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Concerning Miami SeaQuarium

Once a June 2021 USDA report raised eyebrows, a former intern sought the truth.

By Jenna DeedyPublished 3 years ago 4 min read
Lolita, also known as "Tokitae" interacting with one of her trainers at Miami SeaQuarium in December 2012.

Sarah Newcomer is an online business owner who specializes in creating cetacean-inspired merchandise. Like myself, she also has a history of working with animals at zoos and aquariums and spent some time in the field between 2006 and 2012. She has since moved on to focus on her online business. When she read the June 2021 inspection report on the Miami Seaquarium, it upset her, as it seemed like the staff was not listening to their veterinary team. Yet, she realized she was incorrect.

After she posted her concerns over the SeaQuarium on her social media, Sarah came into contact with two current staff members, one of whom she has worked with and has since gone higher at the facility. She ended up removing the post because of the information the high-level staffer gave her, out of concern the information she was sharing was not all that it seemed, and decided that she wanted to know what was really going on at the facility rather than believe whatever PETA puts out there in the name of “animal rights”.

The “new” picture of the Miami Seaquarium she wanted to paint was one that included all pieces of information, not just the one PETA has placed out there for all the world to see. She felt that not putting new information out there hoping can stop people from jumping to conclusions because truthfully, they don’t know and a quick to jump on the “Free Lolita” train over a USDA report without knowing the full scope.

One thing people should know about regarding a USDA report is:

  • USDA inspectors report what they are told and see.
  • Inspectors did not witness any of the incidents.
  • It’s likely that the inspectors went along with what the in-house vet and a training curator at the time reported to them.

You can find here the original June 2021 report here.

What did the June 2021 Report Claim?

According to the 17-page report, which went along with what the former in-house vet reported to the USDA:

  • The facility, being short-staffed, has apparently left several animals with “inadequate care”, possibly because of layoffs that occurred during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
  • The former in-house vet had made claims about the animal habitats having issues with pumps and filtration systems.
  • Incidents involving dolphins being aggressive towards each other.
  • Dolphins suffering from rib injuries even though X-rays have yet to be released.
  • An allegation about fish quality for Lolita, the SeaQuarium’s elderly killer whale, and her Pacific White-Sided dolphin family, along with a few other incidents involving them.

A month after they completed the June 2021 report, the USDA did a follow-up report that cleared them of all critical incidents.

The follow-up is available here.

What did the follow-up from July 2021 report reveal?

In the report, which cleared Miami SeaQuarium of critical incidents:

  • Magdalena Rodriguez, the in-house veterinarian, was terminated shortly after they issued the June report.
  • On December 2020, the SeaQuarium brought in a new animal training curator from SeaWorld of Orlando. She came in as a brand-new set of eyes surrounded by an animal care staff who have been at the facility for several years.
  • Ms.Newcomer was informed by multiple trainers and animal care specialists that Rodriguez was fired over, giving the USDA an inaccurate report. I should note that the harmful elements from the report came from her, not from the inspector’s first-hand experience.
  • It’s unlikely Lolita has any injuries relating to her habitat.
  • Currently, changes are already being implemented by a new veterinarian.
  • The changes were likely listed as “critical” because of veterinary recommendations, which tracks because diets and other animal care practices can’t change without feedback from a veterinarian.
  • From what current animal care staff at the Seaquarium have been saying, the current consulting veterinarian team has been wonderful with helping to make positive changes that the former vet would not for years. Dolphin Discovery, the current parent owner of Miami SeaQuarium, continues to listen to the new veterinary team by changing the animal care program, which includes a new shade for Lolita and her dolphin companions at the Whale and Dolphin Stadium.

    What to take away from all this?

    As someone who has worked with various animals from 2001 until 2020, I wish for readers to look at the follow-up report before jumping to conclusions regarding Miami Seaquarium, or any other facility. Both Sarah and I believe that the facility is changing to ensure the well-being of all the animals, including Lolita. Although I never worked at Miami SeaQuarium in any shape or form, I visited the park three times; while it has some flaws of its own (ex: the size of Lolita’s pool, the manatee habitat, and the seal and sea lion habitat), it’s not a bad facility at all. They have great vets and animal care staff who are always looking out for the best interest of the animals and the July 2021 report’s based on “real-time” scenarios that the inspectors saw for themselves. In the end, the SeaQuarium got cleared.

    As for the “Free Lolita” campaigns that are coming out of the light of the June 2021 report, which is based on a false report made by someone who’s been terminated for falsifying documents, remember that neither PETA nor Orca Network have no direct experience in marine mammal husbandry and care at a zoological facility. They aren’t the ones who are always looking out for the animals daily. They aren’t the ones who decide on how to better improve the lives of animals under their care. They don’t get to decide on how to improve the animal habitats. Most of all, they don’t get to decide where the animals should go, God forbid, anything were to happen to the facility.

    If you live in Florida or in the Miami area, please visit the SeaQuarium, talk to the trainers because they have so much to share about the animals they get to care for.

    The link to Sarah’s blog post is here.


    About the Creator

    Jenna Deedy

    Zoo and Aquarium Professional, Educator, Cosplayer, Writer and B.A. in Psychology whose got a lot to share when it comes to animals, zoos, aquariums, conservation, and more.

    Instagram: @jennacostadeedy

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