The Zoo has been involved in over 30 conservation projects. With support from the Zoo, organizations around the world are working to reduce habitat destruction, stop over-hunting, create sustainable conservation programs, and educate the world about decreasing animal populations. In addition to providing financial support, the Zoo contributes personnel, husbandry expertise, project recommendations, and veterinary services to various conservation efforts. Click below to learn more about the organizations being funded this year, as well as projects the Zoo has worked on in the past, and the species they are trying to help save.
Current and Past Projects around the World:
Bushmeat Conservation – Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea
The rich, ecologically diverse forests in Africa are often referred to as “the bush,” and animals caught and killed for food are called bushmeat. The practice of obtaining bushmeat has long existed in Africa, however, as access to both forests and other communities has increased, hunting has begun to have a severe impact on several animal populations, and subsequently ecosystems, in Africa. The L.A. Zoo supports different organizations as they attempt to curb the practice of obtaining bushmeat in Africa.
To educate communities about bushmeat practices in Cameroon, the Pandrillus Foundation funds the Limbe Wildlife Center. At the Center, Cameroonians can visit captive populations of drills, mandrills, gorillas, and chimpanzees, amongst other primate species. Many Cameroonians never encounter these primates in any form other than bushmeat, and by seeing them alive, healthy, and well-cared for, the Center hopes to foster a sense of pride in the people of Cameroon about the wide variety of rare species endemic to their home country (which has the second highest primate diversity in Africa). Further understanding of the primates’ condition in Cameroon will hopefully lead to a decrease in the bushmeat market.
The L.A. Zoo has also granted funding to the Bioko Biodiversity Protection Program, which is part of the academic partnership between Drexel University and the Universidad Nacional de Guinea Ecuatorial. BBPP works to conserve biodiversity on the African island of Bioko, both by providing funding for unarmed guards in the Gran Caldera (a highly biodiverse volcanic crater) and by conducting daily surveys of the largest bushmeat market on the island. By conducting bushmeat surveys, the BBPP can track island hunting patterns and collect tissue samples of the species that are brought into the market to further research and understanding.
Okapi Conservation Program – Democratic Republic of the Congo
The okapi is easily distinguished by its unique coloring and gentle manner. The species has gained notoriety in the past for its unusual appearance, but it wasn’t until the invention of air travel that zoos were able to successfully import okapis into captivity from their native Ituri Forest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Zoos have since had limited success breeding okapi in captivity, and the species is listed as endangered in the wild due to poaching and habitat destruction. Programs such as the Okapi Conservation Program, spearheaded by the White Oak Conservation Center (WOCC), work to protect the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, which houses 3,000-4,000 wild okapi in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The WOCC also works to educate local communities about eco-friendly practices and promotes the okapi as an “ambassador” species—a species that represents the biodiversity of its endemic land and whose conservation leads to the conservation of other species.
Radiated Tortoise Conservation – Madagascar
Often considered one of the most beautiful species of tortoise, the radiated tortoise of southern Madagascar is listed as critically endangered. Because of its popularity in food and pet trade markets, along with habitat loss, the radiated tortoise has experienced severe population decline over the past few years. Thanks to media campaigns launched by the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) in 2011 about the illegal transport of tortoises, more and more individuals have been recovered as poachers attempted to illegally transport them out of the country. However, holding facilities for these tortoises are inadequately equipped to care for the species. Many tortoises die as they wait for reintroduction to their native habitat. The L.A. Zoo provides funding for the TSA to continue its expansion of the reintroduction program by improving their holding facilities for the radiated tortoise. By improving their rescue facilities, the TSA can work towards a decreased mortality rate for confiscated tortoises and a greater rate of successful reintroduction for the captive individuals into their native habitats.
Egyptian Vulture – Oman, Djibouti
Pharoah’s Chicken may sound like a meal, but it is actually another name for the Egyptian vulture, an endangered species of vulture endemic to several parts of Europe, Africa, and Asia. The vulture, whose numbers have been steadily declining for years, lives off an extremely varied diet including carrion, feces, small mammals, reptiles, birds, and the eggs of other birds. They even use stones to crack open large eggs, a tool-wielding trait not found in many other bird species. Despite inhabiting a wide range, Egyptian vulture populations are declining due to habitat loss, electrocution from telephone wires, hunting, and potentially poisoning from ingesting diclofenac and bits of the lead shot used to kill animals. The L.A. Zoo has granted funding to the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association to help them continue their conservation efforts for the Egyptian vulture, particularly in locations like Oman and Djibouti, where large vulture populations congregate. With this funding the HMSA is working to improve public conservation education and to create peer-reviewed scientific papers and presentations that they can offer at conferences worldwide to help with the conservation effort of the Egyptian vulture.
