ORLANDO, Fla., June 30, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Animals in need and endangered species around the world will benefit from more than $1 million in grants awarded this year by the non-profit SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund. Since its creation eight years ago, the Fund has granted more than $8 million to protect wildlife and wild places.
The Fund approved grants to more than 100 wildlife protection projects including programs to reintroduce endangered cheetahs to the African wild, protect sea turtle nests across the world, educate and connect kids with the ocean, and help restore America's fragile coasts.
"From big cats to penguins, these species are in dire need of help. SeaWorld and Busch Gardens work to educate and inspire guests to care about the plight of these animals, and these grants from the Fund support our conservation partners working in the field," said Brad Andrews, president and executive director of the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund and chief zoological officer for SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. "Together, we can make a world of difference for these extraordinary species that share our world."
Highlights of the more than 100 projects and organizations include:
Big Cats in Big Trouble
The big cats of the world are disappearing. There are fewer than 12,000 cheetahs throughout Africa and less than half the number of lions that were there only 50 years ago. The Fund is supporting seven conservation organizations around the world that work to stop the decline of big cats and identify conservation strategies for their future.
- The Dell Cheetah Centre is researching and identifying ways to reintroduce South African cheetahs to the wild.
- The Cheetah Conservation Fund provides field training of cheetah-scat detection dogs to help protect livestock from cheetah predation and educates local youth in Namibia, Africa to learn the importance of cheetahs in their eco-systems and culture.
- Cheetah Outreach is implementing an educational program created to raise awareness of the threats cheetahs face in the wild.
- Cheetah Conservation Botswana is developing methods for assessing cheetah and wild dog populations in the Kalahari region of Botswana, Africa.
- World Wildlife Fund is working to save the critically endangered Sumatran Tiger.
- Ewaso Lion Project is investigating the factors affecting the population dynamics of lions in and around local reserves in northern Kenya.
- WildiZe Foundation addresses the numerous underlying causes for the lion's decline and involves local communities to reduce conflicts leading to the demise of these animals.
Penguins in Crisis
Of the world's 17 species of penguins, 12 are rapidly declining due to a combination of changing weather patterns, overfishing, pollution and other factors. The Fund is playing a significant role in helping preserve these species, from supporting efforts to hand-raise hundreds of abandoned African penguin chicks to funding research that will help plan effective conservation efforts.
- The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds is introducing hand-reared African penguin chicks into the wild to help stop the species' decline.
- The Penguin Project is led by researchers at the University of Washington conducting research to plan effective conservation efforts for the Magellanic penguin.
Saving Sea Turtles
All sea turtle species are endangered or threatened. The Fund supports many initiatives that protect sea turtles.
- Sea Turtle, Incorporated protects Kemp's ridley sea turtle nests in South Padre Island, Texas, part of the species' only nesting beach.
- Fauna & Flora International protects critically endangered leatherback and hawksbill sea turtles on Nicaragua's Pacific coast from poaching.
- Turtle Foundation aims to stop the slaughter of loggerhead turtles on the beaches of Boavista Island, Cape Verde, home to the third-largest loggerhead population in the world.
- C.O.D.E.P.A. is moving hawksbill turtles in El Salvador to protected nesting areas.
When the ocean's health is compromised, so is the health of both animals and humans. No matter where people live, the ocean is a life support system and provides much of the food, water and oxygen needed to survive. The Fund is supporting several initiatives that will help preserve or restore oceans and fragile coasts for future generations.
- The University of Florida is one of the key research partners for SeaWorld's Rising Tide, a program that will provide a sustainable tropical fish population and decrease the dependency on coral reef collections for home aquariums.
- Restore America's Estuaries preserves and restores coastal estuaries. The Fund's grant will help restoration efforts in Florida and Texas.
- Brevard Zoo, located in Central Florida, restores oyster beds on Florida's east coast.
- The Ocean Foundation's Ocean Connectors gives school children in San Diego and Mexico the opportunity to witness and learn about marine life firsthand.
For more information on the Fund, visit www.swbg-conservationfund.org.
A non-profit, 501(c)3 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. Since its inception, the Fund has awarded more than $8 million, including animal crisis grants that provide rapid response and much-needed funding to animals and habitats in peril due to either natural or human-caused events and catastrophes. 100 percent of the donations the Fund receives go to support these efforts.
SOURCE SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund