"In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught." (Baba Dioum, 1968.)


What Is Conservation?

Conservation is the protection, restoration, and preservation of nature for all to enjoy.


Why Practice Conservation?

From programs we implement here at the zoo to our efforts around the world, the Saginaw Children’s Zoo aims to be a leader in the conservation of animals and their habitats.

For the zoo, conservation is the single driving factor behind all decisions and actions.  We are constantly working to improve our impact on the Earth; to take care of the planet so it can continue to take care of us.  We invite you to take a conservation journey with us!   


The Zoo's Conservation Efforts

Breeding Programs

Lockey conservation1 Lockey conservation2
  • Lockey, the Children's Zoo's Bell’s Hingeback tortoise, has been busy saving his species!

    • He is currently on loan at Herpetological Resource Management participating in a breeding program, and has made fast friends with several female Hingeback tortoises. We hope to hear the gentle stomp-stomp of baby tortoise feet soon!

    • There is not wild population data on Bell’s Hingeback tortoises, so we do not know if this tortoise is at risk of extinction.

    • By establishing a healthy population in the US, we can learn more about this small tortoise and apply this knowledge to wild populations to study them better, and get accurate population information

    • This information will help shape future field work to meet the needs of this tortoise


survival plan


  • The Saginaw Children's Zoo participates in SEVEN Species Survival Plans (SSP), an AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) cooperative breeding and conservation program. Working with other AZA organizations we ensure healthy populations exist for:
      • African Penguins (Endangered)
      • Black-footed Cats (Vulnerable)
      • Cotton-top Tamarins (Critically Endangered)
      • Eastern Grey Kangaroos (Least Concern)
      • Mexican Grey Wolves (Critically Endangered)
      • North American River Otters (Least Concern)
      • White-throated Capuchins (Under Evaluation)


conservation status


African penguin (Spheniscus demersus) 


penguins group2

  • Our penguin colony features breeding pair Dewey and Bamm-Bamm. The couple is doing very well, and we hope for some new arrivals over the winter.

  • African penguin populations in the wild have decreased nearly 98% in the last century! Wild African penguins face threats including plastic pollution, over fishing, human encroachment, and oil spills.

  • Successful penguin hatches in the wild are down, partly from loss of nesting material.

  • African penguins nest in guano (penguin feces) and create tunnel-like nests from the material. Guano is rich in nutrients used in agriculture, and was harvested for decades to help increase food grown in the area.

  • This depleted most guano at traditional nesting sites, and significantly reduced the number of penguin chicks hatched.

  • In 2016-2017 the Saginaw Children’s Zoo and other AZA-accredited facilities combined to fundraise and install artificial nests to replace the lost guano.

  • Scientists are studying the nests in the field now to know how successful they are.

  • By working together, and with concerned citizens like yourself, we hope to save penguins from extinction.

Cotton-top tamarin (Saguinus oedipus)


  • The Saginaw Children’s Zoo has one pair of breeding tamarins, Clementine and Gizmo

  • The zoo welcomed baby tamarin, Pax, in February 2016. She is almost fully grown now, but still keeps parents Clementine and Gizmo busy with her playful antics!

  • Pax, Clementine, and Gizmo serve as ambassadors for wild tamarins, and help us increase awareness about issues they face

  • We work with field organization Proyecto Titi to continue the great work they’ve done in the tamarins’ native habitat of Colombia

  • Project work includes educating natives on how unique the tamarin is to increase pride in local biodiversity, training locals in how they can help protect tamarins, research on wild tamarin behavior and health, and addressing local pollution while also reducing poverty

  • When you donate to conservation at the zoo, those donations help continue the great successes Proyecto Titi has accomplished!

  • Watch an example of the field research they conduct:

Mexican grey wolf (Canis lupus baileyi )


  • Sisters Izzy and Rachel call the Saginaw Children’s Zoo home.

  • Mexican grey wolves are the smallest subspecies of grey wolf, and are native to Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico.

  • Izzy and Rachel are part of a very important reintroduction program.  The Saginaw Children’s Zoo works in collaboration with the Mexican grey wolf SSP, AZA and their accredited facilities, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Arizona Game and Fish, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, and SEMARNAT (Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales) to reintroduce Mexican grey wolves to their original wild range.

