Saving Wildlife

Conservation In Action

Through Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center, patrons see tangible conservation efforts. The research supported by Topeka Zoo enables zoos all over the world to collaborate and help further the mission of conservation.

Topeka Zoo enriches the community through wildlife conservation and education. The zoo’s Conservation Committee helps to guide the organization towards practicing, promoting, and supporting conservation at home and around the globe. Our conservation work takes many forms including hands-on conservation work in the field by zoo staff, funding efforts of organizations, making our own facilities greener, and using our animal collection to improve conditions for endangered animals through research in cooperation with other zoos.

Projects We Support


Giraffe Conservation Foundation
Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund
Wildlife Conservation Society (96 Elephants)
African Wildlife Foundation
International Elephant Foundation
Build a Boma Project
Painted Dog Protection Initiative
Ruaha Carnivore Project
Cameroon Elephant Anti-poaching Project


Tiger Conservation Campaign
Orangutan Outreach
Asian Elephant Support
Turtle Survival Alliance

Central America

Monkey Bridge Project

North America

Grassland Heritage Foundation
Black Footed Ferret Reintroduction Project
SAFE Program – Vaquita
Monarch Restoration Conservation

South America

Zoo Conservation Outreach Group

AZA Managed Programs

The mission of an AZA Species Survival Plan® (SSP) Program is to cooperatively manage specific species within AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums, certified related facilities, and sustainability partners. In order to be an SSP, a population must meet requirements related to genetic diversity, population number, and the number of institutions that have that species at their facility.

Each SSP maintains a studbook that is maintained by a studbook keeper. This document provides information about the lineage, reproductive history, and transfers of each individual animal in a species population.

Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center participates in several SSPs including:

African Crested Porcupine
African Lion
African Elephant
Mexican Red-kneed Tarantula
Asian Elephant
Mountain Lion
Bali Myna
Nicobar Pigeon
North American River Otter
Black Crake
Red-and-yellow Barbet

Black-footed Ferret
Red-capped Cardinal
Blue-crowned Motmot
Reticulated Giraffe
River Hippopotamus
Bornean Orangutan
Scarlet Ibis
African Painted Dog
Patas Monkey

Silver-beaked Tanager
Golden Lion Tamarin
Southern Three-banded Armadillo
Greater Malayan Chevrotain
Sumatran Tiger
Grey Crowned Crane
Hoffmann’s Two-toed Sloth
Trumpeter Swan
Lesser Madagascar Hedgehog Tenrec
Violaceous Turaco


Monarch Butterfly Citizen Science at Zoo

Monarch Conservation

The loss of habitat available to monarchs has been measured at approximately 6,000 acres per day across the U.S. or 2.2 million acres each year.


Topeka Zoo is leading the charge to provide more habitat for monarch butterflies in the form of butterfly gardens on and off grounds. Topeka Zoo currently has 14 butterfly beds, covering 6,383 square feet of space, offering monarchs milkweed as their larval plants and flowering plants for nectar to feed adults.  The zoo is also currently pursuing off-grounds sites to establish even larger monarch-friendly beds in the community.

We are also coordinating the efforts of accredited zoos across Kansas. Education is key to raising the level of awareness about the challenges monarchs face, and to inspiring citizens across Kansas and throughout monarch migration routes to plant more monarch-friendly larval and nectar plants (milkweed and flowering plants) to provide more habitat for monarchs.


For the eighth year in a row, the Kansas Museum of History and Topeka Zoo have teamed up for the monarch butterfly migration! These beautiful insects migrate through Kansas during the last two weeks of September and we will be waiting for them! We want you to join us for FREE monarch tagging classes that are open to the public.

These classes are held at the Kansas Museum of History and are fun for the whole family! Each class will be from 5:30pm-7:30pm. The first portion is an indoor, interactive education program where audiences learn about monarch butterflies, their importance, and how to catch them. The second part is outdoors in the museum’s prairie, where participants will get nets to catch, tag, and release butterflies! The zoo will provide at least one butterfly net for each family to borrow; you’re welcome to bring a net too if you have one.

The dates for the 2024 migration season will be posted in August 2024. Check back later!

Pre-registration required for all people attending the event. To pre-register, please visit the following link:

Contact 785-368-9137 or email with questions. Closed-toed shoes, bug spray, water, and long pants are recommended for this event.

Data collected from these classes will be sent to the citizen science organization Monarch Watch, which will use the information to help preserve and protect this beautiful species.

