Milwaukee County Zoo Research & Conservation Support

The Zoological Society of Milwaukee and the Milwaukee County Zoo are partners in a variety of conservation projects for species managed in captivity, as well as for species in need of greater protection in the wild. The Zoological Society provides important funding and the Milwaukee County Zoo provides the staff expertise and time to conduct beneficial research.

Examples of projects funded:

  • Belize Partnership: The relationship between the Milwaukee County Zoo and The Belize Zoo goes back many years. The Milwaukee County Zoo received Pat, a wild-born jaguar who was rehabilitated at The Belize Zoo, in 2008. He fathered two sets of cubs before he died in 2017. Since 2015, Zoo staff has made several trips to Belize to conduct workshops for staff at The Belize Zoo. In spring 2019, Zoo veterinary staff assisted wildlife biologists in Belize in their efforts to collar Baird’s tapirs in order to learn more about this endangered species.
  • GiraffeGiraffe Study: The Zoological Society supported Zoo staff member Joan Stasica’s work studying giraffes in Namibia. She has taken two trips to assist Giraffe Conservation Foundation researchers in documenting giraffe movement patterns, preferred food items, reproductive success and herd composition. The team also collects DNA samples to determine relatedness and social patterns for the giraffes encountered.
  • Iguana Conservation: Zoo staff members Dawn Fleuchaus, Stacy Whitaker and Joan Maurer travel to the Caribbean to study, monitor and care for the critically endangered Jamaican iguana and endangered Grand Cayman blue iguana. Their work addresses threats facing these iguanas, including feral cats and dogs and illness transmitted by non-native species. Zoo staff participates in iguana health checks, assessing the wild population, head-starting iguana hatchlings, and adding artificial nest sites and predator exclusion fencing. As a result of this work, the global populations of both species have grown, and the status of the Grand Cayman blue iguana has been upgraded from critically endangered to endangered.
  • Migratory Birds: Since 2001, 183 species of birds, including 44 species of concern in Wisconsin, have been documented on Zoo grounds. Funds from the Zoological Society and the Zoo have been used to purchase products to prevent bird-glass strikes in Zoo buildings. Staff and volunteers monitor wild bird feeding stations and nest boxes used by Wisconsin native birds such as house wrens and black-capped chickadees. Zookeeper Mickey O’Connor has led bird-banding efforts at the Zoo since 2001 to collect data for the U.S. Geological Survey.
  • Milwaukee Ape Heart Project: Heart disease is a common problem in captive great apes, and Milwaukee County Zoo veterinarians work closely with local cardiologists and sonographers to study this issue in the Zoo’s bonobos, orangutans and gorillas as part of the Great Ape Heart Project based at Zoo Atlanta. The Zoo is participating in a study of the feasibility of using finger cuffs to measure blood pressure in different ape species. Milwaukee keepers and veterinary staff routinely use finger cuffs to measure blood pressure in bonobos, which helps them know which medications and dosages are effective to slow the progression of heart disease.