Indianapolis Zoo
Commitment to Conservation

Saving Wild Species and Wild Spaces

Support Conservation
Indianapolis Zoo
Advancing Conservation

The mission of the Indianapolis Zoo is to protect nature and inspire people to care for our world. A critical component of the Zoo’s conservation mission is to promote sustainability. The Zoo tackles this mission on multiple fronts, including initiating and maintaining green practices and encouraging others to adopt a “greener” way of life through special programs and exhibit features at the Zoo, which help set a good example for sustaining a healthy environment in Indianapolis and beyond.

The Indianapolis Zoo is committed to conservation around the globe. One of the keystones of the Zoo’s commitment to conservation is to support efforts around the world to save species and wild spaces that are in peril. The Zoo’s support is boundless through its involvement and monetary assistance with many different organizations, researchers and scientists in the field whose hard work is helping to preserve unique species and their habitats for future generations.

Global Conservation

Field Support

Each year, the Indianapolis Zoo awards international conservation grants based on science and research, measurable impact and projects that incorporate logical behavior change in areas where conflicts between people and wildlife exist. The Zoo has provided more than $1 million in support to conservation efforts for the past three years.

As wild things and wild places face increasing challenges, the Zoo’s grant recipients are making an authentic difference in saving species worldwide and will continue to progress with support from the Zoo.

To learn more about the Zoo’s global conservation initiatives explore the links below.

2022 Conservation Initiatives
  • 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 and maximize farm productivity while building community coexistence for predators.

    IUCN Red List 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 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 Red List 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 Red List 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 state’s Near Threatened crawfish frog. The project involves a broad-scale study to identify grassland habitats and palustrine wetlands in southwest Indiana and working alongside land managers to determine the 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 Red List Status: Near Threatened

  • Indiana Wildlife Federation

    The monarch butterfly is the most widely recognized North American butterfly species but due to the loss of breeding habitats and overwintering habitats, the migratory monarch has seen an estimated 80% decline in its population over the last 20 years. The Indianapolis Zoo 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 Red List Status: Least Concern

  • IUCN Species Survival Commission

    The Indianapolis Zoo provides financial support to IUCN’s Species Survival Commission. The SSC works through Specialist Groups, Red List Authorities, Task Forces and Conservation 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 Columbus (IUPUC) and the monitoring of Indiana’s most threatened mayfly species. 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 Red List 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 Red List 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 in 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 Red List 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 Red List 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 assessment of new and existing orchid species. This project is an orchid monitoring and evaluation project designed to increase community support for 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, and 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 Red List Status: Critically Endangered

  • Tanzania Conservation and Research Program

    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 Red List Status: Endangered

  • The Nature Conservancy

    The Nature Conservancy in Indiana works to improve habitats 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 Red List 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 Red List Status: Critically Endangered

  • 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 Red List 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 Red List Status: Critically Endangered

Celebrating Conservation Success
The Indianapolis Prize

The Indianapolis Prize is a signature conservation initiative of the Indianapolis Zoological Society, Inc. Since its inception as the largest monetary award given for animal conservation, the Prize has awarded more than $2.1 million and in 2021, reached more than 3 billion people globally. The Indianapolis Prize awards $250,000 to one of the most successful animal conservationists while the five finalists each receive $50,000 for their work to protect species. The Prize also awards the Emerging Conservationist award which recognizes conservationists under 40 years of age with the talent and drive to make a significant impact on saving an animal species. The winner of the Emerging Conservationist award receives $50,000 to further their vital work to save species.

The Indianapolis Prize also created the Jane Alexander Global Wildlife Ambassador Award to recognize the dedicated advocacy and outreach of individuals who inspire and encourage the public to find their own role in conservation efforts. Named in honor of award-winning actress and dedicated conservationist Jane Alexander, the “Ambassador” award is given to an individual who supports the natural world by leading other to action and lending a credible, consistent and effective public voice for the sustainability of wildlife. Past recipients include award-winning actors Sigourney Weaver and Harrison Ford and in 2021, the reigning Monarch of Monaco His Serene Highness Prince Albert II was the latest to join to the extraordinary list of ambassadors. The Jane Alexander Global Wildlife Ambassador Award winner is recognized at the Indianapolis Prize Gala as the conservation community comes together to celebrate conservation success.

Every other year, the eyes of the world turn to Indianapolis to recognize the heroic conservationists who are saving earth’s endangered species at the Indianapolis Prize Gala. The Gala is an inspiring evening celebrating the incredible victories of the Prize Winners and Finalists, the Emerging Conservationist award winner, alongside the Global Wildlife Ambassadors. Hosted in downtown Indianapolis, the Gala is an energetic and spectacular merriment of conservation triumphs, taking audiences on a journey to inspire guests to care more about animal conservation. Visit the Indianapolis Prizes’ YouTube page to see the inspiring films shown at previous Indianapolis Prize Galas.

Conservation Action
Take a Step
Learn More

The Indianapolis Zoo is an international leader in conservation and recognizes individuals and organizations who are protecting species and creating successful conservation methods that will ensure future generations will live in a thriving and sustainable world. You too can make a difference for the future of species worldwide by using the power of your individual voice, your awareness and your actions.

There are numerous ways to get involved. Wondering how you can make a difference for species such as African elephants, rhinos, birds, cheetahs and more? Visit the Indianapolis Zoo’s Take Action page and discover resources on how you can protect species and advance international conservation efforts.

Conservation action can be as easy as taking a step. Explore advice from conservation leaders by visiting the Indianapolis Prizes’ Take a Step page and become inspired to step up for conservation.

Looking to support the heroes of the Indianapolis Prize? Explore the Champions for Our Planet: The Indianapolis Prize Guide to Animal Conservation Giving guide. The organizations represented in the guide include some of the most respected names in animal conservation, including Polar Bears International, Wildlife Conservation Society, International Crane Foundation, Re:wild and many more. In selecting one of the conservation organizations highlighted within the guide you will directly support efforts that protect a variety of species including polar bears, jaguars, lemurs and more.