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SeaWorld commended for animal conservation

I was able to get a look recently, at how SeaWorld in Orlando is protecting animals. 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 organizations 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 organizations 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 organizations continue the work imperative to our common goal of wildlife conservation."

Supporting Fellow Rescue and Rehabilitation Organizations

SeaWorld is one of the largest marine animal rescue organizations 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 honors this mission by supporting other organizations 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 organizations 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 honored to be their partner in the mission to protect marine animals."

Other 2022 grant recipient organizations 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 organizations 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."

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