working to save trees. They are using data from scientists to plan actions in Colombia that will be the biggest impact for trees. By focusing on trees, Botanic Gardens Conservation International will help protect many species that live in forests, including people.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Colombian Trees; Vulnerable

  • Cheetah Conservation Fund

    Cheetahs are top predators in the grasslands of eastern and southern Africa. Cheetah populations are shrinking because of habitat loss and conflict with livestock and people. Protecting wild cheetahs requires cooperation with local farmers. The Indianapolis Zoo supports the work of the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) to help cheetahs in Namibia. They are studying where cheetahs live and where they have conflict with farms in Namibia. CCF research can lead to the creation of better habitats for cheetahs. Other carnivores—African wild dogs and leopards—and farm animals also benefit from this project. Research into cheetah lifestyles makes it possible for people and cheetahs to live in the same area.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Cheetahs; Vulnerable

  • CONABIO, Mexican CITES Scientific Authority

    The Mexican black velvet tarantula is in the top 10 most threatened tarantulas around the world. They live in burrows made in rocky areas of forests and cover them with silk to protect it during the day. They are nocturnal, waiting by the entrance of the burrow to capture and eat insects and other spiders at night. This Endangered species lives only in Oaxaca State, Mexico. It is threatened with deforestation, agriculture, road mortality and illegal trade. The Indianapolis Zoo supports CONABIO, the Mexican CITES Scientific Authority to help save this rare tarantula. They are working with indigenous people and local communities to monitor the Mexican black velvet tarantula and improve its chances of survival.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Mexican Black Velvet Tarantula; Endangered

  • Foundation for Australia's Most Endangered Species

    The red handfish is a small, colorful fish found only on two small reefs in Tasmania, Australia. They stay hidden under reef materials much of the time, and not much is known about them. Habitat loss and water pollution have caused red handfish populations to decline. They are a Critically Endangered species, with only about 100 adults left in the wild. The Indianapolis Zoo supports the Foundation for Australia’s Most Endangered Species to help save the red handfish. The Foundation is working to create a “Fish School” to raise captive-bred red handfish in reef-like habitats to improve their survival after release in the wild.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Red Handfish; Critically Endangered

  • Friends of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest

    The Sokoke scops owl is native to East Africa. It lives primarily in a single forest in Kenya. This species is Endangered, and deforestation is making it hard for the owls to breed. Mining and climate change also threaten the owl and its forest habitat. The Indianapolis Zoo supports the Friends of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest to help save the Sokoke scops owl. They are working with local community members in Kenya to create a conservation plan for the owl.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Sokoke Scops Owl; Endangered

  • Goualougo Triangle Ape Project

    The Indianapolis Zoo supports the ongoing goal of the Goualougo Triangle Ape Project (GTAP)— to improve the conservation outlook of the Congo Basin’s chimpanzees and gorillas through long-term applied research, enhanced protection of habitat, and strengthening of local capacity. GTAP’s efforts combine applied conservation research of the gorillas and chimpanzees whose populations overlap areas of active logging with data of the industry to define the characteristics necessary for “high conservation value” forests. The project conducts health monitoring and assesses risks of disease transmission, while also advancing professional development in local educational outreach.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Gorillas, Critically Endangered (some subspecies are Endangered); Chimpanzee, Endangered (western chimpanzee species are Critically Endangered)

  • Hellbender Project

    Hellbenders are the largest salamander in North America. They live in freshwater streams and rivers, here in Indiana and in other nearby states. Hellbenders use rocky areas in streams and rivers to lay their eggs. They are at risk of extinction because of river dams, water pollution and climate change. Chemicals pass through their skin into their bodies, making them sensitive to environmental changes. The Indianapolis Zoo supports plans coordinated by Purdue University to save hellbenders. Many people are teaming up to improve habitat and to raise and release hellbenders into Indiana waterways. Conservationists hope to increase the number of hellbenders in Indiana for the future.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Hellbender; Vulnerable

  • Indiana University-Purdue University-Columbus

    The Indianapolis Zoo supports Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus (IUPUC) and the Monitoring Indiana’s Most Threatened Mayfly Species program. The Zoo’s support funds research and monitoring of twelve state-threatened or endangered mayfly species that have not been found in Indiana for 50 years. With the Zoo’s funding, IUPUC will go on eleven collecting expeditions to search for the Mayfly species in at least fifteen locations to evaluate current habitat conditions. The data derived from this study will be used to inform the state’s threatened and endangered species lists.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Data Deficient

  • IUCN SSC Cycad Specialist Group

    Cycads are ancient plants that have thrived for millions of years. Their ancestors lived alongside dinosaurs. They look like palms but are related to conifers, or cone-producing plants. Cycad species are now widely threatened as a group. Habitat loss, overharvesting and poaching have reduced their wild populations drastically. The Indianapolis Zoo supports the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Cycad Specialist Group to help save cycads. They are focusing their efforts on cycad biodiversity areas in southern Africa, Central America and South America to work with community partners on new conservation plans for these iconic plant species.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Cycads; Threatened to Endangered 

