Julie Scardina – Image courtesy of insideseaworld.com
It is our pleasure to bring you this interview with SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Animal Ambassador Julie Scardina.
Julie also serves as Corporate Curator for SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, and Discovery Cove. She has made numerous appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and Today Show, as well as Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures.
SeaWorldTruth.com: What inspired you to pursue your career at SeaWorld, and what advice would you give to someone who wanted to get a job working with animals?
Julie Scardina: I have always loved animals and nature and always knew I wanted to work with and for the welfare of animals. I attended the exotic animal program at Moorpark College right out of high school and during my time there we visited a lot of different facilities and were exposed to a wide variety of career options. I wanted to work for the best facility out there, so after we visited SeaWorld, I knew where my first choice lay! Being a part of an organization that does so much for animals – both in the parks and around the world – has provided me with extraordinary experiences and fulfillment.
As we did at Moorpark College, I recommend getting as much exposure to a variety of different career paths – there are so many ways to benefit animals and nature, which to me, is what it’s all about. The bottom line is to move from simply being an animal lover to becoming a knowledgeable, skilled and committed expert – whether it be as a caretaker, researcher, trainer, veterinarian or conservationist – there’s a need for all!
SeaWorldTruth.com: Of all the places you’ve visited around the world, what has been your favorite, and why?
Julie Scardina: After traveling all seven continents, the variety and beauty of nature still astounds me. From the lush humid rainforests of Southeast Asia to the frozen, otherworldly landscape of Antarctica, I love visiting anyplace with animals to be found. I will say that after first visiting Africa many years ago, it’s been the continent to which I am always drawn back; even after 10 safaris, it’s not enough! The abundance and diversity of species is unmatched and there’s always something new to experience.
SeaWorldTruth.com: How important are SeaWorld’s efforts in helping to conserve and protect animals, both in a captive setting and in the wild?
Julie Scardina: There is an important link between animals in human care and those in the wild. The most obvious is of course general public awareness and education regarding species, ecology and conservation. Beyond inspiring people to care is the important connection between science, knowledge and accessibility. The animals that we care for at SeaWorld have taught us much about biology, physiology, reproductive science, behavior and cognition. For example, in the wild, it was until recently impossible to tell if a killer whale was pregnant – or even if she gave birth until a calf was observed, in many cases many months later. Infant survivability has an impact on population and is especially important for endangered populations such as the Southern Resident population of killer whales in the Pacific Northwest. Drones have recently allowed researchers to easily view pods from above, allowing the comparison of body shapes and condition. In order to validate what certain body shapes and sizes actually meant and verify the likelihood of female pregnancy dimensions, researchers came to SeaWorld and photographed and filmed our whales, including pregnancies before and after birth. It’s important information that will help researchers determine what factors are involved with the declining Southern Resident population.
SeaWorldTruth.com: What do you think is the biggest misconception the public has about SeaWorld, and how would you respond to SeaWorld’s critics?
Julie Scardina: It’s important to realize that all species of animals live in a wide variety of conditions in the wild – just as humans do in different cities, countries or economic status – and we all have the ability to adapt and thrive. The killer whales and other animals in our care are provided with all the necessities of food, social environments, exceptional medical care, a variety of activities, as well as mental and physical challenge to enrich their lives. We have progressed in all of these aspects over the past 50 years as well, creating ever more complex and enriched conditions for our animals to thrive.
SeaWorldTruth.com: For those who may be hesitant to visit SeaWorld due to all the recent negative publicity, what would you say to them?
Julie Scardina: Come and see for yourself. Take a tour behind the scenes. There’s so much more to what SeaWorld does for animals than even some of our most ardent supporters realize.
Our thanks to Julie for taking time out of her busy schedule to grant us this interview. We also extend our thanks to Kelly Terry, Public Relations Manager for SeaWorld San Diego, for helping to make this interview possible.