SeaWorld Celebrates Dolphin Month
Latin America is included in the company's initiatives, with support for the pink dolphin preservation project that lives in the Amazon River
SeaWorld celebrates Dolphin Month with more than five decades of rescue, rehabilitation and conservation as part of its commitment to protecting marine animals and their habitats around the world. More than 68 sick, injured and orphaned dolphins have been helped by SeaWorld in the last six years alone. SeaWorld has experience caring for seven different species of dolphins. This diversity and knowledge gained through years of experience make it possible for 40% of cases to be treated at the rescue site itself and immediately released – more than any other rescued species – which dramatically impacts the survival rates of these animals.
SeaWorld also helps protect wild populations around the world through the scientific study of the animals in its care, many of which are rescued dolphins unable to return to the wild due to chronic health conditions. SeaWorld's commitment also extends to supporting research by other organizations, as the SeaWorld Conservation Fund has already donated approximately $100,000 to dolphin conservation programs in Europe, North America and South America.
“Better understanding all dolphin species and applying this knowledge to the conservation of these remarkable animals around the world has always been at the core of our DNA,” said Dr. Chris Dold, Head of the Zoo Department at SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. “What we learn with the animals in our care has direct and indirect benefits in the conservation of the species. It directly enhances the success of our rescue efforts. The discoveries of research studies conducted by our scientists and outside specialists are shared with the scientific community, ensuring abundant and healthy populations of dolphins for generations to come.”
Support for the conservation of the pink dolphin in Latin America through the SeaWorld Conservation Fund
The Amazon River dolphin, also known as the pink dolphin, is an endangered species found throughout the Amazon basin in Brazil. These animals face many challenges – not only are they threatened by typical problems, such as pollution and habitat degradation, but they are also frequently hunted and used as bait for fishing. Founded in 2014, the Amazon River Dolphin Conservation Foundation (ARDCF) is associated with the SeaWorld Conservation Fund and works to protect the species through research, education, and collaboration with local indigenous communities.
The ARDCF works closely with indigenous coastal communities in their efforts to research and protect Amazon River dolphins. Without their help it would be a great challenge to navigate the rivers and tributaries in order to study the species. “We build relationships with indigenous communities because we want them to be involved,” said Suzanne Smith, founder of the ARDCF. "If they did not believe in this project, it would be very difficult to achieve our goals, therefore, strengthening our ties is vital for the foundation's progress."
About five years ago, SeaWorld and the ARDCF began working together through the SeaWorld Conservation Fund. In 2021, the Foundation received investments from SeaWorld to support its work in collecting information and identifying dolphins. “The money provided by the SeaWorld Conservation Fund was immeasurable,” said Suzanne. “Through it we managed to buy equipment such as field cameras, hydrophones, means of transportation such as canoes and boats, in addition to the possibility of paying field assistants who help us enter and leave the bodies of water in the Amazon forest. We couldn't do any of this without the funding we received." In addition to funding, SeaWorld sent members of its team to collaborate with the ARDCF.
The Foundation has had great success in recent years mapping pink dolphin populations and identifying their standards, as well as building crucial relationships with local people in pursuit of the species' conservation.
Dolphin rescues increase in the US due to strandings due to floods and natural disasters
SeaWorld is reporting a dramatic increase in dolphin rescues due to out-of-habitat strandings caused by flooding and intensified storm patterns. With more severe storms and variable water levels, dolphins can easily be pushed into fresh water and develop fatal skin lesions. Habitat displacement strandings account for a large portion of SeaWorld's rescued dolphins today.
Advances in veterinary care and science lead to healthier populations
SeaWorld has experience caring for and rescuing seven different species of dolphins, including bottlenose dolphins, short- and long-finned common dolphins, Pacific white-sided dolphins, striped dolphins, short-finned pilot whales, and spinner dolphins. This diversity is extremely helpful as dolphin rehabilitation is very challenging and the first two weeks are usually indicative of the overall prognosis, making early intervention the key to ensuring a healthy recovery.
SeaWorld has developed a unique dolphin care system that includes conducting medical tests and procedures immediately upon admission, substantially increasing survival rates among rescued dolphins. He was also a pioneer in various species-specific medical treatments, such as personalized nebulizers, graduations, blood parameters, milk matrix, intubations, surgeries and stem cell treatments that allow animal caregivers to perform fast and effective treatments, producing better results. .
In addition to medical care, the dolphins receive nutritious and balanced diets based on the individual needs of each animal. Highly social, the dolphins at SeaWorld live in groups in habitats designed to meet their needs, which feature flowing water, shade, rocks and fauna that replicate natural environments. They participate in daily positive reinforcement sessions and environmental enrichment activities.
The knowledge acquired from the study of animals under human care collaborates with the conservation of the species
Through the study of dolphins living under human care, scientists can assess aspects of the animals' biology and anatomy that are difficult and sometimes impossible to study in the wild. SeaWorld researchers also apply their knowledge to the study of wild populations. The studies led many SeaWorld scientists to publish several research papers with findings about dolphin behaviors and health that contribute to the conservation of the species. Some of the examples include:
- Early techniques for hormone categorization led to revolutionary insights into dolphin reproduction.
- Study on how a dolphin combines cardiac and respiratory function when they surface to breathe, leading to optimized and more efficient gas exchange.
- Discovery of a new method to estimate the age of a dolphin using Epigenetic DNA Aging Clocks. Accurate age estimation is a critical component in medical assessments and ensures a better understanding of specific health and nutrition needs for each life stage of dolphins.
Through the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, one of the world's largest forensic tissue banks was created to monitor changes in the chemical composition of dolphins and how they view different animals in the food chain. By studying chemical compositions before, during, and after large-scale mortality events, the researchers were able to discover that the Indian River Lagoon dolphins were at the same trophic level, but had unusual prey in their stomachs, such as tunicates. and catfish. This shows that, during that period, the dolphins should be depending on some food source that they would not normally eat, which usually indicates illness. Many were also found on empty stomachs.