Sahara Conservation Fund – Northern Africa
The Sahara is home to a vast number of species, several of which are threatened or endangered because of human factors like habitat destruction and hunting. In order to protect and rehabilitate the range of species that inhabit the Sahara and its borders, the Sahara Conservation Fund, with support from the Zoo, is working with many organizations to create breeding programs and conservation plans. Through connections with people, government organizations, scientific communities, and international conventions, the SCF hopes to build a network of support to maintain one of the world’s largest deserts. Species the SCF collaborates to conserve and rehabilitate include Barbary sheep, addax, red-necked ostrich, scimitar-horned Oryx, fennecs, jackals, cheetahs, and hyenas.
Drill Conservation – Western Africa
The highest conservation priority of all African primates is currently the drill, a species closely related to both the mandrill and the baboon. Drills, which are endemic to just a small portion of Africa spanning parts of Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and Bioko, are currently listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List. Drills are similar in appearance to mandrills, but without the vivid facial coloring mandrills are known for. The species is highly sexually dimorphic—males are often nearly twice the size of females. The drill’s natural habitat is also home to several other African endangered species, including the Nigerian chimpanzee subspecies Pan troglodytes elliot. However, these species’ populations are declining as humans encroach further into the already small range these monkeys inhabit. The Pandrillus Foundation has established the Drill Ranch in Nigeria to maintain drill populations and manage their reproduction. With renewed funding from the L.A. Zoo, Drill Ranch will continue to provide veterinary care for, and monitor reproduction of, the captive drill. The Drill Ranch also plans to release a drill social group into the wild soon, equipped with microchips and GPS collars to monitor their health and success.
Chinese Giant Salamander Conservation – China
The Chinese giant salamander is the world’s largest amphibian—in some cases, it can grow to almost 6 feet long. The elusive giant salamander eats a variety of foods ranging from worms and insect larvae to crustaceans and other aquatic species, and it can make vocalizations like barking, hissing, and crying. This rare and fascinating creature is critically endangered due to habitat loss, poaching, and water pollution in its native central and southern China. In order to help protect the species, the L.A. Zoo funds a portion of the Memphis Zoo’s collaborative project titled “Conservation of the Chinese Giant Salamander.” The Memphis Zoo and its associates are currently working to breed giant salamanders and study their dispersal, habitat selection, population structure, and disease prevalence. Understanding where and how these animals make their homes is crucial to establishing sustainability strategies for the future, as well as preventing the spread of disease and further pollution.
Human/Elephant Conflict – Cambodia
The Asian elephant has been listed under the IUCN Red List as endangered since 1986. The elephant, which is the largest land mammal in Asia, has experienced severe habitat loss and fragmentation as human populations have grown and expanded. This, coupled with high demands for ivory, has led to significant population decline for the species. Another result of habitat loss and disrupted migratory patterns is the rise of human-elephant conflicts. As their habitat sizes decrease, Asian elephants more frequently come in to contact with humans as they forage through domestic crops or enter village territories. These elephants, and oftentimes humans, are killed as a result of territory overlap. Fauna and Flora, Inc., through their Cambodia Elephant Conservation Group (CECG), is working to preserve the Asian elephant population in Cambodia. With continued funding from the L.A. Zoo, the CECG is working to conduct fecal concentration surveys of elephant populations, reduce the human-elephant conflict, and educate surrounding communities about elephant populations. By conducting such surveys, the CECG hopes to establish a monitoring program that will help them track elephant populations. The CECG also supplies villagers with a variety of instruments for safely deterring elephants from entering human territory, such as fireworks, torches, and electric fences. And by educating communities about sustainable resource use and the ongoing plight of the Asian elephant, the CECG hopes to reduce further habitat destruction.
