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First of its Kind Kickstarter Campaign Launched to Help Save Endangered African Penguins


Mystic, Conn. (May 17, 2017): African penguin populations have been declining for the past few decades. Mystic Aquarium joins other Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited members to take action and help reverse this trend. Today, the combined group launches the “Invest In The Nest” campaign on Kickstarter, the innovative crowdfunding platform. The campaign seeks to raise $150,000 to help build and place 1,500 artificial nests for African penguins in South Africa and Namibia.

Beginning on Friday, May 19, Endangered Species Day, guests at Mystic Aquarium will have the ability to see up-close one of these innovative and potentially species-saving nests.

“Mystic Aquarium has been caring for African penguins for 29 years,” said Gayle Sirpenski, Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Management Specialist. “We continue to have leading roles in the African penguin Species Survival Plan (SSP) and AZA’s Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE); two critically important conservation programs that seek to ensure the survival of this endangered species.”

Gayle Sirpenski has been an integral member of Mystic Aquarium’s Research and Veterinary Services team for 25 years. She is co-coordinator of the ‘African Penguin Species Survival Plan’—a cooperative animal management program that makes breeding and transfer recommendations to ensure the long-term survival of the species in accredited zoos and aquariums. Gayle is also at the forefront of engaging global efforts toward saving the African penguin in the wild.

“In my professional career, I’ve seen the population of African penguins decline dramatically due to a host of environmental and man-made threats,” continued Sirpenski. “For the first time in many years I feel a sense of hope that we can finally turn things around for African penguins in the wild. The Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to build artificial nests is a great way for the public to help with this innovative approach to saving a species.”

Mystic Aquarium also supports the SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction®, a program that brings together the expertise and resources of AZA, its members, and partners to help save species from extinction.

Establishing new artificial nests is a priority identified in the AZA SAFE African penguin conservation action plan, and necessary to help save African penguins.

“We’re always excited about campaigns that expand our worldview and actively contribute to innovation around the globe. Invest In The Nest is pushing boundaries in the practice of conservation and bringing optimism and direct action to the Kickstarter backer community,” says Clarissa Redwine, Kickstarter's Design and Technology Outreach Lead for the West Coast.  "This conservation effort takes backers through the process of designing, building, and installing habitat structures that will help save endangered African penguins, helping Kickstarter backers play a vital part in protecting wildlife."

In addition to the satisfaction of supporting this worthy cause, contributors to the Kickstarter campaign will be eligible for a variety of rewards at varying levels of investment, including exclusive behind-the-scenes access to some of the best aquariums and zoos in the country, as well as original penguin art, symbolic penguin adoption kits, t-shirts, totes, posters and more.

The Roger Tory Peterson Penguin Exhibit at Mystic Aquarium is home to 32 endangered African penguins.  While one of the most popular species at Mystic Aquarium, they are also important ambassadors to their endangered counterparts in the wild. A docent is always on exhibit to enhance the guest experience with behavioral and natural history information about the African penguin. World-class animal care specialists conduct feedings twice daily providing further insight into penguin care.

Visitation provides an otherwise unlikely connection to the engaging birds and inspires guests to join in conservation efforts-like the Kickstarter Campaign. Mystic Aquarium’s mission to inspire people to care for and protect the ocean planet is never more engaging then with their two penguin encounter programs. Each unique experience fosters a deeper appreciation for the animals.

“AZA-accredited aquariums and zoos believe we should do more to help save species, which is why we started SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction,” said Dan Ashe, President and CEO of AZA. “We brought together scientists and engineers to help us design the best nest for African penguins. Now we need the public’s help to build and place the nests in South Africa. Invest In The Nest is an opportunity for anyone to help save a species!”

If fully funded, the nests will be constructed by hand in South Africa, helping to create jobs for residents.

To back or follow the campaign, visit the “Invest In The Nest” campaign page


Mystic Aquarium, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, is counted among the nation’s leading aquariums with more than 300 species and an extensive collection of marine mammals, including New England’s only belugas. Mystic Aquarium has been a pioneer in offering guests a variety of up close encounters with a wide range of marine animals. The mission of Mystic Aquarium is to inspire people to care for and protect our ocean planet through conservation, education and research. Mystic Aquarium receives major support from The Coca-Cola Company, Foxwoods Resort Casino, Resorts World Sentosa and United Technologies Corporation. Learn more at


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. Look for the AZA accreditation logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. The AZA is a leader in saving species and your link to helping animals all over the world. To learn more, visit


SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction combines the power of zoo and aquarium visitors with the resources and collective expertise of AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums and partners to save animals from extinction. Together we are working on saving the most vulnerable wildlife species from extinction and protecting them for future generations. To learn more, visit