It sits along the causeway, just across the water, a long low building one wouldn’t expect did anything special. Nor would one know that inside these walls floats a celebrity in the making. Part diva, part gentle friend, she’s growing in notoriety and putting this place on the world’s attention map.
Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a place for rescuing and helping marine life, teaching we humans about the oceans and their inhabitants, and watching Winter the dolphin touch hearts, young and old.
If you’ll be visiting Central Florida, don’t skip the chance to stop by and say hi to Winter and her friends. Nicholas, Indy and Panama swim nearby, but clearly, most have come to see the star.
Once wrapped up in a crab trap line, unable to escape, Winter was rescued and brought to CMA to begin her rehab and a new chance at life. Her will to survive and a passion for life kept this little girl going, and along with the love of people who helped her, she began the process of healing.
With the help of many human caregivers, and a few growing prosthetic tale flukes along the way, Winter became the center of attention (not to mention a soon to be movie) demonstrating to us all that life is to be lived to the fullest, treasured and enjoyed. Her strength and character are what draw people to her, and her lesson in fighting for life is something to be admired.
Some would argue that spending time and money on a dolphin is wasted. That we need to put those efforts into children, people.
But those people seem to forget a few things: with animals like Winter, our research grows and we can in turn, help those children and people far beyond the dollars spent.
Guests at CMA learn about ocean life around the touch tank. (Photo
by Rochelle Paul, 2009)
And it’s animals like Winter, who in their own strength, wisdom (yes – wisdom) and ability to not merely survive, but thrive, where many children and adults find an inspiration. In the wake of such a role model, and through the animal-assisted therapy programs sprouted up nationwide, those children and adults who come upon such animals as Winter, find a renewed ability to face their challenges, see themselves as capable, and move forward in ways unexpected. Such is the “waste” these people are speaking of.
Winter’s dolphin friends add to the experience of CMA, demonstrating what dolphins can do with grace and ease, and as they too recover from their standings, demonstrate further how humans and marine life can work together in harmony. A far cry from how they are too often treated by humans in the wild.
Dolphins are not the only residents at CMA. A visit to the lower levels invite you to enjoy a touch tank where up close and personal takes on a new meaning. Touch the starfish or sea urchins, and learn about them from educators. Or reach out and touch a stingray to see just how amazing these slick creatures are. Often called the puppies of the ocean, a stingray is really an amazing being.
Stop by the otters as they play and frolic. One of the little buggers, Cooper, was likely wounded by a car, hit and paralyzed. Though he drags himself on shore, he can move easily through the water. And like Winter without her tail, Copper shows us just how much life can be lived even when we live with challenges.
One of the larger areas houses the rescued sea turtles (an upcoming article on my RorITravel Blog will take a closer look), always an important part of what they do here at CMA.
But as Florida lived through one of its worst winters ever, the good folks at CMA worked hard to rescue and save turtles stunned by the frigid cold. Joined by organizations statewide, saving these defenseless animals became priority one.
Day and night, 365 days a year, volunteers and staff work to rescue marine life that’s taken a beating. In a disposable world, where we often don’t think about our impact on our earth, people like those at CMA, step up and do what needs to be done to help.
But their efforts don’t stop with the rescue and rehabilitation of these now-lucky animals.
It extends to all of us.
Books, shirts, key chains and more are available at the CMA gift store.
(Photo by Rochelle Paul, copyright 2009)
By opening their facility to the public, and operating with a full-disclosure policy, the folks at CMA assure us that they want our help and understanding in what they strive to accomplish.
Certainly they need our financial help to keep doing what they are doing. Without it, they cannot help, cannot rescue turtles stunned by cold or dolphins wrapped up in fishing line.
People like you and I can help – they currently have a matching donations program to help with the expansion of the facility and new home for Winter. Additional housing for rescued turtles is also on the list.
Yet the folks at CMA help in other ways too. By bringing you in, they educate you and I not only in what they are doing to help these animals, but what we can do to help. How it is that we can take care of our environment, and our oceans. They teach us about our touch on this world and her inhabitants, and they teach us all about those creatures we’ve come to love (dolphins, otters, turtles) and those we may fear (sharks and stingrays). Education is the best medicine for curing our world’s ills, and by stepping through these doors, you take a first step towards your participation. Isn’t that a good gift to give our children’s future?
Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a worthy stop on your next vacation or visit to Central Florida. Can’t make it here? Don’t worry; you can check them out, including Winter herself, on the Internet.
Please visit my blog – RoriTravel Blog – for more on Winter the Dolphin and how CMA is helping Sea Turtles.
Clearwater Marine Aquarium
What We Do
Winter the Dolphin & Friends
This article is Copyright 2009 by Rochelle Paul, and may not be used or reprinted without the written permission of the author. Unauthorized reprinting online or offline is illegal. To seek permission, please contact me at Rori@RoriTravel.com
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