Shark C-Section Performed at Discovery Cove

Reef shark pups born July 18, 2013 get a close-up look from a Discovery Cove shark expert.

Reef shark pups born July 18, 2013 get a close-up look from a Discovery Cove shark expert.

It’s Shark Week, and I couldn’t be more excited! Megaladon. Voodoo sharks. It’s all great stuff! (Visit the Discovery Channel’s website to read more about their special programming.) To top off all this shark-tastic-ness (not to be confused with a Sharknado), SeaWorld announced a groundbreaking procedure was performed on a whitetip reef shark at Discovery Cove in Orlando, July 18, 2013.

•A team of shark experts and veterinarians prepare to perform a groundbreaking procedure — a Cesarean section — on a whitetip reef shark at Discovery Cove.

• A team of shark experts and veterinarians prepare to perform a groundbreaking procedure — a Cesarean section — on a whitetip reef shark at Discovery Cove.

Due to complications with the pregnancy, an emergency Cesarean section was performed on the shark six months into her gestation.

Whitetip reef sharks have a gestation period
of 10–13 months and give birth to live young.

Baby whitetip reef shark at Discovery Cove, SeaWorld's boutique park in Orlando FloridaFour healthy pups were born, each weighing less than three pounds at birth (1.04 kg – 1.25 kg). Their lengths ranged from 59 cm to 62 cm (about two feet). Mother and pups are doing well, eating normally and showing no signs of unusual behaviors. Currently the new family lives behind the scenes at Discovery Cove as animal experts continue to monitor their progress, but other whitetip reef sharks can be seen by guests snorkeling in The Grand Reef or when participating in SeaVenture, an underwater walking tour where guests wear dive helmets to explore the undersea world all around them.

It seems as if you're close enough to touch the sharks at Discovery Cove.

It seems as if you’re close enough to touch the sharks at Discovery Cove.

Discovery Cove is an all-inclusive day resort experience where guests enjoy a one-of-a-kind opportunity to swim with dolphins, snorkel with rays and tropical fish, hand-feed exotic birds and relax on pristine beaches. To discover more, visit and follow them on Facebook.

Discovery Cove SeaVentures is an underwater walking tour. Here I'm "going down!"

Discovery Cove SeaVentures is an underwater walking tour. Here I’m “going down!”

Live Broadcast Today

SeaWorld animal care experts have helped more than 22,000 animals in need over the past four decades, many of which have been manatees. Today [Thursday, July 18], four of those special creatures will be released LIVE at 10 a.m. ET! Pipsqueak, Braille, Nitty and Asaka will return to the waters of Eddy Creek in Brevard County, Florida and for the first time SeaWorld will broadcast the event! Animal enthusiasts from around the world can watch the event as it’s happening (Click here).

Manatees in rehabilitation pools at SeaWorld, Orlando

Manatees in rehabilitation pools at SeaWorld, Orlando

Braille, Nitty and Pipsqueak suffered mild cold stress last December after getting caught in the mosquito impoundment in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  They are doing so well with rehabilitation, they’re packing up and getting ready to roll!

Impoundments are earthen dikes that allow control over how
much water stands in the area to limit the number of mudflats,
so mosquitoes have fewer places to lay eggs and breed.

This past March, Asaka suffered from buoyancy issues which led to her rescue by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) from the Indian River in Merritt Island, Florida. While at SeaWorld, her buoyancy issues were resolved.

Buoyancy is the ability to float or rise when submerged in a liquid. Manatees
do not have swim bladders, and use their lungs to maintain “neutral
buoyancy” and their horizontal position while they graze.
Without this ability, they cannot properly feed.

Cleared for release, the four manatees will be fitted with a satellite tag that will allow the FWC to monitor the animals’ movements to ensure their success.

SeaWorld’s animal rescue team, along with Canaveral National Seashore and FWC team members, will participate in the release. Tune in, or follow on FaceBook, Twitter and Instagram.

If you see injured marine animal, you can help by calling the
FWC hotline at 1(888) 404-3922 or by dialing *FWC on a cellular device.

