Rescue, Rehabilitate, and Provide Sanctuary

Oakland Zoo assists with wildlife rescue and rehabilitation—cases that require the specialized services that 0ur medical and animal care teams provide. We also find or provide sanctuary for wildlife in need of forever homes.

Give Sanctuary to Exotic Pets
Protect Primates
Rehabilitate Rescued Wildlife
Collaborate with Partners

Provide sanctuary for exotic pets.

To help exotic animals and birds who have been procured as pets, Oakland Zoo provides sanctuary and educates the public on the implications of ownership—from poor health and well-being to illegal wildlife trafficking.

Provide sanctuary.

  • Oakland Zoo has provided sanctuary for a wide range of animals—who were privately owned or confiscated—including African lions, tigers, gibbons, macaws, parrots, goats, sheep, rabbits, and reptiles.

  • We renovated and built spacious aviaries to provide rescued macaws and parrots not just a forever home, but one in which they could fly – something rarely offered in captivity.

  • Messaging at Oakland Zoo aviaries educates guests about exotic birds, what they need to thrive, and why they are not suitable as pets.

Assist with rescue and placement.

  • Oakland Zoo assists the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) with the rescue of confiscated invertebrates, reptiles such as monitor lizards and caiman alligators, birds, and mammals (including a fennec fox) from the illegal wildlife trade, drug busts, and seizures. We provide veterinary and rehabilitation services, followed by a forever home, either at Oakland Zoo or at a reputable sanctuary.

  • At the request of California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), Oakland Zoo takes in rescued wildlife that require specialized triage or care—services that are not available at other facilities.

  • In 2016, Oakland Zoo rehabilitated and rehomed five young, orphaned raccoons brought to California accidentally from Florida, in the back of a moving truck.

Educate by example.

  • At Oakland Zoo, exotic species are never used as animal ambassadors. Also, we will not transport our exotic animals for entertainment purposes, and have declined invitations for opportunities to appear on national television programs for that reason.

Promote domestic pet ownership.

  • In an effort to promote domestic animals as pets, cats (adopted from the East Bay SPCA) and dogs were added to our Contact Yard. They, alongside adopted domestic rabbits, serve as ambassador species in support of responsible, companion pet adoption.

  • In August 2022 Oakland Zoo hosted our first ever "Clear The Shelters" pet adoption event, in partnership with NBC, Oakland Animal Services, and East Bay SPCA. 48 animals found new homes. The event has become an annual occurrence.

Educate about rabbit ownership.

  • Targeted to current and prospective rabbit owners, messaging at the rabbit habitat explains how to create enclosures and care for rabbits in a manner that supports their natural behavior.

Create a chicken habitat.

  • Create a sanctuary habitat for chickens.

  • Educate guests about humane poultry and egg production, including the importance of cage-free, free-range habitats.

Protect primates from exploitation.

Protecting primates and apes from exploitation is an ongoing effort at home and abroad. Oakland Zoo is dedicated to protecting these special animals from private ownership, entertainment use, and biomedical research.

Give sanctuary.

  • Oakland Zoo provided sanctuary for Gladys (arrived 2012), a white-handed gibbon who was privately owned.

  • We provide sanctuary for five chimpanzees—Bernie and Eddy (arrived in 2010), who were used in the entertainment industry, and Andi, Caramia, and Moses (arrived in late 1990s), who were used for biomedical research.

  • We provide sanctuary for squirrel monkeys who were used in communication and biomedical research.

Support primate wellbeing worldwide.

  • As a full participant in Roots and Shoots—a program from the Jane Goodall Institute—Oakland Zoo observed chimpanzees. The information, provided by program participants, was used to guide the care of captive chimpanzees worldwide.

  • In Kenya and Uganda, Oakland Zoo provided support for situ chimpanzee sanctuaries run by Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary.

  • Oakland Zoo supported Chimp Haven, the first facility built to provide sanctuary for biomedical research chimpanzees.

Open a new chimpanzee habitat.

  • Oakland Zoo plans to construct a new chimpanzee habitat.

  • Develop communications around Primates Aren't Pets messaging.

  • Create PSAs, book speakers, and leverage the new chimpanzee habitat to expand reach.

  • Promote chimpanzee wellbeing at the new habitat, and through sanctuary partners.

Rehabilitate rescued wildlife.

At Oakland Zoo, we believe it's incumbent on all of us to coexist with wildlife, respecting their behavioral, health, and wellbeing requirements.

Rehabilitate rescued wildlife.

  • Since 2016, Oakland Zoo has rehabilitated more than 22 mountain lions who could not be released into the wild, and found forever homes in accredited facilities.

  • We rescued and provided sanctuary for three mountain lions—Coloma, Silverado, and Toro.

  • When incidents between humans and bears occurred, Oakland Zoo rescued and provided sanctuary for four black bears—Cambria, Tejon, Kern, and Pismo—and four brown bears—Rubicon, Tulare, Truckee, and Kenai.

  • Our team rehabilitated five raccoons, and found forever homes for them all.

  • We rescued four bald eagles and provided them with sanctuary at Oakland Zoo.

  • Oakland Zoo rehabilitated a fennec fox and found sanctuary for her.

  • We rescued a pelican in Oakland's Lake Merritt—who was injured with fishing line and a fishing hook—and provided rehabilitation at our veterinary hospital.

  • We provided a forever home to two wallabies that were illegally, and privately, owned by an individual in California.

Care for land and wildlife in our area.

  • Oakland Zoo manages wildlife in Knowland Park with a stewardship-based approach. Exclusion methods used are the least adverse. For example, small animals are trapped and released—no inhumane methods of control are ever used.

  • Multiple Zoo staff members volunteer once a week at the Marine Mammal Center to care for seals and sea lions.

  • Oakland Zoo participates in the Urban Wildlife Information Network (UWIN) project. The research uses cameras, with infrared triggers, to photograph wildlife along an urban-to-rural gradient. The data shows how people and animals live together, and how regional and national events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, influence wildlife behavior near humans.

Expand our rehabilitation efforts.

  • The Oakland Zoo long-range plan outlines an even larger role for the Conservation Society of California in native wildlife rescue and rehabilitation onsite and offsite—specifically for yellow-legged frogs, western pond turtles, black bears, mountain lions, and brush rabbits. Any offsite facility chosen is either a certified sanctuary or rehabilitation center.

Partnership and progress go hand in hand.

ARCAS Guatemala Logo on white background

ARCAS Guatemala

AZA Logo on white background

Association of Zoos and Aquariums

California Department of Fish and Wildlife Badge over white background

California Department of Fish and Wildlife

ChimpHaven Logo over white background


East Bay SPCA logo over white background

East Bay SPCA

Jane Goodall Institute logo over white background

Jane Goodall Institute

Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue Logo over white background

Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue

PASA logo over white background

Pan African Sanctuary Alliance

The PAWS logo features an illustration of an elephant with a paw print behind it.

Performing Animal Wildlife Sanctuary

The Marine Mammal Center

USFWS badge over white background

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service