United Parks & Resorts is deeply committed to providing experiences that matter for our guests, through entertainment and education. Through opportunities to explore and interact with the amazing animals in our parks, each year we educate millions of guests with the goal of inspiring them to care and protect animals and their habitats in the wild. We also aim to inspire the next generation of animal caretakers, veterinarians, scientists, wildlife advocates, conservationists and enthusiasts.
As one of the world’s foremost zoological organizations and a global leader in animal welfare, training, husbandry, veterinary care and marine animal rescue, we are committed to helping protect and preserve the oceans, environment and the natural world. In fact, we are a leader in marine animal rescue helping animals that are ill, injured, orphaned or abandoned, with the goal of returning them to the wild.
In addition to teaching guests about animals, we provide educational opportunities for all ages and backgrounds across our parks, from cultural events to programs integrated with Sensory and Emotional Awareness at our Certified Autism Center Sesame Place locations.
- Animal Rescue, Rehabilitation and Return
- Conservation and Environmental Stewardship
- Community Relations
Our overall mission builds on the platform of our values, and on actions of which we are deeply and profoundly proud.
Our Commitment to our Social Impact
We are on a journey to further enhance and expand our social impact practices throughout United Parks & Resorts. As an organization rooted in animal and environmental welfare, we know it’s our responsibility to embed responsible and sustainable practices throughout our daily operations.
We are committed to building upon a social impact strategy that supports the health of our planet while positioning the organization for strong and continual growth. To that end, we are committed to continuous improvement.
Looking ahead, we plan to expand our capture of key sustainability metrics and use those findings to drive implementation of new sustainable practices across our organization.
Human population growth and land-use impacts have decreased the percentage of our planet considered truly “wild,” and climate change is altering other habitat conditions crucial to wildlife's survival creating loss of biodiversity. SeaWorld plays a vital role in animal conservation efforts through our park-based animal experiences, education programs, wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, conservation research work, and support of field conservation projects.
Across our parks, we provide care for one of the world’s largest zoological collections, and the understandings and insights that we gain from that work translate directly into our ability to help species in the wild.
We promote animal wellbeing through professional veterinary and husbandry care, positive behavioral reinforcement and enriched environments. Experience obtained in a zoological setting like SeaWorld, provides insight and knowledge into animals’ overall health and wellness needs that cannot be replicated by the study of animals outside of human care alone. This experience comes from providing care to a diverse set of species for nearly 60 years together with critical care to rescued animals, and specialized care to neonatal and geriatric cases.
Highest Standards of Care
Over a thousand dedicated animal care experts, zoologists, dieticians and veterinarians provide the highest quality of care for our animals every day. Our actions are affirmed by independent accreditation, review, audit and certification by both government wildlife agencies and independent third-party animal welfare organizations to uphold the highest standards of animal care. This includes accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (“AZA”), the independent accrediting organization for the best zoos and the best aquariums in America and the world. According to AZA, fewer than 10% of the ~2,800 animal exhibitors licensed by the USDA in the United States have met their standards.
Since our inception, we have collaborated with other zoological organizations to advance and share our knowledge and improve animal care standards. For example, our early work to define clinically normal ranges for key health measures in our marine animals helped establish the standards many veterinarians and biologists use to assess both managed and wild marine species.
Our care team has expertise in the areas of research, wildlife transportation and field intervention such as disentanglements, and our parks have received accreditation from major zoological and animal training associations that hold members to rigorous standards and conduct regular evaluations.
