SeaWorld’s diverse experience includes caring for seven species including bottlenose, long and short beak common, pacific white-sided, striped, short-finned pilot whale, and spinner dolphins
- Our rescue teams have come to the aid of 68 dolphins in the last six years alone
- Large portion of rescues are for dolphins stranded after floods and natural disasters
- SeaWorld’s five decades of studying dolphins in human care makes possible breakthrough understandings in science and health that help wild populations
- Our dolphin care experience enables on-site treatment and immediate release for 40 percent of rescues, significantly increasing survival rates
- SeaWorld Conservation Fund has provided nearly $100,000 in grants to scientists to study dolphins across Europe, North and South America
ORLANDO, Fl. (April 14, 2022) – SeaWorld proudly supports National Dolphin Day today with more than five decades of rescue, rehabilitation, and conservation of dolphins as part of its commitment to protecting marine animals and their habitats worldwide. More than 68 sick, injured, and orphaned dolphins have been helped by SeaWorld in the last six years alone, the success of which is informed by the study of animals in its care. SeaWorld has experience in caring for seven distinct species of dolphin. The diversity and expertise gained through years of experience makes it possible for 40 percent of dolphins rescued by SeaWorld to be treated on the scene and immediately released - more than any other species rescued - which has a dramatic impact on the survival rate of these animals. SeaWorld also helps protect wild populations around the world through the scientific study of animals in its care, many of which are rescued dolphins unable to be returned due to chronic health conditions. The SeaWorld commitment also extends to supporting the research of other organizations as the SeaWorld Conservation Fund has made nearly $100,000 in financial grants to dolphin conservation programs in Europe, North and South America.
“Better understanding all species of dolphin and applying that knowledge to the conservation of these extraordinary animals around the world has always been core to our DNA,” said Dr. Chris Dold, Chief Zoological Officer of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. “What we learn through the animals in our care has direct and indirect benefits to the conservation of the species. It directly helps improve the success of our rescue efforts. The findings from research studies conducted by our scientists and outside experts are shared with the larger community, ensuring healthy and abundant wild dolphin populations for future generations.”
Dolphin Rescues Rise Due to Stranding from Flooding and Natural Disasters
SeaWorld experiences dramatic increases in dolphin rescues from standings out of habitat caused by flooding and intensifying storm patterns. With greater storm severity and variable water levels, dolphins can easily be pushed into freshwater and develop life threatening skin lesions. Stranding from displacements from habitats now accounts for a large portion of the dolphins rescued by SeaWorld today.
As a member of the Southeast Stranding Network, SeaWorld is one of 30 organizations that works with law enforcement, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other organizations like Audubon Louisiana to mobilize quickly in the event of an out of habitat stranding.
For example, in 2021 SeaWorld traveled to Louisiana after Hurricane Ida to help a dolphin stranded for nearly a week in a residential retention pond only 4-6 feet deep. The juvenile male dolphin likely came in through an estuary connected to the Gulf of Mexico and was pushed by the hurricane into a canal that led to the pond. SeaWorld rescued the dolphin and performed a veterinary exam on site, observing skin lesions from extended exposure to fresh water but otherwise finding him to be in good health. The dolphin was tagged for tracking and released the same day back into the Gulf of Mexico.
“What makes SeaWorld an ideal partner is that we can count on them 24x7 to mobilize quickly and travel anywhere there is an animal in need, even to the most challenging of situations,” said Blair Mase, NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Regional Marine Mammal Stranding Coordinator. "The high level of expertise and knowledge SeaWorld brings to the rescue and response of stranded marine mammals is exceptional and we are proud to partner with them.”
Advances in Veterinary Care and Science Lead to Healthier Populations
SeaWorld is experienced in the care and rescue of seven different dolphin species including bottlenose, long and short beak common, pacific white-sided, striped, short-finned pilot whale, and spinner. The diversity is extremely helpful as dolphin rehabilitation is very challenging and the first two weeks of dolphin rehabilitation are usually indicative of overall prognosis, making early intervention key to ensuring a healthy recovery.
SeaWorld has developed a unique dolphin care system that involves conducting medical tests and procedures immediately upon intake, which substantially increases survival rates among rescued dolphins. It has also pioneered several species-specific medical treatments like custom nebulizers, scales, blood parameters, milk matrix, intubations, surgeries and stem cell treatments that allow animal care takers to provide quick and impactful treatment, yielding greater positive outcomes.