Asian Vulture Conservation – India
Just over a decade ago, Asian vulture species such as the long-billed vulture, the Oriental white-backed vulture and the slender-billed vulture were common sightings in India and southern Asia. Vultures were so common, in fact, that some people viewed them as a pest and a nuisance, and others routinely used them in funeral rituals. However, Asian vulture populations have decreased drastically since the 1990s—nearly 97% in total. The vulture’s decline is estimated to be the most rapid species decline in avian history. This drastic decline was traced to the use of the drug diclofenac to treat livestock in Asia. It was discovered that diclofenac, an effective and inexpensive painkiller for large animals like cattle, causes kidney failure in the vultures who feast on those cattle after they die. The Indian government banned the use of diclofenac after witnessing the widespread poisoning of various vulture species, but the drug is still used illegally in rural areas. To try and save the ailing vulture populations, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, with funding from the L.A. Zoo, has established captive-breeding centers for the various Asian vulture species, all of which are classified as critically endangered by the IUCN. When “Vulture Safe Zones,” free of diclofenac, can be determined, the RSPB hopes to reintroduce their captive vulture populations into the wild.
Biodiversity and Elephant Conservation Trust – Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has the highest density elephant population in Asia, yet over the last century elephant populations on the 65,000-square-mile island have decreased to roughly a fourth of their original number. The subspecies of Asian elephant found on Sri Lanka is classified as endangered, primarily due to habitat loss. As human populations have taken up residence in elephant territory, the number of deaths resulting from human-elephant conflict has risen as well, similar to territories on Asia’s mainland. The Biodiversity and Elephant Conservation Trust, with partial funding from the L.A. Zoo, is working towards sustainable ways to manage the human-elephant conflict in Sri Lanka and find ways to maintain and improve elephants’ existing territory. The BECT has established elephant corridors linking protected territories together. However, migratory patterns often lead the elephants off this protected land, so the BECT has developed a presentation given to schoolchildren around the island to educate them about the elephant’s situation and its ecological role. The BECT also works to help families who have lost loved ones to human-elephant conflicts and promotes sustainable ways to interact with wild elephants and safely deter them from entering human territory.
Javan Warty Pig Recovery Project – Indonesia
The Javan warty pig is a solitary creature endemic to the Indonesian islands of Java and Bawean. Although it is oftentimes hard to distinguish female Javan warty pigs from their relative the banded pig, males are easily distinguishable by their size and by the three pairs of warts found on their faces. The species is at risk of extinction, primarily due to human presence and encroachment on their territory, as farmers often kill warty pigs they find foraging in their crops. The gene pool is also threatened by the presence of banded pigs—interbreeding between the two species has resulted in a decrease in the purebred warty pig population. The L.A. Zoo has granted funding to the Zoologische Gesellschaft fuer Arten-u. Populationsschutz e. V. (ZGAP)of Muenchen, Germany, to establish a self-sustaining captive warty pig population in Indonesia in order to preserve the gene pool. ZGAP will also work to eventually reintroduce Javan warty pigs into the wild.
Tomistoma – Indonesia
The tomistoma, also known as the false gharial, is a freshwater species with a slender snout that is perfect for catching fish–though they aren’t picky eaters. They also eat crustaceans, small mammals, and insects. The population is estimated to be approximately only 2,500 mature adults in the wild. The L.A. Zoo is helping to bring population numbers up and raise awareness by working with the People Resources and Conservation Foundation (PCRF) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Tomistoma Task Force. Conservation is focused in Danau Sentarum National Park, in the province of West Kalimantan, Indonesia. With our support, immediate goals of better defining abundance and distribution of the tomistoma and addressing loss of habitat, poaching, and exploitation threats, are being met. PCRF and IUCN Tomistoma Task Force are also involving the local people in conservation management and education, with hopes of increasing a viable population of tomistoma in the area.
Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc – Philippines
The Philippine Biodiversity Conservation Foundation, Inc., is an organization dedicated to conserving the unique and fragile ecosystem of the Philippines. The organization focuses on protecting and rehabilitating several species, including Philippine bats and owls, bleeding-heart pigeons, Visayan spotted deer, and cloud rats. The PBCFI’s conservation breeding center in Mari-it suffered severe damage from Typhoon Haiyman, which struck the Philippines on November 8, 2013. The L.A. Zoo has provided funding for the PBCFI to repair its facilities and maintain its conservation breeding programs. Due to the extensive damage to surrounding forests, reintroduction into the wild for several of the threatened species housed at the Mari-it facility will have to wait, although the captive species populations on location suffered minimal losses from the storm.