Accreditations and Certifications
American Humane SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Tampa are Certified Humane™ through the Humane Conservation™ Program: onsite review by independent auditors, including detailed assessments of animal behavior and welfare conditions and care practices for all of animals. American Humane, founded in 1877 as the country’s first national humane organization, is committed to helping ensure the safety, welfare and well-being of animals. Association of Zoos & Aquariums ("AZA") All three SeaWorld parks, plus Discovery Cove and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, are accredited members of the AZA, one of the world’s foremost professional zoological organizations. SeaWorld achieved its first AZA-accreditation in 1981 for SeaWorld San Diego. The AZA is a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, education, science, and recreation. AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums meet the highest standards in animal care and welfare. In addition, AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums support scientific research, conservation, and education programs. Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums (“AMMPA”) All three SeaWorld parks and Discovery Cove are accredited by AMMPA, an association focused on the care of marine mammals. AMMPA is an international association and the accrediting body for marine parks, aquariums, zoos and research facilities. With extensive marine mammal knowledge and experience, animal experts at AMMPA-accredited facilities dedicate their lives to the well-being of the animals in their care and to the rescue and rehabilitation of marine animals such as sea lions, dolphins, manatees, and sea turtles in need of help. AMMPA-accredited members meet or exceed rigorous standards and guidelines covering a dozen different areas such as animal husbandry, animal training, water and environmental quality, education, scientific research, breeding, and transportation. International Marine Animal Trainers’ Association (“IMATA”) All three SeaWorld parks are accredited by IMATA, whose Animal Trainer Development Program was developed to recognize facilities that have exceptional development programs for animal caregivers, fostering the science and art of animal training using positive reinforcement. IMATA is dedicated to advancing the humane care and handling of marine animals by fostering communication between professionals that serve marine animal science through training, public display, research, husbandry, conservation, and education.
“It’s a privilege to care for our animals and a real team effort. We carefully plan each procedure to provide the highest level of veterinary care and keep our focus on the animal’s well-being.”
– Maria Spriggs, Veterinarian, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
Our comprehensive approach to animal care and wellbeing includes three key aspects of health: physical, behavioral and population.
Our animal care team includes board-certified veterinarians, veterinary and medical technicians and technologists, clinical laboratory scientists, and animal care experts. We have onsite animal hospitals at each SeaWorld park and a guest-facing, state-of-the-art Animal Care Center at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay park, which was home to the hit Emmy-nominated TV series, The Wildlife Docs®. We were one of the first zoological organizations to build our own in-house diagnostic centers, enabling us to get clinical lab results more quickly and with a higher level of confidence. Our animals receive regular preventative care, helping us proactively look after their health and well-being.
SeaWorld has been at the forefront of advancing understanding and best practices of behavioral training as a way of enriching animal health. Our approach is grounded in a philosophy of positive reinforcement and compassionate care, and our holistic behavioral program focuses on health, exercise and appropriate choices and challenges that allow the animal to engage in natural, normal, and rewarding behaviors.
We are committed not only to caring for each individual animal, but also to being responsible stewards of our animal populations—which includes maintaining the genetic diversity needed for healthy and sustained populations. To fulfill that responsibility, we have invested significantly in developing leading-edge reproductive health expertise, technologies, and capabilities. Through participation in Species Survival Plans managed cooperatively through the AZA, we are also helping maintain healthy, genetically diverse and demographically stable animal populations for the long-term future.
Dynamic Habitat Initiative
Since 2018, SeaWorld Parks in Orlando, San Diego and San Antonio have been working on a project to bring more diverse and enriching environments to the park’s habitats. The Dynamic Habitat Initiative (“DHI”) integrates multiple species of animals living and interacting together, such as marine mammals, birds, sharks, rays, invertebrates and fish.
Dynamic habitats create a more vibrant and variable ecosystem for all the animals and provide a more biologically balanced method of water management via beneficial micro-organisms and natural filter systems.
- Discovery Cove’s Asian small clawed otter area has introduced live fish.
- SeaWorld San Antonio’s Turtle Reef is a multi-species habitat for rescued and non-releasable sea turtles, including endangered green sea turtles and “Big Mama,” a 250-pound loggerhead turtle rescued in the Gulf of Mexico after sustaining injuries to her flippers. Hundreds of Caribbean fish keep the turtles company.
