ORLANDO, Fla., July 16 — Endangered species and habitats under stress will get a much-needed lift this week thanks to $700,000 in grants being awarded by the non-profit SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund to wildlife protection projects in the U.S. and around the world.
The Fund’s board of directors approved grants to 83 projects, including wildlife rescue and rehabilitation efforts, research of little-known species, protection of critical habitat, and grassroots education efforts aimed at increasing awareness and changing behaviors.
One of the Fund’s 2009 grant recipients, Save the Elephants, is working to protect the Earth’s largest land animal, using technology in unexpected and effective ways to reduce conflicts with humans.
“Rising human populations and expanding agriculture often are in conflict with elephants,” said Iain Douglass-Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants. “It is essential to find new ways of lowering the strife. Save the Elephants, with support from SeaWorld and Busch Gardens, has a highly innovative project that sends out an alarm every time a tagged elephant approaches a virtual fence line protecting farmers’ crops. This is done when a text message is sent straight from the elephant’s collar onto the project’s cell phones. SeaWorld and Busch Gardens’ support has been vital in developing the application of this high-tech conservation approach.
“Save the Elephants is also enormously grateful for the emergency grant given by the Fund earlier this year in response to an acute water problem affecting the last desert elephants of Mali. In May, we received a vital grant from SeaWorld and Busch Gardens that helped us build a water retaining tank needed when the elephants’ dry season reservoir ran dry. Thanks to this prompt action the future of these elephants is a bit more secure as we struggle to find long-term solutions.”
The continued success of the Save the Elephants’ projects has made them a Fund grantee for years. The Fund’s grant selection process is highly competitive and involves months of scrutiny, research and review by both internal and external animal experts.
“We zero in on the projects with the greatest potential for conservation impact,” said Virginia Busch, president and chairman of the board of the Fund. “The challenges and pressures facing wildlife and entire ecosystems are greater than ever. We receive significantly more grant requests than we can support, so we make every dollar we grant work as hard as possible to protect animals and habitats in need.”
While the Fund’s scope of projects is diverse, it continues to focus its support on core areas of concern: ocean health, human-animal conflict, and the illegal wildlife trade. Examples from the 2009 grant awards include removing derelict fishing gear from Washington state’s Puget Sound, helping people co-exist with lions in Tanzania and rescuing and releasing pangolins, one of the most targeted victims of Southeast Asia’s illegal wildlife trade. Through projects like these and others, the Fund is working to make a positive difference in the lives of both people and animals.
For more information on the Fund, including a complete list of this year’s grants, please 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 $6 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.