OKC Zoo Pledges 5-Year Partnership to Benefit the Conservation of Oklahoma’s Lands and Waters

January 17, 2017

The Nature Conservancy and Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden recently formed a legacy conservation partnership to support scientific research conducted at the Conservancy’s preserves in Oklahoma. The OKC Zoo Science and Research Fund was established with the Conservancy for the Zoo to contribute to annually over the next five years. Funds for the partnership are primarily generated from the Oklahoma Zoological Society and the sale of ZOOfriends’ memberships.

“Oklahoma is a beautiful, unique state that is home to an amazing array of life. Its land and waters must be protected for all Oklahomans to thrive,” said Dwight Lawson, Oklahoma City Zoo executive director/CEO. “The Nature Conservancy’s preserves not only provide magnificent landscapes for us to enjoy, they also contribute to flood control, stabilizing our climate, and safeguarding water resources for our thirsty state.”
Currently, the fund is providing money for a biology professor from the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) to conduct a baseline species richness inventory of mammals at the Conservancy’s Oka’ Yanahli Preserve near Ada. Established in 2011, the preserve protects nearly 3,600 acres of native prairie along the Blue River. The Blue River basin supports an array of animal and plant species, and is also an essential water resource for agricultural activity in the area and for the city of Durant. To restore and maintain this section of native prairie, species inventories, like this survey of mammals, are needed.

The fund is also currently providing money for another UCO biology professor to assess the frequency, intensity, and seasonality of historic fires at the Conservancy’s Boehler Seeps and Sandhills Preserve and the new Hottonia Bottoms Preserve, both in southern Oklahoma. Fire plays a critical role in the health of Oklahoma’s ecosystems. For prairies, fires slow down the invasion of trees, which shade out native prairie plants. Fire is also important for speeding up decomposition and returning nutrients to the soil. The Conservancy uses carefully planned and controlled “prescribed” burning to restore and maintain native vegetation on some of its preserves. Scientific knowledge of an area’s fire history is important for guiding and planning prescribed burning.

“We’re thrilled to partner with the Oklahoma City Zoo and deeply appreciate their support of The Nature Conservancy’s work in Oklahoma,” said Mike Fuhr, State Director for The Nature Conservancy of Oklahoma. “Conserving nature is central to both our missions. Working together we can raise awareness of how important it is to conserve Oklahoma’s native habitats and help ensure their protection for generations to come.”

The Nature Conservancy and the Zoo are also teaming up on field days where Zoo staff members volunteer their time to help the Conservancy with important projects that require multiple hands such as species surveys and cleanups.

“This is a magnificent opportunity for collaboration and furthered learning between two conservation-based organizations,” said Fuhr. “We look forward to seeing the opportunities and accomplishments that develop over the next five years as a result of this partnership.”

OKC Zoo Volunteers

Volunteers at April 2 Blue River clean up

About the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Gardens 

The Oklahoma City Zoo is a fully accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the American Alliance of Museums as both a living museum and a botanical garden with world-class habitats; a diverse animal collection of 1,400 species; a new, state-of-the-art animal hospital; and a membership base of more than 28,000 households. The Zoo participates in numerous cooperative Species Survival Plan projects and is dedicated to the conservation of rare and endangered wildlife. For more information, visit www.okczoo.org.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.

Contact information

Katie Hawk
The Nature Conservancy

Candice Rennels