- SeaWorld San Diego’s killer whale habitat has live fish, including surf perch and other cold water species living around a rocky reef on the bottom.
Rescue, Rehabilitation & Return
SeaWorld is one of the world's largest marine animal rescue organizations, and we provide care for one of the largest zoological collections. Our commitment to these animals includes applying professionally accredited standards of care, while operating habitats that promote the health of the animals. Our team of veterinarians, zoologists and animal care experts have been caring for animals over our history of over 60 years and many of the professionals dedicated to animal rescue have well over a decade of individual experience. The cumulative experience across a diverse set of species is what informs and makes possible our ability to successfully rescue and rehabilitate animals in need and enables SeaWorld to continue to cultivate and train the next generation of rescue experts.
But none of our efforts would be possible without the continued support of our governmental agencies and partner organizations, park guests, and dedicated Ambassadors.
In a legacy of animal rescue that spans nearly 60 years, our rescue teams have helped more than 40,000 sick, injured and orphaned animals in need. Our teams are on call 24x7, 365 days a year, partnering with multiple government agencies, stranding networks, zoological facilities, and others to rescue and rehabilitate animals in need, always with the goal of returning them to the wild. For those animals which government agencies determine have conditions that mean survival on their own is not possible, we, along with other accredited zoos and aquariums, provide long term and permanent care.
In 2021, our teams, in collaboration with our strategic partners, helped approximately 1,800 animals across numerous species, sometimes traveling hundreds of miles to help.
The SeaWorld Rescue team is on call 24x7, 365 days a year to help animals anywhere they are needed. The team logged a combined total of over 50,000 miles in 2021 to help animals in need; that's the equivalent of circling the Earth two times.
We are at the forefront of advancing understanding and applying best practices for animal rehabilitation and we operate with the knowledge that each animal rescue requires its own individual approach—and sometimes outright innovation. Over the years, our animal rescue, veterinary and care teams have created animal prosthetics, healed cracked turtle shells, developed specialized formulas to bottle-feed orphaned dolphins and created specialized wetsuits to help injured manatees stay afloat.
We maintain on-site animal hospitals at each SeaWorld park and a guest-facing, state-of-the-art Animal Care Center at our Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, all staffed by veterinarians, technicians and animal care experts. In Orlando, Florida, we have one of only five manatee critical care facilities in the United States. Manatee Rehabilitation allows park guests to step into a working wild manatee acute care facility where animals that have been ill or injured are treated.
Manatee critical care facilities
SeaWorld Orlando has one of the largest manatee rescue operations in the world and maintains one of only five manatee critical care facilities in the U.S. The technologically advanced rescue center at SeaWorld is equipped with facilities and expertise to provide ultrasound, X-rays, thermography and surgery.
Manatee populations are threatened, impacted by threats including pollution-induced decline in growth of seagrass (their main food source), changes in their warm-water habitat and watercraft-related injuries. In 2021, an unprecedented 1,100+ Florida manatee deaths were recorded—approximately 10% of the animal’s population.
In response to recent increases in manatee strandings, we took action and announced plans to expand our manatee critical care facility to add more capacity in the state of Florida to care for manatees in need. The buildout will include a new three pool complex that adds 200,000 gallons of water for manatee response, and a new lift floor to an existing pool. This expansion will double the size of the critical care space at SeaWorld’s rescue center in Orlando. Upon completion, SeaWorld will have the ability to care for 60+ manatees in need, the largest capacity in the state of Florida and in the U.S. The expansion is necessary to care for the record number of manatees in crisis due to the Unusual Mortality Event (“UME”). The buildout of manatee rescue pools was funded in part through financial grants from the state of Florida.
Since 1976, SeaWorld has helped ill, orphaned, and injured manatees with the Florida team alone having rescued and rehabilitated more than 800 manatees to date.
