We Inspire Conservation Action!
The marine life parks, zoos and aquariums that care for and share the world's wonderful marine mammals with the public are immensely popular and do effective and important work to educate children and adults, and to inspire wildlife conservation action.
The 58 member facilities of the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks & Aquariums welcomed more than 50 million people through their gates in 2012, and reached out to connect with millions more through off-site school programs, online communications and television audiences.
As a new 2012 Harris Interactive® Poll confirms, Alliance member marine parks, aquariums and zoos present a powerful and unprecedented resource that is making tremendous strides on behalf of dolphins, whales, sea lions, seals, sea otters and other marine mammals, and their ocean habitats. Here's what the people had to say in this year's Harris Interactive® Poll:
94% - Visiting a marine life park, aquarium or zoo can inspire conservation action that can help marine mammals and their natural environment.
93% - Many of the successes to save endangered or declining species are at least in part a result of work done in marine life parks, aquariums and zoos.
95% - Marine life parks, aquariums and zoos are important in educating the public about marine mammals they might not otherwise have the chance to see.
94% - Children specifically are more likely to be concerned about animals if they learn about them at marine life parks, aquariums and zoos.
91% - Seeing a living marine mammal at a marine life park, aquarium or zoo fosters a connection to the animal.
88% - You can learn about animals at marine life parks, aquariums and zoos in a way that can't be replicated by watching film or
Research published in the scientific journal Zoo Biology in 2012 underscores these results. People who
viewed dolphin shows or swam with dolphins significantly increased their knowledge and changed their attitudes about the animals and conserving the marine environment.
As part of the study, researchers followed up with participants and found that they retained the information and reported more conservation-related behaviors. And the more contact with marine park animals, the more their thoughtfulness about animals and the environment increased!
The public's love of dolphins is universal; 97% of young adults polled by Harris Interactive® expressed a desire to swim with a dolphin at an accredited zoological park or aquarium. And, so far, more than two million people watched an amazing underwater video, posted on YouTube, of a 2012 dolphin birth at Dolphin Quest Hawaii.
The following pages share a few of the highlights of the important 2012 accomplishments of Alliance members in conservation education, scientific study, rescue and rehabilitation of injured and sick marine life, and community compassion.
We Teach People to Care!
97% - Marine life parks, aquariums and zoos are important because they educate children about marine mammals.
87% - You can learn more about marine mammals at a marine life park, aquarium or zoo than in a school classroom.
2012 Harris Interactive® Poll
Everyone is a conservation educator at accredited Alliance marine parks, aquariums and zoos, no matter what their job title may be. And all of our millions of park visitors take away a greater knowledge, appreciation and caring motivation for marine mammals and their environments. In addition, our parks offer formal and informal conservation education programs designed for students of all ages – at our parks, in school classrooms and in all manner of media and messaging.
In 2012, for instance, more than two million children participated in specially-designed school programs, summer camps, and other on-site activities at Alliance facilities. Over 800,000 individuals, mostly children, learned about marine mammals from off-site, outreach programs developed for teachers, school children, and community groups. Alliance members also reach more than 150 million people yearly with educational information through computer learning programs, Web sites, publications, satellite television, and other such media. Some 2012 highlights:
- In the Florida Keys, Dolphin Research Center partnered with a school for students dealing with learning challenges such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or Aspersers' syndrome. The cutting-edge curriculum uses dolphin interactions and hands-on learning to build trust and teach new skills.
- The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta received a Ford Motor Company grant to ensure that children, regardless of their economic status, have an opportunity to participate in the aquarium's award-winning education programs.
- Educators at Zoomarine Italy developed a popular new game that lets children scoop models of colorful fish out of a small basin with nets, fishing lines, and hooks to teach about the dangers of overfishing and bycatch and their effects on marine mammals and the ecosystem.
- Vancouver Aquarium, in collaboration with WWF, drew 56,000 volunteers and site coordinators who participated in the 2012 Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, one of the largest conservation programs in Canada that educates the public about the harmful effects of shoreline litter on fragile aquatic ecosystems.
- Two standouts in national network educational children's television programming in 2012:
- The second season of SeaWorld's Sea Rescue continued its focus on the rescue and rehabilitation of stranded wildlife, and efforts by its team of veterinarians and animal care experts to nurse animals back to health and return them to the wild.
- And season two of Georgia Aquarium's Ocean Mysteries with Jeff Corwin opened with an episode highlighting the aquarium's dolphin research, and later told the story of a study that uncovered the causes for the decline of some Steller sea lion populations. The show was the third-highest rated new syndicated program among all shows (cable or broadcast) during its first season, and recently saw its highest-ever viewership of an episode with 1.8 million viewers.
