SeaWorld Cares, 365 Days a Year

SeaWorld Cares, 365 Days a Year

1/1/2014 1:12:00 PM


Recycling, animal rescue, environmental awareness, water conservation and the elimination of polystyrene are just a few of the park’s green initiatives


Every day of the year, SeaWorld® San Diego opens its doors to entertain, amaze and educate guests.  Behind the scenes, there also is a mission to care for the environment and the animals beyond our park’s borders.

Elimination of Polystyrene Foam Products

The most recent green initiative at SeaWorld® San Diego is the phased elimination of all polystyrene tableware and flatware in its restaurants and employee cafeterias, which was completed in the fall of 2013.  With millions of meals served in the park each year, the removal of polystyrene foam products is heralded as another important conservation and environmental stewardship initiative by SeaWorld.  Discarded polystyrene foam, which is not biodegradable, ends up in local landfills, on beaches and in the ocean ecosystem. This pollution can be extremely detrimental to marine animals. In all, more than eight million individual pieces of tableware and cutlery – plates, bowls, hot cups, forks, spoons and knives – were shifted to compostable material.  Bowls and plates are now made from molded fibers, flatware is now made from cornstarch, and hot cups are made from recycled paper.

Bye, Bye Plastic Bags!

Three years ago, SeaWorld® San Diego eliminated the use of plastic bags in the park’s gift shops. Plastic bags are a huge problem for certain species of sea turtles, especially leatherbacks, which sometimes mistake the bags for jellyfish. Turtle Reef, where guests have the opportunity to get an up-close look at up to 60 sea turtles and learn about the threats the species face, demonstrates this devastating impact.

“We’re proud of SeaWorld San Diego as they continue to demonstrate their leadership role in environmental stewardship by eliminating plastic bags in their park,” said the former executive director of the San Diego Oceans Foundation. “Hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, whales and other marine animals die every year from ocean pollution by ingestion or entanglement of marine debris.”

“SeaWorld is proud to be a responsible steward of the environment, not just here in our park, but in the oceans and the world we share,” says SeaWorld San Diego Park President John Reilly.  “We hope our actions will inspire others to take similar steps that, combined, can make a huge difference.”

Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Program

              Since 1965, SeaWorld® San Diego has rescued more than 6,500 animals and has treated as many as 475 marine mammals in one year. Of these animals, seals and sea lions form the largest share. Birds, such as pelicans, also are frequently rescued.  In 2013 SeaWorld rescued a nearly-record number of California sea lions as a result of an Unusual Mortality Event (UME) that caused juvenile sea lions to strand on beaches along the central and southern California coastline. SeaWorld took care of more than 411 sea lions, the majority of which were part of the UME, in addition to other marine mammal species, including 10 elephant seals, 12 harbor seals, 1 fur seal and 5 dolphins.  In addition, SeaWorld took in and cared for 267 birds (124 of which were pelicans).

SeaWorld is part of the West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network, which is organized by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Members of the public, lifeguards and other individuals report strandings to SeaWorld’s rescue hotline (800-541-SEAL) and SeaWorld team members respond, using guidelines governed by NMFS. Once rescued, animals are nursed back to health and, whenever possible, returned to the wild.  If an animal is deemed not releasable, NMFS determines whether the animal is to remain at SeaWorld or to be cared for at another facility.

Marine mammals such as seals, sea lions, sea otters, dolphins, whales, sea turtles and seabirds may strand for a variety of reasons:  illness, injury, exhaustion or separation from their mother. Two of the most common conditions are malnutrition and dehydration.  In addition, animals may also become entangled in nets, ropes or fishing line; accidentally ingest plastic or other foreign objects; or suffer habitat loss, which occurs as a result of human development, over harvesting of natural resources or oil spills.

To care for stranded animals, SeaWorld San Diego is equipped with a state-of-the-art medical facility, which houses a laboratory with the latest diagnostic equipment, antibiotics, intravenous fluids and other medications; a surgical suite, which contains a custom surgery table, X-ray, ultrasound, endoscopy and anesthesia equipment; a food preparation room, where special diets for rehabilitated animals are prepared; and recovery areas, including pools and enclosures, tailored to meet the specific needs of each rehabilitating animal.

              Park guests can learn more about SeaWorld’s rescue program by visiting the Rescue Plaza near Shamu Stadium, where two video screens play footage of marine mammals, sea birds and turtles that were given a second chance at life.  And, the public at large can tune it to “Sea Rescue,” which tells the stories of marine animal rescue, rehabilitation and return by the SeaWorld rescue team and its partners.  Airing on ABC on Saturdays, the popular show is in its third season and was seen by more than 86 million viewers in its first two seasons.

Pole to Pole: Environmental Awareness

SeaWorld’s Pole to Pole is more than just a gift shop.  In addition to offering a variety of animal-themed merchandise, it provides a variety of kid-friendly activities, including educational crafts, to create awareness of environmental issues, such as climate change.  SeaWorld’s second Pole to Pole Fun Run took place in April 2013.  It included 700 participants and raised nearly $19,000 for Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute (HSWRI) to help endangered species and other animals in need. The third annual Fun Run is scheduled for April 6, 2014 and also will benefit HSWRI.

Recycling Efforts

From hosting electronic recycling events to green construction, SeaWorld® San Diego continues to embrace initiatives that address some of today’s most pressing environmental challenges in the areas of waste, water and food.

Every year SeaWorld recycles millions of pounds of paper and plastic products, metals, greenery, pallets, cooking oil, construction demolition debris and batteries, in addition to more traditional recyclable materials.  Since 1996 the park has received San Diego’s Recycler of the Year or Director’s award 16 times and is a 12-time recipient of the prestigious State of California Waste Reduction Awards program.

