Featured News


Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park Introduces New Harbor Seal

November 7th, 2019

Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park is very pleased to announce the addition of a new Harbor seal to the park's resident animal family.
The female seal, named Zoey, arrived at the park in mid-October after transport from another zoological facility. Zoey was originally rescued off the coast of Massachusetts on November 22nd, 2009, and deemed non-releasable due to reoccurring infections. She has most recently been cared for at the Aquarium of Niagara. 
"We are very happy about this new addition," states Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park's President, Will Merrill III. "Zoey is the mother of Zara, a Harbor seal already living here at the Gulfarium, so we are excited to reunite and have them both with us."
Zoey, who currently weighs 130lbs, gave birth to Zara on July 13th, 2017. "Zoey has acclimated to her new surroundings very well," explains Bryan Martin, Director of Animal Management. "She arrived to us in great health and joined our group of 4 Harbor seals very quickly. Now that she has settled into her new habitat with our other seals, we are beginning a training program which includes husbandry and medical behaviors such as mouth examinations, and blood sampling in accordance with Gulfarium's animal care."
Visitors can view Zoey, along with 2-year old Zara, Milo, August and Ollie, in the Gulfarium's Seal Harbor habitat.
Baby Sea Lion Makes A Splash at Gulfarium
July 16th, 2019

A California sea lion pup has been born at Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park! The little pup was welcomed into the world June 17th, marking the first sea lion birth at the Gulfarium in over 10 years. This is also the first pup for 6-year old Tabby, making the event even more special.

Colleen Cassidy, Tabby’s trainer, said she was overjoyed about her “favorite” sea lion giving birth.

“I’m a grandma,” Cassidy said jokingly. “We found out that Tabby was pregnant in January. She was behaving oddly so we tested her blood and confirmed the pregnancy with an ultrasound.”

“Due to the way their bodies are, it’s sometimes hard to tell if sea lions are pregnant,” states Bryan Martin, Gulfarium’s Director of Animal Management. “Luckily, because we spend so much time with our animals, we learn to notice the little signs and behavioral changes.”

Towards the end of her pregnancy, Tabby was monitored by Gulfarium staff 24 hours a day.

“It’s amazing to have such dedicated staff,” Martin said. “I’m just so proud of our team and all the work that they do.”

For now, Tabby and the pup are spending close time together in an exhibit that was specially built for the pair. The pup is still learning how to swim, so she currently only has access to smaller pool. However, when the time is right, both Tabby and her pup will be with the other sea lions in the larger habitats.


Gulfarium's Endangered Penguin Chick Undergoes Surgery

May 27th, 2019

Within the first two months of hatching, one of the Gulfarium's new African penguin chicks began holding its ankles abnormally.

Following a series of medical examinations by the Gulfarium animal care and veterinary team, it was discovered that the tendons in the chick's legs were too loose, allowing the joint to slip out of place. Even though the issue was initially found in the right leg, it was soon determined that the left leg was also affected, but to a lesser degree.  With the leg joints slipping out of place, the penguin chick was unable to walk. Possible causes for the issue, as seen in other bird species, include a congenital defect, an abnormal growth rate or other undetermined causes.

Due to her inability to walk, Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park reached out to specialists in the Zoological Medicine Department at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine. A veterinary orthopedic surgeon there, Vanessa Ferraz, had experience with similar cases in other birds and penguins. It was decided that external fixators would be placed on the chick's legs which would allow the ankles to be held in position so that the tendon would not slip out of place. This solution would enable the penguin to walk, and have some range of motion as the legs continue to grow. Exercise would help develop the muscles of the legs, thus tightening the tendons.

A team of zoo veterinarians, residents, interns and vet students worked tirelessly to assist in the chick's surgeries and recovery.  During the healing process, the Integrative Medicine department, prescribed exercises to strengthen the muscles in the chick's legs and improve its ability to walk.

"We knew that surgery was necessary in order to give the chick a chance at a future and the ability to walk," states Dr. Rebecca Wells, Gulfarium's veterinarian. "The chick continues to thrive and is improving every day. We are very thankful to the team at University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine for their help on this case. We are cautiously optimistic that the chick will continue to thrive and enjoy the life of a normal penguin. We will continue to learn from this case in order to help this endangered species." 

The chick is currently undergoing rehabilitation at the Gulfarium while the animal care staff monitor its progress daily.
Updates on the chick's progress will be made available on Gulfarium's Facebook and Instagram pages.
Exceptionally Egg-citing Times for Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park
April 9th, 2019
Some very egg-citing things have been happening behind the scenes at Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park. The park, located on Okaloosa Island in Fort Walton Beach, has announced the hatching of not one, but two African penguin chicks!

The first chick hatched on January 25th, 2019, with the second following close behind, just three days later. They have been hand-raised behind the scenes by the Gulfarium's well-trained animal care staff and are currently shedding their fluffy down, to be replaced by juvenile waterproof feathers.
"African penguins are an endangered species. They are facing imminent extinction without human intervention," explains Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park's President, Will Merrill III. "African penguins only lay two eggs per clutch, so we are extremely happy to have two healthy chicks."
The Gulfarium anticipates that the chicks will begin to integrate with the rest of their penguin colony in just a little over a month and shortly thereafter, be ready to make their debut to the public.
Four African Penguin chicks have now hatched at the Gulfarium since 2016. "We are extremely proud of our animal care team," states Patrick Berry, Gulfarium's Director. "They work around the clock for our chicks to ensure healthy development. When they first hatch, our penguin chicks are fed every 3 hours. It's a lot of work but any effort we can do to help preserve the species is vital. These chicks are the result of a successful breeding loan with our friends at Gulf World Marine Park in Panama City."
New Dune Walk at Gulfarium
March 19th, 2019
Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park has opened their new Dune Walk.
The new 551ft feature wraps around the west side of the property and provides breathtaking views of the Gulf of Mexico while giving guests the opportunity to learn about the importance of dunes in the coastal ecosystem. 
The Dune Walk offers an exciting new perspective of multiple exhibits at the Gulfarium, including Dune Lagoon, Fort Gator and The Bayou. Not only can guests now view some of their favorite exhibits from a new angle, there is also a new box turtle exhibit to enjoy.  
"We are very excited to open our new Dune Walk and highlight the importance of coastal dune lakes," says Patrick Berry, Gulfarium's Director. "These lakes are unique geographical features, found only in a handful of areas, including right here in Northwest Florida! Many endangered species, including sea turtles and beach mice, use dune lakes for nesting and shelter, making them an essential part of the environment."
The north and south entrances of the Dune Walk are wheelchair accessible so that the new area can be enjoyed by all visitors.
2018 finest of Emerald Coast Award Accredited by the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums Accredited by the International Marine Animal Trainers Association Destin Area Chamber of Commerce Member Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce