Zoo Conservation Programs & Partners


aaza-safeConservation and protection of animals worldwide is the primary focus of accredited zoos and aquariums. Dickerson Park Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and is a part of AZA SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction and the Species Survival Plans (SSP).

The various Species Survival Plans (SSP) that the zoo participates in through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) are responsible for encouraging their institution participants to support conservation projects focused on those various program species. Those management groups find, evaluate and select various projects for their members to support.
The DPZ conservation committee looked beyond the collection species for other connections to the zoo as part of its strategy. From that approach came Latin America. The growing Hispanic population in the Southwest Missouri region, along with the fact that many of the songbirds seen in the Ozarks in the spring and summer migrate to Central and South America for the winter, focused our attention in that direction. Many of the areas of greatest biological diversity are found in that part of the world, as are many of the rainforest regions. The zoo was already supporting conservation in that part of the world through the Zoo Conservation Outreach Group.

There was a desire to support programs for various types of animals – mammals, birds, reptiles, etc., and that was also included in the strategy to some extent.

Requirements of federal agencies for demonstrated ongoing support of endangered species relative to applications for permits to import / export those particular endangered species was also part of the long-term strategy.

Programs were added to the zoo’s conservation portfolio with the intent that the support would be ongoing unless the projects or programs ended or some other significant factor would cause funds to be shifted elsewhere. That strategy continues to date. Support for the very first program selected in 1992 has continued to the present time. Support of field conservation is currently funded by both Friends of the Zoo and by the Springfield-Greene County Park Board, but it is in the process of being all shifted back to the Friends of the Zoo operating budget. Support from FOZ is made possible by proceeds from daily business operations. FOZ’s daily business operations primarily support conservation and education.

Accreditation standards mandate conservation as an element of a zoo’s mission statement, and support of field conservation is required. Although no specific dollar amount is stipulated at this time, the AZA Field Conservation Committee, composed of various representatives of member zoos and aquariums, has suggested that three percent of an institution’s operating budget should be devoted to this purpose, and this is being pushed strongly from that group.

Following is a summary of what the zoo currently supports to further conservation and science.

See. Connect. Protect.

Dickerson Park Zoo connects people with animals to create adventures that encourage discovery and inspire conservation action.

Dickerson Park Zoo is a division of the Springfield-Greene County Park Board and an accredited member institution of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums.

Friends of the Zoo of Springfield, Missouri, Inc., is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a mission to help make Dickerson Park Zoo a first-class facility. Friends of the Zoo generates revenue to fund vital zoo projects and programs through various operations and activities. Two of the most important beneficiaries of Friends of the Zoo fundraising are the conservation education department and Dickerson Park Zoo’s field conservation support.

Zoo Conservation Outreach Group

Visit ZCOG for more information.

zcoglogoA non-profit coalition of primarily North American zoos and corporate partners and individuals dedicated to assisting Latin American zoos and aquariums in their regional wildlife and habitat conservation efforts. ZCOG provides technical, material and financial assistance to zoos throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. The group sponsors training of Latin American zoo professionals in zoo management, animal husbandry, conservation education and veterinary care. Dickerson Park Zoo sponsors the annual Dickerson Park Zoo Conservation Education Award which provides funds for a selected staff member from a Latin American Zoo to attend AZA’s Conservation Education Training course.

With annual visitation exceeding 100 million people, Latin American zoos and aquariums have tremendous potential to inspire environmental awareness and impact regional conservation efforts. Many of these institutions lack the resources and training necessary to function effectively as wildlife conservation centers. In collaboration between these institutions and ZCOG and its partners, wildlife and habitat conservation are promoted in some of the earth’s most biodiverse habitats.

Dickerson Park Zoo’s director is an active member of the ZCOG Board of Directors and serves on the executive committee.

Flamingo Conservation Program

Chilean flamingos are common in North American zoological institutions, including Dickerson Park Zoo.

