El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center
Amphibians are declining globally at a rapid rate. Habitat destruction and pollution are some of the causes. Even climate change has been suspected to be a contributing factor. A pathogenic fungus, though, is the cause of most of this greatly accelerated decline, pushing many species toward extinction. Estimates are that a large percentage of the world’s amphibian species may become extinct as a result of the worldwide spread of the chytrid fungus. Many species have already disappeared. There is no cure for the fungus in the wild.
Central America has been particularly hard hit. The golden toad of the cloud forests in the mountains of Costa Rica, an area untouched by pollution and habitat destruction, declined rapidly and went extinct in 1989.
Efforts to save the Panamanian golden frog began in 1999. Some populations had been wiped out, and others had declined dramatically due to over collecting for the pet trade. The pathogenic chytrid fungus arrived in Panama in 2005 and caused population declines in amphibians as it spread across the country.
The El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center was built to house Panamanian golden frogs, now believed to be extinct in the wild, and many other native species, serving as a biodiversity repository and captive breeding center, treatment facility and nature education center. The primary goal is to safeguard native amphibians of Panama’s El Valle de Anton region which are at risk of extinction. This project is spearheaded by the Houston Zoo and supported by several other institutions and individuals.
Sahara Conservation Fund – Adopt-an-Ostrich Program
The Saharan race of the red-necked Ostrich, largest of the species, has been extirpated across 95% of its range. Approximately 100 pure-bred individuals of this subspecies exist in small privately-held captive flocks scattered across Niger, an exceptionally poor country. Zoos holding ostrich in their animal collection are encouraged to help save the largest bird on the planet. Funds are used to support the acquisition, care and feeding of these birds, help maintain the facilities and improve capacity for ostrich management and recovery.
Mountain Bongo Project – Kenya
Bongo are the second largest of the antelopes and regarded by many as the most beautiful. The objective of the Bongo Surveillance Project is to save the last remaining mountain bongo, estimated at perhaps no more than 100 individuals. The bongo is a forest dependent species and a flagship species for Kenya’s remaining high forest ecosystems. The project goal is to survey and monitor the species in four key areas – Aberdare, Mt. Kenya, Eburu and Southwest Mau Forest and from data collected, develop a conservation strategy. The effort includes protection of the forest areas, reforestation, income generation for the local communities and education activities in area schools.
Tiger Conservation Campaign
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums Tiger Species Survival Plan launched the Tiger Conservation Campaign. The program is supporting six conservation projects – two for each tiger subspecies managed by the Tiger Species Survival Plan, which are the Amur (Siberian,) Sumatran and Malayan (Indochinese) Tigers. The projects are conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) field staff.
The projects vary from species to species to address threats to tiger survival, such as poaching, monitoring tiger and prey densities, diseases and tiger-human conflict.
Dickerson Park Zoo partnered with the University of Missouri’s (MU) “Tigers for Tigers” student organization to raise awareness and funding for Malayan Tigers. MU made a five-year commitment for sponsorship of the zoo’s tiger exhibit at $10,000 per year. The zoo has pledged fifty percent of these funds to the Tiger Conservation Campaign for conservation efforts directed at Malayan Tigers.
Grizzly Bear Program
Grizzly bears are icons of the wilderness. They once occurred from the Mississippi River west to the Pacific Ocean and from northern Mexico to the north coast of Alaska. Human developments and activities like livestock grazing, mining and hunting resulted in the elimination of grizzly bears from 98% of their historic range in the US and reduced their numbers in Canada as well.
Grizzly bear populations in the western United States were listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species act in 1975.
The biggest threat to grizzlies today is increased conflict with humans as more development occurs in the bears’ natural habitat. Expanding roads and highways also fragment landscapes and isolates grizzly habitats, interfering with the movement of bears between individual populations and genetic interchange, important for the species’ long-term viability.
Wildlife Conservation Society is working to help people coexist with bears throughout their range. In some areas, bears are monitored to determine where they cross highways and then help design underpasses for safer passage.
WCS monitors development activities, predator-prey dynamics and human-wildlife conflicts to conserve natural areas. Field studies provide the scientific basis for expanding protected areas.
Niassa Lion Project
Lions have disappeared from 83% of their historical range on the African continent. The Niassa Lion Project (NLP) works in Niassa National Reserve in northern Mozambique, one the “Last of the Wild” places in Africa and a globally important location for lion conservation. Lions and other wildlife are killed at an unsustainable level by snares set by local people for bush meat. NLP Works with local communities in Niassa to reduce poaching and develop alternative sources of protein and income.
Niassa Lion Project also works to reduce conflict with lions and to teach children about the importance of conserving wildlife.
Niassa National Reserve is an important conservation area for other wildlife.
The lion project also surveys and monitors other predators, such as leopards and wild dogs.
Money is raised under the umbrella of Wildlife Conservation Network (WCN).
International Crane Foundation
The International Crane Foundation (ICF), based in Baraboo, Wisconsin, is a non-profit conservation organization working worldwide to protect threatened species of cranes and the wetland and grassland ecosystems on which they depend. They work across the five continents where the 15 species of cranes are found.
International Crane Foundation’s Seven Rivers Campaign works to improve the lives of people, save cranes and conserve biodiversity in seven of the most globally significant river basins in the world – Zambezi River Basin in southern Africa; Amur-Heilong River Basin of China, Russia and Mongolia; Yangtze River Basin in China; Han River of Korea; Upper Ganges River Basin in India; Mekong River Basin in Southeast Asia; Guadalupe River in Texas.
