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Field Conservation

The San Antonio Zoological Society participates in a wide variety of field conservation efforts locally and around the world!

On average, YOUR San Antonio Zoo contributes over $175,000.00 through direct funds and research grants dedicated to programs geared towards species population status, habitat preservation, and potential causes for declines.  The San Antonio Zoo is also involved in local community training and stewardship projects as well as participating in species reintroductions into wild habitats!

Below are several projects in which the Zoo is currently involved.

Migratory Bird Survey

The San Antonio Zoo's Education Department and volunteer staff support the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at Cornell University by conducting monthly surveys of migratory bird populations.  All data obtained is submitted to Cornell University using the web platform


Bolson Tortoise Recovery Program 

The Department of Herpetology conducted fieldwork in conjunction with the Turner Endangered Species Fund in New Mexico for the critical Bolson Tortoise.  Field population monitoring and health assessments of the tortoises took place in the Spring and Fall of 2015.  At this time, the Zoo also offered assistance with constrcution and financial support for the new head start facility that will further reintroduction efforts.


Cave Fauna Biodiversity Program 

A comprehensive examination of cave fauna biodiversity in North America is underway with partners at the San Antonio Zoo's Department of Conservation and Research, Illinois Natural History Museum, The Nature Conservancy, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rogers State University, United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.  Several weeks were spent monitoring federally listed Endangered species and state listed species in three cave systems where no previous inventories had been completed.  


Graening, G.O., D.B. Fenolio, and K.A. Harris.  2015.  The subterranean fauna of the Arbuckle Mountains ecoregion of Oklahoma, USA.  Speleobiology Notes 7: 11–17.

Espinasa L., Espinasa M., Fenolio DB., Slay ME., Niemiller ML, 2014, Distribution and conservation status of Speleonycta ozarkensis (Insecta, Zygentoma, Nicoletiidae) from caves of the Ozark Highlands of Arkansas and Oklahoma, USA, Subterranean Biology

Niemiller, M.L., K. Ziegler, D.B. Fenolio.  2013.  Cave Life of Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia. National Speleological Society Press. P.p. 1–45.

Fenolio, D.B.,C.T. McAllister, M.L. Niemiller, D. Soares, and J. Cooley.  2013.  An extreme case of a trematode infection of a larval Ozark Blind Salamander, Eurycea spelaea(Caudata: Plethodontidae) from the Ozark Highlands of Missouri, USA.  Speleobiology Notes 5: 34–37.


Chilean Amphibian Conservation Center

This partnership program between Dr. Dante Fenolio and the National Zoo of Chile in Santiago spans eight years and includes two captive breeding labs for endangered amphibians of Chile.  These captive facilities are currently breeding Darwin's Frogs (Rhinoderma darwinii) and are working to breed three more critically endangered species.  The project also monitors wild populations of Chile's amphibians endemic to the southern temperate rainforests for the amphibian chytrid fungus.  Goals are to identify the spread of emergent infectious amphibian disease in critically endangered amphibians to south Chile and to establish assurance colonies of these species at the facilities located at the National Zoo of Chile.  Collaborators include the Austral University and the National Zoo of Chile.  The groundwork has been built for a new lab that will be implemented at the Austral University in Valdivia, Chile.  Over 350 amphibian skin swabs have been collected from several localities in southern Chile and have been tested for the amphibian chytrid fungus.   



Fenolio DB., Lamar WW., Fabry MO., Tirado MS., Crump ML, 2014, Saving Darwin's Frogs , AnimaMundi

Fenolio, D.B.,  V. Moreno-Puig, M.G. Levy, J.J. Nuñez, W.W. Lamar, M.O. Fabry, MS. Tirado, M.L. Crump, and A. charrier.  2013.  Status and Conservation of a Gondwana Legacy: Bullock’s False Toad, Telmatobufo bullocki (Amphibia: Anura: Calyptocephalellidae). Herpetological Review 44(4): 583–590.

Chinese Cave Fish Working Group

The San Antonio Zoo is a key member of the Chinese Cave Fish Working Group.  Consortium members include the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Illinois Natural History Museum, and the New Jersey Institute of Technology.  The group has been functioning for five years and works to better delineate the ranges and conservation status of all species of fishes endemic to Chinese groundwater habitat.  Work also includes taxonomy, morphology, and physiology.  

Conservation of the Georgia Blind Salamander and the Dougherty Plain Cave Crayfish

A colony of the Georgia Blind Salamander (Eurycea walleci) and the Dougherty Plain Cave Crayfish (Cambarus cryptodytes) is now in place within the Department of Conservation and Research collection at the San Antonio Zoo.  Goals of this project include development of captive husbandry and breeding protocols before they are critically necessary.  The quality of the groundwter where these species exist is declining and wildlife authorities anticipate the decline of the salamander owing to anthropogenic influences.  Our collaborators are Illinois Natural History Museum and United States Geological Survey (USGS).  


