Evans Mission Bay Magazine Issue 2 - Page 23

Innovation has become one of the hall- marks of the Animal Rescue Center. “One of the great things about SeaWorld is that we’ve got our own welding shop, paint shop, automotive shop, wardrobe department, et cetera, so if we need something invented or created to rescue an animal, we can get it done on-site right away,” Westberg says. Everything used to handle J.J. the gray whale, for example, had to be fabricated on-site. SeaWorld San Diego also placed special satellite transmitters on rescued Guadalupe fur seals and tracked them, in partnership with Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, in order to gain crucial data on the rarely studied creatures when they were returned to the wild. Also, vets at the San Diego park were among the first to use stem cell treatments in penguins and sea lions, and pioneered cataract surgery on sea lions in the early 2000s in collaboration with other veterinary ophthalmologists in the region and a consulting ophthalmolo- gist from Ohio State University. Down in Orlando, the SeaWorld team has created prosthetic beaks for injured birds. EDUCATION AND OUTREACH In addition to rescuing wildlife, SeaWorld also maintains a number of ongoing educa- tion and outreach programs to inform local residents and visitors about the plight of animals in the wild and how they can help to keep the oceans clean and safe. Through conversations and handing out animal information cards, the rescue team continually works to educate the public about the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the park’s rescue program while they’re out on the beaches. SeaWorld also educates through social and consumer media. For example, on World Oceans Day, the park did a live Facebook feed while the rescue team returned reha- bilitated sea lions to the ocean. The feed included information on how animals in the wild can be adversely affected by pollution and litter, including helium balloons that people let loose and end up in the sea. The park’s education and conservation department has partnered with San Diego Unified School District and San Diego Workforce Partnership to develop a new program called Ocean Link Lab to immerse middle school students in the heart and science of the park. This project-based learning experience, which focuses on the SeaWorld Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Program, was presented as a pilot program to students from a few local middle schools last spring and will return in fall 2016 as a permanent offering in the San Diego school district. “Shamu TV”—an environmental edu- cation series produced by SeaWorld and Busch Gardens—presents stories about endangered and threatened species and the exceptional efforts by people working tirelessly to save them. The series may be viewed in school classrooms on DVDs or online on computers and hand-held devices via ShamuTV.com and YouTube. A Teacher Toolbox with activities and resources helps instructors to enhance lesson planning around each episode. SeaWorld is also behind “Sea Rescue,” a Daytime Emmy Award-winning chil- dren’s series that airs Saturday mornings on ABC. The half-hour show details the rescue, rehabilitation and return of marine animals to the wild. More than 100 epi- sodes have been broadcast since the series debuted in 2012. Environmental edification is also a staple inside the park—during pre-shows at major venues, during behind-the-scenes tours and in the Rescue Plaza near Shamu Stadium, where large screens showcase videos about marine animals that received a second chance at life. Meanwhile, SeaWorld’s Creating a Cleaner World program has eliminated the use of plastic shopping bags and polystyrene foam products at restau- rants in the park in favor of environmentally friendly alternatives like reusable and paper bags and compostable plates. All of these efforts help make a safer world for animals to return to. “One hundred and 10 percent, the goal of the program is to give animals that second chance—return them back to the wild,” Westberg says. “That’s the best day for us. … That’s what we’ve been working toward. When you see this skinny little sea lion now fat and happy running down the beach, that’s cool.” n BY THE NUMBERS In 2015, SeaWorld San Diego rescued a record number of animals including: 930 California sea lions 31 northern elephant seals w 24 harbor seals 11 fur seals 2 common dolphins 386 marine birds 3 sea turtles 23