We recently had the pleasure of standing on Pier 21 in Galveston to listen to the announcement of SeaWorld San Antonio and Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network (TMMSN) of their expanded partnership and funding of wildlife projects happening in the Gulf of Mexico.
The exciting news includes SeaWorld San Antonio’s is commitment of approximately $1.1 million in additional funding over the next three years for veterinarian staff to work with TMMSN and a state-of-the-art facility at SeaWorld San Antonio to provide 24-hour care for sick and stranded animals that need long term rehabilitation. This facility will allow TMMSN to focus on daily rescue efforts and short-term rehabilitation efforts at their facility in Galveston and allow SeaWorld to take on the long-term care responsibilities at their facility.
Listening to the announcement and the extensive effort it requires from multiple agencies to rescue a single animal definitely opened our eyes and empowered us as a family to want to share this effort with the world, and to motivate us to help keep the environment clean and safe for the animals who call Texas and the Gulf their home.
“TMMSN is one of the nation’s most dedicated animal rescue organizations, relentless in its work to help marine mammals in the wild,” said Chris Bellows, Vice President of Zoological Operations, SeaWorld San Antonio. “I am personally and professionally moved by the many volunteers who tirelessly donate their time and energy. It is a pleasure to work alongside the TMMSN and offer our professional resources as we join together to help rescue and rehabilitate stranded animals with the shared goal of returning them to the wild.”
This announcement comes at a critical time, as January marks the beginning of the annual stranding season which is triggered by winter weather, changing water temperatures and the calving season. The TMMSN typically can see up to 150 stranded or injured marine mammals each year along the Texas coast, with the most common being the bottlenose dolphin.
State Senator Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) commended the partnership between SeaWorld and TMMSN as an example of the private and non-profit sector working hand-in-hand for the betterment of Texas wildlife. “Protecting our marine mammals and the beautiful natural habitat of the gulf coast is important to the quality of life for all Texans,” said Taylor. “I commend TMMSN for its commitment to assist and rehabilitate injured animals. With the resources that SeaWorld provides, we are helping to ensure that our marine mammal populations will continue to thrive for generations to come.”
What brought the whole partnership announcement to life was being able to meet some of the wildlife that call Pier 21 home. We had the opportunity to take a boat ride with BayWatch Dolphin Tours, where TMMSN Executive Director Heidi Whitehead was able to give us exciting facts about the pods of bottlenose dolphins that live right in between all of the oil rigs and boat channels.
Not only did the dolphins come up to the boat while we toured out on the water, but we learned what dangers they face, how TMMSN is conducting annual research with these dolphins and even some tips on laws when it comes to boating and fishing to keep the animals safe. The most important takeaway aside from all of the incredible work these two organization do to educate, protect and rehabilitate these animals, was that you can actually call a special number if you happen to see a stranded animal. They call it their dolphin 911 number. Just dial 1(800) 9 MAMMAL.
We look forward to learning more about what they have in store for 2017 and how we can get more involved.