Animals in need around the world will benefit from more than $1.1 million in grants awarded this year by the non-profit SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund. Since its inception, the Fund has granted more than $9 million to protect wildlife and wild places. The Fund approved grants to 88 wildlife research and conservation projects. These grants will help researchers identify why 90 percent of one penguin species in the wild has declined; help conserve and study wild polar bears and restore populations of wild puffins; and create a sustainable way for aquarium enthusiasts to enjoy colorful tropical fish displays.
Additionally, the SeaWorld and Busch Gardens parks provide direct support to the Fund by placing zoological staff into the field to work alongside researchers on projects supported by the Fund.
Together, the SeaWorld and Busch Gardens parks care for one of the world’s largest collection of animals, which includes more than 60,000 animals and 200 endangered species. The parks’ rescue teams have helped more than 20,000 orphaned, injured or ill animals.
Just a few of the research and conservation projects supported in 2012 include:
- Restoring Tampa Bay – This community-based marine debris and habitat restoration project, led by Tampa Bay Watch, helps to reduce marine debris and clean the waters of Tampa Bay.
- Responsible Tropical Aquariums – SeaWorld’s Rising Tide is an innovative research program that works to provide a sustainable tropical fish population for home aquariums and decrease dependency on collection from coral reefs.
- Declining Penguin Populations – Research is being done by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds to identify the causes of the more than 90 percent population decline of the endangered rockhopper penguin. Efforts include population monitoring, tracking and foraging studies, demographic studies and a re-evaluation of potential factors driving the population decline.
- First Scientific Review of the Rothschild Giraffe – To develop a long-term population monitoring program and conservation strategy for the endangered Rothschild giraffe, the Fund is supporting the Giraffe Conservation Foundation’s research to create the species first-ever scientific review.
- Protecting Polar Bears – Polar Bears International is studying and documenting polar bear populations and their arctic habitat. The goal is to understand and evaluate the true status and condition of polar bears, and the impact of human-caused and natural events on their survival.
- Project Puffin – To help restore the Atlantic puffin to the islands off Maine, SeaWorld bird experts annually join researchers, brought together by the National Audubon Society, to observe, record, and study North American seabirds.
“The research supported by the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund is vital to resuscitate dwindling animal populations all around the world,” said Brad Andrews, president and executive director of the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund and chief zoological officer for SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. “Our efforts today will help sustain these species for generations to come.”