SeaWorld Orlando opened its first and all new Coral Rescue Center to park guests following a VIP ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday. The rescue center is one of the largest public-facing facilities dedicated to coral conservation in the country.
The state-of-the-art rescue facility provides the public with a unique opportunity to observe and interact with coral biologists as they carry out daily husbandry for “at risk” Florida corals. The center provides an important way to view living corals up close, learn more about conservation, and understand the steps everyone can take to make a difference in ocean health.
Park guests to the new center will experience hundreds of living coral colonies and 15 different species – many of which are listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The center is part of SeaWorld’s ongoing commitment to coral conservation as the private and public sector come together to help save the Florida coral reef. The Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida is the partner of the coral rescue center initiative.
“The new SeaWorld Coral Rescue Center represents another significant commitment to protect and conserve coral reefs and the Center enables the public to get a close up look at our work as we provide exceptional care in a safe haven for vulnerable corals as the conservation community works together to restore our vital coral reef system,” said Jim Kinsler, Zoological Curator at SeaWorld Orlando and Manager of the Florida Coral Rescue Center in Orlando. “By raising awareness about the importance of corals and their role in the environment, we hope to ignite a passion for conservation in our visitors, empowering them to become ambassadors for the protection and preservation of Florida’s corals.”
The center’s corals were selected and transferred from the Florida Coral Rescue Center (FCRC) to the SeaWorld Coral Rescue Center for world-class care with the goal of being returned to the Florida reef as part of state and national restoration efforts. The reef is suffering from the devastating effects of stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD) – a highly lethal disease with a mortality rate of up to 100 percent.
Building on the success of the FCRC, the Coral Rescue Center at SeaWorld Orlando serves as an additional holding facility for these vulnerable corals. The Center is a 3,750 gallon fully functional, guest-facing coral facility housing 350 coral colonies and 15 species of at-risk coral, several of which are listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Moreover, it will act as a crucial platform to educate and engage guests about the significance of coral reefs to sustaining healthy oceans.
“The Florida coral reef is in trouble which poses both an ecological and economic threat to the state of Florida and the country. It’s the largest coral reef ecosystem in the continental United States and vital to maintaining healthy oceans. It also supports over 71,000 jobs and generates over $6.3 billion in tourism revenue every year,” said Congressman Soto. “I am proud to have worked across the aisle to pass the Restoring Resilient Reefs Act. Alongside our legislative efforts, partnering with world-class conservation and animal care organizations like SeaWorld will allow us to make a real difference in preserving our reefs for future generations.”
Experienced coral biologists at the Center provide the rescued corals with expert care. This involves meticulous attention to water chemistry, flow, filtration, and lighting to ensure the corals thrive. The Center also aims to preserve a natural environment by introducing reef cleaners such as fish, snails, crabs, and sea urchins. These helpful creatures play a crucial role in cleaning algae from the corals and their surroundings, allowing for continued coral growth. To supplement their nutrient requirements, the SeaWorld biologists provide the corals with supplemental nutrients that they process for energy. Through these comprehensive care practices, the SeaWorld Coral Rescue Center contributes to the long-term conservation of corals.
SeaWorld has a longstanding relationship with the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida. The SeaWorld Coral Rescue Center is an extension of the partnership on the FCRC, providing funds towards the coral housing units that allow SeaWorld to house and care for the rescued corals. “Corals are the rainforests of the ocean,” said Andrew Walker, Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida President & CEO. “In addition to providing a home for a quarter of all marine life, corals buffer our coastline from damaging storms and fuel our state’s economy. We’re grateful to SeaWorld for providing a space for these rescued corals to thrive and for the public to learn more about our partnership to restore Florida’s Coral Reef.”
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