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If we learn, finally, that what we need to “manage” is not the land so much as ourselves in the land, we will have turned the history of American land-use on its head."
- Gaylord Nelson, Founder of Earth Day    

"You must have the bird in your heart before you can find it in the bush."
- John Burroughs

We support conservation in several ways and are responsible for educating the public about wildlife conservation and supporting programs that help save threatened and endangered animals in the wild.

Donate directly to the Zoo's Conservation Fund

Conservation Programs

We are committed to the conservation of endangered and threatened species in the wild. As an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), we are responsible for financially assisting organizations around the globe that are actively helping to protect wildlife. Our Zoo asks for support from the community to help us fund these important conservation projects. In addition to financial support, we also send our keepers abroad to assist with conservation projects in the wild.

Below is a list of the conservation organizations we support. If you would like to help our Zoo help animals here and in the wild, then come to the Zoo, your parking fee goes directly to help!

Conservation Projects

The Little Rock Zoo's Education Department works with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and several Arkansas state parks on bald eagle and raptor awareness community programs. These educational programs help inform the public of the importance of these natural predators in the ecosystem.

By utilizing non-releasable raptor ambassadors, the public gets a bird's eye view of these individual birds of prey. We also assist with statewide Raptor Research Projects, which address behavioral and scientific issues.

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The Little Rock Zoo has for a couple of years an active supporter of the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), founded in 1990 by Dr. Laurie Marker. CCF's mission is to be an internationally recognized centre of excellence in research and education on cheetahs and their eco-systems; working with all stakeholders to achieve best practice in the conservation and management of the world's cheetahs. As Namibia has the largest and healthiest population of cheetah left in the world, CCF's International Research and Education Centre is based in Namibia, near Otjiwarongo. CCF's stance is that understanding the cheetah's biology and ecology is essential to stabilize the population and manage its sustainability for the future. Its strategy to save the wild cheetah is a three-pronged process of research, conservation and education, beginning with long-term studies to understand and monitor the factors affecting the cheetah's survival. Results of these studies are used to develop conservation policies and programmes to sustain its populations. CCF actively works with local, national and international communities to raise awareness, communicate, educate and train.

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Chimp Haven serves as The National Chimpanzee Sanctuary. They are an independent, nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide lifetime care for chimpanzees who have been retired from medical research, the entertainment industry or no longer wanted as pets. The organization was founded in 1995 by professionals from the primatological, pharmaceutical, animal protection, zoo and business communities. Chimp Haven opened its doors to the first chimpanzees in April, 2005 and may also serve as an umbrella organization for several national sanctuaries in the future. In May 2001, Chimp Haven submitted a capability statement to National Institutes of Health (NIH), indicating its interest in becoming the organization to construct and operate the sanctuary system for chimpanzees. Following a rigorous selection process in which Chimp Haven competed with many other organizations, the NIH announced in September 2002 that Chimp Haven was selected to construct and operate the National Chimpanzee Sanctuary System. On May 30, 2003, ground was broken for construction of the facility on 200 acres of pristine forest that was donated by the citizens of Caddo Parish, Louisiana. Two phases of construction were completed by 2006. The first chimpanzee residents (Rita and Teresa) arrived in April 2005, and were quickly followed by dozens of other chimpanzees from several large research facilities. Chimp Haven’s national headquarters is located in 22 miles southwest of Shreveport, Louisiana, in the Eddie D. Jones Nature Park in Keithville, Louisiana. Today, over 100 chimpanzees are living the good life at Chimp Haven!

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CBSG is an international conservation organization whose mission is "to assist conservation of threatened animal and plant species through scientific management of threatened animal and plant species through scientific management of small populations in wild habitats, with linkage to captive populations where needed."?CBSG, originally known as the Captive Breeding Specialist Group, was formed to meet the need for interface between the academic or field conservation community. From 1982-84, Dr. U. S. Seal developed the first model for a SSP following the International Tiger Symposium in Leipzig. In 1985, CBSG became involved with the development of the recovery program for the critically endangered black-footed ferret. Today, it is involved extensively in global conservation.

