SeaWorld San Diego Returns Six Rescued and Rehabilitated Seals, Including Five Threatened Guadalupe Fur Seals

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SeaWorld San Diego announced that it returned six rescued seals after their successful rehabilitation on Thursday, June 30th. The group includes five threatened Guadalupe fur seals and one elephant seal. The seals were rescued in partnership with the Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC) and received rehabilitative care at SeaWorld San Diego – one of only two facilities in the United States authorized to rehabilitate Guadalupe fur seals. This is largely due to their threatened status under the Endangered Species Act and the expert care required to ensure their health and safety.

“Rescuing, rehabilitating and returning animals in need is at the forefront of our mission, and Guadalupe Fur Seals are no exception,” said Eric Otjen, Vice President of Zoological Operations at SeaWorld San Diego. “Responding to animals in crisis requires a great deal of collaboration between partners dedicated to preserving threatened and endangered species, and we’re proud to work alongside partners like NOAA, PMMC and other members of the California Marine Mammal Stranding Network to ensure the conservation of these precious animals.”

In the past five years, SeaWorld San Diego has rescued and rehabilitated 36 Guadalupe fur seals. The process of rescuing them is like that of other seal species, but they are often found in much poorer health with ailments like emaciation, unresponsiveness, dehydration, and starvation. SeaWorld San Diego is proud to work alongside partners like PMMC to rescue Guadalupe fur seals and help ensure the conservation of the species.

“We are thankful for SeaWorld’s efforts on behalf of Guadalupe Fur Seals,” said Justin Viezbicke, NOAA Marine Mammal Stranding Coordinator. “Their marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation program has directly contributed to the Guadalupe Fur Seal comeback story here in California.”

SeaWorld San Diego Provides World-Class Animal Care

SeaWorld San Diego provides expert rehabilitative care to rescued seals that involves world-class veterinary care, deep pools to compliment the species’ natural deep-diving abilities and separate habitats away from the view of the public.  Upon intake, SeaWorld San Diego’s rescue team collects fecal, blood, nasal and rectal samples as well as body condition assessments in addition to typical intake procedures. The seals receive around-the-clock care for an average of two to three weeks until stabilized.

Prior to being returned, the seals also receive exit exams that include the collection of fur samples, vibrissae samples, blood samples, body condition photos and the often the installation of satellite tags to ensure the seals remain safe and healthy in their natural environment. The seals are also weighed, measured and given National Marine Fisheries tags to include in the national database.

Guadalupe Fur Seals and Elephant Seals Once Hunted to Near Extinction

Both Guadalupe fur seals and elephant seals have a unique comeback story. In the 1700s and 1800s, Guadalupe fur seals were hunted to the point that they were thought to be extinct up until 1954, when scientists discovered the species breeding in a cave on Guadalupe Island.

Similarly, elephant seals were hunted to near extinction in the 1800s with a small population surviving in Mexico after which the population began to steadily increase in the early 1900s. Today, robust populations of northern elephant seals in the U.S. and Mexico are derived from those few hundred individuals that survived in Mexico.

Today, there are an estimated 31,000 Guadalupe fur seals in existence and more than 200,000 elephant seals largely due to Mexican and American government protections and the ongoing rescue, rehabilitation and return efforts of organizations like SeaWorld.

Seals Continue to Face Threats in the Wild

Although populations of Guadalupe fur seals have drastically increased in the past century, the species remains threatened due to threats such as entanglement and oil spills. Guadalupe fur seals rely on a thick layer of fur to insulate their bodies, which can be disrupted and become dangerous if an oil spill occurs. The successful rescue, rehabilitation and return of Guadalupe fur seals is integral to the preservation of the species, and SeaWorld is grateful to partner with organizations like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to help ensure the conservation of this species for generations to come.

The northern elephant seal is the largest of the “true” seals in the Northern Hemisphere.  The species takes is name from the large size and the long pendulous noses on the males. These large animals spend most of their lives at sea, coming ashore only to molt, give birth, and mate.  The largest colonies of northern elephant seals can be found off southern California in the Channel Islands. Northern elephant seals, like all marine mammals, are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

About SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment 

SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. (NYSE: SEAS) is a leading theme park and entertainment company providing experiences that matter, and inspiring guests to protect animals and the wild wonders of our world. The Company is one of the world’s foremost zoological organizations and a global leader in animal welfare, training, husbandry, and veterinary care. The Company collectively cares for what it believes is one of the largest zoological collections in the world and has helped lead advances in the care of animals. The Company also rescues and rehabilitates marine and terrestrial animals that are ill, injured, orphaned, or abandoned, with the goal of returning them to the wild. The SeaWorld® rescue team has helped more than 40,000 animals in need over the Company’s history.  SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. owns or licenses a portfolio of recognized brands including SeaWorld®, Busch Gardens®, Aquatica®, Sesame Place® and Sea Rescue®. Over its more than 60-year history, the Company has built a diversified portfolio of 12 destination and regional theme parks that are grouped in key markets across the United States, many of which showcase its one-of-a-kind zoological collection. The Company’s theme parks feature a diverse array of rides, shows and other attractions with broad demographic appeal which deliver memorable experiences and a strong value proposition for its guests.

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