The Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) wants to build artificial nests for endangered African penguins. They are raising money on kickstarter. Recently I caught up with Rob Vernon to learn more about the effort; here’s what he told me:
What is the social benefit you hope to achieve with or through your crowdfunding campaign?
African penguins are in peril. Where once there were over one million breeding pairs of penguins, now there are only about 25,000. And if we don’t act right now, we could lose the species entirely to extinction. These unique and fascinating birds used to build their nests where they lay their eggs and raise their families in a thick, stable layer of guano — yep, that’s poop. But for decades, their guano has been over-harvested by humans to sell as fertilizer, leaving them without a safe place to make their homes. Add to that problem predation, dwindling food supply, and habitat changes and you’ve got a recipe for unimaginable population decline. But hope for the African penguin is not lost! Members of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) from around the globe have come together with a plan to take on this unique challenge. We’ve got the best animal scientists and researchers on the case, and they’ve got a simple, but powerful, solution: an artificial nest, rigorously tested and perfected in the field. Our Kickstarter campaign is an easy and fun way (with great rewards!) anyone can help save a species!
How much money are you hoping to raise and why? How much have you raised so far?
We want to raise $150,000 to help build and place 1,500 artificial nests for African penguins. This is part of the AZA SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction African Penguin Artificial Nest Development Project (Learn more: https://www.aza.org/SAFE-african-penguin-conservation-projects#5). The nests will be built by hand in South Africa, providing local jobs. So far, we have raised just over $122,000.
Whom are you trying to help with your project and why?
AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums, and our partners around the world, are working fast and furiously to find solutions to the dangers African penguins face. But we can’t do it without you. So far, we’ve been able to secure funding for the first research and development phase of our project. Now we’re ready to take it to the next level. You can help us produce and install 1,500 nests to place in actual penguin colonies across South Africa and Namibia. So yes — zoos and aquariums need your help to make this happen. But ultimately, it’s the African penguins that need you. Humans have contributed to the decline of this species, and it’s up to us to give them a chance for survival.
What rewards, if any, are you offering to your supporters?
We have a variety of rewards at all levels including totes, mugs, car decals, t-shirts, plus original penguin art, unique zoo and aquarium experiences, penguin charm bracelets from ALEX + ANI, and even a voicemail from Jack Hanna!
Check out the campaign: