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SeaWorld’s 5 Most Rescued Animals

SeaWorld Animal Rescues

One thing many people don’t know about SeaWorld is their incredible history of rescuing marine creatures – many of which are endangered.

SeaWorld’s Rescue Team is on call 24/7, 365 days a year, and over the past 50 years they have rescued more than 27,000 animals that are orphaned, ill, injured or in need of expert care.

The goal of every rescue is to successfully rehabilitate and return the animal to their natural habitat. The small number of animals that would not be able to survive in the wild are given lifelong care at SeaWorld or another accredited facility.

These are SeaWorld’s 5 most-rescued animals:


Baby Manatees being bottle fed at SeaWorld
Orphaned baby manatees are bottle fed at SeaWorld

Endangered Status:

All manatees are either threatened or endangered, and they are protected in every country where they are found.

Number rescued by SeaWorld to date:


Reasons for rescue:

  • Fishing nets: many manatee injuries result from getting tangled in crab trap lines, shrimp nets or fishing lines; some have even lost flippers when entangled in super strong fishing line
  • Collisions with watercraft: fast-moving boats and propellers are a common hazard for manatees, which is why many Florida boat tours now use airboats.
  • Unusually cold weather: this can lead to manatees being “cold-stunned” – if they don’t have a warm enough area to go to it can be fatal.
  • Swimming into places they’re not supposed to be! 19 manatees once had to be rescued from sewerage pipes which they had swum into while looking for a warm place to go. They tend to follow one another, and were unable to turn around to escape.
  • SeaWorld also rescues many baby manatees who have been orphaned due to the above hazards

Sea Turtles

SeaWorld Turtle Rescue
Rescued turtles get ready to be released

Endangered Status:

All sea turtle species face extinction and are protected by international law

Number rescued by SeaWorld to date:


Reasons for rescue:

  • Unusually low water temperatures: This can cause a sea turtle’s metabolism to slow, which makes them sluggish and unable to feed. The turtles are cared for by SeaWorld until the weather warms up, when they can be released in the same area from which they were rescued.
  • Fishing nets: many sea turtles injuries result from getting tangled in crab trap lines, shrimp nets or fishing lines.
  • Rubbish: Turtles may mistake plastic pellets for fish eggs, or plastic bags for jellyfish. These objects can become lodged in the throat or restrict an airway, causing them to suffocate or drown.

Sea Lions & Seals

Sea Lions rescued by SeaWorld
Sea Lions rescued by SeaWorld

Endangered Status:

California sea lions are managed under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) of 1972

Number rescued by SeaWorld to date:


Reasons for rescue:

  • Strandings: Once seal and sea lion pups are weaned, they are left to fend for themselves. Many of the pups rescued by SeaWorld are ill and underweight, suggesting that many don’t survive the weaning process.
  • Fishing nets: some rescued sea lions and seals have injuries resulting from entanglement
  • Many of the rescued sea lions and seals also suffer from exhaustion, malnutrition, dehydration, internal parasites, and various injuries.

Marine Birds (such as Pelicans)

Rescued Pelican at SeaWorld
A rescued pelican being cared for by SeaWorld’s team

Endangered Status:

SeaWorld has rehabilitated hundreds of California brown pelicans, a species that at one time faced extinction.

Number of birds rescued by SeaWorld to date:


Reasons for rescue:

  • Fishing nets: discarded fishing line, nets and hooks are major threats to fish-eating birds like pelicans. Birds don’t have human hands to remove trash from their bodies.
  • Fish depletion: this could be caused by overfishing or environmental conditions. If pelicans can’t find enough food in the ocean, they may head inland and end up on roads or highways
  • Weather: Pelicans can be affected by severe environmental conditions such as storms and El Nino.

Dolphins & Whales

Dolphins rescued by SeaWorld
Dolphins rescued by SeaWorld

Endangered Status:

Bottlenose dolphins are not endangered, but they face many challenges in their environment.

Number rescued by SeaWorld to date:


Reasons for rescue:

  • Strandings: bottlenose dolphins are the most common cetaceans to strand, averaging 600 to 700 strandings each year. The second most common are pygmy sperm whales.
  • Fishing nets: SeaWorld have previously freed gray whales that had become entangled in drift nets.

SeaWorld Orlando has loads of exhibits where you can learn more about their animal rescues and rehabilitation, such as Turtle Trek, Pelican Preserve and the Manatee Rehabilitation Area.


About the author:

Farrah is a Copywriter at FloridaTix. Her biggest loves in life are animals, food, writing and sleeping, and she lists Falcon’s Fury at Busch Gardens as her scariest experience to date.

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