Click Here to donate to the Dakota Zoo Conservation Fund.

Conservation is an important part of what we do every day at the Dakota Zoo, and every member and zoo visitor helps play a part in conservation efforts both close to home and around the world. The Dakota Zoo Conservation Fund was established in 2013 with a .25 cent surcharge on each paid admission. Beginning in 2020, $5.00 from every zoo membership sold and .50 cents from every admission will be contributed the fund.


AZA Conservation Grants Fund The Dakota Zoo Conservation Fund makes an annual contribution to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Conservation Grants Fund, which supports a variety of wildlife conservation initiatives worldwide. 


Species Survival Plans (SSP) Dakota Zoo participates in over 16 Species Survival Plan programs for endangered or threatened species. In addition to our seven species of primates, SSP animals include the Amur Tiger, Przewalski’s Horse, Black-footed Ferret, Pallas's Cat, Snow Leopard, Swift Fox and more.


Tiger Conservation Campaign The Dakota Zoo Conservation Fund makes an annual contribution to the Tiger Conservation Campaign. Accredited zoos across North America are mobilizing to support tiger conservation efforts and raise awareness. The Tiger Conservation Campaign is coordinated by the AZA Tiger Species Survival Plan. Funds provided by Dakota Zoo have gone towards equipping rangers and guards in Russia with trail cameras and other equipment used to curtail the poaching of tigers. 


Snow Leopard Trust  The Dakota Zoo Conservation Fund helps to support the Snow Leopard Trust’s ongoing projects. This includes providing funds for educating communities/farmers about how protecting snow leopards is beneficial for them and supporting long-term ecological studies in Mongolia.


Raptor Rehabilitation Dakota Zoo is one of the few facilities in the region which accepts and cares for injured or orphaned migratory birds and other animals.  Numerous birds including Prairie Falcons, Bald and Golden Eagles, Peregrine Falcons and others have been received, treated and returned to the wild as a result of this work.


Theodore Roosevelt National Park Dakota Zoo staff members monitor golden eagle nests, conduct surveillance studies looking for black-footed ferrets, and assist with radio collaring operations for bison and elk.


FrogWatch USA The Dakota Zoo and the University of Mary have teamed up to form a FrogWatch USA chapter. FrogWatch USA is AZA’s flagship community science program that invites individuals and families to learn about the wetlands in their communities and help conserve amphibians by reporting the calls of local frogs and toads. Watch our website or our Facebook page for information on how YOU can get involved!  


Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE) Initiatives

The Dakota Zoo Conservation Fund provides financial support to the following AZA SAFE programs.  Members of our staff also work on field conservation projects within the programs as listed.


African Penguin SAFE This new species was added to our facility in 2021.  In addition to SAFE sponsorship, other efforts to-date have included transporting birds from other facilities to set up our breeding pairs.  We plan to increase our field conservation efforts in this species by funding Dakota Zoo staff members to travel to wild nesting sites to assist with nest-building, observations and other needed activities.


Black-footed Ferret SAFE  Since 2013, Dakota Zoo staff have assisted Prairie Wildlife Research (NGO), the National Park Service and the National Grasslands in South Dakota in spotlighting, capturing, microchipping, vaccinating and releasing these animals.  In addition to the SAFE program, the Dakota Zoo sponsors a “laboratory of wheels” for Prairie Wildlife Research.  This mobile laboratory is equipped to allow staff to conduct any necessary testing or vaccinations in the field in remote areas of the Conata Basin in South Dakota.  In addition, Dakota Zoo staff assist over a several week period of time in field conservation efforts.

Additionally, we are working towards adding a conservation travel trailer which will provide for staff housing when staff are working on field conservation projects in remote locations.  We have been invited to assist the Standing Rock Reservation with black-footed ferret monitoring efforts beginning in 2023.  Due to the remote location, this new equipment will be instrumental in providing field conservation opportunities for Dakota Zoo staff members right here in our own state.


North American Songbird SAFE In addition to directly supporting the SAFE program, the Dakota Zoo Conservation Fund has allowed 6 tagged songbird monitoring antennas to be placed at the Dakota Zoo.  Additional efforts in this project are being made to develop a partnership with North Dakota Game and Fish and a songbird researcher in the neighboring state of Montana.  

Additionally we are:

~Arranging to add more bird friendly glass/decal spots in the upcoming year and selling decal products in gift shop.

~Selling Bird Friendly Coffee in gift shop.

~eBird location at the Dakota Zoo, Zoo Crew and staff involvement with observations, and wild bird feeding area with public view.

~Added several Pollinator Gardens on grounds.

~Added Cedar Waxwing exhibit as advocate and ambassador for North American Songbird SAFE.


Monarch Butterfly SAFE In addition to the financial support of this SAFE program, Dakota Zoo staff members have participated in raising and releasing butterflies at our facility.  Similarly, staff members began assisting with trapping, identifying and marking bumble bees in North Dakota in 2022.


~Our North American Elk exhibit is registered as a Monarch Waystation.

~Monarch caterpillar rearing, tagging, and release for guest education and experience purposes.

~Our staff is involved in tagging wild monarchs.

~Several Pollinator Gardens are located on grounds.


Other SAFE Programs financially supported by Dakota Zoo include:

Western Pond Turtle SAFE

Whooping Crane SAFE

Bison SAFE

Mexican Wolf SAFE


How you can help Every zoo visit and every zoo membership help make a difference for endangered wildlife in our backyard and around the world. Visit the Dakota Zoo often, or better yet, become a Click here for a list of informative links.


Education Children attending our camps learn about Species Survival Plan Programs, raptor rehabilitation, animal enrichment and what they can do to help. Fourth grade students attend our annual Conservation Day event where they learn about conservation of both wildlife and natural resources. School groups also visit for self-guided tours and educational presentations for all grade levels.  Zoo visitors are also able to discover more about the animals they see and conservation efforts for individual species through our "Ask Me" and animal close-up programs as well as our full color informational signs at each exhibit.


Going Green at Dakota Zoo The Zoo tries to "go green" wherever possible, using low voltage fluorescent bulbs and comfortable but energy-conscious temperature settings for public areas of buildings.  Aluminum cans, plastic bottles and cardboard are recycled saving landfill space and energy. Building and fencing materials are also recycled or repurposed whenever practicable. The zoo also re-utilizes animal shelters, enclosures and even buildings if possible. Our Nursing Den began its life as a rest room and the Australia Building started out as a Camel Habitat/Administration Building.


Historical Contributions

Mexican Gray Wolf Pre Release Pen Sitting  Dakota Zoo staff members made regular trips to assist the Arizona Game and Fish Department, US Fish and Wildlife Service with the monitoring of critically endangered Mexican wolves that are being acclimated prior to being released into the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area in eastern Arizona.


Tammar Wallaby Importation The Tammar Wallaby SSP works with animal capture experts in New Zealand to import a number of Tammar Wallaby.  The Dakota Zoo has received some of these animals, and the Zoo will provide financial support to the importation program, thanks to funds provided by the Dakota Zoo Conservation Fund.