Did you know the Saint Louis Zoo is a world leader in saving endangered species and their habitats? Many of the animals you will see at the Zoo are threatened in the wild by shrinking habitats, disease and poaching. The need for conservation is greater than ever, with one vertebrate species disappearing from the Earth every day. Ultimately, we need to save the ecosystems on which animals and humans depend.

The Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute, with the support of its conservation partners, takes a holistic approach to troubled ecosystems by addressing three key ingredients in conservation success: wildlife management and recovery, conservation science, and support of the human populations that coexist with wildlife.


The WildCare Institute is dedicated to creating a sustainable future for wildlife and for people around the world.

17 WildCare Institute Centers. One goal.

  • This Center and its partners are reintroducing zoo-bred American burying beetles for the first time ever in Missouri. We are following up on these reintroductions to measure their impact in local ecosystems. See more.

  • The wild Asian elephant population is threatened by habitat loss, fragmentation, human-elephant conflict, and poaching for its ivory, skin, and meat.  This endangered species has an estimated population of 41,410 to 52,345 Asian elephants left in Southeast Asia, which are scattered across fragmented habitats in 13 range countries.  If the wild Asian elephant populations continue to decline, then wild elephants could become extinct in the next century.

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    The efforts by the Saint Louis Zoo to save Pacific Island avian species began in 1994 when the Zoo joined forces with other organizations to form a group called the Pacific Bird Conservation Project—or MAC (the project is now called Pacific Bird Conservation). See more.

  • This center studies the health of the unique birds in the Galapagos to prevent their extinction from diseases and trains Ecuadorian scientists and rangers to recognize and test for diseases. See More.

  • Chelonians (turtles and tortoises), are the most endangered vertebrate taxa on the planet and over half of the 356 known chelonian species are threatened with extinction. Chelonians are threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation, the legal and illegal trade in wildlife, pollution, and infectious diseases. Turtles and tortoises are essential to ecosystems, with many species, including Galapagos tortoises, serving as “ecosystem engineers.” Unfortunately, the health status of most species remains poorly understood. The Center for Chelonian Conservation supports the St. Louis Box Turtle Project (SLBTP) (including box turtles and snapping turtles) and the Galapagos Tortoise Movement Ecology Programme (GTMEP) in order to gain insight into the movement ecology and health status of these iconic species.

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  • This Center helps survey the health and numbers of wild cheetahs and other large carnivores. It also works to reduce conflicts between wildlife and livestock by teaching ranchers how to co-exist with these important predators. See more.

  • The Center for the Conservation of Congo Apes (CCCA) is an evolution of the WildCare Institute’s multi-year program support for the Goualougo Triangle Ape Project (GTAP) in the Republic of Congo. The goal of the GTAP is developing conservation policies and local leadership to ensure the long-term survival of chimpanzees and gorillas in the Congo Basin.  For 20 years, the GTAP has implemented a successful research program including documenting behavior, monitoring great ape health, and examining ape population dynamics within the changing Congo Basin landscape. The GTAP also partners with Congolese researchers in capacity building to develop their skills to make significant conservation impacts for great apes.

  • This center offers educational opportunities to urban youth and studies native wildlife in the Zoo's "backyard" of Forest Park. See more.

  • This center helps raise awareness and support for the wildlife of the Horn of Africa - through cooperative ex situ conservation, research and education programs for species such as the Grevy's zebra, mountain nyala, Speke's gazelle, hirola, African elephant and Ethiopian wolf. See more.


    This Center’s primary goal is to reduce direct pressures on Madagascar’s threatened and endangered species.  The Center involves local rangers in the protection of the wildlife populations. Capacity building is a central focus.

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  • This center is working to protect Humboldt penguins by establishing a breeding reserve for them, supporting biological studies and raising awareness of marine conservation issues. See more.

  • Covering a region that includes Cyprus, Turkey, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, The Arabian Peninsula, Iraq, Iran, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia, this center is focused on conserving a number of species found nowhere else, including the Caucasian leopard, black grouse, Bezoar goat, Armenian mouflon, Kaiser’s spotted newt and multiple species of mountain and shield-headed vipers. See more

  • This center focuses on the importance and diversity of native pollinators, especially native bees, for the maintenance and survival of wildlife, ecosystems and agriculture. See more

  • This Center, working with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), bred Ozark hellbenders in human care—a first for either of the two subspecies of hellbender (Ozark and eastern hellbenders). The decade-long collaboration between the MDC and the Center has yielded thousands of baby hellbenders. See more.

  • This center works to bring attention to the plight of Sahelo-Saharan wildlife and pursues sustainable solutions to address the decline of critically endangered addax and other species. The Zoo and its partners recently realized a dream in 2012 when the Republic of Niger decreed the formal establishment of Africa’s largest nature reserve for these animals. See more

The WildCare Institute supports 13 additional Conservation Programs

Learn More about our Conservation Programs

How You Can Make a Difference

To become a partner in our field programs and research, contact:
Elizabeth (Lisa) Kelley
Executive Director, WildCare Institute
Direct: (314) 646-4958
Zoo: (314) 781-0900, ext. 4958

For media information, contact:
Billy Brennan
Direct: (314) 646-4633
Zoo: (314) 781-0900, ext. 4633

For information on donations, contact:
Kim Lovings
Direct: (314) 646-4691
Zoo: (314) 781-0900, ext. 4691

Make A Contribution Online

Sustained by a $16 million endowment from the Zoo Friends Association, the WildCare Institute is privately funded by grants, partnering corporations and wildlife enthusiasts from around the world.

Conservation Research at the Zoo

By studying the behavior, hormones, reproduction and nutrition of captive animals, Saint Louis Zoo scientists can better help the animals of our conservation centers.

Our assisted reproduction studies may pay dividends to help the Central American horned guan population. We are also one of only a few zoos studying the important effects of animals' hormones on their reproduction.

Our behavior studies are invaluable tools for supplementing data on similar animal in the wild.

The work we do to learn about the nutritional needs of diverse animals can have a great impact on their survival.

And we use the latest developments in wildlife veterinary medicine to assure that the animals in our collection receive the very best health care available today. Everything we learn about our Zoo animals, we can then apply to their counterparts in the wild.