Sea Life Park Reef Rangers are passionate about environmental protection, science, and conservation.
Visit Sea Life Park today to become an official Sea Life Park Reef Ranger and pledge to protect the Planet!
To pick up at least 3 pieces of trash every time I go to the beach!
To treat the environment, animals, and the ocean with respect!
To try and reduce my use of single-use plastics and other unnecessary waste!
To have fun learning about the ocean and spreading the word about marine conservation!
Read all about some of the endangered animals you can find at Sea Life Park such as sea turtles, seabirds, and more here! As Reef Rangers it’s important to learn what you can do to help these animals below!
For more than 50 years, Sea Life Park has been dedicated to marine conservation, preservation, and education about the wonderful fish, seabirds, mammals, invertebrates, reptiles, and all other animals that make their home in our marine environment. Since 2005, over 4,000 seabirds have been rescued and released by the Park, and over 16,000 green sea turtle hatchlings have been released from our adult population. We are continuing with efforts to preserve animal populations and habitats, such as those of the Hawaiian monk seal and shearwater seabirds. At the core of our messaging is providing unique, memorable, learning experiences between humans and animals with hopes of modifying guest behavior to preserve Hawaii’s unique ecosystem.
Each day, more than 45 million people visit marine conservation and education facilities all over the world, and this has allowed hundreds of millions to learn about and admire sea life that they would never otherwise be able to see, hear, and touch in person. Our facilities provide a priceless service, as we introduce each generation to the wonders and complexity of life in our marine environment, fostering an appreciation and love of these animals that last a lifetime, and which is then passed down to future generations. Ninety-seven percent of people polled between 2005 and 2012 agree that marine life parks, aquariums and zoos are important because they education children about marine mammals-animals that children might not have the opportunity to see in the wild.
Our green sea turtle breeding program is an important contributor to the resurgence of the green sea turtle in Hawaiian waters; and we are the only location on O’ahu to provide rescue and rehabilitation services for native Hawaiian seabirds, including the shearwaters. Our Hawaiian monk seals are governed by a permit under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Annual permits granted to Sea Life Park speak to the highest level of care provided by the facility. Sea Life Park is in full compliance with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal Welfare Act (AWA), and the requirements of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) with regards to the care of captive marine mammals.
Through Sea Life Park, thousands of people, including our local school children, are reached every year by a live encounter in the Park or by our educational outreach programs in the schools that motivate conservation awareness and action. In addition, Sea Life Park has contributed millions of dollars from the revenue we generate to fund marine research and educational programs.
Life Support Systems and Upgrades
Sea Life Park Hawai‘i features a beautifully designed park with reefs, lagoons and pools, and theaters. The water at the park comes through an elaborate water system—a flow-through system—where seawater moves through the park's pools at a rate of 12-14 million gallons per day. Between 2016 and 2017 the park made incredible upgrades to improve this underground system even further with an investment of over $500,000 over 1 years’ time. Seawater from the ocean contains high levels of nutrients (which promote the growth of highly beneficial algae species) and the park does not add chemicals such as algaecides, which are harmful to the environment and the animals.
The Park recently revealed the first wave of new renovation plans, including an all-new entry and main gift shop building, a dynamic re-imagining of the Hawaii Ocean Theatre and future plans for a new Honu Conservation Center. The center will provide visitors a journey through the stages of honu life, as well as examine the challenges sea turtles face around the world.
Over the past three years, the park has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars on extensive new shade provisions and infrastructure upgrades. These exciting renovations are a continuation of an ongoing commitment to the community and the amazing animals that call Sea Life Park home.
The Park Grounds - Makapuʻu Meadows
The park’s majestic Makapuʻu Meadows is an utterly unique gathering place for visitors and kama’aina alike. Ka Moana, an authentic lū‘au experience that incorporates inspirations from the Waimānalo ahupua`a throughout the program, is held in the Meadows. The evening embraces the Park’s unique surroundings where the Ko`olau— mountain meets the moana.
