Neglect At SeaQuest
PUBLIC RELATIONS RESPONSE TO ANIMAL RIGHTS EXTREMISM
SeaQuest operates ten facilities across the country, including Folsom, California, Las Vegas, Nevada, Layton, Utah, Littleton, Colorado, Fort Worth, Texas, Roseville, Minnesota, Trumbull, Connecticut, Woodbridge, New Jersey, Lynchburg, Virginia, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida (opening soon).
Exhibits include sharks, stingrays, sloths, kinkajous, otters, and over 300 other species including birds, reptiles and marine mammals. Guests are encourage to touch, feed, and interact with virtually all animals. Walk in aviaries, and other animal interaction experiences with exotic animals are available as well. SeaQuest facilities are for children and adults of all abilities.
SeaQuest is a for-profit business, with a community initiative ‘SeaQuest Cares’ focused on conservation and education values at the core of the mission. SeaQuest has partnered with community based organizations, like St. Jude’s Children’s Ranch, Children’s Miracle Network, Make-A-Wish Foundation, as well as dozens of animal rescue facilities, food shelters, schools, among others, to contribute over $2.15 million in supplies, and in-kind donations. At SeaQuest, guests learn about the 75,000,000 sharks per year that are slaughtered solely for their fins, the 480,000,000 animals that died recently in an Australian fire due to drought and unusually hot temperatures, of the animals facing extinction, such as axolotls. SeaQuest has been criticized by animal rights activists for allowing extensive interactions and connections between humans and animals, and for providing an “edutainment” style approach. An example of this educational approach is that guests can go behind the scenes at SeaQuest and feed seahorses or axolotls, which SeaQuest has successfully bred hundreds of at numerous locations.
SeaQuest disagrees with all activists who believe they can get the same education and connection from a book or electronic device. SeaQuest believes guests leave with a vested interest in the environment after touching, feeding, and experiencing a connection with each animal.
SeaQuest is the enemy of PETA, who supports a motto of “death before captivity”.
SeaQuest has never faced criminal charges, and is inaccurately portrayed as having attempted to procure species from the environment illegally. In working with animal regulation organizations at city, county, and state levels, there have been miscommunication issues that have led to fines on two occasions. However, SeaQuest promptly resolved those issues and continues to work with all necessary organizations to ensure compliance.
What about the endangered otter permits in Las Vegas?
SeaQuest acquired an asian small clawed otter, which was later found to be pregnant. SeaQuest immediately sought and acquired approval from the state of NV and the USDA to have the baby otters vs abort them – given that they are an endangered species and it would be very foolish to abort them. However, SeaQuest was unable to get approval to have the mother give birth to the baby otters by another local jurisdiction before the otters were born. This required the agency to revoke the permit for the current otters, but they immediately reissued a new permit that would allow SeaQuest to have the mother and baby otters at SeaQuest, which was a formality. Unfortunately, local news chose to take the story out of context. That location has since received approval to add more exotic animals to that very permit, including most recently, a sloth.
What about the parakeet permits in CO?
We have 100-200 parakeets at every one of our locations except for our Littleton CO location. All parakeet paradise aviaries are built to the precise same specs, same materials, and follow the same company wide Standard Operating Procedures. In CO, a governing agency called PACFA exists. SeaQuest is not aware of any other state with a similar agency. However, SeaQuest worked very closely with PACFA before and after opening to ensure approval of the Parakeet Paradise Aviary. Each time PACFA came for an inspection, a to do list was given, and each time we found new items being requested. SeaQuest spared no expense to ensure approval from PACFA; this is a very popular exhibit in all locations, with millions of guests connecting with parakeets landing on their arms and legs and eating food from their hands. Unfortunately, after many inspections which we believed were trending in the right direction, PACFA arbitrarily decided that the exhibit was unsafe for guests and/or the parakeets, despite it having been operational during our very busy opening weeks, and proven to be safe for birds and humans by thousands of visitors in CO, and millions of visitors nationwide. We were required to reduce the number of birds down to 30, so we chose to turn that exhibit into Lorikeet Landing, where guests can interact with 20 Lorikeets in a similar manner. To this day, guests are enjoying that exhibit, as well as a Toucan on site who eats blueberries directly from the hands of guests.
How cruel is SeaQuest? Claims from animal rights groups have accused SeaQuest of animal cruelty and neglect. The reality is actually the contrary. SeaQuest Cares has helped rescue hundreds of animals who would have otherwise been euthanized were it not for the medical treatment and care of its team members.
What about the huge snake burn at the Folsom SeaQuest?
