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Milestones: Fifty Years of Helping Animals

August 17, 2017
Over the last 50 years, the SeaWorld Rescue Teams have come to the aid of more than 31,000 ill, injured or orphaned animals in need of expert care.

Inspiring people to care for and protect wild animals and wild places is at the core of what we do at SeaWorld, and we lead by example. Over the last 50 years, the SeaWorld Rescue Teams have come to the aid of more than 33,000 ill, injured or orphaned animals in need of expert care. 

The SeaWorld Rescue Teams are available 24/7, 365 days a year, and our veterinarians and animal care teams work day and night to provide the care that many of these animals need to survive. 

The goal: to return every animal back to the wild and give all of them a second chance at life. 

Here are just a few of the more memorable rescue moments over the last 50 years: 

1963 – Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute opens with a commitment “to return to the sea some measure of the benefits derived from it.”  

1964 – SeaWorld opens in San Diego, Calif. where our first animal rescue team is formed.

1976 – SeaWorld Orlando rescues its first manatee.

1980 – First bottle-raised orphaned manatee, Marina, is rescued, successfully rehabilitated, and released. 

1989 – A 5,000-pound Bryde’s whale is rehabilitated after around-the-clock care and returned to the wild.

1997 – JJ, an orphaned gray whale calf, begins her 14-month rehabilitation. She is the largest rescued animal ever returned to the wild, and maybe one of the most inspiring stories ever.

2000 – SeaWorld helps save more than 20,000 oiled penguins and nearly 700 orphaned penguin chicks affected by the Treasure oil spill in South Africa. The same year the SeaWorld Oiled Wildlife Care Center, a public-private partnership for environmental stewardship, is formed. 

2003 – The SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund is established. Fund has since granted more than $13 million to nearly 1,100 projects in more than 75 countries on all seven continents across the globe.

2005 – After Hurricane Katrina, SeaWorld comes to the aid of 14 injured or displaced sea lions.

2010 – More than 300 cold-stunned, endangered sea turtles are rehabilitated at SeaWorld after suffering from record-setting cold temperatures, resulting in one of the largest rescue events to date in our history.

2010 – The SeaWorld Animal Rescue Team assists wildlife affected by the BP oil spill, including more than 100 endangered sea turtles.

2011 – The SeaWorld Animal Rescue Team helps rescue and care for a large group of pilot whales that had beached in the Florida Keys. Two of the surviving whales were returned to the ocean while SeaWorld is still providing a permanent home for one of the other survivors that were deemed non-releasable by the government.  

2012 – Around Valentine's Day, the SeaWorld San Diego team rescued a young sea lion with a severe bullet wound to her flipper. They named the sea lion Valentine, removed the bullet and brought her back to health. Valentine was then successfully returned to the ocean.

2013 – After a mass stranding event in St. Lucie County, Fla. in 2012, SeaWorld Orlando successfully rehabilitates three young pilot whales. While these lucky whales were given a new chance at life thanks to the efforts of the SeaWorld Rescue Team, they were deemed non-releasable by the government and are now healthy and thriving at the park

2014 – SeaWorld helps rescue more than 1,000 animals throughout the year, including an entangled humpback whale and even a pregnant shark.

2015 – SeaWorld celebrates the 50th anniversary of giving animals in need a second chance at life, as well as surpassing 25,000 animal rescues. 

2016 – SeaWorld surpasses 28,000 rescues, including a higher-than-normal number of stranded sea lions in California. 

2016 – SeaWorld Rescue Teams surpass 29,000 animal rescues. 

2017 – SeaWorld Rescue Teams surpass 31,000 animal rescues.

2018 – SeaWorld helps recue more than 2,000 animals throughout the year, including an endangered Cook Inlet baby beluga whale named Tyonek who is currently being cared for at SeaWorld San Antonio, and nearly 70 manatees that were stricken ill by Florida's Red Tide. 

2018 – SeaWorld Rescue Teams surpass 33,000 animal rescues.