Carrying on the theme of water is the Wa‘a Kaupo, a 30-foot fiberglass canoe that’s a permanent element of the luau set. Sea Life Park made a donation to the non-profit Waimānalo Canoe Club to acquire Wa‘a Kaupo. The funds are being used to support a program for children to learn about the ocean, canoe paddling and sailing.
The Meadows also set the stage for the Park’s annual Twilight Concert Series, showcasing the tremendous talent of Hawaii’s celebrated local musicians. The beauty of Makapu’u combined with beloved music carrying through a night sky creates a concert experience that’s unlike any other.
What Makes a Seabird a Seabird?
“Seabird” is a general term used to describe birds that spend most of their lives on the ocean. Birds that are considered as types of seabirds include penguins, albatrosses, petrels, shearwaters, cormorants, gannets, boobies, gulls, and terns. Hawaii is home to 22 species of seabirds. These include the Black-footed Albatross, Hawaiian Petrel, Laysan Albatross, Newell’s Shearwater, along with many more. When looking at the anatomy of these different birds, we can see similarities that all these different species share.
Feather color: Most seabirds have feathers that are dark above and light below. This type of coloration, called countershading, camouflages them from predators in the sky, and hides the bird from prey beneath them.
Feathers: Seabirds have more feathers relative to their body size than other birds, which help them keep warm and stay dry.
Feet: Most seabirds have flexible webbed feet that help them be powerful swimmers. Some species even have strong claws on their feet to help with fishing.
Wing Shape: Seabirds' wings are specially shaped for their unique flight needs. Longer, more tapered wings allow seabirds to soar for hours with very little effort; which allows them to remain far from land.
Salt Glands: Many seabirds have special salt glands that remove salt from the birds' food and water, allowing them to eat and drink without absorbing too much salt. The salt that has been removed is then excreted out of a hole near the bird’s nostrils.
Head Structure: In order to be able to dive directly into the water, seabirds that hunt deeper in the water have different skull features. These features include strong, tapered bills, air sacs and thicker bones.
Even though most of their lives are spent at sea, all seabirds return to land to breed. Seabirds are unique in their nesting habits. Nesting sites of seabirds include extreme habitats such as Antarctic icebergs, the tops of mountains, tundra, and remote islands. Petrels and shearwaters may variously nest in simple scrapes on the ground, on cliff ledges, in a burrow or in a rocky crevice.The red-footed booby nests in trees and shrubs. The Albatross prefers to nest in holes on the ground where nest material is available, and build large bowl-shaped nests of grass and mud. Terns are famous for laying their eggs in the forks of small thin branches without using a nest. Some seabirds nest in large groups called colonies. Unlike land birds, parental duties are shared by both parents.
On the island of Oahu, there are special places that are only reserved for seabird nesting sites. One is “Rabbit Island” right across the road from here. Ka`ena point is another area on the island that is a protected area for seabird nesting. The birds that primarily nest here are the Laysan Albatross and Wedge-tailed Shearwater. Birds can live here and make nests without being disturbed by people.
Albatross are colonial breeders and usually return to the same site/nest every year. One example is a well-known albatross named Wisdom. She is the oldest known bird in the wild, estimated to be at least 66 years old. She has been spotted at the same nesting site since 1956.
Each year we have what is called a shearwater season where hundreds of fledging shearwaters are disorientated by lights at night, have trouble finding food, or are attacked by cats, dogs, or mongoose. The season runs from November to the beginning of January. People will find the birds and bring them to us to be rehabilitated. Shearwaters make a low crying sound, and are often called the moaning bird. Shearwaters make burrows on the ground and in bushes. They are commonly found on the off shore islands surrounding Oahu.
Red Footed Booby
They are easily identified by their red feet and blue beak. They nest in trees and shrubs.They are plunge divers, which is why they have long sharp beaks.
Brown Booby birds are slightly larger than the Red Footed Booby.They can usually be spotted off the coast of Waikiki and Kaneohe.
