My daughter has spent her entire childhood learning about marine animals and how to take care of the ocean with frequent visits to SeaWorld San Diego. She was just a toddler at her very first visit and has since returned hundreds of times. Several years ago she started contributing to the SeaWorld blog as the SeaWorld guest kid blogger and shares her learning opportunities in the parks and vast knowledge to help other children understand the importance of taking care of our animals and waters. We visit California often and have many close friends we’ve met through our SeaWorld experiences. The SeaWorld San Diego Rescue team quickly became a favorite of my daughter’s because of her desire to work with sea lions. She’s had many opportunities to observe the animals they have rescued and rehabilitated for a second chance at life but it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that she was able to participate in an animal return to watch the sea lions and elephant seals swim back to their natural environment.
During my daughter’s preschool graduation, at just five years old, her teacher asked every student what they wanted to be when they grew up. She proudly stood up and proclaimed she wanted to be a “sea lion trainer”. She has always been fascinated by marine animals but over the past few years she’s had the opportunity to learn from many different educators, behaviorists and scientists to help instill a true love and deep desire to want to work with sea lions. She’s just about to begin third grade and I have not heard her mention any other career ambitions since preschool. Meeting Clyde the sea lion last year at SeaWorld was a remarkable day.
She’s participated in an actual sea lion rescue from a California beach with the SeaWorld Rescue team but aside from years of watching the Sea Rescue animal returns and hearing about their stories during our visits, she had never experienced the amazing return of a rescued and rehabilitated animal to their natural environment.
During a summer visit my oldest daughter and I were invited to ride along as the SeaWorld Rescue team returned three sea lions and four elephant seals on a boat to the nearby La Jolla trench area. My daughter didn’t sleep much the night before and was so excited for our early arrival at SeaWorld.
Her morning started by helping the SeaWorld Rescue team and animal behaviorists prepare the animals and boat for the return. SeaWorld’s goal is to successfully rehabilitate animals for return to the wild. When an animal is not fit to be returned due to debilitating injuries, they are provided lifelong care. Through our experiences at SeaWorld, we’ve learned about the many different types of rescues SeaWorld has led including J.J. the orphaned gray whale calf that was the largest rescued animal ever to return to the wild. Just this year SeaWorld surpassed 30,000 rescues. We’ve personally followed rescue stories from otters to pregnant sharks to turtles. The animals returned to the wild are tagged so they can be tracked for later identification if necessary and sometimes monitored for research. Animals returning to the wild are in prime condition to thrive in their natural environment.
We were finally ready to go and my daughter was excited to return the healthy animals.
While navigating out of the bay and in the open water we saw a pod of dolphins. Later we saw more dolphins and spotted a harbor seal that had been previously released by SeaWorld, a great indication it was thriving in its natural environment.
Arriving at our intended destination, the team and animals were ready for the release. My daughter helped opened the release gates then the animals slowly made their way to the water.
A few of them glanced back before they jumped into the ocean and swam away. We watched as they swam further from the boat and then disappeared into the horizon.
In addition to learning about the animal releases while onboard, my daughter had a very eye opening opportunity when she pulled styrofoam, plastic bags and mylar balloons from the water. She regularly talks about the importance of recycling and making sure your trash does not end up in the ocean. Seeing firsthand how balloons end up in the ocean to harm animals is an experience that will make a lasting impression.
SeaWorld does so much to help educate and share experiences that make a difference for how we care about and take care of animals and their natural environments. We do not live by the ocean but my daughter cares deeply about the impact we all make individually. Learn more about the SeaWorld Busch Gardens Conservation Fund and how you can make a difference too.
See more about our experiences at SeaWorld San Diego and read why I still choose to support SeaWorld. A few of my favorite visits include my daughter learning that girls can be anything they want to be from Miss California and killer whales at SeaWorld.