Green Sea Turtle Program
The Hawaiian green sea turtle (known in the Hawaiian language as honu) is one of the precious native Hawaiian species on display at Sea Life Park. When you view our turtles, that range in age from 21 to some 72 years old you will be looking at the only captive turtles in the United States that are propagating new, baby turtles. Every Hawaiian green sea turtle released throughout the state of Hawaii in various programs with resorts and approved sites, comes from our family of turtles at Sea Life Park. Sea Life Park’s green sea turtle breeding program has contributed to the resurgence of the honu in Hawaiian waters. Over 16,000 green sea turtle hatchlings have been released from the Park’s adult population, and the breeding program has further impact through the Park’s education programs with the help of these amazing little “honu ambassadors.” Each year we release from 200 to 800 baby turtles during the mating season of May to September. Since 1989, Sea Life Park has also been providing the Mauna Lani Bay Resort with young honu, and each year the Park’s partner releases the turtles that have been raised in their saltwater ponds. The Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle is one of the few species of sea turtles in the world to have seen numbers rise in recent decades, in large part due to awareness and ongoing conservation efforts.
The Dolphin Lagoon show pool has a volume of 1.2 million gallons. The water system at the park is a flow-through system therefore the seawater from the ocean moves through the pools at a rate of 12-14 million gallons per day.
Over the years as we study and observe our animals we have collectively worked with other institutions in determining the most ideal habitat design. The issue of eye health has become of great concern over the last 10 years and we have all striven to understand the nature of marine mammal eye disease. In an effort to provide optimal eye health, Sea Life Park has addressed exhibit shading by investing hundreds of thousands of dollars installing appropriate shade structures in and around the animal habitats. The placement of shade structures provides the animals with free access to protection from the sun at any time of the day.
Another interesting variable in eye health is animal exposure to reflected natural light from the bottom, sides, or surrounding structures in the exhibits. Sea Life Park is in the process of re-coating all exhibit surfaces using colors less likely to reflect incidental sunlight.
Sea Life Park does not add any chemicals to the seawater flowing through the animal exhibits. The seawater turnover in each exhibit is such that there is no need to add harmful chemical to control bacteria. Additionally we do not add algaecides to the water as we know this can present a health risk to the animals and the environment.
Born out of a community need in the early 1970s and fostered through a labor of love with support from Park staff and volunteers since, the Sea Life Park Seabird Rehabilitation Facility has been healing native seabird populations and educating the public on the signs to look for in distressed seabirds.
Federally protected Wedge-tailed and Newell’s shearwater chicks are particularly vulnerable following breeding season, and the Park assists hundreds of seabirds during these peak months alone with a highly successful release rate. The facility is equipped to receive injured seabirds 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is the primary rehabilitation facility on Oahu. In one season alone; Sea Life Park Hawaii took in, rehabilitated, and released over 800 sea birds and since 2005, over 4,000 seabirds have been rescued and released. Birds that are unable to be released are provided a home at the Park’s Seabird Sanctuary. In the heart of the Sea Life Park campus is the Seabird Sanctuary. In this enclosure of about 500 square feet, you will find a place of refuge for injured Hawaiian seabirds that, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), are not able to be returned to the wild. Here they can live out the remainder of their lives, well cared for and protected in this sanctuary. The program, the only one of its kind in that state of Hawaii, is funded entirely by Sea Life Park. The Park is the only facility on Oahu that operates 24 hours a day every day of the year to care for and rehabilitate injured sea birds (approximately 30-40 a day).
Hawaiian Monk Seal
Sea Life Park has received permission to display these seals from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Marine Fisheries Program, with which we work very closely to ensure that these special animals are cared for in accordance with the strictest guidelines as an endangered species. The Park has assisted endangered Hawaiian monk seals through an important program that brought in underweight or abandoned seals from the wild and rehabilitated them. These crucial efforts—along with the impact of NOAA’s Hawaiian Monk Seal Recovery Plan and the work of other key agencies coming together to make a difference—are encouraging Monk Seal population growth. “Lambchop” was a Hawaiian Monk Seal who resided at the park and passed away at age 32, following a sudden decline in her health from age-related kidney disease. Lambchop was brought to the Park extremely emaciated from the French Frigate Shoals in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in 1987. She was estimated to be about two years of age on her arrival, and was rehabilitated back to health under the Park’s care. The average life expectancy of a Hawaiian monk seal is 25-30 years. Lambchop was able to live a full life making many significant contributions that are helping the endangered monk seal population.
Over the years, Lambchop was involved in groundbreaking research—including important studies to measure monk seal metabolism and discoveries that would lead to the development of the morbillivirus vaccine currently being utilized on wild-populations. Morbillivirus is widespread and outbreaks of the disease have caused the deaths of tens of thousands of seals worldwide since the 1980’s. Due to Lambchop having access to 24-hour veterinarian care at the Park, we were able to conduct a cataract surgery resulting in the improvement of Lambchop’s eyesight; and through our daily physical exams, and husbandry training we have recorded that her vision continued to improve. She was able to benefit from procedures previously unheard of for her species, resulting not only in the improvement of Lambchop’s own quality of life but also breakthroughs in the care possibilities for other monk seals.
Sea Life Park has also offered to permanently care for problematic males (“mobbers”) or any other seal deemed as non-releasable. We continue to partner with researchers in an effort to preserve this species.