The Great Frigates are sexually dimorphic, meaning you can tell whether it’s a male or female just by looking at it. The males are all black with a red inflatable throat pouch. The females are black with white chests. They have a 6 foot wing span. Their Hawaiian name is ‘Iwa which means thief. They get this name because they harass other birds into regurgitating their food and then they steal it. They lack the webbing on their feet, so they cannot land in the water and then take off for flight.
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 helping 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.
The facility is equipped to receive injured seabirds 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is the primary rehabilitation facility on Oahu. We generally take in 300 to 800 seabirds a year. We are usually able to release 75 to 85 percent of the birds back into the wild. 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.
Many of the injuries are caused by cats, mongoose, or marine debris like fishing lines, hooks, or nets. Once the bird is deemed ready, they are released back into the wild. If they are deemed un-releasable they are brought up to our sanctuary. Birds in our sanctuary all have permanent injuries which would make them very vulnerable in the wild, so they stay here to have the longest life possible.
We can all do our part to help out these birds in the wild by following the three R’s, reduce, reuse, and recycle. Each year, an estimated 5 tons of plastic is being fed to sea bird chicks that the parents mistook for floating fish eggs or squid.
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 one of the only facilities 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).
How do green sea turtles (known in the Hawaiian language as honu, scientific name chelonia mydas) get their name? From what they eat, or their diet! Adult green sea turtles are completely herbivorous, or vegetarian. They eat algae, or seaweed, off of the coral reef. They eat so much green stuff that their subdermal layer of fat, inside their body is stained green in color.
How do you tell the difference between a male and a female sea turtle? You can identify males vs females by the length of their tail once the sea turtle is a mature adult. Maturity is reached as early as 10 and as late as 50 years old. An adult male has a long dinosaur like tail, while females have short, stubby tails. What type of animal is a green sea turtle is? It’s a reptile.
What are some characteristics of a reptile?
They lay eggs.
They have backbones! Their backbone is attached to their shell!
They are cold-blooded: What does cold-blooded mean? It means that their body temperature changes to match the temperature of their environment.
They breathe air. All reptiles breathe air. They have lungs similar to humans. Honu have a special ability to lower their heart rate. This allows adults to hold their breath for up to 2 hours.
They have scaly skin. Even their shell is made up of modified scales called scutes. Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles have 13 scutes!
Green sea turtles do not have teeth; however they have a beak with a very sharp jagged edge. This allows them to scrape the algae off of the reef and off of rocks. Moving down their body, they have specially modified front flippers that help them swim, while their hind limbs enable them to steer. The shell of a green sea turtle consists of two parts, the carapace and the plastron. The carapace is the top or back of the shell and is covered with 13 scutes, or scales, on average. The underside of a turtle is known as the plastron. You will notice that the belly of the sea turtle is a lighter color. This is a type of camouflage called countershading, so their dark carapace blends in with the dark ocean floor; and the lighter plastron blends in with the sky and light coming in from above. This countershading helps to protect them from predators.
Only about 1 in 1,000 sea turtle hatchlings survive until maturity. What kinds of dangers do you think they face as the make their way from their nest to the ocean? Threats to green sea turtles include crabs, seabirds, heat from the sun, humans, and several other threats; but if they make it to the ocean the threats don’t end there. Sharks, large fish, and human interaction such as nets and marine debris also threaten their pelagic lifestyle. When sea turtles first hatch, they make their way out into the open ocean and spend 4-10 years there. This is called their pelagic life style. A pelagic lifestyle is where a turtle will float around at the surface of the water, and will not typically be seen until it returns to the nesting beaches as an adult. During this time, the juvenile sea turtle is an opportunistic feeder, which means that it eats whatever it can find. They may be eating squid, fish, or anything floating on the surface of the ocean. Our juvenile sea turtles are fed krill, squid, and fish like ahi.
