Field Work & Grants
With support from the L.A. Zoo, organizations around the globe are working to reduce habitat destruction, stop over-hunting, create sustainable conservation programs, and meaningfully engage local communities in efforts to halt the decline of wildlife populations. In addition to providing financial support, the Zoo contributes volunteers, husbandry expertise, project recommendations, and veterinary services to various conservation efforts worldwide. Learn more about our current and past projects below.
Abronia Lizard Project
The L.A. Zoo has long partnered with the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León (UANL) and Dr. David Lazcano with the purpose of studying Mexican herpetofauna. The current project focuses on thermoregulatory behavior of the endangered Mexican alligator lizard (Abronia graminea).
American Bird Conservancy / Bird Endowment, Inc.
Native to Bolivia, the blue-throated macaw is critically endangered due to habitat loss and heavy collection from the wild for the pet trade. The L.A. Zoo has successfully bred this rare bird in its Avian Conservation Center and contributes to its conservation in the field. A 2017 grant supported the installation of artificial nest boxes in key nesting areas in Bolivia’s El Beni State. These nest boxes have resulted in an increase of fledglings over each successive breeding season. The current grant will be used to construct, install, and monitor additional nest boxes in the project site.
Biodiversity & Elephant Conservation Trust
Over the last century, elephant populations in Sri Lanka have decreased to roughly one-fourth their original number. As human populations have expanded into elephant territory, the number of deaths resulting from human-elephant conflict has risen. The Biodiversity and Elephant Conservation Trust (BECT), with partial funding from the L.A. Zoo, is developing ways to reduce human-elephant conflict on the island. Recent L.A. Zoo grants supported BECT’s Schools Awareness Project, which educates students on Sri Lanka’s elephants, natural environment, and biodiversity.
Bioko Biodiversity Protection Program
The Bioko Biodiversity Protection Program works to conserve biodiversity on the island of Bioko, Equatorial Guinea, in part by conducting surveys of the largest bushmeat markets on the island. Bushmeat—the practice of hunting and selling wild animals for human consumption—is one of the main threats to African wildlife. Funds from the L.A. Zoo have helped pay the salaries of bushmeat census takers. This work is critical to combatting poaching activities on some of the world’s most threatened primates.
California Condor Recovery Program
The L.A. Zoo has been a partner in the California Condor Recovery Program since its inception, helping to increase the species’ numbers from a record low of 22 in the 1980s to more than 500 today. The L.A. Zoo has hatched 190 California condor eggs so far, and our hatchlings are represented at all five of the release sites, in Arizona, Utah, California, and Baja California, Mexico. In addition to caring for roughly 20 adults and six chicks each year, our team provides our partners with critical training on safe handling, reproduction, and care of condors, and we continue to develop techniques to increase post-release success. No zoo does more for the California Condor Recovery Program than the L.A. Zoo.
Cikananga Conservation Breeding Center
The Cikananga Conservation Breeding Center (CCBC) is a specialized conservation breeding facility in Indonesia. Two species at the heart of its efforts are the black-winged starling and the Javan warty pig. The Javan warty pig is at risk of extinction, primarily due to human presence and encroachment on their territory, as farmers often kill pigs they find foraging in their crops. Once common on Java, the black-winged starling is now critically endangered due to over-trapping for the illegal pet trade. Past grants from the L.A. Zoo have contributed to facility and husbandry improvement, work force training, and preparation for reintroduction of both species to the wild.
Drill Rehabilitation and Breeding Center
The highest conservation priority of all African primates is currently the drill, a species closely related to both the mandrill and the baboon. Drills are similar in appearance to mandrills, but without the vivid facial coloring mandrills are known for. The Pandrillus Foundation established Drill Ranch, a rehabilitation and breeding center in Nigeria. Ongoing funding from the L.A. Zoo supports Drill Ranch operations, including food, veterinary care, and reintroduction to the wild.
The L.A. Zoo has been working with mountain tapirs since the 1960s and was the first zoo to successfully breed this endangered species. We have granted financial support to Fundacion Neotropical to study and protect the species along the corridor between Purace and Cueva de los Guacharos National Park in Colombia. Among the program’s initial goals is to establish a network of permanent mountain tapir monitoring stations in a corridor inhabited; and to train environmental leaders in the identification of mountain tapirs, genetic sampling, and camera trap methods.
