SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, Inc. (NYSE: SEAS) proudly supports Manatee Awareness month in November, providing an important role in the preservation of the species and completing nearly 1,300 rescues, rehabilitations and returns of manatees in need. Since 1976, SeaWorld has provided these services, in partnership with other organizations and agencies, becoming the largest manatee rescue operation in the U.S. SeaWorld operates one of only five critical care facilities in the U.S. and makes scientific advances that increase the survival rate of orphaned, sick, and injured manatees. SeaWorld also extends support into the community with financial grants for non-profit groups, school programs for kids, and research programs. Each ticket, each visit and each experience at our parks helps fund wildlife rescue and rehabilitation efforts, habitat protections and ocean health initiatives. The commitment has never been more important than today with manatees now in crisis: a record Unusual Mortality Event (UME) threatens to return these iconic sea mammals to the endangered species list.
“While SeaWorld rescues more marine animals than any other company in the world, the manatee is of particular focus today because without our help, and that of our partners and community, there is a real possibility they will vanish forever,” said Dr. Chris Dold, Chief Zoological Officer of SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Parks. “SeaWorld has taken a holistic approach to address the crisis – from being a leader in rescue, to offering state-of-the-art critical care and rehabilitation, to facilitating returns of healthy animals back to their natural environments. Leveraging 48 years of manatee care experience gives us a distinct advantage in helping these animals in their fight for survival.”
With a record breaking 1,000 manatee deaths in 2021, populations have diminished to dangerously low levels and they face many threats, most dramatically starvation due to depletion of sea grass, their primary food source, along with cold stress, injuries from boat strikes, entanglements, and other illnesses.
“The manatee is a national treasure and Florida’s official marine mammal and all of us owe a duty of care to do everything possible to prevent these gentles giants from disappearing forever from our waterways,” said Congressman Darren Soto. “We are working across the aisle to introduce legislation to grant manatees the highest level of federal protection possible. But we can’t get it done alone: involvement by every-day people and committed private sector groups like SeaWorld are a vital part of solving this equation.”
In addition to rescues and returns, SeaWorld contributes to the health and safety of the manatee population through a wide range of programs and commitments including:
SeaWorld Orlando Rescue Center is One of only Five Critical Care Centers in the U.S.
SeaWorld Orlando serves as one of only five critical care facilities in the U.S. for the treatment and care of injured, sick, and orphaned animals, including manatees. SeaWorld’s five-acre Rescue Center has the capacity to care for up to 40 manatees at a time -- one of the largest spaces available – and its facilities have a wide range of critical care amenities including lifting floors, top-of-the-line therapeutic and diagnostic equipment, and expert veterinary staff. In addition to in-house facility care, the range of expertise means SeaWorld can step in to fill any role in the field alongside its other partners.
“These advantages mean SeaWorld is often the first call for support in the field, especially outside the state of Florida., said Jon Peterson, VP of Zoological Operations at SeaWorld Orlando, Head of SeaWorld Orlando Rescue Team, and Chairman of the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership. “Because of our scale, we can support manatee rescue up and down the eastern seaboard and across the Gulf coast.”
Innovations in Veterinary Care and Nutrition Increase Manatee Survival Rates
SeaWorld develops life-saving innovations in animal care and treatment. For manatees, this includes:
· Rescued orphaned manatee calves historically had low survival rates due to difficulties in meeting their unique nutritional needs. SeaWorld developed a special baby manatee formula adaptable to meet each individual nursing calf’s requirements. SeaWorld also created a hand-feeding baby bottle designed to imitate a mother manatee. Orphaned calves comprise 37 percent of the manatees in SeaWorld’s critical care facility today.
· SeaWorld pioneered manatee treatment techniques including ultrasound, anesthesia, X-rays, surgery, and thermography.
· SeaWorld veterinarians were the first to put a cast on an injured manatee.
In Park Experiences and School Education Programs Get the Public Involved
Millions of guests each year visit SeaWorld Orlando’s Manatee Rehabilitation Area to view these slow-moving herbivores while learning more from experts about the animals in their care and simple actions everyone can take to help make a difference for this threatened species. The Rehabilitation Area serves as both a permanent home to manatees unable to return to their original habitat and as a halfway house for manatees who have recovered from critical care and are awaiting release.
Outside of the park, SeaWorld Eco Club school partnerships provide a way for kids to get more involved. For example, the Eco Club at Millenia Gardens Elementary School is growing lettuce to help feed manatees while the club at Westridge Middle School is raising bees and harvesting honey for use in animal wound care. More than 125 kids and teens participate in these two programs today.
More than 16 SeaWorld Conservation Fund Grants Made to Global Manatee Causes
Over the past 18 years, the SeaWorld Conservation Fund (SWCF) has provided more than 16 grants to global manatee causes. Recipient organizations include Friends of the Manatee Association (AMPA), Rainforest Awareness Rescue and Education Center, ZooTampa Lowry Park, Mamirauá Institute for Sustainable Development, IPÊ – Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas, Wildlife Trusts, The Nature Conservancy, Reef Watch Marine Conservation, and more. Projects range from care and feeding of orphaned manatee calves, research on the impact of anthropogenic sound in the marine environment, studying watercraft mortality of the Antillean manatee and emerging threats due to the rise in cruise ship tourism, and establishing patrols to protect West Indian manatee sanctuaries near the Belize/Mexico border.
National Research and Partnerships Help Create a Healthier Manatee Ecosystem
SeaWorld partners with leading academic and research institutions, non-profits, animal welfare groups, and government agencies as part of its conservation efforts. Some manatee specific partners include:
· The Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute is a non-profit scientific research organization focused on conserving and renewing marine life. Manatee related research projects include ways to eliminate one of the leading causes of manatee deaths: entanglements in marine debris.
· In 2001, SeaWorld became a founding member of the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), a cooperative group of non-profit, private, state, and federal entities who work together to monitor the health and survival of rehabilitated and released manatees.
· SeaWorld parks are Association of Zoos and Aquariums accredited and American Humane Certified.
· Among SeaWorld’s State and Federal agency partners are the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“We are very grateful to the SeaWorld team because we know the answer will always be yes when we call to ask for their help with an animal in need,” said Larry Williams, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Florida state supervisor. “We know we can depend on them around the clock and their dedication of time, resources and veterinary care in the rescue of animals under even the most challenging of circumstances is testament to SeaWorld’s dedication to wildlife conservation.”
Join the conversation using #ManateeAwarenessMonth. Follow our manatee stories on Facebook, Instagram, SeaWorld Cares, and #SeaWorldSavetheManatee.
What To Do If You Spot a Manatee in Distress?
To report a manatee in distress in Florida, contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Wildlife Alert hotline at 1-888-404-FWCC (1-888-404-3922). The Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership also offers a helpful list of what to do to help a stranded manatee.
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.