- Chicago's Shedd Aquarium hosted students participating in AgDiscovery, a U.S. Department of Agriculture program that introduces middle and high school students to careers in animal science and veterinary medicine.
- In 2012, Indianapolis Zoo introduced its new Dolphin Trainer 101, aimed at 10- to 14-year olds. The two-day course teaches the students what it takes to work with dolphins on a professional level, emphasizing animal care and science.
- Dolphin Research Center opened its new College of Marine Mammal Professions, a fully-licensed college established in conjunction with the State of Florida's Commission for Independent Education.
- The first degree offered is an Associate of Science in Marine Mammal Behavior, Care, and Training. DRC plans to offer additional degrees in the future.
- To get the vital "Don't Feed Wild Dolphins" message out to the public, the Alliance worked with the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service in 2012 to promote distribution of its public service announcement, which is posted on the Alliance and many member Web sites.
- Zoomarine Portugal created a huge media splash on World Ocean Day, gaining wide coverage of the PSA and its message on major television and radio stations in Portugal, where feeding dolphins in the wild is illegal.
- The Alliance became an official "Proud Supporter" of the Dolphin SMART program, created by the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service and partners to encourage responsible viewing of dolphins in the wild by commercial tour boat operators and to minimize the "harassment" of the animals.
- In addition to its Watchable Wildlife Guidelines and Ocean Literacy Reference Guide – a collection of ocean messages for educators – the Alliance has dedicated a page of its Web site to the Dolphin SMART program.
We Are Wildlife Research and Conservation Leaders
96% - It's important that people try to work to conserve animals such as those found in marine life parks, aquariums and zoos.
93% - Studying animals in marine life parks, aquariums and zoos helps develop conservation programs that can be instituted for those animals in their natural environment.
89% - An essential and important role is to fund research projects that help marine mammals in marine life parks, aquariums, zoos, and in the wild.
2012 Harris Interactive® Poll
Alliance member marine parks, aquariums and zoos contributed millions of dollars in 2012 to fund and conduct critical scientific field studies and in-house research that made enormous strides in the conservation of marine mammals in the wild and in improving the health and well-being of animals in human care.
Our collective research efforts for the betterment of marine mammals are unequaled by any other organization, and they span the globe. Field research includes studies of environmental contaminants, population health and behavior, and mitigating conflicts between marine life and humans. And the animals living in our Alliance member facilities provide scientists with unique opportunities for studies that cannot be duplicated in the wild. Knowledge gained through studies of animals in our care, in tandem with field research, is essential to marine mammal conservation worldwide.
- In 2012, Mexico's Dolphin Discovery parks began a collaborative project with U.S. researchers aimed at saving the endangered West Indian manatee. Study of diets, reproduction and immune systems of the manatees in Dolphin Discovery's care will help improve the health of manatees in the wild.
- Researchers from Connecticut's Mystic Aquarium and Georgia Aquarium joined an investigation of the prevalence and impact of morbillivirus infections in wild dolphins.
- Study of Dolphin Quest Hawaii's dolphins demonstrated that pregnancy can affect an animal's swimming ability and may increase its vulnerability to predators and fisheries bycatch in the wild.
- Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in California announced breakthrough research on walrus reproduction.
- The world's longest-running study of a wild dolphin population continued into its 43rd year, led by the Chicago Zoological Society. The Sarasota Dolphin Research Program conducted health assessments in Sarasota Bay, Florida, in May and July, with the help of veterinarians and dolphin care professionals from many Alliance member facilities, and funded primarily by Dolphin Quest and the U.S. Office of Naval Research.
- Data on the health of this population serves as a scientific benchmark, and is used by researchers studying the effects of large-scale environmental events, such as oil spills, ocean pollution, or harmful algal blooms.
- Information gained is shared with researchers from national and international universities, and federal and state agencies.
- Oceans of Fun, in Milwaukee, joined the Punta San Juan Pinniped Research Project, contributing funds and staff to evaluate the population health of marine wildlife in Peru, and to develop conservation strategies. Its studies focus on disease and toxicant exposure, reproductive success, population stability and genetics, and resilience to external threats.
- The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) awarded more than $1.8 million through its 2012 annual grants program to conservation projects across the globe. This year marks the Fund's $20 million milestone in conservation giving. Since its founding in 1995, DWCF has supported more than 800 projects in 112 countries on six continents. This milestone includes $5 million in grants benefiting marine conservation programs, with $1.1 million directed to programs focused on marine mammals. The DWCF also provides emergency grants and in 2012 provided funding for the International Fund for Animal Welfare to rescue stranded dolphins in Cape Cod.
