What is the history of SeaWorld?

In the early 1960s, four UCLA fraternity brothers, led by Milton Shedd, wanted to build an ocean-themed restaurant with an underwater view. Southern California natives, these young grew up loving the sea, and wanted to create a place that could allow others to experience the wonders of the ocean firsthand. From the beginning, they pledged their venture would be dedicated to education, entertainment, research and conservation. What began as an entrepreneurial idea for the founding foursome evolved into a unique and innovative venture they called SeaWorld. That dream was realized with the opening of SeaWorld California on San Diego’s beautiful Mission Bay.

Here are some highlights of SeaWorld over the past four decades:

To honor marine science leaders Dr. Carl and Laura Hubbs, the non-profit Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute was created by scientists and the founders of SeaWorld to “return to the sea some measure of the benefit derived from it.” You can learn more about the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute by visiting their website at www.hswri.org.

1964 SeaWorld San Diego opens to the public.
1973 SeaWorld opens a new park on December 15, 1973 in a small Florida town called Orlando. SeaWorld Orlando, along with its sister park in San Diego, launch the Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation program.
1976 SeaWorld Orlando rescues its first Florida manatee.
1980 SeaWorld San Diego becomes the first zoological park to breed emperor penguins outside of the Antarctic.
1985 The first killer whale to be born and thrive in the care of humans takes its first breath at SeaWorld Orlando on September 26, 1985 at 6:21 PM EST. Eight years later this whale goes on to give birth herself.
1988 SeaWorld San Antonio opens in Texas. This park becomes the largest marine life park in the world.
1989 Following a rare cold snap in Florida, SeaWorld Orlando rescues and rehabilitates 95 green sea turtles trapped in the Indian River Lagoon. After months of expert care, more than 50% are successfully retuned to their natural habitat.
1992 SeaWorld San Diego is the first park to conduct a flight feather transplant on an endangered brown pelican.
1993 Through the IUCN Conservation Breeding Specialist Group, SeaWorld funds a population and habitat viability analysis in the Yangtze River, the baiji river dolphin’s native habitat in China. With only about 200 left, captive breeding may be the only way to save this rare species.
1994 Gilly, an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin calf found weak and dehydrated, is rescued by SeaWorld San Antonio and the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network.
1995 During this year alone SeaWorld rehabilitates more than 50 beached or injured sea turtles, many of which suffer sustained injuries and cannot be released. Some of these individuals now make their permanent home at SeaWorld.
1996 To help add to much-needed baseline data on sharks, SeaWorld participates in nurse shark research in the Dry Tortugas, a critical habitat for shark pups.
1997 To support the United Nations-declared “Year of the Reef,” SeaWorld, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and the U.S. Departments of State and Commerce support a coral reef initiative, including research, education and conservation programs.
1998 After 14 months at SeaWorld San Diego, J.J. the gray whale is successfully released into her native California waters.
1999 A decade after the devastating Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, SeaWorld San Diego, along with the California Department of Fish and Game and the University of California, Davis, breaks ground on the SeaWorld Oiled Wildlife Care Center.
2000 SeaWorld and South African environmental groups struggle to save the third largest colony penguin colony in the world after a large iron-ore carrier sank off the west coast of Cape Town, South Africa on Friday, June 23. The event caused a major oil spill with severe repercussions on the wildlife in the area. Bird experts worked around the clock to de-oil and rehabilitate nearly 50% of the African Penguin species in hopes the penguins will survive.
2001 The world’s first killer whale conceived through artificial insemination was born on September 1, 2001 at 8:50 PM. The mother, a 25-year-old killer whale, gave birth to a healthy calf at Shamu Stadium, under the watchful eyes of the park’s veterinarians, animal care and animal training teams.
2003 SeaWorld Orlando celebrates its 30th year!
2004 The 500th sea turtle to be rehabilitated and released by the animal experts at SeaWorld Orlando waded safely into the waters off the coast of Cocoa Beach. This 100-pound loggerhead received six months of specialized care and rehabilitation at SeaWorld before being released. SeaWorld handles the majority of its sea turtle rescues during the summer months because of increased boating and recreational activities in areas frequented by turtles.

What began off of Mission Bay in 1964 with an initial investment of $1.5 million, 45 employees, several sea lions and one salt water aquarium has grown into the world’s finest marine life parks. 400,000 guests visited the park in 1964, and now millions of people are touched by marine animals at the SeaWorld parks every year. The heightened sensitivity to marine conservation issues is due in large part to the experiences people have in parks like SeaWorld.

In addition to the SeaWorld parks, Orlando-based SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment operates Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay, Florida and Williamsburg, Virginia; Adventure Island in Tampa Bay; Water Country USA in Williamsburg; Sesame Place near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Discovery Cove in Orlando, Florida; and Aquatica in Orlando and San Antonio, Texas. The eleven parks entertained more than 24 million guests in 2012 and employ more than 21,000 people. For more than 40 years, SeaWorld and Busch Gardens have shared their commitment to conservation with millions of guests, who leave not only with greater appreciation of the natural world, but with adventures of a lifetime. Leaders in conservation and education, SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, and Discovery Cove care for one of the largest animal collections in the world and offer an education website especially for students and teachers at www.swbg-animals.org. General park information is on the web at www.seaworldparksandentertainment.com.

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