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SeaWorld Conservation Fund Celebrates 20 Years of Marine Animal Conservation; Makes 22 New Grants in 2022

28 Feb 2023

Celebrating 20 years of marine animal conservation grants, the SeaWorld Conservation Fund announced 22 new grants made in 2022 to support third party research, rescue, and conservation programs to protect marine animals and their habitats. Various marine animal species directly benefiting from these 2022 grants include coral reefs, dolphins, manatees, penguins, seals, seabirds, sea turtles and whales. This year the Fund is celebrating its 20th anniversary, created as a nonprofit foundation in 2003. To date the SeaWorld Conservation Fund has provided more than $20 million in grants to 1,391 organisations across all seven continents.

Dr. Chris Dold, President of the SeaWorld Conservation Fund and Chief Zoological Officer of SeaWorld said, “We are committed to advancing animal conservation and preserving wildlife species and their natural habitats across the globe. Protecting wildlife is no small mission and requires the teamwork and support of countless organisations focused on animal rescue and rehabilitation, conservation education, habitat protection and species research. We are proud to be able to provide financial support that helps these organisations continue the work imperative to our common goal of wildlife conservation.”

Supporting Fellow Rescue and Rehabilitation Organisations

 SeaWorld is one of the largest marine animal rescue organisations in the world. It has come to the aid of more than 40,000 sick, injured, orphaned, and stranded marine animals, always with the goal of rehabilitating and returning healthy animals back to their native environment. The SeaWorld Conservation Fund honours this mission by supporting other organisations that share the same goal.

In 2022, a grant was made to the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network (TMMSN) to create increased capacity for marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation in the state of Texas. Of their grant, Heidi Whitehead, Executive Director at Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network said, “Generous donations from organisations such as the SeaWorld Conservation Fund allow us to provide a coordinated response to marine mammal strandings along the Texas coastline and continue our important mission of marine mammal conservation. We are very grateful for their support and are honoured to be their partner in the mission to protect marine animals.”

Other 2022 grant recipient organisations with a focus in species rescue and rehabilitation include:

  • Coral Restoration Foundation for international coral reef restoration efforts which are carried out by a collaborative team of staff, interns and countless volunteers.
  • Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) for the conservation of southern African seabirds and their marine environment.
  • Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Association (ARCAS) for protecting the most important sea turtle nesting beaches and mangrove wetlands of the Pacific coast of Guatemala.

Advancing Scientific Research that Leads to the Preservation of Species and their Habitats

 The SeaWorld Conservation Fund supports organisations whose species research leads to healthier and more biodiverse populations in the future. One 2022 grant recipient was the Norwegian Orca Survey for the ‘Keeping up with Norwegian Orcas’ program which continues a long running photo identification and DNA study of killer whales throughout Norway.

“Killer Whales are a vital species to our environment and through the generous funds from SeaWorld, we have been able to improve the knowledge of Norwegian killer whales through researching, monitoring and observing the diversity of individuals’ dietary habits on a long-term basis,” said Dr. Eve Jourdain, Director at Norwegian Orca Survey. “Our research findings have led to the writing of multiple scientific publications which will help revise the protection status and identify human threats to this population. It is critical that we continue this long-term research project so we can achieve to better understand and protect this unique population of killer whales.”

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) received its third grant from the SeaWorld Conservation Fund in 2022. Their work focuses on ending lethal fishing gear entanglements by advancing buoyless fishing. Dr. Michael Moore, Senior Scientist at WHOI, said, “Rope entanglements are a serious threat to the survival of many endangered whales and sea turtles. With the help from the SeaWorld Conservation Fund, we have been able to test On Demand gear systems which significantly reduce entanglements and create a safter environment for marine animals.”

Additional 2022 grant recipient organisations advancing science to protect marine animals include:

  • Alaska Sealife Center for research on non‐releasable Alaskan ice seals to better understand their behaviour patterns.
  • AMPA-Friends of Manatee Association for monitoring an Amazon River dolphin population to watch their behavioural and reproductive patterns.
  • Rising Tide Conservation for advancing sustainability in the marine aquarium industry by funding and promoting marine fish research.
  • The Society for Marine Mammalogy for fostering international partnerships and collaborations to improve the quality of research on marine mammals within the science community.

Recipient organisations focused on marine habitat preservation include Restore America's Estuaries for coastal restoration within the Great Marsh, the largest salt marsh in New England and Tampa Bay Watch for community action and partnership to reduce marine debris in Tampa Bay.

Emergency Grants to Help Wildlife Organisations Impacted by Hurricane Ian

 In response to the damage caused by Hurricane Ian, the SeaWorld Conservation Fund made emergency grants to 10 Florida zoological and wildlife rescue organizations impacted by the storm. Most organisations that applied for a SeaWorld emergency grant suffered from damaged fences, major flooding, habitat destruction, wind damage and other storm-related issues.

About the SeaWorld Conservation Fund

Established in 2003, the SeaWorld Conservation Fund, referred previously as the Fund, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit private foundation that supports grassroots conservation projects that make a difference in species research, habitat protection, conservation education, and animal rescue and rehabilitation. It has provided more than $20 million in grants to provide financial and scientific support to 1,391 different marine and land-based animal conservation and ecosystem projects on all seven continents. More than 100 different species have been helped through these grants. Funding comes through a variety of sources including contributions by SeaWorld’s corporate entity, SeaWorld Entertainment, and from the parks via roundups at the register, merchandise sales, and special events. Corporate partners contribute to the Fund, and consumers can support the cause by making donations in the parks or online. SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. covers all expenses and overhead for the Fund. This enables it to return 100 percent of every penny donated directly to the projects supported. Grant applications are accepted annually, though 2022-2023 grant applications are by invitation only. Both one-time and multi-year support is provided for recipient organisations.

 

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