Several SeaWorld fans have noticed historical footage of our rescue team in action in “Dolphin Tale,” and have asked what role SeaWorld played in the rescue of Winter. This is the story of the passion and expertise displayed by the many marine mammal experts credited with helping this remarkable animal.
A fisherman spotted the animal, her tail severely injured by a crab trap line, in the Mosquito Lagoon on Florida’s east coast.
The first responders – marine mammal experts from the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute and Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission – waded into the water and cradled the severely-injured dolphin, keeping her afloat and calm for hours until a specialized rescue transport team could arrive.
The three-person team from SeaWorld Orlando, as well as a veterinarian from the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, assisted with the animal’s rescue transport. Although they assessed Winter’s chance of survival as slim, they were undeterred in their efforts to save her.
The young dolphin was lifted from the water and loaded into the SeaWorld rescue van. The SeaWorld and Harbor Branch experts braced Winter for the five-hour ride across Florida to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA).
Even during that long journey, Winter showed signs that she was a special case. Despite her life-threatening injuries and the stress of her situation, the animal’s heart rate and respirations suggested that she was unusually calm.
The team arrived in Clearwater late at night and the experts worked together to move Winter into her new home. The rest, as they say, is history. Although the injuries would eventually claim her tail, the innovative and dedicated CMA team outfitted her with the now-famous prosthetic device.
Thanks to the dedication and passion of organizations like the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Harbor Branch, Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute and SeaWorld, Winter is alive and thriving. She is a living testament to the dedication of marine mammal experts who routinely help rescue, rehabilitate and release wild marine mammals.