Chile’s Atacama Desert is one of the world’s most arid regions. Situated between the Andes Mountains on one side and the Pacific Coast on the other, it is a series of salt basins, sand and lava flows that stretches for more than 600 miles. At its center, in an area climatologists call “absolute desert,” there are long sterile stretches where rainfall has never been recorded and virtually no vegetation exists. So remote, desolate and barren, it is often referred to as “moonlike.” With temperature extremes from 122 degrees Fahrenheit in the day to 40 degrees below zero at night, it is an inhospitable environment, yet in these brackish and alkaline salt basins are flocks of Chilean flamingo, Andean flamingo and James’ flamingo living together. Flamingo populations began declining dramatically in the 1980s, particularly in Chile. Disturbance from nearby mining activities and unregulated tourism have been suspected as the main culprits, but no field investigations had been done to determine the exact causes.

In collaboration with regional conservation partners and ZCOG member institutions, this program is aimed at gathering information regarding the flamingo species living in and around the region and working with local mining and tourist industries to help lessen their environmental impact.

Dickerson Park Zoo Conservation Education Award

Begun in 2009 by Dickerson Park Zoo, this award is part of ZCOG’s Conservation Scholarship Program. This annual commitment allows one zoo professional from Latin America, selected in a competitive award process, to attend the week-long conservation education training course conducted by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Andean Condor Conservation Program

Found in the Andes Mountains along the Atlantic Coast of South America.

the Andean condor is the largest flying land bird in the Western Hemisphere, with a wingspan up to 10 ½ feet and a weight of more than 30 pounds. The national symbol of several South American countries, it is important in the folklore of the region. It is one of the world’s longest-lived birds, with a lifespan of up to 50 years.

Members of Charles Darwin’s 19th Century Expedition witnessed condors flying over the cliffs of Argentina’s coast. Condors eventually disappeared from the area, and their numbers have been greatly reduced throughout their range.

This is a collaborative program to release captive-bred condors back into their native range. ZCOG is the major international sponsor of this program, and it is their “signature” conservation program.

In late 2003, five adult condors soared over Argentina’s Patagonian Coast for the first time in over 100 years. In 2008 a photo taken by a mountain guide of a large group of condors flying near Valle Encantado in the Andes of Argentina revealed a condor with an identification wing band. Identified as “Quebracho,” a bird released to the wild in 1997, it was one of the first condors released to the wild with GPS satellite tracking technology. Its device had stopped transmitting several years earlier.

In 2010, an egg produced by captive-raised condors hatched on a rocky outcrop in a cave on Argentina’s Patagonian Coast, the first Andean condor born to captive-raised parents that were released to the wild in Patagonia.

American Association of Zookeepers

aazk-logoDickerson Park Zoo’s AAZK chapter conducts a variety of fundraising activities, such as recycling aluminum cans, selling and applying removable tattoos on children at zoo special events, an annual picnic with silent auction and other activities to support conservation programs. The Chapter donates most of these monies to an umbrella organization-Bowling for Rhinos. While this umbrella organization does support rhinos, it also supports other species as well. The current breakdown of financial support provided from Bowling for Rhinos monies are listed here.



Lewa Wildlife Conservancy

First $160,000 goes to Lewa, then 40% of donations afterwards.
The Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, also known as Lewa Downs, is located in Lewa Downs in northern Kenya. It is a wildlife sanctuary of more than 60,000 acres and is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including the endangered black rhino, Grevy’s zebra, lion, leopard, elephant, African buffalo and sitatunga. Lewa holds over 12% of Kenya’s black rhino population and the largest single population of Grevy’s zebras in the world – approximately 350 individuals.

International Rhino Foundation

50% of BFR donations goes to IRF.
In Indonesia BFR supports the remaining Javan Rhinos at Ujung Kulon National Park and the Sumatran Rhinos in Bukit Barisan Selatan and Way Kambas National Parks through the International Rhino Foundation.

Action for Cheetahs in Kenya

8% of BFR donations goes to ACK.
Cheetahs share much of the same habitat as rhinos and by working to conserve cheetahs, ACK is also saving rhinos and the countless other species that call that habitat home.

