Conservation Efforts

Conservation Efforts

Learn how the Alaska Zoo practices conservation through education and action.


Written by Timothy Lescher, Zookeeper/Image by Carl Franklin

Many of you are aware that the Alaska Zoo is involved with research and conservation of arctic and subarctic wildlife, but did you know that the zoo supports research in the tropics as well? This summer, the Alaska Zoo has granted me leave for 10 weeks in order to travel to Indonesia to conduct a study of a critically endangered species of turtle, the Southeast Asian Narrow-headed Softshell Turtle (Chitra chitra javanensis). I will be collaborating with Indonesian biologists from Bogor Agricultural University, and we aim to capture, mark, and release this elusive turtle on the island of Sumatra. Using large, custom-built, baited traps, we will attempt to locate the last remaining Narrow-headed Softshell Turtles so that we may gather information on their abundance, habitat requirements, and natural history. This will not be an easy task because these unique giants can tip the scales at over 560 pounds! Fortunately, we have some big traps. The Southeast Asian Narrow-headed Softshell Turtle population has been reduced throughout its range due to overharvesting by humans and habitat reduction. We will target streams within the National Parks of Sumatra where populations of this species reportedly still exist. If you see me caring for the animals at the Alaska Zoo, feel free to ask me more about this project. To hear how my trip went, come check out my presentation on Tuesday, August 26th as part of the Tuesday Night at the Zoo lecture series.

PRESS RELEASE (3/18/13):  Polar Bear Cub Delivered to Alaska Zoo

On March 12, 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service received word that a female polar bear had been taken near Point Lay, Alaska. The adult female was accompanied by a cub, which was recovered and transferred first to the community of Point Lay, and then to the North Slope Borough’s Department of Wildlife Management (DWM). Subsequent to a health evaluation by the DWM it was determined that the cub is a young male weighing approximately 18.4 lbs. and 3-4 months of age. The Alaska Zoo was requested to arrange the transportation from Barrow and to provide for preliminary care and management of the cub. The cub arrived on March 18, 2013 and is currently being held for observation at the Alaska Zoo, and appears to be responding well.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recognizes and appreciates the many partners, including the people of Point Lay (who would like the cub to be named “Kali,” pronounced cully, which is the Inupiat name for Point Lay), the North Slope Borough, Alaska Airlines, the North Slope Borough Police Department, and the Alaska Zoo for their efforts in recovering, transporting, and caring for this young animal.

Opportunities for public viewing will be determined at a later date by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Kali will not be a permanent resident at the Alaska Zoo, since the Zoo already has two adult polar bears.  The final destination of the cub will be determined by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after consideration of all options.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit Connect with our Facebook page at, follow our tweets at, watch our YouTube Channel at and download photos from our Flickr page at

5/14/2013:  Kali left the Alaska Zoo accompanied by zoo staff to fly to his new home at the Buffalo Zoo.

5/15/2013:  We received word that Kali had arrived safe and sound with zoo staff at the Buffalo Zoo, where he will begin his new life with a young female cub companion.  Good luck, Kali!

Polar Bears International (PBI) Arctic Ambassador Center

The Alaska Zoo is proud to be a PBI Arctic Ambassador Center, a charter institution dating back to 2004. We are dedicated to making a difference in all aspects of polar bears lives, from a captive setting to inspiring action and change for wild polar bears as they face sea ice thawing due to climate change.

As a PBI Arctic Ambassador Center, the Alaska Zoo:
  • Strives for bear friendly exhibits with enrichment activities to stimulate the bears to be active and content
  • Provides leadership for carbon emission reduction in their communities
  • Supports PBI research projects to help conserve wild polar bears
  • Plays a key role in the PBI Sustainability Alliance, a front-line team helping to save polar bears in a rapidly warming Arctic

A partner with PBI since 2005, the Alaska Zoo has sent mentorship students, keepers and educators to PBI Leadership Camp in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada each year. Click here to learn about our current polar bear action projects!

Schedule your class for a Polar Bears and Climate Change Zoo School! To schedule a Zoo School, contact the Zoo’s Outreach Coordinator, Marla Wales, at 341-6458 or

To learn more about Polar Bears International Arctic Ambassador Centers, click here!

Wild Camel Protection Foundation and the Zoo:  Educating Visitors about Wild Bactrian Camels

Written by Interpretive Sign Developer, Katie Larson

The Zoo has been in the process of developing and displaying new interpretive signs for animal exhibits, thanks to grants from the Murdock Foundation and State of Alaska.  Work began in December of 2012 on the new Bactrian Camel sign, highlighting both domestic camels and the plight of wild camels in China and Mongolia.  In doing research for this sign, John Hare from the Wild Camel Protection Foundation became instrumental in providing images of wild camels he took while on Gobi expeditions and also information on the current status of wild camels.

In an effort to save Critically Endangered wild camels, the Wild Camel Protection Foundation (WCPF) conducts research and expeditions into the Chinese and Mongolian Gobi Deserts. Chinese Gobi expeditions from 1995 to 1999 led to the establishment of the Lop Nur Wild Camel National Nature Reserve in China in 2000 to protect camels and habitat. This was critical, as wild camels in the Chinese Gobi are the only herds still genetically unique from domestics. The WCPF also started a captive breeding program in Mongolia for wild camels. A female has only one birth every two years, so the species faces extinction without this breeding program.

To learn more about the Wild Camel Protection Foundation, visit

Trumpeter Swans Hatched at the Zoo Released in Oregon

Written by Curator Shannon Jensen

In the summer of 2012, our pair of trumpeter swans we received in 2007 from Iowa Department of Natural Resources hatched their second clutch of eggs. Six cygnets hatched out on June 14 and by July 11, we were down to three due to likely predation from wild raptors and fox. By August 25, the cygnets had gained on average of 13 pounds each and were shipped off to the Trumpeter Swan Society in Oregon. The three cygnets (two females and one male) were marked with leg bands and green neck collars and were then released at dusk on Rest Lake where they joined a flock of five other cygnets from Wyoming Wetland Society which were released the previous week, and 19 yearlings and subadults from previous releases. Rest Lake is a large (200 acre) wetland sanctuary in the middle of Summer Lake Wildlife Area. Shipping and pre-shipment medical tests were roughly $700 for the 3 birds. If funds can be raised and the swans are willing, we will be doing this again next year.

Contact Shannon Jensen at for more information.