A Kickstarter campaign from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums will help grow the population of an endangered penguin species native to South Africa.
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) is dedicated to preserving the planet’s wildlife, and now it’s holding a Kickstarter campaign to save African penguins from extinction.
In addition to decreasing food supply and a changing habitat, this penguin species is endangered because people have been overharvesting their guano—which the penguins need to build their nests for their chicks—to use as fertilizer. Running until June 16, the “Invest in the Nest” Kickstarter is raising $150,000 to build and place 1,500 artificial nests among the African penguin colonies in South Africa and Namibia. (As of publication time, more than $130,00 had been raised.)
“AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums are conservation organizations dedicated to helping save species and generate awareness about what is impacting animals in the wild,” AZA President and CEO Dan Ashe said in a press release. “We believe the Kickstarter community is a natural fit to ‘invest in the nest,’ and more importantly, play a direct role in helping to save this species.”
The artificial nests are made of environmentally friendly materials and crafted to last 15 years. “These nests are built using special materials that ensure the optimal temperature for penguin egg gestation inside, and hold up to predators on the outside,” the Kickstarter page reads. “But those special materials make it impossible to fabricate the nests by machine, so each one is made by hand.”
Beyond helping save the species, people who pledge a donation will also receive rewards. For a $25 donation, you receive a recorded voice message from celebrity conservationist Jack Hanna, while other amounts under $100 can get you a T-shirt or tote bag. Those willing to donate larger amounts—from hundreds to thousands of dollars—could receive penguin-made art, up-close penguin encounters at participating zoos, or wine dinners with penguins or elephants.
AZA member zoos and aquariums have supported the campaign by both providing some of the penguin experience rewards and hosting live chats to discuss the African penguin, like these videos from the Dallas Zoo and Monterey Bay Aquarium. Yogurt company Stonyfield, a sponsor of the AZA Saving Animals from Extinction (SAFE) program, donated $30,000 to the cause.
“It isn’t often a cow has an opportunity to help save a penguin, but our support of AZA SAFE and its Kickstarter campaign really allows us to make a difference for these endangered animals,” Stonyfield Brand Director Natalie Levine said in the statement. “By making sure this campaign gets off to a strong start, we aim to not only support the recovery of endangered African penguins, but also inspire others to do the same.”
Along with animals like the Asian elephant and vaquita porpoise, the African penguin is one of 10 endangered species the AZA SAFE program is working to protect. AZA has identified the African penguin to focus on because it is an indicator species in its habitat, meaning the health of species represents the health of the overall ecosystem.
“Humans have contributed to the decline of this species, and it’s up to us to give them a chance for survival,” the Kickstarter page says.