Global Conservation Force (Amakhala Equine Project)
The L.A. Zoo provides significant support to Global Conservation Force’s establishment and maintenance of anti-poaching units (APUs) in South Africa. APUs are a frontline tool in the effort to protect rhinos, elephants, giraffes, and other species from the ever-present threat of poachers. Rangers can cover more ground—and present a more commanding presence—on horseback than on foot. Horses also have greater maneuverability than vehicles. Recent grants enabled the project to hire a community member to serve as horse groom and funded the purchase of a quad bike to be utilized in rhino monitoring.
Gorilla Rehabilitation & Conservation Education (GRACE)
GRACE’s mission is to provide rehabilitative care for rescued endangered Grauer’s gorillas, and to work alongside communities in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to promote the appreciation and conservation of wild gorillas and their habitat. L.A. Zoo Director of Animal Programs Beth Schaefer, who serves as Co-Chair of GRACE’s Animal Care and Welfare Advisory Group, has made several visits to the sanctuary to assist with staff training and consult on animal management issues. The Zoo has also granted ongoing funding to help support sanctuary operations, veterinary care, vaccinations, education programs, and more. The L.A. Zoo is also working with GRACE staff to test tracking devices that will one day allow researchers to track the movements of wild gorillas through the forest—a critical step in the ultimate goal of reintroducing sanctuary gorillas to the wild.
In 2023, the Zoo partnered with GRACE to produce a children’s book, Angela & Lulingu: Two Gorillas, A World Apart. The youngest gorillas at the L.A. Zoo and GRACE Gorillas, these two young apes are amazing ambassadors for their species.
Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association
Despite inhabiting a wide range, Egyptian vultures are disappearing due to habitat loss, electrocution from telephone wires, hunting, and accidental poisoning. The L.A. Zoo has granted funding to the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association to aid conservation efforts for these birds, particularly in Oman and Djibouti, where large populations congregate. Zoo funding has enabled 19 birds to be fitted with satellite transmitters to track their movements and better understand their conservation needs.
Komodo Survival Program
The L.A. Zoo has provided long-term support to the Komodo Survival Program to help address population declines of this species—the largest living lizard on the planet. L.A. Zoo funds have enabled the purchase of 12 camera traps, which have been used to successfully monitor Komodo dragons on islands in Komodo National Park, Indonesia. The current grant will fund purchase of additional survey equipment that will enable researchers to assess changes in population density of Komodo dragons (and prey species)—in order to refine a long-term conservation strategy.
Limbe Wildlife Center (African gray parrot rescue)
Limbe Wildlife Centre (LWC) is the only facility in Cameroon that provides rescue, rehabilitation, and release of African gray parrots. The goal is to return parrots confiscated from wildlife traffickers or otherwise in need of rehabilitation to their natural habitat as quickly as possible. Past L.A. Zoo funding supported education programs and the construction of a rehabilitation aviary. The current grant will partially fund a soft-release program for parrots rehabilitated at LWC, including post-release GPS monitoring and a public awareness campaign. If successful, the pilot program will be replicated in other areas within the species’ natural territory.
Los Angeles Zoo Veterinarian Advanced Field Studies Fund
An anonymous donor provided funds to establish this fund for veterinarians and veterinary technicians at the L.A. Zoo to pursue opportunities to assist in wildlife research, rescue, and relief in the field. The spirit of this fund is to further a veterinarian’s educational base by providing assistance funds for field work that will allow them to advance their medical knowledge of exotic animals, contribute to research projects, come to the aid of animals in peril, and advance the reputation of the Los Angeles Zoo. In 2020, this fund enabled Dr. Jordan Davis-Powell to travel to Ecuador to assist with mountain tapir conservation and community education.
Madras Crocodile Bank Trust (Gharial Ecology Project)
The L.A. Zoo is home to four Indian gharials that arrived in 2017 from India’s Madras Crocodile Bank Trust, home to the world’s most successful breeding program for this species. With fewer than 900 adult individuals remaining in the wild, the Indian gharial is classified as critically endangered. With ongoing support from the L.A. Zoo and other partners, the Gharial Ecology Project conducts research on remaining gharial populations in India and Nepal. The project is building the scientific knowledge base needed to develop a targeted, effective in-situ conservation program.
Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog Reintroduction
Since 2007, L.A. Zoo staff has participated in a collaborative effort to save the mountain yellow-legged frog from extinction. The Zoo currently maintains two breeding groups, and regularly assists the U.S. Geological Survey with field work. In 2020, the herpetology staff released a total of 1,600 Zoo-bred tadpoles into native mountain streams where the species had gone locally extinct.