Ornate Box Turtle Project


Together with State Legislators and Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, the Topeka Zoo & Conservation Center achieved a milestone conservation effort that will significantly reduce the “take limits” of all reptiles and amphibians in Kansas and provide enforcement to support the change.  

In 2019, the Topeka Zoo created a plan to conduct the first ever (in Kansas) survey of ornate box turtle population numbers to create some solid base line scientific information on where ornate box turtle numbers stood in our state. This was in response to the Zoo’s belief that ornate box turtle numbers in Kansas were in serious decline, based in large part, to the poaching of those turtles from the wild for the illegal, international pet trade. 

In 2022, the Topeka Zoo worked with the Kansas House of Representatives to establish a level of protection for ornate box turtles statewide, and House Bill (HB) 2479 was introduced. During the meeting of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee regarding HB 2479, the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) offered to change the state regulation on collecting of ornate box turtles to significantly reduce the number of box turtles that can legally be collected from the wild by anyone

KDWP proposed that the regulation change include a reduction in the “take” limits on all reptiles and amphibians in Kansas, as well as ornate box turtles. 

After a five-year journey, the Kansas Wildlife and Parks Commission formally and unanimously voted on September 7, 2023, to adopt the changes to 115-20-2 that will significantly reduce the “take limits” of all reptiles and amphibians in Kansas and provide enforcement to support the change.  

“Reducing how many reptiles and amphibians a registered hunter in Kansas could take from the wild down to only five total of all species combined, with a limit of no more than two of any reptile species is a huge new level of protection for all Kansas reptiles and amphibians,” said Dennis Dinwiddie, Topeka Zoo’s director of conservation and education. 

Prior to September 7th, the “take limit” was defined as any person who had a Kansas hunting permit for any Kansas wild game species (deer, turkey, pheasant, quail, etc.) could legally take from the wild and possess up to five of any reptile or amphibian species in Kansas, and all at the same time if they so choose. 

The change to the regulation will now make it illegal to remove from the wild, or possess, more than five Kansas reptiles or amphibian species, with no more than two of any single reptile species and no more than five of any amphibian species.  

This will apply to a limit per domicile, not just a limit per person. 

The new regulation changes take effect no more than 60 days (about two months) from September 7th, 2023, with a chance it could take effect no more than 30 days (about four and a half weeks) from September 7th, 2023.  

The Topeka Zoo extends its heartfelt appreciation to all those involved in spearheading this regulatory change, highlighting a steadfast commitment to animal conservation, and ensuring that future generations can experience the incredible diversity of reptiles and amphibians inhabiting Kansas.  


The Topeka Zoo & Conservation Center’s mission is to enrich the community through wildlife conservation and education with a commitment to ensure that everyone feels welcome and valued by striving to create an environment that is as diverse as the wild spaces they are trying to protect. Learn more about the Topeka Zoo & Conservation Center at  



The seven zoos in Kansas accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums are working together to evaluate the ornate box turtle population across the state in eight counties.  The ornate box turtle is the state reptile of Kansas.

Turtles are the most threatened group of vertebrates worldwide.  Nearly 42% of turtle and tortoise species are threatened with extinction (Turtle Conservation Coalition, 2018). There are anecdotal reports of a significant decline in ornate box turtle numbers across the state of Kansas.

To guide conservation management decisions, new baseline population data is needed as the last study reporting population numbers concluded in 1956 and was not considered a viable study as it was only conducted in one county.

The project will be closely supervised by trained staff from the seven accredited zoos and will include a citizen science component designed to engage members of the public in hands-on, meaningful conservation science while increasing awareness and understanding of ornate box turtles. “Engaging citizens in species stewardship and conservation is a proven method of affecting behavior change and positively impacting wildlife,” said Topeka Zoo’s Director of Conservation and Education Dennis Dinwiddie.

Each zoo participating in the project will set up two census plots – one with known ornate box turtle observations (current or historical) and one where the presence of ornate box turtles is unknown. By surveying areas with historical records of ornate box turtles, it will confirm if those populations persist and assess their viability. Choosing a second census plot where the presence of ornate box turtles is unknown will safeguard against biased survey results that would occur if only sites known to contain turtles were surveyed.  Censuses will be conducted at scheduled times between early March to early November over the next three years.

This three year project will serve as the first viable ornate box turtle population study ever conducted in Kansas.  Data collected will be shared with the Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks and Tourism and will be used to help guide future conservation management decisions regarding ornate box turtles at both the state and national level.

For additional information about the Ornate Box Turtle Project, contact Dennis Dinwiddie at or 785-383-6784.