The more people come to understand the fragile beauty and importance of butterflies, the more people are inspired to protect them. Here at the Toledo Zoo, we've made the conservation of our regional winged wonders a top priority. 


Male Karner Blue Butterfly

The Karner blue butterfly, a symbol of the Oak Openings Region, was last seen in Ohio in 1988 and was listed as a federally endangered species in 1992.  The Toledo Zoo has been working to restore local populations of the Karner blue in conjunction with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy, and the Toledo Area Metroparks.

Through those efforts, in 1998 the Toledo Zoo became the first institution to propagate the Karner blue butterfly and to reintroduce it to the wild.  Now the Toledo Zoo releases hundreds of Karner blue butterflies each summer that have been raised inside the Zoo’s Butterfly Conservation Center.  The video below begins by showing the Conservation Center at the Toledo Zoo, butterflies prepped for transport, arrival at the Meilke Road Savanna, then the release.  The footage shows two Karner blue butterflies from the Zoo mating in their new wild habitat as hoped, and the final shot includes representatives from several agencies who helped make the program possible. Watch the You Tube video below to see the program in action:

You can also get a first hand account of the program by watching an interview with the Zoo’s Conservation Coordinator, Candee Ellsworth. A video of the interview is provided below, courtesy of the Wild Ohio Facebook page for their Legacy Stamp program.  Video title is “Singing the Karner Blues”.


In 2002, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums presented the Toledo Zoo with the North American Conservation Award for the Oak Savanna Butterfly Conservation Program.

Since the start of the program, the Zoo has released nearly 10,000 Karner blue butterflies to five different locations within the Oak Openings Region. Click here for detaield information about conservation efforts at the Oak Openings Region in northwest Ohio.

Check out the Butterfly Conservation Initiative to learn more about imperiled butterflies and how you can help!

Find out what you can do to help butterflies in your own backyard! Visit the Monarch Watch web site for more butterfly information, or click here to view a presentation by the Toledo Zoo’s Candee Ellsworth about the Karner blue project.