While many associate SeaWorld with theme park rides and dolphin shows, the group’s marine conservation efforts get a lot less attention.
However, as one of the largest marine animal rescue organizations in the world, SeaWorld has so far saved 40,000 sick, stranded or injured animals, and helped rehabilitate and return thousands back to the wild. Now, after over 60 years in operation, the group has launched its first location outside of the US, right here in Abu Dhabi.
Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, is the first dedicated marine research, rescue and rehabilitation center in the region. Containing a rescue clinic, veterinary hospital, rehabilitation pools, labs, an aquaculture facility and many more state-of-the-art resources and specialized equipment, the vast facility spans over 8,000 m2. It is focused on the three pillars of research, rescue and education.
It is designed to complement the Yas SeaWorld Marine Life Theme Park, which will be home to more than 150 species of marine animals and is due to open later this year.
Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of the developer Miral, said: “Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue is an important landmark in Abu Dhabi’s journey of education and conservation. We want to inspire the next generation of marine scientists and encourage everyone to learn more about marine wildlife and habitats. Together with SeaWorld, we will be pushing the limits of science and conservation to become the foremost destination for marine scientists, not only in the UAE, but also in the wider region.”
A global research hub
Home to an expert team of scientists, zoologists and marine experts, Yas SeaWorld aims to become a global research hub for subjects as diverse as marine biodiversity, ecosystem resilience, wildlife conservation and habitat restoration. Along with ongoing studies into fish propagation, seagrass cultivation and coral reproduction, the center will orchestrate field projects that focus on the Arabian Gulf’s unique habitats, including seagrass meadows, mangroves, oyster beds and coral reefs.
“We bring a legacy of passion for marine life preservation, and this is shared by all our expert veterinarians, marine scientists, educators and animal care specialists. SeaWorld has always been focused on marine conservation, through a combination of caring for animals within zoological parks, rescuing stranded marine life and releasing them back into the wild, and conducting vital research with scientists. We love learning about the ocean and sharing our passion and expertise with adults and children of all ages,” says Dr Christopher Dold, chief zoological officer of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. “The waters of the Arabian Gulf contain a critically important marine ecosystem that is integral to the fabric of the Abu Dhabi community. We are honored to be able to carry on our legacy and work to protect the ecosystem of the Arabian Gulf and beyond.”
Rescuing and rehabilitating wildlife
The Yas SeaWorld rescue team will remain on call 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. Bringing two custom-made rescue boats and a fleet of rescue vehicles, the department has the capacity to rehabilitate and care for animals as small as sea snakes or birds, or as large as whale sharks, dolphins, dugongs and other marine animals. Home to multiple pools, aviaries, hospitals and a specialist area for animals who have been caught up in oil spills, Yas SeaWorld will work closely with the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi and other local authorities to rescue, rehabilitate and return as many marine animals as possible back into the Arabian Gulf.
Local schools, universities and members of the community are encouraged to get involved with Yas SeaWorld’s various educational programs. Offering an auditorium that seats up to 160 people and multiple classrooms, the education team will provide curriculums for all students, from kindergarten right the way up to university level, while the public will be invited to attend seminars and talks from leading global scientists.
Dr Elise Marquis, director of Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, says: “Really, we should have added education into our title as well. After all, what makes this place unique is that all those three programs are totally integrated. One doesn’t make sense without the other. Education is definitely at the core of what we’re doing.”
For information about public events at Yas SeaWorld, keep an eye on the Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue and MIRAL social media channels. Access to the facility is by appointment or invite only. If you spot an animal in danger, please call the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) on 800 555.
For more information, please go to the website.
Harriet Shephard is an Abu Dhabi-based copywriter and freelance journalist with a particular focus on fitness, travel and lifestyle, which, along with good food, also happen to be her main passions when she's not typing away at her laptop.