Know Before You Go:
• To ensure the safety of staff and guests, we've made modifications to the Zoo experience in accordance with public guidance and health recommendations. Please review our Re-Opening FAQs (FPZ and SZ) before your visit.
• Members:​ Online reservations are required for your visit.


Western Lowland Gorilla

AZA SAFE: Saving Animals from Extinction

Zoo New England is proud to support the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' global collaborative conservation effort, SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction. SAFE joins together the 180 million annual zoo and aquarium visitors with the resources and collective expertise of AZA members and partners to save the most vulnerable wildlife species from extinction.

Through these programs, we move beyond conservation within our Zoo; SAFE programs are tied to measurable conservation initiatives for species in the wild. “As facilities that exhibit animals," says AZA president and CEO, Dan Ashe, "we have an obligation to take care of those animals in our facilities and provide exceptional care for them. But we also have an obligation to care for them in nature.”

Without critical intervention, we are facing the very real possibility of losing some of our planet’s most iconic creatures—such as cheetahs, elephants, gorillas, sea turtles and sharks. Through SAFE, we lend our expertise and funding to support threatened animals – before they are gone forever.

SAFE Species here at Zoo New England



African Lion

AZA organizations are partnering with organizations in Africa to mitigate conflict between farmers and lions, increase monitoring of the lion population’s numbers and distribution, and address habitat loss. The SAFE African lion team will work towards their goals and with the Lion Recovery Fund and Disney's Protect the Pride campaign, to double the number of lions in the wild by 2050.

In 2018, AZA members spent more than $2,121,000 to help save African lions from extinction.

American Turtles

Through the new AZA SAFE American Turtles program, Zoo New England is joining forces with other animal care specialists, state wildlife agencies, academics, non-government organizations and law enforcement to support turtle conservation efforts and combat turtle trafficking. Dr. Bryan Windmiller, ZNE's Director of Conservation, serves on the steering committee for this SAFE initiative.

In combination with habitat loss and degradation, illegal trade in turtles has led to the imperilment of more than 60 percent of the world’s 356 turtle species — the highest percentage of any class of vertebrate.

At launch, the program will focus on protecting wood, bog, Blanding’s and spotted turtles. These native species are either federally threatened or under review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for future listing. The program’s fifth focus is on terrapenes (also known as box turtles). This group of species wasn’t chosen because of their imperilment but rather to serve as “ambassadors” for the program.

Through the program, Zoos and aquariums will be able to communicate with each other more effectively to ensure confiscated turtles are housed and cared for, freeing up law enforcement agencies to concentrate on apprehending traffickers. Rapid response will be provided for all confiscated turtles, regardless of species.

Zoo New England’s participation in the SAFE American Turtles program is one of our many commitments to turtle conservation. Since 2007, we’ve been preserving locally rare and threatened turtles in eastern Massachusetts, raising turtle hatchlings in a safe environment in which to grow until releasing them into their native habitat. Giving turtles this “head-start” makes them less vulnerable to predation in the wild and able to withstand environmental changes.

In 2017, we expanded our capacity to do this work exponentially by merging with local non-profit Grassroots Wildlife Conservation (GWC). Through innovative community-based outreach and resource initiatives, GWC engages thousands of schoolchildren and volunteers in on-the-ground rare species conservation work. To date, over 40 K-12 schools in Massachusetts participate in the HATCH program (Hatchling and Turtle Conservation through Headstarting), focusing on the conservation and support of local turtle species including Blanding’s, snapping, spotted and wood turtles.

In addition, we’ve partnered with Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) on a three-year project to conserve wood turtle populations in eastern Massachusetts. GWC has been monitoring these turtles since 2012. Once the most common freshwater turtle in eastern Massachusetts, wood turtles are now state threatened. Through the partnership, Zoo biologists will track turtle movement patterns and habitat use to aid in restoration efforts.

Another vital partner in Zoo New England’s conservation efforts is “turtle dog” Koda, who is being trained to assist staff in locating turtles in their native habitat. Once out in the field, this Australian shepherd mix will be an invaluable team member as she’ll be able to more quickly and accurately locate the turtles in need of our help.

Learn more about ZNE's turtle conservation efforts.

by the numbers

  • In the last three years, 20 AZA-accredited facilities have spent over $1.1 million on 59 projects for North American freshwater turtle conservation.
  • From 2016 to 2018, there has been a 63% increase in conservation spending.


AZA organizations partnering with the SAFE giraffe program are implementing programs to increase consistent and impactful conservation messaging about giraffe for use in zoos and aquariums, and are developing population and health monitoring projects in Africa. 

In 2018, AZA members spent more than $918,000 to help save giraffe from extinction.


Since the mid-1980s, AZA member institutions have been funding, conducting and supporting jaguar-related fieldwork in Central and South America. Using objectives outlined by the IUCN Species Survival Commission Cat Specialist Group, the SAFE jaguar program is focused on protecting jaguars primarily in Central America, and expanding capacity to protect jaguars throughout their range.

Rüppell’s Griffon Vulture

AZA institutions are engaging with local communities about the issue of poisoning and how it impacts vultures and other African species by providing information on the importance of vultures for the ecosystem. AZA organizations are also monitoring populations to determine areas with the highest declines. The goal of the African Vulture Action Plan is to improve the population status of all six target species in at least 25% of their African distribution by 2020.

Western Lowland Gorilla

To offset declines in two subspecies of gorilla, AZA organizations raised $7.7 million for gorilla conservation from 2013-2017 and project leaders for the SAFE gorilla program are developing action plans to address the current threats.

In 2018, AZA members spent more than $1,684,000 to help save gorillas from extinction.

Whooping Crane

AZA members are taking part in conservation breeding and reintroduction programs to bolster the numbers of whooping cranes in the wild. Members are also working to identify critical habitats and provide funding for field conservation projects that address wetland habitat quality, illegal shootings, and minimize deaths or injuries from collision with power lines during migration season.

In 2018, AZA members spent more than $810,000 to help save whooping cranes from extinction.

Related Resources