Animal Care Team Rehabilitation of a Baby Manatee Animal Care Teams Rehabilitation of a Baby Manatee
Animal Care at SeaWorld

At SeaWorld, we believe:

  • It is our responsibility to provide the best care to our animals based on the latest advancements in science and veterinary medicine.
  • Having animals at SeaWorld in human care contributes to the vital protection and preservation of wild species through education, research and conservation programs.
  • SeaWorld is uniquely positioned based on its experience and expertise to help rescue and rehabilitate wild animals who are sick, stranded or injured; to date we have rescued more than 39,000 animals and counting over 50 years—an average of two animals a day.
  • By educating and engaging visitors, SeaWorld helps inspire the next generation to care for our planet and all its marine mammals; we are continuously evaluating and evolving our programs to become more educational and impactful for park guests.

A strong dedication to animal welfare is evidenced in our people's daily interactions

Because of our beliefs and because of our actions:

  • SeaWorld is one of the world’s foremost zoological organizations and a global leader in animal welfare, training, husbandry and veterinary care.
  • We are one of the most important marine mammal research, care and conservation institutions in the world.
  • We have the honor and privilege of inspiring the next generation of veterinarians, zoologists and advocates who will protect our planet's animals and marine habitats.
  • We are one of the leading marine animal rescue organizations in the world.
World class animal care at SeaWorld

World-Class Animal Care

Animals at SeaWorld are among the best cared for in the world. Our team of veterinarians, zoologists and animal care experts have cared for animals for over five decades and amassed an expertise used by zoos & aquariums worldwide. We’re very proud of the partnerships forged within the veterinary & scientific communities to enable animals in our care to live healthy, enriched lives. Our team’s collective work has earned SeaWorld numerous certifications and accreditations: We are accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA); certified by American Humane, the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums (AMMPA), and Int'l Marine Animal Trainers’ Association (IMATA); and we exceed rigorous USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service guidelines, in compliance with the Animal Welfare Act. We are also a leading member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA).

Accreditations & Certifications

Amazing Stories of Animal Care

Flip the cards to learn more about their stories:

Lederhosen, an endangered sea turtle rescued, rehabilitated by teams at SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa, and released back to the ocean.


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This endangered green sea turtle suffered from cold shock, buoyancy issues & a broken femur. SeaWorld veterinary teams created a special vest (earning him his nickname) to aid stability while recovering. Watch his return video here

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After this stranded weeks-old Cook Inlet Beluga Whale was rescued, NOAA requested that SeaWorld San Antonio be Tyonek's new home. Learn more about Tyonek here

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Cinder the baby sea otter


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Cinder was orphaned and stranded in Alaska before being brought to us for round-the-clock care. Learn more about Cinder here

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Sharkie was rescued with multiple shark bite wounds & after four months of care, was returned to her home waters near St. Augustine, FL. Learn more here

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Bingley the manatee


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Bingley was in SeaWorld's rehabilitative care for 5 months earlier this year before returning to his home waters. Learn more here

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Katina the orca


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Katina is the matriarch of the orca pod at SeaWorld Orlando, and is an ambassador at our Florida park. Learn more about Katina's care here

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Meet the team

Dr. Christopher Dold examining a penguin at SeaWorld Orlando

Dr. Christopher Dold

Chief Zoological Officer, SeaWorld and Busch Gardens parks
SeaWorld Orlando since 2005

"Accredited zoological parks and aquariums like SeaWorld offer unique opportunities to see, interact with, and learn about animals. Our work is grounded in providing professional and loving care to our animals. Everything we do starts there. SeaWorld is one of the world's foremost zoological institutions and a global leader in animal welfare, animal rescue and rehabilitation, veterinary care and more. Our larger mission, however, is animal conservation – raising awareness and inspiring guests to care about animals, their habitats and their future."

Every day, dedicated animal experts, zoologists, dieticians and veterinarians come to work at SeaWorld. These professionals are committed to caring for our animals and are among the most experienced and qualified professionals in the world.

Meet a few members of our animal care team who are at the forefront of advancing our understanding and best practices in animal health and behavior -- and check back often to meet more of our world-renowned veterinarians, animal care specialists and trainers!

Mitzi Synnott - Supervisor of Animal Training

Michelle "Mitzi" Synnott

Supervisor of Animal Training
SeaWorld San Diego since 1989

"For over 30 years, I’ve cared for incredible species like belugas and walruses, keeping them engaged and thriving at SeaWorld.  We teach them to exhibit natural behaviors in ways that make it easier for our veterinarians to conduct health checkups, scientists to conduct groundbreaking research and the public to learn to love these animals as much as I do.  This collaboration in the areas of animal training and husbandry is vital to advancing veterinary medicine and protecting amazing animal species around the world."

Kelsey Herrick - Veterinarian

Dr. Kelsey Herrick

SeaWorld San Diego since 2016

“As a loving home for some of the most interesting animals on the planet, SeaWorld is at the forefront of veterinary medicine. SeaWorld’s veterinary specialists were first to use a cutting-edge stem cell procedure to help a nearly blind sea lion see again, releasing him back into the wild. SeaWorld’s scientific work also resulted in improved prosthetics for sea turtles, specialized formulas to bottle-feed orphaned dolphins and most recently, the first-ever spinal tap on a rescued bottlenose dolphin. Every aquatic animal we rescue receives the highest quality of care throughout their rehabilitation, and many of them are given a second chance at life. What we learn from the animals in our care can be extrapolated into knowledge that extends well beyond our parks, benefiting countless conservation research and rescue projects to save animals in the wild.”