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The AZA Conservation Endowment Fund (CEF) supports the cooperative conservation-related scientific and educational initiatives of AZA and its member institutions. Every major type of conservation and animal care initiative is represented — research, field conservation, education, animal welfare, animal health and captive breeding. Established in 1984, the CEF is a critical part of the AZA's effort to meet its conservation objectives. The actual amount available for disbursement each year is determined by the AZA Board of Directors. Selections are made on the basis of a competitive review. Since 1991, the CEF has provided almost $5 million to over 280 projects worldwide. For over ten years, the Walt Disney World Company and the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund have provided significant financial support to the CEF, nearly doubling the number of proposals funded each year.

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The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International is dedicated to the conservation and protection of gorillas and their habitats in Africa. We are committed to promoting continued research on their threatened ecosystems and education about their relevance to the world in which we live. In collaboration with government agencies and other international partners, we also provide assistance to local communities through education, health, training and economic development initiatives.  

The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International is a not-for-profit organization founded by Dr. Dian Fossey in 1978 to preserve and protect the world's last mountain gorillas. Originally named “Digit Fund” in memory of Dr. Fossey's favorite gorilla, the Fund was renamed in 1992 to underscore its commitment to carry on the gorilla protection and research programs established by Dr. Fossey.

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In recent years, conservation biologists have drawn our attention to a worldwide decline in wild populations of frogs, toads, and salamanders - a phenomenon that has come to be called the Global Amphibian Crisis.  While habitat loss is still considered the most serious threat to the majority of species, especially in the humid tropical forest regions of the world, a fungal disease known as chytrid has been identified as being exceptionally deadly to amphibians, while not seeming to affect other groups of vertebrates – fish, reptiles, birds and mammals.   One of the regions in which chytrid epidemics have erupted is Central America, first appearing in Costa Rica and heading south into Panama.  Since it affects most amphibian species with which it comes in contact and also appears to persist in the environment, experts agree that the only hope of saving some of the more endangered, restricted-range species is to collect animals from remaining wild populations, establish captive breeding programs, and be prepared to conduct reintroduction projects in the future, should chytrid run its course or methods be found to eradicate the fungus without negatively impacting the environment.   The Houston Zoo has joined with a number of other AZA zoos and aquariums, academic institutions, and international conservation organizations to establish the El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center in central Panama.  This new facility already holds several hundred native Panamanian frogs, toads, and salamanders.  The goal is to eventually maintain as many as 1,000 animals representing approximately 40 species. Many of these have never bred in captivity before.

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The International Association for Bear Research and Management (IBA) is a non-profit tax-exempt organization open to professional biologists, wildlife managers and others dedicated to the conservation of all bear species. It supports the scientific management of bears through research and distribution of information. The eight bear species of the world pose significant research and management problems to governments, local authorities, wildlife biologists, land managers, park personnel, tribal councils, and private land owners. Encroaching civilization, involving land-use conflicts and resource utilization by human beings, has resulted in the decline or disappearance of bear habitat and bear populations in portions of their ranges. Continued viability of populations and the possible restoration of bears in certain areas, will be largely contingent upon a cooperative approach towards research, management, land use, and education, and will increase in cost as land values escalate. The IBA, an association primarily of professional biologists with an interest in bears, recognizes these difficult bear research and management problems faced by agencies and governments.  

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The International Crane Foundation (ICF) commits to a future where all crane species are secure - a future where people cooperate to protect and restore wild populations and their ecosystems. These efforts sustain the places where cranes live, to the benefit of countless other species.  Among the people captivated by the beauty and mystique of cranes were two Cornell University graduate students - George Archibald and Ron Sauey - who were investigating crane behavior and ecology. Realizing that cranes were under intense pressure from the world's rapidly expanding human population; they decided to establish an organization dedicated to the study and preservation of cranes. In 1973, they founded the International Crane Foundation on the horse farm owned by Sauey's parents just north of Baraboo, Wisconsin.   Founders Ron Sauey and George Archibald wanted to create a "species bank." Concurrent with their efforts to breed cranes in captivity, ICF began to make significant contributions to the conservation of cranes in the wild through research and collaboration with colleagues around the world.   The Little Rock Zoo donated funds in 2008 to the Khinganski Nature Reserve in Russia for production of sticky labels with an image of a crane for a children’s education program. 

