Research & Animal Care

Animal Care & Research
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 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.

Sea Life Park’s number one concern is for the health and wellbeing of each animal. Sea Life Park upholds the best standards of animal care. 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. 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.