Since 2007 SeaWorld played host to 10 electronic recycling events for California residents.  These free collection events offer an opportunity for the public to dispose of unwanted electronic items — such as TVs, VCRs and computers — while making a positive difference in the environment at the same time.  More than 325,000 pounds of materials have been collected to date.  These events also have raised more than $35,000 for conservation efforts, both local and globally, including habitat preservation, conservation education and aid for ill, orphaned, injured or stranded animals. 

H20: Reusing a Natural Resource

SeaWorld® takes an active role in water conservation, implementing policies that ensure the park uses the least amount of water necessary and making the most of the water it does use. Some of SeaWorld’s efforts in its botanical gardens include: including drought-tolerant plants, using computerized irrigation controllers, mulching all landscape areas to conserve soil moisture and replacing some lawn areas with artificial turf. The park’s Water Wise garden (across from Seaport Marketplace) is an excellent example of SeaWorld’s commitment to conservation.  The garden, which features drought-tolerant flora and fauna, includes signage with tips on how residents of drought-ridden areas can conserve water. 

SeaWorld San Diego is located on Mission Bay and uses water from the bay for the park’s many pools and habitats.  Demonstrating its commitment to environmental stewardship, SeaWorld treats the water before it is returned to Mission Bay.  The seawater is filtered and put back in the bay cleaner than it was before.  Even the rainwater and water that is used to clean the pathways is collected and cleaned before it is put in to the bay.

Culinary Operations: Shamu and Friends Enjoy ‘Green’ Food Choices

All of the seafood served to SeaWorld® guests — and even the salmon fed to Shamu® — is purchased from sustainably managed fisheries that promote environmentally responsible stewardship.

SeaWorld® works with the Marine Stewardship Council and Aquaculture Certification Council in sourcing sustainable seafood.  Both are international, non-profit organizations that promote environmentally responsible fishing, fish farms, processing and food safety.

SeaWorld San Diego also maintains nutritious diets of the park’s animals, while being mindful of effective re-use practices at the same time.  For example, we feed bread, fruits and lettuces to the domestic animals at Pets Rule!®  These materials are recycled from our culinary operations.


Oiled Wildlife Care Center

SeaWorld® San Diego’s Oiled Wildlife Care Center was built to care for animals that fall victim to oil spills. The 8,000-square-foot center was established in 2000 by SeaWorld San Diego, the California Department of Fish and Game and the University of California, Davis. It includes examination, treatment and food preparation areas, an aviary and a 32,000-gallon rehabilitation pool that can hold 20 oiled sea otters or pinnipeds in the event of an oil spill in Southern California.  The facility can treat as many as 200 oiled seabirds at a time.

Zoological team members/animal care specialists from SeaWorld San Diego’s bird, fish and mammal departments have received OWCN certification and annual training to care for oiled wildlife. When the center is not being used for oil spill rescue, it houses rehabilitating marine mammals, sea turtles and seabirds.

The center is one of seven primary oiled wildlife rescue and rehabilitation facilities participating in the Oiled Wildlife Care Network.  All of the OWCN facilities, including the OWCC at SeaWorld San Diego, are maintained in a constant state of readiness and wildlife caregivers are available 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.

Happy Tails

SeaWorld® is continuing a program established in April 2011 to reach out to some furry, four-legged creatures at the Helen Woodward Animal Center and the Chula Vista Animal Care Facility to encourage adoptions of homeless dogs and cats.  “SeaWorld’s Happy Tails” animal adoption program provides pet lovers two free single-day admissions to SeaWorld when they adopt a dog or cat from either of the organizations.  Tickets are valid for a single-day admission to the park by Dec. 31, 2014.

SeaWorld has supported local animal shelters by providing homes, and a second chance at life, for hundreds of abandoned and neglected animals.  Considered by many untrainable, these adopted animals now steal the stage — and fans’ hearts — as stars in the park’s popular show Pets Rule!®  Promoting the importance of shelter adoptions, these furry ambassadors bring smiles to thousands of guests every day. 


Education and Conservation

The education programs at SeaWorld® and Busch Gardens® have helped schools, teachers, children and adults explore the world and all its inhabitants by providing award-winning education programs that include structured teaching.  There also are many informal teaching experiences inside the parks: educators, show and exhibit narrations, and interpretive and interactive graphics. SeaWorld’s Instructional Field Trip program offers students from pre-school through college an opportunity to use the parks as their own outdoor classroom.

In 2013 SeaWorld’s Education and Conservation Department educated millions of park guests through live narration and interpretive material at the park’s animal habitats and more than 29,000 people participated in behind-the-scenes guided tours. SeaWorld was brought to hundreds of students through SeaWorld Cares® school assemblies in Southern California, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and Utah. The park also became an outdoor classroom to nearly 100,000 school children visiting SeaWorld for Instructional Field Trips and In-depth tours.

“Shamu TV”, the Emmy award-winning environmental education series from SeaWorld and Busch Gardens, brings viewers face to face with the wonders of wildlife.  Online viewers have the opportunity to watch an entire 30-minute episode or shorter, five- to 10-minute segments featuring stories about amazing animals and the remarkable efforts of people working together to save some of the world’s most endangered and threatened species.

“Shamu TV” is accessible in school classrooms via computer, and on-the-go through tablet and hand-held devices via and YouTube. A “Teacher Toolbox” full of activities, reference materials and resources to enhance lesson planning will soon be made available for teachers. “Shamu TV’s” Saving a Species series is produced by the SeaWorld/Busch Gardens Education Departments.