WARNING: Video and content below may be upsetting to some audiences.
There are lots of avenues that lead toward a better understanding of the lives of the marine mammals at SeaWorld. Former trainers who have stepped forward to talk about their work have been key in lifting the curtain. But another indispensable, and eye-opening, perspective comes from former Animal Care workers. Animal Care staff seem to be in the middle of all the action. Rescues. Medical procedures. Births. Deaths. You name it. If an animal needs any sort of help, Animal Care is on the job. It's tough, rewarding and relentless work, with incredible highs and lows. According to SeaWorld:
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment™ collectively maintains one of the largest animal collections on the North American continent. We care for approximately 67,000 animals, including 7,000 marine and terrestrial animals and 60,000 fish.
What follows comes from conversations with three former Animal Care workers:
Jim Horton, 52, worked at SeaWorld Florida, Atlantis in the Bahamas, and SeaLife Park in Hawaii and has had a long career working in animal care. He worked for SeaWorld in Florida from 1981 to 1996, and then again from 1999 to 2000, before working on the return of Keiko, the star of "Free Willy," to his native Icelandic waters. Horton has since worked at SeaLife Park (from 2002 to 2004) on Oahu, Hawaii and at the Atlantis resort (from 2004 to 2012) on Paradise island in the Bahamas.