Wildlife conservation starts at home
The Oregon Zoo works with partners to restore populations of imperiled native species ranging from quarter-sized butterflies to the California condor.
By 1987, the entire California condor population had been reduced to 22 individuals. Today, lead poisoning poses the greatest threat to these critically endangered birds - the continent's largest. The Oregon Zoo operates a condor breeding facility at the Jonsson Center for Wildlife Conservation.
These diminutive turtles can live for 70 years. The destruction of their wetland habitat for agriculture, urbanization and water diversion has severely reduced their population from California to Washington. The Oregon Zoo participates in a 'head-starting' project to help vulnerable hatchling turtles evade predators.
The Pacific Northwest's most aquatic native frog is also its most imperiled. Like the turtle, it has suffered loss of its wetland habitat, as well as predation by non-native bullfrogs and bass. Since 1998, the zoo has worked with conservation partners to monitor, study and recover populations of these amphibians.
Widespread conversion of sagebrush lands for agriculture had pushed North America's smallest rabbit to the brink of extinction. By 2002, only 16 pygmy rabbits remained in Washington. The zoo is working to restore this species, and in 2011, for the first time in more than a decade, the Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit bred and gave birth in its historic range.
Native to coastal headlands from northern California to southern Washington, these butterflies were reduced to four locations by the 1990s. Its larvae rely on a single host plant, the western blue violet. The zoo and its conservation partners are working to re-vegetate its range with this plant and at the same time, rear and release butterflies to increase wild populations.
They once fluttered across prairies west of the Cascade Mountains from British Columbia through Oregon's Willamette Valley. Today, 99 percent of their range has become farmland, pasture and city. The zoo is rearing and releasing checkerspot butterflies to build populations and restore this pollinator to the remaining areas of its historic range.