ORLANDO, Fla., Nov. 10, 2022 — In response to the damage caused by Hurricane Ian, the SeaWorld Conservation Fund has made emergency grants to 10 Florida zoological and wildlife rescue organizations impacted by the storm. These emergency grants will help facility recovery efforts and directly benefit various animal species including big cats, iguanas, lemurs, seabirds, sea turtles, wolves and others. Since its creation as a nonprofit foundation in 2003, the SeaWorld Conservation Fund has provided grants to 1,391 organizations across all seven continents. Earlier this year, the Fund surpassed $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 affected by Hurricane Ian,” said Dr. Chris Dold, President of the SeaWorld Conservation Fund. “We are all part of an essential wildlife care ecosystem, and we are grateful to have the ability to step up and help others who share our commitment to protecting wildlife.”
One emergency grant recipient 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 care 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 across the state. We are seeing substantial impact to many facilities, and wildlife in need of support in the coming weeks and months. These groups need all the help they can get. The grant provided by the SeaWorld Conservation Fund to our organization will go directly back to the wildlife care community so that we can help as many groups as possible on their long road to repairing, rebuilding and reopening.”
The storm also impacted area zoos including the Naples Zoo who are also an emergency grant recipient of the SeaWorld Conservation Fund. Of the grant, Lee Ann Rottman, Director of Animal Programs at Naples Zoo said: “Like many groups in the area, our habitats sustained damage from the wind and rain and this grant is incredibly helpful for our animals and our teams. It will help provide urgent habitat and exhibit repair, tree removal, fencing replacement and erosion repair important to keep our animals healthy and safe.”
Most organizations applying for a SeaWorld emergency grant suffered from damaged fences, major flooding, habitat destruction, wind damage and other storm-related issues. These rendered many of their recovery and long-term care habitats unusable.
Save Our Seabirds rescues and rehabilitates sick and injured sea birds with the goal of releasing them back to their native habitats. They too will receive an emergency grant. “Hurricane Ian is one of the most significant disaster events Florida has ever seen, and the impact on our Seabirds is immense,” said Aaron Virgin, CEO at Save Our Seabirds. “The SeaWorld Conservation Fund grant will allow us to construct temporary housing for our Brown Pelicans and permanent housing for our Great Blue Herons as their habitats were heavily damaged from the storm.”
The other emergency grants awarded to zoological and wildlife rescue and rehabilitation organizations include:
- Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary: a permanent home for dozens of exotic animals, offers placement for animals in need and works to educate the public about animal care and conservation.
- Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens: a conservation resource providing experiences that excite and inspire children and adults to learn and act on behalf of wildlife.
- Clinic of Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW): a teaching hospital and visitor education center dedicated to saving wildlife through state-of-the-art veterinary care, research, education and conservation medicine.
- Iguanaland: 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 captive-bred exotic and non-releasable wild animals and provides a permanent home for those needing sanctuary.
- Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum: a natural history museum that educates, inspires, builds community and connects people through their love of shells, the diverse animals that create them and the natural environment.