Conservation is a key component of Cosley Zoo’s mission.

We demonstrate our commitment to conservation on a daily basis by participating in environmentally friendly practices such as recycling, using a rain barrel to collect water for plants, re-purposing materials rather than buying new ones, minimizing plastic waste by providing plastic bags and straws to guests on request only, and installing energy-efficient lighting. We also participate in several large-scale conservation initiatives.

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Your support can change the world.

Stop by and visit the Coins for Conservation Display at Cosley Zoo and donate your spare change to help support conservation efforts for these endangered species, or make a donation here.


African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus) photo by David Cook

© 2017 David Cook

Africa’s only penguin species

Once numbering in the millions, African penguin populations have plummeted to less than 42,000 individuals. Overfishing, habitat degradation, and disasters (oil spills, disease outbreak, etc.) have contributed to this significant decline. Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) facilities have joined forces to help the African penguin by developing various initiatives, from improving disaster response protocols for oil spills to constructing artificial nests.

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Giraffe photo

One of the most endangered mammals in North America

Through the collective resources and expertise of Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) accredited institutions, the Saving Animals from Extinction (SAFE) black-footed ferret program aims to repopulate the black-footed ferret, so it is no longer an endangered species. This is being accomplished through targeted conservation projects, increasing public awareness, and raising funds in support of black-footed ferret conservation.

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Giraffe photo

Illinois Endangered Reptile

Due to illegal capture, loss of habitat, predation, and vehicle and fishing accidents, this once-numerous local resident is now struggling to survive. Your donations will help Cosley Zoo and its local partners, like The Forest Preserve of DuPage County, in efforts to rear young turtles for release and improve the quality of their natural wetland habitat. Donations will fund continued research and purchase food and equipment vital to the long-term success of this project.

Donate to Support the Blanding’s Turtle


Cosley Zoo hosts this annual event each April along with more than 100 other zoos and aquariums throughout the country. This is the largest combined Earth Day event in North America! Party for the Planet features conservation-focused activities for families and promotes ideas for establishing “green” practices in our visitors’ own backyards. Check our Events page in the spring for more information about Party for the Planet.


Cosley Zoo’s Conservation Team meets monthly to further conservation efforts within the zoo and the community. They are responsible for planning and implementing the zoo’s chapter of the FrogWatch USA citizen science program, organizing Adopt-a-Stream and other local clean-up events, maintaining the zoo’s rain barrel, and creating conservation awareness messaging on zoo grounds and social media, amongst other initiatves.


We are proud to be able to offer several eco-friendly items for purchase in the Wild Side Gift Shop! These include 4Ocean bracelets made of recovered plastic from the ocean, reusable drink cozies made from plastic water bottles, reusable metal straws, plush animals made from recycled materials, and animal figures carved from tagua nuts that look like ivory but are animal-safe.


In 2015, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums introduced a new initiative called AZA SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction. The program was designed to allow the wildlife experts at AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums and their nearly 200 million yearly visitors to work together to help the world’s most vulnerable species. Since its inception, SAFE has established projects for 25 species or groups of species, and in 2019 alone contributed $230 million to conservation efforts. Cosley Zoo is proud to be a collaborator on four of the SAFE species projects.

The critically endangered vaquita is a small porpoise endemic to the Gulf of California in Mexico, and is the world’s rarest marine mammal. The illegal use of fishing equipment called gillnets, in which vaquitas can become entangled and drown, has resulted in a steep decline in the population. The goal of SAFE is to raise awareness about the threats of illegal fishing and to work with the people of the Gulf of California to create sustainable fisheries. Cosley Zoo is involved in public engagement for the project, educating the public through social media campaigns and information on zoo grounds, hosting events to raise funds, and helping to circulate petitions asking the Mexican government to heavily enforce bans on the use of gillnets.

Cedar waxwing

Birds throughout the world have been experiencing sharp population declines since the 1970s due to numerous compounding factors such as habitat loss, pesticide use, and climate change. Their roles in insect control, pollination, and seed dispersal make them vital to the ecosystems in which they live, and further losses could lead to dramatic consequences for other species, including humans. Cosley Zoo is part of this SAFE program’s Citizen Science Working Group, which has a goal of raising awareness of the current plight of songbirds and contributing to scientific research by encouraging participation in citizen science projects.

Monarchs were once a common sight throughout the country, but populations have experienced significant declines in the past twenty years. Monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweed plants, meaning milkweed is crucially important monarch breeding habitat. The loss of milkweed due to herbicide use and agricultural development is one of the largest threats to monarchs. Cosley Zoo is part of this SAFE program’s group tasked with creating and protecting breeding habitat, though as the project progresses may be able to assist in other areas as well.

This program focuses on conservation efforts for a number of different turtle species, including the eastern box turtle, the spotted turtle, and the Blanding’s turtle, all of which are considered vulnerable or endangered. These turtles and many others are susceptible to human-caused mortality, such as road collisions and habitat destruction. Cosley Zoo looks forward to sharing expertise gained from nearly twenty years of head-starting and releasing Blanding’s turtle hatchlings to help other species throughout the country as well.



Cosley Zoo is proud to partner with the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, as well as the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, Brookfield Zoo, and St. Charles Park District, in this program which works to help increase the wild population of Blanding’s turtles (Emydoidea blandingii) in Illinois.

Blanding’s turtles are medium-sized semi-aquatic turtles whose distribution is concentrated around the Great Lakes. Their population has been declining in recent years due to the loss of available wetland habitat. In addition, increased pressure from predators has caused a decrease in the number of turtles surviving to sexual maturity (15-20 years of age). In 2009, Blanding’s turtles were added to the endangered species list in Illinois.

The Head Start program aims to increase the number of Blanding’s turtles surviving long enough to reproduce. The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County collects gravid (pregnant) turtles from the wild and houses them until they lay their eggs. After the eggs hatch and the young turtles are off to a good start, some of them are raised by Cosley Zoo staff for about a year. The turtles are reared at an accelerated rate, so that when they are released back into a DuPage County wetland, they are larger than a wild turtle of the same age and should be less vulnerable to predators. The young Blanding’s turtles are not on display at the zoo in order to minimize their exposure to humans, but we do have an exhibit containing adult Blanding’s turtles which can be viewed by the public seasonally, as well as a live video feed of the turtle rearing area.

Beau the Blanding’s turtle

Cosley Zoo participates in several conservation initiatives on an ongoing basis, including a program to save the Blanding’s turtle.