AZA’s Conservation Endowment Fund Announces Grants to Conservation Projects Worldwide

Grants from the Conservation Endowment Fund of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums benefit eight conservation projects this year, including one for black-footed ferrets.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Conservation Endowment Fund (CEF) recently granted $160,000 among eight wildlife conservation initiatives. These eight projects for 2010 (see list below) were chosen after a competitive review of 65 applications.

“From crocodiles to lemurs to ferrets, AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums and their partners are at the forefront of wildlife conservation here in North America and around the world,” said AZA President and CEO, Jim Maddy. “The scientific contribution of zoos and aquariums receiving Conservation Endowment Fund awards is vital to the wildlife conservation movement.”

One of the projects receiving funds involves Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo and black-footed ferrets.

Researchers at the zoo, including Rachel Santymire, Ph.D., director of the Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology, have done studies on how sperm deficiency limits breeding and are currently working on ways to boost semen quality in black-footed ferrets to assist with breeding efforts. But that’s only one way the zoo is helping black-footed ferrets.

“Our latest initiative is a collaborative educational outreach program with the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana,” said Sharon Dewar, director of public relations at the Lincoln Park Zoo. “The recently awarded Conservation Endowment Fund grant will support this work.”

Dewar said that the Lincoln Park Zoo (LPZ) is a leader in wildlife conservation and education and was approached by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to provide the Northern Cheyenne Reservation (NCR) with essential support, expertise and resources needed for successful black-footed ferret recovery in Montana. 

“This is an ideal partnership for LPZ, as it aligns well with the zoo’s mission and conservation, science and education programs,” Dewar said.

She said that leaders at LPZ and NCR worked together and identified capacity building and community engagement as the most critical needs among key stakeholders, including NRC’s natural resource (NR) professionals, classroom educators and youth participating in the “Work & Learn” summer youth program. 

LPZ will use the grant to support NCR’s needs, and Dewar said the objectives are to:
1) provide essential training and equipment to NR personnel for black-footed ferret monitoring;
2) train classroom educators in inquiry-based science education and make connections between curriculum and the prairie ecosystem;
3) enhance the “Work & Learn” summer youth program by providing teens with pre-professional training in authentic wildlife research;
4) develop a comprehensive evaluation plan to assess the impacts of the “Work & Learn” program; and
5) provide ongoing support from LPZ staff experts to NR personnel and classroom educators. 

Established in 1984, the AZA CEF supports the cooperative conservation-related scientific and educational initiatives of AZA members and their partners. Between 1991 and 2010, the CEF provided more than $5 million to more than 300 projects worldwide. The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) and The Walt Disney Company have provided supplemental funds to the CEF for more than a decade, which significantly increases the number of projects funded by the CEF each year.

The eight projects that received grants in 2010 are listed below. Funding sources for each project are indicated.
Community Engagement and Capacity Building: The Northern Cheyenne Reservation and Black-footed Ferret Recovery (DWCF)
Rachel Santymire, PhD, Lincoln Park Zoo
Rachel Bergren, Lincoln Park Zoo

Cambodian Crocodile Conservation Programme: Re-introduction of Siamese Crocodiles to the Wild (CEF)
Adam Starr, Fauna & Flora International
Lonnie McCaskill, Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Developing Adaptive Management for Human-Elephant Conflict Across Asia (CEF/DWCF)
Peter Leimgruber, PhD, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, National Zoological Park

Developing Invasive Weed Control Methods In a Malagasy Rainforest Reserve (DWCF)
Karen Freeman, PhD, Madagascar Fauna Group
Ingrid Porton, Saint Louis Zoo

Ecological Interactions Between Wild and Domestic Ungulates in Arid Ecosystems: A Case Study of the Endangered Hirola Antelope (Beatragus hunteri), in Eastern Kenya (CEF)
Ali Hussein, Institute of Primate Research, National Museums of Kenya

Implementing a Conservation Strategy for the Black Warrior Waterdog (Necturus alabamensis) (DWCF)
Monica Stoops, PhD, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
Eric Keyster, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
Christopher DeChant, Innovative Zoological Solutions
Marine Fish Egg Collection and Larval Rearing – Technique Development for Sustainability (DWCF)
Judy St. Leger, PhD, SeaWorld San Diego
Allan Marshall, The Florida Aquarium
Gary Violetta, SeaWorld Orlando

Rocket Stoves and Reforestation: Ensuring the Long-term Survival of Two Critically Endangered Lemur Species in Madagascar (DWCF)
Edward Louis, Jr., DVM, PhD, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo

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