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Chamber Team Learns About SeaWorld Orlando’s Rescue & Conservation Work

In April, Chamber President John Newstreet and staff took an excursion under the sea with SeaWorld to learn about their efforts to rescue and rehabilitate sealife at their Orlando park.  On a tour of some of SeaWorld Rescue’s on-site facilities, we met manatees, sea turtles, dolphins, and unique species of coral that are being given second chances at life in the wild thanks to SeaWorld’s team of experts.

SeaWorld Orlando has two manatees, Nina and Sarah, that call the park home full time, but at any given moment SeaWorld is also home to many, many more temporary manatee residents – from those receiving round-the-clock care at the manatee ICU, to those about to return to their homes, to the tiniest of sea cows in Florida’s only manatee neonatal unit.  In 2023 alone, SeaWorld Orlando rescued 58 manatees and released 32 into the wild.  So far for 2024 they have rescued 31.  SeaWorld Orlando works with five other facilities around the country to make sure injured manatees get the care they need, and the Orlando park alone has tended to manatees from as far north as Virginia and as far west as Texas.  Once they have reached a healthy status, every effort is made to return these manatees to the waters they originally called home.

Rehabilitating a manatee costs at minimum $250,000, and as much as over $2 million, per animal.  For this reason, SeaWorld is heavily reliant on state and federal funding for their rescue efforts.  Your park patronage also helps to offset some of these costs, which is an exciting bonus to a fun day at one of Florida’s top theme parks!

 

SeaWorld Orlando’s rescue work also extends to sea turtles.  Sometimes these creatures wander a little too far north into climates to which they are not suited.  SeaWorld’s rescue teams retrieve them to return to Florida waters.  Just days before the Chamber visit, SeaWorld Rescue had released 30 turtles at Cocoa Beach.  Some current residents at the park are destined to be relocated to New Smyrna.

In addition to the dolphins that park patrons can come in contact with at SeaWorld Orlando’s Dolphin Encounter, thanks to SeaWorld Rescue, the park also provides refuge to dolphins in trouble.  When a two-month old baby dolphin was found injured and stranded in Clearwater, SeaWorld stepped in and brought it to Orlando where he is still rehabilitating.  Between his injuries and loss of the influence of his mother, this little guy needed to both improve his health and learn “how to be a dolphin” with help from SeaWorld’s trainers and older dolphin friends.  For a small dolphin the SeaWorld team worried might not make it, he is doing remarkably well.

Thanks to support from Florida’s representatives like Congressman Darren Soto and Senator Marco Rubio, the Coral Reef Restoration Act was passed.  SeaWorld and the Florida Coral Rescue Center are working to grow hundreds of species of coral, including Caribbean species that die off and do not replenish due to a deadly disease that has devastated coral populations since it was discovered in 2015.  These facilities give the coral a healthy place to grow and also give researchers an opportunity to study the disease, Stony Coral Tissue Loss, which disintegrates the coral’s skin.  A few years ago 8 coral of one specific species was brought to SeaWorld Orlando.  These might have been the last of that species, but today they have grown the population to 54.  SeaWorld Orlando is home to 20% of the 3,000 know coral species that are under human care.

SeaWorld is celebrating their 60th anniversary this year, as their original park in San Diego, California opened in March of 1964.  The Orlando park followed in 1973, as well as two other parks in Aurora, Ohio and San Antonio, Texas that opened in 1970 and 1988, respectively.  Since 1964, SeaWorld can boast that they have rescued 40,000 animals.  The Chamber team was thoroughly impressed with the daily work done right in our backyard at SeaWorld Orlando to help generate this impressive level of impact and to keep the populations of Florida’s most unique species thriving.  Here’s to 60 more years and counting!

Gallery of SeaWorld residents

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