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.

2022 Zoo-Supported Conservation Initiatives
  • APPC — Panamerican Conservation Association

    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.

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

  • Cheetah Conservation Fund

    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, African wild dog and leopard on farms, providing a science-based framework to reduce depredation, maximize farm productivity, while building community coexistence for predators.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Vulnerable

  • Chicago Botanic Garden

    The Indianapolis Zoo supports the Chicago Botanic Garden, the first grant recipient to receive support for the conservation of fungi. Fungi is one of life’s major kingdoms with an estimated 2-4 million species but less than 0.4% have their conservation status assessed. The Zoo’s support involves developing a computer-based toolkit for rapid fungal assessments as to determine which species are thriving and which are potentially threatened. Determining which species status is crucial for targeting conservation action towards species in greatest need.

  • Fundación Proyecto Sotalia

    The Fundación Proyecto Sotalia promotes research and conservation of the aquatic mammal species of Venezuela. The Zoo supports Fundación Proyecto Sotalia’s Amazon river dolphin conservation program, which aims to increase the scientific knowledge of the Amazon river dolphin by exploring and collecting data for the first time in the Portuguesa River. The research and data collection will allow scientists to determine the status of species as well as analyze cultural perceptions towards the Amazon river dolphin and improve current tourism practices in the region.

    IUCN Conservation Status: 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)

  • Indiana Department of Natural Resources

    The Indianapolis Zoo supports Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources and their two-phased habitat suitability study to identify optimal sites for the states near threatened 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. Phase two of the project will involve onsite assessments of lands to verify the presence of required habitat features. Identifying the sites is a critical first step in the recovery of crawfish frogs in Indiana.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Near Threatened

  • Indiana Wildlife Federation

    The monarch butterfly is the most widely recognized North American butterfly species but due to loss of breeding habitat and overwintering habitats, the migratory monarch has seen an estimated 80% decline in its population over the last 20 years. The Indianapolis Zoo’s supports the Indiana Wildlife Federation’s Monarch and Pollinator conservation program which seeks to form a broader coalition of support to assist with landscape restoration projects, regulatory assistance and public education and monitoring. The Zoo’s support will fund pollinator habitat presentations, native plant workshops, habitat restoration projects, collaborative planning meetings and Monarch Tagging events.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

  • International Elephant Foundation

    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.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Endangered

  • IUCN Species Survival Commission

    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’s office provides leadership that supports the global network to prompt actionable conservation on the ground, including governmental work, collaborations between IUCN programs and commissions, regional and national collaborations and fundraising.

  • Indiana University-Purdue University-Columbus

    The Indianapolis Zoo supports Indiana University-Purdue University Columbis (IUPUC) and the Monitoring Indiana’s Most Threatened Mayfly Species program. The Zoo’s support funds research and monitoring of the 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

  • Mabula Ground Hornbill Project

    The Mabula Ground Hornbill Project has, for the past two decades, been striving to reduce the decline of southern ground-hornbills, an Endangered top-order predator that is also the fastest declining avian species in South Africa. The Mabula Ground Hornbill Project aims to understand the current use of ground-hornbills in traditional medicine and develop approaches for reducing offtake and investigate alternatives. The Mabula Ground Hornbill Project receives support as they work to save the species through collaboration and targeted actions that include education and awareness, research, active threat mitigation and population restoration.

    IUCN Conservation Status: 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

  • Mara Elephant Project

    The Mara Elephant Project (MEP) works to protect African elephants in the greater Mara ecosystem. MEP monitors elephants daily to address threats, evaluates data, and deploys local rangers in collaboration with key partners to provide protection for wildlife, communities and habitat. The Indianapolis Zoo started its relationship with MEP in 2019 by supporting a bull elephant named Vasco being fit with a satellite collar which allows MEP to monitor his travel across the heavily threatened forests in Kenya and helps conservationists determine how to manage the Mara ecosystem so that wildlife and communities can live peacefully alongside one another. In 2021, MEP outfitted a female African elephant with a satellite collar and aptly named her “Indy.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Endangered

  • Reserva: The Youth Land Trust

    The Indianapolis Zoo supports one of the Reserva: The Youth Land Trust, Inc.,  projects which focuses on increasing community in the discovery and assessed of new and existing orchid species. This project is an orchid monitoring and evaluation project designed to increase community support of conservation in northwestern Ecuador’s Dracula Reserve, which is home to more than 380 species of orchids, including the infamous “Dracula orchids.”. With the Zoo’s support, the project will equip and train youth members of an Ecuadorian NGO and the local and indigenous communities to be para biologists, helping to protect Dracula Reserve for the unique orchids and all species in the Ecuadorian Chaco, a biodiversity hotspot.

  • Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program

    The Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program (SOCP) works to conserve viable populations of Critically Endangered orangutans on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia, through habitat protection, reintroduction of apes from the pet trade, as well as scientific research and education. The Zoo has provided funding for the program since 2015 and 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.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Critically Endangered

  • 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

  • The Nature Conservancy

    The Nature Conservancy in Indiana works to improve habitat for plants, animals and people across the Hoosier state. The Indianapolis Zoo supports The Nature Conservancy’s first of its kind project in the state as it works to construct a streamside outdoor laboratory for rearing native freshwater mussels. The Zoo’s support will increase capacity for mussel conservation in Indiana.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Data Deficient

  • Turtle Survival Alliance

    Wild radiated tortoise populations have declined due to widespread poaching for bushmeat and international pet trade, with an estimated 25,000 tortoises held in TSA rescue centers in Madagascar. The Indianapolis Zoo supports Turtle Survival Alliance as they work to reintroduce Critically Endangered radiated tortoises to the wild, with the goal of establishing multiple robust populations within community protected areas.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Critically Endangered

  • Venezuelan Crocodile Specialist Group

    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.

  • Wildlife Conservation Society

    The West African subpopulation of lions is 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 subpopulation. Lion protection patrols will escalate anti-poaching efforts, using GPS collar data to effectively track them and provide direct location information that directs 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.

    IUCN Conservation Status: Vulnerable

  • 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

Help the Zoo make a difference!

Learn about all of the ways you can help support animal conservation.