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.
The Pan American Conservation Association is a wildlife rescue center and sloth sanctuary in Panama. Every year the organization receives injured, orphaned and sick wildlife, many of them sloths. In its 14 years of operation, the group has rescued more than 4,500 animals and rehabilitated more than 1,000 sloths.
While APPC works to rerelease as many sloths as possible, there are times when the animals need long-term care, as in the case of six sloths brought to the Indianapolis Zoo. Forest fragmentation is pushing sloths into urban areas, where traffic, dogs and poaching to sell as illegal pets are among some of their greatest threats.
The Zoo began supporting APPC in 2019 as the MISTery Park opened, where guests have the opportunity to see sloths up close while learning how they can assist with conservation efforts, including purchasing sustainable paper products, like those with FSC certifications.
Along with the Zoo’s interactive Race-a-Cheetah, Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) receives support in its efforts to understand carnivore distribution and conflict with farming operations in understudied areas of eastern Namibia, that have the potential to be a wildlife stronghold. CCF generates predictive maps of safe harbors for cheetah, wild dog and leopard on farms, providing a science-based framework to reduce depredation, maximizing farm productivity, while building community tolerance for predators. The project will also allow accumulation of valuable samples of cheetah scat, enabling planned future large-scale diet and density estimation for free-ranging cheetahs on farmland.
The Indianapolis Zoo supports the ongoing goal of the Goualougo Triangle Ape Project — 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. The Congo Basin has long been considered a stronghold for gorilla conservation, but these African apes live in a rapidly changing landscape. 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. GTAP staff provide training in research, project management and the skills to interact with regional and international conservation work.
The Indianapolis Zoo supports a two-phased habitat suitability study to identify optimal sites for the state’s endangered crawfish frog. The project involves a broad-scale study to identify grassland habitat and palustrine wetlands in southwest Indiana and working alongside land managers to determine feasibility of translocations. These sites are a critical first step in the recovery of crawfish frogs in Indiana.
The International Elephant Foundation (IEF) is composed of a group of Association of Zoos and Aquariums zoos and other elephant facilities whose resident elephants are wildlife ambassadors helping to educate the public and raise valuable support dollars for elephant conservation.
EEHV is the largest cause of death for captive juvenile Asian elephants in North America and Europe. EEHV-associated deaths have been documented in wild Asian elephants, adding another threat to this endangered species. Recent EEHV-associated deaths in captive African elephants are now raising concerns about EEHV in this species.
The Indianapolis Zoo’s funding supports the development of tools needed to discover what parts of the EEHV virus might be useful for developing a vaccine that can induce protective immunity in the Asian elephant. This EEHV vaccine represents a truly innovative endeavor because it is considered an experimental vaccine developed specifically for use in an endangered species.
The Indianapolis Zoo provides financial support to IUCN’s Species Survival Commission. The SSC works as part of specialist groups, Red List authorities, on task forces and sub-committees. The Chair and office provide support and leadership over the global network to prompt actionable conservation on the ground, including governmental work, collaborations between IUCN programs and commissions, regional and national consultations and fundraising.
Captive Breeding and Reintroduction
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.
Recent reassessment of the Great Green Macaw revealed there may only be 500-1000 wild individuals remaining and led to a proposal to up-list the species to Critically Endangered. The network leverages numerous national and international collaborations.
The Mara Elephant Project (MEP) works to protect elephants in the greater Mara ecosystem. MEP monitors elephants daily to address threats, evaluates data, and deploys local rangers in collaboration with key partners in order to provide protection for wildlife, communities and habitat.
Since 2016, MEP has recorded a 268 percent increase in crop damage incidents by elephants and overall, conflict rose from 91 total events in 2016 to 181 in 2019. In the same time period, elephant deaths from conflict have outpaced those from poaching. The Munyas and Naroosora areas of the Mara are frequently the epicenter for rising tensions between elephants and people. Collaring at least one “cropaholic” elephant in each of these areas will provide data that is used daily to mitigate human-elephant conflict and inform ranger deployment. In the long-term, the movement data these elephants generate will help conservation scientists better understand the connectivity between different parts of the ecosystem and to define and protect essential corridors.
The Indianapolis Zoo started its relationship with MEP in 2019 by supporting the a bull elephant named Vasco being fit with a satellite collar. Vasco resides in the north end of the Mau Forest. Watching his travel across these heavily threatened forests in Kenya help conservationists determine how best to set up the Mara ecosystem so that wildlife and communities can live peacefully alongside one another.
The Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program (SOCP) works to conserve viable populations of critically endangered orangutans in Sumatra through habitat protection, reintroduction of apes from the pet trade, as well as scientific research and education.
The Zoo supports SOCP’s Jantho reintroduction program, which works to establish a new, self-sustaining population in the Jantho Nature Reserve in the Sumatran province of Aceh. Their work reintroduces and monitors released apes as well as partnering with local communities and conservation authorities on long-term biodiversity monitoring and collaborative protection activities.
The Zoo has provided support for the Program since 2015.
For Dr. Charles Foley, Director of the Tanzania Conservation and Research Project, few countries in the world can match Tanzania for its diversity of wildlife. That’s a key reason he and his wife Lara, manager of the Project, have spent the last 25 years living and conducting research in the Tarangire ecosystem. Since 2007, the Indianapolis Zoo has provided annual support for the Foley’s efforts to conserve 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. Free access to these areas for all of the species in the national park is essential for their continued conservation. Despite poaching in other parts of Africa, Charles said these elephants continue to thrive.
In 2021, the Zoo’s Round Up for Conservation supports critically endangered Orinoco crocodiles in South America. The Crocodile Specialist Group of Venezuela researches populations and possible nesting sites in three rivers, works with local communities, and hopes to expand national parks to their border with Columbia.
You can donate the extra change from your gift shop purchases, making a difference for these threatened reptiles. And don’t miss out on seeing Orinoco crocodiles and American alligators here at the Zoo.
Lions in West Africa are critically endangered, with fewer than 250 adult individuals in four populations, one of which is in Nigeria’s Yankari Game Reserve. The Indianapolis Zoo supports lion protection patrols for this population.
Lion protection patrols will escalate anti-poaching efforts, using GPS collar data to effectively shadow them and provide direct protection, in addition to camera-trap monitoring surveys in core lion areas. Camera trapping is an excellent tool to help monitor the status of lions and covertly monitor illegal activity in the reserve.
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.
Learn about all of the ways you can help support animal conservation.