Sri Lanka Elephant Project

Sri Lanka, known as Ceylon before 1972, is an island country located just off the southern coast of India. It is one of the few Asian countries that have maintained a large population of wild Asian elephants despite comparatively dense human populations.

Human-elephant conflict has increased though, and over 100 people are killed by elephants each year, with a corresponding 100-150 elephants killed by humans. Finding ways for people and elephants to co-exist is vital if elephants are going to survive there. Traditional land use practices were compatible with wild elephant conservation and probably helped sustain unusually high elephant densities. National Zoo, part of the Smithsonian Institution, has a long history of working in Sri Lanka and is studying how traditional agriculture dynamics influence seasonal movements and habitat use by wild elephants. Some fencing projects may disturb these movements and result in overuse and possible destruction of critical resources by elephants. Satellite mapping is used to quantify the traditional agriculture dynamics of past decades, and GPS satellite collars are used to track elephant herds.

Dickerson Park Zoo contributes to this project to try to find solutions to this human-elephant conflict to benefit elephant conservation and the people of the region who share space with the elephants.

The sale of ZooDoo, which is mostly composted elephant manure, provides funding to support this project. This project is managed in-house by the American Association of Zookeepers (AAZK) chapter.

AAZK also collects monies from a donation coin funnel located within the zoo. As these monies are collected, they are donated in $500 increments to North American Conservancies or Conservation organizations. Some of the organizations supported include Missouri Prairie Foundation, Polar Bears International, Pacific Whale Foundation, Defenders of Wildlife and Save the Manatee Club.

Cheetah Conservation Fund

Found in the Andes Mountains along the Atlantic Coast of South America.

The Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) works to conserve the cheetah, the world’s fastest land animal and the most endangered cat in Africa. Headquartered in Namibia in southwest Africa where the largest populations of cheetahs remain in the wild, CCF also works to save cheetahs in other range countries, such as South Africa, Botswana, Kenya and Iran. In March of 2010, a three-day survey in Iona National Park in Southwestern Angola, bordering Namibia, confirmed the presence of cheetahs. Due to Angola’s three-decade civil war, the cheetah’s status in the country had been unknown. That area had been one of the former ranges of the cheetah.

CCF works to educate schoolchildren and local villages about the importance of keeping cheetahs as a part of their natural heritage. They work with ranchers to improve management practices for livestock and wildlife. One such program places Anatolian Shepherd and Kangal guard dogs with livestock to keep cheetahs from preying on them.

Another program restores cheetah habitat by removing invasive brush and converting it into fuel logs. Injured and orphaned cheetahs are rescued and rehabilitated. Studies of the biology and genetics of cheetahs and population surveys to try and determine the size and distribution of cheetah populations are all a part of their holistic approach.

Formerly known as Center for Ecosystem Survival

The very first conservation program that Dickerson Park Zoo chose to support,, is focused on protecting entire ecosystems and natural communities to ensure a long-term conservation strategy. In partnership with other organizations, such as the Nature Conservancy, funds are used to purchase and protect threatened and endangered ecosystems of high conservation priority, primarily rainforests and coral reefs. Their signature programs are Adopt-an-Acre, Adopt-a-Reef, Conservation Parking Meters and Insect Discovery Lab. In partnership with zoos, aquariums, schools, science centers, botanical gardens and natural history museums, has raised nearly $4 million to save wildlife and wild places.

The Maya Biosphere Reserve is the largest remaining wilderness in Mesoamerica, spanning Mexico, Guatemala and Belize and including five national parks and three reserves, totaling five million acres. It encompasses tropical forest, freshwater wetlands, mangroves and marine ecosystems. Archaeological sites dating to the ancient Maya civilization are found in the reserve. Many of North America’s migratory birds stop here. There are also jaguars, howler monkeys, mountain lions, tapirs, anteaters, harpy eagles, ocelots, scarlet macaws, crocodiles, oscillated turkeys, Jabiru storks and many more species.


