I have to admit that I once had the same opinion as columnist Natasha Tomchin in thinking that Sea World was some cruel circus for killer whales and dolphins, keeping them caged and breaking out the whip to make them do tricks on demand.
But then I went to Sea World the weekend before last and got to see things differently. I signed up for the Behind-the-Scenes Tour, fed dolphins, sea lions and sting rays, petted a penguin, came close to a polar bear and saw what most patrons don’t see. On the tour, our guide took us to the part of the park that is usually closed to guests. There, I saw that Sea World is not all about the shows. The animal rehabilitation program was amazing. I was especially touched by a 65-year-old sea turtle who had been caught in a fisherman’s net. When he pulled the turtle on the deck, her spinal cord snapped, paralyzing her, and when he took the hook out of her mouth, he accidentally ripped off her lower lip. She never does shows or goes on display, but the Sea World vets still take care of her, feeding her by hand to simulate the bottom lip she’s missing.
There were so many animals back there that we never see in the rest of the park, and that don’t bring in any revenue, but are cared for as if they were as profitable as the show whales. There’s an extensive animal hospital, and rescue center, and they’ve even operated on animals as small as tree frogs, which they don’t even display at the park. Sea World has its own rescue team that goes out when someone in the area calls about a marine mammal in distress, even if the animals will never be shown and Sea World will foot the bill to take care of the animal for the rest of the animal’s life.
While the shows are the main focus of the park, if you talk to any of the trainers after a show you will see that these are people who do care about the animals and their comfort and safety. The place really is more about the animals than just people’s entertainment. I invite Natasha to try the Behind-the-Scenes tour and see that there is an entire world just out of sight that is like nothing we would expect.
Asia Davis is a senior majoring in political science and international studies.