- Dolphin Explorer in the Dominican Republic continued its DNA analysis of wild dolphin populations in Cuban waters, which suggests that breeding between inshore and offshore animals is more variable and widespread than seen in any other studied dolphin population. Researchers hope to determine just how far Cuban dolphins range.
- Shedd Aquarium professionals directed animal handling protocols for a federally-funded program assessing the health of beluga whales in Bristol Bay, Alaska. The Georgia Aquarium is the lead on this multiyear study, which increases understanding of how environmental changes affect beluga whales.
We Rescue the Sick, Injured and Orphaned!
90% - An important role for marine parks is to rescue, medically treat, and rehabilitate injured wild animals and marine mammals so that they can be returned to the wild.
94% - It is better to place a stranded marine mammal, unable to be returned to its ocean environment, in a marine life park than it is to put it to sleep.
2012 Harris Interactive® Poll
Compassion for the lives of our beloved marine mammals drives Alliance member marine parks, aquariums and zoos to take humane action on behalf of distressed seals, sea lions, dolphins, whales, manatees and other species, regardless of the costs. Our members work to save the lives of sea turtles, sea birds and other species as well.
Around the world, thousands and thousands of marine mammals are discovered, stranded and helpless, on beaches and rocky coastlines each year. Sometimes just one and sometimes a hundred or more at a time, these sick, injured and orphaned animals are oftentimes too weak to survive. But with prompt, professional and heartfelt care from Alliance members, some can be nursed back to health and returned to their ocean homes.
Alliance members worldwide freely dedicate their professional expertise, countless hours of staff time and hundreds of thousands of dollars to rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing these marine mammals. They construct special facilities to care for the animals, and direct over 60,000 volunteer hours annually to help them survive.
On occasion, very young marine mammals found stranded and nursed back to health are deemed "non-releasable" by government authorities because they could not survive if released back to the ocean. Alliance members give these babies a second chance, and loving, caring homes.
A look at some of our members' humane work follows:
- The Gulf World Marine Park team responded to 14 dolphin strandings in Florida's panhandle in 2012, and also played a significant role in the investigation of the causes of the dolphin strandings, including any history of interactions with fishing equipment.
- Delphinus Riviera Maya is part of Mexico's Quintana Roo State Stranding Response Network and participated in an unusual 2012 rescue of a melon-headed whale, which is rare to find stranded. Sadly, the months-old, very weak calf did not survive.
- Vancouver Aquarium's Marine Mammal Rescue Centre began tracking five rescued and rehabilitated seal pups with satellite-linked transmitters after their release back to the wild, to better understand their foraging behaviors and habitat use.
- Atlantis Paradise Island's animal rescue team successfully released two manatees in 2012 that were in their care since October 2011.
- SeaWorld Orlando is caring for the surviving pilot whales that were part of a 2012 Florida mass stranding.
- The Sea World team also rescued a manatee with severe injuries to her front right flipper from a crab pot line and fishing line wrapped around both front flippers. The team suspected she was pregnant and a sonogram confirmed their suspicion. SeaWorld released the manatee and her healthy calf in August.
- SeaWorld San Diego rescued a functionally blind, stranded Pacific harbor seal named Iris who needed cataract removal surgery, which has rarely been done on seals. A veterinary ophthalmologist performed the surgery using cutting-edge techniques that restored Iris' eyesight sufficiently to allow her to forage for food on her own. She was returned to the ocean with an attached satellite tracking device. Iris has since show that she is thriving in the wild.
- The facility also rescued a sea lion named Valentine with a large wound on her flipper. X-rays determined that she had been shot and the bullet fragment was lodged in her shoulder blade. Park veterinarians removed the bullet and treated her wound. She made a full recovery and was returned to the ocean.
- The Alaska SeaLife Center rescued two Pacific walrus calves from Barrow that are now the centers of attention at the Indianapolis Zoo and the New York Aquarium. The orphaned walrus calves would not have survived a release to the wild.
- The Center also released 11 rehabilitated harbor seals in 2012, sent a rehabilitated sea otter pup to Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, and, as of December 31, was caring for a stranded sea otter pup awaiting a new home.
- In 2012, Shedd Aquarium welcomed its first southern sea otter pup—found orphaned from a population listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
- The pup joined three northern sea otters, all of which were nursed back to health after they stranded or were orphaned.
- The aquarium also saved the life of a third sea lion from the Columbia River slated to be euthanized by the U.S. government because it was eating endangered salmon. The sea lion is a touching example of conflicts caused by declining natural resources, and is featured in aquarium's education programs.
- A sea lion pup that most likely was blinded by gunshot wounds also arrived at Shedd. His story raises guests' awareness and compassion for animals affected by conflict with humans.
We Care About Our Animals and Our Communities!