One Planet (giant otter field research)
A key conservation strategy for many species is to generate funds through wildlife tourism. The giant otter’s gregarious and highly vocal nature makes it easy to spot and enjoyable to watch. The species is increasingly becoming a tourist draw in the Tambopata Basin of Peru. However, the impact of ecotourism on giant otter health and welfare has not been well studied. The Zoo has previously funded giant otter field research aimed at reducing conflicts between otters and local residents. The current study will measure stress hormones in giant otters residing in Peruvian lakes impacted by tourist activities to varying degrees.
Sintang Orangutan Center in Borneo is a leading force in the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of wild orangutans. The center takes in orangutans confiscated by forest police. These apes often arrive undernourished, injured, and traumatized. Previous grants have funded outreach and educational endeavors as well as the purchase of much-needed laboratory equipment. The current grant will be used to purchase a pulse oximeter and contribute to construction of an X-ray facility.
Ornato Advanced Field Studies Grant
Each year, select L.A. Zoo staff members pursue field work through the Ornato Advanced Field Studies Grant, funded by Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association donor Dominic J. Ornato. These opportunities afford our staff invaluable experience working with the wild counterparts of species we have here in the Zoo. In the last year, Ornato grant recipients used the funds to work with vultures in South Africa, tapirs in Costa Rica, warty pigs in the Philippines, and African gray parrots in Cameroon.
Painted Dog Research Trust
The Painted Dog Research Trust works to protect and increase the range and numbers of painted dogs in Zimbabwe. Painted dogs are one of the most endangered African mammals, with human encroachment and intolerance the primary threats to their survival. A 2018 grant from the L.A. Zoo funded completion of a painted dog census. Last year’s grant supports field operating costs for the project, including the deployment of anti-snare collars. These collars not only help researchers study animal movements but also help them locate dogs that have been trapped by snares—thus increasing their chance of survival.
Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA)
The largest association of wildlife centers in Africa, PASA includes 23 organizations in 13 countries which are increasingly relied upon to provide long-term care and critical medical treatment for injured, orphaned, and confiscated primates. PASA also conducts educational outreach, works with governments to patrol forests and protect wildlife from poachers, conserves habitat, and gives local community members alternative livelihoods to hunting. Past funding from the L.A. Zoo established PASA’s Primate Care Training Program in 2017. The pioneering program sends international animal care experts to wildlife centers across Africa to share advanced caregiving techniques. L.A. Zoo Curator of Mammals Candace Sclimenti has traveled to multiple PASA sanctuaries to assist with staff training and problem-solving. Our 2019 grant helped fund an Emergency Support Program to assist member sanctuaries in the event of disasters such as extreme weather events, forest fires, or disease outbreak.
Paso Pacifico (jaguar conservation)
Jaguar populations are declining in parts of the world, particularly the Paso del Istmo Biological Corridor, a stretch of highly biodiverse forest in Nicaragua. Financial support from the Zoo has enabled conservation organization Paso Pacifico to purchase motion-activated camera traps to document the presence of jaguars and other wildlife in the corridor. Zoo support also aids Paso Pacifico’s efforts to protect core jaguar habitat and reduce jaguar predation on livestock. The current grant will also fund implementation of a jaguar curriculum to be taught to rural schoolchildren, and an early stage carnivore monitoring project in El Salvador.
Peninsular Pronghorn Recovery program
The L.A. Zoo has been involved in the effort to save North America’s fastest land mammal since 2000. In 2006, we imported the first peninsular pronghorn into the U.S. to establish a zoo-based assurance population. In addition to breeding a herd of these charismatic animals, the Zoo has also provided field assistance, expertise, and funding to the Peninsular Pronghorn Recovery Program in the Vizcaino Desert Biosphere Reserve of Baja California Sur, Mexico. With fewer than 50 peninsular pronghorn remaining in the wild, the PPRP’s breeding and reintroduction program is critical to the species’ survival.
The Peregrine Fund (Harpy Eagle Conservation)
The largest raptor in the Americas, the striking harpy eagle is declining rapidly in certain portions of its range due to deforestation, logging, and hunting. The L.A. Zoo has long supported the Peregrine Fund’s harpy eagle conservation project. The program focuses on monitoring and restoring harpy eagle populations in Panama—and teaching its residents to live sustainably alongside the species. The Peregrine Fund’s environmental education programs have already resulted in a reduction of harpy eagle hunting. Current funding will expand these efforts as well as continued research into harpy eagle habitat use, nesting behavior, and survival rates.
Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation
The Philippine Biodiversity Conservation Foundation, Inc. (PBCFI) is an organization dedicated to conserving the unique and fragile ecosystem of the Philippines. With partial funding from the L.A. Zoo, PBCFI conducted surveys of hornbills in the Sulu/Tawi-Tawi archipelago, identifying four critically endangered, one endangered, and two vulnerable species. Some of these birds are found nowhere else in the world. Renewed funding will support community-based forest and wildlife protection activities for the critically endangered Sulu and rufous-headed hornbills.
Proyecto Tagua (Chacoan peccary conservation)
Chacoan peccaries are found in the Gran Chaco, a thorny desert region that stretches across Bolivia, Argentina, and Paraguay. The harshness of their habitat has earned them the nickname “pigs from green hell.” The L.A. Zoo has been involved in the care and conservation of Chacoan peccary since 2001, including building an extremely successful breeding program. Through the Chacoan Peccary Species Survival Plan, the Zoo provides ongoing financial support to the Chaco Center for the Conservation and Research’s Proyecto Tagua, the only conservation project in existence for this endangered species.
Red Uakari Conservation Project
The only zoo outside of South America to house red uakari monkeys, the L.A. Zoo provides ongoing support to the University of Suffolk for wildlife biologist Dr. Mark Bowler’s field work with the species. Prior grants have funded remote monitoring surveys of uakaris in Peru’s Yavari River region, where uncontrolled logging and hunting pose a significant threat to the species’ survival. This year’s grant extends this research to a region that is recovering from a history of intensive logging. The researchers aim to determine how uakari (and other wildlife) populations have changed in the seven years since the site was last surveyed. To 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.
San Diego Natural History Museum
In collaboration with San Diego Zoo Global, the L.A. Zoo funded two field excursions by the San Diego Natural History Museum to islands in Baja California. The aim of these trips is to conduct critical field research on rare plants and to collect specimens and seeds (for conservation seed banking) of some of the rarest plans to the Baja California peninsula.
Saola Working Group
Unknown to science until 1992, the saola is one of the world’s rarest mammals—considered critically endangered by the IUCN. The Saola Working Group (SWG) has received funding from the L.A. Zoo for several years. Past grants have supported saola research and public education efforts. Current funding is directed toward the establishment of a breeding program for saola and the critically endangered large-antlered muntjac, another species in desperate need of intervention. There are currently no saola in managed care anywhere in the world. This breeding program would allow the SWG to advance a “One Plan” approach to saola conservation, integrating in-situ and ex-situ efforts under a single umbrella.
Saving African Vultures in Botswana
With funding from the L.A. Zoo and other partners in the AZA SAFE Vultures Action Plan, the Denver Zoo and Kalahari Research & Conservation have implemented a strategic plan for vulture conservation in Botswana. Objectives of the plan include completing nesting colony surveys, responding to poisoning events, and enlisting community members in taking part in conservation clubs and promoting vulture-friendly behaviors. Current funding will support the program’s overarching goal of reversing the rapid decline of vultures in Botswana.
Turtle Survival Alliance Foundation
Since 2008, the L.A. Zoo has contributed to the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), a global partnership committed to zero turtle extinctions in the 21st century. Past funding has contributed to rehabilitation and repatriation of confiscated Madagascar radiated tortoises, as well as monitoring and protection of these and other endangered tortoise species. The most recent grant will be used to develop an assurance colony of the critically endangered Asian giant tortoise in northeast India.
Wild Earth Allies (Asian elephant conservation)
Severe habitat loss and the illegal trade in ivory have led to devastating declines of Asian elephants. One result of habitat loss is the rise of conflict between humans and elephants. Long-term funding from the L.A. Zoo has supported Wild Earth Allies’ efforts to reduce these conflicts and engage surrounding communities in protecting elephants. Our 2018-19 grant funded deployment of 25 camera traps in Cambodia’s Prey Lang Forest. The cameras documented more than 38 animal species—including 15 threatened with extinction. The current grant will expand field surveys, develop community education events, provide ranger training, and protect and analyze salt licks (a key source for minerals in elephant diets). These projects will make a demonstrable difference to the forest elephants and neighboring communities.
Wildlife Trust of India (Indian gharial conservation)
Habitat destruction, dam construction, accidental bycatch in fishing nets, and unnatural flooding from agricultural activities have left Indian gharials critically endangered, with fewer than 900 estimated to remain. This year, the L.A. Zoo provided emergency support to assess and protect the gharial population in India’s Gandak River (the second largest population throughout the species’ range). These efforts included a survey, community engagement activities, and nest relocations to save gharial eggs from intermittent flooding.