Madagascar Fauna & Flora Group

Madagascar, the fourth largest island in the world, is located in the Indian Ocean off the southeast coast of Africa. It is one of the world’s conservation hot spots, and suffers from extensive deforestation and resulting soil erosion. Many wildlife species in Madagascar are endemic, found nowhere else. Much of the wildlife is endangered. A great variety of species of lemurs are found in the diverse variety of habitats of the island. New species of wildlife are still being discovered. Recent political unrest and resulting violence and illegal logging have hampered conservation activities.

In partnership with other AZA zoos, Dickerson Park Zoo contributes to conservation in Madagascar by supporting the model agro-forestry station. The station demonstrates sustainable land use practices to the local people, such as beekeeping, alternative fruit and vegetable cultivation, planting for erosion control and rice paddies as viable alternatives to slash and burn agriculture.


Elephant Herpes Virus Research

Only discovered in the 1990s, elephant herpes virus has been identified as the cause of numerous deaths of captive elephants. It has also been documented in deaths of wild elephants.

To date, several distinct strains of this deadly virus have been identified, but little is known of its origin, method of transmission and what occurs within the body of elephants carrying the virus during its dormant stage. The National Elephant Herpes Virus Lab located at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. is dedicated to the study of this virus to expand scientific knowledge of it, develop methods for diagnosing when an elephant is carrying it and produce effective treatments when an elephant becomes symptomatic with it, and ultimately produce vaccines for it.


Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Carnivore Conservation Project

Thailand has many of the world’s most charismatic carnivore species, such as tigers, clouded leopards, Asiatic black bear and Malayan sun bear. Other animal species found in the area include jackals, wild pig and primates, including gibbons. Khao Yai National Park is one of the most studied protected areas of the region, but only limited scientific knowledge has been available on their status and ecology.

This study, begun in 2003 as a collaborative effort of the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park and other organizations, trains staff and develops strategies for monitoring and managing these carnivore populations. A primary focus of the study is clouded leopards, but information on other carnivores and many other species will be gathered during this project.

Maned Wolf Research

The maned wolf, an endangered species, has not been studied extensively in the grasslands of South America where it is found. Very little is known about its habits. In many areas the grasslands have been converted to farmland. The impact of that on the maned wolf population is not well known. Dickerson Park Zoo has supported a number of research projects on maned wolves through the Maned Wolf Species Survival Plan. Funds from DPZ have purchased radio transmitters that were attached to wild-trapped maned wolves to monitor their movements in Serra da Canastra National Park in the Cerrado region of Brazil. Part of the study is aimed at evaluating the potential for disease transmission between domestic dogs living on farms around the park and the maned wolves. Production of educational materials distributed in its Bolivian range and studies of reproduction and nutrition have also been funded. Funds have also been used to study nutrition and reproduction.

Missouri State University, Springfield MO

Dickerson Park Zoo has had a long relationship with Missouri State University. Research on bald eagle reproduction, embryo transfer in antelopes and artificial insemination in elephants are some of the research projects that occurred as far back as the late 70s/early 80s by university professors with assistance from zoo staff. A biology department professor currently serves as research coordinator for the zoo to review occasional research proposals for scientific merit. Most of these come from university graduate students, but they may also come from other sources. The zoo cooperates in such scientific studies as much as possible.



Mammal Research

Dr. Sean Maher, a professor at Missouri State University studies mammals. His current research is focused on surveying populations of small mammal species and their distribution in areas of Missouri.

Snake Research

Dr. Brian Greene from the Biology Department at MSU is a herpetologist. His studies of a population of cottonmouths in the Ozarks have been ongoing for several years. The zoo funded the purchase of radio transmitters that were implanted in some snakes to study their movements.

Mud snakes, a species common in the lowland swamps and rivers of the southeast U.S. are also found in the southeast Missouri lowlands, where they are considered endangered. Mud snakes were collected in Mingo National Wildlife Refuge, a remnant cypress swamp located near Popular Bluff, Missouri, and a number of individuals had radio transmitters implanted in them as part of a pilot project to study this species.

A project being initiated in 2015 will implant transmitters in captive-born cottonmouths which will be released and tracked to study the snakes’ ability to adapt to new surroundings and survive. Very few studies have been done on captive born snakes that were released to the wild, a technique used in some snake conservation projects.