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The mission of the International Elephant Foundation (IEF) is to support and operate elephant conservation and education programs both ex situ (in captivity) and in situ (in the wild), with emphasis on intensive management and protection as well as scientific research that assists these actions. In 2005 the Little Rock Zoo donated monies to help with the support of Conservation Response Units (CRU) at the Elephant Conservation Center in Bengkulu Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. In Sumatra the significant reduction of forests and a threefold increase in the human population over the last two decades have placed Sumatran Asian elephant populations in jeopardy, evidenced by the escalation of conflicts between elephants and humans. The IEF has funded and organized a number of trips to the Sumatran Elephant Conservation Center (ECC) to deliver medical supplies and provide training. IEF elephant experts and veterinarians share information with the staff at the conservation centers on captive elephant Husbandry and health care in an effort to make long-term positive changes in the lives of the elephants at the centers; and to protect this important meta population while the Government of Indonesia develops programs from habitat protection and the future of the wild and captive Sumatran Asian elephant. In 2004, IEF established a Conservation Response Unit to provide protection for plant and animal species in the region. This project will also provide useful “work” for the pawangs (Indonesian mahouts) and their elephants, improve health care and training, and provide the surrounding human communities educational materials on the conservation of elephants and habitat. 

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Malayan Sun Bear Research by Wong Siew Te:

Industrial logging, large-scale forest conversion for oil palm plantations, and the illegal wildlife trade have left sun bears the rarest species of bear on the planet. Recognizing their dire status, Wong Siew Te, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Montana, is working in Malaysia to save the species from extinction. Known as “Sun Bear Man” in some circles, Wong Siew Te is setting up the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) in Sabah, a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo. The project aims to save sun bears through research, education, rehabilitation and habitat conservation. 

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Mbeli Bai Study:

The Mbeli Bai Study (MBS) has been a very successful, long-term project operating since 1995 in the Nouabale-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo.  The western lowland gorilla is attracted to these swampy forest clearings, known as bai, a rich source of food for many African wildlife species in the area. Overseen by researcher Thomas Breuer and the Wildlife Conservation Society, the goal of the study is to ensure the protection of gorillas and other forest mammals via several research and conservation-based objectives. These include closely monitoring animal populations that utilize the bai, participation of students in surveying and monitoring in the field, and providing educational support in the surrounding communities to teach understanding and mitigate any human-animal conflicts.  The MBS is currently the only long-term study of lowland gorilla demography and has provided scientific insights into the social organization, behavior and population dynamics of this species and how it utilizes the unique bai habitat.

"PASA is committed to the conservation and care of African primates through the unique alliance of African sanctuaries." PASA sanctuaries were created over the last three decades to accommodate the staggering numbers of orphaned chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos and other endangered primates in Africa. PASA members and affiliated sanctuaries literally span the continent of Africa. The PASA Code of Conduct assumes a number of values that require all members and their staffs to exhibit a.) a concern for the primates; b.) integrity; c.) transparency; d.) fairness; e.) conscientiousness; f.) professionalism; and g.) personal and institutional commitment to conservation. Each sanctuary is tailored to the species it protects and the country within which it works, but one aspect is the same in every single facility: A deep and passionate interest in protecting primates and the wild spaces they inhabit.

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The South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) is a non-profit sea bird rehabilitation centre based in Cape Town, South Africa. Without SANCCOB many of South Africa's coastal birds would be on the endangered list. SANCCOB’s mission is to conserve and protect South Africa's sea birds, especially threatened species, for the benefit of present and future generations. Their core function is to prepare for and manage the rehabilitation of sea birds during a major oil spills, raise awareness about conservation through environmental education and collaborate on research projects. SANCCOB cleans and rehabilitates ill, injured, oiled and orphaned sea birds on a daily basis.

