Idexx Laboratories Inc. Chairman and CEO Jonathan Ayers and his wife, Helaine, have created a foundation that will focus on helping fund conservation initiatives and organizations dedicated to protecting wild cat species around the globe.

Westbrook-based Idexx, which provides veterinary diagnostic tools and services, said in a news release Tuesday that the Ayers Wild Cat Conservation Trust is endowed by an undisclosed gift of Idexx stock from the Ayers family. Idexx stock was trading at roughly $225 per share as of late Tuesday morning.

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The foundation will support conservation of the estimated 40 varieties of feline species, or felids, in the wild, Jonathan Ayers said in the release.

“We lionize cats such as jaguars, leopards, and cheetahs in popular culture – and yet felid species in the wild are threatened with declining populations and, in time, extinction,” he said. “We need to do more to preserve their populations in their natural habitat.”

Ayers said the couple believe in the importance of dedicated species conservation efforts, and that they hope their foundation will “help to support the vitality of wild cats, their natural habitats and the professionals dedicated to them in a meaningful way for years to come.”

While the foundation’s purpose is to support conservation initiatives for all species of wild cats, its specific focus will be on 33 species of small cats, which currently receive only a small fraction of all wild cat conservation funding, the release said.

Many of those species are endangered or vulnerable, including the clouded leopard, the black-footed cat, the sand cat and the fishing cat, it said.

The foundation will fund initiatives such as the Panthera Small Cats Program, which the Ayers family helped establish, according to the release. Panthera is devoted exclusively to the conservation of the world’s 40 wild cat species and their ecosystems.

The first foundation grants are expected to be made this year, it said.

J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at:

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