Black-winged Starling Project – Indonesia
Small and striking, the black-winged starling is one of the most popular species in the caged bird market. The starling, which was once a common bird on Java, is now critically endangered because of over-trapping to be sold as pets. Coupled with a decrease in genetic diversity and hybridization of the remaining birds on Java, the blacked-winged starling population is reported to have experienced an 80 percent decrease over the last 10 years. In order to save the starling population on Java, the organization Zoologische Gesellschaft fuer Arten-u. Populationsschutz e. V. (ZGAP), with funding from the L.A. Zoo, has established a captive breeding population in the Cikananga Wildlife Center in Indonesia. The Center has seen success breeding black-winged starlings in captivity and has begun to release birds back into the wild. ZGAP plans to improve monitoring of these released populations and to maintain their breeding program of about 200 captive starlings at the Center.
Komodo Survival Program – Indonesia
Komodo dragons are large and in charge in their native habitat of Indonesia. These monitor lizards—classified as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List—are the largest living lizard species on the planet, with the average male Komodo dragon growing to around 8.5 ft and females averaging 7.5 ft. This carnivorous species dominates the food chain in the wild—while they eat mostly carrion, the Komodo dragon will also occasionally consume live prey such as goats, deer, monkeys, birds, insects, and water buffalo. A decrease in the availability of such prey, as well as habitat destruction and poaching, has led to the decline of Komodo dragon populations in the wild. To help establish long term population management programs in Indonesia, the L.A. Zoo supports the Komodo Survival Program. The KSP will use survey methods to more definitively estimate the Komodo dragon population of various Indonesian islands. They will also use fecal pellet counts to estimate the prey density available to the Komodo dragon in order further establish a sustainable long-term conservation plan for the species.
Philippine Eagle Foundation – Philippines
The Philippine eagle was commonly referred to as the “monkey-eating eagle” until the mid-1990s, when its name was officially changed. The Philippine eagle, a critically endangered species, is distinguishable by its creamy brown and white coloring and its shaggy crest of feathers that gives it the appearance of sporting a lion’s mane. True to its unofficial name, the “monkey-eating eagle” is known to oftentimes feed on the Philippine long-tailed macaque monkey, however its diet also includes a wide range of species including flying lemurs, flying foxes, cloud-tailed rats, birds, and snakes. Eagle populations in the Philippines have been reduced dramatically over the years due to deforestation and decreased prey availability. It is now estimated that no more than 500 Philippine eagles remain in the wild. As part of the endeavor to save these rare eagles, the L.A. Zoo supports the Philippine Eagle Foundation, an organization committed to promoting the survival of the Philippine eagle and teaching sustainable forest resource use methods to local schools, government units, private businesses, and more. The PEF has also established a captive-breeding program for the Philippine eagle and rehabilitates injured eagles in their Philippine Eagle Center in Malagos.
Saola Working Group – Vietnam
One of the biggest new species discoveries of the 20th century was the saola in 1992. The saola is a critically endangered bovine mammal (related to cows, buffalo, and bison) endemic to the Annamite region, a dense swath of forest that extends through Laos and Vietnam. Very little is known about the saola, which is the rarest mammal in existence today. There are estimates of no more than 750 individuals remaining in the wild—a number that is thought to be declining every year due to hunting and habitat fragmentation. In order to protect and learn more about the species, the Saola Working Group, in partnership with Global Wildlife Conservation, has received partial funding from the L.A. Zoo to continue their studies of the saola. The SWC’s priorities include protecting the species from further hunting, developing a research method to accurately quantify how many saola remain in the wild, and educating the next generation of conservationists about this unique and mysterious animal. The SWC is also working with local communities, governments, and donors to educate the public about the saola.
Saiga Conservation Alliance – Kazakhstan
Saiga antelope, relicts surviving from the ice age, look more like Dr. Seuss characters than real animals. The saiga’s bulbous nose—its most noticeable characteristic and the one that gives it its cartoonish appearance—has helped this creature survive in some of the most extreme habitat on earth. Saiga numbers have reached into the millions, but today only about 50,000 individuals remain, due in part to poaching for their horns, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine. The saiga is classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Although saiga have not been part of the Los Angeles Zoo collection (or any U.S. zoo) since the early 1990s, the Zoo hopes to help this little antelope make a comeback by donating funds to the Saiga Conservation Alliance (SCA)-Kazakhstan. This SCA branch monitors saiga populations to determine conservation efficacy by surveying poaching activities and the reasons behind them. Their studies help the government and other organizations plan new interventions to save this species from imminent extinction. The L.A. Zoo will donate $3,000 annually through 2020 to the SCA.
