Cincinnati Zoo Awarded Two Very Prestigious National Grants

Posted September 24, 2014

Nearly $500,000 in Grant Money Awarded to Support Critical Research Projects

CINCINNATI – The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is excited to announce that it just received two, very prestigious grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).  These highly competitive grants were awarded to the Cincinnati Zoo’s Lindner Center for Conservation & Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) to support two projects.  The first, a National Leadership Grant (NLG), will support, “Expanding access and building capacity for African and Asian rhino reproductive care within North American AZA/WAZA facilities:  a Rhino Assisted Reproduction Enterprise.”  The second, a Museums for America Grant, will work on “Collection Stewardship of Imperiled Small Cats.”

Indian Rhino - Nikki
Indian Rhino

According to the IMLS, National Leadership Grants are awarded for projects that:  “address critical needs of the museum field and that have the potential to advance practice in the profession so that museums can improve services for the American public.”  The maximum NLG is $500,000 and the NLG awarded to the Cincinnati Zoo is for $345,777 over three years and supports CREW’s work on both Asian and African rhinos.

Dr. Monica Stoops will be the Project Director for the grant work and will be working in partnership with Dr. Justine O’Brien from the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Reproductive Research Center (SWBGRRC), which includes a state-of-the-art sperm sorting and cryopreservation laboratory.  CREW will undertake the project to expand access and build capacity for African and Asian rhino reproductive care within North American zoological facilities. Eight zoos have committed to building a Rhino Assisted Reproduction Enterprise (RARE) in collaboration with CREW.  This project will help 1) contribute to the genetic management and propagation of Indian rhinos in human care through artificial insemination (AI); 2) enhance southern white rhino fertility through exogenous hormone administration prior to natural breeding or AI; 3) build upon national rhino gamete rescue centers at CREW and SWBGRRC; and 4) provide collaborating facilities with individualized training and/or support in rhino assisted reproductive technology (exogenous hormone protocols, ultrasonography, endocrine analysis, AI, and sperm collection, sorting and cryopreservation).

The Museums for America (MFA) grant “supports activities that strengthen museums as active resources for lifelong learning, as important institutions in the establishment of livable communities, and as good stewards of the nation’s collections.”  This is the largest grant round that IMLS supports every year, and the maximum grant is $150,000.  The MFA grant awarded to the Cincinnati Zoo is for $126,155 over three years and supports CREW’s Small Cat Signature Project.

Bill Swanson and Sihil
Bill Swanson and Sihil

Dr. William Swanson will be the Project Director and will be working in partnership with Dr. Jason Herrick of the National Foundation for Fertility Research in Lone Tree, CO.   CREW will collaborate with zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) to improve sustainability of five priority small cat species – the Brazilian ocelot, Pallas’ cat, black-footed cat, Arabian sand cat, and fishing cat.  None of these species is currently genetically viable within AZA zoos through natural breeding alone.  These management challenges with small cats may be addressed with the application of assisted reproductive technologies. Our specific objectives are to:  1) collect and freeze semen from the most valuable cats for each species in AZA zoos; 2) produce viable offspring using artificial insemination in recommended breeding pairs that fail to reproduce naturally; and 3) produce offspring with frozen-thawed semen from new founders or underrepresented males. Completion of this project will greatly enhance the long-term sustainability of small cat collections in AZA zoos.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development.  The IMLS mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. It is awarded through peer review and requires, at least, a 100 percent match in monetary contribution by the applicant.

The Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is a global leader in wildlife conservation.  Established in 1991 as the first institution of its kind focused on both plant and animal conservation research, CREW is dedicated to “Saving Species with Science”.  World renowned for its accomplishments with its four Signature Projects – endangered rhinoceroses, imperiled small cats, exceptional plants and polar bears – CREW also conducts substantial research with a few select other species. These conservation efforts, involving a diversity of scientific disciplines and multi-institutional collaborations, are expanding our understanding of species biology, enhancing reproduction and genetic management, and ensuring a future for wildlife.

To learn more about the Cincinnati Zoo and their grant primary partner organizations visit, (SWBGRRC),, and to find more information about the IMLS, please visit