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Sea World Gold Coast – More Than Just A Theme Park

BY: | 2 Nov 2016



When most people think of Sea World on the Gold Coast, they're likely to imagine a haven of life-size underwater characters, up-close encounters with marine animals from the deep blue, and splashtastic water parks and rides - not to mention the sugar-charged excitement of kids and families enjoying all the fun under the Queensland sun. But Sea World, Gold Coast does boast a little more than meets the eye.

While holiday makers revel in the excitement, fun and action-packed entertainment available to them, for the team behind the scenes there’s a much more serious cause at play – the Sea World Research & Rescue Foundation.

Dedicated to funding and promoting independent marine research, rescue and conservation projects, the Foundation’s aim is to help build knowledge and appreciation of the huge variety of life in our oceans, while protecting and rehabilitating precious marine life.

Groupon chatted to Sea World’s Belle McCarthy to find out exactly what the Foundation is all about, and also learn how you can help them in their quest.

What is the main focus of the Sea World Research & Rescue Foundation?

Starting out as the Neptune Oceanic Foundation in 1988, the Foundation has since given out millions of dollars in grants to fund marine vertebrate research, with Sea World, Gold Coast theme park contributing over $1 million per year to the rescue, research and rehabilitation of marine life.

Sea World’s rescue team consists of over 50 trained marine sciences staff who are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year should a marine animal need rescuing. Over the past 28 years, the team has attended many hundreds of stranding and entanglements of dolphins, whales, birds and sea snakes, pioneering new rescue techniques and equipment. They also operate a turtle hospital, rescuing on average 40-70 turtles per year.

Once rescued, injured animals are brought into Sea World, Gold Coast and given veterinary care and love with the ultimate aim of returning them back to the wild – although sometimes this may not be possible.

Over 100 animals have been rescued in 2016 alone, including four juvenile New Zealand fur seals that were recently successfully released back in to the wild after months of rehabilitation and care.

What animals does the Foundation focus most of its research and rehabilitation around?

The Foundation works mostly with marine vertebrates, broken down into four main categories:

  • reptiles (turtles and sea snakes)
  • mammals (whales, dolphins, seals and dugongs)
  • birds
  • fish (bony and cartilaginous fish e.g. sharks)

The level of rehabilitation required for these rescued animals is dependant on many factors, including their species and level of injury. Some rescued animals can be released immediately; others, sadly, may need to stay at the conservation centre for longer care and recovery.

One of Sea World, Gold Coast's current, longer-term guests is Carnage, a courageous green turtle who is still recovering almost one year after suffering severe injuries from a boat strike, leaving him with only three flippers. Carnage is learning to swim again and is shaping up to be a likely candidate for release soon.

What is the greatest threat to our marine life today?

According to Belle, unfortunately it’s us - humans. Due to the rising amount of litter in the world’s oceans, injuries and illness from ingestion and entanglement are becoming a real problem for almost all species across the entire span of the ocean. 

How many research projects is the Foundation working on this year?

This year, the Foundation is supporting 13 new marine animal research projects, 12 marine debris clean-up projects and 10 school waste reduction projects. To date, th Foundation has supported 180 research projects, including studies on the movement of sharks in Gold Coast waterways, the impact of temperature on turtle hatchlings and the social networking skills of Port Jackson sharks.

Sea World is also contributing in-kind support through vessels, staff and expertise to local conservation projects including dolphin population assessment and dugong health assessment in Moreton Bay.

How can we help?

While threats to the environment may seem just too gigantic to overcome, there are many things within our control that can help marine life thrive, not just survive.

Learn and build knowledge around the threats to marine life by visiting some of the rescue animals that are part of the Sea World, Gold Coast family. Seal Harbour, Dolphin Endeavour Pool and Seal Theatre are the home to many rescue animals that would not be able to survive in the wild after rehabilitation.


  • As simple as this may sound, dispose of your rubbish so marine life is safe from pollution. An estimated 80% of rubbish that ends up in the ocean comes from land-based sources.
  • Whenever possible, retrieve snagged fishing line and net. Discarded line and nets cause a problem known in the conservation world as ‘ghost fishing’ which can entangle marine animals.
  • Slow down on your boat or jet ski, particularly when going through areas known to have a high population of dugongs and turtles.

Turn your appliances off at the wall (whether at home or on holidays) and save up to 10% off household electricity.

If you’d like to know more about Sea World, Gold Coast's conservation efforts or how you can donate, fundraise or get involved in their Adopt an Animal program, visit

Or, if you’d prefer to check out Sea World, Gold Coast in person, grab a five-night Sea World Resort & Water Park holiday package for up to four people, with unlimited entry to Sea World, Warner Bros. Movie World, Wet ‘n’ Wild Gold Coast and Paradise Country during the stay.