Saving Vulnerable Species

Support the Zoo’s Conservation Programs

Conservation rests at the heart of the North Carolina Zoo’s missions and management. At home, the Zoo minimizes the waste it produces and the resources it consumes. Around the world, the Zoo puts staff into the field to help lead, establish, and manage anti-poaching programs and to conduct research that helps local people protect wildlife and nature. These good works depend almost entirely on donations from private individuals, foundations, corporations, and government agencies.

For more information…

Please feel free to download either or both of the Zoo’s most recent conservation program reports.

Conservation and Research Report (2020)
Vulture Program Annual Report (2020)
NEW! You Can Make an Automatic Monthly Donation to Save Vulnerable Species

To become a monthly sustainer of the Zoo’s efforts to Save Vulnerable Species, check the “recurring donation option” on your order form, and we will automatically charge the same amount to your credit card every month. Don’t worry; you can easily stop your automatic donations at any time by following the instructions printed on the bottom of the receipt you will receive each month.

Saving Vulnerable Species

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Subtotal $10.00

Total due $10.00

Recurring amount (if any) $10.00

General Field Research Program

The Zoo’s animal, conservation, research, and veterinary staffs participate in conservation programs in North Carolina and around the world. In addition to collecting valuable research data, Zoo professionals collaborate with local community leaders and biologists to establish viable, sustainable conservation programs. Wildlife already served by these programs includes vultures, lions, gorillas, elephants, Hellbenders, turtles, and more.

Conservation Medicine

Donations to the Zoo Society fully fund the Veterinary Staff’s Conservation Medicine Program, which carries out research, provides training and purchases equipment related to the medical needs of rare and endangered species. For example, this program monitors the health of wild snakes found on the Zoo’s grounds, surveys amphibian populations for disease, and studies the pharmacokinetics of white rhinos.

African Elephants

Staff from the North Carolina Zoo entered Africa more than two decades ago to provide veterinary assistance to existing conservation teams and to supply local rangers and biologists with technologies that can track elephant herds moving across long distances. This improved surveillance helps rangers interfere with poaching operations and protect elephants from coming into conflict with local people.

Box Turtles

The Zoo Society cooperates with the Box Turtle Conservation Workshop Committee to support the Lucille R. Stickel Box Turtle Research Award. Donated funds support research that contributes to the survival of wild box turtles, and in doing so continues the life’s work of Lucille Stickel, a biologist who died in 2007.


Hellbenders (a.k.a. “Snot Otters”) are North America’s largest salamanders. Like many other amphibians, Hellbender populations are declining throughout much of their range. The North Carolina Zoo contributes to Hellbender conservation by sending researchers to the Smokey Mountains several times a year both to monitor their populations and to test ways to boost this fully aquatic salamander’s reproductive success. Currently, the team is adding artificial nest boxes to known Hellbender streams to determine if increasing the availability of nesting and sheltering sites can boost reproduction.

Cross River Gorillas

For more than a decade, North Carolina Zoo staff has led international efforts to protect this highly endangered Great Ape. This work puts staff on the ground in Africa to monitor Cross River Gorilla populations and to equip, train and support rangers protecting these gorillas and their habitat. The Zoo’s involvement makes smart-technology available to rangers and biologists who track Cross River Gorilla troops and provides these professionals with data they can use to locate and disrupt potential poaching sites.


The North Carolina Zoo protects wild African vultures by tracking their movements, monitoring their populations, and working to mitigate threats to their survival—especially deaths that result from poisonings. Poisonings occur when people lace carcasses with pesticides to kill predators (e.g., lions, hyenas, leopards) that scavenge on the remains. The Zoo’s vulture protection programs train people to identify and arrest people responsible for these poisonings and to reduce the harm to wildlife by rehabilitating sick animals.

Polar Bears

The North Carolina Zoo partners with Polar Bears International to protect wild Polar Bears and to mitigate sea ice losses resulting from global climate change. In addition to supporting Polar Bear International’s fieldwork in the service of Polar Bears, the Zoo continues to search for ways to reduce its carbon footprint and to influence other groups and individuals to do the same.

Frog Conservation

Zoo staff works in the field and inside the Zoo to protect several rare and endangered frog species. Most Zoo work focuses on two native species, the Carolina Gopher Frog and the Ornate Chorus Frog. Hoping to boost their wild population, the Zoo manages onsite “tadpole nurseries” where their eggs and larvae can develop without exposure to predators and other hazards. When tadpoles reach froglet stage—with four functioning legs and no tails—they go back into the wild. So far, the Zoo has released more than 400 froglets into their native wetlands.