"In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught." (Baba Dioum, 1968.)


What Is Conservation?

Conservation is the protection, restoration, and preservation of nature for all to enjoy.


Why Practice Conservation?

From programs we implement here at the zoo to our efforts around the world, the Saginaw Children’s Zoo aims to be a leader in the conservation of animals and their habitats.

For the zoo, conservation is the single driving factor behind all decisions and actions.  We are constantly working to improve our impact on the Earth; to take care of the planet so it can continue to take care of us.  We invite you to take a conservation journey with us!   


The Zoo's Conservation Efforts

Breeding Programs

Lockey conservation1 Lockey conservation2
  • Lockey, the Children's Zoo's Bell’s Hingeback tortoise, has been busy saving his species!

    • He is currently on loan at Herpetological Resource Management participating in a breeding program, and has made fast friends with several female Hingeback tortoises. We hope to hear the gentle stomp-stomp of baby tortoise feet soon!

    • There is not wild population data on Bell’s Hingeback tortoises, so we do not know if this tortoise is at risk of extinction.

    • By establishing a healthy population in the US, we can learn more about this small tortoise and apply this knowledge to wild populations to study them better, and get accurate population information

    • This information will help shape future field work to meet the needs of this tortoise


survival plan


  • The Saginaw Children's Zoo participates in SEVEN Species Survival Plans (SSP), an AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) cooperative breeding and conservation program. Working with other AZA organizations we ensure healthy populations exist for:
      • African Penguins (Endangered)
      • Black-footed Cats (Vulnerable)
      • Cotton-top Tamarins (Critically Endangered)
      • Eastern Grey Kangaroos (Least Concern)
      • Mexican Grey Wolves (Critically Endangered)
      • North American River Otters (Least Concern)
      • White-throated Capuchins (Under Evaluation)


conservation status


African penguin (Spheniscus demersus) 


penguins group2

  • Our penguin colony features breeding pair Dewey and Bamm-Bamm. The couple is doing very well, and we hope for some new arrivals over the winter.

  • African penguin populations in the wild have decreased nearly 98% in the last century! Wild African penguins face threats including plastic pollution, over fishing, human encroachment, and oil spills.

  • Successful penguin hatches in the wild are down, partly from loss of nesting material.

  • African penguins nest in guano (penguin feces) and create tunnel-like nests from the material. Guano is rich in nutrients used in agriculture, and was harvested for decades to help increase food grown in the area.

  • This depleted most guano at traditional nesting sites, and significantly reduced the number of penguin chicks hatched.

  • In 2016-2017 the Saginaw Children’s Zoo and other AZA-accredited facilities combined to fundraise and install artificial nests to replace the lost guano.

  • Scientists are studying the nests in the field now to know how successful they are.

  • By working together, and with concerned citizens like yourself, we hope to save penguins from extinction.

Cotton-top tamarin (Saguinus oedipus)


  • The Saginaw Children’s Zoo has one pair of breeding tamarins, Clementine and Gizmo

  • The zoo welcomed baby tamarin, Pax, in February 2016. She is almost fully grown now, but still keeps parents Clementine and Gizmo busy with her playful antics!

  • Pax, Clementine, and Gizmo serve as ambassadors for wild tamarins, and help us increase awareness about issues they face

  • We work with field organization Proyecto Titi to continue the great work they’ve done in the tamarins’ native habitat of Colombia

  • Project work includes educating natives on how unique the tamarin is to increase pride in local biodiversity, training locals in how they can help protect tamarins, research on wild tamarin behavior and health, and addressing local pollution while also reducing poverty

  • When you donate to conservation at the zoo, those donations help continue the great successes Proyecto Titi has accomplished!

  • Watch an example of the field research they conduct:

Mexican grey wolf (Canis lupus baileyi )


  • Sisters Izzy and Rachel call the Saginaw Children’s Zoo home.

  • Mexican grey wolves are the smallest subspecies of grey wolf, and are native to Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico.

  • Izzy and Rachel are part of a very important reintroduction program.  The Saginaw Children’s Zoo works in collaboration with the Mexican grey wolf SSP, AZA and their accredited facilities, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Arizona Game and Fish, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, and SEMARNAT (Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales) to reintroduce Mexican grey wolves to their original wild range.