Fenolio DB., Niemiller ML., Levy MG., Martinez B, 2013, Conservation Status of the Georgia Blind Salamander (Eurycea wallacei) from the Floridan Aquifer of Florida and Georgia, IRCF REPTILES & AMPHIBIANS

Fenolio DB., Niemiller ML., Martinez B, 2014, Observations of reproduction in captivity by the Dougherty Plain Cave Crayfish, Cambarus cryptodytes, (Decapoda: Astacoidea: Cambaridae), Speleobiology Notes

Conservation of the Micronesian Kingfisher

Your San Antonio Zoo's Department of Aviculture is directly involved in the captive reproduction and release of the Micronesian Kingfisher (Todiramphus cinnamominus). A component to this program is determination of genetic diversity in the remaining population of the Kingfisher in Guam.  In contribution to the captive program, the San Antonio Zoo hatched five chicks this past season and successfully reared three chicks to adult age.

Conservation of the Reticulated Flatwoods Salamander 

The San Antonio Zoo's Department of Conservation and Research (DCR) has partnered with Virginia Tech, Eglin Air Force Base, and USFWS to develop a captive assurance colony of one of North America’s most critically endangered salamanders, the Reticulated Flatwoods Salamander (Ambystoma bishopi). A small captive colony has been implemented at the DCR, endemic to the southeastern United States in a mere few isolated localities. Husbandry protocols are being documented to share with officials and project partners and efforts are in place to establish captive breeding strategies to potentially supplement declining wild populations.


Fenolio DB., Gorman TA., Jones KC., Mandica M., Phillips L., Melde L., Mitchell H., Haas C , 2014, Rearing the Federally Endangered Reticulated Flatwoods Salamander, Ambystoma bishopi, from Eggs through Metamorphosis, Herpetological Review

Coquí Conservation Initiative

A captive colony of the Mona Island Coqui frogs (Eleutherodactylus monensis) is currently housed at the Department of Conservation and Research at the San Antonio Zoo. The facility works closely with the University of Puerto Rico and Proyecto Coqui to continue development of captive husbandry and breeding protocols for the critical Eleutherodactylus of Puerto Rico.  Program coordinator, Jennifer Stabile, joined colleagues on Mona Island, Puerto Rico over the summer of 2015 to survey for population density, activity and call patterns, test for amphibian pathogens, and collect 10 pairs of Mona Island Coqui frogs for captive care and reproduction research.  

The Coqui Conservation Initiative has conducted over a decade of continued research between project coordinators concerning imperiled species of endemic Puerto Rican amphibians.  



Stabile JL., Joglar RL., 2016, Mona Island: The Jewel of the Caribbean: An exploration in biodiversity and conservation of the Mona Island Coqui. AnimaMundi

Stabile JL., Joglar RL., Santiago LA., 2014, Reproductive Biology of the Mona Coqui (Eleutherodactylus monensis) in Captivity. Herpetological Review


DEEPEND (Deep Pelagic Nekton Dynamics)

The San Antonio Zoo partnered with DEEPEND to investigate deep-pelagic communities on short-term (sub-generational) and long-term (evolutionary) timescales to appraise extant recovery and potential future recovery of these communities using a suite of integrated approaches. These approaches include: 1) a direct assessment of Gulf of Mexico deep-pelagic community structure, with simultaneous investigation of the physical and biological (including microbial) drivers of this structure, in order to document biodiversity and 'natural' variability; 2) a time-series, 'hindcast,' comparison of biophysical data from 2015-2017 (DEEPEND sampling) to 2010-2011 DWHOS data; 3) an examination of differences in genetic diversity among key species; and 4) an assessment of the extant and potential future consequences of the DWHOS on the shallow and deep-pelagic biota.


Edwards Aquifer Authority- Habitat Conservation Plan  (EAA-HCP)

Under the EAA, the San Antonio Zoo provides salvage/refugia for the eleven covered species as required by the Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan. This project is intended to provide for the collection, husbandry, captive propagation, and reintroduction of covered species individuals collected from their native habitat when it is determined by the EAA and USFWS that significant covered species declines in the wild are imminent or on-going.


FrogWatch USA

San Antonio Zoo and volunteer staff collect data on amphibain presence on zoo grounds by evening monitoring of frog calls.  All data collected is submitted to FrogWatch USA and iNaturalist.  As of 2015, the San Antonio Zoo FrogWatch chapter was listed as the second largest chapter in the state of Texas. 


Habitat Restoration - Bracken Bat Cave

San Antonio Zoo volunteers and staff assited Bat Conservation International in the restoration of habitat around Bracken Cave, the largest known bat colony in the world.


