Orlando, Fla. (April 30, 2018) – What do a theme park, a beverage company and a swamp have in common? Today, SeaWorld and Coca-Cola announced a joint donation through the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, in partnership with The Everglades Foundation, to support a freshwater replenishment project with Audubon Florida. The project will help replenish an estimated 37 million gallons of water within the Western Everglades at Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples, Florida. The partnership kicked off earlier this month with a group tour by swamp buggy of the Corkscrew Sanctuary, where Audubon scientists report dramatic changes in the region’s hydrology, and the need for water is visible in the drying trend seen throughout the ecosystem.
In the lead-up to the summer opening of SeaWorld Orlando’s first freshwater-themed attraction, Infinity Falls, the water replenishment project supports SeaWorld’s commitment to conservation of important freshwater ecosystems, and to providing its park guests with experiences that matter. The $100,000 privately-funded joint partnership between SeaWorld and Coca-Cola will provide critical aid and investment for conservation efforts where public funding has historically fallen short, and furthers SeaWorld’s Park to Planet mission to See it Here (at Infinity Falls), Save it There (in America’s Everglades).
“We’re glad to partner with conservation-minded organizations like SeaWorld and Coca-Cola who share our mission for maintaining the vital freshwater ecosystems that many birds and wildlife need,” said Jason Lauritsen, sanctuary director at Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. “The completion of the project later this year will combat the drying trend we’ve seen in the herbaceous marshes and cypress forests during the last two decades, which has ecological ripple effects that are felt far beyond the Sanctuary.”
In response to regional needs for water conservation, the water replenishment project will include the mechanical removal of 100 acres of invasive Carolina willow to be replaced with native sawgrass at Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, which will improve downstream water flow and onsite recharge, as well as improve access for foraging wading birds. As part of the partnership kick-off earlier this month, executives from SeaWorld and Coca-Cola traveled to the Naples sanctuary and planted beneficial sawgrass, which is native to America’s Everglades and helps support the area’s biological diversity.
“While SeaWorld is traditionally known for its ocean conservation efforts, we recognize the importance of the delicate freshwater ecosystems that feed into our oceans, and the need to educate our guests about this intricate connection,” said John Reilly, CEO of SeaWorld Entertainment. “Our mission with Infinity Falls is to look beyond the sea and share with our guests an experience that’s inspired by our conservation work with important partners like Coca-Cola, Audubon Florida and The Everglades Foundation.”
When it opens this summer, Infinity Falls will feature roaring rapids, soaking fountains, and a record-setting 40-foot waterfall drop, all against the backdrop of a rainforest utopia. Guests will have the opportunity to take on the role of a conservationist on a journey through the rainforest and learn about the importance of freshwater conservation through interactive games and stories throughout the ride experience.
“Water is essential to our business and to the communities we serve. That is why we are working to replenish 100 percent of the water we use in our beverages and return it to nature- a goal we first achieved in 2015,” said Jon Radtke, Coca-Cola’s chief hydrogeologist. “We’re excited to partner with like-minded organizations to help improve the availability of freshwater for public supply and recharge local aquifers.”
SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with The Everglades Foundation since 2016, investing in the Everglades Literacy program. This program provides K-12 educators with the curriculum and tools to educate young Floridians about the ecological and economic impact of the ecosystem and why saving this national treasure is important to the all Floridians and the animals and plants that call it home. Since it began, over 1,500 teachers have completed the coursework and are implementing the Everglades Literacy Program in their classrooms, reaching approximately 60,000 students to date. In fact, guests to Infinity Falls will have the opportunity to support the literacy program when they purchase Infinity Falls merchandise, as SeaWorld will donate 5 percent of the net proceeds to The Everglades Foundation’s Literacy program.
“The restoration and protection of the Everglades is vital to Florida as one out of every three Floridians, more than 8 million people, rely on this national treasure for their daily water supply,” said Eric Eikenberg, CEO of The Everglades Foundation. “This partnership with SeaWorld and Coca-Cola means we can continue to preserve America’s Everglades for generations to come.”
SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc.
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment™ is a leading theme park and entertainment company providing experiences that matter and inspiring guests to protect animals and the wild wonders of our world. The company is one of the world’s foremost zoological organizations and a global leader in animal welfare, behavioral training, husbandry and veterinary care. The company collectively cares for what it believes is one of the largest zoological collections in the world and has helped lead advances in the care of animals. The company also rescues and rehabilitates marine and terrestrial animals that are ill, injured, orphaned or abandoned, with the goal of returning them to the wild. The SeaWorld® rescue team has helped more than 31,000 animals in need over the last 50 years. The SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund is the philanthropic foundation of the company and has awarded over $11 million in conservation grants to over 800 organizations since its founding in 2003.
The Everglades Foundation
The Everglades Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to leading efforts to restore and protect the greater Everglades ecosystem. Since its founding in 1993 by a group of local outdoor enthusiasts, the Foundation has become a respected and important advocate for the sustainability of one of the world’s most unique ecosystems. Learn more at www.evergladesfoundation.org.
For more than a century, Audubon has encouraged people to take care of the places that make Florida special. Using science to guide our work and birdlife to measure ecosystem health, Audubon works to protect land, water, and wildlife. Today, Audubon is Florida’s most influential conservation organization and leads efforts to preserve America’s Everglades, coastal bird habitats, and other special places. Audubon manages sanctuaries that cover thousands of acres along with two popular nature centers. Audubon also promotes stewardship and appreciation of public land and water so people may always experience and cherish Florida’s natural beauty.