David Kenney, First SeaWorld Veterinarian, Dies at Age 77

By reports, Wire | Tulsa World (Tulsa, OK), March 17, 2012 | Go to article overview

David Kenney, First SeaWorld Veterinarian, Dies at Age 77


reports, Wire, Tulsa World (Tulsa, OK)


David W. Kenney, SeaWorld's first veterinarian, who played a key role in bringing the original Shamu to the San Diego amusement park as well as a gray whale that was believed to be the first to be raised by humans, died Feb. 14 in Montrose, Colo. He was 77.

Kenney was hired by the park a few weeks before its 1964 opening and over the next several years displayed an ingenuity and dedication that helped the fledgling tourist attraction build and maintain an impressive collection of marine animals.

"Even after 50 years, we continue to learn amazing things about animals - their biology, physiology and behavior. Dr. Kenney played a critical role in establishing that knowledge base with the work he did with animals that were part of the park's zoological family in SeaWorld's early years, including Shamu," said SeaWorld spokesman Dave Koontz.

Kenney had a veterinary practice in San Diego when he was called by SeaWorld to conduct necropsies on a couple of its whales and a dolphin. He urged park officials to retain a veterinarian capable of finding out why the animals were dying and preventing further deaths. He was hired.

One of the first changes he made was the whales' diet. They had been fed mackerel, and the fish bones had caused a blockage in their stomachs.

He found that they thrived on a concoction of whipped cream and squid. He also examined the park's methods for transporting dolphins and found that they developed pneumonia when not properly sheltered during travel.

Often, he found that coming up with a treatment was only half the battle, as in the case of sea lions with mange that left them covered with skin ulcers.

"Just imagine trying to cover 20 sea lions' bodies with medicine!" he recalled in 2004.

His solution was to empty the sea lions' pool and get into it with a mop that he used to swab the bottom with medicine. …

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