Conservation Projects Texas
a close up of a frog

Texas Conservation



Houston Toad

The Fort Worth Zoo manages an assurance population of Houston toads that breed yearly, resulting in offspring that are used for reintroduction efforts. In the past 5 years, the Zoo has repatriated more than 75,370 tadpoles in Bastrop County. The Zoo is one of four facilities breeding this species in captivity and it is believed there are less than 200 toads left in the wild.

Significant Achievements

  • Zoo staff attended the first signing of a Safe Harbor agreement executed for this species on private land
  • Constructed the Texas Native Amphibian Center, a dedicated conservation facility which increased the Zoo’s capacity to breed more Houston toads for reintroduction efforts
  • The Zoo is one of four zoos that manages a rescue population of Houston toads for reintroduction
  • The Zoo has released more than 75,370 toads into the wild
  • In collaboration with Mississippi State University, Zoo staff successfully froze Houston toad semen with good post-thaw motility - a first for this species

Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Habitat

Monarch butterflies are declining at an alarming rate. The Fort Worth Zoo continues to monitor and plant host plants to aid monarchs during their migrations through north Texas. Two new prairie restoration sites are located near the main parking lot of the Zoo along where guests can view pollinators and native plants. The Zoo has also restored an area along the Trinity river, near the Trinity Railroad tracks. Privet and other invasive and nonnative plants were removed, and then the area seeded with native flowers and other plants to allow for healthier habitat to grow for native pollinators and other species.

Significant Highlights

  • Seeded two new sections of restoration areas on the Trinity River and increased size of prairie restoration site in parking lot of Zoo
  • Collaborated with City of Fort Worth Parks and Recreation Department to remove invasive Japanese Privet from prairie restoration area on the Trinity River in 2019
  • Mowed and maintained newly cleared areas of prairie restoration site 
  • Intigrated project objectives and technology (e.g. ArcGIS) into formal educational offerings at the Zoo
  • Ongoing monitoring of milkweed abuncance on the Trinity River
  • Active participation in Fort Worth Pollinator Ambassador Group
  • Monarch monitoring project has resulted in more than 50 tagged monarchs to date
  • Three pollinator gardens are maintained at the Zoo
  • Helped coordinate Partners for Fish & Wildlife outdoor classroom grant award for two schools. 

Pecos Pupfish

After consecutive years of drought and hybridization, Pecos pupfish have declined in many regions. A refugia population is maintained at the Fort Worth Zoo at the request of TPWD. The Zoo has historically bred this species for many years and once water levels in the wild return to normal and hybrids are removed by state biologists, plans are to repatriate this species using offspring produced at the Zoo.

Significant Highlights

  • Historically, the Fort Worth Zoo is one of the first zoos to maintain and breed this species in captivity
  • Fort Worth Zoo staff assisted in recent emergency rescue efforts during drought events
  • Distributed offspring from Fort Worth Zoo to SeaWorld, San Antonio and Cameron Park Zoo to expand captive breeding efforts

Texas Freshwater Mussel

The Fort Worth Zoo is in the process developing a mussel holding and host-fish testing facility to assist in future efforts focused on investigating the reproductive biology of threatened mussel species such as T. macrodon and to provide a resource for education and public outreach. Fort Worth Zoo will aid in establishing husbandry parameters and fish host trials along with partners from Texas A&M AgriLife Dallas Center. A dedicated mussel room has been outfitted to house up to five Texas native species of mussels and appropriate host fish.

Significant Highlights

  • Acquired 5 species of Texas native mussels in 2020 to acclimate systems and gain husbandry experience prior to receiving threatened species
  • Documenting and comparing growth rates for the same species at TAMU
  • Along with partners from TAMU, received USFWS Sec 6 funding to implement conservation program for threatened Truncilla species of mussels

Texas Horned Lizard

The Fort Worth Zoo is working with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and private landowners to evaluate the feasibility and scientific methods used to reintroduce captive-hatched Texas horned lizards into formerly occupied habits of north Texas. Methodology developed from this study is being applied to state-wide recovery efforts for the species and can also be used as a standard for future recovery efforts for the other twelve species of horned lizards that reside in the United States and Mexico. The Fort Worth Zoo reintroduced 529 captive hatched horned lizards the past five years and conducted health assessments for over 200 horned lizards used for translocation.

Significant Highlights

  • Formed the Texas Horned Lizard Conservation Coalition and host biennial meetings with TPWD, fostering information exchange, research collaboration and new partnerships
  • Fort Worth Zoo was the first zoo to successfully breed Texas horned lizards and is the only institution to maintain a large breeding group, producing large numbers of offspring annually
  • Reintroduced 529 Texas horned lizards into the wild since 2011
  • Conducting a state-wide health evaluation and pathogen screen of free-ranging horned lizards to establish base-line health data, understand prevalent pathogens, and assess health prior to translocation/reintroduction
  • Began using harmonic radar to track horned lizards and incorporated the use of a Texas Christian University (TCU) graduate student in monitoring
  • Started partnering with TCU to look at horned lizard microbiomes in captivity and changes once. released to reintroduction efforts

Texas Kangaroo Rat

The Zoo is working with partners to develop breeding and husbandry protocols for the species by establishing an assurance colony in the Zoo’s new Texas Native Wildlife Center. Due to the Zoo’s previous success with related species, it is anticipated that the Texas kangaroo rat should breed readily, and offspring can be reared and maintained in captivity. This offers the potential to quickly grow a population for research and reintroduction efforts. Partial building funds were provided through a USFWS Section 6 grant awarded to partners from Texas State University.

Significant Highlights
• Construction of the Texas Native Wildlife Center to house kangaroo rats
• Acquisition of six breeding pairs of rats from the wild