Whale-Sized Research at SeaWorld

                       Whale-Sized Research at SeaWorld

-- Study with Killer Whale to Help Conserve Animals in the Wild --

PR Newswire

ORLANDO, Fla., Dec. 10, 2013

ORLANDO, Fla., Dec. 10, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --New research conducted at
SeaWorld® aims to help scientists answer a long-standing question: What is the
resting metabolic rate of a killer whale? The answer to this seemingly basic
question may upset conventionally held beliefs about the impact of killer
whales, an apex predator, on their environment, and help biologists make more
informed management decisions for endangered killer whales in the wild.

(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20131210/FL30773 )

Scientists from Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute and SeaWorld worked with
Tilikum, a killer whale at SeaWorld Orlando and the largest marine mammal
living in a zoological park, to obtain the whale's basal metabolic rate (BMR)
by measuring his resting oxygen consumption rate. BMR is an indirect
measurement of the energy an animal requires to sustain itself in a resting
state. To collect the data a flow-through metabolic dome was placed over
Tilikum's blowhole to measure how much oxygen he extracted from the incoming
air. SeaWorld training staff worked with Tilikum three months prior to the
study to ensure he would be comfortable with the dome.

"The study of energetics in marine mammals, particularly killer whales, is
central to our understanding of the animal's role in its ecosystem," said Dr.
Graham Worthy, Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute scientist and the study's
principal author.

It all boils down to how the animal keeps its internal "furnace" burning.

"If a whale or dolphin requires more energy to live than their land-based
counterpart, then we would expect them to eat more." Previous mathematical
models have estimated that large dolphins, like killer whales, require a
metabolic rate that is double that of an equal sized land mammal in order to
survive in the cold ocean. "Our study suggests that is not true. Killer whales
appear to have a metabolic rate that is the same as would be expected for a
land mammal of equal size."

This new information suggests that killer whales might only eat half as much
food as some previous models have predicted. And since killer whales eat fish,
as well as other marine mammals, this has implications not just for killer
whale conservation, but for many other animals in that ecosystem. The results
of the study were published recently in the online edition of Marine Mammal
Science.

Prior to this study most direct assessments of metabolism in cetaceans focused
on smaller species such as bottlenose dolphins and that data was extrapolated
to develop mathematical models for larger cetaceans. Inappropriate assumptions
can have a significant effect on estimating food requirements of animals. The
research illustrates the scientific and conservation value of studying both
whales housed in zoological parks, as well as those in the ocean.

"You cannot make informed decisions about the conservation of a species
without both sides of the equation," said Worthy. "The access to the whales at
SeaWorld allowed us to gain critical data that would be impossible to collect
in the field due to the size and inaccessibility of a killer whale."

"This study speaks to SeaWorld's larger commitment to conservation and animal
welfare by providing an environment to safely conduct detailed research," said
Dr. Christopher Dold, Vice President of Veterinary Services for SeaWorld Parks
& Entertainment™ and a co-author of the study.

About Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute
Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, founded in 1963 to conduct research in the
tradition of world-renowned scientists Dr. Carl L. and Laura C. Hubbs, is a
public, non-profit charity dedicated to providing effective solutions to
conflicts that arise between human activity and the natural world.
Hubbs-SeaWorld scientists apply sophisticated technologies to seek the
solutions that protect and conserve marine animals while benefiting humans and
their reliance on marine resources. The Institute also recognizes the critical
importance of scientific literacy as a foundation for competing in the highly
technical and competitive global economy and strives to provide innovative
education programs to promote scientific literacy among our children and young
scientists. In 2013, HSWRI celebrates 50 years of its mission "to return to
the sea some measure of the benefits derived from it."

About SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment™ is a leading theme park and entertainment
company delivering personal, interactive and educational experiences that
enable its customers to celebrate, connect with and care for the natural world
we share. The Company owns or licenses a portfolio of globally recognized
brands including SeaWorld®, Shamu® and Busch Gardens®. Over its more than 50
year history, the Company has built a diversified portfolio of 11 destination
and regional theme parks that are grouped in key markets across the United
States.

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment is one of the world's foremost zoological
organizations. The Company maintains one of the largest animal collections in
the world and has helped lead advances in the care of species in zoological
facilities and in the conservation of wild populations. SeaWorld Parks &
Entertainment also operates one of the world's most respected programs to
rescue, rehabilitate and return to the ocean marine animals that are ill,
injured and orphaned. The SeaWorld® rescue team has helped more than 22,000
animals in need over the last four decades.

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment is a wholly owned subsidiary of SeaWorld
Entertainment, Inc., a publicly traded company (NYSE: SEAS). Additional
information about SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. can be obtained online at
www.seaworldentertainment.com.



SOURCE SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment

Website: http://www.seaworldentertainment.com
Contact: Greg Smith, Corporate Communications, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment,
407.226.5257, Gregory.Smith@SeaWorld.com
 
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