Everyone knows that Disney is the “Happiest Place on Earth,” but few people know that Disney strives to make the Earth happy, too. The Disney Conservation Fund helps support non-profit environmental organizations around the world. The “Reverse the Decline, Increase the Time” initiative seeks to reverse the increasing numbers of endangered species and increase the time families spend enjoying nature. The Chicago Zoological Society's Punta San Juan program receives grants from the Disney Conservation Fund to help protect the animals, environment, and help the local community live harmoniously with nature.
Each year the fund recognizes conservation professionals who “have gone above and beyond, demonstrating passion, courage, and tenacity in tackling some of the biggest challenges in protecting the planet’s resources.” It’s no easy job to become a Disney Hero and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have our very own hero in Punta San Juan.
While our program in Peru has many researchers, veterinarians, educators, and conservationists studying the ecosystem and animals, there is one person whose heart and soul are in the program and the community. Susana Cardenas-Alayza has transformed a field-research program into a comprehensive conservation and community education program aimed to protect animals, the environment, and educate the community on the assets of the PSJ reserve.
Susana’s research has “led to a better understanding of the health and movements of Punta San Juan’s seals, sea lions, and birds.” Her team’s outreach and education initiatives have created a community of advocates for nature by empowering local families to engage in citizen science, art, and conservation projects, along with raising environmental awareness among Peru’s government officials and universities to help create informed decisions and protections for marine wildlife.
Susana has always been a conservation hero to everyone at Chicago Zoological Society and the Punta San Juan program, but it nice to know that Disney acknowledges her love and dedication to the land, animals, and people of the community. Congrats to her!