A news story circulated with a very bad snake burn on a giant reticulated python in Folsom. This snake was purchased by a family many years ago when it was a few feet long. When it got over 13 feet, the enclosure the family held this snake in was no longer suitable for the snake. This was devastatingly illustrated by the snake burning himself very badly by his heat lamp in his tiny enclosure. In collaboration with an incredible vet and reptile team, we saved the life of this snake and it is on exhibit and healthy, and healed from a near death burn. We unfortunately had to have it on exhibit with its burn because the most suitable environment we had for it was on exhibit, where the temperature and habitat was specifically designed by licensed veterinarians for that very species.
What about the pacu with the huge sore on his nose on exhibit?
It is very common for a family to buy an exotic animal without understanding the commitment and level of care required. A family bought a red bellied pacu and put it in a 34” tank. Many years later, this pacu was 36” long in a 34” tank. If it ever tried to turn around in that tank, it rubbed its nose. By the time it was rescued by SeaQuest, it was on the brink of death. We received criticism by an ex employee that we should have never put that animal on exhibit with such a sore. We believed our 10,000 gallon Amazon Rainforest exhibit would provide a more healing environment than our smaller quarantine tanks, recognizing some guests might criticize us, not knowing how the animal got sick. We are happy to report that this pacu, while scarred forever on the snout, is fully healed and dominates that Amazon exhibit filled with over 15 other pacu, redtail catfish, arowana, and arapaima. This was a victory, not neglect.
There are hundreds more rescue stories every year in every city. SeaQuest has rescued animals like Toothless the Axolotl, which is a critically endangered marine creature that was housed in a tank where he had lost limbs in attacks by other fish. Another example is Koka, the umbrella cockatoo, which had faced deplorable conditions too gruesome to disclose. When the family purchased him, they had no idea he would outlive many of them.
Unlike PETA, who euthanizes hundreds of adoptable animals unnecessarily each year, SeaQuest provides medical care, nutrition, and a lot of love, while it secures the best home for those animals, not exclusive of its existing facilities. Because millions of animals are euthanized every year, SeaQuest works with local shelters and provides four free annual passes to every family that rescues (adopts) a pet from a shelter.
Injuries at SeaQuest
What about the reported guest injuries?
After many millions of visits, it is to be expected that there will be an occasional slip on stairs, a nip or scratch by an iguana or water monitor, or even by a mammal in very rare circumstances. These incidents are incredibly rare, and even when they occur, a band-aid and kiss from mom on the hand heals the scratch. There have been a handful of incidents which required medical attention, out of many millions of visits. Inaccurate and misleading information about the gravity of injuries has been reported. All injuries, from staff and guests, regardless of size, are reported to officials. Most of the injuries are to employees, who are aware of the risks of working with animals – as are all employees that work in facilities like these across the country. These injuries are almost always treated without the need for medical attention.
The SeaQuest family is committed to delivering a safe, educational and fun interactive experience at each of our facilities for the animals, guests and team members. As such, there is information provided by team members on proper interaction with the animals. Great measures are taken to ensure the safety of the guest and animal.
SeaQuest Safer than the Wild
A recent United Nations assessment found that nearly 1 million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction, as animals “find it increasingly difficult to live in the wild.” Zoos, aquariums, and facilities like SeaQuest can help protect and restore endangered species – amidst activist claims and attacks.
The planet is becoming “increasingly inhospitable thanks to irresponsible land and water use, climate change, pollution and other man-made causes,” stated the report. In efforts to be a part of the change, SeaQuest aims to create a connection like nowhere else that will engage its millions of visitors to impact change. SeaQuest educates guests about aquaponics and sustainable fishing, as well as the dangers of shark finning, pollution, and the benefits of conservation. The oceans are running out of fish at an alarming and unsustainable rate, and SeaQuest is on a mission to lead the campaign on the awareness, as well as the solution, for this crisis.
With the life expectancy of many animals very bleak in the wild, SeaQuest animals receive better care, nutrition, and life expectancy than if they lived in the wild.
Are you regulated and inspected regularly?
SeaQuest exhibits meets or exceeds all USDA, local and State Dept of Fish and Game, local, county, and Dept of Wildlife requirements. Inspections, both scheduled and unannounced are very frequent. Our experience with regulators has been one of accountability as well as collaboration, and has been positive.
Animals have their own private veterinarian, daily supervision for health, routine checkups and screenings for possible illnesses, are provided with dietary supplements, specially customized diets for optimal health, among other practices, all of which are unavailable to animals in wild habitats. These practices extend life expectancy significantly. Every month, our vet documents any concerns pertaining to the cleanliness or suitability of each habitat, and any animals with health concerns. Morning and night checklists and inspections are documented daily by husbandry employees, and signed off daily by husbandry managers. These are submitted monthly to a National Husbandry Director who reviews all parameters to ensure full compliance.