Sea Life Park Hawaii is home to the only active breeding colony of green sea turtles in the entire United States. This means that the sea turtles you see at the park reproduce every season. Every year after mating the females go up on to that sandy beach and lay their eggs, or clutch. They can lay up to 5 clutches per breeding season. Each clutch can have anywhere from 60-120 eggs. After about 60 days and then we collect the hatchlings and release them into the ocean. So far here at Sea Life Park Hawaii, we have released over 16,000 baby sea turtles! Some juvenile turtles from the park can be seen at other educational facilities throughout the islands and part of the educational and outreach programs we have through our partnerships and loan programs. 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.
Before being released to the ocean we “PIT” tag the hatchlings where they receive a microchip in their back flipper. These tags provide a permanent method of identifying and tracking the turtles that we release so we can further collect data on where the turtles are heading.
The sea turtles you see at the park were donated to Sea Life Park Hawaii in the 1970’s, so we estimate that they are at least 60 years old; but may be as old as 70 or 80. Green sea turtles live to be anywhere between 80 to 100 years old.
All sea turtles have different patterns and colors on their shells. Our turtles may look different than wild turtles that you see because their shells are kept clean from being scrubbed. However, when sea turtles first hatch from the egg, they are a dark grey almost black color. If you get to see one of the juveniles at our touch pool today you will notice this color difference. When a Hawaiian green sea turtle hatches it is about 2 inches and weighs around 1 oz.; which is about the size of a golf ball! On average, they can grow to have a shell length of 36 inches and weigh about 250lbs. The Sea Life Park Turtle Lagoon, like all of our habitats at Sea Life Park Hawaii, contains real ocean water. Sea Life Park Hawaii pumps about 12 million gallons of fresh sea water through our habitats every day. We do not put any kind of chemicals into that water, so algae grows naturally in our habitats. This algae called diatoms actually absorbs harmful sunlight and produces atmospheric oxygen. This algae may also grow on sea turtles. It can be seen on their scales or shell. In the wild, sea turtles visiting something called a cleaning station, which is a place on the reef where fish come and eat the algae off of the sea turtle. The turtle is getting clean, and the fish is getting fed; this is what is called symbiotic relationship in which both animals benefit from the partnership. We do not have those fish in our habitat, so twice a week we drain the habitat and our staff scrub the sea turtles clean.
Hawaiian green sea turtles were listed as endangered, however due to being protected by Hawaii state and federal law as well as the Endangered Species Act; their status has now been moved to threatened. 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. This is better, but our goal is to get them off of this list completely. Therefore, you should not threaten, hunt, feed, or harass green sea turtles in the wild. Hawaiian green sea turtles have been known to come up on to the beaches; and it is very important to leave them alone when they do this, so that they can get the rest and warmth that they need to survive. Unfortunately, disease, marine debris, and net entanglements also threaten these turtles. What is marine debris? Marine debris is our trash that ends up in the ocean.
For all of these threats to green sea turtles, you can help by picking up your trash; and even taking it a step further by picking up someone else’s trash to reduce the amount of marine debris found in our oceans. If you see a turtle in distress you should not attempt to come to the turtle’s aid; instead you can call the appropriate agencies to assist with turtles locally.
Seals, along with Seal Lions, and the Walrus; belong to the family called Pinnipeds.
Historically, there were three different species of monk seals in the world consisting of the Mediterranean, Caribbean, and Hawaiian monk seals. The Caribbean monk seal was declared extinct in 1996 with the last sighting of this species in 1952. Today, the status of the Mediterranean monk seal is critically endangered with less than 500 left (NOAA) and the Hawaiian monk seal is listed as endangered about 1,400 individuals remaining here in the islands (NOAA). The Hawaiian monk seal is commonly found along the Hawaiian island chain with the majority of the population located along the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
Whats the difference between seals and sea lions? There are a few key characteristics that make seals different from sea lions. First of all, seals do not have ear flaps; they only have small holes for ears. Also seals use their hind flippers to propel themselves through the water and their front flippers to steer; with sea lions, it is the opposite. Also seals cannot prop themselves up on those front flippers, so they can only haul around on land like an inchworm. Pinniped means fin, or flipper, footed. All Pinnipeds are Mammals.
