Animal Update: DeSantis Announces Release of Another Animal From Florida Theme Park as Controversy Continues

in SeaWorld, Theme Parks

Entrance to SeaWorld Orlando, Florida theme park

Credit: SeaWorld

SeaWorld has freed yet another of its marine mammal residents.

The debate over whether theme parks should use animals for entertainment is louder than ever in Florida right now.

Killer whales during Orca Encounter at SeaWorld Orlando
Credit: SeaWorld

Related: SeaWorld Makes Massive, Historical Orca Change, Debuting Soon

While SeaWorld has always sat at the center of this debate (thanks in no small part to the damage Blackfish (2013) did to its reputation), another theme park has taken the spotlight in recent months.

Miami Seaquarium, which has racked up countless complaints from the USDA over the past few years, was served an eviction notice in March that specifically mentioned that it had failed to provide appropriate care to its animal residents.

Dolphins perform at Miami Seaquarium
Credit: Leonardo Dasilva via Flickr

For now, the park remains open, having filed a lawsuit against Miami-Dade County instead of vacating by its deadline of April 21. One of the biggest reasons they give for remaining open is that it would likely lead to the death of multiple animals – such as dolphins, sea lions, and penguins – currently in its care.

Multiple critics of the park (including former trainers of its killer whale, Tokitae, who died last year) have floated the idea that SeaWorld could provide alternative homes for said animals.

Trainer on orca at Miami Seaquarium
Credit: Isabelle Puaut via Flickr

While SeaWorld Orlando definitely still has its fair share of critics, this week, it’s proven, not for the first time, how its animal care practices positively compare to those at Miami Seaquarium. Yesterday (April 26), the park revealed that it has once again released another rehabilitated animal.

A manatee named Toast was released back into the wild at Three Sisters Springs, approximately 100 miles northwest of SeaWorld Orlando. He had previously been rescued at Kings Bay near Three Sisters Springs in January and was rehabilitated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) and SeaWorld.

SeaWorld worker feeds a baby manatee
Credit: SeaWorld

Related: Dolphin and Trainer Injured in Attacks at SeaWorld Orlando

Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis joined Toast’s release efforts, and a statement was later published by the office of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“It was a joy to be a part of this release and to see a rehabilitated manatee be returned to his home, happy and healthy,” First Lady Casey DeSantis is quoted as saying in the statement.

“I am proud of the work that FWC and their partners, like SeaWorld, do to help these animals when they are in need. The Governor is committed to providing the resources necessary for these gentle sea giants to thrive in Florida’s waterways, and I am happy to see that Florida’s investments are paying off for the manatee population.”

SeaWorld team rescues a manatee
Credit: SeaWorld

Related: Major Win Celebrated in Canceling Florida Theme Park

DeSantis has funded nearly $70 million for manatee protection over the past five years, expanding and enhancing Florida’s manatee rescue and rehabilitation efforts. The state has also invested $380 million into restoring Florida’s world-renowned springs, which serve as a natural habitat for manatees in the colder months.

In December, SeaWorld Orlando took in one of Miami Seaquarium’s manatees, Clarity. A few months earlier, SeaWorld San Antonio took in one of its dolphins, Li’i, after Tokitae (who served as her tankmate) died.

Do you think Miami Seaquarium should release its animals to other parks or free them back into the wild? Let us know in the comments!

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