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The  Clouded Leopard Breeding Project, based at the Khao Kheow Open Zoo, was developed by a consortium consisting of the Thailand Zoological Parks Organization (ZPO), Khao Kheow Open Zoo, Nashville Zoo, Smithsonian's National Zoological Park, and the Clouded Leopard SSP. This coalition of international partners is working together to develop a viable self-sustaining clouded leopard breeding program in Thailand. Khao Kheow Zoo, in Chonburi, Thailand, serves as the project's first breeding center, housing pairs of clouded leopards originating from the five zoos within the ZPO. Some of the cubs that result will be exported to the United States to serve as new founders to the SSP population in an effort to improve that population's genetics and demographics. An essential component of the project is the placement of a full-time coordinator from the United States in Thailand. The coordinator, Rick Pasarro, oversees the project and performs critical duties such as developing proper husbandry techniques, training Thai zookeepers, improving enclosures, assisting in veterinary care, and maintaining records. Experienced clouded leopard managers from Smithsonian National Zoo, the Nashville Zoo, and Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium also rotate duties as relief project coordinators, with the zoos funding their salaries while they are working in Thailand.

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The Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission focuses on science-based conservation to protect our state’s biological diversity. As the central repository for data on rare plants and animals and natural communities in Arkansas, we work to provide up-to-date information for sound and timely conservation decisions. The staff of the zoo volunteer with this organization to go into the field and help with any projects they need manpower for.

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In addition to the monies that the Little Rock Zoo donates to conservation, our zookeeper organization, American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK), also raises independent monies for conservation programs of their choice.

The programs that our AAZK chapter donates towards are as follows:

Mabula Private Game Reserve has been the home of the award-winning Mabula Ground Hornbill Project since 1999. This non-profit conservation project aims to change perceptions – and the fortunes – of this iconic but endangered species, through multi-disciplinary and evidence-based conservation techniques.

The charismatic Southern Ground-Hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri) is a bird that many people already know well. They are culturally important as the ‘thunder’ or ‘rain’ birds and are a flagship species for the savannah biome (along with cheetah, white rhino and several vulture species).

At present, Southern Ground-Hornbills are considered internationally as ‘Vulnerable’ throughout their range in Africa by the IUCN, but within South Africa and Namibia they have been classified as Endangered with their numbers outside of formally protected areas still in decline.

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Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT)

Founded in 2003, MYCAT emerged as a pivotal platform facilitating communication and collaboration between the Malaysian government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with a shared objective of the conservation of Malayan tigers. The esteemed founding members included the Department of Wildlife and National Parks Peninsular Malaysia (DWNP), Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), TRAFFIC, and WWF-Malaysia. In subsequent years, the alliance expanded with the inclusion of Wildlife Conservation Society-Malaysia in 2005 and Wildlife Society of Selangor (WILD) in 2017. WILD, a non-profit charitable organization, now oversees and implements all MYCAT programs in adherence to Malaysian laws. 

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Formed in 2001 and gaining nonprofit status in 2004, Turtle Survival Alliance is a global conservation organization that works to create a planet where tortoises and freshwater turtles can thrive in the wild. Our science-based initiatives are directed by local leaders, inspiring sustainable, community-based stewardship to prevent extinctions. Where populations cannot yet thrive in the wild, our captive breeding programs preserve opportunities for their future survival.

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The Orangutan Project was established in 1998 by founder and world-renowned orangutan expert, Leif Cocks, as a result of his 25+ year career working with orangutans - including establishing the most successful breeding colony of orangutans in the world. The Orangutan Project was formed with a key mission; to ensure that endangered wild orangutan species would be protected against extinction, and would continue to live in secure populations for generations to come.

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Statement in Support of Sustainable Palm Oil

The Little Rock Zoo is committed to driving the palm oil industry in the right direction, and supports a move to sustainable palm oil, and not a blanket boycott.

Palm oil produced according to the standards set by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) or Palm Oil Innovation Group (POIG), as of 2018, is required to be deforestation-free. Manufacturers, retailers and traders all over the world have made bold commitments to removing deforestation from their supply chains.

The rapid expansion of the palm oil industry over the last 30 years has had a catastrophic environmental and social impact across Southeast Asia, South America and Africa.  Consumers all over the world have been horrified to learn about the destructive practices rife within the industry.

Boycotting palm oil is a legitimate expression of consumers’ social and environmental concerns, but it not the only way to a solution. A blanket boycott of oil can lead to more deforestation, a lower demand for palm oil, which leads to lower pricing of palm oil. Moving toward sustainable palm oil can help protect the environment and combat the degradation of natural ecosystems.  

