Thursday, July 14, 2022

SeaWorld Offers the Ultimate Shark Experience with Interactions, Education, Conservation and Thrills as the Nation Celebrates Shark Awareness Day Today

SeaWorld celebrates Shark Awareness Day today with the ultimate shark experience for guests of all ages offering shark interactions, education, conservation, and inspired thrills that can be enjoyed all year round. SeaWorld provides world-class care to more than 500 sharks. Its parks offer a range of different choices for guests to get up close by viewing, feeding, and interacting with more than a dozen species. Guests can learn more about efforts to protect threatened and endangered sharks in our parks, including being among the first to see the newest zebra shark pups in Orlando. Thrill seekers can buckle up for a thrilling ride on award winning shark-inspired coasters Great White in San Antonio and Mako, the tallest roller coaster in Orlando. When it is time to refuel, guests can enjoy dining with sharks at Sharks Underwater Grill and Bar in Orlando, and sip refreshing shark inspired cocktails like the Shark-Tail in every park.
Photo courtesy: SeaWorld

Approximately 100 million sharks are killed by people every year in the wild, mainly for their fins, making conservation essential to preserve the species. SeaWorld is committed to educating and inspiring the next generation of shark conservationists through its park experiences.  It is also committed to shark conservation outside its parks through partnerships and the SeaWorld Conservation Fund that has donated more than $300,000 to shark research conservation projects.

"We are privileged to care for such a diverse population of shark species and to share these amazing creatures with the public," said Dr. Chris Dold, Chief Zoological Officer at SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. "Protecting sharks is not always top of mind in part because so many people don't understand the importance of this species and how they help keep the ocean's ecosystem in balance.  So, creating experiences that enable the public to learn about sharks in fun and engaging ways is essential to better understand and appreciate them as more than just predators. We encourage shark fans everywhere to come out to our park and support Shark Awareness Day and experience the wonder and awe of these stealthy creatures of the deep."

Providing Park Guests with the Ultimate Shark Experience Including Thrilling, Interactive and Educational Encounters

SeaWorld parks provide a wide range of shark experiences and shark themed activities including:  

  • Shark Encounter® offers a rare, fascinating, up-close look at these prehistoric predators whose ancestors dominated the sea more than a hundred million years before the dinosaur. The aquarium habitats include several species of sharks, rays, and fish. San Antonio features a 450,000-gallon aquarium and San Diego's 280,000-gallon attraction features a 57-foot acrylic tube running the length of the sharks' habitat. Orlando's 700,000-gallon aquarium includes one of the world's largest underwater viewing tunnels.
  • Explorer's Reef is home to several species of sharks and in San Antonio this includes zebra, sand tiger, blacktip, and nurse – all of which are considered vulnerable species. Animal Care Ambassadors also share interesting insights about these awesome animals at each habitat in San Antonio and San Diego. In San Diego, guests can feel what it's like to touch bamboo sharks and the touch pools.
  • Behind the Scenes Shark Tours include 'Sharks Up-Close' in Orlando and San Antonio that enable guests to go behind the scenes above the habitat to peer down into the shark aquariums, learning how we care for sharks and discovering more about the incredible diversity and design of sharks from experts. Guests also can touch a small shark, feed several species in the shark shallows in Orlando, and find out why these ancient species need our help now more than ever.
  • Move Like a Shark on Shark Inspired Roller Coasters include Orlando's Mako®, voted Number 1 for Best Roller Coaster in 2021 in USA Today 10Best Reader's Choice award, that is named for one of the ocean's fastest known sharks and is the tallest and faster roller coaster in Orlando. This hyper coaster speeds up to 73 mph and up to 200 feet high and surges through shipwreck reef. As the first roller coaster ever at a SeaWorld park, this year marks the 25th anniversary of the Great White roller coaster, a floorless, inverted coaster with 360-degree flips and the grand-daddy of all SeaWorld® San Antonio coasters. It takes riders on a nearly 50 mph floorless run of breathtaking loops, corkscrews and thrilling curves.
  • Feed the Sharks with animal feeding stations in Orlando that enable guests to feed sharks patrolling the Shark Shallows.
  • Dine and Drink Next to Sharks at Orlando's Sharks Underwater Grill® and Bar, recognized among the best restaurants in Orlando, and experience fascinating and ever-changing views of sharks as they swim past while guests enjoy an upscale full-service dining experience. Fan favorite cocktails the Mako Margarita and the all-new Shark-Tail offer refreshing ways for adults to cool down and beat the heat while watching these goliaths of the deep.

In addition, informative signage teaches guests important information about shark conservation and ways to get involved. For example, while guests are in the queue lines for SeaWorld Orlando's shark-inspired roller coaster, Mako, guests can learn more about sharks through digital displays. Interactions are hosted by marine wildlife artist and conservationist Guy Harvey, who provides access to real science and insights to sharks in the wild and ways humans can help protect the species. Guests also have access to real-time shark tracking and videos of compelling shark expeditions to better understand the importance of this critical species.

Photo courtesy: SeaWorld

World-Class Shark Care and Rescue Too

Sharks at SeaWorld receive the same standard of individualized care as every other species and animal in the park.  They are fed a nutritious diet including a variety of seafoods such as herring, mackerel, salmon, squid, and shrimp.  Every piece of food consumed by every single shark is accounted for as part of the individualized care each animal receives. Animal care specialists feed adult sharks about five percent of their body weight a week during twice weekly feeding.  Every shark in our care also receives regular health examinations that include blood draws, weight, size and more to ensure their ongoing health is monitored and tracked. 

While shark rescues are rare, SeaWorld parks work with state and national organizations including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and local departments of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to help. For example. SeaWorld Orlando is home to several sand tiger sharks seized by law enforcement from an individual who illegally collected them. Local authorities such as the Florida Wildlife Commission enforce restrictions on the returning of animals to open water once they have been in human care.

Commitment to the Conservation of Threatened and Endangered Species

Like many other species, sharks suffer many human threats such as overfishing, entanglement, shark finning and bycatch – resulting in a reported more than 100 million deaths annually. Today, more than 300 species of sharks are classified as endangered, including white sharks, whale sharks and hammerheads.

As an accredited zoological organization, SeaWorld participates in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) SSP, a propagation and management program in accredited zoos to preserve selected species typically classified as threatened or endangered.  In Orlando, guests can be among the first to see new zebra shark pups born as part of one such program. In San Diego, guests can see Australian leopard sharks cared for as part of maintaining sustainable populations and genetic diversity of this endangered species.

Conservation extends beyond the parks and since 2016 SeaWorld has partnered with global non-profit OCEARCH to support their efforts in shark conservation through science and education. OCEARCH helps scientists collect previously unattainable data in the ocean and to date it has tagged 432 animals on 43 expeditions and supported the research of 200 scientists.

OCEARCH Founder and Expedition Leader Chris Fischer said, "Our partnership with SeaWorld has been amazing. In the early days of our relationship, they helped us build out and broaden all the science disciplines to maximize the amount of knowledge and data we collect from every animal we sampled and released. In particular, their expertise in reproductive biology is leading the way in understanding how white sharks mate, reproduce, and give birth. We look forward to partnering with them for many years to maximize the rate at which we can collect data to return our oceans to balance and abundance." 

SeaWorld also supports the efforts of other third-party conservation organizations around the world through the SeaWorld Conservation Fund. Since 2004, the fund has donated more than $300,000 to several research projects that aim to further knowledge and understanding of shark species through 3D shark tracking, exploration of vulnerable shark habitats, autonomous underwater vehicles, birthing ground, and shipwreck exploration, tagging and tracking, and more.