Brush-tailed Bettong/Koala Conservation – Various locations
The brush-tailed bettong, also known as the woylie, is a small marsupial endemic to Australia. This rare species, which once covered large portions of the Australian mainland, is now reduced to small numbers in western Australia. The population decline was caused by several factors, including the introduction of invasive species and habitat destruction. The Australian Wildlife Conservancy is working to reintroduce woylies to New South Wales, primarily in the Scotia Sanctuary. There they are facilitating the monitoring of bettong reproduction rates. With funding from the L.A. Zoo, the AWC works to transfer brush-tailed bettongs to the Scotia Sanctuary and monitor their health and reproductive rates in the hopes of increasing the population of this critically endangered species.
The AWC also receives support from the L.A. Zoo for its work in koala conservation. The koala is a declining species in Australia, and the AWC is in the process of implementing several different habitat conservation techniques to help the koala, including fire management programs which facilitate the controlled burning of invasive plant life that threaten eucalyptus tree populations. Funds also go toward educating the public about the koala’s plight, removing feral and invasive species (like goats and cats) from the koala’s natural habitat, and generating management techniques that will ensure the survival of the species for generations to come.
Yellow-footed Rock Wallaby – Australia
The yellow-footed rock wallaby is a near threatened species that can only be found in Australia. The waning population of yellow-footed rock wallabies is largely due to competition from feral goats and predation by foxes. As with many species these aren’t the only contributors; depletion of habitat plays a large role in the issue, and fur trade statistics show that both the yellow-footed rock wallaby and the brush tailed rock wallaby were profusely hunted for their pelt when European settlers moved onto the land. A once abundant and thriving pair of species is now toeing the line towards extinction.
Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) has been working for over ten years to establish new conservation practices and sanctuaries in Australia to stop the decline of the yellow-footed rock wallaby, as well as many of the country’s native plant and animal population. Across the AWC’s 23 properties 500 bird species and 170 mammal species are protected, as well as reptile, frog, and plant species. The Los Angeles Zoo has partnered with three of the 23 sanctuary locations—Buckaringa, Scotia, and Mount Zero-Taravale—to help fund research, field studies, and upkeep of the sanctuary.
Fiji Iguana Conservation – Fiji
The Fiji iguana is a critically endangered iguana endemic to the islands of Fiji. The iguana is distinguishable by its vivid emerald coloring, cream colored bands, and aggressive behavior when threatened. When it feels threatened, the Fiji iguana will change color from green to black, expand its neck, bob its head, and pounce towards its attacker, if necessary—a tactic which often frightens the locals as well as potential predators! The iguana is native only to a few Fijian islands, most of which are uninhabited. Due to deforestation, and the introduction of invasive species such as goats, the iguana has suffered significant habitat destruction over the years, and their numbers have declined. The L.A. Zoo is helping to fund a captive-breeding program initiated in Fiji by San Diego Zoo Global. The goal of this program is to rebuild the iguana population in the area. The SDZG has seen success breeding iguanas and hopes to release captive-bred individuals, alongside the wild-caught population, onto the Fijian island of Monuriki in the coming years.
Steller’s Sea Eagle Research – Russia
Steller’s sea eagles reside in remote parts of Russia and northern Japan. The eagles, which are among the largest predatory birds species in the world, feed on fish species such as pink salmon, chum salmon, and three-spined stickleback, although they will occasionally prey on other water birds and small mammals as well. The species is classified as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, primarily because of changes to their habitat, pollution, and over-fishing, which have led to decreased fish populations for the eagles to feed upon. Flooding caused by climate change has also affected the birds’ abilities to feed their chicks during nesting season. To help sustain long-term monitoring of these birds, the L.A. Zoo contributes funds to the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association. During their field studies, researchers monitor Steller’s sea eagle nest populations and success rates within the Magadan State Reserve, and they use an unmanned aerial vehicle to access remote nesting sites. Through these field study programs, researchers with the HMSA hope to publish their findings so that they may contribute to Steller’s sea eagle conservation in other regions.
