Certified zoological facilities are critical for animal conservation efforts worldwide, especially as the very web of life on Earth is currently being threatened in what scientists are calling a ‘Sixth Mass Extinction.’ Without this help – and the global engagement of the public – the biological treasures we hoped to bequeath to our children and our grandchildren may disappear forever within a generation, including many marine mammal species. Today, on Marine Mammal Rescue Day, we recognize the crucial work of aquariums in saving these magnificent animals.
The American Humane Certified™ program is the first certification effort solely devoted to helping verify the welfare and demonstrably humane treatment of animals living in zoos, aquariums and conservation centers across the globe. The program enforces rigorous, science-based and comprehensive criteria for animal welfare, developed by an independent Scientific Advisory Committee comprised of world-renowned leaders in the fields of animal science, animal behavior and animal ethics. The standards provide verification of good practices at deserving zoos and aquariums, and long-overdue assurances that the public can support them in good conscience.
The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS), located in Gulfport, Mississippi, is one of our Humane Certified parks that uses its expertise to care for sick and injured marine mammals and sea turtles. IMMS responds to all reported marine mammal strandings along the coast of Mississippi, as well as within the neighboring states of Louisiana and Alabama. The team is also actively involved in the rescue, rehabilitation, release and research of stranded marine animals affected by catastrophic events such as Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill. All the animals that come to the institute for rehabilitation are looked after by excellent vet staff, who are dedicated to their health and wellbeing.
As part of Georgia Aquarium’s mission to rescue and rehabilitate marine life, the facility has been able to assist in the treatment of stranded sea lion pups along the coast of California. These sea lions are part of California’s unusual mortality event, during which more than 3,000 starving sea lion pups have been found stranded. The unprecedented number of strandings is most likely due to a dramatic shift in the availability of prey. As nursing sea lion mothers travel farther from their pups to find food, these young sea lions are unable to fend for themselves and wash ashore due to starvation. Two pups who were affected by the event, and deemed un-releasable, were welcomed into permanent care at the Humane Certified Georgia Aquarium.
Delphinus, another Humane Certified facility, recently assisted in the rescue of a false killer whale – a species of oceanic dolphin that has a similar skull shape to a killer whale. The false killer whale was found with weakening and short, shallow breaths resulting from an infection. After about a week of treatment and monitoring, the whale showed improvement and returned to the open sea.
These are just a few examples of the remarkable rescue missions being carried out by Humane Certified institutions across the globe. Their hard-working employees and volunteers have saved so many lives and are directly responsible for helping preserve populations of marine mammals.
Today and every day, we are grateful for the amazing zoos and aquariums that are making a difference for our animal friends and strengthening the human-animal bond.