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, including Ocean Connectors, a program that gives school children in San Diego and Mexico the opportunity to witness and learn about marine life firsthand.
Other grant recipients will use funds to help researchers identify why 90 percent of one penguin species in the wild has declined; help conserve and study wild polar bears; restore populations of wild puffins; and create a sustainable way for aquarium enthusiasts to enjoy colorful tropical fish displays. SeaWorld and Busch Gardens parks also provide direct support to the fund by placing zoological staff into the field to work alongside researchers.
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. Research and conservation projects supported in 2012 include:
• Ocean Connectors — The Ocean Foundation gives school children in San Diego and Mexico the chance to witness and learn about marine life firsthand. Ocean Connectors uses migratory marine species that travel locally, like the green sea turtle and California gray whale, as case studies to teach environmental stewardships. The program reaches students in grades four to seven through year-round events, including presentations by guest speakers, hands-on classroom activities and bi-national letter writing exchanges, which serve to illustrate the interconnectedness of oceans. Students also attend field trips that bring them into close contact with marine creatures found locally.
• 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 re-search 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 assess the true status and condition of polar bears and impacts of human-caused and natural events on 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.
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