Research is a key component of SeaWorld®’s larger commitment to conservation and animal welfare, and was established as a priority by our founders nearly five decades ago. This commitment includes publishing our own research, sharing our parks and animals as controlled research environments, and funding and supporting projects around the world.
Our parks provide a unique environment that allows our team and outside researchers and scientists to better understand marine mammals. SeaWorld’s animal health professionals contribute meaningful science learned through the care of these animals. Additionally, we are deeply integrated with universities and research organizations and provide access to our animals for scientists conducting studies on a variety of subjects. These studies complement and strengthen research efforts in the field.
We also provide direct support, both material and funding, to field researchers. This support is offered directly by SeaWorld, through grants from the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens® Conservation Fund, and by research foundations associated with and supported by SeaWorld, including the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute.
The animal health team and scientists of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment™ have contributed to more than 300 published studies that advance the global scientific community’s understanding of animals. SeaWorld’s contributions have led to advances in the care of animals in both zoological facilities and wild populations. Selected contributions to the greater scientific understanding include:
New Study on Killer Whale Lifespans
A new peer-reviewed study published in the Journal of Mammalogy by the Oxford University Press adds important insights to the debate over how long killer whales in human care live. The study found no difference in life expectancy between killer whales born at SeaWorld and a well-studied population of wild killer whales.
The study, “Comparisons of life-history parameters between free-ranging and captive killer whale populations for application toward species management,” was authored by Todd R. Robeck, Kevin Willis, Michael R. Scarpuzzi, and Justine K. O’Brien and contrasts current published data for survival and reproductive activity of known-age Pacific Northwest killer whales since 1975 with the life history of killer whales in SeaWorld’s care.
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New Killer Whale Research and Conservation Program
SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. announced a commitment of $1.5 million over three years to a new partnership with The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) through the Killer Whale Research and Conservation Program (KWRCP). Support of the KWRCP is part of SeaWorld’s $10 million pledge to fund research and conservation for killer whales in the wild – the largest private commitment of its kind.
The Killer Whale Research and Conservation Program will focus on three strategies:
- Increasing prey availability for wild killer whales.
- Improving habitat quality.
- Strengthening management through crucial research.
For more information, read here.
Births Lead to Scientific Discoveries
We have developed thriving breeding programs for killer whales (Orcinus orca), dolphins, sea lions and other species. In fact, more than 80 percent of marine mammals at our parks were born in the care of humans. The animals born in our parks help scientists study development and growth rates that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to research in the wild. SeaWorld’s reproductive physiologists founded and operate the innovative SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Reproductive Research Center. The center applies research efforts and state-of-the-art reproductive technologies toward wildlife species management and conservation. Scientist from the Center were the first in the world to successfully develop artificial insemination in a number of marine mammals, including bottlenose and Pacific white-sided dolphins, beluga whales, and killer whales.
Sustainability For Marine Ornamental Fish
Coral reefs face numerous growing threats including ocean acidification, pollution and over-exploitation. Additionally, many colorful marine inhabitants are collected in ways that are not environmentally friendly and can impact the entire reef ecosystem. Rising Tide Conservation was initiated by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment to protect reefs by developing techniques for rearing marine ornamental fish. The program promotes commercial production as an alternative to reef collection. Rising Tide has grown into a nationwide effort that is supported by corporate sponsors as well as the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund. Its board of advisers includes environmentalists, professional aquarists and leaders in the aquarium industry. Many display aquariums throughout the country collect tiny fish eggs from their tanks to support this program and advance our understanding a reef fish reproductive biology. Since its inception in 2009, the program has developed captive rearing techniques for more than 10 marine fish species.