How SeaWorld Orlando rescues and rehabilitates dolphin, manatee and turtles


SeaWorld has rescued more than 31,000 animals in its 50-year history. That’s thousands of animals that were given a second chance at life, thanks to the hard work and dedication of the SeaWorld Rescue and Animal Care teams.

When a wild animal is found in distress, government agencies assess the situation and determine which organization on its rescue and rehabilitation list is best suited and available to help in the crisis. These organizations, like SeaWorld, are not paid for the rescue or any of the rehabilitation costs. That means they are volunteering their time and to cover the expense — which can be in the thousands for each animal.

Once an animal is placed, the government agencies continue to monitor its progress and they determine when and how the animal is allowed to be released into the wild according to published Standards of Release. Additionally, all marine mammals are covered under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, and some also are protected by the Endangered Species Act.

It’s a continuous commitment, and one that SeaWorld has embraced. Here are some of the amazing animal rescues the company has been involved with recently:


Last week, an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin — like the famous Winter who also was initially rescued by SeaWorld — was saved after a shark attack. The young dolphin was stranded in Ponte Vedra Beach with life-threatening injuries, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission called on the Georgia Aquarium Conservation Field Station at Marineland and SeaWorld to rescue her. Together with NOAA Fisheries Service, the commission made the decision to send the dolphin to SeaWorld for rehabilitation.

The rescue team, including veterinarians, at the theme-park giant are giving her round-the-clock care in the hopes of being able to return her to wild once she is recovered.

Also last week, 17 endangered sea turtles were returned to their natural environment by the SeaWorld Orlando rescue team at Canaveral National Seashore in Titusville. The majority of the returned sea turtles were rescued in New England and flew to Florida for treatment late last year.

In early December, more than 40 cold-stunned Kemp’s ridley sea turtles arrived at Tampa International Airport to begin rehabilitation at multiple Florida facilities. The reptiles were rescued from frigid northern waters by the Massachusetts Audubon Society and stabilized at the New England Aquarium before their cross-country flight.

Upon arrival in Orlando, SeaWorld’s rescue team conducted full examinations to determine the best treatment for each sea turtle. Many of the animals were suffering from pneumonia, some were also treated for corneal ulcers and malnutrition. After three months of individualized care, the turtles were cleared for return to the ocean.

Rescued earlier this winter from the Atlantic Coast, two green sea turtles also returned home to the sea last week. One of the turtles was treated for shell abrasions and the other for injuries resulting from ingested fishing line and hooks.

And the Orlando Sentinel gave a recent update on the orphaned baby manatee that was found after Hurricane Irma. The young manatee was being cared for in the rescue facilities behind the scenes at the Orlando park but now has been moved to the TurtleTrek exhibit after gaining more than 50 pounds while in SeaWorld’s care. “For him to be eligible for release back into the wild, Jose must weigh at least 600 pounds,” the Sentinel reports. Theme-park visitors can see the manatee calves like Jose fed their bottles every three hours starting at 9 a.m.

SeaWorld Orlando also hosted five Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins from Dolphin Connection, a marine mammal organization owned by Hawks Cay Resort in Duck Key, when Hurricane Irma was bearing down on the Florida Keys.

To read more about SeaWorld’s rescue and rehabilitation efforts and to find out how you can get involved, visit

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