First look at the new state of animal care at SeaWorld

May 20, 2023, 11:06 PM · Welcome back to Yas Island.

I am here at the world's top collection of indoor theme parks for the debut of SeaWorld Abu Dhabi on May 23. But before we get to the first in the next generation of SeaWorld parks, invited reporters toured the first "attraction" to open in the massive new blue building across the street from Ferrari World - the Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue center.

Yes, ultimately, this is an urgent care for animals - hardly the sort of thing you might envision seeing on your vacation. But I call it an attraction because the public will be able tour it via advance booking. That's part of the educational outreach that executives with Miral, the company behind Yas Island, have envisioned for the center, along with the research and rescue in its name.

"Do any of you guys remember a game called Zoo Tycoon about 15-20 years ago, where you made your own zoo? This is Zoo Tycoon with a whole bunch of money," Rob Yordi, general curator for SeaWorld Abu Dhabi and Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue, said during our tour. "This was so incredible to be able to partner with Miral. Miral is the right partner, and this is the right region to do something of this scale."

Small animal care room at Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue
Small animal care room at Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue

"The first thing we wanted to do is design a research and rescue center," Yordi said. "If you go back to the history of SeaWorld, SeaWorld San Diego was the first park, (which) opened in 1964. In 1963, we opened up the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Center. So research was first. Education was right there, and then rescue came right after that. So in opening the center first, before we open the park, we are mimicking what we did going back to our roots with SeaWorld."

Surgery room at Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue
Surgery room at Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue

Let's take a quick tour of the center's first floor, where smaller marine animals and birds will find care after rescue in the Arabian Gulf region.

Miral and the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to "collaborate across multiple areas, including response to marine wildlife incidents and rescues and the rehabilitation of rescued marine animals and the safe return to their natural habitat." That tightens the relationship between SeaWorld and the Emirati government when it comes to promoting and protecting marine health in the region.

To keep up its end of that deal, Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue and SeaWorld Abu Dhabi feature some of the most advanced equipment to be found, Yordi said.

"I would say that all the other SeaWorld Parks are jealous of what we have here."

"Everywhere you go in the park is going to gave examples of where we took the opportunity to have the next level of equipment, the next level of design," he said.

Behind the scenes, that means CT and other medical equipment, while "on stage" in the park visitors might notice the advanced animal lighting systems that recreate native environments in this climate-controlled indoor park.

For more about that in park experience, stay tuned for our full review of SeaWorld Abu Dhabi, coming tomorrow. Also watch for my one-on-one interview with Miral CEO Mohamed Al Zaabi about the creation of SeaWorld Abu Dhabi and Miral's vision for the Yas Island resort.

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