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History

History

History

Click here for a Timeline of Miami Seaquarium® Historical Milestones

In 1955, the Ford Thunderbird roared unto the streets for the very first time, the very first edition of The Guinness Book of World Records was published, and Gunsmoke - the classic American western - first aired on national TV. But it didn't end there, 1955 brought South Florida its first marine-life attraction, Miami Seaquarium® which was the largest marine-life attraction in the world at the time of its opening.

And now over 50 years later, Miami Seaquarium® is the longest operating oceanarium in the US. The park has grown steadily over the past half century and today offers eight different marine animal shows and presentations each day and provides a fun-filled mix of exhibits, shows, attractions, food and shopping opportunities. Miami Seaquarium®, which attracts more than 500,000 visitors each year, is recognized as South Florida's most popular 'gated' attraction. Miami Seaquarium® is a premier entertainment destination that is dedicated to education, wildlife conservation and community involvement.

On September 24th, 1955, after 14 years of planning and 14 months of construction, the $2.3 million, 38-acre Marine Park opened. In an elaborate dedication ceremony attended by Miami-Dade County Commissioners, members of the Miami and Miami-Beach City Commissions and other VIPs, the grand opening became official when County Commission Chairman T.D. MacVicar poured a symbolic seven-seas cocktail, a blend of waters of the seven seas of the world, into the dolphin habitat at the main building of the park.

The opening day ceremony was attended by thousands of spectators who waited in anticipation for the premiere of the South Florida's first dolphin show. The show was presented in the park's new 13 foot, 600,000 gallon main and starred a group of frolicking Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins that couldn't wait to entertain their first guests.

Since that day in 1955, Miami Seaquarium® has attained many 'firsts' in the marine park industry. The park's commitment to entertainment, education, wildlife conservation and community involvement has led to many milestones.


In the past 50+ years, many dolphins have been born in the park. In fact, all of the bottlenose dolphins that reside at Miami Seaquarium® were born at the park. It was just a year after the park opened, that a dolphin named Bebe was born in the park's main pool to delight of park guests. Her birth was captured in pictures and featured in a two-page photo spread in Life Magazine in December of 1956. That was just beginning for Bebe's 40-year history as a star. She went on to have two sons that reside at the park today and she became the featured performer of the Top Deck dolphin show in the park's main pool. She excelled in athletic feats, including performing the show's grand finale, a 23-foot high jump.

Bebe was also a part of many of the movies and TV shows that have filmed at the Miami Seaquarium® over the past 5 decades. Bebe made her most notable appearance as one of the featured dolphins in the popular 1960's TV series "Flipper."

From 1963 through 1967, 88 television episodes and two movies starring Flipper along with Ranger Porter Ricks and his two sons, Sandy and Bud were filmed at Miami Seaquarium®. This world famous dolphin star is credited by many people with increasing our awareness and concern for the inhabitants of the sea.

Today, Flipper and his friends perform daily in the Flipper Dolphin Show, which takes place at the park's Flipper Lagoon. The Flipper dolphins demonstrate the grace and intelligence of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. The show features an amazing array of athletic behaviors, including leaps, spins, tail walks and flips, all choreographed to music. The show also features trainers entering the dolphins' environment for a playful water sequence reminiscent of the classic Flipper TV series.

For guests wishing a more personal experience with the park's dolphins, Miami Seaquarium® now offers dolphin interaction programs at Dolphin Harbor. This beautiful facility, adjacent to the Flipper Lagoon, offers guests the opportunity to participate in the deep-water Dolphin Odyssey program or the shallow-water Dolphin Encounter. As an icon in the marine park industry, Miami Seaquarium® is dedicated to maintaining a high standard of excellence with its dolphin interaction program.

There are other areas in the park, where Miami Seaquarium® presents a one of a kind experience. It is the only place in the world where graceful Pacific White-Sided dolphins can be seen performing alongside a three and a half ton killer whale, Lolita. A resident at the park since September 24, 1970, Lolita, is 20 feet long and tips the scales at 7,000 pounds. She performs each day at the park's Whale & Dolphin Stadium along with her Pacific White-sided companions. Once thought solely to be fearsome predators, Lolita demonstrates to park guests the killer whale's grace, beauty and intelligence.
 
Along with Lolita the Killer Whale and TV superstar Flipper, Miami Seaquarium® is home to a South Florida landmark, the Golden Dome. This intricate yet strong dome structure stands 55 feet high, with a diameter of 146 feet and weighs 45,000. World famous architect, Buckminster Fuller, who dedicated the structure in 1960, was the inspiration of the structure's geodesic design.

Under the shade of the Golden Dome is the show area for another one of the park's favorite shows featuring the antics of California Sea Lions and Harbor Seals. Salty the Sea Lion, featured in a 1967 movie by the same name and another of the park's famous movie stars, headlines this fun and informative show.