“The crisis facing manatees is not letting up, and we know that SeaWorld’s existing rescue center infrastructure gives us the foundation upon which to quickly build and expand to care for animals in need,”
– Jon Peterson, VP of zoological operations at SeaWorld Orlando, head of SeaWorld Orlando Rescue team, and chairman of the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership
Our goal for every animal we rescue is to achieve its successful rehabilitation and return it to the wild. The small percentage that are determined by regulatory agencies to have conditions that would threaten their survival in the wild are provided lifelong care at SeaWorld or another approved facility.SeaWorld has nearly 60 years of experience in caring for dolphins, including seven distinct species. This expertise makes it possible for 40% of dolphins rescued by SeaWorld to be treated on the scene and immediately released (more than any other species rescued) which has a dramatic impact on the survival rate of these animals.
Research & Conservation
SeaWorld has a legacy of impactful marine conservation related science. Our team members have authored or coauthored more than 400 peer-reviewed studies and book chapters, and SeaWorld’s groundbreaking research programs have helped field conservation professionals understand and protect animals in the wild.
Research & Study
By collaborating on research and sharing our insights with other zoological organizations, SeaWorld works to advance animal care knowledge, improve care standards worldwide and develop new strategies for protecting species in their natural habitats.
Our research partners include universities, zoological and conservation organizations and federal agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”) and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. We also provide scientists with access to our animals for observational research and access to banked samples, which have been routinely collected for health assessments, for analysis and research.
At the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Species Preservation Lab, a team of endocrine, reproductive, and veterinary physiologists advance the understanding of animal reproductive physiology. They use this understanding to apply assisted reproductive techniques to wildlife species, conducting in-house research and collaborating with peer institutes. Their work promotes stable zoo and aquarium populations, as well as population growth and conservation of wild and endangered species. In 2021, the lab’s efforts yielded important progress on elasmobranch reproductive gamete preservation. And in partnership with Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and the South-East Zoo Alliance for Reproduction & Conservation, the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Species Preservation Lab advanced the process of sex-selection of Indian and white rhino sperm for future application of artificial insemination (species listed as vulnerable and near-threatened respectively). All this work, and the continual application of these cutting-edge technologies within the lab, are ultimately geared toward the conservation of species.
UCLA & Fielding School of Public HealthIn 2021, in collaboration with experts from the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine and the Fielding School of Public Health, our researchers supported the development of methods for the determination of animal age and sex from either a simple skin or blood sample. The collaborative work involved providing well over 1,200 samples from 80 species collected from animals across SeaWorld parks, Busch Gardens and multiple partners across the world.The results have firmly established the commonality of aging across all mammal species despite differences in longevity. In addition, simple skin or blood samples can now provide information on pollutants in the body, giving a better understanding of the animal’s overall health, and providing otherwise hard-to-determine information for managing population survival.
SeaWorld supports others research initiatives through flexible support of our veterinarians and their professional interests beyond their duties at our parks. SeaWorld also frequently contributes supplies and equipment in support of these efforts.
Since nature is an interconnected system, conservation work must be equally holistic. That’s why our commitment to conservation runs deeper than saving single animals stranded on a beach, extending instead to supporting the long-term health of the entire species. To accomplish this mission, we partner with leading organizations, and support the work of others, that share our commitment to protecting at-risk species, the wild habitats where they live and the food sources they depend on.
In 2021, we helped establish the Florida Coral Rescue Center in collaboration with the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, NOAA Fisheries, and Florida-based Disney conservation wildlife experts and conservationists.
The new state-of-the-art facility is operated by SeaWorld aquarists and functions as a gene bank and care center for 18 species and more than 700 Florida corals rescued from reefs not yet affected by the stony coral tissue loss disease that has put more than 20 coral species at risk of extinction. This concept is rooted in the intention of saving an entire ecosystem, therefore protecting animal habitats.
Independently, the SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund provides grants for research focused on conservation, behavior, reproduction, population health and other issues associated with fish, marine mammals, sharks, penguins & puffins, and African mammals, along with best practices for reintroducing rescued/rehabilitated mammals to the wild.