Animals nearing the end of their life expectancy, or which are otherwise sick or injured are quarantined from all other animals so as to avoid being vulnerable to becoming a meal from predatory or opportunistic animals in the ocean.
Assisting a licensed veterinarian is a team of over a dozen biologists, zoologists, and other experts with vast experience and advanced degrees, with training in identifying and treating illnesses or disease which occur in the wild, thereby extending their lives in a safe and healthy environment. These professionals are animal lovers, drawn to jobs in husbandry due to their passion for caring for animals. Our National Husbandry Director consults each site weekly to ensure all possible measures are being taken to prevent sickness and provide any special care. Each site has husbandry experts with over 100 years of combined animal care experience.
Animals are segregated so their natural predators are not sharing common exhibits. Thus, they can sleep at night not wondering if they will wake up inside a predators belly.
Because of the vast space required for a happy and healthy habitat, SeaQuest chooses not to exhibit any species of porpoises.
Perhaps the most significant value is to the animals which are not in our exhibits. There is only one meaningful way to truly connect the humans with the vast species that they share this planet with, and that is a tactile relationship through interaction. When guests are inspired, when they discover the beauty of these animals in a personal way, they become personally vested in the conservation and protection of our planet and its diverse inhabitants.
Government agencies agree, there is no bigger voice, no more effective voice, for the animal life that comprises our planet, than in zoos and aquariums. We invite critic and fan alike to come and see first hand the eagerness of these animals to interact, to connect, to share this planet with us.
Don’t reptiles and birds carry bacteria? Yes, they certainly can. However, salmonella is transmitted by ingesting the bacteria in a food source, so the chances of contracting it from our animals is very slim. Also, our reptile and avian residents have been tested negative for e. coli. The best way to prevent contamination is good hand washing habits. Before you eat after having interacted with any of our residents, please wash your hands.
Are the sharks/rays stressed out by the interaction? Our sharks and rays have been acclimated and are very used to interaction. However, if they are feeling overwhelmed or tired, the rays will bury themselves in the substrate, or swim away where they can’t be reached. When a shark stresses out, they exhibit behavior that indicates such. In that case, they would be removed and taken off exhibit and placed in behind the scenes holding tanks where they are observed closely.
Do the many birds enjoy the interaction or is it too much? Our lorikeets, parakeets, macaws, and other birds have also been acclimated to the interaction, and are comfortable around guests. They are very social birds and love attention. If they were stressed, they would indicate that they’ve had enough by flying up to the top of the enclosure and stay out of reach. We’ve also added many toys in their enclosure for their enrichment. In fact we have such happy birds that many of them are breeding regularly.
Q: Is Ammon Covino involved in SeaQuest, or was he?
Ammon never has been an owner or employee of SeaQuest. He is a brother of the CEO of SeaQuest and because of his vast expertise and close personal relationship with our CEO, he has advised and given insights that continue to prove very valuable to our company.
Q: But isn’t SeaQuest for profit, abusing animals to make a profit?
SeaQuest will never make a decision that will hurt an animal or put money before the health of an animal. Our essence is about connecting our animals and our guests. Therefore, the goal is to find safe ways to make interaction for the guest and the animal fun and memorable. It has never been and is not now about the money. Of course, we do watch the money line to ensure we have a healthy company business position that allows us to operate to meet all expense obligations, ensure healthy animals and employ an incredible workforce at each location. It is important to run a profitable business that allows the animals to get the proper care we seek and it allow the company to provide competitive compensation plans for our team members. The accusation that we starve or neglect animals to their death is irrational, considering a for profit business spending a lot of money to buy animals, which if they die, must be replaced at tremendous costs.
Communities can rest assured that the best care possible is always provided to our animals. Over 45 team members from the local community, all of whom must love animals to qualify for the job, and many of whom have vast zoological and biological experience, come to work at SeaQuest because of their love for animals. We encourage Humane Societies, Veterinarians, and Animal Control to inspect the health, habitats, and happiness of our animals anytime, without notice. Organizations that have ever done so have given high marks. All records are maintained on site and are available for regulator scrutiny as well as collaboration. Of the hundreds of animals which are rescued by SeaQuest annually, many of which come to us with ailing or life threatening illnesses, each animal has its own file for medical history, available for regulatory scrutiny. We are proud of the environment our team members provide to the thousands of animals they care for.