  • IUCN SSC Small Mammal Specialist Group

    The Bahaman hutia is a small mammal that lives on a few small islands in the Bahamas. Because they are so isolated, hutia populations are at risk from storms and introduced predators. The Indianapolis Zoo supports the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Small Mammal Specialist Group to help save the Bahaman hutia. They are collecting information about hutia populations and their local environments as well as a plan to help hutias thrive on their islands for years to come.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Bahaman Hutia; Vulnerable 

  • IUCN SSC Horseshoe Crab Specialist Group

    Horseshoe crabs are ancient and iconic ocean animals, living for hundreds of millions of years along beaches and shallow areas. Three species of horseshoe crab live in coastal areas of India, Japan and the Philippines. Another species lives along the Atlantic coast of North America and the Gulf of Mexico. Horseshoe crabs are threatened by habitat loss, overharvesting and the fishing industry. The Indianapolis Zoo supports the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Horseshoe Crab Specialist group to save Asian horseshoe crabs. They are working to bring people together from each country where horseshoe crabs live to make new conservation plans.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Horseshoe Crab; Endangered

  • IUCN SSC Orchid Specialist Group

    There are many species of Dracula orchids, which have striking colors and shapes. They can be found in the humid cloud forests of South America and are popular with orchid enthusiasts. Many of the species are threatened, and some are critically endangered. Overharvesting for illegal trade and habitat loss leave them at risk of extinction. The Indianapolis Zoo supports the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Orchid Specialist Group to help save the Dracula orchid. They are creating Dracula orchid conservation plans for Colombia and Ecuador as well as helping grow orchid seeds and reintroduce plants to the wild.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Dracula Orchid; Endangered

  • Mabula Ground Hornbill Project

    Southern ground hornbills are carnivorous birds that live in eastern and southern Africa. Ground hornbills face habitat loss and stress from the climate crisis and are vulnerable to extinction. The Indianapolis Zoo supports Mabula Ground Hornbill Project in their efforts to safeguard these birds. They work with local communities to protect ground hornbills in harmony with traditional cultural practices.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Ground Hornbill; Vulnerable 

  • Macaw Recovery Network

    In Indianapolis, guests are surrounded by the beauty of birds in Flights of Fancy, and the Zoo is ensuring a positive future for wild birds too! The Macaw Recovery Network (formerly The Ara Project) is dedicated to saving the two native species of Costa Rica: the well-known Scarlet macaw and the Endangered great green macaw. The network helps protect these incredible birds from threats like the wild bird trade, hunting and habitat loss through captive breeding programs and reintroducing offspring into the wild. In 2015, the Indianapolis Zoo joined in these efforts, supporting a captive breeding and release program, enhancing the breeding center and conducting research of wild macaws.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Great Green Macaw, Critically Endangered; Scarlet Macaw, Least Concern

  • MIND.Funga Research Group

    Fungi are decomposers that are important species in ecosystems around the world, and many animals and plants depend on them. Little is known about the biodiversity of fungi or their conservation needs. Habitat loss and climate change threaten fungi with survival. Brazil is host to many living things. It is important to know about fungal biodiversity to support its local conservation efforts. The Indianapolis Zoo supports MIND.Funga Research Group to help save fungi. They are working to create a new collection of threatened fungi in Brazil.  They can use these collections to learn which animals use them as food and make plans to return threatened fungi to key areas.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Fungi; Threatened 

  • National Tropical Botanical Garden

    The ʻālula is a plant native to Kaua’i, Hawai’i. It resembles a cabbage on a succulent stalk. It is extinct in the wild and is maintained by people. The ʻālula holds a mystery. Scientists don’t know what kinds of pollinators have helped it reproduce. The Indianapolis Zoo supports the National Tropical Botanical Garden’s efforts to identify a pollinator for the rare alula plant. Scientists will use genetic techniques on museum collections of a possibly extinct moth species from Kauai’i. The moths in museums may carry pollen on their bodies that could be matched to the ʻālula flowers. Scientists will also observe the flowers of living ʻālula plants to see what current pollinators visit them.

    IUCN Conservation Status: ʻālula; Endangered

  • Nigerian Conservation Foundation

    Vultures are valuable members of ecosystems, scavenging food from dead animals. Africa is home to many vulture species, several of which are native to Nigeria. Most are critically endangered because of illegal trade and habitat loss. The Indianapolis Zoo supports the Nigerian Conservation Foundation’s efforts to create habitat preserves for the hooded vulture and other species. The organization engages local youth to help monitor and protect vultures. Scientists are also learning more about what vultures need to thrive.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Hooded Vulture; Critically Endangered

  • North American Sturgeon and Paddlefish Society

    Sturgeons are freshwater fish. Some species live right here in Indiana, including in the White River. Globally, all species of sturgeon, and their relatives the paddlefish, are threatened with extinction. Wildlife biologists have monitored sturgeons for decades as part of conservation programs. The Indianapolis Zoo supports the North American Sturgeon and Paddlefish Society in standardizing ways for people to handle sturgeons. Their work will ensure these rare fish are cared for in the best way possible.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Sturgeons; Vulnerable to Critically Endangered

