ORLANDO — When SeaWorld Orlando opened its newest attraction, Antarctica Empire of the Penguins on Memorial Day Weekend, it not only introduced a new theme park ride to this tourist-friendly region, but also imported nearly 250 penguins to live at the ride.
Those penguins — from four different species — are living in a brand new, state-of-the-art habitat located inside the ride, which aims to recreate the thrills and wonder of the South Pole.
As SeaWorld notes, penguins thrive in Antarctica, which is the coldest, driest and windiest place on the planet. To keep them comfortable, 20,000 pounds of fresh snow falls daily for those penguins, since this ride ends in a room where the penguins live — a room where temperatures hardly crack 30 degrees.
But it isn’t just the penguins getting special treatment at SeaWorld these days.
This week, the theme park known for its thrill rides returned three sea turtles — two Kemps Ridley and one loggerhead — to Canaveral National Seashore in Titusville. For the past several months, those injured turtles had been enjoying a rehabilitation at the Orlando theme park.
That turned out to be something of a Christmas present for the Kemps Ridley turtles. On Dec. 23, the U.S. Coast Guard Airplane brought those turtles to SeaWorld after having rescued them just off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass.
The turtles had been discovered ill, with symptoms indicative of cold stress.
The loggerhead sea turtle was rescued about two months later, on Feb. 22, after being discovered floating in the Port Canaveral Channel. The loggerhead was emaciated and had sustained damage to its flippers and neck.
Once they arrived at the theme park, SeaWorld’s animal experts evaluated each turtle’s health, and they were medically cleared for release on Tuesday. The park’s Animal Rescue Team then transported the turtles to Canaveral National Seashore, a natural habitat for them.
This barrier island provides sanctuary to wildlife, including sea turtles that nest on its shores. The national park also offers local residents and visitors alike an opportunity to explore nature on Florida’s pristine shores.
The Kemps Ridley sea turtles measured 12 inches in length and weigh roughly 10 pounds, while the loggerhead sea turtle measured 28 inches in length and came in at 98 pounds.
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment operates programs to rescue sick and injured marine animals, with the goal to rehabilitating them and returning the animals to the waters. SeaWorld’s animal experts have so far helped more than 22,000 animals in need for more than four decades.
This year alone, SeaWorld Orlando has rescued 39 turtles and returned 31.
The penguins are the latest addition to SeaWorld’s aquatic inhabitants. The Antarctica ride has a three-level viewing area with floor-to-ceiling windows where guests can watch the underwater action of the penguins in a 170,000-gallon saltwater, 16-foot deep, 40-degreee pool.
“The penguin’s thick layer of blubber provides awesome insulation against the cold,” SeaWorld notes in its press package for Antarctica. “Their coat of feathers acts like shingles on a roof; overlapping feathers create a surface nearly impenetrable to wind or water.”
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