What are the characteristics of a mammal?
Breathe air: Monk seals breath in the opposite way that humans do. Our nostrils are naturally open, and we don’t have the ability to close them. Monk seal’s nostrils are naturally closed, and she has to use muscles to open them to breathe. This is because monk seals spends most of her time in the water.
Hair/fur: Their fur helps to keep them warm. You may notice that sometimes monk seals have green growing on their fur. This is algae! It grows naturally on monk seals in the ocean. Each year, monk seals shed the top layer of their skin along with their old fur coats in a catastrophic molt. This lasts approximately two weeks (NOAA). During the molting process the old layer of fur and skin begins to peel off, revealing a nice new fur coat underneath. A freshly molted monk seal will have a light black and gray top coat, and a beautiful silvery belly. This habitat, like all of our habitats at Sea Life Park Hawaii, contains real ocean water. Sea Life Park Hawaii pumps about 12 million gallons of fresh sea water through our habitats every day. We do not put any kind of chemicals into that water, so algae grows naturally in our habitats. These algae called diatoms actually absorb harmful sunlight and produce atmospheric oxygen.
Warm Blooded: A warm blooded animal maintains a constant body temperature, unlike cold blooded animals that use the environment to maintain their body temperature.
Live Birth: Seals and sea lions give birth to live pups.
Drink Milk. Sea lions and seals also have blubber that helps keep them warm besides their fur. In order to build up their blubber quickly, a monk seal’s milk needs to contain a lot of fat.
How did monk seals get their name? It is from their fur coat that many believe the monk seal got its name. It is believed that the monk seals fur around its face mimicked the look of a monk’s robe. Another possible origin for the name is that the seals lead solitary lives, much like monks do.
Male monk seals typically weigh between 400-500 pounds. Female monk seals generally weigh 400-450 pounds, but can reach up to 600 pounds during pregnancy. The gestation period is approximately one year, and occurs on average every other year starting at 7-10 years of age. Pups are born on the beach with the mother staying with the pup for approximately 5-6 weeks in order to nurse. During the nursing period, the mother will not leave the pup to eat and eventually will lose up to 50% of her body weight; and the pup will gain about 4 times its original birth weight, reaching a weight of approximately 140 pounds. After the 5-6 week nursing period the mother will return to the sea to find food and leave the pup to fend for itself. During the weaning process, the pup must learn to catch its own prey, and the pup will steadily lose weight only about 100 pounds around 1 year of age.
Hawaiian monk seals are opportunistic feeders, so they go after whatever is easiest and most available for them to catch. Their prey includes a variety of fish, crustaceans, eels, octopus and shellfish; all of which are found close to the sea floor. Monk seals do not chew their food like we do, instead they swallow their food whole! Monk seals have 32 teeth and an extremely strong jaw that they can use to crush the bones and shells of their prey. Finding food is one of the monk seals greatest challenges, and sometimes they may have to dive to great depths to find their next meal. The greatest recorded dive depth was 543 meters, or 1781.5 feet, which was documented by video from a small submersible submarine. While diving and foraging, monk seals have the ability to stay underwater for up to 25 minutes with the average dive being 6-7 minutes.
When it comes to animal training, we use a technique called “operant conditioning”. This training method enables us to train the animals to undergo numerous medical and husbandry behaviors. These behaviors provide us with a method of closely monitoring her health status, thereby providing optimal care. These behaviors allow us to collect blood samples, body weight measurements, and complete physical inspections of the body, mouth and eyes.
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. Those 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.
Some of the biggest threats to the Hawaiian monk seals today are shark attacks on juveniles, limited foraging success or starvation due in part to over fishing, marine debris (entanglement and ingestion), male mobbing of females; in this unusual behavior the male seals will “gang up” and kill females and young seals for no apparent reason, human disturbance such as harassing, feeding, boats, fishing hooks and others.
