Endangered Species at Oakland Zoo

Many animals around the world are facing extinction. Deforestation, illegal pet trade, over hunting and other factors are leading to a decline in many animal species.

Oakland Zoo has several endangered species in its collection. Below you will find a list of Oakland Zoo animals that are considered endangered. For information on how you can help, visit the Conservation section of our website.

White-handed Gibbon:

Gibbons are absolutely dependent upon old-growth tropical forests. While still common, white-handed gibbons exist on only 10% of their original habitat in protected reserves. In 1987, the IUCN* estimated that there were 79,000 white-handed gibbons but to protect other more endangered species of gibbon, all are listed as endangered by the USDI* and are on appendix 1 of the CITES*, prohibiting commercial trade in gibbons.


Chimpanzee populations have been reduced and fragmented by growing populations of people moving into their habitats to establish farms. In addition to this, they are hunted by people for food or to protect crops, and are exported commercially to supply animals for laboratory research and the entertainment trade.

Sun Bear:

At this writing no research on Sun Bears in the wild is being done (or ever has been done) and there are no plans in place for management aimed at their conservation although they are listed as threatened under CITES*. In Thailand, the primary threat is habitat destruction, especially logging, and the pet trade. By law, every man, woman and child is allowed to keep two of any species as pets, except for those on the brink of extinction. Elsewhere, the greatest threat is due to poaching for meat and traditional medicinal use of organs, primarily in China, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea, the greatest consumer of sun bear parts.

Bengal Tiger:

Tiger have been hunted heavily by man for sport, skins, and as a source of traditional medical products. Superstition has surrounded tigers for centuries; necklets of claws are thought to protect a child from "the evil eye", whiskers have been considered either a dreadful poison (Malaysia), a powerful aphrodisiac (Indonesia), or an aid to childbirth (India and Pakistan) and the bones, fat, liver and penis are prized as aphrodisiacs or medicines.

The tiger populations of the Indian subcontinent have suffered a serious decline in the last 50 years. It is estimated that some 200 tigers yet survive in Nepal, and perhaps 4000 in India, up from a low of 2000 in the 1970s.

A government program, called Project Tiger, established nine sanctuaries designed to provide ample habitat and prey. However, small isolated parks may promote inbreeding and the future of the Bengal tiger is still in question. A new threat by the burgeoning population growth is human competition for the tigers' prey base of large hoofed mammals.

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of poaching for the escalating Chinese and Korean markets, in spite of a Chinese ban on tiger products in 1993 and South Korea's joining of CITES**.

African Elephant:

African Elephants are endangered because of loss of habitat and because of poaching for ivory. Since its protection by the CITES* several years ago, populations have increased, but as elephants are losing their fear of humans, they are venturing into farm lands and have become a problem. Each year when the CITES meets, there is pressure to downlist elephants and allow trade again.

American Bison:

Two races of American Bison are recognized: Plains Buffalo and Wood Buffalo of Canada. Their number was reduced to 750 in 1890. They were then protected and now number about 80,000. Bison live only in parks, reserves and private collections.

The endangered species list changes from year to year. You can visit the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) or the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Red List to find out more information.