The Little Rock Zoo is proud to be among other conservation organizations committed to driving the palm oil industry in the right direction.  Some other organizations in support of these measures are the following:

The Sumatran Orangutan Society supports the people in Sumatra who are making a real difference for orangutans and the forests they depend on. The campaigns we run are strategic, impactful and have global reach, bringing people together to work towards our vision of a safe future for Sumatran orangutans in the wild. Our work encompasses three main areas of focus: Protecting orangutans, saving forests and supporting people.

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The Chester Zoo launched the Sustainable Palm Oil campaign in 2012. Since then, they have worked with partners in the UK and worldwide to make sustainable palm oil a reality.

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Conservation International recognizes that palm oil itself is not the enemy and that it can be produced sustainably. Yet despite progress, the negative impacts associated with palm oil persist. That’s why we are working urgently to address these issues and to promote solutions that benefit people and nature.

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The Jane Goodall Institute Australia (JGIA) is a not-for-profit, non-government organization that supports wildlife research, education and conservation. Our programs reflect our organization's purpose of inspiring actions that connect people with animals and our shared environment.

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Yayasan Orangutan Sumatera Lestari – Orangutan Information Centre (YOSL-OIC) is a grassroots NGO based in Medan of North Sumatra. We work in collaboration with local communities living alongside orangutan populated areas in both the Leuser Ecosystem and the Batang Toru Ecosystem. The Leuser Ecosystem is the last natural habitat remaining for the Sumatran orangutan and is one of the most important tropical forests remaining in Asia. The Leuser  ecosystem is the only place on Earth where orangutans, tigers, rhinos and elephants coexist in the wild, making it a high priority landscape for conservation efforts as well as earning a globally important status. The Batang Toru Ecosystem is a mountainous area of rainforest in the province of North Sumatra. The Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis) that was discovered in 2017 as a new species of orangutan, is endemic to the Batang Toru Ecosystem. With an estimated population of fewer than 800 individuals, the Tapanuli orangutan is listed as Critically Endangered. Occupying about 1420 square kilometers, the Batang Toru Ecosystem serves as a habitat for many other rare and threatened species, including the Sumatran tiger, other cat species, pangolins, tapirs and sun bears.

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Hutan’s mission is to conserve threatened habitats and wildlife species in Sabah and to promote the sustainable management of natural ecosystems by empowering local communities and developing mutually beneficial stakeholder partnerships.

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The Orangutan Land Trust is backed by a Scientific Advisory Board made up of some of the best minds working in orangutan and forest conservation. They represent a number of disciplines and specialties, and a range of regions throughout Malaysia and Indonesia. In this way, Orangutan Land Trust can consider where the greatest needs and best possible outcomes can be found, backed by sound science. Its Board of Trustees includes leaders in academia, business, wildlife conservation and sustainability.

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WWF works to sustain the natural world for the benefit of people and wildlife, collaborating with partners from local to global levels in nearly 100 countries.

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World Land Trust (WLT) is an international conservation charity that protects the world’s most biologically significant and threatened habitats.

Working through a network of partner organizations around the world, WLT funds the creation of reserves and provides permanent protection for habitats and wildlife. Partnerships are developed with established and highly respected local organizations who engage support and commitment among the local community.

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Borneo Futures Sdn Bhd is a scientific consultancy company based in Brunei Darussalam. Established in 2015, we engage with projects focused on innovative science that informs the practices and policies of environmental management in tropical forest areas.

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We are financing our way into extinction. A combination of deforestation, industrial agriculture and overexploitation of resources is destroying the ecosystems and biodiversity on which we all depend. It is exacerbating climate change and raising the risk of future pandemics. It is destroying the rights and livelihoods of Indigenous and local communities. And it is pushing us ever-closer to dangerous tipping points in the Earth’s system, such as the loss of the Amazon rainforest.

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We have been implementing rainforest conservation in Borneo for over 20 years. We partner with local stakeholders to implement landscape-level conservation strategies based on rigorous scientific research, and support communities to develop sustainable livelihoods that complement environmental protection.

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Little Rock Zoo

1 Zoo Drive
Little Rock, AR 72205


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Last admission 3:30 p.m.
Zoo grounds close at 4:00 pm

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