Wild animals in need around the world — from Antarctic penguins to sea turtles hatchlings on Florida’s beaches — will benefit from more than $1.2 million in grants awarded this year by the non-profit SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund. Ninety-three wildlife research, habitat protection, animal rescue and conservation education projects will receive the grants, which will support researchers studying migration movements of Antarctic penguin species, provide safer passage for turtle hatchlings making their way from the nest to the water, and help monitor the long-term health of dolphins in one of Florida’s vital eco-systems.
Since its inception 10 years ago, the fund has given more than $10 million in grants to protect wildlife and wild places. Additionally, SeaWorld and Busch Gardens provide direct support to the fund by placing zoological staff into the field to work alongside researchers. SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment provides all administrative and development costs as well as staffing and infrastructure. Because of this, 100% of donations go to on-the-ground wildlife conservation efforts. Wildlife projects and organizations the funds will help include Tracking Penguin Migrations — Where do penguins go for the winter? Researchers with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution are using geolocation (GLS) tagging and stable isotope studies to identify the winter diets and migration movements of Adelie and chinstrap penguins in the Antarctic Peninsula. The data will be of critical importance in defining future management priorities for these species.
Also supported is the Sea Turtle Lighting Project — Lights on turtle nesting beaches can disorient turtle hatchlings and lead them away from the ocean. To help make a safer passage, Sea to Shore Alliance has created a method of measuring, mapping, and recording beach lighting levels. This data enables wildlife managers to quickly compare, observe and locate areas with excessive beach lighting. By identifying these illumination “hotspots” managers can better protect sea turtle hatchlings. Another project is Long-term Monitoring of Dolphins — The Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute is conducting a long-term study to monitor the abundance, population and habitat structure of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins that inhabit Florida’s Indian River Lagoon. The data being collected will help to make animal management decisions and better evaluate risks facing this species. (http://www.swbg-conservationfund.org)