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, 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.

Cotton-top Tamarin

Proyecto 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.

Proyecto 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 “Proyecto 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.

Dickerson Park Zoo Research

Effects of Lueprolide as a Reversible Contraceptive in Male Red Kangaroos.

This study conducted by DPZ South America keepers with veterinary support (Ken Harmon, Erica Lipanovich, John Rainford, Sheila Samek and Patti Rader) is designed to conduct trials of lueprolide injections in male Red Kangaroos. Study objectives are to temporarily sterilize male kangaroos with a reversible effect. Behavioral analysis will also be conducted during periods of temporary sterilization to determine if lueprolide reduces aggression in the male.

Contraception of lionesses utilizing deslorelin implants.

This ongoing study is conducted by Dr. Sally Beutelle and Mary Agnew of the AZA Wildlife Contraception Center (St. Louis Zoo) in conjunction with DPZ Africa keepers. The study design follows deslorelin blood levels in the female lioness after deslorelin implantation to assess efficacy and therapeutic levels.

Uterine pathology in North American River Otter.

This cooperative study between the St. Louis Zoo, Seneca Park Zoo, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, and the Newport Aquarium (Karen Bauman and Cheryl Asa, David Hamilton, Dusty Lombardi and Sarah Duncan respectively) is investigating the high prevalence of endometrial hyperplasia in otters. Necropsy reports or reproductive tracts are submitted to the Reproductive Health Surveillance Program established by Dr. Linda Munson, and now run by Drs. Dalen Agnew and Anneke Moresco. DPZ incurred no financial cost, only the submission of samples.

Evaluation of fecal markers for gastrointestinal disease in the Maned Wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus)

The captive Maned Wolf suffers from urinary and gastrointestinal diseases and this may be associated with captive diets. This shy species is does not handle the stress of capture well and therefore a non-invasive means to evaluate these conditions would be useful. This study will attempt to develop a system to evaluate and monitor gastrointestinal disease in Maned Wolves using a non-invasive fecal assay. Marisa Bezjian, Elizabeth Hammond (Lion Country Safari, FL) and Jorg Steiner (Gastrointestinal Laboratory, Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, Texas A&M University) are investigating this fatal problem in captive Maned Wolves with the cooperation of AZA Zoo’s including DPZ.

Serum endocrine analysis to determine estrous patterns and pregnancy in the female Malayan tiger.

The captive tiger reproductive rate is declining and the Tiger SSP has called for an increase in scientific investigation into the cause. Recently, the Tiger SSP has requested that all institutions housing tigers begin collecting and shipping fecal samples to a central location for reproductive hormone monitoring. These samples will be utilized to develop a database of tiger information to analyze for correlates to the declining reproduction. While this study will presumably present an overall picture of the tiger populations’ reproductive status, it lacks the timely information to reproductively manage the tigers currently in our care with an approved breeding recommendation. DPZ staff proposes a serum collection protocol with in-house sample analysis paired with a behavioral ethogram to effectively manage the reproduction of its’ Malayan tigers.

Impact of aging on endocrine function in Asian elephants: Do elephants experience menopause?

This study investigates the reproductive hormonal aging of female Asian elephants. The investigators Mike Connolly and Dr. Janine Brown (Tulsa Zoo and Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute) have partnered with Dickerson Park Zoo to provide samples and data for the study. This study is important for reproductive planning within the elephant SSP population to properly assess and set guidelines for breeding and other health issues associated with reproductive aging.

Evaluation of progesterone and LH concentrations in female Asian Elephants.

The goal of this project is to continue to expand the database of reproductive hormone levels on individual animals in an effort to monitor their reproductive status, health and to implement natural and assisted reproduction. As hormone monitoring is required by AZA for the reproductive evaluation of female elephants this project will continue indefinitely. These assays have provided invaluable information and have been published in scientific journals. Project conducted by DPZ elephant staff.

IMLS Elephant Welfare Study

In 2012 the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services with the Honolulu Zoo serving as principal investigator embarked on what will be the most comprehensive and collaborative study on elephant welfare in zoos to date.

