WASHINGTON / ST. LOUIS (Dec. 14, 2005)–Cynthia Lagueux, a conservationist studying marine turtles in Nicaragua, and William Oliver, a British wildlife biologist based in the Philippines and involved in leopard cat research, are this year’s recipients of $50,000 research grants from National Geographic and SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund.
As part of the organizations’ joint conservation initiative, the National Geographic Conservation Trust and the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund support and promote two conservation projects each year — one marine-based, the other terrestrial.
“Conservation is at the heart of the mission of National Geographic,” said John Fahey, president and CEO of the National Geographic Society. “We are delighted to partner with the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund to identify and solve pressing conservation problems around the world.”
Virginia Busch, president of the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, said, “By joining forces with National Geographic, we shine some much deserved light on innovative, solution-oriented projects that benefit both animals and people. Together, our two organizations hope to make significant strides in wildlife conservation.”
Lagueux, a Wildlife Conservation Society biologist, is working on a project to aid in the recovery of the critically endangered hawksbill turtle. The project — now completing its sixth year — involves the continuation of protection and conservation measures for the hawksbill rookery in Nicaragua’s Pearl Cays. With more than 175 nests a year, this rookery is believed to be the largest remaining in the west central Caribbean.
During the past six years, the project has achieved many successes, including a significant decrease in the poaching of hawksbill females and their eggs, an increase in the number of egg clutches laid, increased interest among local fishers to protect nesting females, the sighting of post-hatchling hawksbills that have never been observed previously by locals in this area, and increased interest and efforts to establish a protected area for the Pearl Cays.
Oliver, director of Flora and Fauna International’s Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Programme that orchestrates a suite of about 30 separate threatened species and habitat research and recovery programs, is working with local colleagues to investigate the distribution, conservation status and likely future management requirements of two threatened endemic subspecies of leopard cat in the Philippines.
Leopard cats are the only naturally occurring species of wild cat in the Philippines, yet little is known about the animals. They are believed to be endangered due to their highly restricted ranges, extensive deforestation, and hunting for human consumption and local live animal trade. The project thus far has focused on the Visayan subspecies, one of the world’s smallest and most beautiful wild cats, which has already been extirpated over at least 95 percent of its former range. This new grant will enable the project to be extended to the other subspecies, the Palawan leopard cat, and to address other pressing biodiversity conservation concerns in the region, which supports many other severely threatened endemic species.
The Philippine Archipelago is recognized as a globally important center of species’ biodiversity and endemism, but is generally considered to be the world’s single highest conservation priority country in terms of both numbers of severely threatened endemic species and degrees of threat.
National Geographic has been funding scientific research for more than a century. In December 2001 the Society established the Conservation Trust, a grant-making body to support conservation activities around the world. Grants are awarded for innovative projects that contribute significantly to the preservation and sustainable use of the Earth’s biological and cultural resources. Additional information on the Conservation Trust is available at www.nationalgeographic.com/conservation.
For more than 40 years the Anheuser Busch Adventure Parks have initiated and supported wildlife conservation as well as animal rescue, research and education efforts. In 2003 the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund was created as a private charitable foundation to support species research, animal rescue and rehabilitation, and conservation education. Since its inception, the Fund has donated more than $1.2 million to conservation causes around the world. More information on this program is available at www.swbg-conservationfund.org.