Japanese Giant Salamander Conservation

The San Antonio Zoo is collaborating with the Hanzaki Institute of Japan as well as a biologist from Bucknell University to conserve Japanese Giant Salamanders in the wild. Current field efforts include finding solutions to salamanders not being able to circumvent small dams in the streams where they are found. When dams are implemented, Giant Salamanders have a hard time getting by the impediments and this isolates the populations above and below the dam. Now consider the many dozens of dams that typically interrupt the natural flow of the Japanese streams and rivers where these amphibians live. Our collaborative efforts are looking at potential solutions. The San Antonio Zoo is supporting surveys and studies of the salamanders in the wild to further basic knowledge of breeding behavior and required space for populations living in-situ. In captivity, the San Antonio Zoo holds the largest group of Japanese Giant Salamanders living outside of Japan- 7 adult individuals.

Conservation of the Monarch Butterfly 

Monarch Butterfly Tagging Project- San Antonio Zoo Education staff and volunteers tag the wings of Monarch Butterflies as they pass through the San Antonio area on their migration

Monarch Larval Monitoring Survey- The San Antonio Zoo volunteers and education staff support the University of Minnesota by monitoring our milkweed patch outside the butterfly house. We report population, health, and milkweed species preference of monarch/queen/solidier/and non-milkweed feeding species butterflies in all life stages, populations and life stages of other invertebrates and their interactions with monarch butterflies, number and species of milkweed plants, and rain fall average. From May to November, we try to provide weekly to monthly data. We report all of our data via

Monarch Way Station and Monarch Watch- The San Antonio Zoo supports Monarch Watch’s Monarch Way Station program by up keeping native milkweed and beneficial nectar plants to serve as an oasis for migrating monarchs and other native pollinators. The San Antonio Zoo education and horticulture staff have up kept the garden surrounding the butterfly house as a way station since April 2012. 



Population Assessment, Disease Surveys and Genetic Determination for the Black Spotted Newt in Texas and in Tamaulipas

The San Antonio Zoo's Department of Conservation and Research is collaborating with project partners at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Gladys Porter Zoo, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to investigate the current population status of a local Texas amphibian.

This program incorporates a multi-faceted approach to conservation efforts of the Black Spotted Newt (Notophthalmus meridionalis). Efforts are in place to:
1. Determine population status for both the localities found in Texas and in Tamaulipas. This includes a potentially new locality recently discovered on the property of the Altamira Technological Institute (ITA) in Altamira, Tamaulipas, Mexico.
2. Determine presence/absence of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), Amphibian Chytrid Fungus, in all identified populations.
3. Collect genetic samples to determine population structure and compare mitochondrial DNA between the two subspecies N. m. meridionalis and N.m. kallerti.
4. Provide management agencies with conservation recommendations for the Black Spotted Newt based on our genetic results, disease surveys, and population assessments.


Population Ecology of the Grotto Salamander

The San Antonio Zoo is conducting long-term population ecology studies of the Grotto Salamander (Eurycea spelaea) in the Ozarks of Oklahoma. The species is listed as a species of concern in all states where it occurs. Our collaborators include Illinois Natural History Museum, The Nature Conservancy, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and the University of Tulsa.



Project Atelopus

The San Antonio Zoo works alongside Parque Nacional Santa Fe on amphibian surveys encompassing all endemic amphibian species of Panama, with primary focus on critical Atelopus species.


Wild Cats of Tamaulipas (WCT)

With support from the San Antonio Zoo, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, and Gladys Porter Zoo, the Wild Cats of Tamaulipas Binational Conservation Program (WCT) uses motion-sensitive cameras to determine the population status of five wild cat species in Tamaulipas: jaguars, pumas, ocelots, jaguarundis, and bobcats.  In 2015, the project expanded to include an environmental education and outreach component.
The goals of the WCT Environmental Education and Outreach Program are to:
a. Increase the awareness of local communities that they share their landscape with a diversity of wild cat species that need protection
b. Inspire local communities to take pride in their rich wildlife heritage and want to protect it
c. Mobilize local communities to spread the message that cat conservation can be beneficial to both the cat species and the ranches where they may be found.
d. With the assistance of the Livestock Associations, utilize educational brochures to raise awareness in the local ranchers. The brochure will focus on information about the wild cat species, why their conservation is important to the health of an ecosystem, and the government programs already in place such as SAGARPA's Insurance Fund for the Protection of the Cattle Ranchers of Mexico. If livestock is attacked by a wild cat species, this fund is in place to give the ranchers back the value of the animal. 

We are proud of the conservation successes at the San Antonio Zoo and around the world. We would like to thank our members and donors for making this possible.