For many veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, traumatic experiences make it difficult to transition back to civilian life and smiles do not come easy. Numerous Alliance member parks and aquariums reach out to our veterans, and to medical compassion organizations like Make-A-Wish and other community causes, to offer special moments of happiness and peace with our dolphins and other marine mammals.
- In 2012, California's Six Flags Discovery Kingdom collaborated with "The Pathway Home", a local veterans' hospital residential treatment program, inviting combat veterans to meet and swim with their dolphins. The dolphin experience helped the veterans "get away from some of the tragedies they experienced and the shortfalls and disappointments they've had since they came home," said one hospital official.
- A military dad chose Brookfield Zoo's dolphin presentation as the venue to surprise his two young daughters upon his return from Afghanistan, where he had been stationed for the past eight months. The joyful reunion also gave many zoo visitors the opportunity to thank the soldier for his service.
- The Dolphin Research Center created a three-day retreat for 11 war veterans in a combat stress recovery program that is part of the Wounded Warrior Project. DRC designed the retreat with the veterans' diagnoses in mind, with careful thought given to the challenges of combat stress and improving attitudes and outlook. DRC also hosted participants in the Wounded Warrior Project's Soldier Ride, a three-day cycling event, providing complimentary dolphin swims to over 30 soldiers recovering from serious injuries.
The Global World of Marine Mammals
When the Alliance was established two decades ago, one Bahamian park stood among the founding U.S. members. Today, member facilities hail from the Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada, the Cayman Islands, the Dominican Republic, Finland, French Polynesia, Holland, Hong Kong, Italy, Mexico, and Portugal. The Alliance has an active International Committee, a Brussels office, and a counsel who monitors international organizations whose actions and policies can benefit marine mammals.
Alliance representatives participate in Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species meetings and work in partnership with the Conservation of Migratory Species secretariat on marine mammal conservation projects. The Alliance attends CITES' Conventions of the Parties as well as the intercessional meetings of the Animals and Standing Committees, and has been an active participant in its Transport and Purpose Codes Working Groups.
- In 2012, Alliance experts advised two international regulatory groups on the best practices for safely moving marine mammals. The International Air Transport Association accepted the Alliance proposal and CITES' Transport Working Group recommended that the guidelines be adopted for all modes of transport. CITES adopted these recommendations at CoP16 in Bangkok, Thailand.
- The Alliance collaborated with the European Association for Aquatic Mammals, which published an educational booklet for young children that details the plight of the highly endangered Mediterranean monk seal and what can be done to conserve the species. The booklet has been integrated into European facilities' educational programs and distributed through their gift shops to raise awareness among local visitors and tourists.
Alliance Members 2013
Organizational and Research Members
- Alaska SeaLife Center
- Atlantis, Paradise Island
- CZS Brookfield Zoo
- Delphinus Dreams Cancun
- Delphinus Riviera Maya
- Delphinus Xcaret
- Delphinus Xelha
- Discovery Cove
- Disney's Animal Programs at The Seas
- Dolphin Connection
- Dolphin Discovery Cozumel
- Dolphin Discovery Grand Cayman
- Dolphin Discovery Isla Mujeres
- Dolphin Discovery Los Cabos
- Dolphin Discovery Puerto Aventuras
- Six Flags Mexico Dolphin Discovery
- Dolphin Discovery Vallarta
- Dolphin Encounters
- UNEXSO Dolphin Experience
- Dolphin Explorer
- Dolphin Quest Bermuda
- Dolphin Quest Hawaii
- Dolphin Quest Oahu
- Dolphin Research Center
- Georgia Aquarium
- Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park
- Gulf World Marine Park
- Dolfinarium Harderwijk Holland
- Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute
- Lisbon Zoo
- Marineland Dolphin Adventure
- Miami Seaquarium
- Minnesota Zoological Gardens
- The Mirage Dolphin Habitat
- Moorea Dolphin Center
- Mystic Aquarium
- National Marine Mammal Foundation
- Navy Marine Mammal Program
- WCS New York Aquarium
- Ocean Park Hong Kong
- Oceans of Fun
- Pittsburgh Zoo
- Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium
- SAIC BioSolutions Division
- Sea Life Park Hawaii
- SeaWorld Orlando
- SeaWorld San Antonio
- SeaWorld San Diego
- John G. Shedd Aquarium
- Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
- Tampereen Sarkanniemi Oy
- Texas State Aquarium
- Theater of the Sea
- Vancouver Aquarium
- Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center Foundation
- Wildlife World Zoo and Aquarium
- Zoomarine Italy
- Zoomarine Portugal
- American Veterinary Medical Association
- Association of Zoos and Aquariums
- Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums
- European Association for Aquatic Mammals
- International Association for Aquatic Animal Medicine
- International Marine Animal Trainers' Association
Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums