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Dave Johnson

Nominee for the Indianapolis Prize

OVERVIEW:  Dave Johnson is a retired Zookeeper from Denver, Colorado (as of June 2023).   He worked with the pachyderm collection there since 1998, but his career actually encompasses so much more.


Dave has written three conservation books for kids, all focusing on the protection and passion it takes to save other species from extinction.  A fourth is due for release in Summer 2024.  He leads people on treks to Nepal, climbs mountains for rhinos, runs marathons for elephants, and spreads his love for animals everywhere.  Dave is creating the next generation of passionate people to make a difference for our planet and the animals we share it with.

His books are focused on a little Colorado girl named Sissy Sally Sassafras who loves animals, too.  She is bound and determined to enlighten others about the plight of rhinos, elephants, and the other wildlife in her region and beyond.  Dave uses Sissy Sally Sassafras as his little animal nerd with the huge heart and even bigger voice.  She has something to say about where we are headed, and Dave uses her tirelessly to promote this shared passion.

​Dave now uses the books for schools, scouts, sports teams and churches for their fundraising efforts and is trying to get them sold in every state.  Now, these organizations can sell conservation instead of cookies or preservation instead of popcorn.  Profits go directly back to these empowered “Rhino Warriors”, an elite team that is making a difference.  Dave loves to visit with others and bring this new culture to animal lovers everywhere.  He constantly speaks about what we can all do together to save our remaining ecosystems and all of the creatures they contain.

In 2014, he began a non-profit called the Katie Adamson Conservation Fund in honor of one of his zoo explorers who passed away from cancer. With Katie’s parents support and the backing of his Denver community they are now moving forward as a herd of animal nerds making a stand for wildlife around the globe.

Additional Bullet Points


Starting A Non-profit

A different kind of conservation fund.

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In 2014, Dave Johnson founded the Katie Adamson Conservation Fund to transcend the role of a typical endangered animal conservation organization. Its mission encompasses a spectrum of impactful initiatives that extend beyond preservation alone. While the central objective revolves around the protection of endangered species, the approach entails a multifaceted strategy.

Core emphasis remains on safeguarding endangered animals. However, it also involves a synergistic blend of elements such as youth education, fostering community sustainability, leveraging virtual reality technology for immersive education, and facilitating career advancement and development for individuals who are impassioned about the species we strive to aid.

Dave calls this program ICE - an Integrated Conservation Experience.

Conservation Books

Used to engage and educate youth and adults.

Dave Johnson writes wonderful stories to engage kids and communities around the world about education.  A fourth book is soon to be released and will include four languages (English, Spanish, Nepalese and Swahili).  Dave visits schools all across the United States to read and spread his conservation message.

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Major Accomplishments

Dave Johnson is on a mission.  Through unending dedication, he has a goal of saving endangered species, educating people about animals, and engaging with communities in the USA and around the world to help save the animals and the ecosystems they love.  He fund raises tirelessly through his non-profit organization to build, support and change minds around the world.

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Cumulative growth through the fund has grown from $10,000 in the first year of operation to almost four million dollars in 2024. 

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After years of fundraising, Dave Johnson was finally able to raise enough money to build a new wildlife veterinary hospital on the grounds of the NTNC (National Trust for Nature Conservation) in Chitwan, Nepal.


The Katie Adamson Conservation Fund logo is prominently displayed on the new veterinary hospital in Chitwan, Nepal.  The organization commissioned these murals to showcase the wildlife the hospital could help in the area.

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Dave Johnson started an annual Elephant Health Camp in Nepal.  2024 with be its third year and is comprised of professionals in the field of elephant foot care, veterinary care from Disney and engagement of elephant zookeepers from all over the USA.

Dave Johnson recently received the distinguished Alumni Award given by his high school Alma mater.  The Carolina Day School in Asheville, North Carolina regularly follows its alumni and awards only to the most accomplished movers and shakers.

Dave and the Katie Adamson Conservation Fund entered into a partnership with KIA who provided the organization with a 100% electric vehicle used to travel to school talks and events.  It is a rolling, green and sustainable billboard that showcases all of the animals in Dave Johnson's Zoodiac Kids conservation book.

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Dave Johnson engages local communities around the USA about his conservation projects around the world.  He regularly invites partner organizations to participate.  He has given 146 school talks and presentations since the beginning of 2023.

In 2024, Dave joined the development team of a new bees and elephants research center in Tanzania.  This center is in partnership with the Tanzanian Elephant Foundation and will be located in the Kitenden Wildlife Corridor, a critical wildlife corridor that connects Amboseli National Park in Kenya to the Maasai Mara National Reserve and other protected areas in Tanzania.

Dave Johnson through the Katie Adamson Conservation Fund has cultivated and developed partnerships with more than 33 organizations and businesses in the USA and around the world to facilitate conservation projects, education outreach and community engagement.

The non-profit organization founded by Dave Johnson, the Katie Adamson Conservation Fund, holds an annual event called Katie's Night.  It attracts hundreds of enthusiastic followers and typically raises almost $100,000 in one night for conservation.

A short video that showcases what Dave Johnson has accomplished over the years.

Growth of an Organization

Dave Johnson has a unique ability to rally people together for a common goal.  This superpower has allowed him to grow the non-profit organization he founded to a footprint in 32 countries as of 2024.

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United States
Costa Rica
South Africa

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Dave Johnson Film Documentaries

JUMUIYA is a 30 minute documentary film by Michael Hartzog about Dave Johnson and the Katie Adamson Conservation Fund's efforts with conservation in Tanzania.

NAMASTE! is a documentary film in six short stories by renowned videographer, Bill Masure.  The film showcases Dave Johnson's conservation efforts in Nepal.

Dave Johnson TV & Radio Appearances

Dave Johnson has made many media appearances over the years.

Dave Johnson on Tanzania TV - July 2018
Katie Adamson Conservation Fund - May 23, 2018
Katie Adamson Conservation Fund   August 25, 2017
Channel 7 Denver - The NOW! May 20, 2015

Thank you for considering
Dave Johnson as a recipient of your
next Indianapolis Prize.

Dave Johnson may be reached at
Phone:  720-273-5358

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