Shedd Rescues: The Sheddvocate Program

Earlier today we shared a Kid’s View of the Sheddvocate program. Here is more information and backstory, from an adult’s view.

Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Program
Photo provided by the Shedd Aquarium

The Shedd Aquarium is one of the largest and oldest aquariums in the world, but did you know it’s more than just a storehouse for amazing species? For over 50 years the Shedd Aquarium has been working around the globe to rescue and rehabilitate aquatic life.  I will be joining them as a Sheddvocate to share their stories and give you more information on what they do behind the scenes at the Shedd.

Just like every person has a story, every animal does too. Beyond the beauty of viewing exotic and local species of fish, the stories behind the animals make you aware of the many struggles encountered by animals in today’s modern world. I will be helping with the Shedd’s Mission by spreading awareness and sharing these stories. We often see the end result of the story, the adorable sea otter pup that needs a name, but the beginning of the story is just as impressive.

Shedd Aquarium Animal Rescue
Photo provided by the Shedd Aquarium

The Shedd Aquarium’s Mission is to Respond, React and Educate, and my son and I took a behind the scenes tour to learn more about the program and all that the Shedd does beyond being a great place to visit.

Shedd Responds

The Shedd team is called–and leads with their expertise–during aquatic crisis and environmental events. The Shedd does not just store animals, in fact most of their animals have been procured through these response measures. They are the first responders when U.S. Customs confiscates aquatic material and wildlife at O’Hare airport, and sometimes as far away as Atlanta. In fact, 90 percent of the coral they have in the wild reef exhibit has been procured through U.S. Customs confiscation. This has allowed the Shedd to start a program to grow and reproduce coral, which is not a rock, but an actual living animal.

© M. Haak | Little Lake | 2016

Shedd Reacts

The Shedd reacts to annual entrapment seasons and helps in the field to correct and assist the animals. We spent some time with Kurt learning about the sea lions they have at the Shedd and the crisis they are seeing in South Africa and California. Due to warmer ocean temperatures, the fish sea lions feed on are found farther out at sea. They are seeing a multi-year unusual mortality event with many small and young sea lions ending up beached or in cities. The Shedd has teams in California and South Africa working to rehabilitate and re-release the animals into the oceans. In fact, two of the three sea lions that the Shedd has are from these missions. One has been recovered twice, and was deemed an unsuccessful rehabilitation, and the other was found disoriented and wandering around. It was later discovered that the sea lion had bullet shrapnel in his head and was blinded. As a result, the animal could never survive in the wild but is now thriving at the Shedd. He is learning to find his way around with his whiskers and even wrestling with the other sea lions.

Shedd Resuces
Photo provided by the Shedd Aquarium

Shedd Educates

Finally, the Shedd’s goal is to educate its nearly two million visitors each year. Visitor hear the stories and are made aware of their efforts. For example, we met Nickel, a special turtle that anyone who has visited the Shedd has seen. He is large sea turtle from Florida that resides in the Caribbean Reef exhibit. We were able to go behind the scenes, which is actually on top of the reef, to meet Nickel and her trainer. Nickel was rescued after a horrible boating accident that left her shell badly scarred and her ability to swim damaged. Due to a lung injury, her back end floats up, making her release into the wild impossible. At the Shedd, she is taken care of, fed, and studied so that we all can learn about the importance of safe boating and taking care of the animals that share the waterways with us.


While not all of the two million visitors will get to experience the Shedd as we did, and not everyone will choose to share what they learned the way we are, every visitor makes a difference.  When you wander around the exhibits that feature over 32,000 creatures, you are learning that the world is bigger than what we see and that the waterways should be protected. Your admission fees fund these programs and make them possible.

I hope the next time you visit the Shedd Aquarium you will keep these stories in mind and remember that the Shedd is more than just a place to visit. The Shedd is actively involved in saving animals and educating everyone along the way!

Planning a visit? Illinois resident discount days feature FREE admission to the main galleries and you can upgrade to a Total Experience Pass for only $15.  Upcoming Discount days are:

  • August: 29, 30; and
  • September 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, 26, 27.

Connect with the Shedd Aquarium
1200 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago | 312-939-2438
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Disclosure: The writer was invited to an after-hours event to learn about the Sheddvocate program and received a gift bag and free admission. No further compensation was received and all thoughts and opinions are her own.




About Melissa Haak 626 Articles
Melissa is mom to 4. She used to dream of traveling the world, now she dreams of a clean kitchen. She can be found on most social media sites as @PBinmyHair because with this much hair and four kids, you're bound to find something in it.

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