  • Oklahoma Zoological Society

    The Guatemala bearded lizard is native to the dry forests of Guatemala. It lives in ground burrows made by other animals, as well as tree and cliff holes. This lizard was once widespread in dry tropical forests, but it populations are shrinking. It is now an endangered species because of deforestation and the climate crisis. The Indianapolis Zoo supports the Oklahoma Zoological Society as it educates communities about the value of these lizards. Their campaign empowers local residents to act as “Guardians of the Forest” to protect dry forests and the bearded lizard.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Guatemala Bearded Lizard; Endangered

  • Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria

    Tea-tree fingers is Australia’s rarest fungus. It gets its name from the distinctive fruiting bodies that appear to grip the freshly dead wood that it grows on. The trees it depends on are threatened by the climate crisis, wildfires and deforestation. Populations of this fungus are very low, and it is now a critically endangered species. The Indianapolis Zoo supports the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria in their work to locate new individuals and populations of tea-tree fungus. Scientists have trained a wildlife detection dog to help with locating more fungus in the wild. Finding more areas with tea-tree fungus will help conservations save it for the future.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Tea-Tree Fingers; Critically Endangered

  • South African Biodiversity Institute

    Many plants contain chemicals that can act as medicines. Traditional cultures and modern medicine both rely on plants for current and new therapies. Some plants with known medicinal properties are threatened with extinction in the wild. The Indianapolis Zoo supports the South African Biodiversity Institute’s work to conserve threatened medicinal plant species. Working with people across southern Africa, the organization is creating a regional conservation plan. This project will help people grow more plants and manage their resources sustainably for the future.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Medicinal Plants; Threatened to Critically Endangered

  • Sycamore Land Trust

    The Beanblossom Creek Conservation Area in southern Indiana contains wetlands that support many species. Two rare species—the cypress firefly and Kirtland’s snake—live in wetlands. Not much is known about them, but they are vulnerable to extinction due to wetland habitat loss in Indiana. The Indianapolis Zoo supports the Sycamore Land Trust to help save the cypress firefly and Kirtland’s snake. They are restoring wetland habitat in the Beanblossom Creek Conservation Area and will monitor both species to learn more about their needs. Healthy wetlands and waterways benefit insects, reptiles and many other local species.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Cypress Firefly; Vulnerable, Kirtland’s Snake; Threatened

  • Tanzania Conservation and Research Project

    The Indianapolis Zoo supports the Tanzania Conservation and Research Project. Few countries in the world can match Tanzania for its diversity of wildlife and since 2007, the Indianapolis Zoo has provided annual support for efforts to conserve African elephants and their habitat. One of the Project’s major purposes is to protect migration corridors and dispersal areas — areas outside the national park where more than 1,000 elephants within 32 family groups move seasonally. These protected grasslands are a critical food source for wildlife, as well as for the local community’s livestock. Habitat connectivity between protected areas is essential for the continued conservation of all species in this region.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Endangered

  • University of Colorado

    Lichens are a partnership between two kinds of living things: fungi and algae. Fungi provide most of the “body” of the lichen. Algae absorb sunlight and make food, like plants. Lichens are found in habitats all over the world, including places where other species cannot thrive. Some lichen species are very rare, and they are threatened by habitat loss, climate change and water and air pollution. The Indianapolis Zoo supports scientists from the University of Colorado to help save lichens in the American west. They are working to find new populations of rare lichens in the Rocky Mountains and High Plains. Information about lichens will be used to make conservation plans for public lands that include all of life’s diversity in the area.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Lichens; Endangered

  • University of North Carolina at Greensboro

    Fungi are a large group of remarkable species. They are decomposers that are important parts of ecosystems around the world, including freshwaters. Little is known about the biodiversity of fungi or their conservation needs. Habitat loss threatens fungi with survival. Some freshwater fungi are microscopic decomposers of wood and other living things in lakes, streams, rivers and wetlands. Aquatic fungi are not well studied, but habitat degradation may be threatening their survival. The Indianapolis Zoo supports the University of North Carolina at Greensboro to save freshwater fungi. They are going on a freshwater safari, by collecting and identifying fungi from wood found in freshwater habitats in Indiana. With better knowledge about freshwater fungal species and their distribution, we can start to add them to conservation actions.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Freshwater Fungi; Threatened 

  • World Parrot Trust

    Despite the capture of blue-throated macaws ceasing in the early 1990s, wild populations of the Critically Endangered species remain very low. Because of this, the World Parrot Trust has worked to protect the birds, understand their ecology and create successful reproductive recovery programs since 2001.The project focuses on protecting wild nests from predators to ensure a higher percentage of young birds fledge, conducting habitat studies, monitoring breeding pairs and installing artificial nest boxes to eliminate some of the threats affecting wild populations. While building a captive breeding program based in Bolivia, the project is also dedicated to providing community education opportunities to further conservation as well. The Indianapolis Zoo’s support will assist with the establishment of a blue-throated macaw field station within the newly designated Gran Mojos Reserve.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Critically Endangered

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