PROJECTS IN THE WILD - Overview of ZOO’s projects

Radio tagging of tapirs - since 2001, ZOO’s team in Malaysia has researched the Malayan tapir’s life to create a better foundation for the conservation work undertaken for this rare kind of tapir. With the help of camera traps, radio transmitters mounted on the tapirs and thorough field work, it has been possible to map the tapir’s dissemination and way of life. The results estimate that the number of tapirs is in the area of 1500-2000 individuals, rather than the local estimate of 15-20,000 individuals. This is important information for future management plans


Malaysia, Sarawak
Cooperation with baseline biodiversity survey in Sarawak’s most untouched southern rainforest. Preparation of a management plan for the saltwater crocodile and research in, and management of, the rare clouded leopard


Baluran Nationalpark, Java, Indonesia
ZOO collaborates with Baluran National Park to eradicate the invasive African acacia, to restore the original savanna and thus restore the original animal population. A habitat which most is known in Africa but is also found on Java. In addition to the habitat restoration, studies are also made about animal species such as the Java leopard and the banteng.


Baluran Nationalpark, Java, Indonesia
Research and management of Java’s rare and critically endangered endemic leopard, banteng cattle and dholes, as well as the reintroduction of the near-extinct Java warthog.


Baluran Nationalpark, Java, Indonesia
In collaboration with the University of Copenhagen, ZOO has hired a PhD to investigate the ecology of the long-tailed macaque and how interaction between humans and macaques affect other species and ecological processes.


The Danish embassy’s technical advisors to Hutan Harapan’s tiger project, which is supported by the embassy


In partnership with the Brazilian government, ZOO supports the monitoring of golden lion monkeys in the Atlantic rainforest in Brazil in order to create better foundation for preserving nature in the future. ZOO is also a member of the international steering committee which advises the Brazilian state on conservation measures for the four species of lion monkeys in the Atlantic rainforest.


Zackenberg, Nort East Greenland
ZOO and Aarhus University are collaborating on a research project to map the musk ox’s movement patterns and behaviour in Northeast Greenland. The project helps investigate the musk ox’s role as a keystone species in the high Arctic ecosystem. Since 2013, more than 25 musk oxen have been fitted with GPS collars, and many valuable genetic and physiological tests have been collected during the stunning and collar-fitting process which provide knowledge about the musk ox’s evolution and health.


ZOO has always been associated with the animals that live on top of Frederiksberg. But ZOO has, for many years, been involved in projects around the world to protect nature’s wild animals - including a project for the benefit of the animals on the South African steppes.

In 2005, after several years of financial support, ZOO decided to engage even more in the South African national park of Pilanesberg. The project had so far consisted of a monitoring programme for the park’s rhinos, but the desire to obtain data about the animal’s social structure and population dynamics could now become a reality.

In April 2008, ZOO entered a collaboration agreement with the Pilanesberg National Park under which ZOO would establish a research station with an associated manager and researchers. The park would in turn provide for the daily operations and make data available for research projects. The research station was completed in 2012, and both it and the park are visited often by ZOO’s staff. 

The research station has increased opportunities for Copenhagen ZOO’s own employees, and external researchers can conduct selected research projects in the park and thus help to generate the knowledge needed to be able to make the right decisions about the management of nature in South Africa. Copenhagen ZOO also supports the park administration’s anti-poaching activities, partly by training the park’s anti-poaching team, and partly with materials, so they are best placed to protect the remaining rhinos from poaching.

With knowledge comes responsibility

Several years of research in the national park have certainly confirmed how endangered the African wildlife is. Research in the populations of rhinos and giraffes makes us wiser about how we can preserve these unique species but saving them from extinction requires many resources. Copenhagen ZOO has created the sponsorship programme, Zooranger, which makes it possible for everyone to contribute to the conservation of wildlife in the Pilanesberg National Park. This is a contribution that is important if we want to see rhinos and giraffes as part of the savanna scene in the future.

Although the savanna in South Africa is a long way away, all the Garden’s guests can follow the lives of the animals in Pilanesberg. In connection with the Gardens’ opening of the new gate to the savanna, a webcam has been installed in the national park which broadcasts live to a screen in the Garden. From here, everyone who wants to can follow the animals in the national park and feel that South Africa isn’t quite as far from ZOO.



