SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund: Grants for Animals and Wildlife

OVERVIEW: The SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund is involved with wildlife conservation on a global scale, giving many small grants each year to nonprofits of all shapes and sizes. The fund has four major areas of focus: species research, habitat protection, conservation education, and animal rescue and rehabilitation.

IP TAKE: The fund leaves the door open for both small and large organizations, and it has a fairly long list of funding and conservation priorities, so if you research or work with wildlife or marine life, you should consider applying. Chances are good you'll find an opportunity.

PROFILE: Since its launch in 2003, the SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund has issued more than $10 million in grant funding to more than 700 projects across the globe. The fund was established as a way to help guests of SeaWorld become involved with wildlife conservation, and it functions mostly as a clearinghouse that aggregates and distributes small donations from members of the public. The amount of money given to each project is generally between $5,000 and $25,000, although the board occasionally considers proposals outside that range. 

The fund operates without an endowment and does not receive any revenue from investment income, but it also spends little to no money on overhead, with board members acting on a purely volunteer basis. Because of this, the vast majority of donations the fund receives go directly towards gifts to organizations on the ground. 

Its grants sponsor universities, zoological institutions, and conservation organizations of all sizes. The fund awards them in adherence to four predominant focus areas:

Species Research. Grants in this area support efforts to research and stabilize marine fish and mammals, Africa’s dry-land mammals, and the many forms of animal life that inhabit the Arctic—penguins, polar bears, and other marine mammals, in particular.

Habitat Protection. These grants fund anti-poaching efforts, cleanups of polluted waterways and coasts, and establishment of protected areas of coral reefs along the shores of Central and South America.

Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation. This program area encompasses programs that combat the illegal trafficking of products derived from endangered species. Extra attention goes to protection of North and South America’s sea turtles, African and Indian elephants, and penguins, rhinoceroses, and manatees throughout the globe. In addition, some grants in this program area sponsor nature wildlife rescue programs in Florida, California, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, with the majority of funds paying for purchases of small equipment, supplies, and food.  

Conservation Education. Grants within this program area fund educational and training initiatives that connect young people with nature and instruct young adults in how they can become conservation leaders. Other grants go toward sustainable-development initiatives that help remote rural communities find viable and environmentally sustainable livelihoods that free them from dependence on clear cutting, hunting, and environmentally destructive modes of farming.

The foundation additionally gives out a number of “animal crisis grants” throughout the year to organizations that need emergency funding following natural or manmade catastrophes. The International Gorilla Conservation Programme benefited from this resource when it received a grant to increase ranger patrols in critical areas after the illegal killings of four mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park.

The SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund has supported large, well-established organizations like the Nature Conservancy, the World Wildlife Fund, and Conservation International, but it also makes room for the little guys. The Red Panda Network, a grassroots group with less than $50,000 in annual revenue, received a grant for its work training villagers in Nepal to monitor and save the elusive red panda. About half of the groups the fund sponsors are small and have not received a great deal of public attention.