Conservation at the Zoo

Species Survival Plan® Programs

Lemur ssp burrowning owl ssp North American Porcupine
The Lake Superior Zoo participates in the Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program coordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The SSP was created so that AZA-accredited zoos can cooperatively manage threatened and endangered species. Each SSP Program is responsible for managing the breeding of a species to ensure the population remains healthy, the gene pool stays diverse, and the population remains stable.

Our SSP Animals: African Crested Porcupine • Amur Tiger • Angolan Colobus Monkey • Bennett’s Wallaby • Burrowing Owl • Callimico Monkey • Chinese Goral • Cotton-top Tamarin • Linne’s Two-toed Sloth • Kinkajou • Laughing Kookaburra • North American Porcupine • Prehensile-tailed Porcupine • Prehensile-tailed Skink • Red Kangaroo • Ring-tailed Lemur • Six-banded Armadillo • Snow Leopard • Spectacled Owl • Spiny Turtle • Straw-colored Fruit Bat • Swift Fox • White-naped Crane


Field Conservation

The Lake Superior Zoo raises and donates money to field conservation projects that help save animals in the wild. When you visit the zoo, you have the opportunity to contribute to the following efforts:

Buy a Pumpkin, Save a Bat! Half of the proceeds from our annual pumpkin sale fundraiser during “Boo at the Zoo” go to Bat Conservation International (BCI). We also continually collect money for BCI in a donation box in our Nocturnal building.

Coins for Conservation: Visitors can contribute to global conservation efforts by using a Plinko board to donate to three conservation projects in the lower level of Zoo Central.

  • The Peregrine Fund: In 1982 there were only 22 California condors left in the world. Today there are nearly 500, with more than half of them flying free. The Peregrine Fund has been on the leading edge of recovering this iconic American species and continues to work diligently to ensure that future generations can look above and delight as the silhouette of a condor’s magnificent wingspan sweeps overhead.
  • Felid TAG: The Felid Taxon Advisory Group (TAG) advances the care and husbandry of exotic cat species while supporting conservation and research projects for wild cats around the world. They are currently working on several projects including those directly impacting tigers, snow leopards, and Pallas’ cats. 
  • The ‘Alalā Project: Extinct in the wild and historically found only on the big island of Hawaii, only 100 Hawaiian crows live in captivity. The ‘Alalā Project’s captive breeding program and forest restoration efforts will allow these birds to live wild once again.

Wildlife Wishing Well: Watch the high-speed spinning of your coins as they descend the vortex of the wishing well in our Primate Conservation Center. We collect change for several different wildlife projects over the year, including:

Buy a Post, Save a Tamarin! A donation box near our cotton-top tamarin exhibit collects money for Proyecto Titi, an organization that works with Colombian communities to collect and recycle plastics into fence posts, thereby saving wood/trees and providing income to the community for collecting plastic waste. These monkeys, found only in Colombia, are one of the most endangered primates in the world due to deforestation.

Used Book Sale: Our used book sale in June during M.A.D. Safari raises money for a different conservation organization every year:


SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction

Most zoo visitors don’t realize the extent of important scientific conservation work that is done by zoos and aquariums because it occurs largely behind the scenes and sometimes off-site. For example in 2016, AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums invested $216 million in field conservation projects. Those projects took place in 127 countries and benefited 823 species.

It’s been said that teamwork divides a task and multiplies the success. The AZA has taken this notion to heart and developed a program called SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction. Click here to learn more about SAFE.


Sustainability at the Zoo

Conservation of wildlife requires the conservation of natural resources. Therefore, whenever possible, our business operations incorporate sustainable practices that conserve these resources. Here are some examples:

  • Our Tiger Deck features a rooftop garden designed to cool the building in the summer and provide insulation in the winter.
  • The picnic tables on our Tiger Deck are made from polyethylene created from recycled milk jugs.
  • Our organic zoo vegetable garden is watered in part by rain barrels.
  • We use the food we grow in our garden to supplement the zoo animals’ diets.
  • Our carts and zoo train are run on electricity generated from solar panels.
  • The hot water system in our barn is run on solar energy.
  • Our Tiger’s Paw Gift Shop offers a fair trade section highlighting crafts and gifts from globally sustainable organizations.
  • Our Safari Café uses compostable/biodegradable dishes, napkins and utensils and composts and recycles waste.
  • We support local businesses to cut down on emissions caused by shipping of products.
  • Our office supplies contain at least 30% post-consumer recycled content, when possible.
  • Packing materials, office supplies, and plastic bags are reused or brought to a recycling facility.
  • Old cardboard boxes and newspaper are re-purposed as enrichment for our animals.
  • Zoo staff participate in monthly “green challenges” to raise awareness of how our daily choices affect the environment.

Conservation Education

Zoo animals serve as ambassadors for their wild relatives, inspiring visitors to learn about how they can help protect wildlife around the world. Zoo staff are committed to teaching about conservation issues and the important role zoos play in conservation. Through our many programs and talks, we hope visitors leave with a better understanding about how they can help solve the many environmental problems at the root of the current extinction crisis.