  • Izzy and Rachel have a younger brother and sister who were fostered into a wild den in New Mexico, and this pack welcomed pups in spring 2017! Izzy and Rachel’s siblings will learn pup-rearing behaviors from this pack that they will apply later in life.  We post pack updates on our Facebook page as we receive them – check back often!

  • Grey wolves, including the Mexican sub-species, have experienced dramatic population decline from their original global range. Originally the most widely-ranged mammal, the wolf has been globally persecuted due to misplaced fear by people.

  • Mexican grey wolves were almost exterminated from the southwest landscape, until protection efforts kicked in. The last remaining wild Mexican grey wolves, just 5 individuals, were collected to create the breeding program and save their species.  2 additional animals were already living in human care, and were added to the program.

  • Thanks to these efforts, just in the nick of time, there are now over 100 Mexican grey wolves in the wild.

  • Progress has been made, but there is still work to be done before the Mexican grey wolf can be listed as “Recovered”

North American river otters (Lontra canadensis)


  • Bootie and TNT, our north American river otters, can often be seen playing together on exhibit. These social behaviors are important for a good relationship, and we look forward to welcoming pups when they’re ready.

  • North American river otters are a charismatic species of wildlife found throughout much of the United States, including Michigan.

  • Having wild otters present near your home or work is a great indicator of a healthy landscape!

  • Otters rely on a special oil they produce and apply to their fur to protect their skin from becoming wet. Pollutants in the water can irritate this water-proofing mechanism, and otters will choose not to live in areas with pollution.

  • The zoo performs riverside and landscape clean-ups throughout the year to help protect our local ecosystem from pollution. “Like” us on facebook to stay up-to-date on clean-up dates and ways you can participate!


Local Conservation

  • The Children's Zoo is proud to participate in community conservation efforts including:

    • Adopt-A-Highway, preventing roadside waste from polluting the land and local watershed

    • Saginaw River clean-up through the Riverfront Beautification Day

    • Blanding’s Turtle Reintroduction, in partnership with the Detroit Zoo and the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, which successfully concluded in 2016

    • Sandhill Crane Migration Survey tracking population and migration data

    • Michigan Frog and Toad Survey tracking population and breeding data

    • Citizen Bat League, a citizen science program monitoring local bat populations

    • Creation of Zoo Trails system in partnership with the Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy

    • Support for the Kirtland’s Warbler Alliance, sustaining a healthy population of the Kirtland’s Warbler in northern Michigan

Global Conservation

  • The Rainforest Parking Meter, located between the Capuchin Monkey and Military Macaw exhibits collects change to protect rainforest acres in the Guanacastle Conservation Area, Costa Rica

  • The Saginaw Children’s Zoo is proud to support SANCCOB (Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds), which rescues, rehabilitates, and releases the endangered African penguin, along with other species of threatened and endangered sea birds

  • Proyecto Titi, a field conservation program in Colombia, focuses efforts to increase populations of the critically endangered cotton-top tamarin.  Through a multi-project approach, including outreach, sustainability education, and research, Proyecto Titi has contributed significant advances to field conservation for the cotton-top tamarin.  The Saginaw Children’s Zoo is proud to help further their work to save the tamarin!

  • Seafood Watch, a program of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, makes wise seafood choices a no-brainer!  Use their free app (available in the app store and google play store) to determine which seafood is good for you AND the environment, or pick up a free pocket guide on your next zoo visit.  Seafood Watch researches best fishing practices and seafood population data to make sound recommendations to suppliers and consumers alike.  If you like seafood, be sure to use Seafood Watch!


Did You Know?

  • Glass takes more than one million years to decompose (break down)

    • Be sure to always recycle glass so it stays out of the environment

  • By recycling a single aluminum can, enough energy is saved to run a television for up to three hours.

    • Return those cans!  You will get your deposit back AND help the planet!

  • Turning the water off while you brush your teeth can save 2 gallons of water a day!

    • Be a hero and help save water!

  • Every year, enough paper is thrown away to make a 12-foot wall from New York to California.

