Have you ever wondered how wildlife moves throughout the world?
Where threatened jaguars walk in human-dominated areas? What challenges they face when traveling between forests? Where ocelots and black bears cross the US-Mexico border? Where wildlife “highways” exist in the desert and how water plays a factor? Where the endangered Walden’s hornbill prefers to hang out?
The Phoenix Zoo’s Field Conservation Research Department is designed to tackle these questions, aiming to better understand and protect wild spaces and the animals that depend on them. We use technology like wildlife cameras, acoustic recorders, gunshot detection devices, drones and computer analyses to study animals and their habitat. Ultimately, we are conserving the spaces that are essential for our animals here at the Phoenix Zoo to survive in the wild. We work across the world from Costa Rica, Mexico and the Philippines to our very own backyard in Arizona to support community efforts to protect wildlife and to ensure a future where humans and wildlife coexist.
Jaguar Corridor: Habitat Connectivity
Members of our team have worked in southern Costa Rica for 20 years to understand wildlife and their habitat needs. Building on this knowledge, we have taken all that we have learned to reconnect jaguar habitat by focusing on habitat restoration, community education programs, strategic species monitoring (using both wildlife cameras and wildlife acoustic recorders) and creating a jaguar-friendly economy to help support conservation efforts and reduce human-wildlife conflict. Major support for this work has come from the US Fish and Wildlife Service and The Arthur L. and Elaine V. Johnson Foundation.
Anti-poaching & Acoustic Species Detection
Poaching is a major threat to wildlife around the world, moving thousands of species closer to extinction. To help face this threat, we have created a network of autonomous gunshot detection devices to identify and report the exact location of poachers and send that information to park and community officials in and around protected areas. Our system is currently being tested in Costa Rica. In addition to detecting gunshots, we are working to expand the system so it can be used to remotely monitor wildlife by recognizing other unique sounds, including calls from species of conservation concern.
Landscape connectivity and species’ ability to move safely across large areas and/or when resources (like surface water) are limited are of great importance to the success of wild animals. We have monitored mammal communities in the US-Mexico borderlands since 2014 and are currently developing new projects in the Pajarito Mountains to understand more about how species such as jaguar and ocelot are moving through the region, and how they are impacted by border infrastructure.
In 2020, in collaboration with USAID, Conservation International and Philippine parks department authorities, we inventoried wildlife in three different national parks on Palawan Island to get a foundational understanding of the plants and animals living there. We recorded 26 different terrestrial species, including numerous threatened species found nowhere else in the world.
Finding surface water is essential to survival for desert life – especially in the heat of the summer months. In Arizona, we have several riparian corridors (i.e., perennial rivers) like the Colorado, Verde, and Salt River, that act as conduits for species movement across the desert landscape. In 2014 and 2015, with major support from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, we used wildlife cameras to sample the tributaries and the main stretch of the Verde River to better understand the relationship between wildlife and water. In 2023 we will initiate a new project on the Upper Salt River.
PHOENIX ZOO CONSERVATION
You Can Help!
Help us protect and preserve the natural habitats for the animals you love seeing at the Zoo.