Manatees have also made history at Miami Seaquarium®. Romeo and Juliet, endangered Florida Manatees have resided at the park since the late fifties and are responsible for another of the park's 'firsts.' In 1975, Juliet became the first manatee to conceive and give birth in the care of man.
Today, guests can visit Juliet along with several rescued manatees at the park's endangered Manatee Exhibit. This facility offers visitors the opportunity to learn about these gentle creatures up-close from a poolside viewing area or through underwater viewing windows.

Miami Seaquarium® has created an endangered mangrove habitat exhibit called Discovery Bay, which is home to twenty-five Nile Crocodiles, the white tailed deer, indigenous fish and a host of native wild birds - herons, egrets and ibis. A majority of the endangered sea turtles in Discovery Bay are rescued and will be released after their rehabilitation. Guests are also taught how to protect the marine-life featured, especially the endangered sea turtles.

Throughout its 50+-year history, Miami Seaquarium® has been recognized as a leader in marine life education. Each year more than 75,000 students participate in the park's educational programs. These programs are designed to teach participants about the animals featured in the park and the role they play in the ecosystem. Among the park's many education accomplishments are:

  • The park's summer camp program began in 1987.
  • Since that time, over 20,000 campers have spent an entire week learning about the animals found at Miami Seaquarium®.
  • Day and evening scout programs, including Overnight Adventure, ay adventure and an overnight Boy Scout and Girl Scout Camp Out service more than 1500 scouts each year.
  • Miami Seaquarium® offers free teacher workshops, educational classroom posters, online state mandated curriculum materials, children's educational videos and curriculum units distributed to private and public school teachers each year to help promote the importance of understanding, respecting and protecting our marine environment.

Miami Seaquarium® also partners in learning with the University of Miami's Rosensteil School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Miami Marine Science department and the Miami-Dade County Public School's MAST Academy along with other marine science oriented facilities. Through interactive activities, projects, games and discussions, the Miami Seaquarium® educational team is dedicated to informing park guests, students and teachers on how they can help conserve endangered animals and marine habitats.


Miami Seaquarium® is committed to wildlife conservation and the rescue, rehabilitation and release of distressed marine mammals. This commitment began even before the park first opened its doors. In July of 1955, the park's conservation work began when Maime, a 3 week old, 47 pound manatee was rescued after being injured.

Since that first rescue in 1955, Miami Seaquarium® has rescued, rehabilitated and released countless manatees, sea turtles, dolphins and whales. Since 2004 alone, more than 70 of the manatees that have been rescued have been rehabilitated and released back into the wild. 

Miami Seaquarium® is one of only three facilities in the State of Florida with a letter of authorization from the US Fish and Wildlife Service as a Manatee Critical Care Facility. The park's highly trained animal rescue team includes divers, staff veterinarians and animal caretakers who are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

As a part of its commitment to conservation Miami Seaquarium® has documented many firsts in the area of marine-mammal care in its 50-year history. These 'firsts' include:

  • The first manatee to be conceived and born in the care of man.
  • The first manatee rehabilitation facility to document "spontaneous lactation" among female manatees
  • The first Sea Lion to undergo cataract surgery
  • The first manatee to be diagnosed with an MRI test
  • The first neurological surgery performed on an injured manatee using the same rod and pin system used to repair human spinal cord injuries
  • The rehabilitation and release of the first manatee to survive a deadly condition called Pyothorax known to be fatal to all previous manatees
  • The release of the smallest manatee to have ever been rescued, rehabilitated and released.
  • The first facility to synchronize female dolphin's reproductive cycles for potential artificial insemination.
  • First facility to successfully treat a sea turtle from an emerging Epizootic disease for release back into the wild

Today Miami Seaquarium® is at the forefront of sea turtle and manatee rescue and rehabilitation techniques and is recognized as having one of the leading marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation teams in the country.
Park guests are also encouraged to get involved and contribute to non-for-profit partners helping with wildlife conservation such as the Sponsor a Sirenian program, the park's Manatee Brick Program and an Adopt a Sea Turtle Nest program.

Miami Seaquarium® is an accredited member of the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums, an international organization committed to the care and conservation of marine mammals. Accreditation by the Alliance means this facility meets or exceeds all the standards of excellence for marine mammal care, husbandry, conservation and education.

In its 50-year history, Miami Seaquarium® has been a strong community partner. By providing job opportunities for South Florida residents, financial support to Miami Dade County and support to a wide variety of community based non-profit organizations, the park has remained committed to helping the community of which it is apart.

Today Miami Seaquarium® employs over 225 full and part-time employees. The park is the third largest single contributor to Miami-Dade County's revenue through land lease payments and taxes. And its 50 years, the park has actively supported a long list of worthy causes throughout South Florida. These have included, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Ronald McDonald House Charities, UNICEF, Amigos for Kids and the Hispanic American Firefighters Association to name just a few.

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