Since the Hawaiian monk seal is an endangered species, they are federally protected under the endangered species act. It is considered a federal offense to touch, feed, or harass a monk seal in any way; doing so could result in fines. Monk seals spend a lot of time on the beach basking in the sun. They will do this to rest, escape a predator, warm up, or get ready to give birth to their pups. If you ever happen to come across a seal on the beach, you want to make sure that you keep your distance giving them plenty of space. Another way that you can help to preserve this species is by making sure you never litter, and always remember to reduce, reuse, and recycle!
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.
The animals at Sea Life Park receive the highest level of care, with constant attention and affection, and the best food, shelter and veterinary care, including on-site professionals and world-renowned experts who are on retainer to the Park. Our animals have access to the most nutritious diet possible, one far more appropriate than even that which would be found in the wild.
Sea Life Park’s number one concern is for the health and wellbeing of each animal. We are constantly striving to enhance our animal care program with the procurement of newer cutting edge diagnostic equipment, surgical and procedure suites, quarantine and recovery areas, contracting veterinarians and physicians specializing in a wide-range of disciplines. The advancement of our tools also brings the invaluable staff development and training for future education as well.
Sea Life Park is a member of the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums. The dolphins at Sea Life Park, have been raised under human care, and are well-accustomed to human interaction. Sea Life Park goes to great lengths to make sure that its dolphins receive the best care possible, and all dolphin experiences are carefully regulated. Sea Life Park continues to work with all state and federal agencies to uphold the highest level of animal care.
Sea Life Park serves not only as a hub for education to its visitors, but also provides a uniquely suited environment for the academic community to explore the challenges confronting our marine ecosystems. Sea Life Park is and has worked with professors, researchers and scientists from universities to be a part of research studies to better understand the biological impacts humans have on animals out in the wild. A small sampling follows:
• Exposure to toxic metals decreases immune function and impairs growth and reproduction in wildlife. In a recent study looking at an increase in metal concentrations within wild green sea turtles, Sea Life Park’s honu breeding population served as a critically important baseline of a healthy turtle population with which to compare and contrast. This important investigation was conducted with support of Texas Tech University’s Department of Environmental Toxicology and NOAA’s Pacific Island Fisheries Science Center.
• Understanding what factors may aid in fish hook and net discrimination by marine mammals—for example, which kinds of hooks they may be able to see with higher fidelity—could be a key component in mitigating needless entanglements and deaths amongst pseudorcas, dolphins and more. Recent observations of the Park’s marine mammal ‘ohana are contributing to an understanding of the these amazing animals’ highly perceptive vision and echolocation capabilities. These insights may one day lead to innovations in fishing equipment, creating lines and hooks that remain effective on fish but that cetaceans can easily detect—and avoid—from far away.
• Sea Life Park’s Seabird Rehabilitation Center is committed to minimizing the number of injured native seabirds coming to the center. Among the Park’s many preventative efforts includes working closely with wind farms that are researching ways to put more efficient protections in place around turbines.
• Coral bleaching and invasive algae are critical concerns for our ocean ecosystems. In recent years, it is also believed a flourishing virus may be the culprit behind sea stars— and now sea urchins—wasting away. Scientists suspect that the ocean's warming or its increasing acidity may be factors that have contributed to weakened sea stars and urchins, making them more vulnerable to the virus. Sea Life Park’s uncontaminated tide pool environments have served as a baseline reference that has proven helpful for scientists exploring solutions.
• The ocean can be a noisy environment. Yet instead of wearing earplugs, imagine adjusting an internal dial to lower the volume. Researchers at the University of Hawai’i followed a hunch that some marine mammals could protect their hearing naturally, and new studies reveals certain species of whales and dolphins can indeed make such adjustments inside their ears. Understanding this phenomemnon could potentially allow the animals to shield themselves from the disorientation of military sonar, oil drilling and other hazards. A team from UH, recently collaborating with international academics, were able to gain even further insights—without the distortions of arbitrary noise—by observing the echolocation skills of cetaceans at the Park.