  • Izzy and Rachel have a younger brother and sister who were fostered into a wild den in New Mexico, and this pack welcomed pups in spring 2017! Izzy and Rachel’s siblings will learn pup-rearing behaviors from this pack that they will apply later in life.  We post pack updates on our Facebook page as we receive them – check back often!

  • Grey wolves, including the Mexican sub-species, have experienced dramatic population decline from their original global range. Originally the most widely-ranged mammal, the wolf has been globally persecuted due to misplaced fear by people.

  • Mexican grey wolves were almost exterminated from the southwest landscape, until protection efforts kicked in. The last remaining wild Mexican grey wolves, just 5 individuals, were collected to create the breeding program and save their species.  2 additional animals were already living in human care, and were added to the program.

  • Thanks to these efforts, just in the nick of time, there are now over 100 Mexican grey wolves in the wild.

  • Progress has been made, but there is still work to be done before the Mexican grey wolf can be listed as “Recovered”

North American river otters (Lontra canadensis)


  • Bootie and TNT, our north American river otters, can often be seen playing together on exhibit. These social behaviors are important for a good relationship, and we look forward to welcoming pups when they’re ready.

  • North American river otters are a charismatic species of wildlife found throughout much of the United States, including Michigan.

  • Having wild otters present near your home or work is a great indicator of a healthy landscape!

  • Otters rely on a special oil they produce and apply to their fur to protect their skin from becoming wet. Pollutants in the water can irritate this water-proofing mechanism, and otters will choose not to live in areas with pollution.

  • The zoo performs riverside and landscape clean-ups throughout the year to help protect our local ecosystem from pollution. “Like” us on facebook to stay up-to-date on clean-up dates and ways you can participate!


Local Conservation

  • The Children's Zoo is proud to participate in community conservation efforts including:

    • Adopt-A-Highway, preventing roadside waste from polluting the land and local watershed

    • Saginaw River clean-up through the Riverfront Beautification Day

    • Blanding’s Turtle Reintroduction, in partnership with the Detroit Zoo and the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, which successfully concluded in 2016

    • Sandhill Crane Migration Survey tracking population and migration data

    • Michigan Frog and Toad Survey tracking population and breeding data

    • Citizen Bat League, a citizen science program monitoring local bat populations

    • Creation of Zoo Trails system in partnership with the Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy

    • Support for the Kirtland’s Warbler Alliance, sustaining a healthy population of the Kirtland’s Warbler in northern Michigan

Global Conservation

  • The Rainforest Parking Meter, located between the Capuchin Monkey and Military Macaw exhibits collects change to protect rainforest acres in the Guanacastle Conservation Area, Costa Rica

  • The Saginaw Children’s Zoo is proud to support SANCCOB (Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds), which rescues, rehabilitates, and releases the endangered African penguin, along with other species of threatened and endangered sea birds

  • Proyecto Titi, a field conservation program in Colombia, focuses efforts to increase populations of the critically endangered cotton-top tamarin.  Through a multi-project approach, including outreach, sustainability education, and research, Proyecto Titi has contributed significant advances to field conservation for the cotton-top tamarin.  The Saginaw Children’s Zoo is proud to help further their work to save the tamarin!

  • Seafood Watch, a program of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, makes wise seafood choices a no-brainer!  Use their free app (available in the app store and google play store) to determine which seafood is good for you AND the environment, or pick up a free pocket guide on your next zoo visit.  Seafood Watch researches best fishing practices and seafood population data to make sound recommendations to suppliers and consumers alike.  If you like seafood, be sure to use Seafood Watch!


Did You Know?

  • Glass takes more than one million years to decompose (break down)

    • Be sure to always recycle glass so it stays out of the environment

  • By recycling a single aluminum can, enough energy is saved to run a television for up to three hours.

    • Return those cans!  You will get your deposit back AND help the planet!

  • Turning the water off while you brush your teeth can save 2 gallons of water a day!

    • Be a hero and help save water!

  • Every year, enough paper is thrown away to make a 12-foot wall from New York to California.

    • Most curb-side recycling services accept paper, paperboard, and cardboard.  Check with your local service provider and help spread the word!



The Saginaw Children’s Zoo strives to create future natural stewards and inspire action for conservation of the planet and its resources.