At our parks and through off-site educational events, the animals in our care also do their part for conservation, raising awareness and building public support for conservation of wildlife and wild places.
Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute
One of our key animal conservation partners has been the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute (“Institute”) launched in 1963 by Milton C. Shedd, one of SeaWorld’s founders. Operating on a mission “to return to the sea some measure of the benefits derived from it,” the Institute conducts scientific research aimed at conserving marine life and maintaining ocean health to ensure a healthier planet.
Operating out of three locations, San Diego, CA, Carlsbad, CA and Melbourne Beach, FL, Institute scientists focus on sustainable aquaculture, and marine mammal health and biology, among other things. In 2021 alone, the Institute participated in more than 50 responses alongside the SeaWorld rescue team.
In 1981, with critical support from SeaWorld and in cooperation with local sport fishers, the Institute undertook a program under the auspices of the Department of Fish and Wildlife to replenish critically depleted populations of marine fish along the southern California coast. Preliminary results from a genetics assessment study performed in 2021 suggests that this replenishment effort may provide as much as 40% of the white seabass in the wild fishery.
“Through ground-breaking research and dedication to animal and marine science, we can mitigate the challenges threatening the health of our marine ecosystems and the animal populations that depend on them. Our individual efforts would not be as effective without our unique partnership with SeaWorld.”
- Don Kent, President/CEO of Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute
Research & Conservation Partners
Drone Studies for Research & ConservationSeaWorld teams work with field biologists and other wildlife veterinarians on health assessment for wild bottlenose dolphins. Advances in drone technology allow for remote health assessments of other species, like killer whales, but for those technologies to be validated, they must be tested first on known whales whose full life histories and daily health measures (like body weight, age, size, and blood indices) are known: the whales at SeaWorld.
We partner extensively with mission-aligned organizations and experts to maximize our impact on conservation and rescue. From the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute to our partnerships with state, local and federal agencies, we are dedicated to helping preserve marine life and the planet through ongoing, strategic collaboration.In 2021, some of our key partners included:
- The Killer Whale Research and Conservation Program, led by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
- The White Oak Conservation Foundation and efforts including its Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders initiative, its #RangersDeserveMore program supporting and celebrating wildlife rangers worldwide, and its efforts to combat the poaching of wild rhinos and giraffes
Minimizing our environmental impact
We understand the adverse effects of human behavior and climate change on ecosystems and the animals who call them home and therefore we are working to minimize the footprint of our operations. As part of our commitment to conservation, we have invested in numerous projects to reduce our own energy and water use and the amount of waste we generate.
For us to optimally manage and minimize our environmental impact, we need a comprehensive understanding of our current and future footprint. We are in the process of engaging with a third-party sustainability consultancy to establish greenhouse gas (“GHG”) reduction strategies and identify opportunities to reduce our carbon and water footprints.
We are evaluating the ways in which we can reduce our fossil fuel consumption and GHG emissions to better align with our mission to protect animals and the natural ecosystems on which they rely. Using less energy is also beneficial for the Company’s bottom line. Over the past few years, we have continued to make investments in renewable energy and greater energy efficiency at our parks and buildings such as LED lighting retrofits, adding variable-frequency drive to motors and enhancing other mechanical systems.
In our data operations, we have adopted processes that decrease energy usage at on-premise data centers, including transitioning gradually to cloud storage. In addition to lowering our overall electrical consumption, these measures are designed to improve our data security posture.
Energy and Lighting Audits
Energy efficiency audit teams have completed their analysis work at our SeaWorld San Diego location and for most of SeaWorld Orlando, and they are in process of auditing the remaining parks. Findings from the energy audits will be used to explore further opportunities in energy efficiency.
