Calgary Zoo unveils Brian Keating Conservation Endowment for endangered animals

The Calgary Zoo has unveiled an endowment fund of at least $1 million aimed at saving endangered animals. The fund could swell to $3 million with the zoo matching donations, dollar to dollar.

Initial fund of $1M could grow as zoo plans to match up to $1M in additional donations, dollar for dollar

The Vancouver Island marmot is 1 of 8 North American species the zoo is working to preserve. (Calgary Zoo photo)

The Calgary Zoo has unveiled an endowment fund of at least $1 million aimed at saving endangered animals.

The Brian Keating Conservation Endowment was named for the zoo's former head of conservation outreach.

The initial $1 million comes from donations and a variety of funding sources that Keating helped secure during his 30 years with the zoo.

The zoo will also match up to $1 million in additional donations to the endowment.

The goal is to create "a long-term, guaranteed funding source to help more endangered species around the world," zoo president and CEO Clément Lanthier said in a release.

Burrowing owls are another species the Calgary Zoo is working to save. (Calgary Zoo)

"Zoos play a key role in conservation through their crucial work in conservation breeding and reintroduction programs, research, education, advocacy campaigns and fundraising, and this endowment will allow us to have an even greater far-reaching impact," Lanthier said.

"Brian's contribution to worldwide conservation efforts is incalculable and we are so fortunate to have such a formidable wildlife advocate within our zoo family."

Keating retired from the zoo in 2011 but still acts as its honorary conservation advisor.

He is also an adjunct assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Calgary, a nature-based travel group leader and a regular contributor to The Homestretch on CBC Radio.

"Current estimates suggest that we are losing three species a day and that we are in the midst of another mass extinction," Keating said.

"The Calgary Zoo is uniquely positioned to have an impact on numbers like this for wildlife conservation here in Canada and around the world. I am humbled to have my name attached to a cause that I am so passionate about, and I know that the zoo will be able to make a difference with this endowment."

The zoo is involved in projects to save eight North American species considered at-risk: the Vancouver Island marmot, black-tailed prairie dog, burrowing owl, Northern leopard frog, whooping crane, swift fox, black-footed ferret and greater sage-grouse.

It is also working on projects to save sitatunga (a type of antelope) and hippos in Ghana, as well as lemurs in Madagascar.