A remote corner of SeaWorld Orlando's park is home to a brand new facility meant to rehabilitate injured wild dolphins and pilot whales. Set to open in the coming weeks, the facility contains a 40,000 gallon pool that can hold up to five bottlenose dolphins at once or a 13-foot pilot whale and was built on the land that used to be occupied by the Anheuser-Busch Clydesdale stables. It is rumored that a pilot whale calf that was recently rescued off the coast of the Florida Keys could be the first animal to use the facility. Any animals being kept in the facility cannot be displayed to the public by law.
SeaWorld used to take in wild dolphins for rehabilitation until about 20 years ago when a deadly virus outbreak in the Miami Seaquarium killed a large number of captive dolphins and other marine mammals. Because there is no medical history for a wild cetacean, there is no way of telling whether or not they carry viruses that can be deadly to the captive animals. SeaWorld's new facility is meant to quarantine the wild animals in order to prevent any potential spread of diseases.
Critics believe that this is a subtle attempt for SeaWorld to acquire new marine mammals for use in their shows, but SeaWorld denies the claim. "The goal here is to take care of the animal, treat the animal and let it go," Brad Andrews, chief zoological officer for SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment said. "If somebody thinks, by building a pool and picking up stranded animals every once in a while, that they're going to build a collection of marine mammals, they're sadly mistaken."