The University of Florida and Disney are teaming up to help butterflies and sea turtles as part of a 10-year project announced Friday.
The Reverse the Decline, Increase the Time initiative celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Disney Conservation Fund and will include funding for projects at the Jane Goodall Institute, the National Park Foundation, the National Wildlife Federation and The Nature Conservancy in addition to the projects at UF.
“Wildlife and wild places have always been an inspiration to Disney, and we take pride in instilling that same inspiration in kids and families,” said Beth Stevens, senior vice president for corporate citizenship for Disney.
“We believe that conservation and caring for the planet are more than just good ideas—they are core to who we are as a company,” she said. “With the Disney Conservation Fund’s new initiative, it is our hope that our actions will help protect some of nature’s most precious habitats and ensure the health of our planet for generations to come.”
With the support of Disney, UF Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research Director Karen Bjorndal and Associate Director Alan Bolten have already started work on a strategy to help five endangered sea turtle species.
“It’s a game changer,” Bolten said of the initiative. “A lot of agencies are interested in short-term results. Disney really does understand the long-term time horizon for these major conservation research initiatives.”
The UF center’s work will focus on reducing threats to sea turtles from commercial fishing, habitat loss and climate change through data collection, public awareness campaigns and partnerships with other Florida groups working to restore marine habitats and nesting areas.
Also in on the initiative is a butterfly project headed up Jarret Daniels of the UF McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity.
Daniels will partner with groups in Florida and California to identify the most threatened butterfly species in both states and develop a plan for habitat restoration, captive breeding and reintroduction. Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment team will also pitch in on the project to help protect threatened butterfly species, many of which are close to Disney’s theme parks.
Other projects getting help through the initiative aim to to protect elephants, coral reefs, monkeys, great apes, sharks and rays, cranes, rhinos and tigers, while a second component of the initiative aims to increase the time kids spend in nature. Since starting the conservation fund in the 1990s, Disney has contributed more than $40 million to projects in 113 countries.