North and South America
Southern Mountain Yellow Legged Frog Recovery Program – United States
A program that started with just 75 rescued tadpoles in 2006 is on its way to stabilizing the southern mountain yellow legged frog population. With fewer than 500 adults remaining in the wild, the Southern Mountain Yellow Legged Frog is listed as critically endangered at both the state and federal levels.
Multiple factors contribute to the decline of the species; conversion and loss of habitat, invasive species, and the deadly (to amphibians) chytrid fungus. These harmful elements are combated by propagating, rearing, and releasing froglets into protected areas of the San Jacinto mountain range. Inoculation against chytrid fungus with naturally occurring bacteria called Janthinobacterium lividum also promotes survival.
The Mountain Yellow Legged Frog Recovery Program is a collaborative endeavor between the Los Angeles Zoo, the San Diego Institute for Conservation Research, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
California Condor Recovery Program – United States and Mexico
The California Condor Recovery Program is a joint effort between many different organizations, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Los Angeles Zoo, San Diego Wild Animal Park, the Peregrine Fund, Ventana Wildlife Society, the Santa Barbara Zoo, and the Oregon Zoo. The Los Angeles Zoo has been a key player in the Recovery Program since its inception. The zoo’s veterinarians provide medical care for the majority of the condors in California. The animal keepers who care for the Zoo’s condors (both the permanent residents and those passing through for medical treatment or rehabilitation) also venture into condor territory to assist with field work.
The Zoo’s interactive play space, the California Condor Recovery Zone, educates young visitors about this majestic bird and the L.A. Zoo’s role in its recovery.
The goal of the California Condor Recovery Plan is to establish two geographically distinct self-sustaining populations, each with 150 birds in the wild and at least 15 breeding pairs, with a third population of condors retained in captivity. There are three active release sites in California, one in Arizona and one in Baja, Mexico. Once at the brink of extinction, the population of California condors has now grown to more than 400 individuals.
Click here for more information about California condor conservation.
American Flamingo Conservation Project – Mexico
The American flamingo, oftentimes referred to as the Caribbean flamingo, is endemic to parts of the Americas including the Galapagos, Venezuela, Mexico, Cuba, and Hispaniola. American flamingos inhabit coastal wetlands such as saline lagoons, mudflats, and shallow brackish coastal lakes. Their diet includes various types of larvae, brine shrimp, small fish, and aquatic invertebrates. Although flamingos are listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, they are thought to be a valuable indicator species for the overall health and vitality of brackish water. The Dallas Zoo, with support from the L.A. Zoo, is working to monitor populations of American flamingos in Yucatan, Mexico, to get a better sense of how they use their native region and to further rehabilitate habitats that the flamingos once occupied.
Santa Monica Mountains Mountain Lion Study – USA
The L.A. Zoo is involved in conservation efforts around the globe, but some of our conservation efforts hit closer to home. A rich network of species exists in California’s temperate climate, and the Zoo works with the Santa Monica Mountains Mountain Lion Study to help one of the most majestic species found in California: the mountain lion. Mountain lions cover an extremely large range of territory, from the Andes Mountains to Canada’s northern Yukon. And while the mountain lion is ranked as a species of least concern worldwide, their populations are declining in urban areas. As humans encroach on mountain lion territory, their natural prey such as deer and elk is dispersed, and individuals venture further into human territory to find food. The Santa Monica Mountains Fund studies mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains to better understand the species’ ecology and conservation needs. With funding from the L.A. Zoo, they will be able to purchase GPS radio-collars to track mountain lions, and educate the public about the species’ movement patterns and habitat use.
Chacoan Peccary Project – Paraguay
The Chacoan peccary is a species of peccary found in the Gran Chaco, a lowland region which encompasses parts of Paraguay, Bolivia, and Argentina. The Chacoan peccary, which was originally thought to be extinct, was discovered alive in Argentina in 1971. Since its discovery, peccary populations have been rapidly declining due to human encroachment on their land and habitat fragmentation. The peccary is currently listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List. Programs like the Chacoan Peccary Species Survival Plan (SSP) are working to establish peccary conservation programs in the Gran Chaco area. The L.A. Zoo has granted funding to the SSP to help with peccary preservation efforts—including conducting surveys to better understand the ecology of the Gran Chaco as a whole, educating locals about the species’ plight, and continuing the captive breeding and conservation program that they have established in Paraguay.