The seven partner institutions investigating will use the $816,000 National Leadership grant from IMLS to collect and integrate a wide spectrum of behavioral, health and well-being measures of the nearly 290 Asian and African elephants in zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

The science-based study will evaluate elephant welfare along a quality continuum, assessing the impact of zoo management practices by looking at the elephants’ responses to differences in practices among zoos. When complete, the study will provide zoos around the world with information that will contribute to their ongoing efforts to ensure elephant well-being. The three-year study began December 1st, 2011 with sample collection to be completed in 2013.

Dickerson Park Zoo is one of a small number of zoos that completed every aspect of the study including blood and fecal sampling, elephant keeper surveys, behavioral surveys on the elephants, in-depth monthly elephant management logs, GPS tracking for spatial movement study, extensive filming over two seasons for behavioral study, body scoring analysis with photos, overnight surveillance videotaping, physical exams with measurements, archived health records and an elephant manager survey. While this study did not cost Dickerson Park Zoo financially, it was a significant commitment in time and effort on the part of the elephant and hospital staff to aid researchers in improving the quality of care of our elephants.

Research and development of modifications to medical equipment used in the examination of the female elephant reproductive tract.

This project of the DPZ elephant staff (John Bradford, Dr. Melissa Dickson, Jackson Thompson and Lee Hart) developed a new catheter to use in conjunction with a modified endoscope to improve examination of reproductive tracts of female elephants for artificial insemination and treatment of pathology. These modifications have since allowed staff to access the female elephant’s reproductive tract to the uterine horns for assessment and artificial insemination. The novel design of the catheter has allowed visualization, biopsy, treatment and follow-up examination of the cervix on one of the female elephants and diagnosis of pathology in other females. Future reproductive examinations are slated for spring/summer of 2013 (as per AZA guidelines) with resultant completion of this study.

Descriptive ultrasonography of the reproductive tract among female Asian elephants of varying ages and reproductive status.

The goal of this project conducted by DPZ elephant staff (Dr. Melissa Dickson, John Bradford, Lee Hart and Jackson Thompson) is to develop a pictorial guide of elephants’ reproductive tracts with varying reproductive states, ages and health status. Reproductive examinations slated for 2013 will provide follow-up images for completion of this study.

Analysis of female Asian elephant prolactin levels.

This project was initiated after observing anomalies in the reproductive pattern of three female elephants housed at DPZ. This research study supplements the previous prolactin study conducted by DPZ elephant staff and will aid in the diagnosis of these reproductive irregularities. This study will be conducted by DPZ elephant staff in conjunction with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal Virginia.

Investigation into correlations between age and homocysteine levels in Asian elephants.

The objectives of this study are to: 1) establish normal concentrations of serum water soluble B vitamins in healthy Asian elephants and 2) examine the effects of clinical treatment of tuberculosis in elephants with isoniazid on serum B vitamins and 3) examine the effects of clinical treatment of tuberculosis in elephants supplemented with pyridoxine. The current recommended guidelines for isoniazid treatment for tuberculosis in elephants are to supplement with pyridoxine at 1mg/kg. These recommendations are based on observed human side effects during isoniazid treatment which include neuropathies, irritability, seizures, insomnia and overall weakness. These are also common side effects noted in elephants while undergoing tuberculosis therapy. However pyridoxine toxicity can occur with over supplementation. Toxic side effects from pyridoxine are similar to those observed in pyridoxine deficiencies. As tuberculosis therapy is expensive, stressful and time consuming, the supplementation of pyridoxine may not be necessary and potentially deleterious to the patient. Although normal serum concentrations of fat soluble vitamins have been well documented for elephants, little information is known about normal serum B vitamin concentrations. Microbial fermentation in hindgut fermenters produces B vitamins for absorption but little information is available to adequately define normal serum B vitamin concentrations. We propose that normal baseline serum concentrations of B vitamins such as folate, homocysteine, pyridoxine and thiamin be established for healthy Asian elephant species. Study to be conducted by Dr. Erica Lipanovich, Dr. Terry Engle and DPZ elephant staff.