Saving Species Challenge Attracts Global Interest

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52 applicants in the running for $1 million

INDIANAPOLIS, Dec. 29, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — The Indianapolis Zoo’s bold new conservation initiative will award $1 million to a single organization working to save a species from extinction. The Saving Species Challenge has attracted the interest of conservationists representing 52 species in 46 nations. Each applicant has developed a detailed plan that, if funded, will have a measurable and sustainable impact on the survival of a threatened animal species.

The Indianapolis Zoo launched the Saving Species Challenge in April with the goal of funding a plan with the potential to improve the status of species that is currently designated as threatened (Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable or Extinct in the Wild) by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List.

The announcement of the 52 applicants comes on the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act in the United States, which has given legal protection to hundreds of species. “We focus on our mission of protecting nature and inspiring people to care for our world. The Saving Species Challenge is a solid investment in protecting and preserving the diversity of life on Earth,” said Dr. Robert Shumaker, President & CEO of the Indianapolis Zoo.

Conservationists at the Global Center for Species Survival reviewed nearly 200 pre-applications before inviting 79 organizations to submit full applications. The decision of who will be awarded the $1 million Saving Species Challenge grant rests in the hands of a jury of international animal conservationists.

“We were inspired by the quality of the applications we received. I wish we had $52 million dollars to fund every single one of these conservation action plans,” said Bill Street, Indianapolis Zoo Senior Vice President and Director of the Global Center for Species Survival.

Challenge applications not only represent strong geographic diversity, but also biological diversity. Applicants submitted plans to improve the conservation status of 7 amphibians, 17 birds, 3 fish, 3 insects, 12 mammals and 10 reptiles.

The Saving Species Challenge is modeled after a concept developed by experts at the IUCN Species Survival Commission. “Reverse the Red” aims to downlist species that are assessed on the IUCN Red List. For example, if a species is currently listed as Extinct in the Wild, downlisting it to Critically Endangered would signify an improvement in the species’ chance of survival.

The winner of the Indianapolis Zoo Saving Species Challenge will have five years to implement their program and show progress. The Zoo will announce the winner in the spring of 2024.

Click here for free-use media assets, including the full list of 52 applicants.

About the Global Center for Species Survival
The Indianapolis Zoo’s Global Center for Species Survival is a partnership with the Species Survival Commission of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The Global Center supports and connects thousands of conservation experts working to secure a future for animals, fungi and plants in more than 160 countries.

About the Indianapolis Zoo
The Indianapolis Zoo is the largest zoo in the U.S. that does not receive direct tax support. The Zoo has invested significant resources into conservation for decades, including the Indianapolis Prize – the world’s leading award for animal conservation – the Global Center for Species Survival and the Zoo’s field conservation grants program. The Indianapolis Zoo protects nature and inspires people to care for our world. Located in White River State Park downtown, the Indianapolis Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the American Alliance of Museums as a zoo, aquarium and botanical garden. Visit

Media Contacts

Emily Garrett
Director of Public Relations 

Kelly Griese
PR Specialist for Global
Center for Species Survival


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