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Conservation Impact

African Wildlife

Africa is home to iconic species such as lions, giraffes, rhinos, and gorillas. They are also home to Zoo partners and local communities working to protect wildlife. We are dedicated to supporting those programs which build local capacity, support local people and protect animals and their habitat across these regions. Wildlife conservation across Africa is as much about supporting people as it is about protecting wildlife. Our program partners strive to create sustainable solutions which improve livelihoods, whether it be food, water and health security, educational opportunities, or skills training which in turn builds a foundation for supporting wildlife populations.

Guests can visit numerous African mammals, birds and reptiles here at the Zoo, and be a part of the Zoo’s wildlife-saving work. Just by visiting the Zoo, you’re helping us save animals in the wild.

Meet Our Partners

The Zoo has provided training, mentorship, and support for gorilla conservation partner Conservation Heritage-Turambe (CHT) for many years. CHT runs after-school programs for local primary school students and community outreach efforts that promote both healthy living habits and gorilla conservation through education and empowerment in communities bordering Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. CHT focuses on the importance of good hygiene in their programming due to humans and gorillas in these communities living near one another. Gorillas and humans are genetically very similar, and as result human illnesses have the potential to spread to wild gorilla populations. In addition to teaching good habits, CHT also works to improve the livelihood of people in these communities, making adopting good hygiene practices easier.

The Zoo provides education and evaluation expertise and support for the wildlife-focused programs CHT runs. The Zoo’s education staff help CHT create and evaluate new and effective, semi-virtual programs for Rwandan youth. The Zoo has assisted CHT with creating connections with Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association, Gorilla Doctors, and the Diane Fossey Gorilla Fund to increase their conservation impact.

The Zoo is providing strategic guidance on the board of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. The program is designed to focus on daily protection of gorillas, scientific research, training conservationists, and assisting local communities to offer the greatest impact to supporting gorilla conservation in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Fossey Fund tracker teams role is both protection and data collection, which are key factors in protecting mountain gorillas. The daily presence in the forests has been proven to reduce threats as well as collect the information needed to provide effective conservation strategies. The Dian Fossey Fund relies on the Gorilla Doctor’s veterinary skillset and works with the Zoo’s conservation partner, Conservation Heritage-Turambe, on education programs in Rwanda.


The Zoo has a wonderful pride of lions and is committed to protecting lions in the wild by providing mentorship and support to Kenyan lion conservation partners, Ewaso Lions. They are dedicated to conserving lions and other large carnivores by promoting coexistence between people and wildlife. They are a 100% African conservation organization which engages and builds the capacity of key demographic groups (elders, warriors, women, and children) by developing approaches to reduce human-carnivore conflict. They conduct applied research and carry out educational initiatives to reinforce traditionally held beliefs and the evolving culture of wildlife conservation across the landscape. 


The Zoo is committed to protecting wild lemurs in Madagascar by providing mentorship and support for our Madagascar run conservation partners at the Groupe d’étude et de recherche sur les primates de Madagascar (GERP). The director of GERP, Dr. Jonah Ratsimbazafy was born and raised in Madagascar and has been the Houston Zoo’s Madagascar conservation partner for over 10 years. GERP is an association based in Madagascar with nearly 200 members, including scientists and primatologists. Its purpose is centered on the conservation of Madagascar’s lemurs, and since its inception, it has focused heavily on working with local communities in Madagascar to affect change.

The GERP team conduct extensive research, conservation, education, and economic activities for local communities around protected areas, which home highly endangered, endemic species of plants and animals. GERP has worked very hard to support the health care, dietary needs, and education of the extremely poor communities living around these two critical sites to ensure their involvement in protecting the endangered species in the area.

The Zoo has provided training, support and strategic guidance for our gorilla conservation partners, Gorilla Doctors, for over 10 years. Gorilla Doctors is a team of talented Africa veterinarians, and the only organization in the world dedicated to conserving mountain and eastern lowland (Grauer’s) gorillas through veterinary medicine and science. They provide life-saving veterinary care for ill or injured wild gorillas living in the national parks of Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Many of the African Gorilla Doctor vets have traveled to the Houston Zoo to receive training from our veterinary staff at the Zoo.

The Zoo provides virtual veterinary guidance and support for the Gorilla Doctor’s medical interventions on wild gorillas in Rwanda, and over the past three years, has assisted them with establishing an office space for their veterinarians in Rwanda. The Zoo also participates on the Gorilla Doctor’s board, offering strategic guidance and leadership. The Gorilla Doctors work with our conservation partners at Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association, Dian Fossey Fund, and Conservation Heritage-Turambe to strengthen their long-term conservation impact in Rwanda.


The Zoo has partnered with the Niassa Carnivore Project in northern Mozambique since 2009. The team of local Mozambicans are working to protect wildlife in a Niassa National Reserve which is an important stronghold for lions, African painted dogs, and other carnivores. Their work is as much about people as it is about lions and their goals are to identify and implement sustainable solutions to conservation threats with full community participation.


The Zoo is committed to protecting wild giraffe in Africa by providing mentorship, training and support for our Kenyan run conservation partners at the Somali Giraffe Project. This project is a trans-boundary community-based conservation project that focuses on the conservation and recovery of the endangered reticulated giraffe through research, education, and community involvement. The effort works closely with indigenous communities in eastern Kenya and Somalia regions, close to the Kenyan border, to monitor Reticulated giraffe population, reduce human-giraffe conflict, and promote conservation practices that ensure a sustainable future for wildlife.

The Somali Giraffe Project is set to lead the conservation of this critical population of giraffes by addressing some of its major threats such as unprecedented poaching, diseases, and regional infrastructural development.


The Zoo’s rhino conservation partners in Namibia at Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC) have been working to save rhinos since the mid-1990s, when community conservation became an official component of government policy. By teaming up with local community leaders, IRDNC has been able to take action to stop widespread poaching of wildlife, including the black rhino. This conservation project employs local people to guard wild rhinos and creates incentive programs that provide support for local villages that protect rhino populations. The Houston Zoo provides support for day-to-day rhino ranger operations, including salaries and equipment maintenance, which makes it possible for the rangers to effectively monitor rhino populations. 


The Zoo has provided strategic guidance, veterinary expertise, and support for conservation partners, Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association (RWCA) for many years. RWCA is a Rwandan-run organization that provides a holistic, multi-disciplinary approach to critical conservation issues to create sustainable solutions for Rwandan wildlife and people. They protect wildlife and natural habitats, engage and educate local communities, improve livelihoods, raise awareness of conservation issues, build the capacity of young Rwandese veterinarians and conservationists, and disseminate high quality research.

Over the past five years, the Zoo has assisted RWCA with increasing the wild grey crowned crane population and eliminating the demand for this crane species as pets in Rwanda. RWCA plans and works closely with Gorilla Doctors and Conservation Heritage-Turambe in Rwanda to strengthen their conservation efforts. Currently the Zoo is assisting RWCA and Gorilla Doctors with plans to increase their team’s capacity to provide veterinary care for all of the species in the country.


Inside Videos

KPRC Special: Gorillas Rwanda 2015

KPRC Special: Madagascar 2017

Lemur-Saving Partner

Saving Lions in the Wild

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