    • Most curb-side recycling services accept paper, paperboard, and cardboard.  Check with your local service provider and help spread the word!



The Saginaw Children’s Zoo strives to create future natural stewards and inspire action for conservation of the planet and its resources.

Recycle RooRecycle Roo Program

This program has been developed in collaboration with Mid-Michigan Waste Authority. Recycling stations are located throughout the Zoo in which bottles and cans are collected for recycling. Each station has fun conservation tips. Zoo staff is also working hard with this program to recycle and reduce waste throughout the zoo.

Adopt a Highway

The Children’s Zoo participates in the State of Michigan highway beautification program in which litter is removed from the side of roadways. The Children’s Zoo has maintained a 2.3 mile stretch of northbound and southbound I-75 from M-46-M-81 since January 2007.

Save the Rainforest Donation Meter

Visitors to the Children's Zoo can give donations to help save the rainforest from habitat destruction.  All proceeds benefit rainforest conservation through

Annual Conservation Events

The Children's Zoo has numerous events throughout the season to promote and educate the public about conservation.  These events include but are not limited to:  Go Wild! Earth Day Celebration; Birds, Bugs, Butterflies, and Blooms; Reptile Slither; Zooberfest; Zoo Boo; Arctic Zoo Fest.

Aquaponics and Hydroponics

This Children's Zoo is in the process of implementing this program in conjunction with Saginaw Valley State University. Click here for more information.

HYDROPONICSHydroponics - courtesy of SVSU

What is Hydroponics?

Hydroponics basically means "working water". It is a cultivation of plants in a nutrient enriched solution, instead of soil. Plants feed on basic nutrient salts that are created when biological decomposition breaks down organic matter. Rarely in soil will the conditions be completely balanced. However, a hydroponic system uses water enriched with the same nutrient salts, but is easier to maintain.

Plants are grown in an inert growing medium, although the plant does not receive anything from the medium. The medium is more beneficial if it is able to retain water and also porous enough to allow gas exchange. Types of growing mediums include: sand, perlite, gravel, etc. The plant obtains the nutrients needed from the nutrient solution.

Micro nutrients, such as boron, calcium, cobalt, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc, are required for healthy plant growth. Without these nutrients, plants can become wilted, and unhealthy, affecting not just the plant, but the consumer as well.

The Basics and Types of Hydroponics:

The basics of a hydroponic system include a type of growing tray, a reservoir, a time controlled submersible pump, and air pump, and an air stone. The main purpose of the air pump is to add beneficial oxygen into the hydroponics system. Natural or artificial light are also essential to the process. There are six basic types of hydroponic systems: 1. Wick, 2. Water Culture, 3. Ebb and Flow (flood and drain), 4. Drip (recovery/non-recovery), 5. N.F.T. (Nutrient Film Technique), and 6. Aeroponic.

Wick System

In this system, the nutrient rich solution is drawn into the growing medium from a reservoir by means of a wick. The wick absorbs the solution and draws it up into the tray. This system is very simple to use and operate, but is not ideal for plants that need or use large amounts of water. The wick can only deliver small amounts of solution at a time.

Water Culture

Plants are held in place on a floating platform, usually Styrofoam, with the roots soaking directly in the nutrient solution. Air is supplied by the air stone that bubbles the nutrient solution and supplies oxygen to the roots of the plants. The method is great for growing lettuce, but not for large or long-term plants.

Ebb and Flow

This system floods a growing tray with the nutrient solution by means of a timer controlled pump, programmed to run in multiple intervals throughout the day. Once the tray is flooded and the pump is off, the solution is able to drain back into the reservoir. This cycle continues multiple times a day. Power outages, timer or pump failures make this system vulnerable. Plant roots dry out quickly when the cycles are interrupted. The best solution for this potential harmful problem is to use a growing medium that is able to retain large amounts of moisture.

Drip System

The nutrient solution is pumped up and dripped onto the base of each plant by small drip lines. In a recovery system, the excess solution runs off and is collected in the reservoir for re-use. The problem with the recovery system is that large changes in pH levels and nutrient strengths mean more adjusting and checking. The non-recovery system does not collect run-off. The nutrient solution is allowed to remain in the medium until it is used completely. This system is less maintenance because the reservoir is refilled with new solution making the pH levels easier to control.