Justin Boepple - Animal Trainer

Justin Boepple

Senior Animal Trainer
SeaWorld Orlando since 2012

"Every day our dedicated team of trainers interacts with our animals by engaging in exercise, play, new learning and building meaningful relationships. Through our relationships and training, not only are we able to condition incredible behaviors in presentations, but also groundbreaking behaviors that allow scientists to learn more about killer whale health and physiology.  What we’re learning about animals at SeaWorld is directly helping scientists make conservation management decisions that will benefit killer whales and other species in the wild."

Tara Klimek - Animal Hospital Manager

Tara Klimek, LVT

Animal Hospital Leader and Licensed Veterinary Technician
SeaWorld San Antonio since 2017

“At the Veterinary Hospital, animal healthcare experts are responsible for ensuring every animal at SeaWorld remains healthy.  We provide around the clock veterinary care and support to all the animals in the park, 365 days of the year, which can range from performing routine health exams, conducting laboratory diagnostic tests, and even facilitating rehabilitation sessions for the animals rescued by our field team.”

James Spitzer - supervisor of animal life support systems

James "Bubba" Spitzer

Supervisor of Animal Life Support Systems & Water Quality Specialist
SeaWorld San Diego since 1985

"SeaWorld has the largest animal collection in the world, and each animal department – from the sea lions and penguins to the belugas and walruses at Wild Arctic – have parameters that require precise life support systems and preventive maintenance tasks to ensure habitats meet the highest standards and safety.  Our technicians are specialized in knowing the exact water chemistry that’s right for each animal species, so we are responsible for working with SeaWorld’s veterinarians to enhance the water quality of the aquariums, making these the safest possible environments for our marine animals to live."

Jorge Villa

Jorge Villa

Supervisor of Animal Training
SeaWorld San Diego since 1996

“I joined the animal care team 20 years ago, and have seen the impact of SeaWorld’s longstanding commitment to protecting marine life firsthand. Early on in my career, I had the remarkable experience of caring for an orphaned California sea lion named Harvey, whose mother was rescued after being found sickened during an acid toxicity event. Harvey continues to have a profound effect on park guests who learn about his story and how they can take action to protect marine life. Coming face-to-face with animals like Harvey and learning about their story at an accredited zoo and aquarium like SeaWorld is an unforgettable experience that has allowed my fellow animal care specialists to inspire millions to care about conservation and improve our planet.”

Nik Ricci

Nicholas “Nik” Ricci

Senior Animal Care Specialist
SeaWorld Orlando since 1999

“We provide the highest quality of care not only for the animals that live at SeaWorld but also for those we respond to in the wild. As a SeaWorld Rescue team member, we go to great lengths to help injured, sick and orphaned animals recover and give them a chance to return to their natural habitats. The veterinary, husbandry and behavioral expertise and resources available to the animals in our care are unparalleled. This is evidenced by the scientists, researchers and resource managers at universities and government agencies who seek access to our animals, data or technical expertise. They know the impact and quality of our work firsthand.”

Our Practices

Various images showing the practices of animal care at SeaWorld

Environmental Enrichment

Every animal at SeaWorld lives in a safe environment, cared for by the world’s foremost experts in their fields, and filled with enriching and engaging experiences to help them thrive. Animals at SeaWorld live in habitats that help promote their wellbeing and enable them to lead healthy, enriched lives.

As an accredited zoological organization, we design all our animal habitats with the specific needs of each species in mind. We have worked with engineers, veterinarians, behaviorists and animal care experts to design habitats to meet the needs of each species to provide safe, enriching, and engaging experiences for the animals. These habitats allow our animals to engage in behaviors similar to those in which they would engage in the wild; meet their physical needs in terms of exercise and stimulation; enable access to regular, timely medical care; and give them a safe environment that meets or even exceeds the highest standards, laws, guidelines and best practices.

Health and Nutrition

SeaWorld is one of the world’s foremost zoological organizations and a global leader in animal welfare, training, husbandry and veterinary care. Our animals receive regular health screenings and preventive care to ensure they are not only healthy but thriving.

Every day, dedicated animal experts, zoologists, dieticians and veterinarians come to work at SeaWorld. These men and women are on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year to ensure every animal at SeaWorld receives top-notch care, right when they need it. These professionals are also available to the thousands of animals SeaWorld rescues each year, including many species that are regulated in the wild. SeaWorld, like all accredited zoos and aquariums, offers these animals a safe habitat and care that gets and keeps them healthy.

Animal Behavior

SeaWorld’s zoologists, behavioralists and animal care experts have devoted their lives to caring for animals and treat our animals as if they were their very own children. Our experts interact with our animals to foster the animals’ natural cognitive skills and reflexes and to provide the type of mental stimulation that helps keep the animals healthy and engaged.

Safety for all our employees, guests and animals has always been a top priority. All animal interactions and experiences at SeaWorld are controlled, supervised and meet rigorous safety and animal care guidelines. These interactions are positive, unforced and are designed to mirror development in the wild. For guests, they are part of our ongoing and long-standing commitment to educating and inspiring the public about marine mammals.

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Your visit to our award winning parks helps support animal rescue everts, with over 40,000 and counting.

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