Renewable and energy efficiency highlights include the solar carport system at Sesame Place San Diego, which not only generates up to 90% of the park’s annual energy needs but also provides over 400 shaded parking spots for guests and employees.
For our operations in Orlando, Florida, our primary data center and several buildings are water cooled via a closed-loop process, recycling the water used in our animal habitats. The water is cooled at night for added energy efficiency.
Given our dedication to protecting marine animals and their habitats, water stewardship is naturally one of SeaWorld’s key focus areas. Our parks and operations rely heavily upon water, and we continually seek innovative ways of reducing water usage, whether through updating our parks’ animal habitats with new filtration technology strategies, using best practices wherever possible, or installing drought-tolerant landscaping. We believe our parks have some of the most advanced and efficient water purification systems in the world, providing the optimum environment for our marine life.
Many of our water conservation efforts incorporate lessons learned at our facilities in San Diego and San Antonio, both drought-prone locations where we’ve implemented innovative strategies for harvesting rainwater, reclaiming and recycling wastewater for reuse, and adapting landscaping to require less water. We have implemented a range of other water conservation efforts across our parks, including a natural biofiltration system used to clean the sea turtle habitat at SeaWorld San Antonio—the first of its kind in a zoological setting. We continually look for new ways to reduce water use in our parks and to support water conservation projects elsewhere.
SeaWorld San Diego’s saltwater flushing system in one of its restrooms saves nearly a million gallons of fresh water every year.
At our sea turtle habitat in San Antonio, Texas, water is filtered through a fabricated salt marsh wetland that mimics how water is filtered in the natural environment. This new natural biofiltration water system is a first of its kind in a zoological setting. The system uses 55% less energy than its Orlando cousin while also providing natural filtration, consuming less water, and attracting native wildlife, helping to complete the ecology circle.
In our work with marine species, we have an up-close view of the impacts of human litter and debris to shorelines, coastal waters, estuaries and oceans. It’s a constant, visible reminder of the need to reduce waste, and we’re doing our part by implementing programs to generate less waste in our parks.
At all our parks, we have implemented a range of waste-reduction and resource conservation initiatives, including:
To minimize food waste, our parks donate food to local food banks on an as-available basis.
- Removing all expanded polystyrene products from the parks
- Removing all plastic straws, plastic coffee stir sticks and plastic shopping bags as of 2018
- Using fibers certified by the Forest Stewardship Counsel (“FSC”) as sustainably sourced for printed materials when available
- Minimizing the use of paper throughout our business by switching to online platforms and providing tablets for Environmental Health & Safety employees to use for accident investigation.
We continually evaluate the impact of our sourcing practices on the environment and are committed to increasing our partnerships with suppliers that share our environmental concerns.
We have adopted a Supplier Code of Conduct where we expect our suppliers to treat their employees with dignity and respect, maintain just and decent working conditions, adhere to all applicable laws and regulations, and make their products in a way that respects and protects the environment.
Food & Beverage
We are committed to providing sustainably and responsibly sourced food and beverages at our parks. Our Responsible Food Sourcing Policy outlines our commitment to partner with food suppliers that deliver products that meet or exceed sustainable, healthy and humane food standards, such as cage-free eggs and coffee sourced from vendors with programs supporting coffee sustainability. Where possible, we also partner with brands and products that share our commitment to giving back to communities, animals and/or our broader environment.
All of our seafood is sourced from either sustainably managed fisheries or aquaculture. All of our eggs are certified cage-free, and we’ve set a goal of purchasing from suppliers that employ or have published targets to convert to group-housed humane farming practices. In response to growing guest demand, we have also expanded the number of plant-based food offerings on menus across our parks, including sustainable, plant-based hamburgers.
We recognize the importance of understanding our social impact risk throughout the supply chain that provides retail goods sold throughout our parks. In our Supplier Code of Conduct, we detail our standards for product and workplace health and safety, fair labor practices and environmental practices, as well as our stands against discrimination, harassment, abuse and forced or child labor.