Animal Conservation

The Detroit Zoo celebrates and saves wildlife in ways our visitors can see when they visit – such as the breeding programs for threatened and endangered species seen inside the Zoo – and in ways that our visitors can’t see – the local field programs the Zoo leads and international field programs the Zoo supports.

Some projects have been underway for more than a decade, others are just getting started.  All are the work of dedicated Detroit Zoo staff working with partners from state and federal governments, universities, conservation organizations and other zoos.


Captive breeding of threatened and endangered species in zoos is an important component in the conservation of many species. AZA’s Species Survival Plan and Population Management Plan programs help to ensure the long-term maintenance of zoo animal populations to serve as both education and conservation ambassadors to the millions of guests who visit zoos each year and as “safety nets” against the extinction of animals around the world. Some captive breeding programs include the return of zoo-born animals back to the wild, like Wyoming toads and Puerto Rican crested toads. The Detroit Zoo participates in over 100 cooperative programs (Species Survival Plans and Population Management Plans), and staff members at the Detroit Zoo lead a number of programs.


Many important conservation projects happen beyond the Zoo’s gates in the meadows, waterways and forests of southeast Michigan and throughout the state.  Current Zoo field conservation efforts support more than nine species of local Michigan wildlife, including birds, amphibians, reptiles and even a butterfly.  Some of the projects work to rebuild wild populations of endangered and threatened species.  Others monitor wildlife populations in unstable habitats, hoping to detect any threatening conditions early enough to prevent the decline of a species.  A few help control local overpopulations of native species.