In addition to world-class medical care, dolphins are provided with balanced and nutritious diets based on the individual needs of each animal. Highly social, dolphins at SeaWorld live in groups together in habitats designed to exceed their needs that feature flowing water currents, shading, rocks and fauna that replicate natural environments. Dolphins participate in positive reinforcement sessions daily and engage in enrichment activities.
Knowledge Gained from the Study of Animals in Human Care Supports Species Conservation
Through the study of dolphins in human care, scientists can examine aspects of dolphin biology and anatomy that are difficult or sometimes impossible to study in the wild. SeaWorld researchers also apply their knowledge toward the study of wild dolphin populations. The studies have led SeaWorld scientists to publish many research papers of new findings into dolphin health and behaviors that help inform dolphin conservation. Some examples include:
- First-ever hormone categorization techniques led to groundbreaking understandings in dolphin reproduction.
- Studying how a dolphin combines cardiac and respiratory function when they surface for breath which leads to more efficient and enhanced gas exchange.
- Discovery of a new method of estimating dolphin age using DNA Epigenetic Aging Clocks. Accurate age estimation is a critical component of health assessments and ensures a better understanding of age-specific nutritional and health requirements.
Through the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, one of the largest forensic tissue banks has been created to assess the change in dolphins’ chemical signatures and how they target different animals in the food chain. By studying the chemical signatures before, during, and after largescale die-off events, researchers were able to tell that the dolphins in the Indian River Lagoon were feeding at the same trophic level, but that there were some unusual prey items in their stomachs, like tunicates and catfish. This shows that during that period of time, the dolphins may have been depending on a food source they normally wouldn’t eat, which usually indicates an illness. Many were also found with empty stomachs.
Supporting Dolphin Conservation with Nearly $100,000 in SeaWorld Conservation Fund Grants
The SeaWorld Conservation Fund has provided nearly $100,000 in grants to third party research organizations focused on the study and conservation of dolphins in Europe and across North and South America. This includes studies of the health and population status of bottlenose dolphins off the coast of Southern California and in South Padre Island, Texas; those along the east coast of central Florida where they experienced an increase in entanglements and repeated Unusual Mortality Events (UMEs); Amazon River dolphin populations in South America; and dolphins in the Aeolian Islands in the Mediterranean north of Sicily.
Grants were also made to study alterations in dolphin hormone receptor response due to environmental pollutants and tostudies of environmental changes from natural disasters, such as hurricanes. For example, the Galveston Bay Dolphin Research Program (GDRP) studied the impacts of Hurricane Harvey on Galveston Bay where unprecedented volumes of freshwater drastically changed the salinity of the Bay and likely contaminated the water with pathogens and toxic chemicals.
“Our organization is committed to better understanding the bottlenose dolphins living in the Galveston Bay estuary and the financial and scientific support provided through the SeaWorld Conservation Fund is vital to our efforts to study the ecology, behavior and health of this population,” said Bob Stokes, President of the Galveston Bay Foundation. “We are thrilled to have SeaWorld’s support as we share a common mission to protect the bottlenose dolphin.”
About SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment
SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. (NYSE: SEAS) is a leading theme park and entertainment company providing experiences that matter, and inspiring guests to protect animals and the wild wonders of our world. The Company is one of the world’s foremost zoological organizations and a global leader in animal welfare, training, husbandry, and veterinary care. The Company collectively cares for what it believes is one of the largest zoological collections in the world and has helped lead advances in the care of animals. The Company also rescues and rehabilitates marine and terrestrial animals that are ill, injured, orphaned, or abandoned, with the goal of returning them to the wild. The SeaWorld® rescue team has helped more than 39,000 animals in need over the Company’s history. SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. owns or licenses a portfolio of recognized brands including SeaWorld®, Busch Gardens®, Aquatica®, Sesame Place® and Sea Rescue®. Over its more than 60-year history, the Company has built a diversified portfolio of 12 destination and regional theme parks that are grouped in key markets across the United States, many of which showcase its one-of-a-kind zoological collection. The Company’s theme parks feature a diverse array of rides, shows and other attractions with broad demographic appeal which deliver memorable experiences and a strong value proposition for its guests.