Faced with an increased need to justify collections of animals that are going extinct in the wild - and a desire to try to save them - Zoo Boise wants to take the lead among zoos in generating more money for conservation projects.
"We run the risk in the zoo industry of displaying ghosts," said zoo Director Steve Burns.
For example, large animals such as lions are a major draw at zoos, but in the past 20 years the world's lion population has declined from 200,000 to 30,000, Burns said.
"We can have all kinds of frogs ... but people want to see elephants," he said.
The goal is to dedicate 10 percent of the combined budgets of the zoo and the Friends of Zoo Boise to conservation. It's a concept zoos across the country have talked about.
"As far as I can tell, no one's really done it," Burns said.
Instead of soliciting large donations, the zoo plans to generate the money from small fees collected from the thousands who visit every year.
In 2009, 367,000 people visited Zoo Boise, Burns said