Animals in need and endangered species around the world will benefit from more than $1 million in grants awarded by the non-profit SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund. Since its creation seven years ago, the Fund has granted more than $7 million to protect wildlife and wild places.
The Fund’s board of directors approved the 2010 grants to 95 wildlife protection projects including rescue and rehabilitation efforts of endangered manatees and sea turtles, protection of critical habitats such as the Florida Keys, studies of declining shark populations and education programs that inspire people to care for at-risk wildlife.
“The challenges and pressures facing wildlife and entire ecosystems are greater than ever,” said Brad Andrews, president and executive director of the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund and chief zoological officer for SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment.
“We identify projects with the greatest potential to positively impact conservation so that every dollar we grant works as hard as possible to protect the animals.”
The projects and organizations supported in 2010 include:
Preserving the Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are known for sunshine and good times, but the area is also a vital ecological region suffering from environmental degradation. The Florida Keys Wildlife Rescue facility rescues and rehabilitates injured wildlife and educates the public on the importance of keeping the environment safe and clean for present and future generations.
San Diego Turtle and Tortoise Society
The San Diego Turtle and Tortoise Society is a non-profit organization in San Diego that rescues turtles and tortoises of any species. They also provide medical care, foster care and permanent home placements. The Fund’s support will help with medical care requirements of the California Desert Tortoise and education of the public concerning the proper care of the tortoise as well as how to help protect species native to California.
Safe Guarding Sea Turtle Nesting Sites
Cameroon Sea Turtle Society is protecting newly identified green and leatherback turtle nesting sites along the Wole beach in the Republic of Cameroon. This is an important nesting ground for sea turtles threatened by ship building, toxic waste and egg poachers. The Society’s efforts include nesting site clean-ups, creating safe zones that would limit access and educating egg poachers in other income-generating trades.
Bald Eagle Rescue and Rehabilitation
Florida supports one of the largest breeding populations of bald eagles in the continental United States. The Audubon Center for Birds of Prey is the leading raptor rehabilitation facility in the region and works to protect bald eagles and their habitat through its rehabilitation program, nest monitoring program, and educational programs that reach more than 35,000 people annually.
Sand Tiger Shark Conservation
Due to their unfortunate reputation as a “man-eater”, sharks are often not thought of when the public considers wildlife conservation. The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries is currently doing a study on the decline of the sand tiger shark population along the east coast of the United States. This information will be integrated into the development of the Coastal Sharks Interstate Fishery Management Plan by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to further the conservation of this threatened species.
Conserving the West African Manatee
In Africa, the lack of basic knowledge about West African manatees has been a great hindrance to the long-term conservation of the species. The Wildlife Trust is working to create a unified network of African researchers in countries of the animal’s range to collect collaborative research on the endangered species.
Save the Elephants
The Mobile Education and Monitoring Unit is a new project that will double the outreach and education capabilities of the Save the Elephants Education Program in Samburu, northern Kenya. The work being done there includes long-term elephant monitoring and conducting mammal census in the Samburu and Buffalo Springs Reserves.
A non-profit organization, the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund supports wildlife research, habitat protection, animal rescue and conservation education in the U.S. and more than 60 countries.