SeaWorld San Diego. 

SeaWorld San Diego has one of the most extensive rescue, rehabilitation and return programs in the world. They work closely with, and under a letter of authorization from the National Marine Fisheries Service, which oversees the nation’s marine mammal stranding program. SeaWorld has tremendous compassion for ill, injured and stranded animals, and rescues approximately 150 marine mammals as well as hundreds of sea birds every year from San Diego and surrounding areas. Fortunately, they are able to return between 60 and 70 percent of those animals rescued to the wild.

SeaWorld takes great pride in giving these animals a second chance at life; it is more than just a job for their animal care team, it is their passion. SeaWorld’s veterinarians and animal care staff use the knowledge learned from treating rescued animals and apply it to the animals in their care. The decades of experience gained from caring for their animals has also been critical in helping save the lives of thousands of rescued animals.

SeaWorld’s most famous rescue story is of J.J. the baby grey whale. J.J. was rescued as a new born on a beach near Los Angeles in January 1997. Brought to SeaWorld, J.J.’s chances of survival were very slim. Through the round-the-clock care of their animal care team and veterinarians, J.J. was nursed back to health, began to grow and thrive. After a 15-month rehabilitation, J.J., who had grown more than 20 feet and gained nearly 20,000 pounds, was returned to the ocean.

In 2013, SeaWorld rescued a nearly record number of California sea lions because of an Unusual Mortality Event (UME) that caused juvenile sea lions to strand on beaches along the central and southern California coastline. SeaWorld cared for more than 411 rescued sea lions, the majority of which were part of the UME, in addition to other marine mammal species, including 10 elephant seals, 12 harbor seals, 1 fur seal and 5 dolphins. SeaWorld took in and cared for 267 birds including 124 pelicans. In 2014, SeaWorld has rescued more than 170 marine mammals and sea birds. Only the few animals that are too ill or injured, and would be unable to survive on their own if returned to the ocean, remain in SeaWorld’s care. Park guests can learn more about SeaWorld’s rescue program by visiting the Rescue Plaza, where two video screens play footage of marine mammals, sea birds and turtles that were rescued and cared for by the animal care team and veterinarians.

If you observe an injured or ill marine mammal on the beach, please contact your local law enforcement or call the SeaWorld Rescue Hotline at 1-800-541-SEAL (7325).