Animal programs

Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation – the other side of SeaWorld

SeaWorld has rescued more than 40,000 injured, sick and orphaned animals combined at SeaWorld San Diego and its two other major U.S. marine mammal parks since it first rescued a stranded Dall’s porpoise in 1965. More than 21 000 of these animals were rescued by SeaWorld San Diego. .

Passing this milestone underscores the never-ending need to help animals in distress, which SeaWorld’s rescue and rehabilitation teams accomplish on call 24/7/365.

Seaworld Parks and Entertainment, headquartered in Orlando, Florida, owns and operates 13 leisure destinations in the United States, including eight theme parks and five water parks. The society partners with several government agencies, including conservationists, stranding networks, zoological facilities and others to rescue and help animals in need. The park’s goal is always to rehabilitate injured animals and then return them to the wild.

Such is the case with SeaWorld San Diego’s rescue and rehabilitation team, which divides its time between nursing pinnipeds and other marine mammals, as well as rehabilitating many local seabirds.

SeaWorld San Diego rescue service supervisor Jeni Smith discussed the park’s procedure for rescuing animals in distress.

“We get the animal’s description, why it’s calling and its location, and we also try to get a photo so we can see what we’re dealing with,” Smith said, adding that recovered wildlife is then recovered. for rehabilitation using the park’s four-wheel-drive rescue truck. “Of the 40,000 rescues, more than half of them were birds.”

“Jeni spent an exciting morning (May 6) returning eight (rehabilitated) sea lions to the ocean by boat,” noted Tracy Spahr of SeaWorld Public Relations.

SeaWorld San Diego rescue service supervisor Jeni Smith standing next to the park’s four-wheel rescue truck that retrieves injured animals.

“Many of them were dehydrated, one had a shark bite,” Smith noted of these repatriated pinnipeds, referring to a chart on the wall outside the park’s intensive care unit charting the animals. brought in for rehabilitation and return. “These are our current numbers since April 27,” she said, pointing to the wall chart, which totaled 232 animals, including 35 California sea lions, a harbor seal, a northern elephant seal, eight fur and 187 birds.

“Our teams are responsible for the care and well-being of thousands of animals – both rescued and in residence – and while we prefer to live in a world where wildlife does not need our help to thriving in healthy abundance is not today’s reality,” said Dr. Chris Dold, Zoological Director of SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment.

“Rescue and rehabilitation can save the lives of individual animals and, in some cases, support the preservation of endangered and threatened species. This is why we do this work and why it is so important for zoos. and accredited aquariums like ours to continue their efforts to help animals that cannot survive on their own.

The number of animals rehabilitated by SeaWorld at any given time can vary significantly. In 2015, there was a mass die-off of San Diego sea lions when their usual food sources temporarily disappeared. The cause is believed to be a rapid change in ocean temperature. Park staff literally force-fed the brought animals to keep them from starving.

“Sometimes they (pinnipeds) have to relearn how to eat and swallow,” Smith said of the seriousness of rehabilitation for rescued animals, which typically takes about two months, depending on the species and circumstances involved.

Marine Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Specialist Nick DeNezzo treats sick seabirds at SeaWorld San Diego.

On the other side of the park, in the bird rescue area, Nick DeNezzo, marine wildlife rescue and rehabilitation specialist, was busy tending to his flock of sick and injured seabirds.

“There’s a lot of variety,” he said, admitting he’s become particularly fond of waterfowl after working closely with them. “The mammal side was cool because sea lions are very interesting and unique. But what I love about birds is that we have over 500 different species of birds that live in or pass through San Diego, so there’s a lot of different things we can work with here.

DeNezzo added, “Every case is completely different. Some birds have broken wings. Some have parasite or stomach problems. There are tangles (fishing lines) and oiled animals. It’s a lot of problem solving, which I love, the variety and the challenge of it. Our rescue total can be 500-1000 birds every year. »

Currently, DeNezzo said SeaWorld is caring for injured pelagic (offshore) birds stranded ashore due to storms or other conditions. “Sometimes they’re just weak,” he said, adding, “With a seabird, their plumage is one of the most important things that keeps them watertight. And if they’re not watertight, they cannot live on water.

“So we have a lot of birds whose feathers, whether it’s a nutritional issue or whatever, are not doing well. So we try to make them waterproof. We try to solve the problems to keep them healthy without pushing them too hard and without stressing them. They can’t talk to us and tell us what’s going on. So we have to understand it.


· Rescue and rehabilitation is a vital first step in species preservation.

· Dozens of species, including many threatened and endangered animals, have been helped by SeaWorld since 1965.

· One of the largest marine animal rescue organizations in the world, SeaWorld has rescue and rehabilitation operations located in each of its three parks.

· SeaWorld is a professionally accredited zoo and the expertise of over 50 years of animal care and study is what makes successful rescue and rehabilitation possible.

· Providing critical and expert care to rescued animals provides knowledge that cannot be replicated by animal study outside of human care alone.

· SeaWorld provides long-term care at its parks to rescued animals deemed non-returnable by wildlife authorities.

· A portion of proceeds from SeaWorld tickets and in-park purchases are used to fund rescue and rehabilitation operations.

· The over 40,000 animals rescued cover a variety of species such as waterfowl, pinnipeds, turtles, manatees, whales, dolphins, otters and a wide range of other mammals and fish.