Three Pilot Whales Changed This Animal Trainer's LifeAugust 17, 2015
I am a whale and dolphin trainer at SeaWorld Orlando. Three years ago today, I experienced something unforgettable - not at our park, but on a beach. Today I celebrate it with three of my favorite animals and a special treat – a cake made of their favorite gelatin! While enjoying a vacation in Vero Beach Sept. 1, 2012, I received a call from Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute asking for help. More than 20 pilot whales were stranded nearby. I rushed to the scene to see if I could assist in any way. My family and friends understood – I love dolphins and whales and would do anything to help save one. Along with state and federal wildlife experts, we tried for hours to help keep the whales cool, wet and comfortable on the beach. Unfortunately, many did not survive. Those that did would get a second chance.
Three of those whales survived stranding and made it through rehabilitation – three orphans estimated to be about six months old. Because the animals were so young, government experts determined that they would not survive if returned to the wild. The federal government asked SeaWorld to give them a home, which we were happy to do. A few short weeks later, the three youngsters – now named Ava, Ace and Piper - were moved from our rescue and rehabilitation facilities to their new home inside SeaWorld. The three of them joined Fredi, a female pilot whale that had been rescued after being stranded in the Florida Keys in May of 2011. The four bonded and instantly became a family.
As a trainer at the Whale and Dolphin Stadium, I now care for these same pilot whales that I helped rescue that day. I love to interact with them and share their inspiring story with guests. In fact, I sometimes spend more time with them than my human family! It is beyond inspiring to be part of their development, see firsthand how they are thriving, and know that they are helping to educate millions of people every year about challenges that whales face in the wild.
I am very proud to be a part of the SeaWorld family and thankful to all the other volunteers and agencies that worked tirelessly to rescue these three special animals. Helping to give this trio a second chance at life was one of the most memorable experiences of my life.
-Tiffany Senior Animal Trainer SeaWorld Orlando