AZA, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, has chosen four member-led conservation projects to support through the SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction granting program, now in its second year. The association is helping to drive nearly $730K to these projects.
“It is exciting to witness the growth of the SAFE granting program, both in terms of the scope of the projects funded and the shared commitment by AZA members to conservation,” says Dan Ashe, President and CEO of AZA.
“Despite the extraordinary challenges of the past year, AZA members have continued their dedication to saving animals from extinction, which further demonstrates that conservation is in the DNA of modern, accredited zoos and aquariums.”
Advancing species recovery
The SAFE granting program was set up in 2019 with initial funding from the Arthur L. and Elaine V. Johnson Foundation. Its goal is to bring funds to AZA members who are implementing program plans to advance species recovery.
This year, extra funds were made available through the support of the Disney Conservation Fund and other philanthropic and corporate contributors. Project partners bring additional matching funds, driving more resources from the program.
“Receiving the SAFE grant from AZA is an incredible honor,” says Dr Lisa Hoopes, Director of Research, Conservation, and Nutrition at Georgia Aquarium and a project lead for In Situ Population Reinforcement of Endangered Zebra Sharks in Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia.
“Not only will this grant help us financially to achieve our goal of reintroducing zebra sharks to Indonesia, but it also highlights the important role zoos and aquariums play in conserving wild populations. We are excited to continue this important research and can’t wait to release our first group of zebra sharks.”
11 of 28 eligible SAFE projects submitted a proposal, and from these judges selected four projects to receive funding of more than $165,000 in grants. This is in addition to $560,000 in matching funds, making a total of nearly $730,000. 15 AZA members and 9 additional non-governmental organizations, government agencies, and universities will partner to complete these projects.
“We are excited and honoured to receive funding from this innovative SAFE program, which will allow us to answer important questions about the devastating shell disease that has slowed the recovery of the endangered western pond turtle,” says Dr Tim Storms, an associate veterinarian at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle.
“Our 30-year multi-institutional collaboration has made great strides toward ensuring the survival of this species, and we’re determined to continue this important work.”
“The Little Rock Zoo is proud to partner with the Orangutan SAFE on this important conservation effort and pleased to be working with so many of our AZA colleagues to save wildlife,” says Susan Altrui, Little Rock Zoo Director.
SAFE granting program recipients 2021:
- Ensuring Protection of the World’s Largest Black Rhino Population in the Face of the Global Corona Virus Pandemic. Richard Bergl, PhD, North Carolina Zoo & Seth Stapleton, PhD, Minnesota Zoo. Additional Collaborators: Buffalo Zoo, Etosha National Park, Great Plains Zoo & Delbridge Museum of Natural History, Little Rock Zoo, Save the Rhino Trust, The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens
- Gaining a New Understanding of Orangutans in Agricultural Mosaic Landscapes to Cause a Paradigm Shift in Conservation Strategy. Louis DiVincenti, DVM, MS, DACLAM, DACAW, Seneca Park Zoo & Brian Kutsch, Little Rock Zoo. Additional Collaborators: Birmingham Zoo, Borneo Futures, Henry Vilas Zoo, HUTAN, Maria Voight Consultant, Wildlife Impact
- In Situ Population Reinforcement of Endangered Zebra Sharks (Stegostoma tigrinum) in Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia. Tim Carpenter and Erin Meyer, PhD, Seattle Aquarium, Julie Levans, Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center, & Leah Neal, Alistair D.M. Dove, PhD, and Lisa Hoopes, PhD, Georgia Aquarium
- Investigating Shell Disease and Its Associated Pathobiome in Western Pond Turtles. Tim Storms, DVM and Kevin Murphy, Woodland Park Zoo, Kelly Flaminio, DVM, Oregon Zoo, Karen Terio, DVM, PhD, DACVP, University of Illinois & Lee Pinnell, PhD, Texas A&M University. Additional Collaborators: John G. Shedd Aquarium, Washington Department of Fish, and Wildlife and Smith Root, Inc.
Last year, AZA recognised the achievements of its member organisations by announcing the winners of its 2020 Awards and Honors, at its Virtual Annual Conference in September 2020.