N.F.T. (Nutrient Film Technique)

This system has a constant flow of nutrient solution pumped into the growing tray, usually a tube, flowing over the roots of the plants before draining back into the reservoir. This system usually does not include a growing medium other than air. The plants are supported in the tube by small plastic baskets that allow the roots to dangle down. The danger of this system is if the flow is disrupted, roots will dry out quickly, especially without a growing medium to retain moisture.


The plant roots are air exposed in this system, and misted with the nutrient solution, usually every few minutes. A timer controls this action, but can be potentially hazardous like the N.F.T. system if the mist is interrupted, the roots will dry out rapidly.

Benefits of using Hydroponics:

  • Food can be produced in parts of the world with soil that cannot sustain plant life.
  • Hydroponic systems eliminate the need for pesticides, since most pests live in the soil. Without pesticides, the Earth’s air, water, and soil will be cleaner. Even the food produced by the plants will be cleaner.
  • Water waste is reduced since most systems recycle the nutrient solution.
  • NO WEEDS!!
  • Hydroponics can save space. Plants can be placed closer together since the roots no longer need to grow and reach for nutrients since the nutrients are brought to them.



What is Aquaponics? Aquaponics - courtesy of SVSUAquaponics is the combination of aquaculture (growing fish) and hydroponics (growing plants without soil). Herbs and vegetables are able to grow and thrive in the same water system as the fish. Fish excrete ammonia in their waste. In high levels, this can be toxic for both fish and plants. Nitrifying bacteria, which lives in soil and water, convert the ammonia to nitrite and then to nitrate. Nitrates are essential for healthy plant growth. Nitrifying bacteria will thrive in gravel in the fish tank as well as the grow bed. The plants will absorb and use the nitrate to grow and thrive, and the water that is returned to the fish tank will contain less nitrates and more oxygen, creating a healthier environment for the fish.

What is Needed?

In order to start an aquaponic garden, you will need: a tank for fish, gravel for the fish tank, a water pump and tubing, an air pump, air stone, and tubing, grow bed, growing medium, and fish and plants of course. Also, you may want to install lighting for both the fish and the plants depending on how the garden is housed (i.e. a garden in a greenhouse should not need artificial light).

What Type of Fish?

The type of fish selected for the system depends entirely on the size. Larger systems can accommodate for larger fish such as tilapia, largemouth bass, and perch. Smaller, at home systems will function with koi and goldfish.

What Type of Plants?

For the most part, leafy greens and lettuce seem to thrive in this kind of system. Herbs such as basil are ideal as well. Other plants are also known to grow successfully such as cucumbers, peppers, melons, tomatoes, and even flowers.

Benefits of Aquaponics:

  • Aquaponic systems uses a fraction of water compared to a soil raised vegetable garden because water is re-used and recycled in an aquaponics system.
  • Plants are fertilized organically as opposed to chemically, by the natural fish waste.
  • By eliminating soil, soil born diseases are also eliminated, as well as weeds, and most pests.
  • Aquaponic systems are relatively easy to maintain. Fish need to be fed daily, and water will need to be replenished and refreshed occasionally in the fish tank.




Message Board to come

Q: Does the membership run a calendar year (January thru December) or from the date of purchase?
A: A membership is good for one full year from the date of purchase. That’s a lot of adventuring!

Q: May I put my membership on hold?
A: Unfortunately, memberships become active immediately upon purchase and cannot be suspended. You are always welcome to purchase a gift certificate for someone to put toward a membership if you wish to present the membership as a gift at a later time.

Q: May I use my membership for special ticketed events, like Zoo Boo?
A: Specially ticketed events, like Zoo Boo and Brew at the Zoo, are additional fundraisers for the Zoo. Because of this, memberships, coupons, and free passes are not applicable towards admission. However, a majority of the otter-ly terrific events at the Zoo ARE covered by your membership, as well as the unlimited train and carousel rides!

Q: How many cards are included with my membership?
A: Generally, the Zoo issues two cards with each membership. A single membership will only receive one card, and any membership that has a caregiver will receive an additional card. You need only present one card at Admissions with photo I.D. to enter.