Many Danish amphibian species are endangered due to modern agriculture. Many rivers and streams have disappeared, and low vegetation has disappeared as grazing cattle have become a rare sight in the salt marsh. This means that amphibians’ homes have been greatly reduced.

ZOO is involved in projects which aim to increase the number of bell frogs, beach toads, pelobates fuscus and green toads in Denmark. The species are therefore being bred in ZOO’s breeding centre in order to release them into the wild.

Amphibians’ habitats are imitated with light, rushes, duckweed and hiding places in the water, as well as on land to imitate nature as much as possible.

The amphibians are cared for until they are strong enough to be exposed to the Danish wild. They are then released to selected localities where habitat restoration has been created in the form of ponds, which are cared for and nurtured by local landowners.



Researchers from Aarhus University and ZOO are working together on a research project to clarify musk oxen’s behaviour and chart their seasonal migrations in the world’s largest national park in Northeast Greenland.

Since 2013, musk oxen have been being captured and fitted with satellite collars. The results show that the musk oxen are quite active in the winter. They are in almost constant movement. Their speed is not high, but they spend a significant part of the day moving. This indicates that they must move around to access the small amount of withered vegetation which can be dug out from under the snow. The musk ox is ruminant and depends on functional rumen flora which need constant nourishment.

If musk oxen didn’t eat throughout the winter and only ran on their built-up fat reserves, their rumens’ processing of plant material would stop and would be almost impossible to get started again.

This new knowledge about the musk oxen’s seasonal migrations in the high Arctic, as well as knowledge about the musk oxen’s impact on vegetation, can be used to model some of the possible consequences of climate change, which is so pronounced in the Arctic. So, in addition to enlightening us on how musk oxen get through the winter, it can give us an understanding of how best to manage natural resources in the national park, where the musk ox is an important player.

The project has been implemented with the support of the 15th of June Fund and the Environmental Protection Agency.



Since 2009, ZOO has supported efforts to preserve chimpanzees in the West African country of Sierra Leone. ZOO’s involvement is through the local NGO, Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, who works with the rehabilitation of confiscated chimpanzees and conservation.

ZOO is the coordinator of the European collaboration for breeding chimpanzees. There is a particular focus on West African chimpanzees, therefore the work in Sierra Leone is relevant.

ZOO supports the work by developing an action plan for the conservation of the country’s chimpanzees, as well as a head count of the total population in the wild, in Sierra Leone. In addition, ZOO has delivered laptops to Tacugama which are used for the distribution of the project to the local population. 

Sierra Leone is home to the second largest population of West African chimpanzees (after Guinea). Half of the 5,500 chimpanzees live outside protected areas and are highly endangered.

Pilanesberg Nationalpark, South Africa
ZOO supports Pilanesberg’s anti-poaching activities financially and materially. Among other things, a fund-raiser among ZOO’s visitors in 2016, combined with a South African support group, was able to purchase a surveillance aircraft for Pilanesberg which can be used in the fight against poachers and for general monitoring of the animal population.


Pilanesberg Nationalpark, South Africa
In just 15 years, the wild population of giraffes in Africa has experienced a decline of 40%. In collaboration with the University of Copenhagen, ZOO is in the process of a long-term study of giraffes’ social structure, which is a major factor in how giraffes are distributed in the landscape. If we are to halt the sharp decline, knowledge of giraffes’ social dynamics is important.


Pilanesberg Nationalpark, South Africa
Rhino population dynamics. Both black and white rhinos in Pilanesberg have been earmarked in order to recognise them individually. This makes it possible to investigate rhino population dynamics and to map their relationships and movement in the area.


Pilanesberg Nationalpark, South Africa
In this project, the flock structure in selected herds of elephants in Pilanesberg is investigated, either by providing selected individuals with contraception or by directly removing individuals. It examines the impact the intervention has on herd structure in the short and long term. The project is part of a long-term study to illustrate the possibilities for future management of elephant populations in Africa and Asia - management which will hopefully ensure the elephants’ survival well into the future.


Breeding and reintroduction of beach toads. Since 2008, ZOO has bred and released beach toads in Refsvindinge on Funen and has established new habitats with the help of the local community.


Hjortø, Archipelago
Breeding and reintroduction of bell frogs. Since 2001, ZOO has bred and released bell frogs, first on Hjortø and since on a number of neighbouring islands in the archipelago of Funen.


