Invest in the Nest: Save Penguins from Extinction
Artificial nests for endangered African penguins that could help a species facing extinction.
About this project
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.
The design for the artificial nest didn’t happen overnight. Our design is the product of rigorous scientific testing in the field and many failed prototypes that helped us learn how to get these nests just right.
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. But those special materials make it impossible to fabricate the nests by machine, so each one is made by hand. Not only will your pledge support the conservation of a beautiful and unique species, it will provide training and job skills to local South African workers.
We spent 3 months rigorously field-testing 15 different nest prototypes, each equipped with high-precision sensors so we could learn exactly what goes into the perfect penguin home. Here are just a few of the designs we tried:
We’re testing our strongest performers in South Africa now, but we need your help to get the best of the nests to all the penguin pairs that need them. Invest in the Nest today!
AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums, and our partners around the world, are working fast and furiously to find solutions to the dangers these birds 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.
Creative, world-changing projects that wouldn’t otherwise happen are funded on the Kickstarter platform every day thanks to committed backers like you. If there’s any community ready to tackle this huge issue and make history for penguins, it’s Kickstarter.
And, your involvement doesn’t end when you pledge to back our campaign. We’ll be sharing project updates with you from zoos and aquariums around the world — not to mention updates about the penguin colonies you’re helping to save in South Africa!
African penguins are an indicator species — they provide “early warning” for the health of their whole ecosystem and can act as a proxy for overall biodiversity in their region. Identifying indicator species in itself is a challenge!
Changes to the fish stocks, sea temperatures, and weather patterns have all contributed to the endangerment of the African penguin. It’s clear that their ecosystem is at risk, and everything we can do to protect them will improve the health of that ecosystem.
AZA-accredited aquariums and zoos frequently provide financial support to field conservation partners such as Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), which provides high-quality rehabilitation and veterinary services to African penguins and other seabirds in need. SANCCOB is also focused on raising awareness about endangered seabirds through conservation education programs and research projects, many of which have an AZA-accredited member as a collaborator.
Between 2011 and 2015, more than 40 AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums took part in or supporting field conservation projects benefitting African penguins. During those five years, the AZA community invested over $530,000 in African penguin conservation.
In late 2014, AZA and its members brought together a variety of stakeholders in South Africa to talk about the threats facing African penguins. Following this meeting, 8 projects that can help save African penguins were developed and vetted by zoological professionals. One of those 8 projects is this Artificial Nest Project. You can read more about the progress to date in helping African penguins here: https://www.aza.org/SAFE-african-penguin-conservation-projects
Prototypes are going into zoos and aquariums around the country right now for more observation! Once the Kickstarter is complete, the nests will be manufactured and installed in waves over the next 6 to 10 months.
The majority of the funds we crowdsource on Kickstarter will go directly to the production and distribution of 1,500 artificial nests. Once we’ve built 1,500 nests, we’ll place them in up to a dozen penguin colonies all across South Africa and Namibia. In addition to the costs of production and distribution, Kickstarter funds will be used to produce marketing materials and to produce and deliver unique penguin-inspired rewards for backers like you!
Your pledge doesn’t just get you a front row seat as we work together to save a species from the threat of extinction! (Although that’s pretty hard to beat if you ask us.) We’re also offering a range of incredible — and exclusive! — rewards like our #InvestInTheNest cling decal for your car or laptop, a special tote bag, t-shirt or poster featuring our original design:
You can also get rare behind-the-scenes penguin encounters at local zoos and aquariums in the United States, ORIGINAL penguin art (painted by a real penguin), and much more!
Your pledge is tax-deductible! Where goods and services are provided by the AZA in exchange for your contribution, the amount that is deductible for federal income tax purposes is limited to the excess of your total contribution over the fair market value of the goods and services provided.
If our project is completed and the goal is met, you will be asked to fill out a survey so that we can send you your rewards. The AZA is unable to recognize your gift, or provide rewards, unless the informational survey is completed.
Please allow an additional 4-6 weeks for your reward to ship internationally. Note: we are not responsible for international customs fees.
Some of the rewards are experiences (tours, events, lectures) offered at a specific time and place. The AZA, and our participating member zoos and aquariums, are not responsible for any backer’s travel or costs to participate in such experiences. Further, if a cause beyond the control of the AZA and participating member zoos and aquariums requires cancelling or rescheduling an experience, the AZA, zoos, or aquariums are not responsible for any additional travel or costs a backer may incur in order to participate at the new time. The AZA and participating member zoos and aquariums cannot guarantee that experiences are occurring on dates yet to be announced, or that must be rescheduled, will occur on a date that is convenient for all backers.
Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, animal welfare, education, science, and recreation. AZA is the accrediting body for the top zoos and aquariums in the United States and eight other countries. Currently, over 230 aquariums, nature centers, science centers and zoos are accredited by AZA.
African Safari Wildlife Park
Aquarium of the Pacific
Arizona Center for Nature Conservation
Audubon Nature Institute
Blank Park Zoo
California Academy of Sciences
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
Children’s Zoo at Celebration Square
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
Como Park Zoo and Conservatory
Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo
Dallas World Aquarium
Detroit Zoological Society
Dickerson Park Zoo
Disney’s Animal Kingdom; The Seas with Nemo & Friends; Animal Kingdom Lodge
Elmwood Park Zoo
Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo
Great Plains Zoo
Greensboro Science Center
John Ball Zoo
Lincoln Park Zoo
Los Angeles Zoo
Monterey Bay Aquarium
Nashville Zoo National Aviary
North Carolina Aquariums
NEW Zoo & Adventure Park
Oregon Coast Aquarium
Potter Park Zoo
Ripleys Aquarium of the Smokies
Riverbanks Zoo and Garden
Roosevelt Park Zoo
Rosamond Gifford Zoo
Saint Louis Zoo
Santa Fe College
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment
The Ocean Project
Utah’s Hogle Zoo
Vancouver Aquarium; Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre
Wildlife Conservation Society Zoos and Aquarium (Bronx, Central Park, Queens, Prospect Park, New York Aquarium)
Western North Carolina Nature Center
Investment is not permitted on Kickstarter. The Association of Zoos & Aquariums does not offer incentives like equity, revenue sharing, or investment opportunities in exchange for a pledge. Your “investment” in the African penguin nest is an investment in the future of that species — not for monetary gain.
Risks and challenges
No matter the outcome of this Kickstarter project, the Association of Zoos & Aquariums and our member organizations will remain committed to the conservation of the African penguin. However, a project of this scale — one that could turn the tide in the potential extinction of an entire species — hinges on the participation of hundreds of compassionate backers like you. Without your support, this project simply will not be possible.