Q: Who can use my membership?
A: The named adults on the card may use a membership, as well as a named caregiver. If it's a family or grandparent membership, it also covers the number of their own children or grandchildren age 17 and under, as indicated on the membership card. Adults must present a photo I.D. along with their membership card at the Admission booth. Please note that children or grandchildren are unable to adventure through the Zoo without their named adults (as adults get really frustrated when they are left out of the fun).

Q: What is the difference between a caregiver and a guest?
A: The caregiver option is wonderful in that it allows a named caregiver to bring the children and grandchildren on a Zoo adventure without the other named adults! This option is perfect for families that have a nanny, babysitter, or family friend who often looks after the children or grandchildren. We ask that the caregiver present their photo I.D. at the Admissions Booth. The guest option is different in that a guest is unable to adventure without a named adult on the membership present. This option is great for families who are interested sharing their favourite Zoo activities with visiting friends and family members.

Q: I have a membership with a guest (not a caregiver). Can a guest use my membership without me?
A: Your guest membership feature allows any named member on a membership to bring ANY one general visitor with them to the Zoo for free! However, your guest is unable to go on their own WILD Zoo adventure without at least one member named on the card. Please note that your guest feature only covers one guest, and does not include all of the guests’ children, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, third cousins, their favourite 2nd grade teacher, or their boss. Imaginary friends are more than welcome! We ask that one of the adults named on the card be present for a general visiting guest to be covered. Sorry, a guest does not add a name to the member card, nor does it replace a member name on the member card. At this time, we do not offer more than one guest per membership.

Q: How can I replace a lost/stolen membership card?
A: Uh oh—a sneaky capuchin monkey must have stolen your membership card! Don’t worry, we have you covered. A replacement card only costs $3. You may order with credit card by phone at (989) 759-1408, or visit the Admission Booth. You can then pick it up at the Admissions Booth during your next visit. You may visit the Zoo in the meantime by presenting your photo I.D. at the Admissions Booth, where you will be issued a day pass which features all of the benefits of your membership.

Q: I am a single parent with one child. Can I purchase a Dual Membership instead of a Family Membership?
A: At this time, dual memberships are available only for two adults living in the same household. We would recommend an individual membership with a guest for only $60, which will cover you and your child for a whole year of exploration and discovery!

Q: If I forget to bring my membership card, can I still visit the Zoo for free?
A: After remembering to grab the wagon, the snacks, the sunblock, and the kids, you arrive at the Zoo and—oh no! You forgot your membership card! Don’t worry, we have you covered. Just bring your photo I.D. to the Admissions booth to verify your status. You will be issued a day pass that acts exactly like your membership card.

Q: Why do I have to show a photo I.D. when I use my membership card to enter the Zoo?
A: To ensure that the membership program is fair for everyone, we ask to see photo I.D. to make sure that a named member of the card is present. We also want to protect our members should their cards be lost or stolen.

Q: Does my membership allow admission to other Zoos and Aquariums?
A: Your membership will grant you FREE or discounted admission to over 232 other zoos and aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) across the country! Please find our complete list here. As reciprocating facilities reserve the right to change reciprocal status at any time, please call the facility you plan to visit ahead of time to verify which benefits you will receive. Thank you for supporting AZA and its mission to Save Animals From Extinction!

Q: If I decide to join after my visit, can I apply the cost of my admission tickets towards my membership?
A: Of course! We do ask that you purchase your membership on the same day that you paid admission. Please note that only those individuals covered by the level of membership you purchase will have their admission cost applied to the membership.

Q: Can a Caregiver bring a guest?
A: The wonderful thing about our membership program is that it can be built to fit most situations. The caregiver can bring one guest with them if the card has a guest option. If the caregiver brings additional children or another adult and the membership does not have a guest, all additional guests not covered on the membership or not covered by a guest will need to pay admission and purchase ride tickets.

Q: What if my caregiver changes during my membership?
A: At this time, we are unable to transfer a named caregiver in the middle of a current membership. We apologize for the inconvenience! However, when you go to renew your membership, you will be able to change the name of your caregiver.


Still have a question? Contact Us by email or by phone at (989)759-1408!