FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – Officials with the Fresno Chaffee Zoo are receiving a $1.2 million dollar grant that will help their conservation program to restore a recently lost population of blunt-nosed leopard lizards in Fresno County.

Fresno Chaffee Zoo officials announced that it is one of six recipients whose projects will be
funded by a partnership between the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.

In 2020, the Chaffee Zoo joined the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Fresno State to take emergency action by collecting the last seven blunt-nosed leopard lizards from the Panoche Plateau and creating a captive breeding program.

Over the past few years, officials say the Fresno Chaffee Zoo has maintained the breeding program and collected vital data that improves their understanding of the endangered species.

The blunt-nosed leopard lizard breeding program is a catalyst for the Zoo’s impact in local conservation work. This is a major milestone for the Zoo.

Jon Forrest Dohlin, Fresno Chaffee Zoo CEO and Director

Zoo officials say the zoo will begin recovery of some of the blunt-nosed leopard lizards back to the Panoche Plateau this spring and their Conservation Action Center is scheduled to open by the end of 2023.

Funds from the grant will also support a new internship program allowing under-represented communities to play an active role in conservation science, according to officials.