In response to the damage caused by Hurricane Ian, the SeaWorld Conservation Fund provided emergency grants to 10 Florida zoological and wildlife rescue organizations affected by the storm.
These emergency grants will help facilitate recovery efforts and directly benefit a variety of animal species, including big cats, iguanas, lemurs, seabirds, sea turtles, wolves and others.
Since its inception as a nonprofit foundation in 2003, the SeaWorld Conservation Fund has awarded grants to 1,391 organizations on seven continents. Earlier this year, the Fund topped $19 million in grants to support projects for marine animals, ocean health and conservation.
“SeaWorld is proud to support our fellow zoological and rescue facilities impacted by Hurricane Ian,” said Dr. Chris Dold, Chairman of the SeaWorld Conservation Fund. “We are all part of an essential wildlife protection ecosystem, and we are grateful to have the ability to step up and help others who share our commitment to protecting wildlife.”
One of the recipients of an emergency grant is the Zoological Disaster Rescue, Response and Recovery (ZDR3), the largest zoological response organization in the United States. They provide support to zoos, aquariums, sanctuaries and other animal welfare organizations before, during and after significant incidents.
Julia Wagner, Executive Director of Zoological Disaster Rescue, Response and Recovery (ZDR3) said, “Hurricane Ian caused catastrophic damage to the Florida community and significant damage to wildlife facilities statewide. We are seeing a substantial impact on many facilities and on wildlife that will need support in the weeks and months ahead. These groups need all the help they can get. The SeaWorld Conservation Fund grant to our organization will go directly to the wildlife protection community so that we can help as many groups as possible on their long road to repair, rebuild and reopen.
The storm also affected area zoos, including the Naples Zoo which is also a recipient of an emergency grant from the SeaWorld Conservation Fund. Commenting on the grant, Lee Ann Rottman, Director of Animal Programs at Naples Zoo, said, “Like many groups in the area, our habitats have been damaged by wind and rain and this grant is incredibly helpful to our animals and our teams. This will help provide urgent habitat and exhibit repairs, tree removal, fencing replacement and erosion repair, which is important in keeping our animals healthy and safe.
Most organizations applying for a SeaWorld emergency grant have suffered damaged fences, major flooding, habitat destruction, wind damage, and other storm-related issues. These have rendered many of their recovery and long-term care habitats unusable.
Save our seabirds rescues and rehabilitates sick and injured seabirds with the goal of releasing them back to their original habitats. They too will receive an emergency grant. “Hurricane Ian is one of the most significant disasters Florida has ever seen, and the impact on our seabirds is immense,” said Aaron Virgin, CEO of Save Our Seabirds. “The SeaWorld Conservation Fund grant will allow us to build temporary housing for our brown pelicans and permanent housing for our great blue herons, as their habitats were severely damaged by the storm.”
Other emergency grants awarded to zoological and wildlife rescue and rehabilitation organizations include:
- Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary: a forever home for dozens of exotic animals, provides placement for animals in need, and works to educate the public about animal care and conservation.
- Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens: a conservation resource offering experiences that excite and inspire children and adults to learn and take action on behalf of wildlife.
- Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic (CROW): a teaching hospital and visitor education center dedicated to saving wildlife through advanced veterinary care, research, education and conservation medicine.
- Iguana Land: a reptile zoo, education and conservation center, founded by herpetologist and conservationist Ty Park.
- Lemur Conservation Foundation: dedicated to the preservation and conservation of the primates of Madagascar through managed breeding, scientific research, education and art.
- Shy Wolf Sanctuary: rescue exotic, non-releasable wild animals bred in captivity and provide forever homes for those in need of sanctuary.
- Bailey-Matthews National Seashell Museum: a natural history museum that educates, inspires, builds community, and connects people through their love of seashells, the various animals that create them, and the natural environment.