The Beach Boys at SeaWorld

American music legends The Beach Boys performed last Saturday at SeaWorld’s Bands, Brew & BBQ. With 30-plus albums and 50 years under their belts, The Beach Boys are national treasure, as this beautiful American Bald eagle.

Two American icons, Bruce Johnston (L) and Mike Love (R) of The Beach Boys and an American bald eagle meet at SeaWorld Orlando’s Bands, Brew & BBQ

Two American icons, Bruce Johnston (L) and Mike Love (R) of The Beach Boys meet Mattie the American bald eagle and her trainer at SeaWorld Orlando’s Bands, Brew & BBQ

Check out this interview with News 13’s Allison Walker.

Busch Gardens Welcomes Baby White Rhino

Baby Rhino born at Busch GardensKirisi the white rhinoceros gave birth to her second calf, a female, on Tuesday, October 23, 2012 at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.

Baby Rhino born at Busch GardensWeighing in at around 140 pounds, the newborn will gain about four pounds a day. At maturity she’ll weigh between 3,500 and 4,000 pounds. The calf’s father is Tambo. This is his seventh time being a father. This is Busch Gardens seventh baby white rhino since 2004.

Baby Rhino nurses mother Kisiri

Busch Gardens is part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), a collaborative program with a goal of sustainability and genetic diversity to ensure the health and continued longevity of an animal population, especially those that urgently need to be protected in the wild.

According to Busch Gardens, “Kisiri, Tambo and another female white rhino were airlifted from Kruger National Park in South Africa in 2001 through the efforts of the International Rhino Foundation (IRF), a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of rhinos. Fewer than 15,000 white rhinos remain in the wild, and approximately 200 live in zoological facilities across North America.”

Since its inception in 2003, The SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund
has granted $7 million USD to more than 500 projects in the U.S. and around the world, including $194,000 USD grants to rhino conservation projects. The Fund
was created by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment and is a registered
501(c)(3) non-profit charitable foundation dedicated to supporting
environmental and wildlife conservation initiatives.

Weedy Sea Dragon Hatches Eggs at SeaWorld

Inside the Manta Aquarium at SeaWorld, Orlando, an exciting birth has taken place! A male (yes male!) weedy sea dragon has hatched his first few babies, the first time at SeaWorld, with more hatching over the next few weeks.

The highlighted area shows egg being “shaken” off the male weedy sea dragon as it is hatched.

A close relative of both the sea horse and the leafy sea dragon (both also on display at the Manta Aquarium), the weedy sea dragon female lays around 100 eggs. She deposits them onto the “brood sac” on the underside of the male’s tail. He then fertilizes the eggs on this spongy patch and provides oxygen through tiny cups. Incubation lasts until they are at full term which can be from five to nine weeks.

  Baby weedy sea dragons, scientific name Phyllopteryx taeniolatus, are instantly independent at birth and will feed on their yolk sac and tiny zooplankton in the water for nourishment. When they are old enough they will hunt for mysid shrimps. The sea dragons will take about a year to grow to full size.

Weedy sea dragons can be found naturally off the coast of Australia. Their numbers have drastically declined since the 1980s due to pollution runoff and being gathered by collectors of for use in alternative medicines.

There have been only three other successful breeding programs of weedy sea dragons by aquariums in the United States which makes the news of these births even more momentous!

The Manatee Scientists, Book Review

The Manatee Scientists: Saving Vulnerable Species

Author: Peter Lourie
Pub Date: April 11th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-547-15254-7
Page count: 80pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Intended for 10- to 14-year-old readers


Another in the “Scientists in the Field” series, The Manatee Scientists by Peter Lourie is a armchair adventure for young readers and their families. The author journeys from the crystal clear inlets of Florida to the warm waters of Brazil, and to the mysterious rivers of West Africa watching over the “watchers” of various species of manatees. 

Manatees, such beautiful, gentle, and endangered creatures, were once mistaken for mermaids which is how they are classified into the group sirenians (for Sirens, a.k.a. mermaids). Dedicated scientists like John Reynolds, Fernando Rosas, and Lucy Keith study these remarkable creatures using technology, observation, and tons of patience in an effort to promote conservation and to ensure they survive for future generations.


