How SeaWorld's Conservation Efforts are Making Waves
Zoos and aquariums are often singled out for criticism, but their environmental and conservation efforts draw less attention. SeaWorld’s mission – to provide unforgettable experiences while helping preserve wild places and animals – has been part of its DNA since the first park opened in San Diego in 1964. In 2020, this philosophy is more central than ever, both in terms of guest experience and what’s going on behind the scenes.
They’re rescuing, rehabilitating and returning at-risk wildlife
Shrinking habitats, climate change, pollution, irresponsible fishing practices and overcrowded ocean shipping routes all put marine animals at risk, and no one is more aware than the SeaWorld animal rescue team. This staff of over 1,000 veterinarians and animal care specialists rescue and rehabilitate stranded, injured, orphaned or sick animals in partnership with agencies such as the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) – with a goal of returning them to the wild. The SeaWorld team has helped over 36,000 marine and terrestrial animals over its 55-year history.
Travelzoo Tip: If you want to see the rescue team’s work up close, plan your SeaWorld visit to coincide with “Inside Look,” a period of behind-the-scenes events hosted in Orlando, San Diego and San Antonio each year. At SeaWorld Orlando, you can also book a rescue experience.
They’re contributing to efforts to save endangered marine mammals
Last summer, a team of marine mammal experts from NOAA’s Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program coordinated an emergency response to aid an emaciated Southern Resident killer whale. NOAA has long regarded SeaWorld as being among the most experienced in the world in caring for these whales, and asked SeaWorld to provide a team to advise on administering medication to the ailing whale. The SeaWorld team not only provided recommendations on-site but also studied samples at SeaWorld San Diego’s diagnostics lab to better inform efforts that could sustain the population in coming years.
The North Atlantic right whale plies the relatively warm and shallow waters off the coast of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick (among other places) and is critically endangered as a species, with less than 430 whales thought to remain. A disturbing 82% of documented deaths among right whales is attributable to fishing gear entanglement – primarily from the use of ropes that run from crab or lobster traps on the sea floor all the way to the ocean surface. The SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, in partnership with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, has committed more than $1.1 million (US$900,000) to test ropeless and non-lethal fishing gear developed to protect right whales. “This commitment by the SeaWorld Conservation Fund is absolutely vital in helping protect this iconic species,” says Dr. Michael Moore of Woods Hole. Earlier this year, SeaWorld’s lead veterinarian was a part of another critical mission to help save a North Atlantic right whale calf injured by a ship’s propeller.
They’re industry leaders in reducing plastic and Styrofoam waste
Guests to any of the company's 12 parks can enjoy a day at the park and still be good stewards of the earth. SeaWorld began eliminating polystyrene foam dinnerware and single-use plastic shopping bags back in 2013 and has also eliminated single-use plastic straws and stirrers – one more step towards SeaWorld’s goal in curbing pollution and its environmental impact. SeaWorld also organizes beach clean-ups to prevent waste from entering the ecosystem and potentially injuring animals. Last September in Cocoa Beach, FL, more than 230 volunteers removed 286 plastic bottles, 124 straws and 4500 plastic pieces.
Travelzoo Tip: Bring your own refillable water bottle to the park to reduce waste; but bear in mind that glass containers are prohibited.
They’re ensuring guests not only have fun, but learn about the role we all play in protecting our oceans and wildlife
Ok, penguin conservation might slip your mind entirely as you hit speeds of nearly 100 km/hr during a facedown vertical plunge on Emperor, SeaWorld San Diego’s new rollercoaster coming this summer. But after you’ve conquered California’s tallest, fastest and longest dive coaster, you can learn about the park’s emperor penguin colony (the first place outside Antarctica to successfully raise emperor penguin chicks) and find out how SeaWorld is partnering with Penguins International to support conservation efforts. For every big attraction at SeaWorld, there’s an opportunity to educate, inform and inspire conservation – not to mention the fact that seeing majestic animals up close can make the fight to protect these species feel much more personal.
Travelzoo Tip: SeaWorld's three Orlando parks are certified autism centers, meaning its staff have been trained in autism sensitivity and awareness, and the property and guest experience can accommodate families and children with special needs.
SeaWorld Parks has unrivalled experiences in store for guests in 2020, including Ice Breaker™ at SeaWorld Orlando, Iron Gwazi™ at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, Emperor at SeaWorld San Diego and Texas Stingray at SeaWorld San Antonio. True to the company’s Park to Planet mission these new attractions partner with conservation organizations, connecting guests to real-world efforts to protect and conserve species worldwide.