Peninsular Pronghorn Recovery Project – Mexico
Pronghorns, often referred to as prong buck or pronghorn antelope, are mammals similar in appearance to antelope. While five subspecies of pronghorn survive on the North American continent, the peninsular pronghorn, endemic to Baja California Sur, is classified as critically endangered. It is believed that due to habitat fragmentation and loss to agriculture, no more than 250 peninsular pronghorn remain in the wild. The L.A. Zoo has long supported the Peninsular Pronghorn Recovery Project in the Vizcaino Desert Biosphere Reserve of Baja California Sur, Mexico, and has collaborated with the organization Espacios Naturales y Desarrollo Sustenable (ENDESU) to cultivate a captive-bred peninsular pronghorn population as well. The ENDESU works to breed and genetically manage captive and semi-captive populations of pronghorn. They are also beginning to reintroduce groups of pronghorn back into the wild. The L.A. Zoo has one of the most successful pronghorn breeding programs in the country and continues to work with ENDESU to maintain the genetic diversity and vitality of the species.
Red Uakari Diet & Conservation – Peru
The distinctive red uakari monkey is found in a small portion of the Peruvian Amazon. Red uakaris are most easily distinguished by their vividly red faces—and no, that’s not a sunburn they’re sporting. The uakaris’ distinctive facial coloring is caused by a special vascular formation in their skin that brings blood flow close to the surface. The implications of the monkey’s red-hued face are unknown, but with partial funding from the Zoo, members of the Zoological Society of San Diego are researching to see if facial coloring can be used as an indicator of health in the species. The ZSSD is also conducting research to try and catalog the diet of wild uakaris. By improving uakari diets in captivity, researchers hope to reduce the prevalence of disease in the species and create sustainable breeding programs. The species is currently classified as vulnerable by the IUCN Red List due to deforestation and hunting in their native habitat. The L.A. Zoo is the only zoo outside of South America to house red uakari monkeys. To further improve our care and understanding of the species, members of our own Zoo team have traveled to Peru to study the uakari in the field.
Pacarana Conservation – Colombia
The pacarana is a rare rodent found in central South America, namely around the Andes mountains. Little is known about this interesting creature, which wasn’t even discovered until 1873, but the Universidad de Ciencias Aplicadas y Ambientales (UDCA) in Bogotá, Colombia has dedicated several research projects to studying and preserving the pacarana population over the past few years. The UDCA receives funding from the L.A. Zoo for its studies of pacarana behavior and breeding, including noninvasive monitoring of reproductive hormone levels in females to further the establishment of a pacarana husbandry program.
Paso Pacifico Jaguar Conservancy – Nicaragua
The jaguar is well-known for its majestic appearance and expert hunting skills. While the species occupies one of the largest ranges of any of the big cats, jaguar populations are declining in certain parts of the world, particularly in the Paso del Istmo Biological Corridor. The Corridor is a stretch of highly biodiverse forest in Nicaragua, where the jaguar plays a key role in maintaining ecological diversity and structure. The Zoo funds the conservation organization Paso Pacifico to enable them to use camera traps to determine if jaguars still live in the Paso del Istmo Biological Corridor and track their hunting patterns in conjunction with human activity and prey availability. Paso Pacifico is also working to educate local communities about how vulnerable jaguar—and other animal populations—are in this narrow stretch of land. They hope to eventually rebuild jaguar populations on the western slope of Central America to preserve the species along with the ecological vitality of Central America.
Harpy Eagle Conservation – Central America
The striking looking harpy eagle is the largest raptor in the Americas. The powerful species covers a wide swath of territory spanning from Mexico to Argentina, but populations are declining rapidly in certain portions of their range. As deforestation and logging continue in the harpy eagle’s natural habitats, the eagle’s prey dwindles and their numbers decline. Eagle populations are also threatened by hunters and farmers, who shoot the harpy eagle out of fear for their domestic livestock. The harpy eagle rarely feeds on domestic livestock, however—its diet is mainly comprised of sloths and different species of monkey. To help conserve this apex predator, which is an umbrella species for its natural habitat, the L.A. Zoo has granted another year of funding to the Peregrine Fund, Inc., for its Harpy Eagle Conservation project. TPF’s conservation education program focuses on restoring harpy eagle populations in Darién, Panama, and teaching its residents to live sustainably alongside the species. The Peregrine Fund hopes to educate community members about the harpy eagle’s plight, foster awareness of environmental issues, and illustrate for local communities how the harpy eagle’s decline also represents a threat to their own natural resources.