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SEAWORLD: WILDLIFE AMBASSADORS
 
(2016 - Winter/Spring Issue)

Writer: JENNY FAUSER



Amid the sea of guests clamouring to catch the Blue Horizons and Shamu show or soar through the sky on Manta and Kraken, it can be easy to miss some of the elements of SeaWorld that truly reflect the heart and soul of this company. With a legacy of animal rescue spanning more than 50 years and benefitting more than 27,000 animals, responding to wildlife in crisis is a commitment they take to heart. Working in partnership with state, local and federal agencies, the park rescue teams are on call 24/7 assisting animals that are orphaned, ill, injured or in need of expert care, with the goal to successfully rehabilitate animals for return to the wild. The small percentage of animals whose injuries are too debilitating to permit release are given lifelong care. The company maintains one of the largest animal collections in the world and has helped lead advances in the care of species in zoological facilities and the conservation of wild populations. 

Get the Most out of Your Visit with a Behind-the-scenes Tour

As a parent and animal-lover myself, a day at any of the SeaWorld parks feels like the best of both worlds. My children are entertained and have fun visiting the parks, but end up learning so much about the animals and conservation, almost without even realizing it.

Did you know that since 1980, SeaWorld has rescued more than 1,500 sea turtles? You can learn how SeaWorld cares for rescued sea turtles and manatees at TurtleTrek. Whether cold-stunned from below normal water temperatures, entangled in fishing gear, injured from a motorboat strike or impacted by an oil spill, the park provides treatment and a place of recovery. As they become healthy enough, they are released back to the ocean for a second chance at life.   

The park’s Behind-the-Scenes tours lets guests see more fully how much care goes into saving rescued manatees, sea turtles, sea lions and other animals in need.      

At Busch Gardens Tampa, visit the Animal Care Center to learn first-hand how the team cares for more than 12,000 animals that reside at the park. Or take a ride on the Serengeti Plain, a 26-hectare expаnse and home to hundreds of animals such as zebras, giraffes and rhinos. Some you can even feed by hand!

Many of the tour admissions include a donation to the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund to support conservation projects around the world.

Going behind the scenes is a great way to engage and explore, but the end of most shows also provides an opportunity to meet trainers and observe their passion and commitment first-hand. My family likes to hang back after a show is over to chat with trainers. 

Leading the Way

My kids love to be greeted by the park’s animal ambassadors many of whom were orphaned or injured in the wild and given a second chance thanks to the SeaWorld Rescue Team. At every turn, the park immerses guests in conservation and animal welfare information in an engaging way. For example, the parks have discontinued the use of plastic bags in all park gift shops and now use only bags made from recycled paper and reusable bags. This initiative keeps an estimated four million plastic bags from entering landfills and the environment (such as the ocean where they can be harmful to sea life) each year.   

SeaWorld Orlando Team Member Spotlight

Jon Peterson is a zoological supervisor at SeaWorld Orlando and a member of the animal rescue team.

“My career started in 1993 at SeaWorld Ohio. I’ve always loved animals and being outdoors so pursuing an animal career and having a positive effect on their lives made SeaWorld the perfect career choice.  

“There is never a typical day in my job. It starts around 6 a.m. working with all the mammals in our park, but that can change at any time when we get a call that an animal needs our assistance. 

“Being part of the SeaWorld animal rescue team is one of the most rewarding and challenging jobs I could ask for. To be able to help an animal, rehabilitate it and return it to its natural environment is amazing and truly rewarding.  

“Working in cooperation with local, state and federal agencies, SeaWorld will rescue and assist any animal in need inclusive of dolphins, whales, manatees, birds and turtles. 

“We’ve had many challenging rescues over the years, including a manatee in the Everglades that needed to be helicopter-lifted. More recently, the team worked through the night to rescue 19 manatees stuck in a drainpipe in a residential area of Satellite Beach, Florida. After nearly nine hours, all were successfully relocated to the Indian River Lagoon. I love to share these stories with guests.

“The most satisfying part of our job is helping an animal not only survive, but thrive.  We’ve had the privilege of hand raising an orphaned manatee and then seeing it years later with its own offspring. To know you played a role in helping that population thrive is awesome.

“Sadly, trash is one of the main reasons we’re called to assist animals. Animal entanglement or a sea turtle that has ingested a plastic bag can be prevented if each of us disposes of trash properly and recycles. It’s so rewarding to share these rescue stories with guests every day, to inspire them to make a difference in their actions that can help these animals in the wild.   

“If you think an animal is in need of help, contact local agencies. Unless you are trained to work with injured animals always watch from a distance and wait for direction or help from a professional.”

Travel Planner

For more information on SeaWorld and Busch Gardens parks, visit seaworldparks.com. Canadian at par pricing at seaworld.ca or buschgardens.ca offers the very best deals for Canadian residents. Enjoy the warmth of Florida and thrills of SeaWorld and Busch Gardens now through April 30, 2016, with at par pricing, available from US$59 with advanced purchase.

 
 
 
 
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