Halsnaes/Hesselø, Zealand
Breeding of the green toad. New project in collaboration with the municipality of Halsnæs. ZOO is trying to breed green toads for release in the newly established ponds in Halsnæs.


Zackenberg, Nort East Greenland
For more than 10 years, ZOO has collaborated with the South African national park, Pilanesberg. ZOO has established a research station which supports the park’s scientific work.


Since 2001, ZOO has been in Malaysia’s jungle, creating better conditions for the rare Malaysian tapir. Biologist Carl Træholt explains the project here.

For more than 15 years, biologist Carl Træholt formed the spearhead of ZOO’s struggle to create better conditions for the Malaysian tapir in the Malaysian jungle. The task was initially to identify the tapir’s dissemination and way of life, as there was a suspicion that there were far fewer tapirs than the local estimate of 15-20,000 individuals. Using camera traps, radio transmitters mounted on the tapirs and thorough fieldwork, ZOO’s team in Malaysia found that the number was closer to 1500-2000 individuals. This initiated a targeted effort to create better living conditions and ensure the population’s survival. And Carl has no doubts:

Effective action

"Our efforts have put a focus on the tapir and its living conditions, and it is clear to me that we have turned and stabilised the development in the area. Our first milestone was to establish a robust population estimate and have the population moved up on the list of endangered species," says Carl, and explains that the tapir lives in the jungle with the odds somewhat stacked against them: "In the jungle, high-quality food is in the treetops, 60-80 metres above the ground. At the tapir’s height, photosynthesis is low, which means less nutritious food and more toxic plants. So far it has been managing to live on that, but the worse the food is, the more it needs additional salts and minerals. And we can help by placing mineral blocks in the forest."

Crucial local anchoring

As always in the work of conservation and protection of endangered species, anchoring the project in the local area is critical to the project’s success. Again, Carl is optimistic. "The local rangers have good control of the management of the wild population. But our strength is in designing an applied study and extracting practical and useful meaning from the research results. At the same time, ensuring that the knowledge we’re helping to collect is communicated effectively to the country’s policy makers, so that the tapirs are given a place when new development plans are formulated, is a challenge. Only by doing this can we help the habitat to not be further degraded by being crossed by new roads and other things which fragment the landscape," says Carl.

Management of meta population

Carl is optimistic about the development, and he expects the population to stabilise further in the country and perhaps even grow larger over the next 10 years. But lots of support and research on the subject is still needed: "My dream is to be able to manage a meta population in Malaysia. With little reserves inhabited by few tapirs, we could maintain and manage the population better and ensure that the best breeding bulls are moved around between reserves. A bit like what happens in modern zoos - but in the wild.



Since 1998, ZOO has cooperated with the Brazilian government to support the ongoing monitoring of golden lion monkeys in the Poço das Antas Biological Reserve, north of Rio de Janeiro. The Zoological Garden’s support has made it possible to maintain intensive monitoring of groups of lion monkeys, which are radio-labelled and form the basis of the research carried out in the area. In 2008, ZOO extended this support to include monitoring of the translocated groups of golden lion monkeys in the Uniao Biological Reserve, north of Poço das Antas.

As the previous sponsor withdrew, ZOO now provides the funding of the ongoing monitoring in the reserve. The agreement was signed in the summer of 2008, and monitoring was then resumed after a two-year break.

ZOO is also a member of the International Steering Group (ICCM) which advises the Brazilian state on conservation measures for the four species of lion monkeys in the Atlantic rainforest.



ZOO is the driving force behind a successful attempt to replace pesticides with biological control of pests. In the Borneo rainforest you find the Danish-owned billion-dollar company, United Plantations, which produces palm oil for everything from crisps and cleaning products to baby food.

The palm oil industry has traditionally been a reviled industry on the environmental front, but with the help of ZOO’s project, the company has taken a major step towards a better local environment and sustainable production.

Rats eat and destroy palm fruits and chemicals as well as poison have so far been the most effective weapons against pests. But since 2012, a large part of the plantation participated in an experiment in which ZOO has helped to replace the poison with natural predators. Leopards and cobra snakes were released and equipped with radio transmitters so staff could detect the number of rats they ate and what areas the animals covered.

The trial was a great success, and that part of the plantation now experiences almost no problems with rats, compared to what it used to have.