Wild Regent Honeyeaters, Asian Elephants and Orang-utans are among more than 70 species to be supported by the Taronga Foundation Conservation Field Grants program just announced by the Zoo. This year’s nine projects are spread across Africa, Asia and Australia represent the Zoo’s rapidly expanding role in wildlife conservation and bringing to 22 the number of in situ projects backed by over $200,000 from the Foundation. Taronga Director and Chief Executive, Cameron Kerr, said: “As a conservation agency, we’re committed to helping ensure a future for wildlife. These projects will represent the core of our global endeavours for wildlife during the UN’s International Year of Biodiversity. In addition, Taronga and Taronga Western Plains Zoos will continue a broad range of breeding, research and public education programs including work with Sumatran Tigers, Tasmanian Devils, pack ice seals and wildlife rehabilitation for over 1200 injured or orphaned native animals, while providing conservation education to over 100,000 school students. “The Conservation Field Grants helps us extend our support beyond the Zoo gates. Many of the projects that received support this year focussed on the protection of large habitats, supported by local community education projects, so lots of animals from tiny insects to larger animals like sun bears and tigers living in those areas will benefit,” said Mr. Kerr. As part of the program, Taronga will launch a mission to help save the endangered Australian woodland bird, the Regent Honeyeater from extinction as the small yellow and black birds have been disappearing from their native Box and Ironbark Forests of the Great Dividing Range at an alarming rate, with as few as 1500 left. For some years, Taronga’s expert keepers have worked with other wildlife agencies to breed Regent Honeyeaters and release them into the wild. This year, thanks to the Conservation Field Grants the breeding program will be coupled with a community education program. Mr Kerr said: “Our Education team will work with local school students in the Capertee Valley region to teach them about the endangered species living in their neighbourhood and the importance of habitat protection. Inspiring and educating future generations and decision-makers is often the key to helping struggling species. The students will also get their hands dirty by planting trees to personally help restore the Ironbark woodlands which the birds rely on for nesting and food.” Another eight programs will benefit from the Zoo’s field conservation funding, including: Support of the Indian Rhino Vision 2020 project to increase the number of wild Indian Rhinoceros in the northern state of Assam. Support of a community education program in Sri Lanka to minimise human / elephant conflict. Support of Friends of the National Park Foundation Bali – large scale habitat restoration project in a 400,000 hectare conservation ground in Indonesia. Support of an education project to minimise human / carnivore conflict in Tanzania. Support of South Luangwa Conservation Society – Anti-poaching project in Zambia. Funding Taronga Zoo staff to conduct veterinary screening & health evaluation of endangered Fijian Crested Iguanas. Support of Roots & Shoots Nepal – education and awareness campaign to safeguard vulture species suffering due to detrimental livestock practices. Support of Zoological Society of London, Berbak Carbon Initiative – Forest conservation initiative to protect endangered species like the critically endangered Sumatran Tiger.Since its inception in 2000, The Taronga Foundation has contributed more than half a million dollars to conservation programs around the world. The Conservation Field Grant Recipients The grant applications for this years Taronga Field Conservation Programs were more than three times that of our budget, and the quality of grants was exceptional, making final decisions very difficult. Successful projects were chosen after a stringent assessment process using criteria developed in partnership with the International Union for Conservation and Nature that assessed the conservation benefit, urgency, and probability of success of each project. This year we are proud to support nine education, anti-poaching, population management, wildlife health and habitat restoration projects in Australia, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Fiji, Nepal, Tanzania and Zambia. Indian Rhino Vision 2020The Indian Rhino Vision 2020 (IRV 2020 focuses on increasing the number of wild Indian Rhinoceros in the northern state of Assam to 3,000 by the year 2020). The current program aims to expand on a successful translocation program to increase the Indian Rhino population in Assam, reduce the pressure on Kaziranga National Park and reducing the risk to the species by splitting the population. Biodiversity & Elephant Conservation Trust ‘Schools’ Awareness Program’ A primary threat to Asian Elephants is conflict with the local communities. This project incorporates a campaign designed to educate young children on the value of elephants, how to minimise habitat destruction and the importance of conservation. This program creates an understanding of elephant conservation in future generations of Sri Lankan children. Friends of the National Park Foundation BaliTanjung Puting National Park is a 400,000 hectare conservation ground in Indonesia that is home to over 200 bird and 30 mammal species including 2,000 endangered Orang-utans. Illegal logging, encroachment and forest fires are having a severe impact on Tanjung Puting National Park. Friends of the National Parks Foundation (FNPF) is a reforestation project that began in 2003 aimed at restoring the natural habitat of Tanjung Puting National Park to assist in the preservation of local wildlife. Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, University of Oxford – Tanzania ProjectTanzania is now a global concern due to conflict between human settlements and large carnivores such as Lions and African Wild Dogs. This project includes an education program to lessen the impact of human-carnivore conflict and addressing the root causes of carnivore persecution. South Luangwa Conservation SocietyThis project is an anti-poaching campaign within the South Luangwa National Park (Zambia) to reduce the illegal snaring and shooting of animals for the Bush Meat trade. South Luangwa is a 9,050 square kilometre national park in eastern Zambia. Home to over 100 species of mammals and 470 species of birds, this wildlife area is regarded as Zambia’s iconic National Park. Taronga Zoo Education Centre – TCSA - Regent Honey Eater– A Valley RescueThe Taronga Zoo Education Team is undertaking a project to conserve the endangered Regent Honeyeater (Xanthomyza Phrygia). This species is under threat from habitat degradation and fragmentation due to extensive clearing for agriculture and numbers are estimated to be as low as 1,500 adults. This project aims to engage students from three schools in the Capertee Valley area in conservation efforts and to restore habitats for the native and reintroduced honeyeaters. Veterinary screening and health evaluation of Fijian Crested Iguanas (Brachylophus vitiensis).The Taronga Wildlife Hospital is providing veterinary support to the National Trust for Fiji to implement the IUCN Fijian Crested Iguana Recovery Plan. This project involves the translocation of 80 to 100 critically endangered Fijian Crested Iguanas from Yadua Taba to Namenalala to ensure a second colony will be secure from any single catastrophic event, such as disease or natural disaster. This project ensures veterinary screening and health evaluations required to meet the IUCN Guidelines for Reintroductions (1998). Roots & Shoots NepalVulture species have shown the greatest decline rate of any bird species in southern Asia with a loss of 98% of the population in 12 years. The dramatic decline in population has been a result of the illegal trade and use of Diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory and analgesic drug that is commonly administered to local livestock. Roots and Shoots are implementing a conservation awareness campaign into the Basa Basai district of Nepal to engage 5 village development committees, educating the members on the impact Diclofenac is having on the local Vulture population and the greater ecosystem, as well as providing alternatives to Diclofenac. Zoological Society of London – Berbak Carbon InitiativeThe Berbak swamp forest in Sumatra is rich in biodiversity, including the critically endangered Sumatran Tiger. These forests are disappearing at >3% year from illegal and legal logging, threatening the wildlife and communities and representing carbon emissions in excess of 3 million tonnes per year. This project aims to bring stability and longevity to conservation and carbon storage by developing relevant, clear economic incentives, for the local communities to support forest conservation measures.