I was unexpectedly invited to take a brief look behind the scenes around the rescue area at SeaWorld Orlando.
Backstage they have a number of their capture boats, each designed for capturing a different animal, be it turtle, dolphin or manatee. All with the the motor positioned centrally to nonsense risk of it coming into contact with any of the animals. The manatee rescue boat has a raisable rear, to allow easier loading.
It can take upto 15 boats to capture a dolphin or manatee, being used to both search for the animal and then used to herd them towards the capture boat. I was told a story where the captain of the manatee boat ordered all people to jump off the boat, after loading a particularly large manatee!
Once captured the animals are transferred to the SeaWorld ambulance (centre of the image), where staff can keep them monitored and sprayed with water. I'm told manatee's are quite happy to be transported on their front, or laid on their back flapping around.
Back at SeaWorld there are then a number of rescue tanks where the animals are first held. This one currently houses a dolphin from the park who was unwell, and unable to be moved to the main off display area.
Others held manatees and sea turtles, who were frequently rescued by the centre after colliding with a boat. The collision causes air to get trapped within them, making them unable to submerge, and given the name "floaters" by the centre. Whilst manatee's can have the air removed surgically, the same procedure doesn't work for the turtles, meaning that likely have to be kept in captivity after being rescued.
They maintain a rescue and release number. Typically for all animals these numbers were extremely close - I believe 18 rescued and 13 released manatee's, and around 30 rescued and released turtles. 2010 was a bad year, with lower temperatures causing major issues for the marine life, which would end up with burn like scaring, leading to the number of rescued marine animals being in the range of 400 throughout the winter.
Also onsite is a laboratory, and hospital, for both routine tests and surgery, as are a number of aviaries, which sees the largest number of rescued animals of ask that SeaWorld take in.
It was an interesting experience and great to see the work that SeaWorld do to protect and preserve the natural wildlife in their area.