Skip main navigation
Close menu

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 Zoo New England Supports



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.

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.

Through innovative community-based outreach and resource initiatives, Zoo New England's Field Conservation Department engages thousands of schoolchildren and volunteers in on-the-ground rare species conservation work. 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. Our Field Conservation Department 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.


Zoo New England has joined the AZA Chinchilla SAFE Program to help protect and recover some of the last remaining colonies of the Critically Endangered short-tailed chinchilla in Chile. Learn more about these efforts.


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. Learn more about this work.


The goal of the Gorilla SAFE program is to secure sustainable populations of all gorilla subspecies, with a targeted emphasis on protecting the fragile Cross-River gorilla populations in Cameroon and Nigeria and halting the rapid decline of Grauer’s gorilla populations in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Zoo New England has been a longtime supporter of gorilla conservation, devoting passion, expertise and resources to the preservation of this iconic species. Through this partnership, we deepen our commitment to not only Cross-River gorillas, but to the Community Rangers who work to protect them. Read more about this partnership.


The Asian Hornbill SAFE Program’s goal is to support the sustainability of wild Asian hornbills in viable, ecologically functional populations within their natural ranges. Conservation actions supported by AZA partners include developing conservation action plans, nest site protection, local community-based forest warden programs, habitat protection and enhancement, biodiversity assessments of natural areas, species population surveys and population viability assessments, provision of artificial nests, anti-poaching and demand reduction programs.


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.

Mexican Wolf

The SAFE Mexican Wolf initiative is a cross-border recovery program aimed at fostering collaboration with local communities in the recovery regions of Mexico and the United States. Through partnerships with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, AZA-accredited institutions, and other stakeholders, SAFE Mexican Wolf actively promotes conservation endeavors for the preservation of this species.

North American Songbird

​We're a partner of SAFE North American Songbirds, working to reduce the threats to North American songbirds and secure sustainable wild populations of these species throughout their ranges. Although songbirds may not be one of the animals living in human care at AZA institutions, they're found throughout our grounds and in our communities!

This SAFE project focuses on three areas of native songbird conservation:

  • Reducing bird collisions with glass
  • Reducing free-roaming cat impacts on wildlife
  • Preserving, enhancing, and building native habitats

Other areas of focus include reducing contaminants, promoting bird-friendly coffee, promoting and participating in community science, and reducing North American songbird trafficking. Join us to help save songbirds!

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.

Related Resources