A key theme of the book is “science informs conservation.” Watching manatee behaviors, both in captivity and in the wild, and using high-tech tagging and tracking instruments allows the scientists to understand “what’s normal” so they can best gauge their endangered status with the hopes of promoting growth of the various species.


Young readers will learn about the tools and instruments used, as well as getting a clear picture of just how much hard work and dedication goes into being a “scientist in the field.” (One of the author’s colleagues received numerous broken bones when tagging a manatee!)


The clear writing and sometimes humorous anecdotes* make this less of an “oh-do-I-have-to-read-this-science-book?!” and more of a “Wow-I’m-going-on-an-adventure” tale. The highly-readable style and personal touches, not to mention the beautiful photography, makes The Manatee Scientists a book I recommend with no reservations.

This is Daniel at a special “Behind the Scenes” look into Conservation at SeaWorld, Orlando.

* Reviewer’s note: Although this book is intended for older children, I read it to my 5-year-old who is very interested in marine science. He was especially tickled to hear about the importance of manatee flatulence in helping them maintain neutral buoyancy! Eating all that vegetation causes methane which manatees release to help them rise in the water. I’m pretty sure I’ll be embarrassed next time we visit the manatees at SeaWorld as he’s already calling his stuffed ones “Tooters.”

Manatee Born at SeaWorld Orlando

A sonogram taken July 20 clearly shows the calf’s spine and a heartbeat.

The pregnant manatee rescued in Merritt Island, FL on June 8 (read about it here) gave birth to a healthy calf July 18, 2012, sometime between 3 and 6 a.m. Both mother and baby are said to be doing well. The newborn is healthy, nursing and swimming close to its mother. SeaWorld’s Animal Care team has the pair under 24-hour surveillance.

The new baby gives its mom a little kiss!

The newborn calf sticks its tongue out, probably still “rooting.”

New calf bonding with mom in a back area pool at SeaWorld, Orlando.

Loggerhead Turtle Who Swallowed a Hook is Released Today Thanks to SeaWorld

X-Ray shows 4" hook in Loggerhead's throat.

Four weeks ago a sub-adult Loggerhead turtle was found by biologists from the Inwater Research Group near the St. Lucie Power Plant in St. Lucie County, Florida. The 100-pound turtle was taken to SeaWorld, Orlando on February 26 with transport assistance from Inwater volunteers.

Initial tests, bloodwork, and x-rays confirmed the need for immediate surgery. The turtle had ingested a 4-inch-long fish hook.

Senior Veterinarian Dr. Lara Croft, one of three SeaWorld Orlando staff veterinarians, performed the surgery. It was one of the largest SeaWorld veterinarians have removed. Showing remarkable resilience, the turtle has made a quick recovery.

Dr. Croft watches on as aquarium staff members prepare the sea turtle for the x-ray procedure.

After a few short weeks of round-the-clock care, the turtle was deemed fit for release earlier this week.

This morning, Dan Conklin, aquarium supervisor at Seaworld, and dedicated staffers carefully loaded up the turtle for the ride to the beach before 8 a.m.

At Lori Wilson Park, Cocoa Beach, the loggerhead got one last lift from his friends at SeaWorld as they carried it from the transport vehicle to the water.

Peter Pan (as I’ve affectionately dubbed for his Hook-beating ways) moved steadily toward the water with many well-wishers around. At a little after 9 a.m. flippers could be seen darting through the waves as SeaWorld again helped an animal in need. More than 20,000 animals have been rescued by SeaWorld experts. Their hard-working animal rescue team is on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Peter Pan makes way for the surf.

Help a Turtle Out:

J-shaped hooks are easy for sea life to swallow, which is why anglers are urged to use the new “circle” hooks which are less likely to be ingested. Protect this and other threatened species by properly disposing of all trash, and securing fishing line that can also cause harm to our ocean friends.

Love me, and all my Loggerhead turtle friends and sea buddies, by being responsible when you're on, or around, waterways.

Celebrate the release by doing a Loggerhead craft!