ICF has been very involved in efforts to save the Whooping Crane. In addition to their work hatching and rearing whooping cranes, they work along the Gulf Coast of Texas, where waters of the Guadalupe River sustain fisheries, tourism and the world’s last viable flock of wild whooping cranes. Water there is in high demand for communities and agriculture, and in dry years, water lost to those uses reduces flows to the gulf marshes where fish spawn, waterfowl thrive and endangered Whooping Cranes feed on blue crabs – an essential food that vanishes when wetlands become too saline due to reduced freshwater inflows.
Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG)
Part of the IUCN – The World Conservation Union, it is the largest of over 120 specialist groups that make up the Species Survival Commission, one of six IUCN commissions.
CBSG assists zoos, aquariums and other organizations across the globe in developing their conservation programs. Through worldwide networks, CBSG conducts workshops to facilitate exchange of information between scientists, governments, local people, organizations and other stakeholders to reach agreement on important issues facing both humans and wildlife.
Like Zoo Conservation Outreach Group and SaveNature.org, this conservation program is one of the earliest recipients of support from Dickerson Park Zoo.
Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA)
One of the more recent additions to the list of programs supported by Dickerson Park Zoo, the Turtle Survival Alliance formed in 2001 in response to the rampant and unsustainable harvest of Asian turtles to supply Chinese food markets annually, just one example of the scope of overharvesting threatening turtles throughout Asia. The TSA works in at least twelve countries to prevent extinction and promote recovery. TSA focuses on critically endangered species and works in range countries – especially those considered to be turtle diversity hotspots – to support field research and conservation while securing species in captivity as a guard against extinction in the wild.
Thanks to TSA, the rare Burmese roof turtle was rediscovered in 2002 and is now on the road to recovery due to aggressive nest protection and head starting. Over 240 specimens reside at a zoo in Mandalay.
Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund
The most recent addition to the zoo’s portfolio of field conservation support, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund is dedicated to the conservation and protection of gorillas and their habitats in Africa.
Fewer than 800 mountain gorillas are left in the world, and the Grauer’s (eastern lowland) gorilla population in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is also endangered.
In Rwanda, the Karisoke Research Center protects gorillas daily in volcanoes National Park. In Congo, rangers receive support to protect gorillas at Virunga National Park on the eastern border with Rwanda; rescued gorillas are cared for at the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center. Rehabilitation of Maiko National Park is supported along with a network of community-managed reserves in a 42,000 square mile landscape linking Maiko and Kahuzi-Biega National Parks. In collaboration with government agencies and other international partners, assistance is provided to local communities in health, education, training and development. Research continues to be a strong focus, along with education.
Andean Bear Program
The Andean bear, also known as spectacled bear, it the only South American bear. It is endemic to a narrow strip of cloud forests, dry forests and high grasslands that stretch along the Andes.
Habitat loss and fragmentation are increasingly threatening these bears, bringing them into closer contact and conflict with people. Bears are killed in retaliation for damaged crops and livestock. Little is known about the ecology and distribution of this elusive species, which has impeded development of management plans.
ZCOG has partnered with the Andean Bear Foundation in Ecuador to help protect the Andean bear. Field research is being done in Ecuador’s Cayambe Coca National Park to improve scientific knowledge about the bears and form conservation strategies. ZCOB provides radio collars for monitoring the movement of bears.
Projecto Tití is a conservation program begun in 1985 to assist in the long-term preservation of the cotton-top tamarin. The cotton-top tamarin, found only in a small area of northwestern Columbia, is one of the most endangered primates in the wild.
The program uses a multi-disciplinary approach, combining field research, assessment of habitat and community programs that involve local people in culturally relevant, action-based programs.
Making the conservation of natural habitats and resources economically feasible for local communities will ensure the survival of not only the cotton-top tamarins, but the native flora and fauna of Columbia.
Projecto Tití is seen by some as a model for effective conservation programs in Columbia. The cotton-top tamarin can serve as a flagship species for the Conservation of Columbia’s natural resources. Funds are raised under the umbrella of Wildlife Conservation Network (WCN).
Giraffe Conservation Foundation
In 1998, giraffe were thought to number around 140,000 in the wild. That number is now estimated at 80,000. In the past 30 years, giraffe have become extinct in at least seven African countries. The decline is due to conversion of habitat to meet the needs of growing human populations and illegal hunting, for human consumption. Okapi numbers are thought to have declined by half.
The Giraffe Conservation Foundation is dedicated to securing a future for all giraffe populations and subspecies in the wild. They also work to conserve the okapi, the closest living relative to the giraffe.
Giraffe are found in savanna regions of 21 countries of sub-Saharan Africa. Okapi are restricted to dense lowland rainforests of central and northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Giraffe Conservation Foundation is currently supporting the first-ever detailed assessment of giraffe as a species, and all nine subspecies, with conservation activities occurring in ten African countries. It is anticipated that by some time in 2016, most, if not all, giraffe subspecies will be categorized as threatened. Okapi were recently listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List of threatened and endangered species.
Chacoan Peccary Project
One of three species of peccaries, the Chacoan peccary was first described in 1930, based on fossils, and was thought to be extinct. In 1971 it was discovered to still be alive in the Chaco region of Argentina.
Endemic to a formerly isolated region of South America, it is vulnerable to human activity. Herd numbers are decreasing as a result of habitat loss and fragmentation. Their range is being transformed into large Texas-style ranches. Hunting also continues, as well as an unidentified disease that has affected the herds in recent years.
The Chacoan peccary Species Survival Plan supports a conservation management program in the Chaco of Paraguay at “Projecto Tagua” The conservation site includes field pens for propagation of the three living forms of peccary and the protection of 180 hectare wildlife reserve adjacent to peccary field enclosures.