In an effort to better connect our guests and team members with the projects supported through the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, we created the Conservation Ambassador Program. This program provides opportunities for SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment staff to visit and participate in select projects supported by the Fund. As part of this program, selected Ambassadors will participate in real conservation in-situ along with our grantees and learn more detail about the conservation work we support. Ambassadors will then share what they have learned and experienced with team members, the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund board, the visitors to our parks and our online followers as part of this experience. This year, 11 Conservation Ambassadors will travel around the globe to assist in our conservation efforts.
National Audubon Society’s Project Puffin
National Audubon Society is a long time partner of the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund. Audubon’s Project Puffin has received grants from SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund to protect Atlantic Puffin colonies on Matinicus Rock and Seal Island National Wildlife Refuge in Maine. These colonies support 90% of Maine's puffins and they are the largest Arctic and Common Tern colonies in the state. Ongoing management of invasive vegetation, predators and human disturbance from the boating public requires the continued operation of seven field stations for these rare and endangered seabirds to safely nest. An annual census of puffin and tern numbers is necessary to measure the success of the program.
Kelly Hogan, an aviculturist from SeaWorld, Orlando, has worked for the past two years with penguins and puffins and has experience with observing puffin breeding behaviors, recording breeding pairs, checking nest sites and monitoring puffin parents caring for their chicks. She is currently in Maine assisting in the census of puffin and tern colonies, measure nesting success and conducting studies of foods delivered to tern and puffin chicks. Kelly wanted to participate in the Conservation Ambassador Program because she wanted to do something that will directly help birds that are threatened in the wild. “I am participating in the National Audubon Society’s Project Puffin because it’s an important program that is helping us learn more about puffins, and has had a significant impact on increasing the puffin populations in Maine. Not only will I be getting the exciting chance to view puffins and other seabirds in their natural environment, but the project would also provide me with valuable research experience and an opportunity to hone my observation skills, making me a better animal care specialist. I would also gain firsthand knowledge of how the project is making an impact, which I could then share with our guests. Hopefully by sharing my experiences, I can inspire others to think closely about their actions and how they affect the world that we share.”
Kelly has been a long time supporter of the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund. Specifically, during Penguin Spotlight Tours, she has shared with guests how the conservation fund supports projects like Project Puffin. “Anytime a guest asks about which wildlife organizations they should support, or if SeaWorld takes donations, I tell them they can donate to the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund. I explain that the money is given out in grants to organizations across the globe to support different conservation projects.”